Review: New M5 Shockproof Ti 559!
Original Date of Review: July 19, 2004
Shockproof Ti 559 Photographs on bottom of this page.
As much as I would like it to be lighter and a better climber I still stand by my statements that the construction is top notch. This bike is exceptionally well built (but you pay the price in weight). I still hate the brakes – yuck! They slow you down, but don’t stop you on the hills. On the flats the brakes are adequate.
This is a fun bike to ride, gets lots of looks, and I like the color scheme with the Titanium/Black. In hindsight I wish I had opted for the 650c wheels and less spokes. I think a little faster wheels would help some in climbing. I’ve logged a couple of hundred miles now so I’m pretty comfortable even at slow speeds. Yes it can be twitchy and you can get some heel strike, but I wouldn’t hold that against the bike; it’s what you get with the “low racer” design. So overall I think it’s a solid bike, I just don’t think it’s worth the price I paid.
If you can buy the frame separately you might consider this as an option to build up your own quasi-fast around town fun bike. Definitely get the carbon fiber seat, build your own wheels, and spec your own component group. I’d also advise you have an experienced technician help with the assembly and tuning. Well I’ve pretty much said all I can about this model. Caveat Emptor – enjoy you’re ride!
Update: August 6, 2004
I took the bike for it’s first real climbing test – an 8 mile climb up a canyon with a 2 to 3% grade, and the last 2 miles at about 6%. This bicycle is just too heavy to be a good climber, all the road bikes were passing me. I maintained about 10mph on the lower part of the climb and it was all I could do to keep about 6 to 7mph on the upper. And I’m not tooting my own horn, but I’m in hella good shape because I ride on average every other day and already have hundreds of miles on my mountain bike logged this season. So if you want to go fast in the flats this is a good bike, but if you want to climb with it you will be disappointed like I am. One MAJOR reason I bought this bike was for it’s low weight (billed as 24.5lbs, but actually 33lbs). So I guess I’ll get a Trek 5200 for climbing. Yes I’ve heard all the stories how recumbents can climb, but if your idea of climbing is 2 to 4mph in granny gears then I guess you are right. But if you want to maintain a reasonable speed then I’d opt for the road bike. How many of you ride centuries anyways? Most of you probably ride 5 to 20 miles for recreation and fun.
YIKES I’VE BEEN SCREWED!
I have spoken too soon about M5’s service. I guess I was excited to be part of the recumbent world. Shortly after my comment about good service I received a bill from Federal Express for additional charges. Turns out nobody ever informed me of these charges and M5 who said the shipping was inclusive is now refusing to step up to the plate and honor their word BUT BRAM DID KEEP MY MONEY PROFITED AT LEAST $300 ON THE SHIPPING. Fed Ex never informed me of any extra charges either – otherwise the bicycle would still be at customs – I WILL NOT BE SCREWED FURTHER BY BRAM MOENS OR FEDEX.
I paid $600 US and the actual shipping according to a Fed Ex rep was about $300. So M5 banked $300 profit off of my ignorance. I’ve learned my lesson, buy from a local dealer and make sure you know exactly what you are getting for you money. I guess my good service prior to this invoice was based on the fact that they had gouged me so hard in shipping. Did they think I wouldn’t find out? But what can you do? Some dealers are honest, some try to take advantage of you. It was my fault for wanting a bike I couldn’t buy here. In the future I’ll make due with the best American Made product I can find. PERSONALLY I WOULDN’T PURCHASE ANYTHING FROM M5 AGAIN, BUT YOU’LL HAVE TO DECIDE FOR YOURSELF.
Wow! That’s the feeling I have now after returning from my first full-blown ride. But about an hour ago my first impression was – ought oh! What have I done. So lets step back to the beginning. I’ll spare you all the reasons why I made the move to a recumbent, lets just say the time was right. I have other bikes which are quite nice in their own right.
THE SHOCKPROOF BUYING PROCESS
After researching for a couple of months everything I wanted in a Recumbent I selected the M5 Shockproof Ti 559 from M5 Ligfietsen! I wanted the dual 26″ wheels and there were not many bikes available with dual suspension and dual 26″ wheels. The suspension ruled out Volae, Bachetta, and Rans. I choose the Ti Version because I wanted lighter weight (too bad it isn’t really light like it’s billed to be). So I committed and sent off an email to M5 which was answered quite promptly by Bram Moen. A note to website owners – YES PEOPLE REALLY DO BUY BIKES THEY FIND ON THE INTERNET. You (the reader) might be surprised to know that many of the dealers/manufacturers I contacted via E-mail never responded to my inquiries. They must have too much business? IF A DEALER IS GOING TO POST A WEBSITE AND AN EMAIL ADDRESS DON’T YOU THINK THEY WOULD BE ADVISED TO ANSWER THE EMAIL? I thought so… anyways back to the Shockproof Ti 559!.
After a process of about 6 weeks of writing back and forth (It was not a great experience for a person like me who has many virtues, patience not among them). I’m not sure they (Bram) thought I was a serious buyer. I had difficulty with my bank trying to do a wire transfer – In fact they said they could, but failed to be able to do an international wire transfer correctly. So I ended up putting the bike on the Visa Card. And was told my bike was on it’s way.
The next series of frustrations began. I received a telephone call from my Sister telling me that there was a package for me from FedEx that was being held for some reason. She gave me a telephone number and a lady to call. I called and of course received “voice mail”. Yikes I thought, this is going to be another hurdle. Fortunately she called back within the hour. Due to the Homeland Security Act here in the USA my bike was being held while until I filled out the necessary Import Paperwork. Yikes how long was that going to take? I downloaded the application (Adobe Acrobat Format), and emailed it off. Surprise – next day my bike arrived! The funny part (in hindsight) of the story is that FedEx didn’t know how to contact me, so they opened the telephone book for my City and called a person with the same last name, who turned out to be my uncle. He in turn called my sister, who called me. Lucky? NOPE! Written in BIG BLOCK LETTERS right on the top of the box was my Telephone number! How FedEx missed that I’ll never know!
OUT OF BOX EXPERIENCE
As adults we sometimes forget the pure adrenaline rush, exhilaration, and excitement of childhood Christmas’s. Can you remember the first gift you got that just totally fulfilled your expectations. You knew you were going to get it and when you did, you were just totally into the moment? Hold on to that feeling, you may experience it again if you get one of these bikes! That’s the feeling I had RIGHT UP UNTIL THE POINT I OPENED THE BOX! Yikes pieces of bubble wrap and tape everywhere. The tape was rather hard to get off in places (i.e. the carbon fork). The Shockproof was too large to ship assembled, so it had to be disassembled into component pieces in order to ship across the pond.
So what I had on my living room floor was a dozen or so very nicely wrapped packages of Shockproof Ti component parts “mostly” assembled. No problem I figured, I’ve put together a few bicycles in the past. This was a little different though. I quickly pieced together the pieces that made sense from the photograph of the bike. I got everything mostly together except for the derailleur adjustment before I encountered a major problem. (Pictures of the M5 TI 559 Shockproof including how it was packaged are available below).
I didn’t know exactly where washers went on the bolts, but I worked through the process. The problem was the front brake pad was rubbing the rim. So I spun the rim and it still rubbed. I was not very happy! No matter how hard I tried I could not adjust the Teckro Mini V brake on the left front side for the life of me (More on this later).
The Tech (At M5) that installed the brake had cut the wire so short that I it had no play. But that was only part of the problem. Turns out the bigger problem was the wheel simply was not true, and aggravated the whole situation. Now you would think (Or at least I would think) that someone at M5 would have taken more time to make sure these “little” things didn’t happen on a bicycle shipping so far. But they didn’t.
Now I’ll be the first to admit I am NOT the world’s best bicycle technician, but I’m not bad. I can do most maintenance tasks, but I leave the big stuff to the shop technicians as I do not have the tools, nor the desire to delve into the world of bike building. Having qualified my bicycle skills in this manner I must now admit that after my frustrations with the brakes, and my burning desire to ride the darn thing and not just look at it – I took the Shockproof 559 Ti into a local bike shop. I called 5 shops and finally found one willing to do the simple things I needed to “fine tune” the assembly (Adjust brakes, derailleur, etc.). But before we talk about the bicycle shop experience, lets talk about that darn wheel that wasn’t true!
I also sent my untrue wheel off to Dave Thomas at Dave’s Wheels. I learned of Dave’s services by reading the wheel reviews at Mountain Bike Review (MTB Review). After so many glowing reviews how could I go wrong? So I phoned up Dave and explained the situation. He told me it wouldn’t be a problem, but he was in Colorado for the summer (Not Arizona). I needed to ship him the package and enclose a check for $35 ($25 for the truing and $10 to cover shipping – turns out shipping was $8.80 so he was right on target). I have never met or spoken to Dave before, but I figured it shouldn’t be a problem. So I sent the wheel off, and a week later it came back perfectly true! That’s good service, and he even dismounted and remounted the tire for me because I was too lazy to do that! Good deal, if you need custom wheels you might want to give him a call!
THE BICYCLE SHOP EXPERIENCE
After 5 calls I found a shop and a competent sounding technician – “Derek” who was willing to take the time to answer all my questions, and also agreed to adjust my bicycle while I was there right in the shop. The other technicians I called didn’t sound competent and didn’t understand my need to be there during the adjustment of the boom, etc.
In the span of about half an hour I had my derailleur adjusted, and the front brakes adjusted. Derek removed the weird (That’s the description I’ll use) nut on the top of the left pad and replaced it with a more common nut from a set of used Tecktro Brakes he had in the shop. He also had to replace the cable as it was too short (as previously mentioned). Total damage – $30 USA for the “tune up” and $5 USA for the brake cable. Not a bad deal for same day service while you wait. I was so happy I immediately took my Trek Fuel 98 in for a broken spoke problem. DEALERS – ANYONE CAN SELL A BIKE, BUT SERVICE WINS CUSTOMERS. Okay I’m preaching – lets ride the darn thing!
MY FIRST RIDE ON THE SHOCKPROOF 559 TI
Ought oh! What have I done? What have I gotten myself into? Have I made a huge financial mistake? With basic black Shimano 105 components (See full M5 Shockproof Component list below) but it was more than $4,000 USA after shipping! That’s a lot to me considering the middle of the road component package (I was, and am a little envious of the Bachetta Aero because it is so much lighter, and comes with all High End components for about the same price). I figure I got the same basic deal any other customer would have received – not counting being screwed on the shipping.
I began to pedal – I have only ridden one other recumbent before this one – a Sun something or other with a cushy seat and a low bottom bracket. It was really easy to ride, but very mushy slow feeling. This new Shockproof 559 felt entirely different. My first impression was “this feels kind of squirrelly”. Due to my inexperience and slow speed stability problems I almost crashed before I was even out of the driveway. I had trouble starting… but I just kept pedaling, and at 6 or 7 miles per hour the stability improves drastically.
Even so my first mile or so was scary stuff! I thought for sure I was going to crash again. I applied the brakes – SQREECH! So loud a car that drove by with it’s windows down gave me a strange look. Perhaps the brakes need a while to “break in” (pun intended). I kept pedaling. Now I must say I’m a experienced rider (Just not recumbents). I’ve been on a bicycle for as long as I can remember and never had a problem with any bike as far as handling and balance are concerned. This was a different experience. I kept pedaling. I got more and more comfortable.
I decided to take one of my longer “usual” loops around town. About half an hour into the ride I felt pretty comfortable on the bike. However, I am still not all that comfortable with the handle bar position or the shifting. I’ve never been a fan of “grip shift” shifters. Hopefully I’m not violating some trademark there, perhaps it’s twist shifters. And the braking does leave something to be desired. I find myself anticipating stops much more than on any other bicycle. I would have loved a disc brake option but that adds weight. Weight is bad? Isn’t it? Maybe not.
MY FIRST DISAPPOINTMENT WITH THE TI 559
Weight! I put my Trek Fuel 98 on the Bicycle shop scale (An electronic hanging scale designed for weighing bicycles). This looked like a quality scale and it read 28.6 lbs. Right on! It’s the largest frame they make 21.5″ and full suspension, so I knew the scale was accurate. I next put the Shockproof TI 559 on the scale expecting to see about 27lbs. Wow was I shocked (no pun intended). 33lbs 2 ounces. I did a slight double take. The M5 website lists this bicycle at 11.5 kg (25.4lbs) with Shimano 105! Now I expected my bike to be heavier as I had more spokes in the wheels, and the TI rack – I figured 27lbs would be about right. NOT EVEN CLOSE! This bike was a full 6lbs heavier than that!
I guess there really is some truth to weight not being as important in the recumbent world. Just a word of warning with any bike, if you care about weight, buy from a dealer (In this case I had no choice as there were no dealers in the USA) ) and have them weigh the bike with the accessories you want already installed. I’m definitely happy with the bicycle and will be keeping it as my main ride for some time to come.
More about the weight: Yes it’s heavier than I expected, but it doesn’t feel super heavy. It’s hard to explain you just have to ride it. In all fairness to M5 I did spec the bicycle a little “heavy duty” – but not 8 extra pounds heavy duty, just extra spokes – 36 spoke wheels.. And as stated earlier the build quality is impeccable.
The Shockproof Ti 559 bike can be made lighter with higher end components: carbon seat, Dura-Ace, etc. – But even so I don’t see how you could possibly get it down below 28 to 29lbs. 33lbs is what it weighs in the configuration I recieved. I didn’t realize I was getting the Fiberglass seat and not the carbon fiber seat. I guess I had “sucker” written on my forehead.
OVERALL IMPRESSION OF THE TI 559 SHOCKPROOF
Scary at first for those of us with limited recumbent experience. It’s my understanding slow speed handling is not a strength of any recumbent design. But even a person of average balance and skill will quickly become accustomed to starting and stopping. After you get the knack of starting and you get up to say 5 to 8 mph the handling improves exponentially! This bike feels like performance machine right up until you need to climb something steep! If you ride in the flats you won’t be disappointed with the performance.
I opted for the Specialized “Fatboy” tires. These are fast easy rolling comfortable tires (I have them on my spare mountain bike). A seasoned recumbent rider will probably take to this bike faster than I did, but I’m catching on quickly. It’s slow speed handling isn’t great (as mentioned above this tends to be the case for recumbents in general), but at speed (and I’ll report the actual speeds after I hook up the computer and go on several rides) it handles pretty well. I am a little concerned about low speed stability from the very narrow handlebars. I understand the ergo/aerodynamic ramifications. It’s a fair tradeoff, but slightly wider bars in my opinion would add to the feeling of stability. I also found my wrists getting a little uncomfortable, and I wasn’t about to take my hands off the bars. Knowing this I think bars that are about 2″ wider on each side would add tremendously to the “feel” of stability for a recreational rider like myself, while the racer will probably want to keep the tight aero bars this shipped with this bicycle. Catch me in a month or two and I’ll probably be saying “Boy I’m glad I have these narrow bars, I wish I could go faster!”.
While riding (even on my very first ride) I was amazed at how much difference the riding position makes not only to comfort (I like the M5 Seat – I have a very long back and the large seat fits me well, if anything it might be 1 or 2 inches too short, but it feels good) but to the speed you can attain and more importantly maintain in a headwind. It is so much easier to pedal into the wind. I noted a rider about 300 yards ahead of me riding into the wind on his upright road bike, and within about 5 minutes of casual pedaling I had closed at least a hundred yards on him. This bike may be too much for your riding goals, style, or budget, but recumbents in general will open your eyes to how much easier it is to ride in the wind. The shockproof 559 Titanium excels in a head wind! I think my first impressions were based a lot on fear of the unknown and as I ride this bike I’ll like it more an more.
SEXY AND FAST
Sexy is local slang we like to use among friends to describe things which are “cool”, “innovative” and just easy on the eyes. This bike has all of that! I didn’t mention that I’m fairly large at 6’4″ and about 210lbs. I felt very much at home with the dual 26″ and really liked the M5 Seat (I’ve said that twice now!). This bike feels very fast to me! It’s SEXY! But I just can’t get over the weight because I have to do a lot of climbing where I live. This is a good bike for people that don’t have to climb.
There are very few options in the dual 26″ recumbent market right now. I wanted and got dual suspension. The ride is firm yet forgiving, when I push hard on the pedals the seat provides the support I need to really accelerate. The seat is comfortable for my body (although a headrest would be nice) but it did seem to get a little bit hot. I left a trail of sweat on the nylon covered foam pad. I would sacrifice a little aero for the more secure feeling wider handle bars would bring – although not full on wide like the “tweener” bars on other bikes. I really like the fact that my knees are nowhere near hitting the handlebars. I did rub my right leg slightly on occasion against the chain housing. And while this bike is not perfectly silent the chain noise didn’t bother me much, I could barely hear it. I usually ride with my MP3 Flash Player (iRiver) and ear buds so I couldn’t really tell. I set the volume very low so I can hear traffic. I just like the rhythm of music when riding it helps me keep a nice smooth pace. And a final thought about low speed handling. Yes it’s possible to have “heel strike” but only at very slow speeds and relatively sharp turns.
Good – Benefits
- Performance: Fast, Fast, Scary Fast on the flats and downhill!
- Sexy looking.
- Top quality welds, stiff yet forgiving. This frame will be around 200 years after I’m 6′ under. I just can’t impress upon you enough the quality of the frame, and overall “feel” of this bike.
- I was happy with Bram’s willingness to take the time to answer my questions and work with me through the minor glitches. I’m sure an authorized dealer and dealer assembly would have avoided the problems I had.
- Great Website – Love the information on Energy/Speed expectations.
Bad – Downside
- Unless you are experienced in recumbents you may choose bad components for the money. Hopefully you’ll find a dealer you can trust. Don’t buy direct unless you want to be screwed.
- I still don’t like the brakes! I don’t think I’ll ever like these brakes, but they will stop you once you get used to them, but they are nothing special. If you are going too fast you’ll need plenty of room to slow down before stopping.
- Handling is a little “Twitchy” – this is a cyclists bike – not Grandpa’s campground cruiser material and definitely not something you are going to teach the kids to ride on.
- I’ll probably do something stupid and die on this thing due to the tight handle bars (I’m already getting a false sense of security as I get comfortable on the bike which is followed quickly by extreme fear when something goes even a little awry. Steering is NOT forgiving.
- It’s heavier than I expected for Titanium (but rock solid construction).
- No dealers here in the USA. This (as I now know) is not a good choice for casual bikers, but if you have good balance, want to go like hell, and have everyone look at you with envy – go get one! or Buy mine! Bram is NOT concerned in the slightest about making good on promises. Customer support is terrible.
COMPONENTS ON MY BIKE
- Frame – M5 Titanium
- Fork: Carbon Fiber – Mfg. ?
- Rear Shock: DNM – DV22
- Steering – OSS Scary Tight Bars
- Seat – M5 w/nylon covered foam pad
- R. Derailleur: Shimano Deore black
- F. Derailleur: Shimano 105 black
- Shifters: SRAM Rocket
- Crankset: Shimano 105
- Wheelset: Custom Aero M5 36 Spoke
- Hubs: Shamino 105
- Brakes – Tektro Mini V
- Weight: 33lbs 2 oz (15kg) w/Ti Rack
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