Ok so its a been a while since my last blog post. Unfortunately, due to the complicated nature of the engineering involved with these bikes, we have faced some unavoidable delays due to a variety of technical issues. However, we have now resolved most of these and got the first prototype finished off and ready for testing a couple of weeks ago!
So, I’ve already been out for the first trail tests and initial impressions are very good. We took the bike up to our spiritual home – Whinlatter Forest, the birthplace of the Rough Riderz Taster Day scheme, to give it a run down the South Loop. To start with we had a couple of runs down the fire road. This was just to get a feel for the bike’s handling and do a safety check on the brakes, as well as checking the suspension set up and keep an ear out for any loose bolts, etc.
After these easy runs, we adjusted the shocks to stiffen up the suspension and tightened up all the fasteners. We then headed back up the hill and took a run down the trail itself. The bike rolled really well, with the 24″ front wheels picking up speed easily to roll over the uneven ground. As we turned into the first few corners it reacted quickly, pinning itself to the inside of the bends. Then, as the trail dropped away and the bike picked up more speed, it skipped easily across the slate covered surface, sliding predictably around the tighter turns.
The low rolling resistance really began to take effect on the descent, with no pushing required on flatter parts of the trail, leaving the rider to concentrate on the terrain and feather the brakes where necessary. The whole bike felt really planted on the track, even at speed, riding smoothly around the corners and easily clearing the smaller jumps. It made light work of the whole trail with the sit-ski seat making it a really comfortable ride.
Another tweak to the shocks and we went back up for another run, this time with a bit more speed. The bike was still extremely stable, turning into the corners easily with the rear wheels sliding around smoothly. It handled the bigger jumps ok and felt really good on landing. The bars were perfect and the ultra tacky grips made it easy to hold on and steer with confidence. The new brakes were also brilliant, with hardly any effort needed to bring the bike to a dead stop.
The wheel hubs and rims felt strong under the various pressures on the trail, with the tyres performing well too… and double thickness tubes meant there was no chance of any punctures. So we continued to make small adjustments to the set up and crammed in as many runs as possible over the afternoon, on a hot and sunny day in the Lake District. The result of all this testing was an overall feeling that the first prototype is better than expected! There is definitely room for improvement, but any changes we implement will just help to make this new bike even better!
The next step in the process is more testing on trails at the Forest of Dean this weekend, with other trail centres to follow in the coming weeks. Once we have tried a variety of trails and terrain, in different weather conditions, we plan to go back to the workshop and remodel the bike with a few improvements. Once we have further reduced the weight of the bike, made minor changes to the geometry and simplified some elements of the manufacturing process, we will do some final testing prior to going into full production!
So far, so good and… #NotLongNow