The BikeE RX
A Go-Everywhere-Do-Everything Bent?
By Jose A. Hernandez
For the past 30 years, my closest friends have been telling me that few things on this earth are more destructive than a tool in my hands. Any kind of tool!! I think it all started when my first car, a gold 1966 Ford Mustang nearly blew up while I frantically tried to replace the water pump. (This is a true story!!!) A diversified and extensive trail of disintegrated gadgets and irreversibly damaged parts would follow my every attempt to fix something for the next 30 years. It finally occurred to me that the best thing I could do for humanity was to simply avoid any casual or close contact with a wrench or a screwdriver.
Being a mechanically dis-inclined person for almost a lifetime has negatively colored my world. At times, I panic when I’m in a situation that requires that I fix or put something together. Such a situation presented itself a few weeks ago. Upon my return from work, I found a black crate patiently waiting for me in the middle of my living room. I intuitively "knew" that this crate enclosed our BikeE RX test bike, and was instantly transformed into a happy camper. But a flash of fear suddenly replaced the happiness and excitement of the moment. I realized that I would not be riding this bike unless I managed to assemble it first. Before I could put the bike together, I had to put myself together.
So I took a deep breath, swallowed hard and proceeded to carefully open the crate. My initial plan was just to take a quick look and make a swift assessment of the task at hand. I said to myself, "If it looks too difficult, I’ll just call Brother BJ from Atlantic Bicycles or call on Fritz Mueller, our bike club’s "Presidente" to come to my rescue." A few moments later, my pulse and blood pressure were back to normal and I was ready to remove the crate’s cover and take a look inside. I immediately found myself admiring the remarkable way the RX had been packaged. I think you could have dropped this crate from an airplane without doing any damage to the bike. Everything was neatly secured and carefully wrapped. I then noticed that the bike was virtually assembled already. All I had to do was connect the handlebars, the front wheel and the seat. At that point I noticed that I needed to pump up the rear shock. Luckily, an idiot- proof shock pump, a BikeE item specifically designed for this very purpose, was readily available.
Soon I was proudly staring at a fully assembled RX. The bike’s TIG welded aluminum frame shone in anodized splendor as I immediately noticed that I was in the presence of a rugged, well-made bike with an "I-can-do-anything" attitude. Man… what a relief!!! I had managed to put this bike together and the house was still standing. Though I have owned a couple of BikeE’s in the past, I had never assembled one so I hadn’t considered the virtues and simplicity of the BikeE design. But for now, I was not ready to credit the BikeE engineers for doing a fantastic job in configuring a bike that can be assembled and easily maintained by a mechanical idiot like me. At the time I was just too full of hot air from my "achievement" to give anyone credit. Filled with pride and a renewed sense of self-esteem, I wanted Kevin, my 13-year-old son to tell me what a great job I had done. But instead of feeding my newly inflated ego, Kevin decided the bike was way too cool and just had to take it out for a spin. Being the "altruistic father" I think I am, I let him take the bike out while I patiently waited… and waited for my turn on the bike. After a short period of time, that seemed to last an eternity, Kevin showed up with a big smile on his face. Upon his return he immediately exclaimed: "Poppy, this bike rocks!!! Its soooo cool!!! -- It laughs at bumps!!!" My first test ride was to follow immediately, but now my wife, Susan, just had to check out the RX. Being the "altruistic husband" I suddenly wished I was not, I let her take a turn. So after a quick seat adjustment, I once again, waited… and waited…and waited… for my turn to ride the RX. Susan was also smiling upon her return. Effectively overlooking or ignoring my obvious impatience she must have said something like: " Nice bike…Great ride… Stable…!" The fact that I can’t remember her exact words proves to me that I must have aged about 15 years while I awaited my turn to ride.
HANDLING, COMFORT, ETC.
The sun was on its way down and it was getting pretty dark by the time I was able to plant my fastidious butt on the BikeE’s "Sweet Seat". Though my first ride was short, it was long enough to notice that BikeE had greatly improved its seat.
I immediately compared the new Sweet seat with the venerable RANS seat. The RX seat cushion is slightly narrower, feels considerably firmer and is almost as comfortable as that of the RANS seat. A strategically placed indentation in the back of the seat cushion softly cradled my tailbone and the anatomically correct seat back provided very good lumbar support. I also immediately noticed other improvements -- the handle bar design, geometry, etc.-- but the one thing that really called my attention was the handling characteristics and the stability of this bike. In general, BikeE’s are known for their user friendliness. The RX, however, goes a step beyond that. Within seconds, I was making fast sharp turns, flying over speed bumps and doing all kinds of crazy maneuvers that would be "unthinkable" with other bents. I’ll tell you this: If you want a more stable recumbent, GET A TRIKE! Enough said.
My test rides consisted of a number of short rides (5-10 miles) around my neighborhood, a few trail rides in nearby parks, one 14-15 MPH 30 mile club ride, and one quick ride around Shark Valley, a paved 15-mile long bike path in the middle of the Everglades National Park. All of these places had one thing in common: They predictably produced a small group of curious people who needed to say something to me about the cool bike I was riding. I could not, however, predict the reaction of a certain club member whose name I shall withhold to protect the guilty. Let me just say that I had always viewed this particular person as the quintessential personification of the "Recumbent Anti-Christ". I expected this guy to bless me with his usual "why-don’t- you- get- a- real-bike" remark. Instead, as soon as I unloaded the RX, he approached me and actually asked if he could ride it. Being the devoted bent evangelist I think I am means never bypassing an opportunity to convert an upright soul. So, without hesitation, I quickly adjusted the seat, gave him a 10 second crash course in bent biking and off he went. Within minutes the smile on the Recumbent Anti-Christ’s face showed that he was saved! He then gave me confession for his sins as he muttered: "That !#!%*^ ‘s really comfortable…. You know… I had never before been able to balance myself on these infernal bikes…"
While riding around Shark Valley, I noticed that I seemed to be paying more attention to my surroundings and seemed to be unaware of the RX beneath me. It was as if the RX were an extension of my body and could respond to commands directed from my unconscious mind. I do think most people would quickly appreciate the superior handling qualities of the RX. The bike is so easy to handle, and sooo predictable, virtually anyone can ride it confidently the very first time out. The RX’s unique geometry and ergonomic character may be blamed for its exquisite handling qualities. The RX positions the cyclist in a natural, upright and commanding, riding position. The cranks are a bit higher than that of the BikeE’s precursors. This facilitates climbing or sprinting without compromising maneuverability. The dual suspension on our test bike can also be "blamed" for an extremely comfortable ride. Our test RX featured a rear air pressurized shock and the optional suspension fork with its reliable Englund Air Cartridge. No surface is too rough for this suspension combo!!!
The RX comes in two sizes: 69" (132cm) & 73" (142cm). Our RX was the larger of the two, had the dual air suspension and seemed to be heavier than its "AT" cousin. We did not have a chance to test this bike under hilly conditions so we can’t opine on its climbing ability.
The bike’s drive train is fairly quiet provided a light coat of lube is applied. Shifting the rear derailleur, your most important one, feels quick and precise. Shifting the mid drive derailleur is, on the other hand, sluggish and a bit noisy. The brakes were quiet, reliable and efficient. As to the rest of the components, suffice it to say that they are good and reliably perform their assigned duties. BikeE includes a very detailed owners manual and a truckload of package inserts that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about any of the RX components. For more details I’ll have to ask you to click [HERE] to visit BikeE’s web site.
BikeE offers a mind-boggling list of accessories and gadgets for your new toy… I mean… bike. Some of these "gizmos" are a must have if you choose to own a BikeE.
I would certainly buy the Air Shock Pump and the Cyclocomputer. If you’re into touring, then the BikeE Bag is a must-have item and you might have to choose between a set of pannier racks or a trailer hitch. Fenders are of course, available and if you must train during a cold or rainy day, a 20" rear wheel trainer is the ticket.
A number of BikeE enthusiasts have also come up with their own list of accessories. A notable example is Ronald Hilliard’s Tool E Tray and his Emergency Rear Shock Replacement device.
I think the RX is nearly perfect for recreational 14-16 MPH rides, touring, and commuting. The bike shines on less than perfect paths and bumpy roads. However, at least in my limited experience with this bike, I was unable to comfortably maintain speeds above 16 MPH for a long time. The bike does accelerate very quickly. A 0 to 22 MPH sprint on the RX is not difficult, but I did seem to have some difficulty maintaining that speed. I know… I know what you’re thinking: "it is not the bike… it is the engine". While I agree with this concept in principle, I think the RX’s stock tires have something to do with my perception of the bike’s speed performance. The stock Hookworms are bulletproof devices that contribute to the bike’s safety, stability and reliability. But there is a price to pay for these attributes: You’ll be a bit slower! However, if you want to go faster there is hope!!! I think there may be a couple of things you can do if you’re interested in enhancing the RX’s speed performance. I would consider tires with less rolling resistance and I would consider adding a fairing to overcome the aerodynamic drag inherent in the RX’s upright position.
All in all, the RX’s positive attributes virtually overshadow any of its shortcomings.