In this guest post, Kimball Rassmusen reports on his first 12 days riding the Cruzbike S40. Before ordering the S40 as part of Cruzbike's 100 Mile Trial program, Kimball owned and road a Pelso Brevet SWB. Thank you for sharing your experience in this report, Kimball!
In February of 2019, I purchased my first recumbent bike, a Pelso Brevet SWB “high racer” (similar to the Bacchetta Carbon Aero). I was quite excited to jump into this new recumbent world, but frustrated when I fell over on each of my first three rides. I had difficulty balancing this new ride. When the wobble got too extreme I would “heel strike” and go down! Ouch! But I persisted and finally developed a certain confidence and enjoyment on this bike, but VERY wary of the heel strike concern. With time the problem significantly faded.
Then I ran across some blogs about the Cruzbike. I was intrigued and decided to try the Cruzbike S40. After all, they offered the 100 Mile Trial! And the MBB and front-wheel drive would eliminate the heel strike. I thought this was worth a try.
Note: The Pelso is very similar to the Cruzbike. It weighs about 3 pounds less (carbon fiber) and has about 5” longer wheelbase.
I jumped on the S40 and rode through the neighborhood. It didn’t seem too hard to control until I tried climbing a 5% grade. I found myself drifting across an entire lane of traffic. But all in all, I was encouraged. It seemed doable.
I tried an easy ride with a couple of miles of gentile climbing (maybe 3% grade) and one fast roller. The bike still felt a bit tricky but did quite well. It seemed especially capable on the roller.
Each day is getting noticeably better. The bike feels fairly easy to control at speed – but harder to control when going slow.
I decided to tackle my “go to” training loop ride that involves 1,500 feet of climbing (most of that over the course of about 4 miles). Maximum grade of 12%. It took me several attempts before I could do this loop on the Pelso. I figured that the S40 would be worth a try at this point. I was wrong! When I got to the 10% grade I had a lot of trouble controlling the bike (too much pedal steer). I ended up drifting across two lanes of roadway (no traffic), and then unexpectedly came unclipped. I coasted downhill to a parking lot to try again. Same result. Failed both times. So I coasted to the bottom and repeated the trusty Day 3 course.
Days 5 through 7
I decided to concentrate on riding a local bike trail that is relatively tame, but has five short climbs of about 1/8th mile each, and maximum grades of 8% to 13%. I was able to climb the 13% grades WITH MUCH CONCENTRATION. I also found myself losing traction at that steep of a hill. Traction is no problem at 8%, or even 10%. But at 13% you have to be very smooth with your pedaling or you can lose traction intermittently. It’s not a big deal, but I’m guessing the front tire will wear much faster than the rear.
On Day 5, I had to unclip four times. Day 6, I unclipped three times. Then twice on Day 7. But the bike is getting much more comfortable. And it feels noticeably faster than the Pelso.
Feeling much more confident, I decided to try a personal time trial of 19.5 miles. I beat my previous best average speed by 1.2 mph.
I decided to try a 38 mile loop on my favorite bike trail. I ended up setting another personal record. I finished the ride 2.9 miles ahead of my all-time fastest pace on this ride.
Days 10 and 11
Feeling more competent on the bike. I still need to concentrate, especially on steep climbs, or when passing people. But the control is definitely improving.
I decided to attempt the Day 4 climb and loop. Success!! Not only did I complete the climb, but to my surprise I actually set a PR for the hardest segment. For the entire 17.2 mile loop (compared to the Pelso) my heart rate was 5% higher, but average speed was 15% faster! That’s a great return on investment!
It seems when you ride the S40 you climb “into” the bike, rather than riding “on” the bike. It works best if you imagine the bike as being an extension of you. For instance, you don’t lean the bike, but you lean your body with the bike, when cornering. You become one with the bike. Handling seems to be more volatile than the Pelso, but that is getting better with each ride. The front wheel can pulse left and right, slightly, with each pedal stroke (almost like the bike has a heart beat). But this is getting less and less noticeable.
Because of the moving bottom bracket design your arms (perhaps the whole body) are more engaged. After a ride it feels like I just had a nice P90X workout. I like it.
The S40 feels like a feisty Porsche, while the Pelso is more like a capable Camaro. The S40 is a harsher ride, but also feels more solid. I decided to attempt to tame the ride a bit by installing 700X30C tubeless tires. I highly recommend that setup. The Pelso has 700X28C tubeless, but is a somewhat softer ride because of the carbon frame and longer wheelbase.
As far as the 100 Mile Trial: I can’t imagine returning the bike. I really like this ride! It has exceeded my expectations. The S40 is a keeper.
By the way, I toyed with the idea of getting the Vendetta. And maybe someday I will. But, for now, the S40 has plenty of recline for my taste. And it’s still more aerodynamic than a typical upright bike. Cruzbike has really hit the mark with this bike.
I purchased the Cruzbike S40 in hopes of riding it on Cycle Oregon 2019. I took delivery on July 24, 2019. Cycle Oregon started on September 7th. This gave me just over six weeks to train and learn to handle this bike. My training rides were typically 20 to 30 miles per day, 4 to 6 days per week. My longest training ride was 50 miles.
Cycle Oregon 2019 consisted of about 485 miles, 30,000 feet of climbs, spanning seven days. Some of the climbs exceeded 15% grade on logging roads through old-growth forests. Other times we descended dreamy, smooth pavement. The variety of conditions put this bike to the test (not to mention the rider!).
I had the bike custom built with a 1X12 setup. The elliptical crank has 44 teeth. The rear cassette is SRAM 10-50. This seems to give a perfect range for all conditions. The bike has ENVE rims, 30c Schwalbe Pro 1 tubeless tires, 160mm hydraulic disc brakes, and a Garmin 830 computer with the Varia “radar” taillight. Everything performed flawlessly.
So how was the Cruzbike on Cycle Oregon climbs? (Note that I am a larger rider at 228 pounds, 63 years old, and I’m still learning to ride this bike). On the steepest of climbs (above 12%) I actually walked some sections (maybe 3 or 4 times during the week for a total of one or two miles). I’m still a bit challenged to control the bike on extremely steep climbs that go for long distances. It was easier, at times, to just walk until the grades calmed down a bit. On normal climbs of 5% to 7%, I was a bit slower than the median rider, but could comfortably spin right along. I probably got passed by about 5 riders for every 2 or 3 that I might pass, while going with the flow of most riders. On mild climbs (between 2% and 4%) I was faster than most of the riders. And on flat sections I was definitely faster than most of the riders. On downhills (2% or greater) I was even faster yet. Some very serious looking cyclists in full aero tucks seemed no match for the laidback Cruzbike. On 5% downhills, for example, I could easily hit speeds of 45 mph. I would just coast right by, as DF riders were tucked and pedaling like mad.
All in all the Cruzbike S40 was very comfortable. I felt quite confident cornering and maneuvering. I’m still mastering control of the low-speed climbing technique. But this improved notably during the week.
Bottom line: The S40 grows on me more each day. It was a fantastic choice for Cycle Oregon. A number of DF riders would express their jealousy at the obvious, laid back comfort. No chamois butter here!
- Kimball Rassmusen