THE VOLAE ExPEDITION ES - Adventure Cycling Association

THE VOLAE ExPEDITION ES - Adventure Cycling Association
Specifications: Volae Expedition ES
Cyclesense Road Test
The Volae Expedition ES
Back in 2003, an unfortunate thing happened —
Vision recumbents went out of business. Vision
had a lot of good designs and I was sorry to see
them go. One of their retailers wasn’t so pleased
either. That retailer was Hostel Shoppe in Stevens Point,
Wisconsin. Hostel Shoppe owner Rolf Garthus took
pains to get detailed information about some of Vision’s
more intriguing designs so those designs could live on in
a new Hostel Shoppe incarnation.
Next, Garthus needed a manufacturer,
so he went to one of the brightest kids
in the class: Waterford Precision Cycle
Works, also in Wisconsin. Waterford,
which has made custom bikes for many
people who read this magazine, was easily equal to the task of manufacturing the
new bikes. Garthus named the new bikes
Volae (it’s a coined word, like Lexus or
Acura) and a brand was born.
Volae now has 11 models, one of
which is a tandem. Eight of the other
10 have a somewhat unusual design
feature (for a recumbent): a pair of fullsize wheels. The model we tested, the
Expedition ES, has wide tires (26 x 1 1/4
inches) for touring.
So, in a world that already has some
excellent recumbent designs, what does
Volae bring to the customer that’s so special? Good handling, good workmanship,
and an approach to seat design and rider
position that some may find irresistible.
Let’s talk about that rider position first.
First there’s the “wedgie” bike, the term
recumbent riders have given to traditional
bicycles. Then there’s the conventional
recumbent, in which you’re sitting in
about the same posture that you would
32 adventure cyclist may
20 0 8 in an automobile seat. Well, how would
you like the option of an even more comfortable position than the conventional
recumbent? The Volae gives you
that option
(the seat can
be adjusted a bit more
upright, if you insist), and another $200
option replaces the conventional slingstyle recumbent saddle with a carbon-fiber
seat lined with foam. It’s sinfully comfortable and it distributes your weight over a
broader expanse of your body — almost
as evenly as a water bed.
Any recumbent introduces a few
paradigm shifts in its rider’s expectations,
and the Volae has more than a few. For
instance, a quick search reveals no water
bottle bosses. Wrong for a touring bike?
Not at all. The Volae can accept a three-
liter hydration system, neatly attached to
the back of the seat. Similarly, the Hostel
Shoppe has a huge selection of recumbent-specific racks and bags that wedgie
riders won’t recognize.
Most recumbent bikes inspire lots
of prose about their comfort, ride, and
handling, and the Volae Expedition is no
exception. This is an excellent handling
bike, though its handling comes with a bit
of a learning curve. Because of the steeplyreclined rider backrest and high pedal
position (the crank spindle is almost six
inches higher than the low point of the
saddle), you’ll probably be overcorrecting
a fair amount.
But for the rider who has learned to
master this bike — an accomplishment
well within the reach
of us mere mortals
— the Volae handles well and feels
dialed in.
How do you get
there from here?
Practice for a few
minutes in a flat place
where none of your
detractors can point and
giggle. Take the time to get
acquainted. Your proprioception on this
bike is altered, not by the bike’s control
responses, but by the fact that your body
and head are arranged differently on the
bike compared with other bikes (including some other recumbents). Once you
learn to be at ease with this new position,
you’ll enjoy the handling and exceptional
Even a novice can prove to himself
that the Volae’s handling is entirely
benign, and that any trepidation is all in
your head. How? Sit upright in the seat,
Kreg Ulery
It’s so comfy, you might just nap on it — just don’t do so while on the road
by John Schubert
dangle your feet so they aren’t scraping
the ground, and coast down a gentle hill
(or scooter-kick on the flats). When you
do this, the bike’s steering and balancing
response becomes quite ordinary. Given
the bike’s 73-degree head-tube angle (just
like on your wedgie) and 46 1/4-inch
wheelbase (about five inches longer than
a wedgie’s, but still in the ballpark) this
benign handling makes sense.
Now slouch back onto that comfy padded carbon-fiber seat and bravely elevate
your feet onto the pedals. The bike hasn’t
changed any. But you have, and you’ll find
yourself overcorrecting. Relax. This will
pass, and you’ll want to put in the time to
help it pass. Your reward is a stunningly
comfortable ride and very crisp, dialed-in
handling. The leaned-back rider position
distributes your body weight over more of
your back’s surface area — a huge comfort advantage, even in the already-comfy
world of recumbents. The elevated pedals
minimize your frontal area and thereby
decrease your wind resistance. Your center of mass is sensibly placed between the
two 26-inch wheels.
Adventure Cycling member Daryl
Burbank-Schmitt, who has extensive longdistance touring experience with many
brands of recumbent, wrote to me last
year to tell me he felt the Volae had the
best handling at all speeds.
The stuff that bike riders normally
obsess over seems less important when
Price: $1,975. Tested with take-apart
Shift levers: Sram X-9 twist grip.
frame option ($650) and carbon-fiber seat
Cog cassette: SRAM
($200). Price as tested, $2,825.
11-12-14-16-18-21-24-28-32 9-speed.
Sizes available: small, medium, large,
Chain: SRAM FG
Gearing in inches:
Weight: 32 pounds
Wheelbase: 46 1/4 inches
Head tube angle: 73 degrees
Seat height above ground: 27 3/4 inches
Crank spindle height above ground: 33
3/8 inches
Frame and fork: Chromoly steel, welded
24 33
by Waterford Precision Cycle Works. Frame
28 28
32 24
comes apart for transport or storage (the
ES option). Threadless headset.
Seat: Volae carbon fiber with foam pad-
Rims: Velocity Aeroheat, made in
Australia, 18-559. Measured rim width,
Brakes: Avid BB7 Mtn, cable actuated.
24.4 mm.
Pedals: Wellgo rattrap.
Spokes: 36, 14-gauge, cross-three
Bars & Stem: Volae, 54 cm wide.
Hubs: Velocity with disc brake mount &
quick release, front & rear.
Hostel Shoppe, Ltd.
Tires: Kenda Kewst, 32-559 (26 x 1.25);
3201 John Joanis Drive
measured width, 32.7 mm; 100 psi.
Stevens Point, Wisconsin 54481
Crank: Truvativ Elite GXP with hol-
Phone: (715) 341-BIKE (2453)
low splined spindle, 170 mm arms, and
Fax: (715) 341-7414
30/39/52 chainrings.
Toll-Free (USA): (800) 233-4340
Front Derailleur: Sram Microshift.
Rear Derailleur: Sram X-9.
the entire bike is so different. But here’s
a quick rundown. The Avid disc brakes,
SRAM drivetrain, Truvativ crankset, and
other components all work flawlessly. Other Volae models offer other attributes.
There are bikes built for skinny tires only,
with rim brakes, with small front wheels,
bikes from $1,650 to $3,540, and that
cute tandem.
Riders interested in a touring recumbent should call or visit the Hostel Shoppe
and give the Volae some thought. It’s a
very viable choice.
Technical Editor John Schubert welcomes your
rebuttals at
adventure cyclist may
20 0 8
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