Metabike Daemon Impressions

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The Daemon is the most recent incarnation of the Metabike recumbent bike. I recently had a chance to keep a Metabike Daemon and ride it for a couple weeks. I owned, rode, and loved a previous generation of Metabike for about 6 years, and I was intrigued to see how the changes in the design that spawned the Daemon turned out.

First, the big picture hasn’t changed. It’s still a Taiwan built (by Performer Cycles), Z-framed SWB high racer made from type 7005 aluminum. Some details are the same too. It still has huge tire clearance in the back, a rear disc brake mount, telescoping boom, fixed seat (with a couple position options), integrated headset, internal cable routing in the boom and main frame tube, and telescoping seat stays that are joined together near the top for lateral rigidity. The shape of the chainstays and how they connect to the central main tube is essentially the same. Head tube angle (steering angle) with a road fork is 72 degrees. These are all good things that I am glad were kept.

So what were the changes? Well, I don’t actually have my old Metabike anymore to take precise measurements, so I am going to have to go partially by memory, and some information provided to me by RBR. Seat is lower by approximately 2″, with the bottom of the seat rim 23″ high. Wheelbase is longer by about the same amount, now at 45.5″. The bottom bracket, when fitted for my 42.5” x-seam, is 9″ above the bottom of the seat rim, or about 8″ above the top of the seat pad, about a half inch lower than it was before. The somewhat iconic triangulating boom brace is gone. The boom is not dead level, but is slightly upsloping (about 7 degrees). The front outer portion of the boom is 60 mm diameter, 5 mm larger than before.  (Note:  The diameter of the curved, middle frame tube hasn’t changed, and is still 60mm, as before.)  The chainline is a little more complicated now, with three return idlers rather than one. The fork steerer is now tapered, instead of straight 1-1/8”. Other changes became evident on the road….

Frame stiffness has improved, which improves climbing. Metabikes have always been known as pretty damn good in this department, but the Daemon is considerably better. There is less mush or ‘biopacing’ in the pedals on steep grades. The fatter tubes which are possibly thicker too (not entirely sure), plus the power side chain aligning more closely with the main frame tube and boom are the likely reasons. The front triangulation may be gone, but the other frame design changes clearly more than make up for it. The bike climbs very well. It’s very nearly as effective uphill as both my beloved square tubed Reynolds Wishbone Classic and my P-38. One variable to keep in mind is the front chainring size. The small ring on my test bike is a relatively large 39T, and this helps keep chain forces that work to turn the bike into a longbow, in check. If I had tried the bike with a granny ring and smaller rear cogs, I would have no doubt felt a little more give in the frame when climbing and accelerating hard.

The bottom bracket is at a more typical height than before, and this will likely make more people happy than the previous bike, which had a BB height that was higher than average relative to the seat. It was probably a bit much for some folks. I should say this wouldn’t have been my personal choice. For whatever reason about 8.5 to 9.0 inches of difference feels right to me and seems most effective for power generation, but I suspect I may be an exception. Note that taller riders will end up with a little higher BB as they will need to extend the boom more than I.

I was surprised that this bike has more soft (heel) interference with the front wheel. In fact, with 28mm tires, 170mm cranks, and my 42.5” xseam, I am only about 2 mm away from having hard interference between crank and tire. Hard inference really should be avoided, while soft interference is par for the course with SWB designs. I don’t find it excessive, but not everyone is equally sensitive to these issues. But this does suggest that if you have a significantly shorter x-seam than me, you will probably want to plan for the use of shorter cranks. Notably, there is clearance to mount the seat further forward than it was on my test bike, and would permit another 1.5 to 2 inches or so of shorter x-seam (say, 40.5” to 41”) before cranks shorter than 170mm are needed to avoid hard interference.

New riders to Metabikes would often comment on the presence of a certain amount of pedal steer these bikes possessed. That is, the act of pedaling would create a noticeable amount of steering input. Given time, this phenomenon would tend to subside for most riders as they adapted to the machine, but the Daemon doesn’t have any of that, even when first riding it. I am not entirely sure why that’s the case, but it’s certainly a good thing. My best guess is that the revised geometry places the rider a little further behind the head tube and front wheel, so that leg imbalance forces produce less torque on the front end of the bike. It seems that the extension of the wheelbase was accomplished primarily by moving the front wheel forward relative to the seat, rather than extending the rear wheel backwards. This would also explain the slightly reduced heel clearance.

Overall, the bike has a more relaxed and planted feel, with less of a “sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads” kind of attitude about it. It’s more of a mutated sea bass vibe instead. Translation: At moderate and high speeds, it’s somewhat easier to ride than the original Metabike, and demands a little less skill and concentration from the rider to keep the bike on-course. At low climbing speeds, I didn’t get the impression that as much had changed. The handling is a little floppy, as it is with most recumbents. The Daemon isn’t any worse than most other high racers in this way, just not all that much better.

Ride quality is fairly rough. This is not surprising for an efficiently stiff bike made from aluminum with high pressure skinny tires as I had fitted on my test bike. The very thick Ventisit-like seat pad takes off the edge pretty well, but if you ride rough roads, you should take advantage of the impressive level of versatility that the generous frame and fork clearances offers and mount some fatter tires. With lots of fast and fat tires on the market these days, this should not have any negative effects on the bike’s speed potential, but will improve ride quality and safety. It even makes the bike suitable for gravel road excursions.

This may surprise some due to the number of idlers and the presence of a chain tube, but the drivetrain does not have excessive friction. The tension in the return path is so low that the three idlers don’t seem to create much drag. Rather they just work very well to control the chain and keep it out of the way, especially when using a clutch type rear derailleur. There is no chain slap and no interference with the fork or front wheel. On the power side of the chain there is a single idler – standard stuff for a SWB highracer. The chain tube offers very little noise or drag surprisingly, which is probably due to the unconstrained manner in which it is attached, allowing it to exactly follow the chain’s ‘natural’ path.

The only downside to any of the frame and proprietary parts that I see is that the idlers are only of so-so quality. The return idlers lead a pretty easy life and will likely do just fine, but I wonder if the power side idler will hold up as well over the long haul. A Terracycle idler could always be retrofitted, but note that a TC idler is bigger in diameter than the stock idler, and the seat would need to be raised with some rubber washers an additional 1/4” to 3/8” or so for clearance.

I should note that the Daemon was conceived as a dual 700C highracer, but since it has disc brakes front and back, any pair of equal sized wheels would work if you wanted an even lower seat and/or less soft interference with the front wheel. My test bike has a dual 700C wheelset, and is how most riders my size and taller will probably want to outfit their Daemon.

However, one experiment I conducted was to use a 559 front wheel while keeping the 622 (700C) rear wheel. I did this because it is how I rode the most miles on the original Metabike I owned. As with the old bike, I found this change tightened up the slow speed handling and made heel strike a near impossibility. The 1” smaller radius wheel steepens the head tube angle (steering angle) by almost 2 degrees, reducing both trail and flop. If you don’t use a high clearance cross fork like my test bike had, and opt for a shorter road fork instead, you can achieve a similar result with a 700C front wheel, as the fork’s axle-to-crown length would be approximately 1” less (say, 370 to 375mm vs. 395 to 400mm). It should be noted that the 559 front wheel also drops the seat by a half inch, and lowers the bottom bracket relative to the seat by 3/4”.

The Daemon certainly makes for a good option for those seeking a versatile, performance oriented bike for general fitness riding, club rides, centuries, etc. I think it would also be a good choice for randonneuring or credit card touring where the emphasis is on riding and covering ground efficiently, when accessorized appropriately.

All in all, I can say it’s definitely a forward evolution of Metabike design. The fabrication quality is still there, and the design has improved. In talking to Rob Gentry of RBR, he seems to think so too, and as a result, it seems unlikely that any more frames of the original design will be produced going forward.

About rothrockcyrcle

I am an endurance cyclist always looking for new ways to maximize fun and minimize BS.
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2 Responses to Metabike Daemon Impressions

  1. Al Wolf says:

    I have a 2013 Metabike. Still LOVE it. It’s my go anywhere bike. (not dirt). I’ve did my first TT ever on it. My only problem with the new Daemon is the idlers. I can see one needed, but 2? My chain only hits the tire only when I’m pushing the bike around when I’m off the bike. Other than that I love the new Metabike

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