What bicycle? Analysis and more analysis

April 5th, 2008 by scott

Friday was dreary, wet and intermittently rainy, so we didn’t end up test driving any bikes. We did spend many hours at the BicycleMan shop though, looking at options and discussing. Since it was a grey, dreary day we pretty much had the shop to ourselves, and were able to take a lot of Peter’s time as well as some from Keith Gregory, the service manager. I didn’t realize until later that Keith is also a national cyclocross champion. Obviously, I should have paid more attention to the jerseys on the wall.

Along with extensive conversations with Peter, Bryan Ball (managing editor of ‘BentRider Online) happened to be in the shop, so we picked his brain for several hours too. It was very helpful talking to all of you, thanks guys!

Our final contenders for our trip were the HP Velotechnik StreetMachine Gte (Bryan’s review here), and the Oracle Omega City and Tour (Bryan’s review here).

StreetMachine and Omega Tour

We rode the StreetMachine and both Omegas on Thursday, and I liked them all, but Becky had trouble getting either Omega set up for her. The biggest issue for her was reaching down to the handle bars. This is partly because the under-seat steering bar under the frame makes it a longer reach to the handlebars. This can be partially corrected by adjusting the handlebars higher (as shown in the first picture here), but it wasn’t enough to make Becky comfortable on the Omega City on Saturday.

When the handle bars were moved up to the highest position, she could reach, but it was a stretch, which meant it wasn’t a natural position. Even a short ride led to fatigue in her arms. Winner: StreetMachine

She also found the headrest very uncomfortable with a helmet on, and it is not removable. Peter recommended cutting it off with a hacksaw, but didn’t want us to do that to his demo bike (I wonder why?). The StreetMachine has a removeable headrest as an extra-cost option. Winner: StreetMachine

The shorter wheel base of the Omega City results in the seat being slightly higher than the Omega Tour, so the Tour might have been a better choice. Unfortunately, the chain length on the Omega Tour was set up for someone my height or a bit taller (6’0″) and when we brought the boom in to allow Becky (5’6″) to reach the pedals, the chain was too long to allow her to shift. HP Velo provides a front boom quickadjust with quick-release levers and chain length compensation for this sort of demo environment – Oracle may want to consider something similar. Winner: StreetMachine

The other missing bit on the Omega is a second pannier rack below the seat. There may be an aftermarket rack option for under-seat panniers, although it requires some adaptation. Winner: StreetMachine

Becky also found the seat on the StreetMachine fit her better than the Oracle seat. We tweaked the seat adjustment a bit, but couldn’t make it as comfortable for her. Maybe with some more tweaking we could have fixed it though. With the StreetMachine, the seat needed adjustment too, and when we got it right, Becky felt her power increased significantly as she could push off the rigid seat with more of her core body strength. Winner: StreetMachine

Both of us found the Oracle Omegas rode very well, handling potholes and gravel well. We took all the bikes through potholes, gravel roads and washboard, and they handled the conditions with aplomb. Winner: Tie

The Omega is also designed and built in Canada, and is much less expensive than the StreetMachine in the configuration we’re building (close to $1000 cheaper). Winner: Omega

Conclusion

Overall, I found the Omega Tour very comparable to the StreetMachine, and would seriously consider it. (I spent very little time on the Omega City). Becky had problems getting either to fit her well, but I’d recommend anyone interested in a StreetMachine (or an Optima Dragon or Lynxx) to seriously look at the Oracle Omega City or Tour. It is well worth doing an A-B comparison.

Update 2008-04-27:

I just discovered that Anna Lee Husband, owner of Oracle Cycleworks, has started blogging as well, and she put a post up a few weeks ago responding to our experiences here. I’d encourage folks reading our experiences to check out her post, and talk to Oracle (which we have not done):

http://oraclecycleworks.blogspot.com/2008/04/scott-and-becky-go-east-blog.html

3 Responses to “What bicycle? Analysis and more analysis”

  1. David Says:

    Unfortunately, the chain length on the Omega Tour was set up for someone my height or a bit taller (6’0″) and when we brought the boom in to allow Becky (5’6″) to reach the pedals, the chain was too long to allow her to shift. HP Velo provides a front boom quickadjust with quick-release levers and chain length compensation for this sort of demo environment – Oracle may want to consider something similar.

    actually these quick release mechanisms are notorious for slippage i.e. they don’t hold up to war and tear — a secured sliding boom is still the best way to go — shortening the chain and retuning the F & R D for a demo is not that difficult and should be part of a good demo — most shops also cut down the boom length on a demo bike so that a greater range of x-seam can be accomodated

  2. David Says:

    The other missing bit on the Omega is a second pannier rack below the seat. There may be an aftermarket rack option for under-seat panniers, although it requires some adaptation

    there are many options that can be exercised in fitting a mid pannier rack on the Omega; just as competent and robust as the after market rack HPV sources and offers as an option

    Note: the mid/under seat rack is an accessory that isn’t commonly requested in North America

  3. scott Says:

    Thanks for your comments David.

    Regarding the quick release, I certainly wouldn’t want one on a bike I purchased, but to me they seem similar to demo bindings on downhill skis – a useful workaround to the resizing problem. This didn’t affect our purchase decision, since we knew it was an easy change on any bikes we bought. For us (specifically for Becky) the key factors were the handlebar position and the seat adjustments. She was able to adjust the HPV seat to a significantly better fit than the Oracle. Everyone’s body shape and size is different, and the opposite may be true for someone else. I expect the handlebar position could be improved by fitting an aftermarket bar with longer vertical, do you know if this is something Oracle offers?

    there are many options that can be exercised in fitting a mid pannier rack on the Omega; just as competent and robust as the after market rack HPV sources and offers as an option

    Thanks for the info. Which specific racks do you recommend?

    Note: the mid/under seat rack is an accessory that isn’t commonly requested in North America

    It wouldn’t be something I’d put on my bike for anything other than long-distance self-supported touring. For commuting, short tours or credit-card touring, I don’t put low-rider racks on my upright touring bike either. Perhaps we’re a minority of two here.

    If not, I think it would be helpful for Oracle to mention rack options on their website, similar to what they’ve done with the HED wheels and over-seat steering variants of the Omega.

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