Bill’s thoughts

Bill is one of those very, very few folk who have taken the trouble to read the whole story, to the bitter end!

In his comment on the final page, he raises several issues, each of which justifies a full response. I’ve split it into subject areas, like a conversation.

Bill: Hugely interesting read and I’m convinced you are right. There is a gap for a true “cross-country bicycle”.

Geoff: Thanks for that. I remain unconvinced there is a market for a true cross-country bicycle like the Landseer. Of all the thousands who have visited the Cleland and Landseer websites, fewer than twenty have expressed any interest in possibly owning one. Although I’m sure there are many more people who would like to own and ride such a machine, I suspect the vast majority don’t identify themselves with ‘cycling enthusiasts’, as portrayed in the media. Thus they don’t follow current trends in cycling and would also be highly unlikely to read the Landseer story. Moreover, no cycling expert would recommend the Landseer, or something like it. Therefore demand will not be created and, without demand, there will be no market for a typical manufacturer to meet. I believe this category of machine will always be regarded as ‘quirky’, with individuals building their own bicycles, as I have had to do.

Bill: Over the years, I’ve adapted my MTB in that direction. The best move was, as you say, to put in a “normal” handlebar stem and aero bars, but they are for when you’re back on the road. But I’ve spotted some loose threads in your account, and, I hesitate to say, I have one counter opinion. Let’s start with that.

I cannot agree with your statement that “toe overlap” is not a problem. When I ride my son’s MTB back home on occasion, “toe overlap” is a major concern – admittedly his bike has no mudguard, so my shoes come into contact with a rotating tyre rather than a guard, but I’ve come into contact with guards on other bikes too, and it detracts from the ride. So, to my mind, the more you can design “toe overlap” out of the features of the Cleland the better.

Geoff: Toe overlap is not a problem, it’s an issue. That is to say, it is something to be considered. For you it would appear to be a problem. So far (fingers crossed), none of the people who have ridden the AventuraTT or the Landseer seem to have noticed it, or, if they did, didn’t appear to see it as a problem. If the toe-overlap were ‘designed out’ of the Cleland, it probably would no longer be a Cleland.

Bill: And the loose threads? Well, you make a good point in saying that suspension is heavy and complicating and largely unnecessary, but then I see you are using a suspension seatpost. Some explanation needed there?

Geoff: Not only is suspension heavy, complicated and largely unnecessary, I would add expensive and unwieldy. By ‘unwieldy’ I mean that suspension continually alters your weight bias and the steering geometry as you’re riding along. This applies less to motorcycles because of their un-sprung weight ratio. A suspension seat-post, on the other hand, is relatively lightweight, of simple construction, relatively cheap and does not alter handling characteristics. Its function is to take the sting out of those occasions when you come down a bit hard on the saddle, or you want to remain seated over bumpy stuff. Which function it fulfils rather well.

Bill: From my hardtail “cross-country MTB” experience, I’d actually say that suspension would be a nice add-on. So I’m surprised not to see it on the Cleland, but, there again, my MTB wheels are not at the fantastically low pressures which, if I read it right, your account implies makes even seatpost suspension unnecessary on the Cleland.

Geoff: The ‘low-frequency’ element of suspension in the Landseer design is provided by the rider’s poise while the ‘high-frequency’ element is provided by the low-pressure tyres. The suspension seat-post, I suppose, is providing ‘ultra-low-frequency’ suspension, which low-pressure tyres won’t have any effect on.

Bill: Also, your chain guard looks nicely thought through, and nicely implemented. But surely, if you got rid of the front two chain rings – and replaced them with something like the Schlumpf Mountain Drive or even a Gearbox such as the Pinion – you could use a fully enclosed chaincase, and so prevent grit ingress 100%? I assume, though, that starts producing problems of cost and/or fitting elliptical rings onto the Schlumpf/Pinion unit? If so, there are some almost fully enclosed chain chases, with cut outs to accommodate front derailleur mechanisms.

Geoff: To design and make a fully enclosed and sealed transmission is a goal I have had for many years. It must be very effectively sealed, because if contaminants do get in, they won’t get out. A sophisticated active seal is required at the rear end, between the sprocket and the hub. However, the main difficulty is devising a seal around the crank boss; this aspect requires a special crank design to allow a space between the crank arm and the outer ring where the seal can be positioned, which will also increase the Q-factor and can only allow a single chainring.

Whilst the Schlumpf Mountain Drive or a Pinion Gearbox do solve certain problems, they cannot provide the benefits of my Varatio elliptical chain rings, and that is a compromise I will definitely not make.

Bill: Saving the biggest problem until last – as far as I can tell, there’s nowhere to “try before you buy” or even simply look before you buy. Is there any way of getting a few machines into select, enthusiastic bike shops? Even a link from your site to some of the YouTube videos I’ve seen would make a start in spreading the word.

Geoff: I’ve retired now, so manufacture and marketing is no longer my problem, and there’s no significant interest anyway. You’re very welcome to come and try, but sorry, you can’t buy. Maybe a trip up to the Scottish Borders?