An Introduction to the Cruzbike T50:
It’s not everyday one gets the chance to test ride the early production sample of an exciting and upcoming bike that brings recumbent bike touring to new level of affordability, but last week that is precisely what I had the pleasuring of doing; in the form of the Cruzbike T50. Talking with CEO Maria Parker, her daughter Lucia the Cruzbike Ambassador, and Robert from Rose City Recumbents gave me a real feel for the inspirations behind this unique design. After learning how Maria’s experience spectacularly winning her RAAM category in 2013 shaped the design of the T50, the concept of this bike really started to click.
The Cruzbike T50 sits in a very interesting category given it’s intended use, and design. This is one of the first recumbents I’ve seen to clock in at a price that’s competitive with Surly’s popular line of Long Haul Trucker, and other popular upright touring bike frames.
In the form of a kickstarter campaign, Cruzbike has both their experience, and production in place to make the T50 available at just under $1000 to backers, making it an attractive option for those looking to give recumbent touring a try.
I’m usually quite skeptical about kickstarters, having spent more money than I care to admit funding them from time to time. I’m well aware of the pitfalls that can crop up during a products design and production cycle, but one thing I am good at is vetting successful campaigns. After test riding the T50 I can say confidently that Cruzbike looks to have their ducks in a row and should be easy to back given their company’s reputation, and proven ability to deliver a product to their customers.
Looking at the Cruzbike T50, the first thing that most riders will spot is the unique drivetrain, designed around a short wheelbase, and gearing completely from the front. This is a pretty cool solution to one of the recumbents more noticeable drawbacks: climbing. By moving the drivetrain to the front instead of relying on a longer cross-drive chain, you can really feel a difference in power transfer as you hit the hills. The shorter wheelbase from this design also allows it to fit on standard bus racks and in smaller spaces, a welcome benefit to any recumbent design. I was a bit concerned about the single chainring on the front of the prototype I rode, however upon learning that with minor modifications (using standard parts) this bike can fit a double or triple, those concerns were put to rest.
Riding it was certainly a neat experience, and after some expert pointers from Robert over at Rose City Recumbents, I was off to the races. One of the most interesting traits of Cruzbike’s design is that their pedal and steering column are connected, which means that force applied while pedaling must be countered, or balanced by your arms. While this might not sound intuitive at first glance, I found that after a few minutes with the bike this became second nature, and allowed me to put more of my energy towards moving forward than the usual recumbent design allows.
A side note should be made about turning: where the T50 design lacks a bit of corning ability due to being limited to a certain pedal angle. This caught me a bit by surprise as I’m used to flicking my Surly a bit more aggressively, but after a few quick turns this too, fell into routine.
The bike is specce’d with relatively low end components, which makes sense given it’s price point, and who it’s geared for. I personally don’t mind as I find myself often upgrading what I need, and leaving the rest stock. With the ability to add disc brakes and a triple chainring, this bike should be more than capable of handling long distance riding with a modicum of care paid to upkeep and maintenance on the road, and still for less than the price of a Surly Long Haul Trucker. In fact, a Cruzbike predecessor to the T50 has already been ridden in a world circumnavigation, so it should be able to take a beating.
The Cruzbike T50 also has conveniently placed racks for standard touring bags on the rear, and it also looked like there was ample room for a custom bag setup in-between the wheels and attached to the frame – it will be interesting to see if some of these bags pop up, as having extra storage space is often nice for a touring setup, but there are plenty of great reasons to run with just two panniers regardless.
Current Specs (more to come from their Kickstarter launch page):
- 26″ Wheels
- Up to 2″ tire clearance
- Disc Brake Compatible
- 43″ Wheelbase
- 1×9 drivetrain (can be easily upgraded to a triple)
I’d like to try the T50 in an extended touring setting in the future, but until then keep your eyes peeled, this will be a good one to watch!