Valoria II: Seats and fitting

I ride my recumbent a lot, and I ride it wrong.

When I’m not doing tight maneuvers, I rest my arms way up on the handlebars. That means I position the handlebars way closer than normal.

To get the same setup on my new bike, I had to get a longer steering riser tube. After much discussion with Zach, we concluded that the easiest thing to do was ask Bacchetta to send us a riser tube meant for their Bella long-wheelbase bike. That worked beautifully except it was too long. So, it was time for another crude do-it-yourself adventure:

Marking how much I need to saw off.

This is a pipe cutting tool. You stick it on a pipe and spin it around. Pretty smart design!

Bacchetta’s handlebars are now really wide, like most other recumbent designs. It’s like steering a plow. Does this mean I have to get used to them?

Nah. I can just swap handlebars.

New bike in front, old bike in back. The alignment is almost the same. Now to swap the handlebars…

New bike, old handlebars. To keep the new shifters and brakes I had to swap them between bars, which meant removing the bar grips. They are very sticky. I’m still struggling with the one on the right!

Bacchetta’s seats no longer include the eyelets for directly attaching an under-seat rack. Does this mean I have to give mine up?

Nah. I can just swap seats and keep using my old one.

New seat on the left, old seat on the right.

Look at that crusty old thing! But it’s so comfortable…

The bolts connecting the support struts to the seat of a Bacchetta recumbent, after 20 years of use.

Top set: 20 years old. Bottom set: brand-new.

While I’m moving parts around, I might as well replace that worn out seat clamp on the old bike with a nice new one…

20-year-old seat clamp on the left, brand new seat clamp on the right.

I can’t transfer the stickers from my old frame, but I can put equivalents on the new one:

Chococat in the lead!

Doin’ a lot of work on this bike… Things are starting to get messy!

You know what? I’m putting my arms on the same bars, and putting my butt on the same seat, so I’m basically riding the same bike. This bike isn’t “Valoria II”, it’s still just “Valoria”, but fancier.

That’s cool.

Valoria II: Rear rack

Me:
Is the Bacchetta “universal rear rack” suitable for touring?
Zach:
It is a relatively lightweight bolt together rack with a lot of adjustability. So not ideal for loaded touring but people have used it for that purpose. The weight rating is 25 kg.

It’s a pretty snazzy, minimalist-looking rack. (By the way, I found what looks like the generic version of it for about half as much money.) It took a very long time to assemble and position properly since I wanted it as high as possible off the ground. It also has some flex to it, which might not be a good thing. They say you want a rack to be as stiff as possible.

Could I really rely on this skinny little thing to carry 50 pounds over bumpy roads?

I went in search of other options. It was going to be an especially difficult search because of the weird positioning of the rack mount points on my 2016 Giro frame. They were sandwiched between the mounts for the seat struts and the disc brakes:

That is not much room to work with. The fact that I had to use spacers to fit Bacchetta’s own rack is an embarrassment. Would any other rack have struts narrow enough to fit without spacers? Is the distance between the rack arms going to be a problem?

Surly Rear Rack

(1260 grams, rated for 36kg)

Pros:
  • Strong
  • Has a handle
  • Adjustable height
  • Thin struts at mount points
Cons:
  • U.S.-style light mount
  • Very heavy

This was my go-to choice, except for the weight. I’ve always toured with an aluminum rack and found them plenty dependable. Heck, my frame is aluminum now. Moving to a steel rack seems kind of backwards.

Axiom Journey

(700 grams, rated for 70kg)

Pros:
  • Suspiciously high load rating
  • Good fit angle
Cons:
  • Crappy U.S.-style light mount
  • Handle is blocked

This was my second choice, except I would be giving up the handle. It’s hard to overstate how useful a rack handle is for moving the Giro around in tight spaces. Also, the light mount on this rack is a total afterthought, and their load rating seems really out of wack. Did they actually test that?

Topeak Uni Super Tourist DX

(875 grams, rated for 30kg)

Pros:
  • Nice handle
  • Adjustable height
  • Good secondary bar placement
Cons:
  • Not quite European-style light mount (RedLite only)
  • Stupid proprietary mounting strip along the top

This would have been perfect except for that mounting plate. I wish Topeak would sell a good rack without that plate, but they apparently want to compel you to use only their bags.

Topeak Uni Explorer

(782 grams, rated for 30kg)

Pros:
  • Nice handle
  • Adjustable height
Cons:
  • Not quite European-style light mount
  • Stupid mounting strip

A lighter option than the Super Tourist model with just as much capacity, but I’m still bothered by that mounting plate.

Topeak Explorer

(625 grams, rated for 30kg)

Pros:
  • Nice handle
  • No-frills design
  • Best weight-to-capacity ratio of Topeak racks
Cons:
  • Not quite European-style light mount
  • Stupid mounting strip

A even lighter rack, without the height-adjustment hardware. I would have gone with this except I stubbornly kept looking and found a better option.

Blackburn EX-1 Rack

(535 grams, rated for 18.2kg)

Pros:
  • Has a handle
  • Minimalist design
Cons:
  • No light mount
  • Low maximum load does not inspire confidence

I really liked the look of this one but the weight capacity was just too low.

Blackburn Outpost Fat Bike Rear Rack

(1105 grams, rated for 31kg)

Pros:
  • Has a handle
  • Adjustable height
  • Secondary mount bars
Cons:
  • U.S.-style light mount

This is Blackburn’s more upscale offering. I had an idea that the articulated mounting arms would fit inside that narrow gap around the mount points on the Giro … but when I got a closer look they were too thick. Mounting this rack would require spacers just like the rest.

Ortlieb Bike Rack R2

(640 grams, rated for 30kg)

Pros:
  • Has a handle
  • European-style light mount. Finally!
Cons:
  • Large amount of material around mount points

Interesting to see what Ortlieb wants to contribute to the rack market. Looks like they just want to make something that has their QL3 mounting system directly integrated. Good for them. Unfortunately the amount of reinforcement around the mount points makes them too big to fit on my frame without long spacers – long enough to widen the rack all the way beyond the top of the bolts that hold my seat struts in place. That’s an awful lot of extra strain on a rack.

When considering the Tubus racks I found this photo from The Touring Store very helpful:

Tubus Carry Titanium Rack

(470 grams, rated for 30kg)

Pros:
  • VERY light
  • European-style light mount
  • Good lower rail placement
Cons:
  • No handle
  • Top rails are not very long
  • Expensive as hell

The base weight of this fancy rack is astonishingly low, but once you add in the mounting hardware it moves up and becomes merely impressive. Tubus has discontinued this rack but you can still find it around. I think it’s mostly good for bragging rights. The weight difference between this and an aluminum rack with the same capacity is less than the weight of a good-sized sandwich.

Tubus Logo Titan Rear Rack

(390 grams, rated for 30kg)

Pros:
  • VERY light
  • European-style light mount
  • Good lower rail placement
Cons:
  • Handle is narrow and hard to reach
  • Expensive as hell

Even lighter than the Tubus Carry, this was the flagship Tubus rack for a while, and it’s easy to see why. Titanium is a very sexy material and the rack design is almost perfect. Sadly, Tubus discontinued it. I would track one of these down and use it except there is a slightly better, and more road-tested option…

Tubus Cargo Evo

(530 grams, rated for 40kg)

Pros:
  • Has a good handle
  • European-style light mount
  • Good weight-to-capacity ratio
Cons:
  • No secondary mounting rail

This is a newer revision of the same rack I have on my Bridgestone upright bike. It has two differences: A better shape for the mount points, and a carrying handle. 40 kilograms of load capacity (88 pounds) is plenty, and the frame design is very stiff. It’s also much lighter than the Surly, and doesn’t need an adapter to mount a European-style tail light.

The Tubus Cargo is my choice.

The space between the rack mounting holes on the Giro frame, including the thickness of the frame itself, is exactly 150mm. That happens to be in the middle of the width tolerance for the Tubus Cargo:

This means I can put spacers on either side – up to a centimeter each – without compromising the rack.

Also, notice the way the mount points project inward, like the ends of a clamp. That gives me plenty of clearance around the bolt heads that stick out on the seat struts.

This is important because the rack ends are pretty wide:

If I didn’t have that extra space, I’d run into those bolts for sure.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s a gallery showing how it turned out:

Aluminum spacerThe aluminum spacer I used – visible in the fourth photo – came from Amazon. I know I paid too much for them but it was just too convenient to throw them in with some household goods in another order.

It only took a few test rides to know that I was dealing with a much, much better rack than the standard Bacchetta one. After a few months, during which I loaded it up with a huge pile of gear and sailed around Oakland for hours at a time, I was convinced that I’d made the right choice. The handle was perfect, the weight was low, the capacity was high, and the brake light mounted easily.

In the meantime, the Tubus rack that I’d put on my upright bike nearly ten years ago continued to be a workhorse. Just last week I used it to transport a truck battery across town.

Valoria II: Fenders

I’ve found that a front fender on a recumbent is essential, but a rear fender is not. There are two details that make this true for me that might not apply to other people though:

  1. I have a frame bag on the back of my seat that blocks water and dirt from flying through the seat and wetting my back.
  2. I use waterproof panniers and cover the top of the rack with a waterproof bag.

This arrangement more-or-less does what a fender would do anyway.

Me:
The fender set that comes with the Giro-20 is fine, but I only need the front fender. Is there a way to leave the back one out?
Zach:
They only sell the fenders as a front and rear set for $45. If you just want a front fender, Planet Bike offers a similar front fender that is sold individually for about half that price. Also you can get a German SKS front fender from HP Velotechnik for $18.
Me:
The SKS looks exactly like the one on my Giro!
Zach:
There’s a reason for that: The fenders Bacchetta offers are Taiwanese copies of the SKS fenders.
Me:
Cool, I’ll go with the SKS front fender.

Valoria II: Disc brakes

Zach:
When riding in the rain yesterday I was reminded that metallic pad disc brakes (like the pads that come standard on the Avid BB7) squeal loudly in the rain. You may have noticed that on Kerry’s Bacchetta. There are organic compound pads available which are much quieter but also wear out much faster.
Me:
Hmmm. Does the vibration from the squeal cause any damage? Or is it just an annoyance?
Zach:
If it happens enough, spokes will start breaking. One can generally keep it from squealing very loud by braking lightly when it is wet which is fine if you have plenty of room to stop. Not a bad idea to brake more gradually in the rain to reduce the chance of locking up a wheel when traction is reduced on wet roads. If it is squealing loud enough that you are feeling significant vibration when braking hard, the spokes are getting damaged.
Me:
Hmmm. How much quicker do the organic pads wear out? Twice as quickly? More?
Zach:
Depends on riding conditions. The more rain riding one does, the faster the softer organic pads will wear out in comparison to metallic pads. I find on average metallic pads last about 3 times as long as organic pads.
Me:
Are they a nuisance to swap? I’m wondering if it would be worth adding the organic pads to my on-board kit, to swap only for rain use…
Zach:
It is a nuisance to swap pads as you have to remove the wheel, pull the pads out using pliers on the tabs, and deal with a fiddly little spring. So, not worth swapping back and forth depending on the weather.
Me:
Good to keep a spare set of pads on-hand anyway, right?
Zach:
It is a good idea, yes, though Avid BB7 brakes are common enough that most bike shops keep replacements in stock. For example, I keep replacement pads for BB7 brakes in stock, but only the metallic ones which come stock on these brakes.

To go along with my white frame, I decided I wanted white cables. Zach found some great cable housing for me, and I managed to stumble my way through the rest of the work.

Did you know that brake cables and shifter cables use different housings, with different diameters? I sure didn’t.

Brake cable housings have a metal lining made out of one long spiral of steel that wraps around the brake cable.  Shifter cable housings also have a metal lining, but it’s made up of many little straight threads of steel surrounding the central shaft where the cable passes through.  So, brake cable housings are thicker and stronger, and shifter cable housings are stiffer and smoother.

Everything you need, to do a half-assed job cabling your bike.

Can’t work on a bike without a beverage…

That pointy thing in the above picture is called an awl. After you cut the cables with your crappy non-custom set of heavy pliers, you can use the awl to widen the hole back out again, making it much easier to thread the cable.

I ran seven segments of cable in total. Three for shifters, and four for brakes. Partway through I ran out of brake cable end caps so I had to order more. (I already had plenty of crimp-on cable tips.)

Of course, it was amateur hour: I had to re-do two of the brake cables because I cut one too short, and the other too long.

As I was doing that, I had to re-thread the rear brake cabe a few times, and it started to unravel. That was a very bad thing. A single strand got pushed out of alignment, and as I was testing the brake the problem got worse until the whole cable was messed up:

That just sucks. It’s also why professional bike builders use special cutters on cables to keep them from unraveling.

The rear brake cable on a recumbent is extra long, and replacement cables are almost never long enough. Eventually I found one that was almost 3 meters long and installed it. Turned out to be even better cable than what Bacchetta gave me. An embarrassing mistake, but it turned out alright.

Valoria II: Lighting and power

Me:
I’ll need a new generator hub. Is that something that Bacchetta can supply?
Zach:
Bacchetta doesn’t offer a factory generator lighting system option. But, you could get a generator hub separately and have a local wheelbuilder lace it up to the rim that comes with the bike or to a new rim.
Me:
Okay. I reckon the smart thing would be to order a SONdelux disc-style hub, and have the shop on Piedmont avenue lace it in. Can I order the hub through you, and just add it to the bill?
Zach:
Yes, the SONdelux Disc hub alone is $298 in silver or black or $312 in red. It is only available in 32-hole, which is the same drilling used on the Alex DA-16 rims that come on Bacchetta and HP Velotechnik bikes. But, as the SONdelux has a Shimano Center-Lock spline fitting rather than 6-bolt International Standard like the Tektro brake rotors that come with the Giro A20, you will either need a splined rotor, or do what HP Velotechnik does with this hub and use a splined to 6-bolt adaptor which is about $25.
Me:
Alright. I’ll take a SONdelux in silver with the splined to 6-bolt adaptor. Now, let’s talk headlights. What’s the state-of-the-art?
Zach:
The current state of the art headlight in terms of having the best beam pattern and also being the brightest is the Busch & Müller IQ-X available in silver or black for $146. At 100 lux, it is the brightest street legal in Germany headlight, close to double the brightness of the first generation Inoled you have. Also the beam pattern is better as it is wider and more even.
Me:
Looking over their catalog, I also see the Luxos U with a handlebar-mounted switch that can charge USB devices. That sounds like my kind of thing! Do you have any opinions on it?
Zach:
I’ve never used a Luxos U but have sold a couple. They have been out for several years so don’t have the latest generation beam pattern of the IQ-X but still have a nice beam pattern and are brighter than what you are using now.
Me:
I’ll take it. I’m a gadget freak.
Zach:
Alright. Note that unless you are going to remove the headlight mounting bracket from your old Giro, you will need a way of mounting the headlight to the front derailer post. The most elegant way would be this TerraCycle Multi-Purpose Accessory mount for $38, with this tab mount for European headlights for $9 mounted to it.
Me:
Speaking of rear lights, the B&M documentation says the “TopLight Line Plus” (323ALT) rear light works with the Luxos U. Looks like I can mount it to a rear rack using the Busch & Müller Single Hole Bracket. How about we go with that?
Zach:
Good choice. I use the version of the Toplight Line Plus with brake light on all of my SON hub equipped HP Velotechnik bikes and trikes.