In April I got the chance to fly to Germany and help Laidback Bike Report‘s Gary Solomon cover the spezialradmesse, the “special bikes” show in Germersheim, Germany. In May, I journeyed to Tennessee to attend the Smoky Mountain Recumbent Rally. Two events that share many things, but differ in several others. I want to tell you about both, and why you might want to consider attending either (or both!) in the future. But first, as they say, a “word from our sponsor”. As many may already know, I got the chance to attend SPEZI because of a GoFundMe campaign. I was surprised by the results of Gary’s public attempt to fund my trip – not all of the expenses were covered, but enough was generously donated so that I could be present at the incredible bike show. I am so grateful to all of you who donated! I will discuss the Smoky Mountain Recumbent Rally in a moment – and especially the differences between the two events – but right now, let’s take a closer look at SPEZI!
As you might expect from the name of the event, the bikes represented at SPEZI are the “special” ones, bikes that differ from the more common types we see on the roads and in the stores. This is a show for manufacturers of recumbents, folders, electric bikes, velomobiles and some that almost defy description! “Special” is an apt part of the name! The manufacturers represented were mainly European, but there were at least two from the US (Trident Trikes and Cruzbike) and one from Australia (Greenspeed). If you ever want to see just what is being offered in this world of recumbents, come to SPEZI! You’ll find out what is “hot”, what options are now being offered on otherwise-familiar bikes and trikes, as well as some that are still on the drawing boards. As many might have suspected, trikes are continuing to be the most popular form of recumbency, electric assist is becoming more common, and it looks like “tilting trikes” are getting lots of attention from the designers.
I talked to many of the exhibitors, as well as the attendees. I could write page after page about the bikes and trikes I saw, but perhaps you would like to go see the Laidback Bike Report coverage instead. What I would like to do now, is to talk about one trike in particular, one that many have heard of but few have gotten a chance to ride: a Windcheetah.
My only previous experience on a Windcheetah was to sit on one, and take a brief ride in a parking lot. After spotting the manufacturer at the show, and many minutes spent trying to suck up to him, I heard the magic words: “Would you like to take a test ride on one?” I tried to behave casually when I responded with “Sure!” But inside I was cheering and clapping. As we rolled the carbon fiber beauty outside, over the inner cheering I could also detect a small voice saying, “What if it isn’t as wonderful as you have heard?” I decided this would be more than just a short ride in a parking lot!
You must realize that this is one expensive and fairly rare trike I was lowering myself onto. Thoughts like “be careful, don’t run into anything” tried to drown out “I feel the need – the need for speed!” Once I was in position, feet on the pedals and hands on the unique steering mechanism, I wasn’t sure, but I had a feeling the second voice would win out. I was a bit cautious at first, though, because the parking area I was in was of pretty rough pavement, a combination of old concrete, bricks and cobblestones! Once I got closer to the exit (I had decided, hey, here’s my chance, let’s get out on the road!), I found relatively smooth concrete, a typical paved road surface, but stretches of bricks, too. the shifting and steering weren’t too difficult to manage, and within a few moments I was rolling along at a pretty good clip. Not sure at the time just how fast, since the bike computer was set at KMH!
Anyway, there I was riding at traffic speed, on a Windcheetah! To say I was having a good time would be the definition of understatement. A little nagging voice did arise, asking “Where the hell are you?” And I wasn’t exactly sure! I guessed that if I turned right at the next two or three intersections, I should be back at the parking area I had started in. At least, I hoped so – though I did have a fleeting thought of how I could fit this trike into my luggage for the flight home. Alas, after too short a time, I was back, and I could swear I saw a deep sigh of relief, both from the owner of the Windcheetah company, and Gary Solomon, too!
My thoughts on the Windcheetah: very light (this wasn’t the ultra, racing-only model, btw), very responsive, and it handled the rough pavement better than I expected. Apparently carbon fiber plays a part in all three. I really think that what they need to do is, get one in my hands for a long-term review. I’m thinking of you, the readers, of course.
As for SPEZI in general: I was there once before, in 2004. It has grown in both exhibit halls and attendance. It was so crowded much of the time, that it was often difficult to film some of the interviews for the Laidback Bike Report. But we hit as many as we could, rode what we could, drooled over the velomobiles as well as the less-exotic (to us) bikes and trikes on display. Should you go to SPEZI? If you want to see what’s available (or soon will be) in the world of recumbents, you should. I know I want to go back again, too.
And now, on to the SMRR portion of this article – the Smoky Mountain Recumbent Rally. I would say it is comparable to SPEZI, but only slightly. While SPEZI is where the builders come to show off their wares, the SMRR is a gathering of riders, with only a few exhibitors present. You come to this event primarily to ride your own bike or trike in the lovely environs of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well as to mingle with others of a similar nature. This was the fifth edition of this rally, and it, like SPEZI, has grown over the years. Attendance was almost double this year compared to last! And, thankfully, the weather was far better than at SPEZI. It threatened a few times, but for the most part the rain stayed away, the temperatures warmed up just fine, and the riding, especially on Saturday at Cades Cove, was wonderful.
One manufacturer who was also at SPEZI was here, too: Trident Trikes. If I’m not mistaken, Tom Flohr and his trikes have been to as many SMRRs as I have – all five! One other builder was represented here, too, and definitely caught my eye: Greenspeed. I had a brief chance to ride two of their latest, the GT20 and the Aero, at last year’s Recumbent Cycle-Con. I was planning on getting a better ride in this time. Don’t get me wrong: the GT20 is a perfectly fine trike, but I had my sights set on the Aero.
Those of you who have met me, or have just read my articles, would rightly assume that I’m more of a tourist than a racer, that the GT20 would be a better match than the Aero for me. And you would be right – but even the most sedate among us has urges, the desire to jump the fence and run with the big dogs occasionally. And that’s where the Aero shines – it is so low, so aerodynamic, so fast – you have moments in which you think hey, I’m a racer! And, for a brief time, you are – or at least I was, until thoughts like “where do I carry all my stuff” popped into my head.
The Aero is very fast, handles curves better than most trikes I’ve ridden – and is surprisingly comfortable, too, so long as you haven’t reached that time in life when squatting down that low – and getting back up again – may be a problem. Luckily, I haven’t, so even though this trike would be relegated to fast, fun day rides for me, I would still love to have one.
So there you have it: a comparison of two events I recently attended, as well as two trikes that I lust after. Yes, I want to go back to SPEZI again, and to the Smoky Mountain Recumbent Rally, too. And yes, I want both a Windcheetah as well as the Greenspeed Aero. Will I get all my wishes? My fingers are crossed!