Friday 2 July 2010

Judy's new touring bike - Review of the Sinner Spirit

Judy got a new bike a few days ago. She has needed a new touring bike for some time as we sold her old touring bike, a Flevobike Oke-Ja, three years ago before we emigrated.

The Oke-Ja was, well, OK, but to be fair it's only a middling recumbent. It was one of those bikes with the pedals lower than the seat. This makes them very easy to ride, and particularly easy to get on and off. However, they are not really comfortable except for very short distances. The Americans have a term for this: "recumbent butt." Many people try to counter it by replacing the seat cushion (often more than once). We did the same with the Oke-Ja. A friend of mine went through different seats on a BikeE. The problem is due to the position with the feet too low and the real solution is to ride a bike on which the pedals are higher. This is more daunting for beginners, but you get used to it and it's really much more comfortable in the longer term. It's also more aerodynamic. If you're not particularly interested in speed, note that this means you make better progress - especially into headwinds.

We've tried a couple of other things out over the last couple of years, including some trikes a few months back, but really the best option for most people most of the time is a bicycle. They're a bit more efficient, they take up less space and they're mechanically more simple.

I used to work for Sinner, so of course we looked at their line-up. I have a Sinner Mango velomobile but Judy really wanted an open recumbent. She has always preferred above seat steering, and wider mesh seats over narrower hard seats (they're usually a better choice for women and for more "full figured" people) so this narrowed down the choice to the Spirit.

Judy tried a Spirit on a very pleasant ride in May and she got on very well with it. With help from my colleagues I secretly organised a similar bike - in Judy's preferred red, and surprised her with it on the day of a recent cycling event in Groningen.

Sinner bikes are sold complete. Both a front and rear light were included, as was a computer, a kick stand, mudguards and a rack. The standard tyres are of decent quality (Schwalbe Marathons), the brakes are also decent quality Shimano Deore. All these things come with the bike, nothing needs fiddling with beyond setting the bike to the correct size. When we picked it up, Judy rode it home from the shop. These are bikes for "grown ups". For people who want something solidly engineered, on which everything fits, everything works, and on which you'll be able to ride for many years.

I've added three things to the bike. A Busch und Müller Cyclestar mirror, which is essential on a recumbent, a good quality frame lock, and of course a basket. I make baskets for all types of bikes, including recumbents.

The Spirit is a great bike. All the details of the design are improvements over my own two wheeled recumbent, a Pashley PDQ. In comparison, the Spirit wins with front suspension, much better rear suspension, better engineered special parts such as the pivot on the steering, and much better quality rack and mudguards. I think it's also a bit faster - the seat can be installed more reclined for a more aero position, and the larger rear wheel rolls better (while occasionally people make silly claims otherwise, rolling resistance of wheels is always inversely proportional to radius). As a result, fitted with similar tyres, the Spirit has about 15% lower rolling resistance vs. the PDQ with its two 20" wheels. Judy's not bothered about speed, but when we ride together this small difference between the bikes helps to keep us matched. We suffered from the opposite effect when Judy had the Oke-Ja as it was obviously less efficient than my bike. The Spirit is better for marital harmony.

The new bike is a success. Such a success that just one week after she got it, Judy was confident enough to come for the first time on one of the Sunday morning rides of the local recumbent riders, and to ride further in a day than she's ever ridden on any other bike before - 101 km. And all that without a complaint about discomfort beyond tired limbs:

Why choose a recumbent as a touring bike ? Well, they're ideally suited. These bikes are remarkably comfortable and you get to look straight ahead and see where you're going. What's more, these bikes also help many people who have medical conditions to be able to continue to cycle. We've made all our longer tours on recumbents.

Many Sinner customers ride their new bikes directly home from the shop. Last December one of our customers made a particularly impressive first journey.


l' homme au velo said...

I met a Chap on Critical Mass in Dublin with one of these and it was in Red. It seems to be a Popular Colour for these Bikes. He said he had trouble Riding a conventional Bike because of back problems,he would get Pain after a short while Riding an ordinary Bike. So he found the Recumbent a great Bicycle no problems any more. I was impressed with the Speeds he was getting on it although we were mostly going slowly on CM.I noticed how well it was made very solid looking out of Steel.

On another occasion I was in the Wicklow Mountains walking up a Mountain Road with my Trek and loads of Roadies on light Racing Bikes were Flying past me going down the Mountain. When the next person appeared he was riding a Red Recumbent just like Judys Roaring down the Mountainside at a terrific Speed.

So these are serious Bikes quite capable of Touring just like a conventional Bicycle. I would say these were probably Pashleys,well made.

Anonymous said...

Very nice indeed and congratulations to Judy both on the new bike and the long cycle ride, sounds wonderful.
Mark Garrett, Bristol UK

DrMekon said...

Looks like a lovely bike, and the basket looks great.

I've been over to DTEK recently, and am tempted to spend my next cyclescheme voucher on something laid back.

Obviously, if you can do me a Mango for £2K, that would be my preferred option :)


David Hembrow said...

DrMekon, glad to hear you went to D-Tek. Kevin Dunseath is a decent guy.

Sorry, can't do a Mango for 2K. They go for quite a bit more than that second hand. We occasionally have second hand Mangos when someone trades it in for a newer one.

The Spirit costs much less than that new. € 1650 is enough for a ready to go machine.

Unknown said...

I can’t read very much, but on the Sinner Sprit page it says “Toer 27/Dual 27”. So I’m assuming this model can be set up with two 26” or 700c wheels, is that correct? I’m contemplating a trail & touring recumbent when I graduate from school in about 15 mos. I like the Optima Dragon, but I’m leaning towards a Nazca Gaucho…and now I find out about the Sinner Spirit. The Spirit appears to be the cheapest of the three.

David Hembrow said...

Godzillasushi: The Spirit is always 20" / 26". The Dual/Tour options are actually for dual-drive or front derailleur, and 27 refers to the number of gears in both options (9 speed cassette).

The website will be updated soon, and in English as well.

Unknown said...

Ok, thanks. Looking at a different pic, I see the head angle would be too slack with a 559 in front. Still, an impressive looking ride! Sinner should consider a 2x26 version....

David Hembrow said...

Godzillasushi: A few years back there was a 26" front and back wheel version, the Phantom, but it's a discontinued model by Sinner. It's still available, though, and is now made by Traix.