Monday, April 25, 2011

But is it a bike?

But is it a bike?
This is a great question you have poised. I haven't been ignoring it...just considering my response. Hoping more folks weigh in on topic too.
But is it a bike?
I imagine somebody said those same words when shock absorbing forks were introduced to mountain bikes. And maybe again with full suspension.
Define bicycle.
I would have to argue that the average recumbent meets all the defining attributes of a bicycle. It has a front and rear derailleur, rear cassette, a chain, crank arms, chain rings, handle bars, rim or disc breaks, a cro moly, aluminum, or carbon fiber frame, and spoked bicycle wheels.
How is it not a bike?
I would suggest that a bike that has been modified with internal drive rear hub and possibly a belt drive somewhat more befitting of your question. Then fit it with a front dynamo hub so it's generating it's own electricity too.
Is that a bike?
That's the beauty of an event like this. Its open minded. It's a testing ground for whatever is out there on the market. What better arena. A 29000k RTW race that puts frame,components and rider through most everything Imaginable.
The fact that I'm making the attempt without any modifications to the components we are used to equating with "real bikes" is a testament to the simple perfection of bike components. The only real modification of my "bike" is the frame itself.
lets take a good look at the corsa. I've had a few folks ask me why a recumbent? Or a question I never understand.."is that thing really comfortable?"
Does it not look comfortable? As far as bikes go a well fit recumbent is so far beyond merely comfortable.
Another good one..."did you make that yourself?" ha, they give me way more credit than due. Does it really look "homemade"?
It's such a sweet setup. Why anyone would choose anything but a recumbent for touring is beyond me.
Sure, in time, on an upright bike your ass gets used to the discomfort and you mind mostly ignores the constant pain in your wrists, elbows and shoulders. You learn to live with the weather in your face. The kite effect your body has in a headwind, the way your shoes fill up with water when it's raining. The way the bike shimmies from the unbalanced weight when going too fast down hill. You take all these things in stride (or cadence) and accept them, no embrace them as part of the experience.
Im here to tell you it doesn't have to be a pastime strictly for masochists or Buddhists capable of leaving their tortured bodies and transcending mind and spirit along the highways of the world. Though that would surely help some:)
A good recumbent offers the same level of fun and adventure a surly long haul trucker does but it does so with a measure of civility that you won't find on an upright.
It handles well under load, corners like a dream, cuts through a headwind with the help of a fairing that also acts as a sail in a tailwind and keeps the morning chill off and the rain at bay.
I can attest to riding all day long in full-on west coast rain en tour and finishing up the day with dry shoes. And because of the height of the cranks, I've ridden through flooded intersections where the water is up over the axles and not gotten my feet wet.
The seat options go from comfortable to plush. Even after hours, days of riding.
Of course none of this changes the fact that you still have to pedal to get where you're going. It's just that doing so won't fatigue you in the same way an upright will.
Minor things I can mention that are pluses... You don't have to wear Lycra if you don't want to. And you certainly don't need a shammy or any kind of chaffing cream or powder. You don't even need a jersey as the reclined position does away with the flap flap flapping of loose clothing experienced on an upright bike. So, you can get off the bike and blend in instantly.
And as far as touring goes..check out  they make saddle bags that don't need heavy racks to secure them. The set I bought from them are two 20 liter bags that sling over the seat...sweet! A cool thing about them, pull them off the bike, synch them together and you have your carry on when flying....more sweetness!
But, you said "no doubt recumbents are faster" this I have to disagree with. Maybe in perfect conditions, on a track designed to give the bent time to achieve it's advantages...maybe.
I have a carbon fiber Giant. And a garmin305. From my home I ride the Redrooffs loop to train sometimes. It's only 18k but has many hills, corners, flats and more hills. So I have saved to my gamin my fastest time. This was accomplished on my upright giant. On my bent, I go to the start line, configure the lap on my gamin and prepare to race against my ghost giant self. I have never beat him. Actually, he leaves the screen on the last big hill climb and I never see him again. I have tried many times but can't do it. When I think I'm finally getting faster, I go a loop on the giant and realize a faster time there too. Ain't no beating the upright in the real world I believe.
What do you say to this bacchetta1
So there you have it. My response to your question.
I think, if you pedal it, it has 2 wheels and no motor whatsoever.....
It IS a bike.

Bruce Gordon


  1. Spot on. But is a lowracer faster?

    Btw, it's:

  2. Yo Bruce,

    Enjoying following you on your quest. Sorry about the Roode encounter, but glad you're continuing on.

    I think too many folks are concernned with "fastest", when what does fast really matter except in a race and sure it feels good when you're motoring along at 30 mph. On any tour fast won't help you get to where you're going, but your heart and mind will.

    Ride Long and whatever pace floats yer turns your cranks?

  3. Hi Bruce

    I can see how a twisty hilly small loop is easier on an upright than a bent but as your trying to ride in as straight & flat a line as possible with a load, which will eventually bring you back home I can see why the bent is better/faster as you need a fraction of the energy input into a bent (they become even more efficient with their back boxes on as well, utopia) than on an upright tourer as on M5's site saying 150 watts on a bent compared to 850W on a conventional tourer with panniers to give the same speed.

    I'd say it's not the same comparing both as different and should be defined as that for the GWR.

    Don't get me wrong i like bents but over such a vast distance as you're putting in the energy saving/greater speed & distance capability this allows let alone the physical drawbacks that you dont have to endure as you mentioned on an upright bike it would be unfair to classify as the same IMHO.

    Good luck on your journey very inspiring ;)