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  1. #1
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Comparison of crank forward bikes

    I had a chance today to take test rides on three crank forward bikes, and a recumbent. Here's my thoughts on them - with the emphasis on the crank forwards

    The bikes: Trek Sole 200, Trek Pure, Raleigh Gruv 1, Sun EZ-1

    First up the 2006 Trek Sole 200 3-speed: This bike was reasonably comfortable. The seat was a fairly traditional bike seat with a back rest. The back rest makes it difficult to get on the men's bike as you can't swing your leg over it. The back rest comes into play as you pedal for you can push off from it. The Nexus 3-speed shifter worked flawlessly. Handling was okay, good enough for a cruiser but it needed a lot of room to make a turn, but it did feel a little heavy, sluggish. The ride was smooth, with a front suspension fork and big 2.125" tires. The riding position wasn't quite as nice as many other crank forwards, the reach to the handlebars felt like it was about a half-inch too far.

    2007 Trek Pure Deluxe, 3-spd. Trek made some changes to the Sole and renamed it to the Pure. The seat was much improved, going to design more like the Rans crank forward seats, wide with a "cupping" center and raised rear lip. The back support was gone. I found it far more comfortable and never missed the back support. The geometry of the bike was altered, again to the better as far as I was concerned. When sitting at the most comfortable position, the handlebars were right where I wanted them. The bike felt more responsive than the Sole. But then there is the braking system. Trek has brought back the coaster brake on this model, marrying it to a 3-spd gear box and supplementing it with a front hand brake. The combination of having both a coaster and a hand brake played tricks with my mind as I rode it. The bike was a joy to ride. Highly recommended if you can deal with the braking system. Price is $459, which is $70 higher than last year's Sole. It comes in both men's and women's frames.

    Trek offers a 7-speed Pure, without front suspension and without the coaster brake for $369.

    2006 Raleigh Gruv 1, 7-speed with rear derailleur. This is a lower end bike, list is $305, without a lot of frills. It uses a single front crank with a lower-end Shimano 7-speed derailleur, standard hand brakes, and rigid fork. The seat is pretty good, kindof like a smaller version of the Trek Pure. Better than the Sole, not quite as nice as the Pure. This bike rode very nice, maybe not quite as nice as the Pure but close. It shifted nicely, not as smoothly as the Nexus 3-spd, but it was fine. There was an incline behind the store that was a couple of hundred yards long, powering up in 3rd gear was quite easy. Handling was good, the bike felt on the light side of a hybrid. It was a very fun ride.

    Unfortately Raleigh has discontinued the Gruv 1 and Gruv 2 (21-spd) in their 2007 lineup.

    Sun EZ-1. There are a lot of reviews of this bent around, I only rode it to see how it compared to the crank forwards. I rode it between rides on the Gruv. The Gruv (and Pure) captured more of the bent ride experience than I expected it too. Most notably you did push forward while riding very upright. Obviously the EZ-1 has a much lower riding position, with the cranks much further forward, and has a very comfortable seat.

    I found both the Pure and the Gruv to be a lot of fun to ride. Very comfortable, easy to pedal, and with a great riding position to view your surroundings. A really nice and easy to adapt to mixture of a standard diamond frame bike and a recumbent. I'd like to see this format catch on, which I think it would if more recreational riders would give these bikes a test ride.

  2. #2
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I'll add that while the Trek Sole and Trek Pure had suspension forks, that none employed a suspension seat post. I rode over a lot of bumps on my test rides on purpose to evaluate how they handled them. In the end, I don't think a suspension post is needed. Between the large diameter tires and the extra cushy seats, especially on the Pure, most of the shock from the bumps was soaked up. You could feel the bumps, especially when I was riding over a 3/4" high concrete seam, but they weren't hard shocks.

    The Gruv had a rigid fork and there was definitely more shock in the hands on it, but it was still comfortable, IMHO. The lighter weight & rigid frame probably contributed to my perception that it was a bit more responsive and handled well.

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    Thanks for the report! Sounds like fun. If you've got a thousand $ try Rans crank forward Fusion/Cruz bikes. Better speed, distance, comfort, and components.

  4. #4
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I can't find anyone who stocks them. The local Rans dealer has some of their bents, but none of their crank forwards. The designs look like you've got to extend your arms / lean forward more than the laid-back Trek and Raleigh bikes.

    Maybe they will stock some come Spring.

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    You can contact Rans here.
    http://www.ransbikes.com/bikecontact.htm

    They may have a suggestion on how to arrange a test ride.

    Also on the Crank Forward Forum there might be someone living near you that will let you ride.
    http://pub23.bravenet.com/forum/1970022224/

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    Tom, have you tried the Electra Townie? If so, I would be interested in how you think it compares to the Trek Pure.

  7. #7
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I tried a Townie about 3 months ago. I need to do it again, as it was a brief ride and the first time I had tried a crank forward, so I don't trust those early impressions. And the one I tried was loaded up with fenders and other frills. So I have this impression that it was slow and heavy, but that might be unfair.

  8. #8
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I did recently ride a Giant Suede, so can say something about them.

    The Suede positions the crank / bottom bracket only about 3" forward of the bottom of the seat tube, so it does not have as strong a crank forward riding position or sensation. It feels more like a very comfortable hybrid. The Suede I rode was a 2006 model and it had a pretty basic hybrid-type seat. The 2007 models appear to have a saddle-type seat, more like what Trek now offers on the Pure. I find this type of seat to be more comfortable on a crank-forward bike, as much more of your weight is on the seat.

    The Suede felt like a faster bike, due to it being less laid-back and having 1.75" tires (on the DX model). It has a front suspension, which I'm not sure is needed on a bike where most of your weight is on the back wheel. It was easy to stand up and pedal. It was a different riding experience than the Gruv, which has the bottom bracket placed about 3" further from the seat tube, giving it a much more semi-recumbent ride.

    My take is that if one is looking for something that is much like a hybrid but a bit more relaxed, then the Suede is a good option. The price is pretty good given that it uses a non-traditional frame. I know of people who take these on 40-50 mile rides.

    If you looking for a nice multi-speed cruiser-type bike, with good looks and a comfortable ride, then the Trek Pure is worth checking out. With options ranging from a stripped down, non-suspension 7-speed, to a suspension 3-speed, to a suspension 21-speed, in both men's and women's frames, it hits a lot of bases. Several color options too.

    And if you want to try a nice, no-frills semi-recumbent at a low price, the Gruv is a very good deal. The more I look around, the more I lament that the Gruv has been discontinued. Both of my local Raleigh shops offer the 7-speed for under $290. In an area that is flat or with rolling hills it would be a nice bike to take out for a 5-10 mile ride (you could ride it much further but it impresses me as a design that is very good for a comfortable, moderate-length ride).

    None of these are performance bikes, a la Rans.
    Last edited by Tom Bombadil; 01-08-07 at 07:46 PM.

  9. #9
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Adding to my collection, I took a short test ride on the new Electra Amsterdam today. This is a crank-forward commuter with a list price of $599. It is designed for use as an in-town commuter, with fenders and larger, thinner tires (700x38) than many CFs. Very attractive bike.

    Like the Giant Suede, this is a rather moderate crank-forward, with a bottom bracket that is around 3"-3.5" forward of the seat tube. This makes for a comfortable riding position with some pushing forward on the pedals but not too much different from a "normal" bike.

    It comes in only a 3-speed version, but several colors. Like many crank forwards, there is only one frame size for men and one for women. The single size for men is a little larger than the Suede, Gruv or Pure, roughly the same as an 18" hybrid. As such it was a little large for me. Nice comfy seat, very similar to the one on the new Trek Pure.

    It handled nicely ... very smooth action. Not quite as high on the fun factor as the Gruv, but more refined. Classy bike to run on a city errand.

  10. #10
    Senior Member I_Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottogo
    Thanks for the report! Sounds like fun. If you've got a thousand $ try Rans crank forward Fusion/Cruz bikes. Better speed, distance, comfort, and components.
    Most definitely. I have two of the Crank Forward bikes and they are in the enthusiasts’ bike category. I have done several centuries on my CF’s, something that would be a bit much on the other flat-footers. I have ridden Townies and a Gruv (30 miles on the Gruv) and they are great bikes but a different league than the RANS.

    BTW, I went from a recumbent to the Crank Forwards!

    Dan

  11. #11
    Senior Member I_Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottogo
    You can contact Rans here.
    http://www.ransbikes.com/bikecontact.htm

    They may have a suggestion on how to arrange a test ride.

    Also on the Crank Forward Forum there might be someone living near you that will let you ride.
    http://pub23.bravenet.com/forum/1970022224/
    Randy Schlitter (of RANS) has a "Buy and Try" program in place. If you want one of the bikes and there are no dealers near by, you can buy it directly from RANS. If you find the bike is not for you, you can ship it back to RANS. You only pay the shipping back...

    You'd have to call RANS and get the exact details...

  12. #12
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Visual Illusion?

    I made a discovery, at least for me, over the weekend. Based on visual clues, I believed that many of the crank-forward bikes from RANS had a much more relaxed geometry than other crank forwards. That the angle from the seat to the crank to the handlebars was much more aggressive than others.

    But then I started studying them a bit closer. What I found was that this impression was largely based upon the angle of the seat tube used in the designs. RANS runs the seat tube directly up from the bottom bracket / crank to the seat, and uses a thicker tube to add strength to the steep angle. Whereas Raleigh (and others) used a more tradition frame and seat tube, but moved the crank forward along a line from where the seat tube intercepts the bottom frame tube.

    However when one draws a line directly from the Raleigh's crank to the back of the saddle (where RANS attaches the seat post), you find that the geometry is VERY similar to the RANS. Tilt the Raleigh seat forward just a bit and adjust the handlebar stem and poof! they are almost identical. At least on the geometry. The RANS are still higher performance due to better components and lighter overall weight. However the impression that they are very different designs is just that, an impression.

    It is fascinating how the angle of the seat tube has such a strong influence upon how one perceives the geometry of the total bike.

    Here are pics of the Raleigh Gruv and RANS Dynamik Pro and my hacked up Raleigh/RANS Gruv
    Last edited by Tom Bombadil; 01-16-07 at 11:42 PM.

  13. #13
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    Gruv geometry
    http://www.raleighusa.com/popup-bigi...if&h=418&w=212
    from this page:
    http://www.raleighusa.com/items.asp?deptid=6&itemid=271

    Looking for geometry specs on Rans and have yet to locate them.
    Posted a query here:
    http://pub23.bravenet.com/forum/1970022224/show/607614
    Last edited by scottogo; 01-16-07 at 06:25 PM.

  14. #14
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I printed out both pics on a full sized sheet of people, drew the lines I noted above, and measured the angles. And put both sheets of paper together and shone a light through them. They are much closer than I had thought.

    The Raleigh specs give the seat tube angle as what the physical tube is, not the angle from the seat down to the crank. That's why it they say it is 64 degrees. The true comparison is the angle from the crank to the seat.

    If I had and knew how to use Photoshop, I would blank out the Raleigh seat tube, then create a new one, from the bottom bracket to a position about 2/3rds of the way back on the seat. Better yet if I could tilt the seat forward a little. That's what I did by hand on a piece of paper, and how I discovered how close the two are.

    The RANS wheelbase is a little bit wider and seat to crank angle is a wee bit lower.

    The seat really adds a lot to the visual image too. And it adds a lot to the RANS riding experience too, as it is a very interesting & expensive design. Having to use a much larger tube to add strength in order to get it to hold the seat from that far back, as well as the custom contour. A real plus for their bikes.

    Note that I am not being critical of RANS in any way. Merely noting that the geometry is not nearly as different as it appears to be.

    Looking at this picture of the RANS Citi, my first take is that it looks a bit less relaxed than the Dynamik Pro picture posted earlier. But it is the same. The difference is that the top tube has more curve to it, and the seat post is not extended as far, the seat is leveled - rather than leaning forward - and they have a pedal on the crank, which makes it look like the wheels are further apart on the Dynamik. And then they put on handlebars that extend closer to the seat. Interesting play on the setup to give the Citi a very different look.
    Last edited by Tom Bombadil; 01-16-07 at 09:56 PM.

  15. #15
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I have added my grade school quality, hacked-up Raleigh Gruv mod to posts #12 & #14. All I did was brush out the current seat tube and add a RANS-like straight tube. Looking at them side-by-side on the thumbnails shows how similar the basic geometries are.

  16. #16
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    So is the 7-speed Trek Pure equipped with an internal hub or derailleur? Based on the price, I'm assuming derailleur. Either way, I don't think losing the suspension fork and the coaster brake is a bad thing, and four additional speeds is a good thing, and at a better price than the 3-speed.

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    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil
    Adding to my collection, I took a short test ride on the new Electra Amsterdam today. This is a crank-forward commuter with a list price of $599. It is designed for use as an in-town commuter, with fenders and larger, thinner tires (700x38) than many CFs. Very attractive bike.

    Like the Giant Suede, this is a rather moderate crank-forward, with a bottom bracket that is around 3"-3.5" forward of the seat tube. This makes for a comfortable riding position with some pushing forward on the pedals but not too much different from a "normal" bike.

    It comes in only a 3-speed version, but several colors. Like many crank forwards, there is only one frame size for men and one for women. The single size for men is a little larger than the Suede, Gruv or Pure, roughly the same as an 18" hybrid. As such it was a little large for me. Nice comfy seat, very similar to the one on the new Trek Pure.

    It handled nicely ... very smooth action. Not quite as high on the fun factor as the Gruv, but more refined. Classy bike to run on a city errand.
    My understanding is that there is also a 7-speed internal hub version of the Amsterdam available.

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    Quote Originally Posted by randya
    So is the 7-speed Trek Pure equipped with an internal hub or derailleur? Based on the price, I'm assuming derailleur. Either way, I don't think losing the suspension fork and the coaster brake is a bad thing, and four additional speeds is a good thing, and at a better price than the 3-speed.
    Pure Sport 21 speed $460
    Pure Deluxe 3 speed Nexus internal $460
    Pure 7 speed derailleur $370

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil
    I have added my grade school quality, hacked-up Raleigh Gruv mod to posts #12 & #14. All I did was brush out the current seat tube and add a RANS-like straight tube. Looking at them side-by-side on the thumbnails shows how similar the basic geometries are.
    Nice work! Are the photos the same scale?

  20. #20
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Can't be sure, as none of the pics come with scales.

    However the wheel sizes are the same and in the thumbnails, they are somewhat close. The RANS bike looks to be a little smaller. Maybe I will figure out someway to get them closer. But I think the images show the angles fairly well. The RANS seat angle looks to be a little bit lower.
    Last edited by Tom Bombadil; 01-16-07 at 11:51 PM.

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    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randya
    My understanding is that there is also a 7-speed internal hub version of the Amsterdam available.
    That's possible, but Electra's web pages show only a 3-speed version and my LBS told me there was only a 3-speed version.

    Wouldn't take much to release it with a 7-speed hub.

  22. #22
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I went back and modified the Raleigh/RANS Frankenbike seat a bit in post #12, to make it look more like the RANS seat. Only did this to draw a little attention away from the seat and to the geometry.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil
    I went back and modified the Raleigh/RANS Frankenbike seat a bit in post #12, to make it look more like the RANS seat. Only did this to draw a little attention away from the seat and to the geometry.
    You should post that on the Crank Forward Forum.

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    One difference

    One big difference between the Gruv and the Rans geometries, is that the Rans retains the same geometry as the seat is raised. With its more upright seatpost, the Gruv changes as it goes up. We own both the Gruv 2.0 and the Rans Fusion. You definitely reach further forward for the bars on the Gruv. The Gruv has 24 speed rapid fire type shifters the Rans has 27 speed Sram twist shifters. The Rans is WAY lighter and more performance oriented. I am a stronger rider than my wife, but when I am on the Gruv, I have a hard time keeping up with her on the Rans. The Gruv is easier to stand and pedal on. With the way the BB is positioned in relationship to the handlebars, when you stand on the Gruv, it feels more like a standard bike (except you lose traction easier). I use the Gruv as a MTB quite a bit. I put a MTB crank on it and some aggressive tires. It does a decent job.

  25. #25
    Senior Member I_Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BKXray
    One big difference between the Gruv and the Rans geometries, is that the Rans retains the same geometry as the seat is raised. With its more upright seatpost, the Gruv changes as it goes up. We own both the Gruv 2.0 and the Rans Fusion. You definitely reach further forward for the bars on the Gruv. The Gruv has 24 speed rapid fire type shifters the Rans has 27 speed Sram twist shifters. The Rans is WAY lighter and more performance oriented. I am a stronger rider than my wife, but when I am on the Gruv, I have a hard time keeping up with her on the Rans. The Gruv is easier to stand and pedal on. With the way the BB is positioned in relationship to the handlebars, when you stand on the Gruv, it feels more like a standard bike (except you lose traction easier). I use the Gruv as a MTB quite a bit. I put a MTB crank on it and some aggressive tires. It does a decent job.


    I found this discussion interesting so I decided to do a quick layover of the bikes to see what the differences are and here is the result. The quality isn't that great since all I have here is an old copy of gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program); but, by using specs on their respective sites, it should be somewhat close to scale.

    As you can see the geometry on the two bikes is a bit different. The more forward BB on the RANS would significantly affect the ride and the RANS advantage of pulling on the handlebars for climbing.

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