Subject:       Suspended R-44 review (very long)
   Date:        Sun, 26 Apr 1998 15:44:16 -0400
   From:        John Strait <>   (John's New e-mail -


        I received my suspended Vision R-44 about 4 weeks ago.  I bought it through Calhoun Cycle in Minneapolis, MN, and had them ship it to me in Pittsburgh, PA via UPS.  I was real pleased with their customer service on this sale.  Luke Breen and I spoke on the phone several times and through email many times to get the details worked out.
        Since western Pennsylvania is quite hilly, I asked Luke to change the gearing before shipping the bike to me.  He substituted chainrings and cassette to give me a range of about 22 to 118 gear inches.  I also had him add fenders and the Vision seat bag.

        IMO you won't find a nicer bike shop than Calhoun Cycle or a nicer bike shop guy than Luke Breen.  (Standard disclaimer -- I am not associated with Calhoun Cycle in any way other than as a satisfied customer.)

        It was about a week before I got enough time to assemble the bike, and over the last three weeks I've managed to put a little more than 100 miles on the bike.  I wanted to wait until I'd had a little chance to get used to the bike's handling before I wrote this report.  Until buying the Vision, I've ridden a Linear USS LWB (folder).  The Vision's handling is very different.  More on this later.


        The bike is very good looking.  It's built from TIG welded Chro-Moly Steel tubing.  The main tube is 1.75" diameter.  The bike is painted bright orangish red with silver rims and fork, black seat, handlebars and controls.  People seem to recognize this as a bicycle more readily than my Linear whose design is basic industrial tech.  (This is not a criticism of the Linear.  I love the Linear.  In fact, as others have noted, because of its design, the Linear is much easier to customize.)

The equipment:
        Sun CRT 14A front rim
        Primo Vision 100psi 37-406 (20 x 1.35) front tire
        Sun CRT 1611 rear rim
        Ritchey Tom Slick 100psi 26x1.0 rear tire
        Shimano RX-100 hubs, front and rear
        Shimano RX-100 crankset 26/38/50  (changed by Calhoun from 30/42/52)
        Shimano 8-speed HG cassette 11-30  (changed by Calhoun from 11-28)
        Chain marked "SS" (mechanic at LBS says SuperShuttle chain???)
        Shimano PD-A550 platform pedals
        Shimano RX-100 deraillers, front and rear
        Shimano RX-100 dual pivot brake in rear
        Diacompe VC-700 cantilever brake in front
        Diacompe Power Control 7 brake levers
        Sachs Wavey Twist Shifters
        Ballistic suspension fork with pre-load adjustment
        Cane Creek AD-5 air shock in rear
        Vision's standard USS handlebars (not the new narrow R-45 bars)

Vision's literature says the shifters should have been Shimano STX-RC RapidFire.  I was kind of looking forward to that, but the Sachs Twist Shifters have been growing on me.  Bottom line is that I'm satisfied with them.


        The front suspension is an Ballistic elastomer suspension fork.  For rear suspension the seat stays pivot where they attach to the main frame tube under the seat, basically below your tailbone.  The main frame tube extends a few inches behind the pivot, basically below the small of your back.  The seat braces connect to the end of the main frame tube which is linked to the seat stays with the Cane Creek AD-5 air shock.  Here a picture is worth a thousand words.  The best view of the suspension geometry is actually on Vision's R-42 web page: .

        Like others who have reported on the suspended Visions, I have been using trial and error to set up the suspension.  I have it set up much stiffer than Vision recommends.  I adjusted the pre-load on the front shock approximately 8 turns and pumped up the air shock to about 50 lbs over my weight (Vision's recommendation is 30 lbs).  Set up this way, the suspension won't smooth out speed bumps, but still smooths out the smaller bumps.  There is no detectable pogoing.

        Our Pittsburgh streets and western PA roads are chewed up by freeze-thaw cycles in the winters and sun and rain in the summers.  I've heard that we have more miles of roads than any other state.  This is given as an excuse for why our road maintenance is less than wonderful. Anyway, the roads I ride are a patchwork of cracks, seams, potholes and patches.

        Riding the streets and roads around Pittsburgh is a pleasure with the suspended Vision.  I hardly feel the smaller cracks and shallower holes.  Where a non-suspended bike bike would go KA-BLAM, the Vision goes da-dub.  While I don't go out of my way to ride over the rough spots, I also don't have to always be searching for the smoothest pavement.  Without suspension, I used to hate it when I saw a rough spot ahead while riding in traffic on a two lane road.  On the Vision, I can be a lot more confident in these situations.

        It may be possible to adjust the suspension for a smoother ride over the larger bumps without losing performance.  I'm plan to gradually reduce the pressure in the air shock until I start to have problems with pogoing.  I think I already have the Ballistic fork set appropriately.

        One thing I find really strange about the suspension is the tendency of the bike to shift forward slightly when braking.  This should not have been a surprise, after all, we are used to automobiles doing this.  But it still feels wierd, especially when the bike shifts forward and then back again after coming to a complete stop.


        Let me start with this disclaimer.  This is the first SWB bike I have ridden more than a mile.  The only other recumbent I have ridden much is the LWB Linear, which I have ridden for about a year. I am very used to the Linear and comfortable with the way it handles.  One of the reasons I waited several weeks before writing this report is that I wanted to have a chance to get used to the SWB.

        There is no question that the Vision handles very differently from my Linear.  I expected it to be more manuverable and nimble than the Linear, and it is.  I expected it to have a smaller turning radius than the Linear.  It does, but I'm not yet used to having to deal with heel interference.  This limits my ability to make tight turns at low speed.

        I have not experienced the "shimmy" that has been reported by other Vision riders.  However, the Vision is certainly less stable than the Linear.  There seem to be two things going on here.

        First, on the Vision, high-cadence pedaling seems to provide a lot of steering input, whereas the Linear exhibits none of this.  This so-called pedal steer can make pedaling on fast downhills challenging.

        The second thing is that the Vision feels "twitchier" than the Linear.  I've tried to figure out what causes this.  Not being a bike scientist, the best I can say is that it feels as though small handlebar movements cause relatively large center of gravity shifts.  I seem to have a little trouble coordinating small handlebar corrections.  When riding in traffic, combining this effect with the pedal steer can make riding the Vision at high speed downright exciting.   Pedaling while signalling a turn is also pretty challenging.  Reaching the water bottle while pedaling is impossible.  This is definitely not a bike to ride no-handed. (Are there any recumbents that are?)

        One day I rode with the seat reclined more than usual and it seemed to me that the bike was less twitchy.  That makes sense to me because reclining the seat lowers the center of gravity.  I haven't tested this extensively though -- YMMV.

        Overall I like the Vision, and I expect that as I ride it more I will be bothered less by how it handles.  It may be that pedal steer and twitchy handling is just part of the SWB experience.  I have to remember that it took probably 50 to 100 miles after converting the Linear to USS before I was comfortable with it.  On the other hand, I *never* got comfortable with the Linear's ASS handlebars.


        I like the Vision seat.  It's basically a mesh sling with a padded portion where you sit down.  After riding the Vision for three weeks I got back on the Linear yesterday.  Where you sit *on* the Linear's seat, you sit *in* the Vision's seat.  I think I like the Vision's seat better, but then again I never had any complaints about the Linear.

        There is only one position for the front of the seat.  I guess the rigid-frame Vision's have two.  The seat recline asjustment is continuously variable.  I have it set in the middle of the range.  This is much more reclined that the Linear.  When I got on the Linear again yesterday I felt like I was really presenting a lot more surface area to the wind.

        I have to figure out a better water bottle mount.  The water bottle mounts horizontally just foward of the head tube, facing toward the front of the bike.  My old bottle leaked in that position -- I had to buy a new one.  The main problem with the water bottle mount is that I can't figure out how to reach the bottle while I'm riding.


        I'm very happy with the brakes.

        I have locked up the rear wheel a few times.  I guess I have to get used to the different weight distribution of the SWB.  I like the dual pivot rear brake -- never had one of those before.


        The RX-100 deraillers with Sachs shifters seem to work very well even though I've exceeded the recommended range of the rear derailler.  I have a total range of 43 teeth and the RX-100 rear derailler is spec'ed as having a total capacity of 36.  This means that only about 5 of the 8 cogs are usable with the 26 tooth chainring.  Oh well.

        The rear derailler shifts crisply without hesitation.  However, I can't seem to adjust things so that the chain is totally quiet on the rear cassette.  I often get tiny clicking sounds when pedalling that I cannot seem to trim out.  I've wondered whether a better chain would correct this.  A guy who works at the LBS said it looked to him as though the derailler hanger might be bent a little.  I haven't had a chance to check this out.

        The front derailler works well enough, but shifts from the small to middle chainring aren't as clean as I would like.  I routinely have to shift up to the large chainring and then come back down to the middle.  Perhaps there's some adjustment I can make here.


        This bike feels fast.  I think it may be the Super Go-Fast Red (tm) paint job.  It feels faster than the Linear, especially climbing hills.  So I decided to check this out by riding the same 18.5 mile course (one of my standard weekend rides) on the Vision and the Linear.  I rode it on the Vision a week ago and on the Linear yesterday.  Admittedly a very unscientific test.  If anything, I was much fresher on the Vision and more tired starting out yesterday on the Linear.

        I expected the Linear to be a lot slower.  Wrong.  My average speed was about 1mph faster on the Linear, probably because I was working a little harder on the Linear.  Up hills were about the same.  All of which goes to show, as so many others have observed, it's the rider, not the bike.  After all, both bikes have the same engine (me) and the difference in weight is only about 8 lbs.


        Very few and relatively minor complaints.  All in all these things don't bother me much.

        Derailler hanger may be bent (according to guy who works at LBS after eye-balling it).

        One of the brackets on the seat where it mounts at the air shock was pinched shut.  I had to bend it open to mount the seat.  The remaining brackets on the seat may also be bent a little -- the seat seems to be a little cockeyed.  I haven't had time to straighten this out.

        The seat is attached to the frame with two quick releases, one at each seat mount point.  The end of the quick release bolt under the seat protuded slightly beyond its nut.  On a wheel this would be normal and no problem.  However, in the small chainring, large sprocket combination the chain rubbed on the end of the bolt.  I solve this by adding a washer at the other end of the quick release.  The interesting thing here is that this was not apparent when the bike was on the repair stand.  It only rubbed when my weight compressed the rear air shock.


        This is one sweet bike.  It feels comfortable, feels fast and performs well.  I am very happy with the bike.  My only reservation is the twitchyness.  Perhaps it will go away as I retune my riding skills for the SWB.  Or maybe I'm just an LWB kind of guy.


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