Tuesday, 1 May 2012

ICE Vortex at POP

On Saturday, I attended the wonderful Pedal on Parliament demo in Edinburgh.  Fantastic weather, over 3,000 cyclists and a fair smattering of folk on recumbents, so a decent day all in.
David at Laid Back Bikes had kindly offered to let me ride the Vortex on the day in order to save me taking my bike on overcrowded trains (& knowing that I had serious trike envy having seen the photos on his facebook page).
Details of the Vortex can be found here.  I'd been hugely excited by the marketing before the initial launch of the Vortex; especially the reference to the 11.5kg Monster trike.  When the initial model came out it was disappointingly heavy and fairly pricey IIRC.
Those two points seem resolved now (although, the Vortex+ is eye-wateringly costly), with the base model weighing less than 15kg and c£2,800.  This is by no means cheap, but seems par for the course, if not fairly good value for the specs offered.
So I got to spend a few hours with the Vortex, albeit most of it stationary and a chunk more at c.5mph.  I did get to stretch my legs on a decent climb and do a bit of urban riding & a lump of the slow section was on the cobbles of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, so I think I got a decent feel for the machine.

Initial impressions then, the trike is certainly has a very striking design & (whisper it) the white paint job really suits it.  This is the first ICE tike that I think actually looks good.  That seat is also visually well-designed.  The whole thing looks like it goes fast, which is a fairly difficult job with a trike.  The trike is a little less resilient than some other & care is needed not straining the bars entering the cockpit, but that's not terribly difficult to manage....

The position when seated is pretty comfortable.  Some of this is going to be quite subjective, but there was nothing obviously wrong.  For comparison, the bars are a wee bit further away than on the Greenspeed X5, which is my normal ride.  The seat rises and the front, so you're pretty securely held in position.  I'm not really used to this & it took time for me to get a comfortable position, but I can't see that it's anything but not being used to the seat.

After quite a lot of waiting around in the Meadows, we started off fairly slowly.  It was at this point that I realised that we were about to ride the cobbles of the Royal Mile with me on a trike without suspension and with 3 high pressure tyres.  With some trepidation, we swung right onto the cobbles, but I needn't have worried.  Something (I presume it was the padding on the seat) soaked up the vibration fairly well.  I was far more comfortable with the Vortex than I would have been on my X5 (with its big old deck chair seat and Kojak tyres).  To be fair, I wouldn't have wanted to go much faster, but it wasn't bad at all.  That's some achievement!

Making my way back to Marchmont from Holyrood, I got to open the taps a little.  First up the climb out of the park to the Commonwealth pool.  This isn't the biggest climb in history, but big enough when you're not in the best shape and being followed by someone who can climb.  The Vortex had given me the impression that it wanted to go faster & responded well to being kicked on.  Very easy to climb in for a 14.5kg machine.  I would have guessed it was lighter from the way it responded, but this may have been low rolling resistance from the racing tyres.  Steering is quite twitchy/light, which I found quite difficult under power going up hills, but, again, I would think that this is a case of getting used to it.  As we started to descend & take the roundabouts, the Vortex really came into its own.  The seat makes it very easy to get forward and lean in fast corners, despite its very laid back angle.  It cornered very, very well and just went where it was pointed without complaint.  It was very confidence-inspiring in corners.  It wasn't my machine, so I didn't push it, but I wouldn't have worried about very fast cornering, where I would on other machines.   Coming back through the traffic, my riding partner who was on a disc-braked Fuego was quite surprised (& perhaps alarmed) at how quickly the Vortex stopped.  Another plus mark to the Vortex, but a black mark for my group riding skills (sorry, Rob!).  Two things are worth noting that I didn't like: the low bottom bracket height is odd & led to lots of heel strike (I have large feet, so worse in my case) & would take some getting used to; and the 50t outer chainring.  OK the overall range is sensible at 22.5"-122.7", but I can't help thinking that another 3-4 teeth would be worth it on downhills on a machine this quick...

In summary then, the Vortex is a stunning piece of kit.  Adaptable (it takes a rack & with some Marathon Supremes would make a superb commuter/tourer, or in standard spec a fast commuter/sheer fun bike), practical and really "dialled-in" with its handling.  If I were in the market for another trike, the Vortex would be at the top of my shortlist.  Unfortunately, I'm not, so will have to make do with this ride until I sell the X5 & can persuade my other half that I really, really need a replacement trike...

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