by Larry Varney
Posted on June 25, 2013
Before we get further into this review, I’ll end the suspense and let you know what is meant by the “EVO” in the title. No, I wasn’t referring to the musical group Devo – though that does have some comic possibilities. In this case, it refers to “evolution”, that this is not your father’s Gold Rush, but an evolutionary variant. Was it a progressive evolution, one to be admired? I had a Gold Rush for many years, one of the longest residents in my stable of recumbents. Did I like this new version more, less, or is it a draw? I could tell you now, but why spoil the fun! Read on!
At first glance, not much seems to have changed – you need to look a little closer. The handlebars and the seat are the first things that most people notice, and they do look pretty much the same as before. Now your eyes fall to the frame itself, and oh, there we go, there are differences. Most obvious is the single tube running along the bottom, and not two that are joined by cross-members. There’s also a larger, ovalized tube in a semi-vertical position, under the seat. If you’re lucky enough to have an older GRR nearby, more changes to the frame become evident.
But is that all there is to it, a change in appearance? Or do they add up to a significant difference? Will you be tempted to bypass an older model and choose to purchase the new one, the product of evolution instead? It would take more than just a difference in looks – I really did like my old GRR, and many are they who feel the same, and would rather sell off a family member and not their beloved bike! I had to ride this new one first, before I said anything other than “it’s very shiny!”
As you might expect, the ride is not vastly different. How could it be, or why, since the riding characteristics are what kept many of us in the fold for so long? We’ve heard the gospel, that long wheelbase bikes are very stable at speed, that the comfort, both physical and mental (it’s reassuring to be able to sit, feet flat on the pavement, at stops), so it would not be to Easy Racers’ benefit to change that feeling. And they haven’t – while reviewing this evolutionary variant, I often had to remind myself that it was easily more than a half-dozen years newer than what I had. Flat ground and down hills, the speed was matched with stability, familiar and welcome feelings. It was during one ride, though, on some rougher pavement, some roadway that had a surface of bricks, that I felt something different. And not just different – better!
The ride felt smoother, somewhat like a suspended bike would produce. I started looking for bumps and curbs to traverse, just to make certain I wasn’t mistaken. While I won’t go as far as to say that the ride is exactly what a full-suspension bike or trike would feel like, it’s definitely similar! Give a big plus to the Evo on this! There aren’t any changes to the frame material itself, so the difference must be due to the redesigned layout.
One other nice thing about this new frame: it’s lighter than the prior versions. The weight difference will vary a bit depending on the size, but on average you can expect a weight savings of a pound and a half.
One topic that always comes up when almost any Easy Racers bike is discussed, is performance. I suspect the decal on the bike about it being the “World’s Fastest Bicycle” prompts us to think about it. And, for those of you who may be new to recumbents and/or Easy Racers bikes – that’s in reference to the original Gold Rush (as seen on the badge), and not the Gold Rush Replica. Not that this bike is slow – far from it! Many people I know will attest to how much faster they can go on the ER products, than they can on many others. I think it’s a combination of aerodynamics, frame design/material, and comfort. I know I can cruise at 4 or 5 miles per hour faster than on some other bikes I’ve had.
That said, these ER bikes are not the fastest bikes on the market. Take a look at some of the “stick bikes” that are out there, with recline angles almost in the negative range (well, not quite, but pretty extreme). Couple that with very stiff frames, and you’ve got a very, very fast bike. Myself, I don’t like having to look between my knees to see where I’m headed, so I’ll gladly give up a few mph. Plus, I just feel a lot safer when my feet are a bit closer to the ground.
However: put a fairing on this GRR, and the performance will improve noticeably. Put a sock on it as well, and if you then get passed by another bicyclist, it’ll be Lance Armstrong or Maria Parker. I’ve ridden an older GRR with a fairing and a sock, and it’s almost unbelievable. Personally, I’m happy with the performance increase provided by the fairing alone, but for maximum speed – along with a visibility enhancement – consider the sock, too. Caution: speed can be so intoxicating, that you won’t want to slow down or stop. I rode sockless with two socked friends on the Tour of the Scioto River Valley (TOSRV) one year, and it was all I could do to convince them not to turn around and head back to Columbus that day!
The components on this bike are also evolutionary, but nothing so radical that we haven’t seen the like on other bikes and trikes. We see an 11-34 10-speed cogset in the rear, matched with 24-39-52 chainrings in the front. Checking the wheels to make sure what size tires are involved, and wandering over to Sheldon Brown’s website, we see that we have a top gear ratio of nearly 125, and a granny of just under 19. These are almost ideal for a bike that, like its predecessor, can do almost anything: tour, commute, wear a fairing and blow the doors off most other bikes, and so on. I’ve often though of the Easy Racers lineup of Tour Easy, Gold Rush, and Ti-Rush as being among the most versatile of bikes, and this latest example continues the tradition.
By now you’re probably thinking: Larry always finds something he doesn’t like, something that could range from a maujor deal-breaker to a minor annoyance. So what is it, is there anything about this bike that I don’t like? Yes, and you can spot it in some of the pictures. And no, it’s not the continued use of two small hose clamps, visible in the rear at the base of the seat. I happen to like those. They are inexpensive, available everywhere, light in weight, and they last forever. What more could you want? But, we’re in the right area for my pet peeve: the adjustment of the recline of the seat, the “seat struts”. You’ll need two tools to do this, a hex wrench and an open, socket-type wrench. I much prefer the “pins in holes” method used by others. Sure, once they’re tightened, they’ll hold very well, but loosening and moving the struts up or down takes time, then you tighten them enough so that when you sit on the bike to see if it fits your style, chances are you might not have tightened them enough, and they move. And then, when you want to change the position back to where it was before it slipped, the lack of markings on the struts make that difficult.
You may be thinking, wow, this does rank with the “almost trivial” when it comes to complaints – and you’d be right! Definitely not in the deal-breaker category at all. Toss in the quick-release adjustment of the position of the seat bottom on the frame, and you’ll likely forgive ER for the seat strut adjustment – I know I did.
One last quibble is the price. $4500 is getting well up into carbon fiber bike territory . There’s not really many other long wheelbases that fall exactly into the GRR Evo’s category but an aluminum Made-In-The-USA RANS Xstream LWB retails for $1700 less.
As you may notice in at least one picture, there’s some crud on the underside of the frame up near the front. It’s difficult to notice at first, because most of us are mesmerized by the carbon fiber front fork. But it’s almost sacrilege to have such a shiny, lovely frame, and have it marred by what may be the remnants of goose offal that I happened to encounter on the day of that particular ride. Yes, many of the faster riders may eschew the use of fenders, but I wouldn’t. Three things I almost require of all my bikes: fenders, a kickstand, and a rear rack. I was told that these accessories are available for the new Gold Rush – though the much-loved and often-demanded two-legged kickstand is requiring a bit of a re-design. That’s happening right now.
So there you have it – the new Gold Rush Replica Evo. The changes really are more evolutionary than revolutionary. Would I recommend selling your current GRR in order to get this one? If you get a good price from a buyer, yes: I do find the increased comfort on rough roads to be noticeable. Otherwise, don’t sell the tried-and-true too cheaply. As many of us can attest, Easy Racers makes great bikes. And, this new one continues the tradition.
Easy Racers Gold Rush Replica Evo
Pros: Increased comfort, Still an Easy Racer through and through
Cons: Not cheap, Difficult seat strut adjustment
Price: $4500 as tested
For More Information: http://easyracers.com/