Nazca Fuego – Long Term Review

I’ve had the Fuego for almost a year now, so it’s high time I put some thoughts down on it.  Dave McCraw has already posted a detailed review of the stock Fuego compared to other similar recumbents here, so I’ll take a different angle.  He’s also got a lot more pictures than me, so if you’re thinking about acquiring a Fuego read his first!  Then come back (or don’t), and I’ll talk about what have I’ve changed from stock over the past year to make it even better.

First then, a general introduction.  Behold; the Nazca Fuego.

The Fuego, basking in almost-sunshine by Loch Arklet

This model had two years of heavy use when it came to me from Laid Back Bikes, and I’ve put a respectable mileage on it since then.  Generally regarded as a semi-low racer, it’s rear wheel drive, has rear wheel suspension and has above seat tiller steering.  Brakes are cable-actuated discs, the seat is fully adjustable via quick releases and there’s a rear rack and optional pannier rack under the seat.

When I had my first test ride on recumbents, I thought I was after something blindingly quick and uncomfortable – a lightweight ninja machine that would hunt down roadies uphill and leave them for dust on the descents.  I quickly realised I wasn’t, not least because I need to carry a fresh change of clothes into work every day and therefore need a rear rack.  I also thought that if these recumbents were as comfortable as everyone claimed I might fancy doing a bit of touring on them rather than the upright, so the ability to carry a bit more luggage would be cool.  But I do like fast as well, because being overtaken by people with shaved legs hurts regardless of the bike you’re riding1.

The Fuego ticks all these boxes so emphatically the pencil rips the paper.  If you want a stable, comfy, affordable HPV which can carry a full touring load yet keep up with the road bikes on the weekend jaunt and fits into the average tenement flat, I’m not sure you could find a better choice.  And you’ll still leave everything behind downhill.

Assuming you’ve read Dave’s review and are well up to date on the pros and cons of the stock Fuego, lets look at what I’ve changed in the pursuit of the perfect all-purpose HPV.

The stock tyres were Schwalbe Marathons, which are great heavy duty tyres, with a useful reflective tyre wall.  They are pretty slow to spin up mind, so I’ve stuck on some Duranos.  These are definitely quicker, have slightly better grip and I’ve still only p*nctured once (ok, twice, but the other time was a pothole so severe it also knocked the whole wheel out of true, so it hardly counts).  Less durable mind, so you’ll be buying them more often.

Back End

Back end of the Fuego, showing updated drivetrain, suspension and hydration, as well as the handlebars in the raised position to getting in and out of the seat

There’s now a Shimano XT derailleur, which offers great performance for a sensible cost.  The cable line is also much better than other options around this price point.  The cassette is a SRAM 11-23 road offering, which gives much closer ratios for easier spinning, and the chain is SRAM’s nickel plated PC991 which resists the salt of the roads considerably better than most.  The suspension has gone from a coil spring to an Epicon air shock, which is half the weight and considerably smoother and quieter.  Finishing off the drivetrain tweaks at this end there’s a Terracycle idler and much less chaintube.  I’m uncertain about the chaintube changes – there’s a touch less drag but bizarrely a lot more chain noise.  This could probably be reduced by increasing the tension on the derailleur tensioner to remove some of the chain slap.

You’ve also got my magical hydration system, which consists of a bladder in the rack pack with the tube held in place by two retracting hand gel bungee things.

You know, these.

This works brilliantly, if I say so myself.  I’ve cable-tied two bottle holders either side of the rack for either extra water or my breakfast.  These sit behind my shoulders so don’t add any extra drag, but unless you’re considerably more acrobatic than me you can’t reach them on the move.  Finally, there’s the business end of the Magicshine rear light (just at the top of the suspension), with the battery just visible between the seat and rack pack.  Aim it downwards to avoid blinding everyone behind you.

Front End

The front end, showing new crankset, derailleur, lighting and, ah, my foot

At the pointy end, the crankset has been swapped for a Deore mountain bike offering.  You lose a little off the top end, but combined with the road rear cassette get a much nicer distribution across the range.  Note that due to the length of chain and middle idler there’s no need to worry about crosschaining gears, so you can happily sit in the big/big cog combination (or small/small) without any additional drag/noise.  This is useful, as the front derailleur remains pretty heavy to move.  This must be something to do with the cable routing, although I haven’t been able to improve it much despite some fettling.  Given the twist grip shifters changing the front gears can be a bit of a wobbly experience until you get used to it, although swapping to some trigger offerings would help if it bothered you.

The use of an XT front derailleur rather than a Deore was just because the offer on at the time made it cheaper – I’ve yet to find any performance difference.

You can see the reflective tape I’ve added to the cranks in an attempt to comply with the requirement for pedal reflectors.  Works well from the front, although is clearly invisible from the back as I’m in the way.  All a bit pointless given in any kind of dim visibility the bike is lit up like a Christmas tree, but it hopefully reduces any chance of a driver getting off on a technicality in SMIDSY circumstances.

Lastly there’s Supernova’s excellent E3 front light, driven off a SON hub in the front wheel.  This is all the front light you’ll ever need (or, admittedly, want to pay for), delivering oodles of light onto a well defined letterbox pattern.  Note the slightly lower recumbent postitioning of the light (as opposed to the handlebars of an upright, for example), means the letterbox reaches much further in front of you whilst still illuminating the area in front of your wheel.  Bit of a Brucey Bonus, there.

Conclusion

So, I’ve made plenty of changes – have I reached recumbent nirvana, or is there still something missing?

Well, it’s very close.  The drivetrain is still a little loud, and my current setup requires a plastic deflector on the front fork to prevent the return chain chewing into it on the granny ring.  It’s also undeniably chunky, so you better be in good shape if you’re planning on sprinting up hills or racing carbon framed uprights.

However, I’m not sure what I’d change.  I like the comfort given by the steel frame and suspension and the convenience offered by the rack options, and I wouldn’t reduce either of these just to make it a bit lighter.  The seat is low enough for real benefit in a headwind, and yet not so low that you feel uncomfortable in city traffic.  With luggage on the racks under the seat the thing rides like it’s on rails, and looks pretty smart as well given the black/orange colour scheme of my Carradice baggage. The lifting tiller adds a few grammes, but also makes getting in and out much much easier and allows a smooth-looking rolling dismount.  And it’s still hardly slow, and being low down and leaning hard into corners makes everything feel much faster anyway.

My one sentence summary?  A very nearly perfect HPV if you want to do a bit of everything on the road.

1 I can confirm however that it is not possible to catch a roadie in full flight when caught unawares on a Raleigh Twenty. But by all means try.

7 thoughts on “Nazca Fuego – Long Term Review

  • 2012-05-29 at 18:54
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    No-one would say it was lightest of bikes but it ‘out-comforts’ a lot of other ones. The one reviewed here is a large frame (wheelbase longer and seat slightly lower than the medium). Some customers have fitted carbon seats to reduce weight a bit. In the end though it’s strong point is that it can carry a reasonable load and work for a wide variety of riders. The frame and seat adjust is one of the easiest to use I’ve found – so you can ‘format’ the bike to lower and higher modes in seconds. Seats can be supplied in M. L and XL. Shorter riders should go for medium frame model.

  • 2012-08-02 at 14:15
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    Enjoy you blog and II agree its a great comfortable bike – I have had mine for about six months now and enjoy it – BUT it is far too heavy! Perhaps that is why it feels so stable -all that weight anchoring it to the ground! I got the sport model and even taking the mudguards off and with a really light DT Swiss shock and a Superlight chain and rear cassette ,it weighs in at just over 19kg or 42 pounds! ! ( wish I had never bought those digital hanging scales and discovered that !) So that’s like riding a light road bike whilst carrying another over your shoulder ! In common with most other bike manufacturers, Nazca give a completely false weight indication of 15kg for the sport model! Only possible if you take the wheels,chain,pedals and seat off!
    I had to put a 11-34 rear cassette so as not be defeated by short steep hills here in the borders-( I guess a pair of 65 year old legs doesn’t help either)
    If only they could actually get it down to about the 15 kg they claim,then it would be perfect-only other niggle is the very stiff front shifter which doesn’t seem to ease up with use.
    I suppose its obvious really- bikes made in Holland will generally be heavy as there is no reason not to- Lightning bikes from the hills of California are light as are the Meta bikes from near the Pyrenees. Seems that local topography has a lot to do with bike weight! Would that was a recumbent maker here in the borders or the highlands that would create a machine more suited to our contours.
    Hasta luego
    john

  • 2012-08-03 at 13:48
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    Saw this debate starting on Dave’s blog – wondered if it would reach over here!

    I’m not actually sure how much mine weighs – probably a fair bit, given I enjoy adding gadgets/comfort to it. That being said I think it’s easy to get hung up on bike weight. I’m fully aware the heaviest component of my rolling weight is me, and although pretty skinny there’s still a few cornish pasties floating about my figure. I also carry at least 2kg of water at the start of a long ride, a relatively heavy rack bag, two inner tubes, pump, multitool and case for the lot, lights, batteries, dynohub, etc, etc.

    I suppose I’ve instead chosen to embrace the weight. On the uphill stretches I lose maybe a kph, but also gain the ability to eat an extra cake (ha, as if I restrict myself like that!). Going downhill, nothing will catch me.

    At least until Richard’s velomobile gets out next weekend…

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  • 2013-03-10 at 15:07
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    Great review. Easily my favourite recumbent bike and I’ve had a few! It is so versatile. Mine is a medium sport with 24 spoke wheels, 10 speed XT and trigger shifters. I fitted Duranos and a carbon seat. Without rack and mudguards it weighs 15.2 kg. and gives a sporting rather than racer type performance. Built for a tour it weighs perhaps another kg. It is the fact that it can perform both roles so well that makes it such an attractive bike.

  • 2014-07-02 at 13:43
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    I’ve never ridden a two wheeled recumbent before, so worried about how I’ll handle it. I’m concerned I might tip it over before I get it moving!I’m encouraged by the info so far about this nazca fuego being forgiving. The weight issue for hills is an interesting one for me. Since I plan to retro fit an electric assist to it, the hills shouldnt be much of a problem, and when the hills vanish, it sounds like I won’t be needing the assist, so I’ll switch it off and use my own steam. The real interest for me lies with having bought 5 different saddle types, and still finishing a 15minute ride with a crotch that feels numb and tingly. I’ve tried every seat you can imagine that claims it solves this problem, but it doesn’t. It’s taken me too long to find the solution, but I suspect from what I’ve read, this is it.

  • 2014-07-02 at 17:26
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    Hi Andrew

    Yup, recumbents make almost all (non-weather…) comfort problems disappear! Although if you haven’t done so already, try a Brooks saddle on the upright; they’re probably the best bet if you have to use a saddle.

    Two-wheelers definitely require getting used to, but a few hours is all it really takes to start off. Given the higher weight of the bike the addition of a few kilos of electric assist would be less noticeable, but definitely try without at first.

    You might find that finally being on a comfortable bike means you’re pushing on the range limits of your batteries before long!

    PS: have a look at the whole Nazca range – they’re all relatively practical and if all-out speed isn’t high up your list of priorities you might find something with equally sized wheels easier in terms of spares!

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