Saturday, October 30, 2010

ICE B3 Recumbent - The Mini Review

ICE B1 - Mini Review

After spending a short time with this new steed - I have to say - I love it. The best I can say is that the B1 is everything I love about the ICE trike, (build quality, finish, comfort, etc) in the form of two wheels. It blends most things I loved about my old Burley Django SWB (low BB, lower seat height, “get on and go” riding ease, disc brakes, etc) and has none of the negatives of what caused me to sell that bike - primarily the insane to adjust Burley seat that made riding position adjustments a real test of patience. 

More miles will tell a more complete story - but lets be honest - first impressions are clearly important. Like when you try on a pair of new jeans - if they don't fit right as soon as you pull them up - they come right off. There is no "you'll get used to uncomfortableness" with other things you wear and use so it should be the same for recumbents. After riding many recumbents one gets to the point where even sitting on a bike may be enough to break the deal, let alone ride it. The B1 is like sitting in your most comfy chair. Riding is is... like riding your most comfy chair!
The B1 is very adjustable and it is done easily. There are plenty of seat angle adjustments (as you can see in the picture) taking only the flick of a QR lever. A quick adjustment of the boom will fix the seat/pedal distance depending on the desired seat angle. In my opinion, this is very handy. Climbing while sitting upright is far more comfortable to me but I like to recline a bit on the flats and downhills. Have a stiff climb ahead and sitting upright helps you relax and generate more power? Take two minutes to adjust the seat and boom of the B1 and off you go. It looks like the front boom of the B1 is the same as the ICE trikes, so a QR set would be nice there. (UPDATE) After an email to ICE, to which they always reply, they have confirmed that the front of the B1 can be equipped with the QR set for the front boom. i will be getting these here soon (thanks ICE!) and will be looking forward to on-the-fly adjustments. I will also add that the flip stem is just as easily adjusted for handlebar angle. The ICE B1 = comfort in any position!

Other features of special note: elastomer rear suspension. Enough said. Having it makes SO much difference. Once you have tried this type of setup everything else will be like riding on a hard washboard. Like the elastomer equipped ICE trikes, the B1 is like riding on a cloud. With a suspended fork the ride would be incredibly plush. I do not notice any pogo or power robbing from the rear suspension either. ICE has figured this out and it is mind numbingly simple in function - perfect!
Another feature of special note: Folding. While I may not use this feature very often, I can imagine times when it will come in handy. Our small car is not equipped with a bike rack. The B1 can simply fold and go in the trunk should I need to go somewhere with it. Folding literally takes 30 seconds or so, as evidenced via the ICE video. It works very well.

This B1 came equipped with the ICE U shaped bars, but I also have the hamster bars to try out at some point. The feel of the U bar on the B1 is great and has awesome slow speed stability. Climbing on the B1 is simple and relaxing with this setup. I have never tried a true hamster bar setup, but plan to try it on the B1 after some time. The U bars however are quite confidence inspiring with calm manners at higher speed as well. With the flip stem, getting on and off the bike is a simple affair, and the arm position is relaxed and natural without any unnecessary extension. While it may not be super aero, it is not “trucker wide” either. Since the B1 is not a race bike, it is refreshing that the folks at ICE have created a setup does not pretend to be something it isn’t. I do have to say though, with a reclined hardshell and hamster bar setup this could be like a sporty "mini-highracer" of sorts.
The mesh seat on the B1 is very comfortable, and is the same seat used for the ICE trikes. Indeed, it can be swapped to an ICE trike if desired. On the B1, the mesh seat is like a perfect cradle to pilot hard leaning corners without worry. Even at full recline, getting the feet on the ground at a stop is easy and there is no real leg interference while pedaling.

The tires seen in the pictures are not the stock Marathon Racers. I have equipped this ride with my favorite - 406 Big Apple Lites. After many hundred miles with the BA Lites on the QNT I can say they provide a very compliant ride and have great road manners. On the B1 they feel just as good, and it has a quasi "crater-hopper" look that I have grown to like. Carving hard angles on the BA’s is no problem as they have great grip. On my hard-n-skinny highracers of old, rough chipseal meant wondering if my fillings were coming out. Lesser-packed gravel roads meant a squirrelly nerve-wreaking ride. With these wide meats on the B1 and the rear elastomer this plush ride flies over the tops of softer road surfaces without worry and the occasional drain grate and constant road imperfections with ease. The 406’s accelerate very quickly, and from what I can tell, the bike holds speed just fine. With the ICE Capreo hub and cassette, there are plenty of gears for climbing and for decent top end.

The ICE rear rack is also a great feature. I had thought about taking it off in favor of a seat bag of some kind, but it is just too darned cool looking to do that. Plus I had a few handy trunk bags around, so there you go. ICE does have additional side bars that can be mounted to the rack if needed for using panniers. 

Only one odd omission exists, however: water bottle access. Sadly, there is none. I was shocked to not find a single location to mount a bottle cage. There are mounts on the front of the DR mast, but that cannot be reached while riding - at least not safely. The trunk bag I am using can easily carry one bottle, but really a stock cage mount within reach of the seat while riding is needed. My 2006 QNT has sweet raised mounts on the front of the boom - perfect for a cage. I would propose this feature be added to the B1. I am remedying the situation by adding a "Cat Cage" and some Elite VIP Bottle Cage Clamps to the front of the boom - similar to the same location as the cage mounts on my QNT.

(UPDATE) I received an email from ICE - they do have a clamp on bottle cage that fits to the back of the mesh seat rail. That should be an ideal placement for a bottle - easy to reach while riding. I will be getting one from ICE here soon. Below is a picture of this bottle cage solution from ICE:

I am very impressed with this little SWB. I was looking for a sporty, comfortable, “hop on and go” bike of artwork quality and the B1 is definitely it. Anyone looking for a compact bike that can still get up and move - while collapsing down to a manageable size for transport or storage - really should take a hard look and give this baby a test ride. The fine folks at ICE have ALWAYS been prompt and thorough in answering any questions I may have and offer excellent customer support - it is hard to find a company better out there!

Check them out!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Arrival - The B1

It has been a long time since posting - Cycle Oregon is over and the time since then has flown by. Where does it go?!?! Since the last post I have eliminated a few steeds - the Corsa SS is no more. It has gone to a loving home in Washington State, and I do hope it gets well used.

For me, I have been eying something of a more practical nature for a while. Something with a lower bottom bracket height and a bit more upright seating that is adjustable. Something in a similar flavor to my old Burley Django. I loved the Burley save for a few gripes - mainly the crappy seat attachment design that made easy adjustments "not so" easy.

My gaze fell upon an ICE B1 a while back at Coventry Cycles in Portland Oregon. I had to have it. I now have that B1 - just about outfitted the way I want for some road bombing in the rain and general two wheel fun.

Why the B1? Well, since I already have an ICE trike it is a perfect match. The quality is superb. Great components. As a bonus the mesh seat on the B1 can swap to the trike in mere minutes. Same for the hardshell I have on the trike. Bonus. The seating position with the U bar as seen in the picture is quite similar to my old Burley. The ride feels familiar and VERY comfortable. The seat angle is adjustable from upright to full recline in a matter of seconds and is very easy - something that was not possible on the Burley. The rear elastomer suspension - as on the ICE trikes - provides an incredible level of comfort and is pure simple in design.

So far I have not put many miles on, but I will have a full review coming soon.