321: My journey to the Silvio

Giant CRX0
The 321 refers to selling three bicycles: a 2009 Giant CRX-Zero, a 2008 Birdy Anthracite and a 2007 Cruzbike Sofrider V1 to get one Silvio.I used and basically priced each bike at around 50 per cent of what I’d spent on it. All three sold quickly and went to good homes. Two in NSW and one in Victoria (Giant). I’d bought the Giant to see if a no-expense spared flat-bar road bike would make a difference to the way I felt about “conventional” bicycles. Alas, no. By the time I had ridden the Giant 10 km back from the shop I had a numb bum. I tried several saddles, to no effect, and I included these in the sale of the Giant. The purchaser was pleased, but probably puzzled. In the for sale advertisement the photograph showed an additional seat, with original post. Yes, I’d tried a suspension post too!

Folded Birdy
The Birdy remained unfolded most of the time, but was a nice piece of machinery. It was a different type of bicycle to ride compared with a conventional, Diamond Frame (DF) bike, but not particularly difficult to master. Riding no-hands is probably impossible on a BirdyI had bought it because trying a folding bike seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought I was on a quest for a bicycle that I could travel with. More of that later!The suspension on the Birdy made it a pleasant ride, and I couldn’t see any point in ever getting another bicycle without suspension. Something else to include on my quest for a bicycle I could travel with.

Sofrider V1
While I still had issues with the Sofrider V1, it was so much more comfortable to ride. As a short person, I would have liked it if the seat was a bit closer to the ground. As it turns out, that was one of the modifications in the Sofrider V2 frame: a curved down tube and a lowered top tube.I had bought the Sofrider from the website, sight unseen as it were, and spent a month of Sunday’s learning to ride it. Everything clicked when I met Kim Tolhurst and he made suggestions on setting up the Sofrider. By the time I sold it, I was calling it a V1.3 Sofrider (Head stem extender – better knee clearance, Triple chain ring and Vittoria Randonneur Pro tyres – higher pressure). Down at the Geelong “test” track, I rode the Sofrider V2, under Kim’s watchful gaze, and everything started to click.

Kim Tolhurst with Silvio Cruzbike prototype
The die was cast when John’s prototype Silvio arrived in Geelong for Kim to show to prospective buyers. After a 10 km ride along the Barwon River trail, that was that. I had sold all but my Cruzbike Sofrider V1.3 at this stage, but when that had been sold, and Kim came up to help me pack it, I had no excuses, other than a heavy workload.Shortly before Christmas 2009 John came over from the West, and I met him and Kim at the Cruzbike “showroom” in Geelong, ostensibly to ride the new Sofrider, the Quest and the Sigma. Imagine my surprise when Kim announced we were going to ride to lunch. John gratiously surrendered “his” Silvio, and away we went. I hadn’t been on a bike for a month or so, but the joy of riding the Silvio came back instantly. I left Geelong that evening with Frameset CBSV-070.

Silvio 2010
My Silvio build was delayed by Christmas, parts, overseas visitors and a heavy January workload, but it all came together on Friday 12 February, when I went for my first ride on CBSV-070.As finished, my Silvio had a compact double chain ring with shortened cranks (153 mm), and a bar-end mirror, which didn’t add to the aesthetics or aerodynamics of the finished product.

Quest 20-inch next to the Silvio
I have since ridden the 20-inch Quest (Quest 451), and I can see that in my future as the ideal Cruzbike to give people the Cruzbike experience, and it folds. A Cruzbike with suspension (of course) that folds. It doesn’t fold in the same way as the Birdy, it’s more of an optimised disassembly, but it will suit me. John Tolhurst designed it in a suitcase, or at least that was the boundaries he set in the design program for fitting together the components.It stacks up quite well next to the Silvio and without road tyres I think it will be an ideal rail trail bicycle.As a 2011 update, a Quest 451 V2 – as seen in the Better Homes and Gardens video, the actual bike, without the child seat – is now part of the Box Hill Cruzbiking stable.

Lest I be seen as a Cruzbike tragic / fan-boy, I should add that I did try several different recumbent designs, all fine machines, before settling on the Cruzbike philosophy. It just seemed to make sense. The recumbents I’ve ridden include low rider trikes and high rider bicycles, from manufacturers such as:

GreenspeedThe GT1: basic folder. Designed as an easily transportable trike that you can fold up to fit in a car. Thanks for the opportunity to borrow it for a weekend Pete.
M.R. ComponentsThe Stowaway. A narrow track width of 640 mm means it goes through internal doors easily!Thanks for showing me around the workshop Michael.
Bacchetta The Giro 20 ATT and a custom Strada 20 were both taken for a short spin in Canberra.Thanks for the opportunity to sample the range of recumbents on display Ian.I helped a friend buy a Giro!

It was an odd experience to try the Bacchettas after riding a FWD bicycle. Suddenly the front wheel seemed oddly light and difficult to control. So much for complaints about pedal-steer on FWD bicycles!

Kim Tolhurst is tirelessly promoting the virtues of Cruzbiking in Australia, and together we are riding in community rides to raise the profile of Cruzbike. So far we’ve done the 34 km Hanover Eastlink Ride for Home, the 70 km Amy’s Ride, the 40 km MS Summercycle and the 50 km BAD Ride.

Hanover 34 km ride
Amy’s 70 km ride
MS Summercycle 40 km ride
BAD 50 km ride

In each of the rides, there were inclines. In the case of the Hanover ride it finished with a ride through both Eastlink tunnels. Both Kim and I hit 60 kph on the way down, but it was granny gear on the way up. Amy’s ride had a long hill that I felt I should stop on about three quarters of the way up, but I could have pressed on – watching my heart rate I was. And the MS Summercycle included riding over the West Gate bridge, which I managed with ease.The Ballarat BAD ride was, well, BAD, with many hills and a less hill training than desired – so some walking. But 65 kph on the way down, with no pedaling and a DF rider in front, in a crouch, and pedaling, going no faster!

With more riding / conditioning and some hill training, I suspect I won’t be so apprehensive about tackling hills. The Silvio is a superb riding machine, and when people ask I tell them how good it is, but always add – it’s a pity the engine is buggered.

At the end of all of these rides there is no pain in wrists, neck, back or bum. There’s just a sensation of tiredness at having exercised in a pleasant way and taken in the scenery in a relaxed manner. Yes, I say, it is as comfortable as it looks.

Silvio CBS-070 parked
In 2011, my Silvio has a headrest, a click-stand (thanks Dan) and a CamelBak Better Bottle with (insulated) hands-free tube (thanks Doug).I parked it at the finish line of the MS Summercycle and attracted some interest, as I did on the ride.The Bike Snob (Eben Weiss), who writes a column in the US magazine “Bicycling” has a collection of these writings published in a book – Bike Snob: Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling. He presents a taxonomy (Velo-taxonomy) on The Various Subsets of Cyclists. He seems to have a soft spot for the “Lone Wolf”, because I suspect at heart he is one, and their cousins, the “Contraption Captains”. Needless to say, Contraption Captains are recumbent riders who “… mean no harm, and they’re simply operating machines they feel are superior to regular bicycles because they’re potentially faster and they don’t require the rider to sit on a narrow saddle.”He also says “The recumbent strikes fear into the hearts of nearly every non-recumbent-riding cyclist. … Cyclists all notice one another. so when we see something that looks like a bicycle yet places the rider in an odd position with his feet kicking the air like he’s defending himself from an attacking eagle we become confused and disoriented. And when animals (including humans) don’t understand something they become angry and defensive.”I don’t think I could have put it better myself.

No wonder it’s hard to convince non-Cruzbike riders of the benefits of Cruzbiking. But as an American President once said:

“I would rather lose in a cause that will some day win, than win in a cause that will some day lose.” Woodrow Wilson.

Or maybe it’s a case of:

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Mahatma Gandhi

Maybe in 2011 we will reach a “tipping” point for Cruzbikes? Or at least Cruzbiking will embiggen the cromulent world of cycling.

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