Horizon to Roadster

In 2017, preparing for a long-distance bicycle trip, I found another weld failing on my Haluzak Horizon’s third seat frame. It wasn’t a huge surprise; the seat frame is the Horizon’s Achille’s heel.

When this happened on seat #2, I got a quick weld job and it held a few more years. So I got a quick weld job on #3, but I was worried about being stranded in the middle of nowhere on my solo trip if it didn’t hold. I went shopping at Bicycle Man and came home with a new Linear Roadster.

The Horizon and the Roadster are both under-seat steering, short wheel base bikes. There’s a lot of similarity:

  • Both are built with single-beam frames.
  • Both use 406mm front and 559mm back wheels.
  • Both use Avid brake levers.
  • Both use Shimano Dura-Ace bar-end shifters.
  • Both use Shimano drivetrain components and hubs.
  • Both came with wide-range touring-style gear clusters.

But there are many differences, too:

  • The Horizon frame is fabricated from tubular chromoly steel, the Roadster from an aluminium box girder.
  • The Horizon sports decent V-brakes, while the Roadster has high-end Avid BB-7 Disc brakes.
  • Horizon opted for quality mid-grade Deore XL drive train components, while the uses basic Deore grade components.
  • The Roadster rides a little higher than the Horizon.
  • The Horizon has a detent in the steering for straight (as do most bikes) that the Roadster lacks.
  • The Horizon has a custom seat, whereas the Roadster uses a standard mount that accepts either a RANS or Bachetta seat.
  • The Horizon seat is uncushioned; both the RANS and Bachetta seats are cushioned.
  • The Horizon drivetrain has a single but double-sided idler pully; the Roadster involves a guide tube and a single-sided idler pully.

Brakes

The first thing that stood out on the Roadster was the brakes. I’ve never had disc brakes on a bike before, and they’re fantastically responsive. Rim brakes now seem dodgy and terrifying when I apply them.

I’ve come to appreciate the disc brakes more in time, too: they perform as well when wet as when dry. They haven’t had issues with hanging up and rubbing. The Avid BB-7s have two easy-to-use adjuster knobs to adjust for brake wear. The brakes aren’t grinding away on my rims. And if my wheels go a little out of true, it won’t affect braking.

Don’t get me wrong; the Horizon’s V-brakes were decent, reliable components. But Disc brakes are only found on good bikes, and the BB-7s are the best Avid offers. The Roadster comes with top-notch brakes that stand out.

Drivetrain

Which makes it seem odd that the drivetrain has so many basic-grade components. The deraileurs are Shimano Deore, which perform should adequately.

But the Horizon had a step up, quality Deore XL components. It shifted smoothly across all range of gears, and the chain always ran smoothly.

That isn’t the case on the Roadster. The drive portion of the chain passes through the rear forks in a guide tube. The tube is held in place by a loose nylon strap that allows it to float laterally, but keeps it positioned through a hole in the fork. In certain gear combinations, the chain interacts with the tube to create this boing, boing, boing sort of noise that’s related to where the power is in your stroke. It can be somewhat mitigated by moving to smaller chain rings in the front. It’s engrained into me that I shouldn’t be on the small cogs in both the front and back, but the Linear’s behavior encourages it.

Whether it’s the basic components, or an effect of the guide tube, the quirkiness of the Roadster’s drivetrain is a weak spot.

Other components

The hubs and other components seem on similar par. The Horizon hubs are 36-spoke, the Roadster 32. Quality seems comparable.

The cranks are similar, the Horizon’s perhaps one step up from the Roadster’s.

Adjustability

The Horizon came in one size; the smaller variation was the Leprechaun. The only adjustment was in boom length, and once sized for a person, chain length had to be adjusted. Practically, this meant the Horizon was fitted to its owner and not adjustable.

The Roadster is a much more adaptable beast. There are 3 sizes (short, medium, and tall). Each model’s length is fixed, but the seat and steering position can be adjusted within each model’s range. As a result, the Roadster can be refitted quickly to different people, without having to break the chain and adding or removing links. Being able to adjust steering and seat separately allows flexibility of fit in ways impossible on the Horizon.

As far as seat angle, it’s a similar situation. The Horizon’s seat angle could be adjusted, but it required a socket set to loosen a nylon insert nut. (I suppose it could have been replaced with a ball-lock or ball-detent pin, but it didn’t come this way.) The Roadster’s seat stays are easily adjustable via 2 ball-detent pins.

Portability

Bike Racks & Shipping

The seats on both bikes come off pretty easily. On the Haluzak, you remove the seat mesh (it’s velcro), then pull the two sides of the seat frame from the bike frame and wipe up any grease. For the Roadster, loosen the under-seat quick-release, then pull the two pins in the seat stays. Lift the seat off. Put the pins back in the seat stays for safekeeping, and fold the seat stays down. No grease though! Point to the Roadster.

Both bikes will now usually fit on a rack alongside other bikes.

If the steering is in the way, on the Horizon, there’s a steering coupling that can be loosened with a hex wrench to allow the steering rod to move inline with the frame, making it more narrow. On the Roadster, you can loosen the steering bracket with a hex wrench, remove a pin, and slide the assembly forward until it tilts off, although all the cables are still attached. Use bungees to attach it inline to the frame. The Horizon wins this one.

At this point, either recumbent is as thin as a regular bike. This is adequate for most bike tours, where bikes are shipped intact.

Both have quick-release wheels, easily removed. Both have standard pedal threading if those are to be removed.

The Horizon is now a rod with the front forks sticking down. That’s as small as it gets, unless you want to remove the forks and the front boom for boxing up. And you’re not gaining much if you do.

On the Roadster, however, you can release the frame lock. Make sure the rear deraileur is set in an outer position. Hang the chain on its folding-hanger, and fold the rear forks under and up to straddle the front of the frame. It’ll fit in a reasonable-size box. On this, the Roadster wins big. You might not want to even bother with a bike rack on the car, since you can just fold the bike and tuck it inside.

Public Transit

The Horizon fit neatly onto the front-end bike racks on our buses here in Rochester, complete with seat. The stabilizer brace of these racks, which goes over a diamond-frame bike’s wheel, slips instead over the Horizon’s frame.

The tall model Roadster is a bit too long, but it can be achieved by loosening the folding frame’s quick-release lock and allowing the bike to fold in just slightly. I suspect the short model fits fine without folding; the medium would be on the edge.

Comfort

The Horizon has a mesh seat that hangs on the seat frame, which mounts into the bicycle frame, which sits on its wheels. The single-beam tubular frame has some flex. The mesh doesn’t stretch, but it does adjust if you shift position.

The Bachetta seat on the roadster has a cushion that sits on a hard plastic seat, that sits atop the bicycle frame, which also has some frame flex.

On a short ride, the two seats are pretty comparable.

But on a long ride, the Roadster’s cushioned seat starts feeling pretty nice. On the other hand, if it gets wet, it stays wet, keeping your butt and legs wet; the Horizon’s mesh breathes better. But the Bachetta seat curves to provide some lumbar support in the way the Horizon seat does not.

Handling

All those things I just talked about under Comfort? They’re also the reason I’ll give handling to the Horizon. Your butt is tucked in a bucket seat, the bike low to the ground; you feel in touch with the road. There’s no cushion separating you from the bumps and vibrations as you move. The detent in the steering that tells you where straight is, that just feels right.

The Roadster’s handling isn’t bad. But it ain’t got what the Horizon has.

Styling

The Horizon came in midnight blue.

The Roadster’s aluminium frame is anodized black. Then, instead of painting, self-adhering reflective plastic–the same stuff they use for road signs–is applied. That means the Roadster is available in stop/yield sign red, speed limit white, construction orange, information blue, interstate exit green, national park brown, and advisory sign yellow.

The Horizon’s midnight blue, by day, was a deep, majestic color. The Roadster’s are primary colors; they lack subtlety.

But at night, the Roadster lights up in headlights. For anyone who does night riding, the practicality of safety should easily allay any concerns about primitive colors.

Durability

I had the Horizon 15 years, and put on tens of thousands of kilometers. I didn’t have an odometer the first few years, but if I had to guess, I’d put it in the 30,000s. And not all of those were easy on the bike.

Over that time, I replaced tires, tubes, rims (bad pot holes and abusive dirt roads), cables and housing, brake pads, shift levers, chains, the middle chain ring, and the rear deraileur once when it got damaged. And the seat: replaced twice, welded twice.

In the first year of the Roadster, I’ve replaced tires, tubes, a bolt that was rusting, and one cable.

Linear, builder of the Roadster, claims they have a test jig that simulates a rider and that they’ve tested their design to hundreds of thousands of miles. In my first year, I put on 4,500km, riding from upstate New York to New Jersey and back, then down to Maryland, through Delaware, New Jersey, and the Adirondacks. It’s been through mud, dirt, and stone dust; it’s traversed miles of gravel roads. Heck, it’s even been through Pennsylvania. And it’s held up so far.

For the record, I weigh 180 pounds (80kg), and when touring carry about 40 pounds of gear/food (20kg).

The Seat

The Achille’s heel of the Horizon was the seat frame, so it’s worth looking at the differences.

On the Horizon, the rider is held by the mesh seat, which is held entirely by the aluminum seat frame, which is supported in 3 places: underneath by two tubes that come out horizontally from the bike frame and bend up to support the seat frame at the sides, and a third in the middle of the back that sets the seat angle.

Atop the Roadster, the rider sits on a cushion, which rides in a thick plastic seat, which is held by two L-brackets (steel, I think), which slip onto the seat mount, which rides on the box girder. The weight is supported straight up through this stack, instead of through horizontal tubes. The force is directed better; compare holding a 5-pound bag of flour over your head to holding it with arm straight out to your side.

The aluminum portion of the Roadster’s Bachetta seat is bolted to the plastic seat, and supported in the mid-back by two seat stays. It provides back support, and something for the rider to press against when pedalling, but it’s not carrying the rider’s weight.

According to the dealer–where I got both bikes–the Horizon’s aluminium seat frames are not heat treated, whereas RANS and Bachetta seats are heat treated.

Overall, this makes it sound like the Roadster’s seat is orders of magnitude better. It’s better engineered in multiple ways, and better constructed to boot. Only time will tell, but I’m optimistic.

Summary

The Haluzak Horizon and the Linear Roadster have a few similarities, but they are quite different bikes.

The Horizon had a great drivetrain that the Roadster lacks, and there’s a trade off of the Horizon’s handling for the Roadster’s comfort.

But the Horizon’s seat frame was a major source of woe which appears addressed on the Roadster. The Roadster conveniently folds, has superb brakes, and comes in reflective colors to improve safety for nighttime riding.

Still, despite its troubles, I miss my Horizon.