It isn’t every day we got to report on a completely new sort of bicycle. For years, the range included such things as cruisers and racers, plus some serious acronyms – MTB (mountain bike), APB (all-purpose bike) and BMX (bicycle motocross), plus a whole family of recumbents with acronyms all their own.
For the latest innovation, we’re indebted once again to Giant, a company making efforts to set the standard in cycle design. After a brief flirtation with radical British engineer Mike Burrows, the Taiwanese factory introduced the moderately successful Halfway monofork folder. A year or two later, the company teamed up with Dutch cycle designers and Japanese electrical engineers, to produce the Twist, an electric bike that went on to outclass almost everything else in its field.
…it looks radical, but beneath the skin it’s very easy to use…
There’s a clear lesson here – choose your global partners with care, take note of what they say (Burrows left disgruntled), and translate their designs into high quality hardware, retailing at a reasonable cost. Giant’s next radical step has emerged as a complete redesign of the recumbent, and the company is hoping that the acronym EZB (pronounced ‘eazibee’) will become as widely known as MTB and all the rest.
Recumbents have been around for years – since long before they were banned from international cycling competitions for being too fast (trust the French, eh?) – but with very few exceptions, the concept has failed to get beyond the leisure market. The EZB recumbent – or more correctly semi-recumbent – follows the pattern of recent Giant launches – it looks radical, but beneath the skin it’s very easy to use, thanks to some careful attention to detail.
The design philosophy revolved around comfort and safety. Comfort is certainly well catered for, with full suspension on the LX model (rear only on the cheaper DX), and no fewer than five adjustments for fit – saddle height, steering height, steering reach, backrest height and backrest angle. Research indicated that a recumbent angle of 46 degrees would suit most people, but it was decided to offer a modest degree of adjustment too. On the DX the saddle sits on a massive aluminium tube (a different arrangement looks likely on the upmarket LX) sliding up and back sufficiently to suit just about anyone.The handlebars are adjustable for height, and there’s a splined rose to set the fore and aft position.
Some thought has obviously gone into the geometry. A brief ride confirms that the bike is stable – notably so while indicating or looking over your shoulder – and manoeuvrable. Despite a longish wheelbase of 122cm, the EZB will almost turn in its own length, and seems well up to squeezing through the sort of gaps city commuters have to deal with.Thanks to the (comparatively) high saddle, visibility is excellent.
…it’s no surprise that an electric version is under development…
Initially, Giant is offering two models.The DX comes with 8-speed Sora derailleur and coil-spring rear suspension, for £595 – an excellent entry-level price for a machine of this kind.The LX costs a gulp-inducing £975, but almost every component is different – the bike is finished in a snazzy grey, with a lot more fairings including a full chain enclosure, Gears are (disappointingly) 7- speed Nexus with roller brakes, and there’s a fully automatic lighting and computer system, plus active suspension (yes, we’re quite serious).What this seems to do is stiffen the rear damping when things get a bit choppy. At the time of writing, the LX was only available in mock-up form, so we await a ride with fascination. Both bikes look as though they would take conventional panniers, but also feature a clever-looking rack designed for quick release luggage, although the exact details have yet to be announced.
Despite an aluminium frame, the EZB is not light, particularly with the LX gizmos on board, so it’s no surprise that an electric derivative is under development – we should hear more about this next year.
An interesting one this.The big squidgy saddle, step-thru frame and laid- back riding position make the EZB an obvious bet for older, stiffer folk. On the other hand, the looks are bound to attract a younger generation – if the 1970s Raleigh Chopper can make a comeback as a fashion item, the EZB should be able to achieve much the same status.
Between the two lie the 20 and 30- something commuting types.The EZB is a great deal more practical than it looks for city use, and the maintenance-free lighting and transmission on the LX are bound to appeal.
In Holland, where they know a thing or two about bicycles, Giant claims that 80% of potential dealers have signed up. In the UK, where the company has to contend with the Sidney Scroat ‘pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap’ fraternity, it may have a fight on its hands establishing the necessary 100 dealers.
It seems many in the cycle trade have dismissed the concept, but those who have been persuaded to take a ride are more enthusiastic.This all sounds strangely like the reception given to the Halfway folder and the Lafree Twist. Giant had some difficulty enthusing dealers to accept either, but these machines eventually succeeded when the public started to make the running… no doubt the same will be true for the EZB.
Weight could be a real drawback. At 22kg, the LX weighs as much as the Lafree Twist: an electric bike.With seven gears, and an overall range of only 244%, it certainly ain’t going up hills.This can be sorted, of course – one suspects the Mountain-Drive would suit the EZB, as would the Rohloff hub system.Then there’s the forthcoming electric version…We expect to hear a great deal more in the next few months.
Giant EZB Recumbent . £595 (DX) £975 (LX)
Weight (DX) 17kg (37.4lb) (LX) 22kg (48.4lb)
Gears (DX) Shimano Sora 8-spd derailleur (LX) Nexus 7-spd hub
UK Distributor Giant UK tel 0115 977 5900 web www.giant-bicycle.com