Gallery: Zach’s 2000 Earth Cycles Sunset

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

Gallery: Mike’s Independent Fabrications Ti ClubRacer

Attached are pictures of my everyday, all around, go anywhere bike. The bike is a custom Independent Fabrications ClubRacer in Ti. It is used for commuting to local meetings, running errands with a trailer, brevets, overnights to the in-laws – and this fall it will see its first lightly loaded tour through the Adirondack mountains. It is my vehicle of choice when traveling alone (I usually have my little one in the bakfiets). The frame was designed for all day comfort as a long distance machine. I’ve mixed and matched parts to suit my riding – a TA Carmina double in 94 BCD so I can achieve low gears for trailer pulling or touring mates with a Campy 10sp rear end, controlled by Ergolevers in carbon to slow the cold from seeping into my fingers during our variable spring and fall. A Brooks Swallow is my saddle of choice – but I’ve been experimenting with a more upright position and have liked the B17 and the Selle AnAtomica. Pedals go on and off from clipless to MKS Sylvans, sometimes with powergrips. The fenders are Honjo, brakes long reach Shimano, and the lights are dual E6s powered by a SON dyno. A black leather mudguard is in the works to match newly acquired black leather bar tape. I mix and match the Ortlieb seat bag or Carradice SQR Tour bag with an Ortlieb handlebar bag – depending on what I want to carry. —Mike

A Field of Wildflowers

The past couple of weeks I’ve been preoccupied with working the bugs out of my new multi-modal commute, consequently all of my riding time has been spent in the city on my Brompton. In my absence, Spring — outfitted in her full regalia — snuck in the back door while I wasn’t looking and transformed my local riding environs from the drab gray of late winter into an explosion of blooming color. While my Brommie seems perfectly content dodging cabs and pedestrians in the concrete jungle, my Tour Easy is much happier lounging in a field of wildflowers.

Spunky Ladies

This inspirational story is from Adventure Cycling’s Bike Bits:

Bike Bits recently received the following correspondence from Ms. Lauren Cooper and Dr. Nee Howard: “We are an elderly mother (86) and daughter (55) who in recent years have mostly quit driving. Instead, we bicycle up to twenty-five miles a day around Carlsbad, California, on hi-tech recumbent trikes, and a very unusual tandem recumbent trike. Yet we are two of the least athletic people you will ever meet. We maintain a normal suburban lifestyle, bicycling daily for shopping, errands, yard sales, etc., and drive our twenty-year-old car just four or five times a month. Home range is a twelve-mile radius (we’re quite famous in this area!), and we take the trike on local trains for longer travel. We handle oversize loads like mattresses and file cabinets with a homemade bike trailer. We’re saving about $3,000 year–just by doing something as simple and fun as riding a bike every day.”

Watch the dynamic duo in action here:

If you like this story, more can be found at the Adventure Cycling Website.

Gallery: Mike’s Bakfiets

Our family bike is a classic Bakfiets long imported through Henry WorkCycles. (I was hoping to start a business here in Burlington, VT bringing these bikes to market – – but I’m currently enjoying being a new dad!). 

We bought the bike anticipating our little one’s arrival and use the bike for errands around town. The bike comes equipped with a Nexus 8 speed hub, roller brakes and a bottle dyno upfront. I’ve swapped cogs to obtain a very low gear range for our hilly terrain – I’ll often spin out on some downhills – but I can work my way up College Street with a 150 lb load. A 26″ wheel supports the rear and a 20″ wheel with steering linkage keeps our cargo and center of gravity low. We’ve had 200 lbs. of people up front and the rear rack is rated for another 75 lbs. (this is in addition to the pilot!) I’ve upgraded to an LED front light and added a Brooks saddle and cork grips. The Clarjis traditional kid / cargo cover keeps my cargo (and my little one!) toasty warm and dry in the mixed spring weather – we’ve been out in both the rain and in near freezing temperatures. I’ve moved my large Ortliebs to the Bak for my daddy supplies, groceries, and library books. Upon arrival of our little one we removed the children’s bench seat from the box and mounted her car seat.

More information here:

Good luck with the new blog!

Gallery: Ian’s RANS Crank Forwards

“Although I use my recumbent for comfort it is not always the most practicable for touring so I’m now into RANS Crank Forward bikes.  I have managed to find an older steel framed Fusion which I am in the process of upgrading which includes fitting S & S couplings to make it more transportable (they are long bikes).  The finished item will be fitted with a Mountain Drive and SRAM 9 components.  The colour is inspired from your Tour Easy. My other CF is a Dynamic which is also used for touring and with the addition of X-country tyres trail riding.” —Ian, Scotland

Anatomy of a Multi-Modal Commute

Ready for Anything

I recently transitioned from a mix of telecommuting and car commuting, to multi-modal commuting using bike, bus, and train. In the process we eliminated a car and we’ll cut our annual automobile mileage by approximately 75%.

I’m fortunate that my monthly transit pass is valid on city commuter buses, county commuter buses, and Amtrak commuter trains and motor coaches. These options make it possible to start my commute as early as 5 a.m. and finish as late as 7 p.m. To come and go at convenient times for my changing work schedule, I often mix it up, taking the train in the morning and the bus back in the evening, or vice versa. It’s been a real adventure, trying out all the options, figuring out where, when, and how to fold and stow the Brompton to make the various connections required to complete my 60 mile round-trip.

Here’s one example of a typical commute day:


  • Out the door at 6:40 a.m., ride 5 miles to the Amtrak station.
  • Board the train at 7:05.
  • Depending upon whether the bike rack is full or not, either load the bike into the rack, or fold it up and carry it upstairs and place it between a pair of seat backs.
  • Arrive at the downtown station at 7:35.
  • Unfold the bike, exit the train, and ride the 6 blocks to the office.
  • Bikes are not allowed in the front entrance of the building, so partially fold the bike and roll it in as a “cart”.
  • Take it up the elevator to my work area, finish folding it and stow it under the desk.
  • Get cleaned up and start work before 8:00.


  • Partially unfold the bike into “cart” mode. Exit down the elevator and out the front door by 4:00 p.m.
  • Completely unfold the bike and ride 10 blocks uptown to intercept the commuter bus where it first comes into downtown. Doing so gets me on the bus ahead of the busiest stops near the capitol where it quickly turns into standing room only.
  • Fold and cover the bike to put it in “stealth” mode for the bus. Get on the bus at 4:15 and take a seat near the front where there’s room to stow the bike.
  • Chill for an hour.
  • Arrive in the suburbs at 5:15.
  • Exit the bus, unfold the bike, and ride the 5 miles to the house.
  • Get cleaned up and sit down to dinner before 6:00.
“No Bikes Allowed” : Ha!

This may all sound like a lot of work, but actually I find it quite enjoyable. It’s a great way to get in an hour’s worth of low intensity exercise every day, and the down time on the train/bus helps me to unwind from 8-9 hours of intense work on the computer. Overall I’m spending an extra 40-45 minutes on the road, but 60 minutes of my total travel time is on the bike, which in my mind doesn’t count, so I’ve actually gained a net 15 minutes.

My old two-hour round-trip commute by car did nothing but add to my daily stress quotient. Now I look forward to my commute and arrive relaxed and refreshed; even without the numerous other benefits, this makes it well worth the effort.

© 2011 EcoVelo™