Where do I start???

Recumbents and all feet forward machines

Where do I start???

Postby william » Tue Jul 08, 2008 7:54 pm

I've been staring at photos of recumbent bikes. I've looked at videos. I've read the stories of recumbent travelers with fascination and checked out the speed and distance records. The comfort factor.
In reality I don't know where to start. They come in all shapes and sizes, weird and wonderful, long, short, low and tall.
I haven't been riding that long and don't understand the differences in components and whats good.
When I bought my bike I chose a big bike shop and asked for a suitable bike that I wouldn't be disappointed with. That is all I knew. Luckily the bike was good however long rides result in aches and pains and several days recovering. Funny to those more informed I suppose...
My dilemma is where to start in buying the right recumbent as the price is not exactly chuck it away if its a bad experience.
I've also read of the "learning curve" to ride these bikes. Why is it so difficult/different?
Also some front wheel drive, most rear with long chains.
Should one go with the "cheapest" first only to be disappointed with rubbish or buy the most popular believing its that way for a reason. Small wheels, big wheels, small/big wheels.
What is the easiest to ride? Which handles speed and can carry me in comfort all day without a few days recovery.
The riding I like to do is good day rides up to 100k's or there abouts.
What do you guys like about your recumbents and why you chose the one you ride the most.

William.
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by BNA » Tue Jul 08, 2008 9:21 pm

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Postby vonhazza » Tue Jul 08, 2008 9:21 pm

Hi William I was in the same position as you last year, I got myself a cruzbike kit and found a suitable frame, cost all up about $600.
I am very happy with the bike although its heavy its fun to ride and very comfortable.
Down the track I will proberly get some thing more suitable for touring but no rush and I have already done a 5 day tour on this one and it was fine, no sore necks back or arms.

Not sure where you are but if you are in Canberra,Melbourne or Perth there are Recumbent specilist shops where you can orgainize test rides.

Steve
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Postby Kalgrm » Tue Jul 08, 2008 9:28 pm

Hmmm, where to start .....

The first thing you should do is prioritise your needs in a bike. Look at the list below and put them in order. Then we can advise the next steps to take.

    Speed (Touring? Commuting? All-out racing speed? Cruising?)
    Aerodynamics
    Comfort
    Cost
    Versatility
    Climbing ability (of the bike, not you)
    Convenience (eg, will it bother you to carry two different sized spare tubes?)
    Storage space at home
    Balance on the bike (or trike)
    Do you need to drive to your intended riding point? (transporting the bike in the car)
    Physical restrictions (body size, weight, disabilities, etc)
    Is the bike for recreation, utility, sport, alternative transport?


All of these things, to some degree or other influenced, my decision to buy a Bacchetta Giro 26. Some were of minor consequence, others were vital. Each person will rank their priorities differently, hence the number of successful designs coexisting in the 'bent world. For every percieved problem, someone has come up with a design solution.

The learning curve: It's no worse than the learning curve on a "normal bike", it just starts many years later than the first one! ;) Generally, you'll be riding hesitantly for the first 30 to 50 km. The next 300km gets better, and by 500km you should be feeling nearly at home. You won't really feel at one with the bike until you've had it for 6 months and ridden say 2000km. Of course, each person is different, as is each bike. You may pick it up very quickly, because you've only been riding a short time anyway, so it's all new to you.

Personally, I'd advise you to try to get a ride on a few 'bents before commiting to one. If you're in Canberra, that's not too hard, since their is a 'bent dealer in town (Flying Furniture). Other places do have dedicated groups of riders who are only too happy to help you look at their bikes and ride them. The group I ride with (WAHPV - Western Australian Human Powered Vehicles) is one such group.

Failing that, ask lots of question, do lots of reading and re-order that list. Then plunge in and buy the best one you can afford. Even if you decide you don't like it, you won't need to chuck it. They sell for high prices as used bikes. You won't lose much money on the trial.

So, get back to us with that list, and we can point you somewhere with a better idea of what you want to do.

Cheers,
Graeme
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Postby william » Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:20 am

Erm!!!

Yes!
Yes!And Yes!

The current bike I have is a Hard tail MTB with Schwalbe Marathon road tyres.
I have rarely ridden on the dirt but the bike is comfortable to ride although heavy compared to my wifes road bike.
I live in Melbourne and thoroughly enjoy riding the bike trails and road trips around the favoured bike routes that the roadies use.
I have met with the Vic recumbent group on a couple of occasions but for what I have seen they favour trikes and home builds. I don't want a trike and have no facilities to build. I would prefer to leave that to designers who know what they are doing and have success with it.
From looking at manufacturers in Europe they have a lot of suspended bikes whereas the American designs are predominantly not. Do they need it for Australian road conditions?
I doubt that I'll be doing any touring but commuting is a definite.
I would put a preference on bikes that handle fast downhill runs with ease and lighter weight for going up them.
I've read of some being twitchy but not sure what that means.
Another strange observation is that of owners upgrading good looking bikes with cranks and wheels and tyres etc. Would it be more feasible to buy a better bike to start with?
Too many questions maybe. Sorry if it seems odd or terminology is "out" but not that long ago a bike was 2 wheels a frame, seat and handle bars.

Woow! So much to learn.

William
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Postby Kalgrm » Wed Jul 09, 2008 8:42 am

G'day William,

Suspension isn't needed for Aussie road conditions, especially around Melbourne.

So, from the list I provided, I see climbing and commuting have been selected as important. You still need to tell us where you rank the other characteristics, but looking at those alone, I'd say a high racer is the bike you are looking for (until further information comes to hand).

A high racer has two larger sized wheels (usually 26" or 650c). They can be very light weight (down to 10kg), the rider sits relatively high (good in traffic) and are among the cheaper 'bents on the market. Bacchetta, RANS and Volae are makers of these bikes, but don't overlook the Cruzbikes, especially the Silvio, designed here in WA.

I own a Bacchetta Giro 26, bought mainly for commuting, but used on all sorts of rides, including Audax rides. It's not a light weight bike at 18kg fully kitted out, but I don't need to deal with hills in my normal riding so I don't notice. A stock Giro 26 is about $2600.

However, as you mentioned, it's no longer stock: I've replaced all sorts of items to improve it. Gear levers, wheels, rear derailleur and the chain were all replaced well before they wore out (or were even placed on the bike new ....). Riders do this because they perceive the differences will improve the bike for them, or because they like the look of the parts. It doesn't matter if you buy a great bike or a lower end bike: you'll upgrade items as you ride. It's known as upgraditis, an insidious disease of the wallet with no known cure which afflicts a very high percentage of bike riders. However, you don't need to worry or suffer with your shame. Support groups exist and you're reading one of them now. We all have it, and we love it! There's no known cure because nobody is looking for one! ;)

Yes, it's feasible to buy a better bike to start with. You should indeed buy the best bike you can (almost) afford. Better bikes have better components and will probably be lighter. They will last longer and be more pleasurable to ride, but that doesn't mean you won't upgrade it! :twisted:

Given the information you've told us so far, I'd recommend investigating a Bacchetta Corsa with a Euromesh seat, which is a high racer with an alloy frame and 650c wheels. It's fast, light weight and comfortable. The caveat is that I haven't seen how you rank the other things on that list, so that suggestion may change. For instance, I don't even know how tall you are .... you might not be even able to ride a high racer.

Cheers,
Graeme
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Postby william » Wed Jul 09, 2008 10:28 am

Hi Graeme,

Did you get to ride your bike before purchase?

Are they all similar to ride or designed for different purposes.

I was reading with interest the rider from Adelaide spending several days learning to ride. Is this normal? What would they be like riding through a busy city?
Is it because your feet are forward instead of under you?
I would gather riding one round the block is not going to tell me much if it takes several days to learn.

I think a trip to Canberra may be in order.

Is the 650c tyres easy to come by?

I've also looked at the Cruzbike video's and wondered how the learning curve with these would be. Has anyone rode one of these to compare with one like yours Graeme?

Sorry for the questions.
:oops:

William.
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Postby Kalgrm » Wed Jul 09, 2008 11:33 am

william wrote:Did you get to ride your bike before purchase?

No, living in Perth made that nearly impossible, although I could have ridden with the WAHPV group and borrowed a bike or two, had someone advised me so. I was forced to settle for doing lots of research and then purchasing without ever having ridden a 'bent. It's not a good way to do it, but I'm very happy with the result. I love my Giro, but I did do those modifications to it .....

Are they all similar to ride or designed for different purposes.

They are all designed to solve different perceived problems, which is why I want you to rank those priorities. Some are better for doing long slow rides in extreme comfort. Some are speedsters. Some are too tall for short riders. Most are no good on dirt roads. I know why you have so many questions, but you need to define your needs before you can select a bike to suit.

I was reading with interest the rider from Adelaide spending several days learning to ride. Is this normal?

Yes, it takes a while to learn to ride them, just like when you were a kid with trainer wheels. If a 'bent were your first ever bike, it wouldn't take any longer to learn to ride it than an upright bike. If you've ridden an upright for a while, it's not so bad - you'll probably pick it up quite quickly. (I let my mate jump on mine a few weeks ago. He took off around the corner and was gone a good ten minutes before returning with a smile. He didn't take long to get used to it, but he had me advising him from the start. He won't be buying one though ....)

What would they be like riding through a busy city?

On a busy city street, I don't ride mine like I would ride my MTB. I behave as a car does, taking the whole lane, staying behind cars at the lights, indicating my intentions, etc. It's called "vehicular cycling", and you simply pretend you're in a car. That means you don't get through the city any faster than a car, but you also don't cop any grief from drivers. Once you get on the bike paths or main roads out of the city, you get to fly past them all though!

Is it because your feet are forward instead of under you?

It's because you're sitting in a position which is unfamiliar and because you are sitting in your seat, rather than on it. You don't get to stand and move around. For an incling of what it's like, just ride your normal bike without ever getting off the seat.

I would gather riding one round the block is not going to tell me much if it takes several days to learn.

No, but you'll get to feel them under your backside, and get a feeling for how they handle.

Is the 650c tyres easy to come by?

Yep, but there isn't a huge range of tyres to select from. The better ones are there though.

I've also looked at the Cruzbike video's and wondered how the learning curve with these would be. Has anyone rode one of these to compare with one like yours Graeme?

One of the members here (Hotdog) has both a Giro 26 and a Sofrider V2. He started a thread reviewing his Sofrider. Run a search for that.

Cheers,
Graeme
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Postby fredinver » Wed Jul 09, 2008 5:27 pm

Get down to and see Ben at Trisled. Dromona. A small range of bikes but good knowledge of recumbents and a few to test ride. Organise the visit first to get the best value. I recently went to visit as I am looking at expanding the garage from the GT3 trike and Wedgie to include a high racer and just by riding around the block it was easy to work out where I needed to go. The wallet will be thinner for me at the end of it but the day was very worthwhile.
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Postby froodh » Wed Jul 09, 2008 6:27 pm

Hi William,

Just to let you know, I didn't have much trouble learning to ride a recumbent bike. I home-built one and took about 2-3 hours of coasting down a gentle slope and riding on flat sections before I was reasonably confident on balance and steering. Working against me was the fact that my 'bent was a front-wheel drive (like a Cruzbike) and so the steering was hard to control due to extra weight on the front fork and also each time I pedalled, there was some torque that would make the steering column to turn unless counteracted by me holding the handlebars steady.
Unfortunately the structure of the bike failed due to my modifications and I gave up on it and decided to buy a 'bent instead.

When I tried riding a friend's fixed-boom, rear wheel bike (most are like this) it was easy and I had no trouble adapting to it. I also tried my friend's under-seat steering bike, it was also OK.

I've just bought a USS SWB from Just Bents in Perth, currently in my shed being assembled. In my investigations, I also contacted Ian (AT) Flying Furniture who has TW-Bents available for just over ~$1K and also Ben (AT) Trisled (down at the Mornington Peninsula, I think). Ben has a Rans Rocket available for $2k, see here: http://www.ransbikes.com/Rocket07.htm. Rans is a pretty well known brand in the US, so if you have the $$$ perhaps that is the way to go.

cheers,
Jeremy
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Postby recumbenteer » Wed Jul 09, 2008 10:37 pm

"I don't want a trike".... counts me out of the discussion...lol :)

but should you feel inclined...contact Trisled in Dromana Vic......they are the only recumbent ppl Ive dealt with... and I can't sing their praises enough.

Godd luck and "stay 'bent"

Mark.
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Postby nimm » Wed Jul 09, 2008 11:26 pm

I don't have any advice William, but I am going through the same process!

I've gone for quite a few rides with the WAHPV crew here, although still yet to ride a 'bent. John kindly offered to lend me a Silvio but due to work travel I'm yet to take him up on that.

I find the decision quite difficult to make because recumbents vary so much. SWB, LWB, high racer, low racer, and trikes.

ATM I'm leaning toward a high racer like the Bacchetta Corsa, Giro or the Silvio. My main goals are: fast, light, and practical (versatile) - yes all three :) That seems to count out the low racers. The high racers seem to offer the next best in terms of performance and they are quite practical.
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Postby william » Wed Jul 09, 2008 11:37 pm

Hi All,

Getting back to a list of priorities with a recumbent is somewhat awkward as Not knowing the difference between differing designs and handling characteristics causes confusion. But... Here goes;

Best speed per energy input. Road riding mostly with occasional bike paths for some obscure reason.

Good climbing ability. Complimenting this would be excellent handling for the downhill run. No good spending huge energy going up if you have to brake for instability going down. In fact I wouldn't be interested if it was unstable at speed.

Can be carried in or on the average family wagon.

Luggage carrying will be a work bag or lunch and a camera on the weekend.

I'm average height and weight at 173 cm and 80Kg. Average fitness but want to improve this rapidly and with determination.

Different sized wheels would not bother me as long as they are readily available throughout Melbourne.

Hope this paints a picture...

William.
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Postby Kalgrm » Thu Jul 10, 2008 9:17 am

Hi William,

With those questions answered, we can now get down to discussing which bike could suit you. You can now effective cross off a few designs as not being best suited to your needs. SWB (small front wheel), LWB, trikes and low-racers can all be discounted as front-runners.

As I suspected earlier, the high racer style of bike would be best suited to the requirements you've stated. They are fast (ie. efficient), the light ones climb well and you're not too short for them.

I don't know of any 'bents which are unstable at speed. The company producing such a bike would quickly go out of business because nobody would buy their product, so you can scratch that one from your list of things to find in a bike. I've had mine up to 80km/h and didn't even know it at the time.

The one issue you'll face is carrying the bike in the car if you go with a Bacchetta-style of high racer. They are long! In fact, most 'bents will struggle to go in a car, but I can mount my bike on my rack on the rear of the car with only an inch or so protruding beyond each side of the car (a Landcruiser wagon), and with the seats down, I can just get it inside the cabin without removing the wheels. If I had a typical family wagon, that wouldn't be the case and I'd need to mount it on the roof.

The good news is that a Cruzbike Silvio would be easier to fit inside a wagon than most 'bents. It would fit your other requirements perfectly, so investigate that bike as a high contender for your money. You will need a "donor" road bike to supply the components, as the Silvio only comes as a frame-set. You transfer all your components across from the old bike.

Which brings us to price: with the Silvio, you'll need to buy a frame from Cruzbike (~$2500) and a cheap road bike (~$800) or an average road bike (~$1500) for better components, and then move the gear across. If you do it yourself, there is no labour cost and you'll learn stuff. Otherwise, that's another ~$200 in labour. You'll end up with a great recumbent which ticks every box for between $3300 and $4500.

If that option doesn't appeal, the next best bike to match your criteria is the Bacchetta Corsa (~$3200 I think). It's an all-out, alloy framed racing machine with great climbing abilities. (Don't think it's not comfortable simply because you see the words "racing machine" - it's only in the upright bike world where that's the case .... ;)) Put a "Brain Box" (Bacchetta's carry bag) on the seat and it will carry all the loads you've specified easily. The Corsa was the bike I was considering when I eventually bought my Giro.

Now you can start researching the different brands of alloy high racers (and carbon fibre if you're rich) for price and availablility in Oz (I include the Silvio in this category). For me, it would be between the Corsa and the Silvio, and since you've stated climbing ability as important, the Silvio would probably win.

Cheers,
Graeme
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Postby william » Fri Jul 11, 2008 8:14 am

Thanks guys,
I'm going to pay a visit to Ian Humphries in Canberra this weekend.
With his experience and range of bikes I should at least have a better idea if not coming home with one.
On Specs the Corsa looks good but until I ride some i won't know.
Just one more question with the Giro 26. How was the initial learning curve with your feet up in the air? Photos can be deceptive but sitting in a chair with my feet 9 inches higher seems odd. In reality...

Regards,

William.
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Postby Kalgrm » Fri Jul 11, 2008 8:54 am

Don't fret over the initial learning curve. Ian will point out the techniques for overcoming your concerns, but I'll add some suggestions here:
    1/ Find a very gentle hill to coast down without needing to pedal. Just sit on the bike in an upright position and roll.

    2/ Walk back to the top of the hill and repeat, this time lying back and perhaps resting your feet on the pedals.

    3/ Walk back and repeat, this time pedaling gently but not exerting much effort. Be ready to feel like your knees are going to be pushed into your chest! For some reason, lying down makes normal 175mm cranks feel like they are 250mm long. I don't know why that is, but that's how it feels, so be prepared for it.

    4/ Repeat a few times, perhaps riding back to the top of the hill.

    5/ Find a car park and do figure 8 laps.

    6/ Find a nice open, long bike path and do a ride of a few km.

    7/ Repeat for the next forty years, seasoning the ride to taste. ;)


You don't need to have the seat fully reclined, and in fact when you're first starting out, it's best to have the seat fairly upright. I had mine nearly all the way to the top when I started, but within a week I was most of the way down.

Cheers,
Graeme
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Postby william » Fri Jul 11, 2008 10:48 am

Thank you Graeme,

I'm sure time will improve me.

The learning may provide much entertainment also.

I will let you know next week how I went...

regards,

William.
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Postby thomas_cho » Fri Jul 11, 2008 10:49 am

william wrote:Thanks guys,
I'm going to pay a visit to Ian Humphries in Canberra this weekend.
With his experience and range of bikes I should at least have a better idea if not coming home with one.
On Specs the Corsa looks good but until I ride some i won't know.
Just one more question with the Giro 26. How was the initial learning curve with your feet up in the air? Photos can be deceptive but sitting in a chair with my feet 9 inches higher seems odd. In reality...

Regards,

William.


Hi William,
I hope that you have made an appointment for Ian to be there. While he does have a shop there, you will need to call him and arrange a time with him.

I was there trying out the Bachetta Giro 20, Giro 26. I did think that the balancing was going to be difficult as you cannot use your whole body to balance the bike.

However, Ian is extremely knowledgeble and will guide you through a process whereby he will teach you how to balance. It will involve him holding you stable while you get a feel of the balancing. It took me abt 3-5 mins to just get it, and pedalling on my own. Starting off requires a mind-shift again, but Ian will take you through that.

The pedalling action will feel different. But its a very comfortable position. Before you know it, you will just relax into the ride. There is a large carpark there, and a nice loop around the block for you to test the ride.

The Bachetta seat is fully adjustable, to a upright or lower position. The adjustments take just seconds, and Ian can dial in a fit to suit you.

He has many models in his shop, and it was one of the most pleasant bike test experiences.

Bring along your riding gear for the test ride.
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Postby thomas_cho » Fri Jul 11, 2008 10:51 am

BTW ... I think if you are thinking of buying on the spot, it may or may not be possible. He normally has to order in the bike.

But give him a call and discuss these things before making your trip to Canberra.

ps. its cold and windy here ...
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Postby NotTim » Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:30 pm

thomas_cho wrote:BTW ... I think if you are thinking of buying on the spot, it may or may not be possible. He normally has to order in the bike.

But give him a call and discuss these things before making your trip to Canberra.

ps. its cold and windy here ...


When I was down there a earlier in the year, he said that he had frames only as he had trouble getting entire bikes, and built the bikes up to order, which for me would actualy be a good thing, as I could be very specific about what components were used (aka really really strong wheels).

I still want a Giro 26, but I just can't justify the money when I've already got 2 bikes I'm not using enough. Maybe in another year or so.
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Postby thomas_cho » Fri Jul 11, 2008 2:02 pm

Well I cannot speak for Ian, but I was just corresponding with him last week, and he indicated that delivery time for the complete bike would be 1-2 weeks.

So ... it is best to give him a call and discuss it. He might just have it in stock.

I was asking him about frame purchase as well, and he said that he doesnt normally sell frames ... but it could be arranged.

Again he is just an email or phone call away.
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Postby Uba Tracker » Sat Jul 12, 2008 9:02 am

NotTim wrote:I still want a Giro 26, but I just can't justify the money when I've already got 2 bikes I'm not using enough. Maybe in another year or so.


That attitude is waaaaaaay too responsible, he who dies with the most toys wins remember :wink: :wink: :wink:
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Postby Kalgrm » Sat Jul 12, 2008 9:51 am

Sell the two unused bikes and buy the Giro. It's way too much fun to leave lying around and you'll be out riding every day. ;)

Cheers,
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Postby Freddyflatfoot » Sat Jul 12, 2008 10:49 pm

William,
If you haven't already got a bike by the time you get this post, then it would pay to go to Vic HPV's try out days, usually on a Sunday. You can also join them on their 'BeSpon' rides, and learn more about 'bents!
A lot of the bents have been built by their owners, but some have commercially available bikes/trikes.
I think there at least one guy that has a Cruzbike.
BTW, I wouldn't discount trikes out of hand. I use mine as a commuter on a daily basis, and they can be a very versatile machine. And they are so unusual, car drivers give you plenty of room when passing.
Cheers!
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Postby william » Mon Jul 14, 2008 10:24 am

Hi Guys,

Happy to report my visit to Ian Humphries in Canberra.

We went through a lot of discussion much like the posts here and then he freely started pulling out the bikes.
After a bit of instruction Ian parked me on a Giro 20/26 and pushed me around the car park like a kid who just lost his training wheels. I'm glad no one was watching.
After a wobbly start and then wobbly riding around a voice was telling me to relax and look up, not down at the wheel. It was Ian (I thought it was my higher conscious).
After several minutes things smoothed out a little but tension had me feeling like bike response was ten times greater than input.
We then went through test riding other Bachetta Giros with different wheel configurations which seemed more stable (maybe me getting used to them).
Then tried the Corsa, much smoother to ride and I could feel the lightness and input response immediately. At this point I thought it was me getting familiar with the bikes. I then tried a suspended tourer followed by a mid low racer, all of which felt comfortable. I was now feeling relaxed and ready to tackle anything (called over exuberant confidence-bad)
Just to prove it wasn't just me I went back to the Giro 20/26 which, before I visited Ian's shop, thought it was the bike for me. I rode it with more confidence and yes, It was me and the second time around it was a great and easy bike to ride.
I then rode the Corsa again and Wow! This was much better again the only downside being my feet or the wheel hitting each other when turning at slow speed. Something to get to learn into my subconscious.
Before I got off the bike I told him I was taking it home with me. Done.
Now I'm the proud owner of a Bacchetta Corsa.
Thank you all for your input.
Now for the learning...

Happy riding

William.
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Postby Kalgrm » Mon Jul 14, 2008 10:32 am

Excellent! That's great news.

Yes, you'll get used to turning at low speeds, but you won't be riding that slowly often! ;)

Cheers,
Graeme
Think outside the double triangle.
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