Following on from my longer training rides, I decided to look into alternate means of cycling. Some time ago I bought a Challenge Mistral SL recumbent bicycle. I was looking for a more comfortable riding experience, and I ordered one from Angletech Cycles in the US. They are specialist recumbent dealers and I had worked with Kelvin in the past when buying an Alex Moulton bicycle.
I never connected with the Mistral. It had under seat steering which I found twitchy, and worse, it had no mirrors. Why is this an issue? On a recumbent you can not really look over your shoulder, so, without a mirror you have no idea what’s happening behind you. That induces a lot of nervousness, which just makes the twitchy handling even worse.
What is a recumbent? It’s a bicycle where the crank (the thing the pedals are attached to by arms) is ahead of, rather than under, the rider. There are many variations of this theme, from very fast, low, high speed recumbents, to nearly conventional looking ones. The other common element is that the ‘seat’ supports your butt and your back, spreading out the load.
But, why a recumbent at all?
- They are comfortable; there is no pressure on your wrists or hands, no neck pain as you are not looking up, and no pressure on your privates.
- They are better in a head wind; recumbents are more aerodynamic and less effected by headwind.
- They create the possibility for connecting with the environment around you; you can lookup at the clouds and birds, and you are at eye level with car drivers.
- They can carry loads of stuff without a detrimental effect on handling, the centre of gravity, especially when loaded, is low to the ground.
- They are comfortable, really comfortable.
So, I thought maybe I should consider using one for my JOGLE attempt. On the 16th of May my wife and I went to Bikefix to have a look at some recumbent bikes. I bought my Tout Terrain Silkroad there, and I knew that the proprietor, Stuart, was a keen recumbent advocate. I tested a trike (a three wheeled recumbent) and an HP Velotechnik Spirit.
The trike was too low and too wide for me. I also did not fancy the idea of giving up on the steering ‘feel’ of a two wheel bike. So, I decided on a short wheel base, above seat steering, mid height touring recumbent. Like the HP Velotecknic Streetmachine GTE below.
So, I ordered one from Bikefix. At this point my ride date was 7 weeks away. So, lead time was key. Recumbent riding uses slightly different muscle groups, and requires a different sense of balance. If I was going to be ready to ride a recumbent 1400km in 7 weeks time, I needed to get on it asap. I called HP Velotecknic in Germany and explained the situation. They said that a bike ordered on that day would be shipped around the 3rd of June. Not great.