Bellandare, Bella ATT and the LWB recumbent design
At the end of 2007, we introduced the Bellandare as an entry level replacement for our Café and Agio models. The Bellandare was our first low bottom bracket Long Wheel Base (LWB) design and we’ve been very pleased with the reception it’s received. Not surprisingly people have been comparing the Bellandare with other LWB bikes, both past and present, and it’s nice to hear that the design is holding its own. What we want to do with this article is show where our Bellandare and Bella ATT got their lineage and how they compare to LWB recumbent both past and present. We’re not here to say what brand or model is best or that our LWB recumbents are better; we think they’re all exceptional, especially those mentioned here. Rather, we want to contrast and compare the bikes that are out there and let the customer decide.
As you can see from the photo above, the Bellandare has a lot in common with the Jet Creek and Koosha designs that were so popular before Burley stopped producing bicycles a few years ago. The most significant difference between our design and theirs is a triangulated front end. We feel this added frame member gives the Bellandare a more ridged head tube and bottom bracket than the Burley designs and in our opinion, gives the bike better handling. We also pushed the Bottom Bracket (BB) up higher than the Burley’s (and most other LWB designs) for better performance. The Bellandare is not only a sweet riding bike, but with an MSRP of only $1,295.00, it’s also one of the best values in the LWB market. With the success of the Bellandare we decided to take this platform to the next level and design a bike that would better address the needs of the LWB, sport-touring market. Enter the Bella ATT concept. We knew we wanted to start with the Bellandare’s proven geometry and higher bottom bracket position, but the end goal for us was a more robust frame for loaded touring. Therefore, a fully triangulated frame was a necessity. To keep the frame as light as we could we decided to start with our triangulated, aluminum Agio frame. From the beginning, it was easy to see the how the new bike would come together once we got going. The process began by simply cutting off the head tube of the Agio and rotating the bottom bracket down to 16 inches, to match the Bellandare’s. We then duplicated the Bellandare’s front end in aluminum and welded it to the repositioned rear triangle. When everything was said and done we realized we had a pretty damn close rendition of the RANS Stratus.
Reading the statement above, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that recumbent designs are starting to look more and more alike since they’ve been maturating into these basic forms for over 25 years now. Plus there’s just no getting around the fact that the RANS Stratus, with it’s down sloping top tube and triangulated frame, is a very good LWB design. For those reasons we wholeheartedly embraced its basic design elements but we didn’t hesitate to make changes where we saw room for improvement. We’ve also done our best to make the Bella ATT a real value as well. All you’ll need to do is compare its specifications to other LWB bikes out there and you’ll see that’s true. Again, if you look at the pictures, the one element that all of these designs have in common is a down sloping top tube. In our humble opinion this is the true genius of the original Stratus design because it not only brings the rider closer to ground as the seat is adjusted forward for shorter people but it also keeps the seat to BB relationship the same throughout its adjustment range. Our Bella ATT and Bellandare also incorporate this design element. The main difference with our bikes is that the top tube angle is not as steep as other designs and our BB is higher too. While these may seem like small differences, they make a huge impact on the Bella’s overall feel, handling, and performance. We believe that a higher BB to SEAT relationship allows greater force to be applied to the pedals because it closes the riders’ hip angle relative to these two points. We also believe that a slightly more reclined seat makes for a more comfortable ride. Being able to recline the seat without giving up power, which the higher BB allows, is a real improvement over other designs. Other benefits of the higher BB are better heel-to-ground clearance and improved aerodynamics. And, even though our Bella ATT and Bellandare were designed for touring and recreational riding, respectively, if you add a front fairing they will perform as well as any other similarly equipped LWB on the market today.
Another design goal we had with these bikes was to keep the wheelbase as short as possible for good maneuverability and for easy transport. To do that, we decided to use a 20” front wheel rather than a 559 or 650c wheel. We know there’s been a trend towards big front wheels on LWB bikes over the past few years but we feel that this is one of the few instances where a smaller wheel is not a performance compromise. The reason being is the front wheel on a LWB bike is so lightly loaded that their inherently higher rolling resistance is vastly improved and basically eliminates the need to go to a larger and heavier front wheel, for speed reasons at least. We felt that this was a very good trade off since you get all the benefits of the higher BB without the extra weight and extra length of a larger front wheel. In the end, the Bella’s geometry turned out to be more like that of the RANS XP, but its overall length is shorter because of the small front wheel. We also added a B-pivot to the steering system that allows the handle bars to quickly flipped around and folded down into the seat, which makes the bike much more compact and easier to transport.
The other thing we wanted to address with our designs was the poor low speed handling we’ve experienced with some LWB bikes due to excessive tiller. So we spent a lot time tweaking the front end geometry of our bikes and designed a riser system that is not only extremely adjustable, for better ergonomics, but also minimizes steering tiller for a much more direct feel. The combination of the two makes the handling of our LWB bikes something special, at least IOHO. Last, but not least, we want to acknowledge the huge influence bikes like the Stratus, Jett Creek and Ryan Vanguard have had on us, and our designs. There’s simply no denying the impact these bikes have had on the LWB market over the past 25 years. But, having said that, I would also add that we wouldn’t have jumped into this part of the market unless we thought we were bringing something new to the party. Thanks in advance for your consideration, and enjoy the ride! Please note that our Bellandare frame is made of 4130 Chromoly steel and has a weight limit, for rider and gear, of 275 lbs. Bella ATT frames are made with 7000 series aluminum and will come in two sizes, small and large. Weight limit is 300 lbs., for rider and gear. Both the Bellandare and Bella share the same geometry but have different load capacities due to the nature of their frame architecture and build materials.
Originally posted on bacchettabikes.com on April 8, 2009.
Dana has been riding recumbents for 25 years. Whether bicycle touring, racing, commuting or just riding with the family, he has ridden almost everything out there and has no problem telling you what he thinks! Owner of Bent Up Cycles and Bacchetta Bikes, Dana is passionate about turning new riders on to the joy of recumbent cycling. He also enjoys reading SciFi, hiking in the SoCal mountains and sipping a Chai Latte at the local coffee shop!