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Bram Smit separable lowracer test review

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In the quest for a more compact travelling alternative for my tri-sled trike I tested Bram Smits separable lowracer yesterday (www.fastfwd.nl) near Amsterdam.

Brams prototype bike itself was a little twitchy because of the very straight steering angle, a bit flimsy too because of the narrow rear fork. Serial models come with a larger rear fork though so that's been taken care of. Bram is also experimenting with a rear monofork, I guess that's just for the fun of it.

The Challenge Jester I tested before was a bit faster I think (had no speedo there) and I was hardly quicker than on the trike. Comfort is excellent though for a two-wheeler (as opposed to the back-breaking Jester). Most of the rider's weight is on the rear wheel it seems, which would be unusual for a lowracer, and the excellent rear suspension carries one smoothly along. Surprisingly I didn't miss a front suspension even when I tried footpaths and gutters. The seat is comfy too but a bit too upright for my taste. If I order one I will ask for a stiffer, somewhat longer and higher rear fork so the remarks mentioned will be solved. It was clear the bike was designed for someone 20kg lighter than myself (90kg). The handlebar stem was too small for me too so my legs and hands met in a destabilising manner. A small rear rack would come in handy, with a coroplast piece as fender. The thick main tube and clever geometry apparently avoids the crotch from getting wet and moreover the inside of my thighs didn't hit the tube, which was quite irritating with the Jester.

bram

The front wheel drive is excellent and flawless, not being used to the bike I made U-turns immediately on the two-lane street, which was slightly better than the rear wheel driven Jester (the one I tested had the chain over the frontwheel). When I tested it the road was very slippery because it rained for the first time in three or four weeks and I crashed once. It was on an iron gutter cover, cornering down a bridge, and though one doesn't fall deep from a lowracer one can slide along a jolly end and loose quite a bit of skin. But that would have been so on any lowracer. Bram lightened the commercial 69 tooth front crank wheel in a smart way, and added side protectors in some sort of plastic. It will be hard to spin that one out. I would have fancied a smaller second one too for travelling, even without a front derailleur. In muddy grass I spinned when starting from a stop. Seven gears might be insufficient for anyone outside the racing track and Holland. Front brake only, a drum brake. It was well enough but maybe a mechanical disk brake would provide more peace of mind, along with a rear rim brake, especially with the inherent instability of a twowheeler. I imagine a BSSLr made to measure would speed me up eventually to a level somewhere between the trike and a Jester, for medium distances. Not sure if the gearing and Fwd would take me over the Pyrenees, but I guess Toscane would work.

The relevance of a lowracer for travelling can be discussed, me thinks nothing beats the peace of mind of a trike for a 4000 km raid, but then again I sadly seem to be the only tadpole trike owner in Belgium (please correct me if I'm wrong, is anyone out there?). There's no import of Steins, Windcheetahs or Trices either, only the Dutch Optima made a vague attempt with the Rider. No match, speedwise. Luggage would be more of a problem too. But considering lowracers, Bram Smits lowracer is as good as any as you have read so far, but I haven't mentioned yet some properties that lift this semi-homebuilt up from the masses (about 5 a year come out of Brams 5m2 shed).

It's beautiful! Taste can't be discussed, but this lowracer is clearly designed with pleasure and a sense of smart simplicity and may be only equalled by the Jester. No bicycle radiates "less is more" like this one. Please take a look at the website. Not much detail there but you get an idea. Finishing is very professional: beautifully TIGwelded, all steel parts chromed, alu main tubes brushed, glassfiber seat with 'plastic afro' padding.

It's separable, and very compact. Bram designed it so it would fit in any trunk, but with a few modifications we discussed (folding the handlebars over the front wheel and quick-releasing the seat) it will fit in a modest bag. When I think of it, quickreleasing the rear wheel and folding up the rear fork would help too. Of course, besides traction efficiency, this is the main raison d'être for a front wheel drive. The joint is smart, light and elegant. Via an intermediate piece the round main tube fits in the square seat tube. Packing and re-assembling takes Bram less than a minute, it's just one quick-release really. How's that for a commuter? It's 'cool' and elegance can only be matched by the upright Alex Moulton which is four times the price, or the Airnimal, twice.

bram

I often make a quick jump to Barcelona or Copenhagen to keep up with architecture and culture but taking the trike on planes and trains and into a friends appartment is just too much hassle, and leaving it outside too much stress. I also live in quite an ugly spot and throwing my bike in the car for the first 20K would definitely improve my cycling pleasure. Another factor is that when travelling it's such a drag to arrive tired in e.g. Sydney or Hanoi and having to deal with lethal traffic and its fumes for tens of kms through depressing suburbs. How I wished I could do the Copperfield to my trike and be just a backpacker for a while!

But the best news is the price (and no I'm not Dutch, but broke after a yearlong triking trip). 1200 Euro, that is half to two third the price of most other lowracers. All due respect to the Zoxes (separable optionally), Barons, Jesters or Stingers, but Brams SLr definitely has a higher performance-to-cost rate than any of them, and the compactness is just invaluable for fast commuting and light travelling. I think Bram wouldn't mind adjusting a few things on your request.

Bram himself is an adorable chap with the necessary flaws of the dedicated recumbent homebuilder. He just lost his job after 30 years but I believe this will be a new start for him and a blessing for us recumbenteers. Thanks to Bram for not minding my loosing the rear light and damaging the seat in the crash.

I'm not sure yet if I want to trade in the 'trike smile' for any bike, with its relatively greater mental effort of combining sinusoids into a straight line, the crash risk and obligatory helmet. The ultimate travelling hpv imho would be a frame-suspended (composite?) and separable trike. Still no trike can be lighter and more compact than a two-wheeler. Personally I have to balance the fact that it will take me years to develop and build that trike, if I ever have time for it, and the fact that this twowheeler is right there, will cost me a lot less in time an money, and will probably work better than any first one-off selfbuilt machine...

But any of you twowheelers considering to switch to a lowracer, test this smart machine too. If you live in exotic enough a place and have a guest room you can test mine :-) Just don't crash.
Greets,

May the Bram Smit Separable Lowracer hence belong to the collective consciousness of the evolved cyclists' community.

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