A fast, capable all rounder that won’t break the bank
The Metabike Daemon is a new model resulting from a collaboration between RBR in the states and Performer Cycles in Taiwan. It is an evolution of the original Metabike design and retains the much of it’s ancestor’s basic frame geometry and features.
For those of you who enjoyed the original Metabike or are looking for an all round flexible platform that comes in a fair bit cheaper than competitors such as the M5 CHR or Pelso Brevet, this bike might be right up your street.
Like it’s predecessor, it has a very short wheelbase which comes with its own unique handling characteristics. If you liked the original Metabike, then the Daemon takes that concept and irons out some of the kinks to make it a bit more user friendly.
If we take look at an overlay between the old and new bikes, you can see the similarities in frame design:
The wheel base is very similar, but the Daemon brings the seat height down a little which will be helpful for those with shorter legs. BB height remains pretty much the same and is not overly aggressive. In general, it is a very similar setup, slightly lower but still a very compact wheel base.
The frame is Aluminium, with a carbon front fork. The bike came with a fairly lightweight seat fitted from Performer, but in the picture above the bike is fitted with a heavier Nazca fibreglass seat. I’ll discuss this modification in more detail below.
The frame is made by Performer, and is therefore of excellent build quality. Like the rest of their range, the build is a high standard and their products are highly regarded for a reason. The Daemon is no exception – it’s a very nicely made frame.
This frame has a nice satin black finish. The Daemons I’ve seen online in the states are going with a yellow crackle lava finish that Performer can do, but I’m a bit more boring in my tastes and I prefer this much more stealth look. The finish is very nice, with a red Daemon logo on the boom and rear fork crown that blends in nicely with the rest of the bike.
The Metabikes logo is also on the rear chain stays and front fork arms, in the same red colour. The overall effect is quite modern looking, and to my eye it’s a great looking colour scheme that I really like. The forks have the same satin black finish and blend in perfectly with the rest of the bike.
Ready to ride with pedals, Mirrycle mirror, VTX neck rest, Nazca fibre glass large seat and 3cm Ventisit pad, this bike weighed 13.8 KG. So there’s a good bit of scope for getting that down if you wanted to, given the mid range component level and heavy extras. I think 12 – 12.5 KG would be easily achievable with a carbon seat and a few other upgrades.
This bike has a ‘standard’ hybrid set up that we see on a lot of recumbents, borrowing components from both the road and MTB Shimano ranges. At the front, we have a 53/39 Shimano 105 crankset with 165mm cranks, and a Shimano 105 front mech.
The chain line uses 4 idlers – a raised return chain idler in the picture earlier, an over / under double idler under the seat, and then a smaller fourth idler that adds further routing of the return chain to keep everything neat. So the power side has one idler and the return chain has three.
Now the prospect of using four idlers will doubtless put some people off, and I was a bit skeptical myself in the beginning. However, I did set some PRs on the bike so it’s definitely not sucking lots of power. It feels a little stickier than my CHR chainline that uses 3 idlers when I turned the cranks by hand, but I wouldn’t waste any time worrying about it in practical conditions – this is a fast bike, period.
At the rear end, we have a super wide 11-46 XT cassette and an 11 speed XT long cage derailleur. Coupled with the 53/39 double at the front, this gives a very nice gear range that allows you to attack even the steepest hills, whilst being able to push the recumbent advantage on the descents with a big 53/11 combo.
This bike is designed for disc brakes, and in this instance we’re using the standard Avid BB7 calipers. The usual comment on these – they’re plenty strong enough and work very well. I recently dumped the hydraulics on my Fuego and went back to BB7 after starting to get issues with the caliper seals on the hydraulics. Overall they are nice and easy to work with once you know how to adjust them properly. I’m trialling a TRP Spyre on the CHR too, although it’s too early to know if it’s a keeper.
Bars, Tiller and Controls
The bars on the Daemon are a really nice size – not too wide, but not as short as the CHR’s tiny bars. They offer enough flexibility and real estate to stick your stuff on them, but still keep your hands more or less behind your legs when riding into the wind.
Avid Speed Dial levers make the obvious pairing with the BB7 calipers, and we have Shimano XT trigger shifters to control the 11 speed drive train. These are both super reliable products and overall the entire drive train and braking system is solid, dependable and very smooth in operation.
The tiller is the same one that I bought for the CHR and reviewed a while back, so you can read that for all the details. In summary it is quite lightweight and very nice in operation, but could do with an extra inch or two in possible extension length. Shorter riders will find that the tiller and bars work fine on the cheaper Performer seat version of the bike. Taller riders though will prefer a third party seat which can mount slightly further forward giving more space between the legs and bars. As always, shorter cranks can help to improve fit. This tiller was one of the first batch and my understanding is that the new ones have a longer stem which should remove the sizing problems.
Taller riders (like me!) may find the adjustment bolt to lift the tiller up and down too short. I replaced it with a longer bolt as seen below, which allows me to lift the tiller much higher. Note the nut also impedes on the steerer end cap a little and requires care when tightening down.
Once I moved the seat forward to a new position with the Nazca seat (see below), I couldn’t get the tiller to go short enough this time (what a complainer!) and my arms felt squashed up. This is easily rectified by cutting a little bit off the second tiller piece.
I came away with the impression that the whole cockpit experience is quite tight, and that some riders will prefer an open cockpit set up. That said, riding with a tiller is still my preferred option on any ‘fast’ bike, and the Daemon is no exception. Getting your arms tucked in behind the legs improves your aero profile and the lifting tiller is easy to get out the way for dismounting, doing super tight turns and so forth.
If you can get the tiller to a position you like, it is great. My favourite lifting tiller that I’ve tried.
The bike looks like it has all the appropriate fitting points for a front mudguard. The front fork has a bolt hole on the crown and further bolt holes further down the fork arms.
I wasn’t so sure about how the rear mudguard would fit – I couldn’t see where you would fix the ‘rider’ end of the mudguard onto the frame. You might be able to fit something like a Zefal C40 Paragon if you are able to both find a set and do a bit of creative DIY – perhaps use a bottle cage bolt hole under the frame (see below). The other option is a Raceblade.
There are bolt holes on the rear chainstay further up – but these appear to be for adding a rim brake bridge adapter. There is nothing I can see for affixing a rack elsewhere at the rear end. You might be able to fit something like a Racktime Lightit 28 if you can attach the rack to the seat stays somehow.
A Radical aero bag fits the bike fine if you don’t put the seat back too far. If you do, then the Angletech Aeropod Lowracer bag works a treat – I used it with the seat as far back as it would go and it was perfect.
If you look in the picture above, there are also two bolt holes under the frame that you can use to mount a bottle cage. At least that’s what I think they are for!
There is no support for lighting attachment on the Daemon. A Minoura SWG 400 Swing Grip on the front derailleur post would be a good choice, and smaller rear lights can be attached to the rear seat stay or back of the neck rest.
Cables are routed nicely through the inside of the frame. The front mech cable has entry and exit points on the boom.
The rear mech and rear brake cables share an exit point which is a tight fit but keeps the cables tidy. Note also that all the entry / exit points are finished with proper grommets as opposed to on the CHR where they are left bare with sharp, raw carbon to eat away at the cable housing. Very nice.
The stock Performer seat can’t be moved very far forward due to its small adjustment slots and the large slot cut out the middle that gets in the way of any new bolt holes (and also allows the back wheel to spray mud onto your seat pad).
The seat pad that comes as stock, which is roughly Ventisit-like in feel, is also a bit on the chunky side – heavy, and so thick that I couldn’t feel the ‘bucket’ of the seat properly and felt like I was sliding off the front. I took it off and used the pad off my M5 instead which is only 2cm thick. This resulted in a bit more leg space (but still not enough) and a more secure and connected feeling with the bike.
Although there are four pairs of seat mounting holes on the frame, the front ones are the setting most riders would choose to get the rider’s weight as far forward as possible. Even with the seat fully forward, the steering is quite light as weight distribution is still slightly ‘tail heavy’.
Steering lightness becomes very pronounced when the seat is reclined more. In practice many riders will have the seat set higher, and less tall riders will notice this to a lesser degree. Fitting open cockpit bars puts more weight forward and a review may follow with this set up.
David at Laid Back Bikes supplied me with a Nazca large seat to try – the same one I have on both my Fuego and Quetzal tandem. This seat is a bit heavier, being fibre glass, but is otherwise a very nice shape and size, and has no slots cut out of it. I was able to get a new seating position that was about 3 inches further forward than the stock position.
In order to move the seat this far forward, I had to put about an inch of spacers at the front bolt points, both to stop the seat ribs hitting the top idler, and also to lift the front of the seat clear enough of the frame to allow a reasonable amount of recline adjust (I couldn’t lift it too high before contacting the frame, so you’d need to move the seat back a little to get a higher recline angle).
The seat stays are telescoping and fixed to the frame using two more hex bolts. The bolts in these fixings point inwards (see the picture below). This means that to loosen / tighten them, you have to ‘reach round’ from the outside and use your Allen key without being able to see the socket on the bolt. On the drive side, the Allen key also goes straight through the path of the chain line, and it’s almost impossible not to get your hands or Allen keys covered in grime.
Many people will likely choose a custom seat for a Daemon frame kit – RBR’s suggested hard shell choice being Thor seats with a Ventisit pad. In Europe, Nazca seats are also excellent as shown above, and, like Thor, can be bought in either fibre glass or carbon.
The supplied neck rest has a padded strap only (not a proper pad), and I found my skull hitting the metal frame no matter how hard I tried to tighten it.
Also, like the seat stay bolts, the attachment bolts for the neck rest face inwards. You need an Allen key with a very short right angled end to access these, which I didn’t have when they came loose in the middle of a long ride. Being tall I wanted to put the neck rest a little higher than it could reach as well.
I installed a VTX neck rest on the Nazca seat which is more comfortable, fits me better and is easier to adjust.
The wheelset on this demo model are very nice indeed, although I imagine a standard build would use something a little less impressive. These are DT Swiss 240S hubs laced to Pacenti Forza rims. A nice, lightweight and reasonably aero wheel set that is pretty strong and has very high quality hubs. I like this combo so much, I have the same on my CHR!
Both forks have decent clearance for some big tyres. Here’s the available space when shod with 28C Gatorskins. The tape on the front fork is helicopter tape to protect the fork from the occasional contact when on the granny ring.
Light steering aside, the bike has an appealing directness that I really liked. You feel very connected to the bike, and once you get used to the handling you can really carve the corners. The short wheel base makes the bike very manouverable, and it’s probably the closest feeling I’ve had to the handling on a standard road bike, despite the recumbent position.
Forward vision is very good with a tiller. I didn’t try the open cockpit bars that you can also get for the bike, and these would likely impede vision a bit more as they do on any bike.
You do feel reasonably high up when riding the Daemon compared to my lower ‘high’ racer the CHR and maybe even a bit higher than the Pelso I rode a while back, but it didn’t feel that high overall, and I don’t imagine that you need to be particularly long legged to be comfortable with the position.
The bike climbs extremely well – I overtook 4 roadies climbing Paddy Slacks one day and set a couple of climbing PRs. This shows that the chainline is definitely quite efficient and you shouldn’t worry about the 4 idlers. You do feel that all your power is going straight to the back wheel, it is a pretty rigid frame.
That rigidity translates into really feeling the bumps and potholes as well though. With the seat in the stock position, I found the seat stays were transmitting shock right into my back and I found it quite jarring. On a long ride I found myself anticipating the bumps in a similar way to the Cruzbike V20 which was similarly spine pounding. Once I’d moved the seat forward this lessened considerably. I wouldn’t ever say it was super comfortable, but definitely much more so than the original setup. If I was going to buy this bike I would run it with wider and / or tubeless tyres and get a lower pressure than the 80 PSI I was running the Gatorskins at. You’d be pretty comfy with that.
Overall the bike is pretty fast – certainly you can set it up to be very aero if you so wish, and the direct power transfer means you can crack along at a great speed. Whatever angle you like, it’s going to be a fast bike, being light, rigid and efficient.
The one thought I did have was that the bike might work better with open cockpit bars. I found that the steering was a lot more stable with a little bit of downward pressure on the tiller – the sort of thing you get for free with you arms resting on the open cockpit bars.
One of the big selling points of this bike is the price – David at Laid Back quoted £2300 for a basic build including the stock Performer seat and pad, perhaps £150 more for a Nazca seat and pad or something similar. Of course you can veer off into the realms of custom wheelsets and high end groupsets, but at the base price this is a very attractive offering for a well built bike with a decent spec list that can handle a bit of everything.
If you like the original Metabike you will love this bike. If you want a decently priced all rounder that can handle everything from the daily commute to a competitive sportive situation, this bike will handle it all.
I think the taller among us who want a very laid back position might be better suited with something that has a longer wheel base, but for those not afflicted with the inability to fit on public transport without breaking their leg bones in half, you should definitely give it a try.
Available for demo now at Laid Back Bikes.
Note- Rob from RBR wanted to give a shout out to the following people who have helped with the evolution of the Daemon:
- Chipper (idler placement, chain line, overall design)
- Jonathan at Rose City in Portland Oregon (head tube angle and general stability)
- Elias Almansa (the father of MetaBikes)