I had the distinct pleasure yesterday of going on a long ride with my cycling buddy Ben and Lou Tortola, the inventor, founder and CEO of Roundtail bikes. If you have never seen Lou’s bikes, you are in for a visual treat. They are unlike anything you have ever seen before. Lou has basically reinvented the traditional cycling double triangle frame, replacing the rear triangle with a pair of rings, resulting in a frame that looks more like modern art than a functional bicycle.
The front half of the frame is pretty traditional with its toptube, downtube and headtube. The rear, of the bike though is where all the magic happens. Instead of the traditional rear triangle formed by the seat tube, chain stay and seat stay, Lou’s Roundtail uses two parallel rings to which are attached the front and rear deraileurs, the rear dropouts and the rear brake mount. It’s both visually stunning and visually maddening as you stare at the bike in disbelief.
The idea behind the concept is far less radical than the looks of the bike. In fact it is simplistically elegant. While riding your traditional bike, the road shock from irregular pavement, bumps, potholes, etc, is transmitted in a straight lines through your bikes frame directly into your body, particularly your backside. When the Roundtail hits a bump, the shockwave travels through the spiral path of the two parallel rings, dissipating the energy, cutting the vibration to your backside significantly. In short it’s like having a shock absorber without loosing any of the lateral stiffness which is demanded of a road going machine. It’s a complete rethinking of the holy grail of cycling…stiffness and compliance at the same time.
I met up with Lou at the Hyatt Place in Fort Myers. While waiting for Ben to arrive, the two of us enjoyed a quick breakfast and soaked in the near perfect spring day. Lou had already put in some good mileage the day before, so today was just gong to be a nice paced relaxing conversational ride. On Ben’s arrival, Lou pulled around his very trick promotional vehicle, a Ford Transit Connect completely customized inside and out to transport and promote his ringed marvels. In fact the slide out bike rack used to suport his Roundtail’s was almost as impressive as the bikes themselves.
Lou invited both Ben and I to ride his bikes on our 50 mile cruise down the wide boulevards of Tree Line. Unfortunately my Basque genes always puts me off to the left side of the typical bell curve distribution of frame sizes (I ride a 50cm frame while the most common size is 56cm), so just happening across a bike that fits me is uncommon. Luckily though, he had a bike for Ben to ride.
After a quick field fitting and some minor adjustments, we were on our way. As I mentioned before, the day was nearly perfect. Warm, sunny, with just enough of a breeze to remind you that cycling is a challenge. I took the lead the first couple miles and then slid behind the ringed azuri’s watching them perform as well as watching the expressions of others as we rode by. You really can’t help but do a double take when you see the Roundtail in action.
We rode out to Coconut Point and upon my suggestion, decided to take the Roundtail’s over to the Trek store, for my friends there to see first hand. Needless to say their initial exposure to the Roundtail was pretty much the same mixture of thought provoking, smile inducing befuddlement I had experienced an hour earlier. In fact you just can’t help but smile when you see the bike for the first time, and apparently by Ben’s smile the Roundtail not only has good looks, but as he said, “it has get up and go” as well as being extremely comfortable and fun to ride.
On our way back, we took a little side trip through Miromar Lakes for some photo ops and some good old fashioned sight seeing…not to mention gawk at the excess of wealth. Between it’s extremely well manicured landscaping, exceptional architecture, incredible amenities and inspiring fountains, it’s no wonder that it was chosen as the #1 residential community in the United States…first Florida winner in 30 years of the the National Association of Home Builders Gold Award!
Our relaxing and thoroughly delightful ride came to an end as we rode into the Hyatt’s parking lot. As we cooled off a bit while putting the Roundtail’s back into the van, Lou had one more treat up his sleeve. Hidden between his road going Rountail’s, was a white hybrid version of the frame…and this one was actually sized for me to ride!
The hybrid shared the same artistic dual ringed frame, but unlike the steel framed road bikes which we put to the test (BTW Lou’s road going frames are available in steel, titanium and a soon to be released carbon model) this one was made of aluminum with a more relaxed geometry and different shaped tubes in the front triangle.
Before I became a roadie, I had put far too many miles on a Trek 7200 hybrid, which by all accounts was a great smooth, fast riding bike with full suspension. My thoughts on the Roundtail Hybrid… it was just as smooth as the 7200 yet far more energy efficient and more responsive. Remember now, the 7200 had a full suspension fork and seat. The Roundtail Hybrid has neither, yet rides equally if not more comfortably than the 7200. I was impressed. In fact I’m really looking forward to seeing the carbon road models when they come out…Lou, be sure to send one of those ringed carbon beauties down to Florida for some proper testing 😉
Ride Time: 3:19:06
Stopped Time: 1:56:37
Distance: 48.29 miles
Average: 14.55 mph
Fastest Speed: 27.05 mph
Ascent: 1454 feet
Descent: 1460 feet