Here’s a rare and unique recumbent from Zach Kaplan, proprietor of Zach Kaplan Cycles in Alameda, California. I wanna’ be like Zach when I grow up – he has all the cool toys. :-) -Alan
Earth Cycles was a recumbent manufacturer in Minneapolis, MN best known for the Dragonflyer tricycle they produced from 1998 to 2001 but in 2000 they produced 20 Sunset lowracers. Unlike most lowracers the Sunset was designed to be a practical bike for transportation. It came with a custom heavy duty tubular steel rear rack and clearance for wide tyres and mudguards. The lower chain had a dual mode chain routing system where it could be run beside the front wheel like a traditional lowracer for racing or over a pulley to allow making tight turns without the front wheel interfering with the chain. The use of a 305 mm front wheel rather than the 406 mm front wheel used on most lowracers eliminated the crank to front wheel interference that shorter riders would have on a lowracer with a larger front wheel and eliminated heel to front wheel interference for taller riders. In addition to a sliding boom the middle of the frame telescopes so the wheelbase can be adjusted for different height riders to keep the weight distribution even. This also allows the frame to come apart to allow packing into a smaller box for transport. The mid-drive allows getting wide range gearing out of the 406 mm drive wheel while using normal size chainrings and allows using a short cage rear derailer and all gear combinations. I didn’t care for the tiller stem and handlebars that came with the bike so I replaced them with a steering riser tube and handlebars from Bacchetta.
I’ve been using my Sunset for almost all my commute riding since December 2006. I also did one 200 km brevet and one double century on the Sunset in 2007 and rode it on several club rides including going to the top of Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Diablo and Mt. Hamilton. I ended up riding the Sunset more in 2007 than I did between the time first received it in June 2000 and December 2006. In the course of riding it more I found a number of things that could be improved, so where feasible I made the improvements. Since posting my Sunset here in November 2006 I’ve made the following improvements which while seemingly superficial from a distance, make a tremendous improvement in functionality of the bike from my perspective:
On 19 January 2007 with 4396 kilometres on the odometer I installed an anti-chain drop device over the 20T cog on the mid drive. I also replaced the heavy clamp collar around the steerer tube above the headset with a Bacchetta BFT which both saves weight and makes headset adjustment easier.
On 22 February 2007 at 6163 km, the stock Earth Cycles seat mesh started wearing through in spots so I replaced it with a Greenspeed seat mesh fastened with cable ties rather than cord, further saving weight.
On 20 April 2007 with 7960 km I switched the SRAM Rocket Halfpipe shifters out for Shimano Dura-Ace bar-end shifters. The right SRAM shifter was starting to become imprecise, sometimes overshifting from 4th to 6th. I find the Shimano bar-end shifters are much more ergonomic, they give tactile indication of what gear one I’m in and have a friction mode that can allow a ride to continue in the event of a problem such as a bent rear derailer hanger or frayed cable.
On 30 April 2007 at 8214 km I replaced the Shimano Ultegra bottom bracket and 165 mm 52/42/24 crankset with a Phil Wood 108 mm titanium bottom bracket, Sugino 152 mm crankset and Rotor Q-Ring 44/34/24 elliptical chainrings. The combination of the shorter cranks and elliptical rings makes for smoother pedalling which is easier on my knees. The short cranks also improve heel to front wheel clearance and leg to handlebar clearance. I don’t miss the high top gear at all.
On 7 May 2007 at 8728 km I replaced the NiteRider 16-LED taillights with Vetta TSL-C 20-LED taillights which are much brighter than the already bright NiteRiders.
On 22 June 2007 at 9240 km I replaced the silver 2003 Bacchetta handlebars with black 2007 Bacchetta handlebars. I think the black looks better and matches the black riser tube and seat frame as well as reducing glare.
Now, as of 4 February 2008 I have 15,742 km on the Sunset.
Revised Sunset Specifications:
- Frame: Earth Cycles Sunset CrMo steel, orange
- Size: one size fits most
- Fork: Earth Cycles aero monoblade with disc brake mount
- Seat: Earth Cycles steel frame with Greenspeed yellow mesh
- Brake levers: Hayes hydraulic
- Brakes: Hayes hydraulic disc G1 calipers with 160 mm rotors
- Headset: Cane Creek C2 with Headseals
- Shifters: Shimano Dura-Ace bar-end, 9-speed
- Front derailer: Shimano XT
- Rear derailer: Shimano Dura-Ace short cage with Avid Rollamajig
- Crank: Sugino DX1 152 mm with 44/34/24 Rotor Q-Rings & Third Eye Chain Watcher
- BB: Phil Wood 68 x 107 mm titanium
- Cassette: Shimano XTR 11-34
- Chain: Shimano PC-89R Hollow Pin
- Mid-drive: 16T input cog, 20T output cog
- Front wheel: Alesa 305 mm 36-hole rim, 2.0 mm SS spokes with brass nipples, Phil Wood narrow flange disc hub
- Rear wheel: Velocity Aeroheat AT 406 mm 32-hole rim, 2.0 mm SS spokes with brass nipples, Hugi 240 disc hub, Garrie Hill carbon wheelcover
- Tyres: Primo Comet Kevlar 40-305 front, 40-406 rear
- Skewers: Control Tech Ti rear, single side supported bolt type axle front
- Grips: Johar high density foam
- Pedals: Bebop SL
- Rack: Earth Cycles custom tubular CrMo
- Front mudguard: BikeE strut-less
- Rear mudguard: Greenspeed
- Headlights: Light & Motion ARC Li-ion & Busch & Müller Ixon
- Taillight: Dual Vetta TSL-C taillights running off single 4xAA battery pack
- Cyclecomputer: CatEye Cordless 3
- Bags: Arkel Tail Rider rack top bag, FastBack System 3.0 hydration pack, Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic orange panniers