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The development of Fateba's longbike

1983: The "Do It Yourself" period

When Alois Bachmann and Markus Hänni, the future founders of Fateba, were able to try the "AVATAR 2000" made by the small american company "Fomac, Inc.", they were thrilled. Bachmann and Hänni wanted to spread this more advanced way of cycling. The idea of importing the AVATAR 2000 to Switzerland was destined to fail because the price would have been more than CHF 6,000.--, absurd at time when such prices were only paid for exclusive speedbikes. Alois Bachmann is the one who decided to develop and produce an affordable longbike. He was able to find experts in the field of frame manufacturing and bicycle parts manufacturing who were able to offer advice and tips. However, for the development of the longbike, we could only count on ourselves. "Experience beats science" says the proverb. On the basis of this saying, one prototype followed the next. The question was raised whether the handlebars should be below or above the seat. Then was decided at which height the crankshaft should be placed in relationship to the height of the seat. And what kind of seat should it be? Should it be a hardshell like the "Wilson-Wilkie" – short recumbent like the one Fateba had ordered from Taiwan? Or a normal saddle to which we would have added a backrest? Would we want to move the chain in order to be able to place the seat lower? What size should the front wheel be? Or should we make a short bike similar to the "Wilson-Wilkie" like the one Fateba had ordered from Taiwan? Or a normal saddle to which we would have added a backrest? Would we want to move the chain in order to be able to place the seat lower? What size should the front wheel be? Or should we make a short bike similar to the "Wilson-Wilkie"?

Would a tricycle have been better adapted in order to convince as many people as possible about the longbike idea? All ideas had to be tested before being rejected.

René K. Müller summed up a good overall view on the century-old history of the longbikewith his reinvention at the end of the seventies. René K. Müller has also used an L2 model of Fateba's longbikes for several thousands of kilometers. Here is his website:
http://www.renekmueller.com/Recumbents


An infringement for the Winterthour Police


During one of the countless tests that Bachmann and Hänni were proceeding with, they were followed by a city police patrol car. Its passenger was reading through a handbook. The police car overtook them and the officers asked them to get off their bikes and did not allow them to continue their ride. These vehicles were not legal. They were breaking the law on the manufacturing and equipment of vehicles. Seats and handlebars on bikes must be adjustable in height by at least 7 cm. These rules hadn't been respected so they had to go on on foot. Following this incident, Fateba wrote to the federal department of justice and police and requested a license for their longbike. A few months earlier, on December 20 th  1982, they had written the federal department of police to find out if the AVATAR longbike that they were thinking about importing would be allowed to travel on swiss roads or if it would have to be examined. But this letter had not gotten any answer. Fateba then turned the heat up. They had to manifest themselves several times in order for the responsible authorities to react and to promise to look into their demand.
Markus Hänni went to Bern with the most accomplished and good looking prototype to submit the controversed object to an examination. But the welcome was not encouraging: in spite of having an appointment, he had to wait a long time because the receptionist could not find anyone competent for this matter. Finally someone had some compassion (was it the janitor?) for this visitor and opened doors one after the other to finally reach a cellar compartment where a parking space for the vehicle was found. It was clear that some time would lapse before the awaited official exam. Actually over two years went by before the competent authorities sent out on January 21 st  1985 the directive to the cantons stipulating that the Fateba longbikes were legal to ride. A copy of the faxed version of this directive can be seen here and the accompanying letter can be seen here. The accompanying letter is addressed to WERFT (Werkstatt für Fahrradtechnik or Workshop for Bicycle Technology) which was at the time, in December of 1982, the planned name for the company. The business registry however refused the name because it was confusing. FART for Fahrradtechnik (Bicycle Technology) was also denied for the meaning it is associated with in Shakespeare's language. Is is hence the name FATEBA (Fahrradtechnik Bachmann) that was registered on 01.01.1983 with the business registry.

1984: Winglet

In the summer of 1984, Fateba launched the "Winglet" longbike. The frame's shape looked similar to the one on the AVATAR by Fomac, Inc., the first longbike available on the market. The Winglet's frame and fork were made of "Reynolds-531" steel. The main tubes' interior were reinforced by Fateba at a high cost. The seat's height was 610 mm and the crankshaft was 330 mm high. The frame was custom made based on the owner's size. The seat and handlebars had been developped solely by Fateba. Numerous prototypes had been necessary until the best and most obvious solution was found. The seat and the handlebars were each independently one from another fixed on the frame and could be adjusted horizontally depending on the rider's height. For the front wheel, a 17'' wheel (ETRTO 369 mm) was chosen. The high pressure tire was made by Wolber exclusively for Alex Moulton, the inventor of the Moulton "minibikes". The rear wheel was a standard 28'' wheel (ETRTO 622 mm) fitted with a high pressure tire made by Specialized. The mechanical parts were "state of the art" for those days: 15 gears with a 3 chainring system by T.A., the "Cyclotourist" model with avec 26/36/48 teeth. On the rear wheel, a 5 sprocket cassette by Maillard with 14-32 teeth was used. Gears were switched through Sachs-Huret's "Duopar" and SunTour's japanese levers. As for the brakes, Weinmann Cantilever's "CC-420" brake used in cross country sports was mounted on the longbike. The steering system, the crankshaft and the hubs were made by "edco" a swiss manufacturer of bicycle parts. There were no Shimano parts on the Winglet of 1984 which had a retail price of CHF 2,999.-- and was only available at Fateba in Winterthur.

1986: Fateba longbike Touring Type

Chain manufacturing of the Winglet's frame turned out to be too much time consuming. The manufacturing time cycles had to be reduced. Savings were also sought after in the equipments. The first complete revision of the manufacturing brought a lot of new features. Still made of "Reynolds-531" steel, the frame was simplified: the crankshaft was integrated into the frame's main tubes. The 16'' (ETRTO 340 mm) front wheel was much cheaper. This new wheel also addressed the criticism that the 17'' wheel was too exotic because the wheels and the tires were hard to find as spare parts. The backrest of the seat was now adjustable in height and its incline could also be adjusted. The rack was also new and made of steel tubes by Fateba. The original idea that a bag carrier would suffice turned out to be too simplistic. The chain protection was also new and addressed the needs of daily use. The rear brake was moved onto the chain's posts. The braking power on the rear wheel was too weak which came from the fact that the seat's posts would warp. The larger chain posts didn't warp. The braking power increased. Instead of the bottle dynamo used until then, (Phoebus on the front wheel). Instead of 15 gears, 18 gears were now available. The retail price was CHF 2,850.--.

1989: the L1

We at Fateba were very happy with the development of the L1 and we had for the first time the feeling of offering a fully mature product. Still made of Reynolds steel, the frame was now thinner. The crankshaft was raised higher than on the Touring Type of 1986. The steering bar was shortened, the seat got narrower and the backrest longer. For the front wheel we went back to the exotic 17'' (ETRTO 369 mm). This wheel's quality was superior to that of the 16'' and rode better thanks to Moulton's high pressure tire. It also contributed to a better overall look of the bike. The rear brake also came back to the seat's posts which had been reinforced. The bottle dynamo was also the only power generator worthy of its name. The dynamo could be switched on and off directly from the lower tube. The chain's protection was also improved. At that time, the growing popularity of the mountain bike was also decisive for the longbike. Japanese manufacturers such as  SunTour, Shimano, Sugino, Dia-Compe, Tange and MKS started offering excellent components. Fateba was one of the first companies to directly import from Japan mountain bike components. The L1 was equipped with Sugino chainrings (26/38/50 teeth). The derailleur and levers were made by SunTour. SunTour's levers were "indexed" for the firsdt time. SunTour's 7 sprocket cassette allowed for finer gear shifting and their Cantilever brakes offered unmatched braking power. The L1 now had 21 gears and sold for CHF 3,200.--.

1993: the L2

The L1 had earned its marks with panache and was commercially a success. Since Fateba sold the longbikes without any middleman which means Fateba was in direct contact with their customers. Jakob Buri, at first a customer but then a Fateba employee, was at the origin of the development of the L2. Jakob wanted a longer backrest with more support at the shoulder lever such as to produce a greater force on the pedals when riding uphill. For the same reason, Jakob also wanted a handlebar offering more clenching options. Fateba granted these wishes. The backrest was warped and was adjustable in height so it could be adapted to the length of the rider's back. The backrest needed better support so its supports were increased. The handlebar was divided into three parts: a central part and two stems for the handgrips. This way, the handlebar's length could be adjusted with the handgrips being closer to or further away from the center. At last, the handgrips could also be inclined. This way everyone could adapt the handlebar to their liking. Speedbike brake levers were also integrated on the handlebar offering more clenching options. The frame was also optimized. The crankshaft was raised and the seat lowered. The L2 was now ready for a sportier handling. The derailleur and chainrings now offered 24 gears. For the first time, Fateba was presenting Shimano parts. The retail price was CHF 3,580.--.

1998: the L2-BTC

Longbikes were and still are cumbersome. With a 160 cm wheelbase (distance between the wheels) and a total length of 220 cm, they are not compact. Linking systems of the american company "Sands-machine" allow steel tubes to be linked. Fateba integrated these links called BTC (Bicycle Torque Coupling) on their L2 models. With this system and dislocated tubes, the frame held in a 60 x 60 x 35 cm trunk. However, the taking apart and putting together of the bike required some manual skill. Ontop of that, taking apart or putting the bike back together required 20 minutes, much too long for most users. In spite of the BTC's reliability, Fateba stopped producing this model in 2003. The upside was that the longbike now had 27 gears and sold for CHF 3,800.--.


2010: the L3


In the 21 st  century in the bicycle industry, new features succeeded one another. The newest was superior to the new and the immediately surpassed by the brand new one. However, some lasting features were introduced since 2000: LED lights, tubeless tires, the gears integrated in the hub (Rohloff), balloon tires, etc. Some of these new features made it onto the longbike. However ballon tires which would have brought a non-negligible improvement to the comfort of the longbike could not be fitted on its frame. They were simply too voluminous. Moreover, there was no balloon tire available for the 17'' wheel chosen by Fateba for the front wheel. Hence the balloon tires became the new improvement focus on the new development cycle.
The frame and fork had to be revisited. The rear part and the fork had to be wider and the fork taller. As for the front wheel, Fateba opted for an 18'' wheel with a diameter of 355 mm. There is a whole range of tires for 18'' wheels: from high pressure narrow tires to the voluminous balloon tire. With high volume tires, the longbike rose. In order to maintain the proportions, we gave up the idea of the 28'' rear wheel and only offered the 26'' size. The rear wheel brackets were a bit tricky to deal with. They had to be reviewed in order to accomodate all wheel variations. The new ChroMo steel brackets were quite heavier. In order to avoid raising the total weight of the longbike, the seat's structure was now made of aluminium. We at Fateba are very happy with the L3's current state. Indeed, weighing in at 16.5 kg, the L3 Tourer's weight remains in an acceptable range. At last the L3 is now available with 30 gears for a retail price of CHF 4,459.--.


2012: the L3 e-commuter


History was made once more with the spectacular advent of electrical auxilliary motors. The rear wheel integrated BionX seemed the most adequate for usage on the longbike. In the summer of 2009 we mounted the first BionX motor on a customer's longbike. Within a very short time span we had to replace the motor twice. Our in
In spite of this, we continued investing our resources into the BionX. After we had mounted about 30 BionX systems, we thought we had taken our experience level from apprenticeship to professionalism. The title of champion was now within reach. Beginning of 2012, we started mass producing our new model, the L3 e-commuter with the BionX system. The e-commuter is available in 2 variants: with pedalling assistance upto 25km/hr or with upto 45 km/hr. For the first time, progress isn't measured by the increased number of gears but by the autonomy of the battery. The current state of affairs guarantees an autonomy of 60 km (48,8 V / 8,8 Ah / 423 Wh; assistance upto 25 km/hr; mid-range mountains; total weight bicycle + cyclist approx. 100 kg. Manufaturer's data: 105 km of autonomy).

 
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