Fast, efficient, practical. A lowracer for daily use and big trips alike.
The Fuego is a popular bike in the UK, one championed by David Gardiner of Laid Back Bikes, who lent me this demo (often used as his own means of transport).
With a seat height of around 35cm (but see David Gardiner’s comment), reclining down to 25 degrees, the Fuego is a fairly low, but by no means extreme model. In fact it was one of the first I tried- some years ago with a bike to work voucher burning a hole in my pocket!
This easy accessibility to complete beginners, combined with comfort and great versatility at not too great a price is what makes the bike a compelling proposition. Of course, the relatively low seat height and reclined position (the seat goes down to 25 degrees) keep the experienced rider equally happy.
You can spend more and buy a lighter bike, a faster bike, a higher (or lower!) bike. But many people don’t, and it’s not too hard to see why this all-rounder wins them over.
With rear coil suspension and Kojak tyres, the Fuego is very comfortable while giving up little in the speed stakes. The fastest riders may wish for a rigid frame, but to be honest I found it hard to remember I wasn’t until I got onto rough terrain!
The connoisseur may feel the small front wheel suffering a little on very rough ground, but this is largely mitigated by the choice of tyre and overall, the benefits in terms of getting normal-leg-length riders into a very aero position are unarguable.
On one 55 mile test ride around the Pentlands, I was able to average 16.5mph despite a couple of respectable climbs and a frustrating headwind. Not bad as I’m so far out of shape.
A view from the cockpit of the Fuego, eating up the roads of south central Scotland…
Steering is precise without being nervous and the bike’s turning circle is unencumbered by any conflict with the chain, which is lifted. This makes it easy to handle on so-called cycle “facilities” or filtering in town (I spent a few days commuting through central Edinburgh to put this to the test).
The suspended rear end has superb traction as you’d expect, staying planted on really rough ground both powering and braking (like most recumbents, the bike is inherently predisposed to lock the rear wheel).
At 25 degrees, it’s not hard to maintain good situational awareness and the bike is very easy to ride one-handed for the purposes of taking photos, drinking, signalling and so on. I can’t ride any bike no-hands, so no comment there!
The Fuego features Nazca’s characteristic split frame to accommodate suspension (coil as standard, air shock available as an upgrade).
Aesthetically, opinions on this are doubtless mixed – the aluminium plates on the Fuego are big and bold compared with Challenge who often conceal the pivot in a continuing line of the frame (see the Furai rollover on this page). You may prefer one or the other – I don’t personally mind either way.
As a more practical low bike (especially as a low tourer) the suspension has a lot to be said for it – keeping stresses on the bike and luggage, not to mention the rider, lower than is otherwise possible.
Comparing the complete assembly with a simple tube frame, you can see the weight penalty inherent in a suspension bike (which seems to be on the order of a water bottle or two) – but it’s only fair to point out that 95% of riders could easily lose that much from their paunch before worrying about the weight consequences of their particular bike!
Riding the bike, I wasn’t able to distinguish any suspension bob when powering hard, although a lab would surely be able to measure it.
On the image above you can see the two quick release adjustments under the Fuego seat – the upper adjusts the seat recline alone, the lower the suspension geometry (and preload). There’s a rollover for that too:
Roll over for a comparison of quick release adjustment
This really highlights the adjustability of the Nazca Fuego- other bikes take minutes (and tools) to adjust while I was actually able to finish a climb, undo the seat QR while gaining on a roadie to drop five degrees, do it up and scream past on the flat. Sadly you can’t do it the other way around without dismounting!
The Fuego comes with a rack fitted to the seat back which is rated by Nazca at 7kg. Unlike the Challenge day rack, there are no side supports so you can’t fit a conventional pannier.
However, you can easily fit a rack-top bag (either recumbent specific, or any DF rack-top bag would work fine too) and this is how the test bike came equipped, with around 20L at a guess of easily accessible storage, plus two bottle holders:
Unlike the Challenge Furai, however, you can fit the Nazca Fuego with a heavier duty touring rack – in addition to the “day rack” as demoed – and this will accommodate full-size panniers up to 30kg (15kg per side).
You could combine all of this with modest side-panniers – in fact, as an alternative to the heavy rack Nazca supply a side-pannier support bracket to avoid the paint-rubbing experience I had on the Furai. All in all, it’s hard to think of a bike so low that can be equipped to carry so much, although it’s a shame that the basic rack won’t support panniers like the Challenge day rack does.
(Hopefully Nazca won’t mind me illustrating this with a pic taken from their Fuego gallery):
The Fuego has a triple chainset to give a broad range of gears – the exact model depends on the version you go for, with the sport featuring Tiagra, the top-sport 105.
A little weight could be saved by fitting a double, perhaps, but it isn’t much and would mean losing a chunk of gear range or accepting giant steps between gears. The weight of the smallest ring is seriously tiny.
The shift motion was fairly stiff, but the bike did change quickly and precisely between all three rings on demand, and with gripshift there’s no possibility of the mech rubbing.
The minimalist derailleur post is nice – with a regular size drivewheel there’s no question of needing the ~70t drivewheel of a Raptobike so there’s less need to allow the mech to sit at widely different positions on the post.
I assume it does preclude the use of Terracycle-style adapters that fit on normal diameter derailleur posts (for fitting lights), but not to worry – Nazca can supply a fitting for the front of the boom that takes a regular handlebar light with no issues whatsoever. Without the adapter, a standard dynamo light will screw on securely.
The chain itself is routed fairly conventionally, with the power idler below the seat and a return idler to keep the chain above the wheel. This gives the Fuego plenty of maneuverability at low speeds, when a dropped-chain bike can derail the unwary:
Chain tubes feature on both sides of the chain, and this combined with the excellent idler cover (something I complained about in my Furai review, for instance), there’s small chance of getting oily. If utmost efficiency is a priority, you could certainly put protective tape on the fork and run the chain bare.
The seat, in this case, is a standard glassfibre hardshell. ‘Standard’ of course just means it isn’t made of weight-saving carbon fibre – this is still a serious improvement if you’re used to mesh seating.
The Ventisit pad provided excellent ventilation and comfort – it’s pretty much the industry standard, although it’s worth noting it’s fairly heavy in comparison with foam pads, in exchange for keeping your back fresh and comfy.
In this configuration, the Fuego is equipped with SRAM X7 shifters and Avid Speed Dial 7’s. The brake levers are particularly good, as they offer reach adjust in addition to the usual barrel adjuster – great for getting things just as you like them.
As with the Challenge Furai, cables are routed internally through the stem, although in this case, rather than the rear brake suffering, I found the front mech to be stiff – I wasn’t able to determine the cause and it was perfectly useable, just had a much stiffer feel than the other shifter.
These are the same bars as fitted to the Nazca Gaucho, and it’s interesting that I thought them wide and ponderous when I first tried that bike (see my review of the excellent Nazca Gaucho), because this time around, I didn’t have such a bad view of them!
To be fair, I think I may just be a bit weird with hand positioning, as I found myself quite often resting my hands on the bar either side of the stem, not on the grips at all! 🙂
The superficial similarity to Challenge ends at the frame, where the cables run externally, rather than inside the main tube.
Each arrangement has pros and cons, but here one criticism of the Fuego that I would offer is the lack of little cable guides on the frame above the fork, as you might find on a Raptobike. This means that the cables had a tendency to be quite wide of the left of the frame, brushing against my leg.
I fitted a couple of cable ties as seen in the picture (one around the stem, one around the main frame) to keep this under control, then no further problem. However, some way to cater for this would be a nice improvement in future versions 🙂
The entry-level Fuego comes with standard wheels – but on the Sport and Top-Sport models, these are upgraded to low spoke count versions with an attractive paired-spoke lacing pattern.
With mudguards fitted, I’m not absolutely convinced of the benefit of low spoke wheels but at the same time, every little helps and they do add to the bike’s racing pedigree.
If you’re worried about sturdiness, it’s noteworthy that this bike has been ridden for quite some time around central Edinburgh, has disc brakes (certain, we’re told by bike luddites on the internet, to lead to wheel failure!) but both were as tight and true as you’d expect from a brand new bike.
I wouldn’t choose them for a touring version of the bike (and Nazca probably wouldn’t recommend them for that anyway) but other than that, they seem like a nice upgrade.
At both ends, braking is provided by the ever-excellent Avid BB7. The more I use these, the more I think they’re better (all things taken into consideration) than my Elixir and Juicy hydraulics.
Note that, unlike on a Challenge bike, there’s no quick-release clip on the front guard. This will make it inconvenient to use a roofrack as well as, perhaps, a teensy bit more hazardous to ride over wood and other obstructions. (In fairness, you can pick these up for a couple of pounds at your LBS)
A quality kickstand was fitted (hurrah!) and this kept the Fuego stable and upright for shopping, photo opportunities, and will help keep the paint nice if regularly locking up to a bike rack.
In this section I contrast the Fuego with three other bikes: the Raptobike lowracer, Challenge Furai 24″, and Nazca Gaucho 28″. I make no apology for these being aimed at completely different markets (in fact, that’s what makes the discussion interesting):
versus Raptobike lowracer
Roll over for a comparison with the Raptobike lowracer
The Raptobike has a very similar wheelbase and steering geometry to the Fuego, but whilst the bottom brackets are at a similar absolute height, the Raptobike has a much larger seat / bottom bracket delta (24cm VS 16cm on the Fuego) making for a very different seating experience.
The Raptobike has the edge in aero terms by fitting more of the rider’s body behind the legs for the same seat angle, and is also lighter by virtue of its rigid frame. However, the Fuego is significantly more comfortable and enormously more capable in the load-carrying stakes.
Configured similarly (double chainset and front disk brake) the Raptobike costs broadly the same as the Fuego.
versus Challenge Furai 24″
Roll over for a comparison with the Challenge Furai 24″
The Furai is an interesting comparison with the Fuego – both have suspension, both are sold in stock configuration as day bikes or light tourers. On balance, the finish quality on the Challenge bike feels better (despite, for instance, having an X5 rather than X7 groupset) while the Fuego is the bike I would trust for longevity and load carrying (although at no point did I feel like I might break the Furai).
The Fuego definitely has the edge in terms of aerodynamics (it feels considerably more efficient once speeds get above 20mph) but the Furai has a clear advantage on rough terrain – I mean literally unpaved surfaces – by virtue of its larger front wheel. On tarmac roads in sustained poor condition, I’d say these two factors broadly cancel out.
The Furai costs significantly, though not drastically more than the Fuego.
versus Gaucho 28
Roll over for a comparison with the Nazca Gaucho 28″
Here you can see Nazca’s own Gaucho 28″ race bike. (The Gaucho is also made in a variety of day trip / touring configurations, but this isn’t one of them).
Although there are similarities between the bikes – the steerer/bars, boom, maybe even the chainstays, with carbon upgrades and skinny racing wheels there’s not much direct overlap.
I wanted to include this more just to give an illustration of the different riding positions – the Fuego down low and the Gaucho up high (especially dramatic in the jump from bottom bracket to ground, each time you want to stop).
The Gaucho also has a much shorter wheelbase, which gives it handling in corners especially more akin to an ordinary bike than the stretched lowracer.
I wouldn’t like to say which is faster – probably the Gaucho as it has the advantage of weight and great finishing kit, but I’d be surprised if there was a huge difference, with the Fuego having the clear aero advantage.
The Fuego is well worth a look if you’re in the market for a recumbent that will be fast and exciting without being crazy (or crazily expensive!), especially if versatility and all-weather riding is important to you.
The sturdy build quality and predictable handling also make it ideal for those who picture themselves bashing over cratered moonscapes or playing in rush hour traffic.
David Gardiner almost always has a Fuego in for demos and I’d encourage interested parties to get in touch if they fancy dropping in to the central Edinburgh showroom of Laid-Back-Bikes.
- My main Laid-Back reviews page – all recumbents on one page