Burley's Jett Creek
"Will it control your mind?"
By Jose A. Hernandez
As soon as I received the box which I knew contained our test Jett Creek, and even before I took the bike to "The Bicycle Spot" to be expertly assembled by my good friend Peyton Walters, I pointed my Internet Browser to http://www.burley.com. At the time, I wasn't at all familiar with the 2004 additions to the Burley line and figured their web site was a good place to start. I started by looking over the company's info as well as the owner manuals and specs, which are conveniently available in PDF format, something I wish morerecumbent companies would provide. I then scanned the rest of the site, trying hard to ignore the site's tantalizing description and all its "juicy" Jett Creek adjectives. But one particular statement about this bike blurred all the others and just stuck in my mind: "You won't have any choice but to slow down and enjoy life, like everyone who visits little Jett Creek near the Idaho/Oregon border".Think about it! This is one heck of a claim! Some `bent manufacturers contend that their bike is the fastest thing on two wheels or more comfortable than a Tempurpedic® mattress. Burley, on the other hand, suggests that their bike can limit your ability to choose the manner in which you ride it! Being the skeptic I know I am, I just couldn't wait to get the bike assembled so I could put it through its paces but more importantly, explore the alleged mind control qualities of the Jett Creek
Allow me at this time to extend my thanks to our test pilots: Sergio Agramonte, Peyton Walters, Willy Byers, Arthur Nassau, Shari Bernhard, Jenny Hernandez and especially to Walt Smyser for riding this bike quite extensively, making some interesting comparisons between this bike and the RANS Tailwind, and sending me a full report of his findings. As I've done in the past, this report intermingles my own opinion with that of the good folks who helped me review this bike.
The Jett Creek is rightfully categorized as a Long Wheelbase bent (LWB) but its 65-inch wheelbase is not much longer than that of a number of other bikes in the Compact Long Wheel Base (CLWB) class. Like other recumbent bikes in its class, it offers a neophyte friendly low bottom bracket and over-the-seat steering in a rather fashionable color coordinated package that all of us found to be pretty attractive. The Jett Creek, with its nice paint job and uniquely designed frame presents itself as an unpretentious but well-made product. The only available color is red and that is just fine by me.
The Jett Creek's zigzag shaped frame employs variable gauge 4130 Chromoly tubes to provide strength where it is needed while offering a generous amount of vertical flex, or passive suspension to ensure a cushy ride. The durability of monotube frames is often a debatable subject but the Jett Creek frame does come with a lifetime warranty from Burley something that they would obviously not do if they had any concerns.
Our test pilots genuinely appreciated the low step-over and seat height afforded by this unique zigzag shape. Getting on and off the bike is extraordinarily easy, transforming this bike into a viable choice for recreational, light touring and commuting purposes.
The Jett Creek's parts list is not too shabby as it includes middle-of-the road Shimano derailleur and brakes, SRAM MRX Comp Grip Shifters and Truvativ Touro cranks. Experienced cyclists know that these components have endured the test of time and can be expected to work reliably. The Weinmann Zac rims, the stainless steel spokes and the Shimano Deore Hubs are all black, matching the color of our test bike's fat Primo Comet tires, its black vinyl seat base, steering mast and black handlebars.
Shifting was totally uneventful and the brakes felt good and worked reliably. A single crossover idler controls the chain path minimally deflecting the drive side of the chain. But the most important aspect of the drive train components is the manner in which they conspire to render an extremely quiet ride. Test pilot Walt Smyser captured our collective feelings on this subject: "This had to be the quietest recumbent I have had the pleasure of experiencing." A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to review the Burley Canto and was also pleasantly surprised at just how silently that bike rode and thus, I'm inclined to suspect that a quiet drive train goes with the Burley name.
Two water bottle cages can be readily installed on the back of the seat and the steering mast also has an additional braze-on for a third water bottle cage. The seat's back is unsupported but "speed struts" are optionally available. The struts are attached to the seat stays as opposed to the conventional dropout attachment point to minimize interference with the bike's passive suspension. If you're a strong and/or a heavy rider, the unsupported seat may prove to be too flexible and thus I would strongly recommend that you get the optional speed struts.
A rack is another option available from Burley but, as Walt readily pointed out: "…it appears you have to make a choice, either a rack, or seat struts and a kickstand, as they use the same mounting points". However, most bent heads I know are quite creative and could quickly improvise a solution to the aforementioned catch 22. A better alternative might just be to install a TerraCycle rack and yes, we'll have a full report on this new product very soon.
The Jett Creek is designed to accommodate a wide range of riders (the published X Seam Range being 35" to 45") Because of that, Jenny, my 5' 2" daughter and Willy our 6' 4" test pilot could fit quite easily by "simply" (see seat adjustment comments below) sliding the bike's seat and adjusting the steering mast height and tilt. Some of our test pilots felt that a pivoting steering mast was not needed or wished that it were possible to lock it.
The Jett Creek's copious amount of vertical flex, combined with its low bottom bracket, low seat height, and the design or the steering mast contribute greatly to a very plush, non-jarring ride. The bike's passive suspension does work well.
The seat base is quite firm. Though I found it to be comfortable enough for my taste, most of my test pilots complained that the seat base was too hard or just incompatible with the shape of their finicky butts. There is a fair-sized gap between the seat base and seat back. This gap can be minimized, thanks to a slotted bracket, but we could not eliminate it. Because of that, several test pilots complained that the rear edge of the seat hurt their precious "glutes". I found that adjusting the seat base angle so that the front of the seat base is slightly higher than the back alleviates this problem. Doing so also affects the angle of recline, so this should be taken into consideration.
The seat base and the rear mesh are made of a vinyl material which some of our test pilots felt was slippery and hot. The mesh of the seat was a bit stretched by the time we were done with our test and thus, the durability of the materials chosen for the seat mesh may be of concern.
Our test bike's seat was really hard to adjust for a number of reasons. The
seat is supposed to slide on the main tube's aluminum track but the aluminum sliders (four aluminum blocks) bind to the track making aft & fore adjustments difficult.
The seat mount has two plates with a set of front and rear holes that are used to adjust the recline angle. In order to adjust the angle, you have to remove the seat, push a quick release skewer through the correct hole as you align the sliders, and then remount the seat on the track. Let me just say that adjusting the seat angle brought out the polyglot in me as I heard myself swearing in English, Spanish and Spanglish. Some of my test pilots also remember mouthing a number of colorful four-letter words as they struggled to adjust the seat.
Experience is not required to ride the Jett Creek. The handling of this bike is simply EXCELLENT. In fact, this bike is among the friendliest of the Long Wheebase Class. Slow speed maneuverability is awesome and high-speed feel is solid. Speed performance is quite adequate though this bike won't be the fastest thing on two wheels. The bike seems to accelerate and climb sluggishly but once you reach a cruising speed of say, 15 - 16 MPH, it is not too difficult to keep the bike rolling at that speed.
But how does this bike compare to a similar bike on the market? Walt and I are both fairly experienced with the RANS Tailwind and it was pretty impossible to avoid making comparisons. In general, we found the RANS Tailwind to have a superior seat and slightly better speed performance. I personally think that the Tailwind is a bit faster and accelerates and climbs a bit better than the Jett Creek but the Jett Creek's handling seemed to be superior to the Tailwind's, has a quieter drive train and provides a softer ride. Because of that, I thought the Jett Creek was more fun to ride. And this brings me to the one thing that is also very true of the Jett Creek. After almost two months of riding it and questioning my test pilots, I started to believe that this bike might actually have the ability to control the rider's mind. But was it controlling my mind as I rode it? I guess I'll have to admit that it was! Sure, I could go a bit faster on the Jett Creek but, for some inexplicable reason I would often catch myself slowing way down and just enjoying my surroundings. Perhaps this was due to the quietness of the Jett Creek's ride or, because of the bike's feel and handling, my not having to concentrate on the machine beneath me. Perhaps Burley was right all along and I just did not have a choice but to slow down and enjoy my life. The question is, will the Jett Creek control YOUR mind?
Burley Jett Creek
Highs - Excellent handling, plush ride, easy to mount and dismount, fits a wide range of riders, well-made and attractive
Lows - Cumbersome seat adjustment, most test pilots felt that the seat base was too hard and pivoting steering mast unnecessary
MSRP - $ 1149.99
More Info: http://www.burley.com