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My Review of Performer FWD Custom Midracer

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My Review of Performer FWD Custom Midracer

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Old 10-11-18, 01:06 PM
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Skankingbiker
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My Review of Performer FWD Custom Midracer

Originally posted on BROL:

After three months of riding my Performer FWD Zelus custom fitted with 451 wheels/fork, I think I have enough data to do an “initial review” so-to-speak.



Anyone here who followed my other threads know that this is my first bent (well, aside from the disaster home build I tried 10 years ago). So, take everything I say with that caveat.



Buying Experience



I was very worried buying direct from a Taiwanese manufacturer and purchasing something sight unseen. I needn’t have worried. Christine at Performer was very patient and responsive in answering all my questions and swapped out the fork, wheels, drivetrain and brakes from the original Zelus for the parts on their folding FWD at my request and at no extra charge.

The bike was shipped promptly (arrived 3 weeks from ordering) and was well-packaged upon arrival.



Why did I decide to go with Performer? Because I could not find anything comparable in the US market, not to mention at the same price point.



Price with shipping to US was $1535 USD.



Also, I would be remiss if I did not give credit to Vangelo and several other members here for their reviews of their own bikes and willingness to share their experiences with Performer.



What’s in the box? and Assembly




Performer custom midracer fwd by T_MB, on Flickr



The box came with everything I needed to assemble the bike and included numerous “goodies” that were not even advertised with the bike including, Allen-wrench multi-tool; multi-tool wrench/spanner; water bottle cage; ample cabling and housing, “brain bag”; flag; and reflectors.



Assembly was fairly straightforward, although it does require pre-existing working knowledge of bike parts/assembly. I am a self-taught hobby mechanic for context. The most difficult part was setting up the front derailleur. Cutting the boom to the correct length was also a little stressful, albeit a straightforward procedure.



Frame and component design/quality



The frame design seems to be well-thought out. The welds are clean, and the paint exquisite. The component spec is really good for the price point. Both the boom and the tiller are adjustable, and the seat offers 3 positions of recline. Overall, no major complaints in this department. However, there are a few minor annoyances/ areas of improvement.



Tiller: The tiller is a 3 piece set consisting of an attachment to the steer tube, pivot piece, and adjustable boom clamp. The two pieces of the tiller contain “windows” to route the cables through. I have 2 complaints with this set up. First, the range of the pivot piece is controlled by an Allen bolt that makes contact with the steer-tube attachment. After 3 months of use, it appears that the bolt is marring the metal and leaving an indentation. Not a major problem, but may lead to future issues. As it was, I swapped for a longer bolt and glued a piece of old tube rubber to the stem attachment to stop any marring.



The second issue with the tiller is that it comes very long stock. This causes the infamous “killer-tiller” when steering. I cut down the clamp end of the tiller significantly to avoid this and for personal comfort. However, as a result, my cables got all bunched up in the window and I noticed that the edge of the window is somewhat sharp and was digging into/cutting the cable housing. I eventually decided to route the cables on top of the tiller and wrap when with some old handlebar bar.



PRO-TIP: Even if you decide to use the internal routing, DO NOT do so until you have finalized your tiller length. If you use the internal routing initially and then change the length, you will need to remove and re-lay all of the cables/housing after cutting them down (because there is not enough room in the window to take up the extra slack—the shorter you cut it, the smaller the window is).



Seat: I went with the stock fiberglass seat. Overall, no complaints. However, one of the rivnuts for the water bottle mounts came loose during shipping and fell off into the seat. Ultimately this turned out to be a non-issue because I decided not to use the water bottle seat mounts/ included cage because everytime I would hit a bump, my water bottle would eject out the back. Also, I found the positioning of the bottles very awkward to access while riding. As such, I decided to use a camelback bladder contained in a fanny pack strapped around the seat mount for my hydration needs.



My only other complaint about the seat is that the quick release clamp at the back has a tendency to come loose going over bumps and that when set to max recline, it is very difficult to access given the ridges under the seat.



Tires: The stock ties (Duros) are “ok.” They are relatively light with thin sidewalls and are road slicks. I kept getting pinch flats and wanted a little more stability, so I upgraded to some thicker Vee Speedsters YMMV.



Seat Pad

The seat pad is acceptable. I wanted a little more cush, so I added a layer of foam mat between the seat and pad. I also added a cut pool noodle under for some more lumbar support due to my low back issues. YMMV



Headrest

The positioning of the head rest was all-wrong for me—its clearly intended for a taller rider. I wound up bending it upwards and replacing the stock foam pad with part of a cut pool noddle. YMMV. However, the mount for the headrest needs to be rethought. As is, the mount plate goes on top of the seat, which, for me, results in a nice square piece of aluminum between my shoulder blades, which starts to bug me on longer rides.



Free Bag



As noted, the bike comes with a free seat/brain bag. Pros: its free. Cons: The stitching is horrible. Within 2 weeks, all major seams ripped. I wound up hand sewing them all with some heavy-duty nylon thread, and now the bag is great. It fits 2 tubes, my tools, phone, and spare room for snacks.




The Ride/Performance

Overall, I am very happy with the ride quality/performance of this bike. I am 5’ 8” and decided to go with the 451 wheels mostly due to concern about my leg being able to reach the ground and stability issues, being my first bent and all. I went with the most recline option for the seat both for back comfort and aerodynamics.

Yes, there is a learning curve to this bike, as a first bent for me. However, I was able to ride up and back down the street within 2 days and within 5 days was cruising around bike paths. Starting/stopping takes some getting used to, but is fine.

PRO TIP for newbs: You can’t go into it thinking that you can just ride it. It really is like learning to ride a bike all over again, esp. if you adopt a more reclined position. Steering if different, balance different, entry/exit technique is different. BUT---its all easily manageable. Once your learn to “pilot” the bike and stop fighting it, you are golden.

Front wheel drive

I was very worried about the FWD after reading horror stories of “pedal steer”, chain/wheel interference, wheel slippage, and interference with the main idler. Bottom line: None of these are really an issue.
Why did I go with FWD? A couple reasons. First, I like the engineering/design/efficiency. I don’t like the idea of hauling 4 pounds worth of chain around and throwing dirt everywhere. FWD just seems cleaner, more efficient, and more direct than the many RWD bikes I test rode. Plus, it was $300 cheaper than a RWD.

So what about the drawbacks? Honesty…pedal steer is no more an issue than with a similar RWD bent IMHO. Yes, you get some torque when hitting the drive side hard..but guess what..you get than on an upright and RWD bent as well…you just don’t notice it because you learn to compensate. No different with a FWD. Is the steer torque “more” than a RWD? Maybe, but it isn’t an issue and I don’t notice it at all now. I suppose it is most pronounced when launching, but you just internalize how to compensate. To me, total non-issue.

Wheel slippage? What wheel slippage? The only time I have had the wheel slip is on lose gravel up hill. I have taken lots of steep hills both dry and wet and have not yet had ANY front wheel slip. To the contrary, if I have a problem with wheel slip, it is in the rear, which tends to fishtail when braking heavy downhill or when wet. On an upright I usually use 50/50 front rear brakes. On my bent, I think it is more 60/40. Part of this could be due to the fact that with a smaller fork, the bike has more front weight bias.

Chain interference? Only an issue when walking and steering the bike or if taking a really sharp, slow-speed right turn. In practice, when you are under power, it is a non issue.

Idler interference? Nope. I have wide hips so my thighs never get near the front idler. For narrow-hipped people, the front idler has a protective cover. Also, given my seat position, my thighs are significantly above the idler anyways.

Comfort

As I noted, I added a foam pad under the seat and wider tires. I also added suspension bobbins under the front part of the seat. With those mods, the bike is fine comfort-wise. You still feel large hits but can compensate by lifting your butt/bridging—similar to unweighting an upright. I am also relatively heavy at 211 pounds, so YMMV.

Speed

I bought this bike to be able to keep riding after a back injury. Yes, I wanted something fast, but I wasn’t expecting a formula race car. That said, the speed is pretty impressive. 16-17 mph cruising on flats with little effort—I can spin her up to 25 mph on a flat going all-out and have gotten up to 43 going downhill. Speed is not an issue with this bike. If I lost some weight and went with narrow tires, I am sure I could be faster.
Still working on my hill technique, but no problem getting up hills—just slower because it is all spinning.




Handling/Ride

The bike handles excellent once you get your positioning and steering dialed in. My pre-purchase dreams of piloting a jet fighter down the bike path and carving corners is a reality. Very fun machine.

The biggest thing for me is this bike has allowed me to return to riding pain free. I can now spend 4 hours on a bike with no neck/hand/or low back pain. The only thing that is sore after a ride are my leg muscles.

Conclusion

For the price point, I think this bike is an exceptional value. I was looking for a sporty low/mid-racer that would accommodate a shorter person for a reasonable price and Performer delivered. Yes, I have made a bunch of mods to the bike, but who doesn’t? I noted my minor complaints above, but nothing that is a “deal breaker”. I really do love riding this bike. It is fast, fun, and comfortable.

Its also very customizable. The bike was originally designed for 700/700 wheels. With the shorter fork, it handles 451/451 just dandy. Also, I have experimented with a 26 inch wheel in the back, which also handles very nice, but gives a more upright position.

Would I recommend this bike? Absolutely.



Performer FWD custom midracer by T_MB, on Flickr



2018-09-11_06-48-29 by T_MB, on Flickr
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