Hank’s Cruzbike recumbent road bike: A time trial conquering machine?

A closer look at the Cruzbike V20c recumbent James ‘Hank’ Lowsley-Williams recently used for a 10-mile time trial

Clock09:21, Monday 20th May 2024

GCN’s James ‘Hank’ Lowsley-Williams recently entered a local 10-mile time trial to see if he had what it takes to win. So far so normal, then, except Hank’s bike of choice was Cruzbike’s recumbent road bike.

Here at GCN, we hold a strong affection for recumbents, having put them to the test on multiple occasions, but that’s usually been in the form of faired recumbents. Cruzbike’s offering is slightly different, offering something more akin to a regular road bike, but with the clear performance advantage of a recumbent.

Check out our breakdown of the bike below, or find out how Hank got on in the time trial here.

Read more: Is this the fastest bike you can buy? Battle of the recumbents

Cruzbike V20c

Hank’s bike of choice was the Cruzbike V20c, which the American company says is the “fastest recumbent road bike ever”. While we can’t put those claims to the test, there’s no doubt that it looks fast.

Recumbent bikes put riders in a laid-back position with the pedals in front of them and come in all different shapes and sizes. Some have three wheels, while others have two like the V20c. Many recumbents are faired, meaning they have aero fairings that encase the rider. It’s these types that you’ll find vying for land speed records, as the fairing helps to keep aerodynamic drag to a minimum.

Recumbents without fairings, like the V20c, are still incredibly aerodynamic, though, courtesy of the laid-back position of the rider. A rider is the largest cause of drag on a bike, hence why professional riders spend so much time in wind tunnels honing their time trial positions. Recumbents provide an obvious solution by drastically reducing the profile of the rider, although it’s not something WorldTour riders can take advantage of as they’re not permitted in competition.

The UCI had no jurisdiction at Hank’s time trial, so he was clear to put his aero machine to the test.

How much more aerodynamic are recumbents than regular bikes?

But how much of an aerodynamic advantage would the recumbent bike actually provide Hank over a time trial bike? A lot!

The coefficient of aerodynamic drag is a measurement that quantifies the amount of drag a rider, their bike and any accessories produce. The lower the number, the better, as it means a rider is producing less drag. For an everyday commuter, this figure usually stands at around 0.45. This goes down 0.29 for a professional road cyclist, then dips even further to 0.18 for a professional time trial set-up, before climaxing with 0.12 for a recumbent.

In essence, the lower the number is, the faster you’ll go at a given power. There are other factors to consider, such as the ability of a rider to produce power in a reclined position, which is more difficult than the upright position on a road bike.

But when it comes to the fundamental aerodynamic benefits, recumbents top the leaderboard.

Recumbent build

While it may look worlds apart from a regular time trial bike, many of the components used on the Cruzbike V20c are commonly found on regular bikes.

The drivetrain is a mix of SRAM’s top-tier Red and Force groupsets, consisting of a 10-36t cassette and 44/33t chainset. That’s a lot more compact than you would find on many time trial bikes but it is an advantage for a recumbent bike as it can be harder to generate torque when using harder gearing. The most obvious difference between this Cruzbike and a regular road bike is the positioning of the drivetrain at the front rather than the rear of the bike.

This means that the front and rear wheels swap around, so that the front wheel is linked to the drivetrain and generates forward motion. Swapping these around doesn’t generate any compatible issues, as displayed by the Elitewheels Drive 50 rims that Hank swapped over from his road bike.

They were paired with Pirelli P Zero Race TLR SL tyres.

These components join an aluminium frame that weighs 1.6kg, significantly more than performance road bikes. However, the aerodynamic gains far outweigh that weight - after all, Hank wasn’t planning on doing any hill climbing on it.

To learn more about the bike, watch the video at the top of this page.

Explore more bikes from GCN challenges and the bikes of the pros on the GCN website.

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