Raptobike video report / road trial

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Raptobike video report / road trial

Postby EdinburghFixed » 29 Apr 2009, 10:41am

This topic was "First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer", but I renamed it after my test commute, scroll down for video goodness...

Well, last night I had a test run on the Raptobike courtesy of David of Laid Back in Edinburgh, and I promised to share my thoughts for what they are worth!


Just so everyone understands, my previous experience of recumbents has been half an hour fooling around in a park on a bunch of different models (all practical, more upright style 'bents) again courtesy of Laid Back as part of the Dutch cycling dreams exhibition. I had about an hour on the Rapto with David giving me tuition the whole time (for free - what a service!)

In retrospect I have rambled out a huge post so have shuffled it under headings, apologies if it seems a little disjointed.

A *low* racer

First the obvious: it is extremely low and makes no apologies for this! The seat is ~25cm off the ground and can be reclined at just 20°. Yet this still leaves enough of a gap to negotiate most kerbs, road humps etc. without worry.

The seat has four or five settings for 'reclinement' of which this demo was set quite low (although not at the lowest) - David offered to set it up less extreme, but I thought I should try to embrace the beast...

And it is a beast! To get my recumbent 'eye' in, I rode David's Nazca Fuego for a couple of hundred yards, then I was ready to go low... (the Fuego is a high bike in comparison) For reference I was able to comfortably balance the bike with one palm on the ground, and my arms are not particularly long! :D

Easy to ride

To my amazement I didn't really find the RaptoBike any harder to start, or drive, than the other recumbents I had tried. It took me a few minutes to relax but once I trusted that the bike could really be this stable, it purred along quite contentedly. I carved a few gentle turns and negotiated some joggers and upright riders with no drama at all!

My only upset occurred when waiting to cross at a red light... I was hand-standing (because let's face it, if you can, you will!) and I tried to ride off while still bearing weight on the hand - clearly a non-starter! I had to dab my foot down and re-cock the pedals before hurriedly moving off past the light :oops:

As comfortable as a armchair

The seat and headrest (not fitted as stock) were extremely comfortable. In fact I thought if you had a kickstand and brought some beer you could easily fall asleep while clipped into the Rapto... try that on my other bike!

The handlebars on the RaptoBike are very strange. Basically they are shaped like an arrowhead, so when gripping the bars your thumbs are up towards your face and your pinkies down towards your feet. However in the riding position, this keeps your wrists absolutely neutral and felt very natural. Maybe a lot of low-racers have this but it is a masterpiece of ergonomics...

Although the frame is rigid the ride quality was very fine, with 40mm (1.5") Marathon tyres fitted. This says a lot as Marathons are my all time least-favourite tyre! (We didn't ride really bad surfaces though, it was all paved OK with reasonably lowered kerbs so take this with a pinch of salt). David said he could fit down to about 28mm tyres but of course you can't unweight the bike as on an upright, so for my kerb dodging, pothole bashing adventures wide may be more sensible!

Frisky performance

Remember I didn't have the skill / confidence to really sprint the bike in a big gear, or do any of the aggressive jinks and dives that you use to negotiate snarled up streets... but for what it's worth, the frame and wheels were solid and undisturbed by the power I was managing to lay down.

My upright bike weighs about 17lbs fully kitted out. I was prepared for the fact that the RaptoBike, for all its aerodynamic advantage, might be quite a lot more sluggish at 30lbs stock. In fact, I could hardly believe how light and responsive the bike felt - more like it weighed 20lbs than 30 I must say.

We zipped along the cycle path and even climbing a couple of shallow hills, speed was completely limited by my courage and not the bike (although I have no recumbent legs, it drives very well indeed!) I would say that maybe we took it to 15-20mph and it was very steady and confident when I remembered to release my death grip on the bars!

I was able to effortlessly do a 'U turn' by standing up from the seat, lifting the bike by the tiller and turning around - the weight distribution is quite even as the length of the bike seems balanced by the front driving wheel. Another thing you can't easy do on a normal bike...


Starting and stopping

The RaptoBike comes with nice, if not overly sporty finishing kit - it's all brand name stuff from Avid and SRAM without any dodgy generics to be seen.

The gearing of 1x8 speed would be perfect if you don't need to climb steep hills. As it is I was not completely convinced because the fixed-wheel has made me a spinner and even the lowest gear is not dramatically low (maybe in the mid 30's) - of course, I have no recumbent legs to compare!

David had ridden the bike up the Hawes Brae at South Queensferry (which is about 7% avg I think?) so clearly a regular rider can get by OK.

You can fit a double up front via an attachment on the boom (which will also be the perfect place for lights) if you so desired. There are stops etc. brazed-on to manage the front dérailleur cable. For me I think the simplicity would be spoiled and I may just order with a slightly smaller chainring or a different cassette (especially as I want 155mm cranks).

The bike comes with V-brakes which are light and simple and doing an OK job. I think maybe I would like a front disc though, to compensate for the bike's speed on all-weather commutes - of course that's not an option on a lightweight upright road bike (another advantage to the recumbent)..

Front wheel drive

I feel like I should be able to make some comment on the fact that the Rapto is front wheel drive. But to be honest, I didn't notice anything to remark on - I followed David through corners without noticing anything from the chain, and I didn't get wheelspin or anything funny going on (not that we were climbing steeply), or any interference with the steering.

I think if you want to squeeze down the side of a bus and do a 90 degree left turn next to the kerb, you might struggle with such a tight radius. But if you are riding 'normally' I can't imagine having many FWD-related problems.

Final thoughts

If I could have ridden home on it, I would have! The RaptoBike really is a fine piece of kit and it is crazily cheap (for a recumbent) considering what it can do. The fact that a total novice could ride it around for an hour without any issues I think has to speak highly of the handling.

It is funny being so low compared with an upright, but if I am honest I think you either can see over the cars, or you can't. And if you can't, even a foot of height difference will not be too relevant in safety terms.

One startling thing was how excellent the mirror on the RaptoBike was; it didn't shake and offered a completely clear, wide-angle view without any body parts or bike parts to be seen. Almost as good as our car mirrors - I think it will be hard to force myself to shoulder check with one of these!

Oh, and it felt just the same going at 15mph as at 5mph - like it was a bit bored and wanted to let some of the beast out!

I am in David's debt for giving up two hours of his time on a damp, cold, and windy evening to risk his nice low-racer on a beginner... if you are anywhere near Edinburgh and vaguely interested in recumbents then he is the man to speak to (here).

Now to pester our office Bike to Work people... :)
Last edited by EdinburghFixed on 11 May 2009, 12:22pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer

Postby NUKe » 29 Apr 2009, 10:53am

What a great well written report

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Re: First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer

Postby squeaker » 29 Apr 2009, 8:49pm

Mmmm, the darkside is strong in this one :)
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Re: First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer

Postby CW » 30 Apr 2009, 1:01am

Thanks for the ride report. Compares well with others that I have read. Though after reading your one I placed an order for a Raptobike through Bikefix a few minutes ago. :D
So I shall be counting the weeks until it comes. I dont know the time for delivery but what ever it is it`ll be too long.
Gone for the twin chain rings, everything else is as standard.
Now I`ll have to break the news to the wife.

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Re: First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer

Postby EdinburghFixed » 30 Apr 2009, 7:02am

Bah! I have to wait for our Cyclescheme vouchers to get sorted out (although I'm not complaining about saving all that money!)

I don't think you will regret it! :)

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Re: First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer

Postby banjokat » 30 Apr 2009, 8:53am

I've ridden (and raved about) the same bike on one of David's trips. I'm in complete agreement with you - very nice report. If I didn't have a new trike arriving next week I'd be buying one as well (and probably will do in the future).

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Re: First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer

Postby worthers » 2 May 2009, 11:20am

Knowing nothing about recumbents or cycle racing, I can't comment on the technicalities of your review - but it was extremely well written and enjoyable to read, so thanks for that 8)

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Re: First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer

Postby thirdcrank » 2 May 2009, 12:52pm

I'm interested by the front-wheel drive. I don't suppose this is the first to have it but whenever I've looked at recumbents, one of the negative things for me has been the mile and a half of chain. I suppose there must be some history to the choice between rear-wheel and front-wheel drive. Can anybody from the horizontal world enlighten me?

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Re: First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer

Postby RaptoBike » 3 May 2009, 3:22pm


first message to the board and, as could be obvious from my username, I'm a bit biassed in some areas :-)

Traditionally the choice has been rear wheel drive, since this is/was most common to bikes. One of the issues with fwd is that the chain has to deal with the torsion tension that is put on it when turning a corner. As I understand it this used to be a problem a long time ago. There are more variants to fwd:
- direct drive like the Flevobikes used to use and is now still used in centre-pivot bikes like the German Python:
Used basically only in centre pivot bikes. A Dutch trike called Jouta used to work with direct drive as well. This seems to work well in moving bottom bracket bikes:

- drive via idlers like I used it:
Some people use pivotting (is that an English word) on the smaller idler to lessen the tension put on the chain. I've used a slightly wider idler.

- drive via a joint:
I've only come across this in the lab of Bill Stites. Don't think that there are any production bikes being made.

As far as I can see it (here comes the biassed bit) there are virtually no drawbacks. The maximum steering output is a little less then when compared to a rear wheel drive bike with indirect drive, however they are better then when compared to a rwd with direct drive.

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Re: First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer

Postby thirdcrank » 3 May 2009, 5:47pm

Arnold -Thanks for that - I've looked at the pics of the rapto again, and on reflection, it does actually use quite a lot of chain anyway.

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Re: First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer

Postby EdinburghFixed » 5 May 2009, 10:22am

The main thing I appreciated is that the chain (however much of it there is) is very well controlled. It's even better than on an upright bike because of the idlers - it just spins around without any flapping, quite tidy and immediate.

Even with chain tubes, I wasn't a great fan of the fussiness of the chains on RWD recumbents either.

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Re: First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer

Postby recumbentpanda » 7 May 2009, 10:11pm

The reason for front-wheel drive on many low-racers is that it is difficult to route the chain all the way to the back wheel without big changes of direction. It has to go up and over the front wheel, and then down under that low, low seat and back up to the rear axle. This involves a lot of idlers. Idlers on the 'return' side are no particular problem, but idlers on the 'drive' or 'pulling' side of the chain (eg the 'top' bit of chain) add a lot of noise and drag, -the tighter the corner the chain is going round, the worse it gets. Consequently front wheel drive makes a lot of sense for bikes as low as the rapto. On my much more upright 'bent, the chain-line doesn't need to be deflected at all and normal rear wheel drive can be used. Yes it's a lot of chain, but frankly, once you're rolling, you wouldn't know.

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Re: First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer

Postby byegad » 8 May 2009, 10:09am

thirdcrank wrote:I'm interested by the front-wheel drive. I don't suppose this is the first to have it but whenever I've looked at recumbents, one of the negative things for me has been the mile and a half of chain. I suppose there must be some history to the choice between rear-wheel and front-wheel drive. Can anybody from the horizontal world enlighten me?

I've heard it said that front wheel drive can lose traction on poorly surfaced or wet hills. It'll depend on the weight distribution of course.
"I thought of that while riding my bike." -Albert Einstein, on the Theory of Relativity

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Re: First impressions of the Raptobike low-racer

Postby EdinburghFixed » 8 May 2009, 12:42pm

David has kindly agreed to come out with the Raptobike tomorrow and we are going to do my standard commute, swapping half-way (I'm about as nervous of him riding my bike as I am of me riding the Rapto!)

It might be wet depending on how accurate the forecast is - certainly it will be windy, with gusts to 40mph - so I will have a better chance to test the handling than I did around the Meadows.

There is a cheeky hill rising from South Queensferry which has a 10% sign, I'm not convinced I will have the legs to conquer it lying back but we'll see. If that's not enough to spin the wheel then I don't think it will matter to me.

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Re: Raptobike video report / road trial

Postby EdinburghFixed » 11 May 2009, 1:12pm

OK, I have pieced together some video footage of my first recumbent road ride and YouTube'd it for your reference.


David rode the Rapto out to near my office in Fife, and then I rode it back - (we didn't take in the Hawes Brae however as it was very wet and I didn't want to spend too long messing about!)

I felt pretty nervous at the start, but settled down relatively soon... especially after I got crashing off out of the way! :lol:

This bike is FAST. I don't want to be too gushing but we chose quite a windy day to ride and I could hardly believe the difference. David was practically freewheeling at times, when I was hunched in the drops, panting, and still dropping back!

Felt fine in traffic. I really didn't have to worry at all - apart from the obvious proviso that you can't do a fast ninja filter through slow traffic when you can't see over the cars (although I did try filtering at a junction near home, just because I wanted to understand what it would be like!)

I was really hurting yesterday but I'm sure my recumbent legs will come the sooner for it :)

So, top marks so far! The comfort of a sofa, the jet-fighter feeling as you carve round corners, and a silly turn of speed. My next LEJOG attempt will be a walk in the park...