What happened to my recumbents?

15 12 2008

Challenge Fujin SL in the Canadian Rockies

Challenge Fujin SL in the Canadian Rockies

Chris wrote:

“Can you tell me the real reason you got back to DFs? My reason? almost got killed by a truck on my GRR in August, sorta crushed the left ankle. I am 58 and played competitive handball on a national level, and that may be shot for good now. But I road an old MB2 for the last 3 mos (80s Bridgestone MB modified for commuting), and realized how much more situational awareness I have on a DF. I also have a Volae Exp Pro that has even less sit awareness than the GRR. have an old Kestrel and a nice Merlin Ti and rode them until the snow flew down here (St Paul). But I have enjoyed your writing and noticed that you and Alan Barnard left the Bent culture behind for DFs again. I will likely ride the Volae more (great bike) and did order a CRush, so we’ll see.”

The real reason I moved back to DFs?…hmmm….sure….here are some random thoughts on the subject:

  • I agree with your comment on situational awareness.  I’d much rather ride a DF in traffic than a bent.  On the highway cranking out long miles on the bent with mirrors that was not a problem, but in the city [I live downtown] a DF is better for riding in traffic.
  • My DFs are more maneuverable than my bents were.  I jump curbs, deal with 180 deg turns on the bike path, go cross country, etc… better on a DF.  Again out on the highway riding 200K the bent is ideal because you are pretty much just going straight and there are few obstacles to overcome.
  • There is no bent equivalent to my Bike Friday Tikit, Surly Big Dummy or Surly Pugsley.  I’ve been riding the Tikit a ton this year as it’s so practical for getting around downtown.  The Big Dummy rolls when I’m going to haul something or take a passenger for a ride.  The Pugsley is the new kid in the mix, but it will see lots of snow biking action this winter, beach/desert riding in Baja and general mucking about come spring.  Even with the wide variety of bents I’ve owned none of them filled these niches.  I’m keen on mtn biking in 2009 and that’s also not a bent friendly part of the cycling world.
  • The riding position on my bents is indeed very comfortable, but almost too much so. I feel really passive on a bent since the position is so static.  This is one of the reasons I tour on a DF.  If I’m going to be on a bike 8-10hrs a day for days on end it better be fun!  Fun and comfort are related, but not the same thing. I’m probably 10 out 10 comfortable on a bent, but only 7 out of ten on the fun scale.  On my DF I’m 8.5 out of ten comfortable and 10 out of 10 on the fun scale.
  • When I first started out in bents I was not particularly comfortable on a DF so it seemed they were the only option if I wanted to ride longer distances on a bicycle.  Over the last few years I’ve resolved most of my DF comfort issues so that I can ride day in and day out distances of 80-150kms which as a bike tourist is all I need.
  • Although I am able to climb pretty well on my Fujin SL I’ve never climbed as proficiently on a bent as I have on a DF.  Not only am I faster uphill on a DF I enjoy the process more.  On my Fujin I don’t look forward to climbing even when it’s relatively fast.  When I’m touring on my DFs I actually enjoy climbing mtn passes.
  • The bent I like the most [the only one I kept] is my Challenge Fujin SL.  It’s a fast nimble mile eating machine – perfect for fast road rides and brevets.  There was a time when I really enjoyed going out and riding by myself.  I used to take my road bike and hit the highway on a Saturday for a 100km+ ride and just tune out my day to day worries/thoughts.  I did that on my Fujin when I got it – in particular to train for brevets.  I’ve been less and less interested in long solo rides these days.  I still do some, but it isn’t my priority – it’s more of a last resort. I’d much rather go riding with my friends and have some social time than spend 5-6hrs alone on the highway.  Since none of my friends own or have any interest in bents that means I end up riding my Tikit or Big Dummy a lot and my Fujin SL much less.
  • Even during the actual brevets I’ve ridden the Fujin SL is a solo machine. When I’m fast DFs are slow and vice versa.  This means a group ride becomes a solo effort.  As I noted above I’m not highly motivated to train alone just so I can then enter an event and ride it alone.  One of the factors that got me interested in randoneering was reading the brevet reports of the SIR website and various PBP reports.  A key element of both sources of information was a strong social component to the events that were reported.  That sounded like a lot of fun, but because of the fact I ride a bent and my local rando club is so small brevets are not particularly social for me.  I’ve actually thought about trying a brevet on a DF [gasp!....=-)] just so I would be on a machine with similar performance to the other riders and hopefully spend more time with the group.
  • So am I done with bents entirely?  No.  I think they are fascinating machines with lots of potential.  The feeling of screaming along on a lowracer is awesome and very unique in the bicycle world.  I should note that although I mentioned above I had more fun on a DF my fun factor on a bent increases dramatically if I have someone to ride with that has a similar machine and similar fitness level.  Unfortunately this rarely occurs.  If I had a friend in Calgary with a Fujin SL you’d be seeing lots more bent content on this blog.  I’m intrigued by trikes, but I hesitate to invest in one without a regular trike buddy to ride with.  Even casual social rides on a bent are fun.  We had a local bent group that met once or twice for rides and it was a blast, but it just seems like getting people together to ride is a real challenge.  You can only suggest a  group ride and be met with resounding apathy so many times before you don’t bother anymore.

I want to close this post by saying I’m not pro-DF and anti-bent. I’m a cyclist and I’m going to ride whatever makes me happy.  At the moment DFs make a lot of sense for my lifestyle and personality, but I’m open to spending more time on my Challenge Fujin SL.  I just need to find someone cool that wants to get their lowracer on!…=-)

PS – I should give a shout out to Cornell in Cochrane.  He is a cool bent rider and I’m sure I’ll get out and visit him for a ride once or twice this summer [hopefully TOT2009 - the Canadian Edition!].  The thing is he lives 50kms+ away in another city and rides a trike.  A Fujin SL and a trike are not the ideal bent mix.  Do I get a trike just so I can do a handful of rides with another bent rider???  Hopefully you can see my dilemma.

My Fujin ready to start a 200K brevet

My Fujin ready to start a 200K brevet


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3 responses

15 12 2008
Randobarf

I ride both ‘bents and uprights. I live and work downtown in a very densely populated large city. I have a fleet of cheap upright donor bikes for the thieves when I have to park in sketchy areas (ie all the time). When I have safe parking I’ll ride my Tour Easy ‘bent, which is a ‘bent that seems to be fine in city traffic because of the relatively high seat and heads-up position. It’s just low enough that I have to make sure I don’t pull into the blind spot beside SUV’s. I really like the handlebar-end Mirrycle mirror in city traffic on the Tour Easy.

I use clip-on pedals on all my ‘bents so when I don’t wear cycling shoes I use an upright bike with platform pedals.

In the city I find lowracers to be too low unless I am in a bike lane or on a bike path free from aggressive idiots in cars. Similarly hiracers don’t exactly give you a terrific view in city traffic and I don’t like the high bottom bracket in stop and go traffic. On the open highway, on the other hand, lowracers and hiracers are fabulous.

For my long-distance city commuting (anything over 30 km each way) I use the Tour Easy for comfort and weather protection (it has a fairing). For touring I use various ‘bents and I hardly ever use an upright bike for touring. For ‘brevets I mostly use various ‘bents, including a Gold Rush, which is not really a rando bike but I just like riding it and it is great in city traffic.

For mountain biking I use a mountain bike. For carrying cargo I have a Swedish cargo bike and a cargo trailer.

Randobarf
Vancouver, British Columbia
- Home of more Aggressive Dickhead Motorists than any city in Canada
- World capital of bike theft
- Host of 2010 Olympics of careless driving

15 12 2008
jalexartis

I respect your choices. As you know, I ride multiple cycles. I try to choose the best cycle for the place I am riding, with safety being a factor. I generally ride my Dfs when commuting across my town and ‘bents for organized, supported rides. I have ridden my LWB abd trike on commutes, but not where I expect lots of traffic. The best to you and stay safe…

Jim

15 12 2008
Chris

Appreciate all the comments–thanx, for the latest entry in the Diary of a Cyclopath. I know I have 20 years on you, but my thoughts are similar. 4 children and a busy career have changed the long tours to shorter ones. Commuting is still fun, though, and I look forward to many more Bent tours on roads less traveled. I can recommend Door County — pretty much hammered that one out 3 months ago on the Volae, and twas great. Northern Virginia on the C Rush in March is planned.

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