Schwalbe Big Ben vs Schwalbe Shredda Evo and Almotion

Recently, I’ve switched from my usual Schwalbe Big Ben tyres all around, to supposedly faster Schwalbe Shredda Evo (in 50-507) at the front and Schwalbe Marathon Almotion (in 55-559) at the rear of the blue Sprint.
These are just my unscientific impressions after using the Shreddas for 450km at the front and the Almotion for a bit over 1,000km at the rear.

The Schwalbe Big Ben (Performance Line)

I wrote about the Schwalbe Big Ben already here and here. Its my standard tyre on my unsuspened tadpole trikes. Great traction and good comfort at lower tyre pressure. Certified throughout Europe for tyres used on ebikes capable of a top speed up to 50km/h (‘E-Bike 50 ready’). In essence a very light moped tyre with tremendous grip.

The Schwalbe Shredda (Evolution Line)

The Schwalbe Shredda Evo is a BMX tyre build for low weight and maximum speed. No puncture protection or ebike rating. Just a 127tpi carcass mated with Schwalbes finest rubber and a relatively fine thread pattern. It is equally at home on gravel, light snow or the street and offers great traction. Clearly better traction on gravel and wet roads than the already outstanding Big Ben.

While the Shredda Evolution Line ranked in several rolling resistance tests as one of the fastest 20″ tyres in its 50-406 size, the same tests and anecdotical evidence from members in the German recumbent forum suggested running at temperatures around freezing is not the strongest suite of the Shredda. It looses noticeably in the speed/rolling resistance department at chilly temperatures. In its 50-507 size, like tested, the Shredda is probably the fastest 24″ tyre available (when temperatures are above 15°C).

Choosing the ‘right’, fast Shredda is not plain obvious, since Schwalbe offers it in two versions.
The fast, expensive (€50), 127tpi carcass, tubeless ready, folding, ‘Evolution Line’ version, build to leave your contenders in the dust, and the cheaper (€20), wire beat, every day, ‘Performance Line’ version with a more pedestrian 67tpi carcass. The ‘slow’ Shreddas where still a smidge faster in rolling resistance tests than the Kojak, though.

The Schwalbe Marathon Almotion

Schwalbe promotes the relatively new Marathon Almotion as a light and fast, tubeless ready touring tyre with high puncture resistance, equipped with their high-end ‘One Star’ rubber compound. Schwalbe rates the Almotion as a ‘E-Bike 25’ tyre (for Pedelecs with 25km/h top speed).

At the same tyre size and air pressure, it’s a bit more comfortable than the already pretty nice Big Ben. Traction on the road is at least equal to the Big Ben if not slightly better. On gravel and off-road, the Big Ben with its slightly coarser thread got a bit of an advantage, though. Like the Land Cruiser, the Almotion seem to slip more gracefully and provides a bit easier handling when pushed too hard on cold, wet roads, compared to the Big Ben.

How did they behave?
I couldn’t find a clearly discernible speed increase of these faster tyres compared to the Big Ben at temperatures between -5°C and +5°C. I did find the Shredda (as well as the Almotion) provide even better grip and traction on wet roads than the Big Ben. You don’t get twice the grip for twice the money, but the better grip was clearly noticeable when I pushed the trike at high-speed around tighter corners.

So far, very nice tyres! The Almotion on the rear wheel seems to be a pretty good match to the Shreddas at the front. Just the lack of noticeably lower rolling resistance at cold temperatures (compared to the Big Ben) gives a slightly nagging feeling. Don’t forget, these tyres cost 50 bucks a piece, while you can get a Big Ben under 20 bucks.

Since Spring is still slightly chilly here, I went back to using the Big Bens for my daily commute and will try the 24″ Shredda / 26″ Almotion combo again when temperatures settle above 15°C. Than it will hopefully be more clear whether the Big Ben is such a great tyre or the Shredda/Almotion are just a bit more susceptible to colder temperatures.

That wouldn’t be a phenomenon unheard of: All tyres get slower at lower temperatures, but the plain old Marathon GreenGuard is known to have way less increase in rolling resistance when temperatures drop under 5°C, than most other tyres.

All images: Schwalbe

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Gaadi Tubes

The new Gaadi two-end tubes look like a very good idea if you use an electric hub motor or internal geared hub in your cycle. Being able to quickly change the tube without opening the axle nuts or fiddling with torque arms in case of a flat, sounds pretty intriguing.

Image: Gaadi

Judging by the many different tube sizes Gaadi offers, they obviously like you to choose a tube that fits your tyre width best. I did that. The Gaadi 50/57-559 tube size looked like the right fit for my 55-559 Schwalbe Big Ben (that would be a 2.15″ wide tyre , for the metrical impaired).

Today I’ve tried mounting a 26″ Big Ben tyre with a 26″ Gaadi tube on a spare 26″ rim.

Even after several attempts I couldn’t mount the Gaadi tube without ending up with a clearly visible gap between the tube ends inside the tyre at my usual tyre pressure of 2-2.5 bar (29-36 psi). Not convincing…
In case of using it in a tadpole trike or velomobile, where a blown-out rear tyre tube at some speed can lead to pretty severe accidents, not convincing at all!

First of all, mounting the Gaadi tube might not be the simple, straightforward affair with a wide tyre, like the promo video suggests. Second, it might work if you choose a narrower tyre with stiffer side walls and higher tyre pressure. Like a Schwalbe Marathon or Marathon Plus.

After a short Google search I’ve found several threads in online cycling forums about customers complaining about Gaadi tubes failing at the tube ends. These Gaadi two-end tubes might not be the best invention since sliced bread. Patented or not. One might wonder why Schwalbe doesn’t offer a similar two-end tube…

I might do some further testing with narrower tyres, but I can’t see myself using Gaadi tubes in the rear tyres of my trikes. Not recomended for wide tyres.

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ADFC Radreisemesse 2016 im CCH

This gallery contains 20 photos.

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Schwalbe Big Ben vs Schwalbe Land Cruiser

Since I’ve used several Schwalbe Big Ben (11,500km combined) and several Schwalbe Land Cruiser tyres (pre 2016 model, 9,000km combined) at the rear wheel of my ICE Sprint, I’d like to make some comparison. This is not the usual tyre test where rolling resistance is determined. Since the rear wheel of my ICE Sprint tadpole trikes are equipped with fairly powerful hub motors, my focus is primarily on traction.

Rear wheel traction on a tadpole trike with hub motor is pretty important. If the rear wheel washes out at speed, you’re most likely in big trouble. While drifting around corners is great fun, the range between fun and an unavoidable crash is fairly narrow.

The Schwalbe Big Ben (Performance Line)
The Big Ben is a great rear wheel tyre for a electrified trike. Note, that I’m referring to the sligtly more expensive ‘Performance Line’ version with Schwalbes ‘Race Guard’ puncture protection. I have no experiance with the cheap ‘K-Guard’ version.

Described by Schwalbe as ‘a Big Apple with more thread’, its relatively soft rubber offers very good traction on dry or wet tarmac and fairly good traction on gravel. Its supple side walls provide a comfortable ride even without suspension. Especially the traction on wet roads is head and shoulders above most other tyres I’ve tested. It only takes a close second place behind the old Land Cruiser on wet roads below 5°C, where the Big Ben looses traction more abruptly when pushed hard around tight corners.

The Schwalbe Land Cruiser (pre 2016 model)

The old Schwalbe Land Cruiser is out of Schwalbes budget ‘Active Line’ tyres without any ‘bells and whistles’. Nonetheless its my preferred rear tyre for the cold and wet season.

Its serrated ridge in the middle of the thread and the relatively soft rubber compound offers equally good traction on any dry and wet surface, compared to the Big Ben, but with its coarse thread its obviously better suited for sand, snow, mud, ect.
On wet roads below 5°C, the Land Cruiser looses traction a smidge earlier than the Big Ben if you push it hard around corners, but it slides more gracefully and is easier to handle.

I’d phrase it like this. The Land Cruiser will give notice if you are slightly too fast, while the Big Ben is less forgiving when it looses traction if you push it too rigorously in cold and wet road conditions. That can make the difference between getting the message and taking the next tight corner a bit more carefully, or ending rubber side up with the Big Ben (then you will take the next corner a bit more carefully as well!).

The Schwalbe Land Cruiser (new 2016 model)

I haven’t tried the new 2016 model of the Schwalbe Land Cruiser yet and can’t say if it behaves the same as the old version. Schwalbe gave it a slightly different thread pattern with a wider middle ridge.

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The black Sprint
I use two plain B&M Lumotec IQ Cyo 70 lux head lights mounted to the nose cone of my black Sprint and I’m relatively pleased with the result. The beam pattern is pretty wide and goes far enough even at my sometimes ‘slightly’ elevated speed without being a nuisance to oncoming traffic. On top of that, the light spilled to the white nose cone makes me way more noticeable from the front and the side, than the small head light alone:

ICE Sprint black Seitenansicht

I do object to mindlessly bright front lights without defined beam pattern that blind oncoming traffic since I think it’s a) a nuisance to other road users, b) dangerous, since blinding oncoming traffic is endangering myself and others, c) simply not cool.

The same applies to super bright rear lights in my book. I believe pissing-off the guy behind me doesn’t make me safer on the road. Using three B&M Toplight Flat S battery rear lights in a triangular pattern, mimicking a braking car, is more noticeable and my distance is way more predictable from the rear. Regular positive comments of car drivers about the visibility of the trike on the road confirm this.

ICE Sprint rear lights_web

The blue Sprint
Currently my old Trelock LS 950 ION is mounted to the boom, but while at 70 lux it’s relatively bright, its way too narrow beam pattern is woefully inadequate for a trike.

Since it needs a decent front light as well, I have to look at other options. I don’t care much about actual STVZO compliance. As long as the beam pattern doesn’t blind oncoming traffic, no cop will object.


At the rear, two B&M Toplight Flat S battery rear lights mounted to the mesh seat frame provide good visibility, but since they’re mounted a bit lower than the top of the rear wheel, some improvements could be made.
For a start I could install a headrest to raise the lights above the rear wheel, but since the ICE head rest does not fit to the ICE mesh seat and the ICE hard shell seat (I got one already waiting to be mounted to the blue Sprint), the current solution has to make due.

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Blue ICE Updates

While I use the black Sprint on my daily commute, the blue Sprint stayed dormant in its quarters since September. What a shame, but the weather was pretty bad at times and since I had no panniers for it, it wasn’t a very practical fine weather commuter, either.

Ok, the pannier problem could be easily solved with a pair of waterproof, 20 liters, Ortlieb Back-Roller City, but I’ve got a pair of really big (30 liters!), waterproof, white, Ortlieb XPress XL messenger bags that make some perfectly fine recumbent panniers when ‘updated’ with Ortlieb QL1 quick release hooks. They are available from Ortlieb as spare parts and cost about €21 per pannier. A ‘50%-more-pannier-space-for-20%-of-the-cost-solution’ that’s actually better suited for a recumbent was just too good to ignore. Its quite a shame Ortlieb discontinued the XPress messenger bags about a decade ago.

The next best thing, apart from the Ortlieb recumbent panniers, are the Ortlieb ‘Moto’ motorcycle panniers, but they only come in black (and since 2016 disappeared from the Ortlieb website…).
Instead of a rear rack, I’ve simply used two 10mm stainless steel tubes directly mounted to the rear frame.

Blue ICE with Ortlieb XPress_web

It needed some other ‘refinements’ as well. The battery wasn’t finished, it’s now located in two Ortlieb Outer Pockets size L directly under the mesh seat.
The temporary installed old Bafang SWXH had to make way for a new Bafang BPM. At the front a 42t chain ring was installed to the Patterson Metropolis 2-speed transmission to provide a higher top gear with the 13-32t freewheel.

Blue ICE_Bafang BPM_Almotion

The new Cycle Analyst V3 is installed, but needs further tweaking for smooth operation with the KU123 controller. I’ve used the Cycle Analyst V3 profiles from the black Sprint with direct drive hub motor and tweaked them a bit to better match the geared Bafang BPM hub motor, but power comes still way too jerky due to its higher torque.

Blue ICE Cockpit_CA V3 Cockpit view

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Four Wheeled Velomobiles

Its Autum and the weather gets cold and rainy again. Naturally the time of year I think about velomobiles and check second-hand offerings.

Since I’ve rolled my trike a couple of weeks ago, when the rear wheel slipped going slightly too fast around a corner in rain, the greater stability of four-wheeled velomobiles looks a lot more interesting at the moment. Couriously, there is currently some development of four-wheelers going-on among velomobile manufacturers.

Quattrovelo recently got a working prototype of the new Quattrovelo on its wheels. They also made a blog post about advantages of four-wheelers compared to three-wheelers and pretty much documented the entire design and building process in their blog.


Sunrider Veloquad
Alligt went with adding a second wheel to the rear of the Sunrider. While the Quattrovelo is a beauty, the ‘design’ of the Sunrider veloquad is not exactly my cup of tea.

Image: Alligt

‘Ugly duckling’ comes to mind. At 60kg curb weight a pretty overweight ugly duckling.

Begorett Velomobile
A visually far more interesting approach came from Begorett. Unfortunately an other pretty design study that will most likely never hit the road. Judging by their website, they are most concerned with ‘cycling safety’ and envisioned a crash-proof electric mini car with pedals, rather than a light-weight human-powered velomobile with electric assist.
More about it here: Begorett Velomobile

Begorett Velo black 01
Image: Begorett

Since currently I don’t have the funds to order a Quattrovelo (basic price €7500) and regularly stumble over DIY-velomobile threads in the German Velomobil-Forum and BentRider, I’m considering to build a faired four-wheeler myself.

Something roughly looking like the Begorett velomobile (less pretty for sure). The chassis made from film coated plywood panels, with big entry hatch (like the Orca), wide 24″ wheels, no suspension and rear wheel drive. A direct drive hub motor with a cog mouted to the brake disk mount that drives a central drive shaft with a short chain would make the whole human power/electric assist drive design fairly simple and relatively cheap. Two freewheels at either end of the central drive shaft would drive cogs at the wheel hubs by a short chain.

I’ve build a set of 24″ wheels with wide downhill rims and disk brake hubs a couple of month ago, but newer used them. Some hub disk cogs from VeloSolo mounted aside the brake disk with a couple of spacer’s and the rear wheels are ready to go. A 160mm or 180mm brake disk should work to clear the Avid BB7 calipers off the 22tooth cogs. The 24″ front wheels with 90mm Sturmey Archer drum brake hubs and matching rims, currently used in the Blue ICE, could go to the front.

The KingCycle nose cone from Ebay, like the one on my black Sprint, could be used as the front fairing, but might need a little trimming. Light weight but stiff Con-Pearl panels should work for the hatch and coachwork.

Without owning a garage I’ve got some size constrains, though. It has to fit through a 80cm wide door and might have to rest standing on its rear end though the night.
Some rough weight estimates gave the impression it might weight under 50kg without battery. Well, perhaps…

While 50-60kg would be fairly heavy for a human-powered velomobile, it should be sufficient for an electric assisted test mule. If the design works, the film coated plywood could be supplanted by featherweight and super strong (but rather expensive) carbon fiber honeycomb panels in an updated MkII version.

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