ICE Sprint 26X Test May 2012 - BentRider Online
ICE Sprint 26X Test May 2012 Written By Bryan Ball Managing Editior of Bentrideronline www.bentrideronline.com
ICE made a very large splash this year with their new Vortex+ flagship trike. This new machine is a hardcore thoroughbred performance trike and is wildly different from the plush full suspension machines that have been the British company’s bread-and-butter for the last few years. I reviewed the the Vortex+ a few months ago and while I liked it a lot, I found it to be a bit too extreme to be my daily ride. I wanted to try something between ICE’s Sprint and updated Vortex. Enter the ICE Sprint 26X.
ICE has produced a non-suspended version of their highly popular Sprint with a 26” rear wheel since its inception. It’s always been a great trike but often gets overlooked when people start discussing other 26” drivewheel trikes. For 2012, ICE decided to inject a little spice into the Sprint 26 (and the rest of their line-up for that matter) by introducing the new high-end X-Type package.
When you check the box for “Sprint 26X” in the online ICE configurator adds nearly $1000 to the base price. For that extra grand, you get thirty speeds worth of SRAM X9 components, carbon SRAM bar end shifters, Truvativ Elita cranks, Avid BB7 disc brakes, an Avid BB7 parking brake, a very sexy black and red paint job that is exclusive to the X-types and a set of very nice matching wheels shod with Kojak tires. The bespoke wheelset strikes a very good balance between low weight and toughness. They’re significantly lighter than most stock wheels used on trikes but have 36 spokes and high end hub bearings.
The end result is a trike that is a very good balance between performance and practicality. The high-zoot 30 speed drivetrain and large drivewheel give you plenty of top-end gear while the 11-36 rear cassette still gives you the low climbing gears you’ll need for loaded touring. You can lay the stock mesh seat way back (or opt for the more performance-oriented hardshell option) or you can prop it up to a fairly upright 44 degrees if your riding style is a bit more sedate.
As you can tell from the photos, you also get a very handsome machine for your nearly $4000 investment. The X-series machines (and the even pricer Vortex+) bring back fond memories for those of us who were fans of the uber-exclusive custom trikes that ICE used to build back in the early 2000’s. The front half of the frame is 4130 chromoly and the rear half is aluminum to help keep the weight down. The slick and simple folding mechanism allows you to easily get the Sprint 26X into most automobile trunks. The paint looks deep enough to dive into, the color scheme is distinctive and sporty without being too flashy and the welds and hardware are all top shelf. Things like having their logos on the rims and the spoke nipples matching the red accent colors may sound trivial, but it all adds to the look and feel of value. Anyone who’s seen an X-Type in person, will suddenly find themselves running out of reasons to complain about the asking price.
The Sprint 26X’s versatility isn’t based solely on its component spec. Strip away the 30 speed glory and plethora of disc brakes, and you still have a trike that was always meant to be a sort of “Jack-of-all-trades”. This is probably as good a time as any to explain the Sprint’s lineage a bit…
Back in 2004, ICE began to change their emphasis and move away from the $5,000 and up custom machines that had made them famous up to that point. One of the new lower-cost trikes that they introduced was called the Q. The Q was in turn based on the popular XL custom trike. The Q (and the XL before it) were intended to be a sort of “sports touring” trike . They were fairly low and fairly quick, but also had all of the provisions for racks and fenders and other touring-oriented gear. Over the years, ICE kept adding more and more improvements. Eventually the Q got a folding capability, rear suspension and a 26” rear wheel option. For awhile the Q came in both standard and narrow track (QNT) versions. This option was eventually dropped and ICE settled on a track width that was somewhere between the two. Once the new “Compact Flat Twist” fold and full suspension features were added a couple of years ago, ICE changed the name of the Q to the Sprint. This should pretty much bring you up to date…
As the name would indicate, the Sprint 26 is basically just a Sprint with a 26” rear end. At this time, rear suspension is not available with the larger rear wheel but you can still get front suspension if you wish.
I ordered our Sprint 26X with the ICE “Flex Pack”. This includes a rear rack, fenders, accessory mount and mirror and a chainring guard. I also added a headrest for good measure.
The first couple of rides I took on this trike were in the stripped down sporty configuration. Much as ICE told me to expect, it isn’t as fast as the Vortex+ but it’s still plenty capable of putting a hurt on most other multi-purpose trikes out there. When it comes to performance, the Sprint is quite comparable to the Catrike Expedition. The Catrike is a bit lighter and stiffer (at the expense of folding and a bit of ride comfort) and therefore probably climbs a bit better. I doubt you’d notice a difference on flat ground.
One of the few things that I didn’t like much about the Vortex+ was it’s fairly rough ride. I expected the Sprint 26X to be a slightly softer ride but I was wrong. It’s actually a MUCH softer ride. I obviously didn’t think it was as cushy as the the full suspension ICE offerings, but its ride was more than acceptable on every surface I rode it on. This was even true with the stock Schwalbe Kojak tires. I tried it later on with some 1.6” Schwalbe Marathon Supremes and the ride was even better.
ICE’s always-comfortable Ergo-Flow mesh seat also added to the Sprint’s luxury level. I’ve always found it to be one of the most comfortable recumbent seats I’ve ever sat on. The Ergo-Flow has a small zippered pocket at the top. The only minor complaint I have is that I do tend to slip forward a bit when the seat is in its most upright position. On the 26” model, the seat angle adjustable between 37 and 44 degrees. If you opt for the Air-Pro Carbon or fiberglass GRP version, you can trade a bit of cushiness for a few more degrees of recline.
Like most ICE offerings, the Sprint 26X has a fairly low bottom bracket height. This is a welcome design feature for people that have issues with numb feet due to blood flow problems. I did rub my heal on the ground unexpectedly when riding over a small lip in the pavement, but that should be a problem at all once you know it’s possible and get used to it.
The festival of opulence continues to the Sprint’s handlebars. They are easily adjustable over a wide range of angles and widths. While I realize it’s a very small thing and completely a matter of personal preference, I have to add that I love the grips that ICE puts on their bar-end shifter models. They’re made out of a thin but dense foam rubber that for some reason feel very solid and expensive.
My favorite thing about the Vortex+ was its handling. I didn’t expect the Sprint 26X to be as good as that trike. In all honestly, it wasn’t. At least not quite… I still slightly prefer the Vortex+ but only by a very narrow margin. The Sprint 26X didn’t have any brake steer or pedal steer that I could notice and I couldn’t do a high speed corner without giggling like an idiot. For 2012, ICE has improved the turning radius on all of their models. I was able to compare this Sprint 26X with a 2011 Sprint 26 and can attest that it absolutely did turn much tighter at low speeds than its predecessor. I still couldn’t quite u-turn in the width of a bike path without dropping a wheel or two into the grass, but it was very close.
As with all ICE trikes, the Sprint 26X accepts a wide range of the company’s accessories. It’s very easy to set it up as a stripped down racer, or as a fully loaded cross country touring trike. Blinging out an ICE is made even easier by the company’s online configurator feature on their web site.
Obviously my overall impression of the Sprint 26X was positive. It is rather expensive and if I were writing the check myself, I may opt for the less expensive base model with its drum brakes and 27-speed drivetrain. However, if money isn’t an object, the X-Type upgrade is very nice and I doubt anyone would regret going for it. Either way you order it, the Sprint 26 is a very impressive machine. It’s fast, comfortable, versatile and one of the best handling tadpole trikes in the world. It’s definitely worth a very serious look.
ICE Sprint 26X
Highs - Fantastic Handling, Great Comfort, Good Performance, Just look at it…
Lows - The X-Type upgrade is a bit pricey