Monday, June 25, 2007

ICE at the CTC York Rally

I'm not a regular visitor to the CTC's annual York Rally - last year I went because there was a folder ride on the Saturday. I hadn't planned to go this year, but then news emerged that Inspired Cycle Engineering (ICE) had developed a folding recumbent bicycle, so a visit to the show became essential. ICE are of course well known for their recumbent tricycles - the current models fold and separate, and I am an enthusiastic owner of one of these machines. A two-wheeled version would be more compact, so seems interesting, but I have serious doubts about my ability to manage one - balancing as you start off is tricky, especially on an upward gradient.

ICE had four prototypes of the new machine at York (plus of course the usual Trices, which attracted a lot of interest). Although they were prototypes, they looked very smart and were as well-finished and well-engineered as we expect of ICE. The design is not finalised at this stage, and apparently the front-end geometry still needs some refinement; at present the demand for the production Trices is so high that there isn't enough time to finish the development, so they won't now be in production until 2008. Although there will only be one basic frame design, this can be configured in many different ways, as the four prototypes demonstrated, with options on type of handlebars (no under-seat steering though), hard-shell or mesh seat, 451 or 406 wheels, front suspension or no front suspension, etc. Disc brakes will be standard, as will rear suspension (a similar elastomer arrangement to that used on the Trices). Suspension stiffness will be adjustable in a similar way to the Trices (different elastomers and different location points, and the seat angle can be adjusted in the same way as the standard Trices. There may also be a means of adjusting the seat position laterally to a limited degree (not finalised), and of course the boom can be adjusted to accomodate different leg lengths. As well as a choice of the sporty 451 sized wheel and the more common 406 versio of the so-called 20 inch wheel, there is sufficient clearance to allow fat as well as thin tyres to be fitted - the picture below shows one of the machines fitted with Schwalbe Big Apple tyres.

As the basic frame is the same for all the versions, it will be possible to reconfigure your machine after purchase - just as the 2007 version of the Q (or QNT) can now be fitted with a hard seat or mesh seat.
Unfortunately none of the machines was available for test riding, at least while I was there (a wet grass test track is not ideal, and perhaps ICE were reluctant to allow the public onto their not-finalised prototypes, which might not give a proper impression of the final machines). I did get to sit on two of the machines though, one with the mesh seat and one with the hard shell. As I am not only very short, but particularly short in the leg, ability to reach the ground is rather critical in my case, and in this respect the hard shell seat worked better for me.
These promise to be very interesting machines, and I look forward to more details in the future, and perhaps a chance to try riding them. ICE had a preliminary colour A4 sheet about the new two-wheelers, but it only provides some pictures, and no detailed specifications as yet. At the present time, there is no information on their web site, but no doubt details will appear there in due course, when the design is finalised and we are nearer the start of production. Prices obviously cannot be finalised at this stage either, but seem likely to be in line with other recumbent two-wheelers of similar specification (of the order of £1300??).
As far as the rest of the York Rally goes, I was only there on the Saturday, so I did not get a chance to see very much. There wer a number of Airnimals on the Mike Dyason stand, though I did not get a chance to talk to Richard Loke about them. There were also quite a number of folders, mostly Bromptons, and Moultons being used by visitors, though not noticeably any more than on previous visits.