We are the luckiest team in the world, here at Cruzbike. We serve a community of owners who are exceptionally kind, intentional and generous, not to mention a whole lot of fun. The story below perfectly captures the spirit of this community. Thanks to Billy Kessler (@billyk), Andrew Koros (@AK-Tux) and the whole Cruzbike Forum community for being so generous with your experience, time, talent and resources. You all inspire us.
Around Christmas, I was making plans for a trip to East Africa to see my son (in Tanzania on a medical project). I have a large pile of airline miles from work travel, so my wife and I had free business class tickets. That meant we could take a bike along as free baggage. Ding! I've always enjoyed Ak-Tux's stories of hand-building his own MBB bike modeled after ours, and his videos of riding around Nairobi. I could see that others here enjoyed them as well, and the thought occurred to me to try to raise the money to buy him a real Cruzbike.
A few of us discussed the idea.
I sent a bunch of PMs to people who had commented on AK-Tux's videos and posts, to see if there was enough interest. It looked good, and we got a bunch of pledges, but nowhere near enough to buy a $4000 bike.
Then Maria Parker, Cruzbike’s CEO, heard about this (at Bike Sebring in early February, I think) and wrote to me out of the blue, offering to sell us the bike at half price: $2050. That was an amount we could raise.
We redoubled our fundraising efforts and reached the goal with the help of the community.
I paid Maria the $2050 and she sent me the bike in early March. We were less than a week from departure, but then, you know, something big happened in the world. Our trip was cancelled (among other things!), and I had the Cruzbike S40 sitting in my house and no idea how to get it to Kenya. Regular shipping would cost about as much as the bike itself, plus there would be customs duties (probably 25% of the bike cost). It seemed impossible.
I had just told Andrew (AK-Tux) that we were doing this since I was about to leave and had to arrange to meet him and give him the bike. He and I looked around. It turns out that there is a company in Texas that airfreights stuff to Kenya by collecting packages until they can fill up an air container, then bids on air cargo space. It's much cheaper.
This would have been fairly straightforward except the air cargo business was badly disrupted like everything else in March-April. Total chaos. Many many phone calls and emails later they finally got restarted. I shipped them the bike by UPS in early July, and at long last it arrived in Nairobi last week. (A couple of minor scratches, but basically undamaged).
We did it!!!
AK-Tux's Story: From a homemade recumbent to a Cruzbike S40
My name is Andrew Koros. I live in the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya with my wife and our two sons.
Like many, I learnt to ride a bicycle as a child but only took it up seriously as a hobby after I got married when my wife gave me a gift of a mountain bike! I commuted to work and also rode longer on weekends. I did not race but occasionally joined group rides. In Nairobi, our roads are crowded and one has to develop the courage to ride in traffic. Dedicated bike lanes are very rare. But I kept at it because I loved it. Later, I moved from that entry level mountain bike to a decent quality but used aluminum framed road bike, which I still have to this day.
Some time later, in the year 2011 while browsing the internet, I stumbled upon a strange looking bicycle called a Cruzbike Silvio. It was a moving bottom bracket, front wheel driven recumbent bicycle. Given, it wasn't exactly the first recumbent I'd ever seen for I had once sighted a recumbent on our highways in Nairobi ridden by a bicycle tourist. However, it was a rear wheel drive with under seat steering and it did not appeal much to me.
What caught my attention about the Cruzbike was the way the front triangle really resembled my upright road bike. The more I read about it, the more I really got interested. But there was one slight problem, however: I could not afford it! Well, I decided to build one from two steel bike frames following some DIY instructions from the internet. After a few weeks, with a little bit of improvisation here and there, I had built a FWD MBB recumbent bicycle. I was excited despite that fact that it was crude and quite heavy with a steel mesh seat totaling more than 19Kgs. I happily learnt how to ride it according to ideas I saw on the Cruzbike website. That was back in the year 2011. I joined the Cruzbike forum about the same time using the forum name “AK-Tux”. As years went by I continued to improve my build with small modifications and better components.
(My original DIY back in 2011)
My recumbent was always a strange and curious sight whenever I rode it. A neighbour friend of mine called Philip, with good bicycle mechanic skills, took keen interest and asked me for details on how to build one. I was surprised when he actually succeeded! In an attempt to make it lighter he ended up making two and passed the first one on to his friend! So we started riding together often as a trio in our local church cycling club called “The Extramilers.” Great fun!
Meanwhile, I loved the Cruzbike Forum! I actively participated in the discussions and made many contributions to the forum. It was exciting to see the pictures and videos of the members as they shared their experiences, builds and challenges with each new purchase. I also started posting my own ride videos on my YouTube channel. It was just a fun hobby, a chance to record, relive and share interesting rides from my perspective. I wanted to see more action videos of recumbent bicycles on YouTube. This was my contribution.
I always wondered what it would be like to ride a proper factory made, professionally built Cruzbike recumbent bicycle weighing no more than my regular road bike. Building a bicycle frame without a jig and proper tools inevitably results in some imperfections and problems. Most notably misalignments and excess weight. Fun as my DIY recumbent bike was, the weight and flexy frame always made acceleration and climbing that much harder. My road bike comparatively climbed faster and was more responsive, lighter and stiffer.
Then, one day in Feb 2020 , I saw a private message for me on the Cruzbike Forum:
“Hello Ak-Tux - I have some very good news for you…" -BillyK
My heart skipped a beat! “What could it be?”, I wondered to myself! When I finally understood that my wildest dream was about to come true, I cried with joy! Some forum members got together and with some help from the Cruzbike company, decided to gift me a brand new Cruzbike S40! I shared with my family with excitement. What a gift! What a surprise! Additionally, Billy had already made some plans on how to get the bike to me in Africa.
But then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the whole globe and our elaborate plans to meet with Billy on his travels to Africa fell apart. We decided to explore a shipping alternative, which was very difficult to find in the middle of the pandemic. However 6 months later, after several emails and Billy’s pure determination, the bike finally shipped to Kenya. And , yes, it was worth the wait!
I collected the big box from the Shipping company’s office in Nairobi by car with excitement.
By now I had watched Robert Holler’s wonderful Cruzbike S40 build video over and over until I had virtually memorised it! That evening I decided to unbox and assemble it together with the help of my two sons, who were equally excited. Apart from a few minor scratches and a small crack on the edge of carbon seat, the bike was intact.
The assembly went very smoothly with the only surprise being that the freehub ratchets fell out after unwrapping the wheel. From Robert's video, I knew the freehub body comes off but not the actual ratchets!
Anyway, I worked them back into place and all was well. Kudos to Robert for the great build video! It was so detailed and accurate that only the unwrapping is what took the bulk of the time!
It is simply gorgeous!
A refined design, professionally built with clean welded joints. The first visual difference I noticed is how big the boom tube is compared to my home-made recumbent! This surely was going to be a very stiff front-end! Then came the weight difference! Using a bathroom scale it weighed in at 12.3Kg compared to my refined home-made steel build which was 17Kgs!
After establishing a base fit I tried to ride it for a few meters. Hmm, very comfortable! But I could not get the head/neck rest to fit correctly. By now it was quite dark so I let it rest until the next day.
The next evening after work, I did a short 40 minutes ride on my local hill. It climbs very well! But something was not quite there yet: the seat pad was too thick for me. I felt like I was floating and I couldn’t “feel” the bike. So I opted to try my old home-made thinner pad that I had used on my old recumbent. It is barely an inch thick. Yes, now the headrest could touch the back of my neck, great!
The next problem was trying to mount the water bottle holder behind the seat where I’m used to having them. Alas! It could not be flush with the carbon seat! Does it need some spacer of some kind? I modified one and mounted one holder. I also swapped the left and right brake cables. I prefer the front brake lever to be operated by my right hand. (In Kenya, we inherited the British system and we drive on the left side of the road).
Now, time for a longer ride. Wow! It rides true and tracks like an arrow! I could effortlessly hold a steady straight line! Must be something about the geometry or the steeper (71 deg) head angle and trail! Whatever it is, it handles very well compared to my home-made recumbent with a 68deg head angle. It is also, surprisingly, reasonably compliant despite having no suspension!
I immediately also noticed that my climbing heart rate was a bit higher than usual. Was it the stiffer frame or just my adrenaline? Time will tell! My cadence was also significantly higher than the usual. Must be the 165mm cranks compared to my regular 170mm ones. It is a joy to ride and quite a looker as well! I look forward to many more rides.
To the wonderful cruzbike forum members together with Jim and Maria Parker, I can never thank you all enough! And to Billy, your pure determination to pull this through is amazing!
God bless you all and until next time..
.. the bicycle safari continues!