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Old 12-15-10, 11:09 AM   #1
Hermes 
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Recumbents - fast or slow?

I was out for a ride with my wife on the weekend and had just finished an effort. We stopped at a turnaround point.

Three men went by - two on road bikes and one on a rbent. I went out ahead and thought I would catch the three cyclists and see what kind of power the rbent rider could do. They had about a 30 second gap on me and it took a lot longer to close the gap than I thought.

I bridged up to them and chatted with the last guy in the pace line. We were already going pretty fast and started a series of rolling hills. We came to a longish 1.5% grade. This is where the recreational guys start to slow down but not these guys.

We were climbing at 22 mph and I was at 280 -300 watts drafting a road bike with the rebent in the lead. Who are those guys?

We crest the roller and the road bikes take off. and I pull up next to the rbent and chat with the guy. His vital signs appear normal. He is skinny, big legs and maybe mid forties no beard. His rbent is carbon fiber, full size wheels and he is fairly low profile and not much other equipment hanging off the bike. He looks like he can do this all day long. I get behind him going down hill 2% grade - 30 mph. The road flattens out and we catch the other two riders. The draft from the rbent was okay as long as I stayed close and low.

I go to the front and light it up. We are coming to another roller and I look behind they are still there. Who are those guys?

My car is just ahead and it is time to spin and cool down. I let them go and they surge up the roller and when I crest the top, they are far ahead. Who are those guys?

The story is the same... skinny guys with muscular legs rule.
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Old 12-15-10, 11:27 AM   #2
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It's the motor.

Rolf Garthus, who owns the Hostel Shoppe, said he once had a rider tell him that recumbents were slow because he was always passing them. Rolf asked if he also passed any diamond frame riders. "Yes, of course." was his answer. Rolf asked "So when you are passing someone, how can you tell if it's a slow bike or a slow rider?"
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Old 12-15-10, 12:08 PM   #3
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Yep, the speed profile is different on a racing recumbent than a racing road bike, but the main thing that determines speed is the engine.
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Old 12-15-10, 12:13 PM   #4
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I was going to put my 2 cents in, but the master (Bud) has already spoken.

Where ya gonna go for your bents now, Bud, with CC closing? I think Mike will still be working on them out of his garage, but is there a dealer anywhere close?
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 12-15-10, 02:04 PM   #5
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I was going to put my 2 cents in, but the master (Bud) has already spoken.

Where ya gonna go for your bents now, Bud, with CC closing? I think Mike will still be working on them out of his garage, but is there a dealer anywhere close?
None of the other shops around here is worth a darn when it comes to recumbents. I do all of my own work anyway; the place was mostly just a hangout for me. I mostly ride from home these days, so it was a great destination if I wasn't going anywhere else. I may stop by Spokes in Burleson for a visit. A friend says Trinity is good, too, but they're a ways from me.

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Old 12-15-10, 04:12 PM   #6
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I live close to where the Bacchetta factory is in St. Petersburg. I can tell you there are some fast bent riders in this area. They are some beautiful bikes and with a strong rider they can make it very difficult to stay in the paceline. Especially if you are second wheel behind those low slung rockets. This diamond frame rider needs a good draft!

Mark
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Old 12-15-10, 05:03 PM   #7
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I live close to where the Bacchetta factory is in St. Petersburg. I can tell you there are some fast bent riders in this area. They are some beautiful bikes and with a strong rider they can make it very difficult to stay in the paceline. Especially if you are second wheel behind those low slung rockets. This diamond frame rider needs a good draft!

Mark
Not to quibble, but Bacchetta's factory is in Taiwan AFAIK (along with most other high-end bike companies). World HQ is in FL.

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Old 12-15-10, 05:10 PM   #8
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I often have that "Who are these guys?" experience. But in your case, Hermes... well they must have been real animals. Good story.
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Old 12-15-10, 05:18 PM   #9
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I keep tell'n you - gotta get off that couch and put down the bon bons, you've been goofing off too long :
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Old 12-15-10, 05:27 PM   #10
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Who are these guys?
Joe Lefors, and Lord Baltimore?
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Old 12-15-10, 05:38 PM   #11
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I often have that "Who are these guys?" experience. But in your case, Hermes... well they must have been real animals. Good story.
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Joe Lefors, and Lord Baltimore?
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Old 12-15-10, 06:58 PM   #12
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There are fast 'bents and slow bents. Engines matter, too; but never discount the bike the way you would in the road bike world. A strong rider on a fast recumbent can do some amazing things. In fact, even an average engine like me on a fast bent can raise eyebrows.
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Old 12-15-10, 07:19 PM   #13
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I would've joined in earlier but I was busy shaving off my beard.
I still get passed by the fast guys - and gals - but I am also passing a lot more folks than I used to. And no one passes me going downhill, for the most part. Between the aero position, the Comfy Chair seat, and the combination of a loooong wheelbase and big wheels, which soaks up road irregularities, going farther faster is easier on my V3.
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Old 12-15-10, 07:43 PM   #14
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My recumbent is not fast, at least with me pushing the pedals, but it's comfy and I can ride it all day. I'm sure other models with larger wheels roll faster with the same energy input, and maybe one day I'll have me one of those, but meanwhile, this one is just plain fun.
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Old 12-15-10, 08:03 PM   #15
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I see some people riding their recumbents at a pretty good speed. I think it's all the same rules: The experienced, handling skill, and physical condition of the rider.
As most local Boston area cyclists know, the late, great Sheldon Brown ride a Greenspeed recumbent trike the last few years of his life. This was due to his
balance being hosed by by his condition. (Late in life MS) Not wanting to give up cycling altogether, he switched to the trike. I saw his ride this, and he went
right long at a respectable pace. Link to article.

Nothing wrong with recumbents that I can see. As I mentioned before, some day, I just might get one myself.
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Old 12-15-10, 10:00 PM   #16
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A friend says Trinity is good, too, but they're a ways from me.
I'll second the recommendation of Trinity. Great guys, real bike geeks. They're apparently great with wheel building from reports I've heard. I think they'll be selling CC's bikes on consignment, including the bents. I kind of hope they see the promise of the bent market and decide to sell them on their own. I get my generator lights from them. And Trinity is not too far from work for you... or have you retired?

Mike said he'd be working out of his garage once he gets set up there, probably in the spring. If you don't have his number but want it, let me know.

By the way... that route you showed me parallel to Westcreek is now my regular route.
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Old 12-15-10, 10:37 PM   #17
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A guy in our group rides a Bacchetta Corsa on which he is very fast. On descents, I yell out, "wait for me at the bottom" as he is generally out of sight in short order. He's fast on the flats as well. Recently, he got a carbon fiber bent, a Bacchetta something or other, I believe, and he's fast on that as well. I keep telling him, he should take the plunge and get a Low Racer. Aside from the fact that he's got a good engine, I believe he's got a reasonable advantage in head winds.
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Old 12-15-10, 11:16 PM   #18
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Here's my "fast 'bent" true story (now a few years old).
I was riding in the Santa Cruz Mts outside Scotts Valley on a 2 lane mountain road. Nice and gently winding uphill. Suddenly around a corner comes a neon green, human powered, two wheeled blur. Must have been going 45 -50 mph, gone in a flash. "Who was that guy?" After a few seconds I realized it was a long wheelbase recumbent with a lyca body sock. A couple weeks later I saw the same set-up again - this time on Hwy 1 north of Santa Cruz, again going the opposite direction and FAST. "Who was that guy?"

I later found out that Craig Calfee was producing a recumbent, designed with Freddy Markham. Being a Calfee owner I learned that Freddy had been exercising one of the prototypes in the area for over a month. Markham has been a perennial favorite in the HPV competition at Battle Mt, NV. "Who was that guy?"
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Old 12-16-10, 12:06 PM   #19
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I'll second the recommendation of Trinity. Great guys, real bike geeks. They're apparently great with wheel building from reports I've heard. I think they'll be selling CC's bikes on consignment, including the bents. I kind of hope they see the promise of the bent market and decide to sell them on their own. I get my generator lights from them. And Trinity is not too far from work for you... or have you retired?

Mike said he'd be working out of his garage once he gets set up there, probably in the spring. If you don't have his number but want it, let me know.

By the way... that route you showed me parallel to Westcreek is now my regular route.
I haven't retired. But that trip to Trinity is the opposite direction from home. Mike gave me his number already. I still take that route we rode going home, but now use the MUP across Westcreek Park, then Duringer Road, going to work.


The best comparisons I've seen between recumbents and road bikes have come from guys that own both, and have power meters on both. They always say that they can't generate as much power when they're reclined on the recumbent.

Recumbents do end up being slower going uphill, but faster on flats and downhills. Whether or not that ends up being faster overall for you depends on the ride. In hilly terrain, they don't usually gain enough on flats and downhills to make up for what they lose uphill, so on a very hilly ride, the road bike is likely to be faster. On the other hand, if it's a fairly flat ride, the recumbent will be faster.

As Hermes noticed, you can draft most of the dual big wheel recumbents, but not as well as an upright bike. And the longer length of recumbents makes it tougher to become good in a precision paceline, although there are a few recumbent riders around who are very good at it. For most though, if precision pacelining is your thing, a road bike is better choice.

Like they're fond of saying over on the Bacchetta forum, ride what you like!

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Old 12-16-10, 03:00 PM   #20
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The best comparisons I've seen between recumbents and road bikes have come from guys that own both, and have power meters on both. They always say that they can't generate as much power when they're reclined on the recumbent.

Recumbents do end up being slower going uphill, but faster on flats and downhills. Whether or not that ends up being faster overall for you depends on the ride. In hilly terrain, they don't usually gain enough on flats and downhills to make up for what they lose uphill, so on a very hilly ride, the road bike is likely to be faster. On the other hand, if it's a fairly flat ride, the recumbent will be faster.
That's a pretty good summation. I don't ride both anymore (not enough to say so anyway,) so I can't compare power production. I live in fairly flat country, and the only thing that can keep up with me when I get happy feet, is another recumbent. But the hillier it gets, the harder it is to ride with uprights. They can't match me anywhere except on long climbs, where I can't match them. So riding together means one is always waiting for the other.
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Old 12-16-10, 04:40 PM   #21
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That's a pretty good summation. I don't ride both anymore (not enough to say so anyway,) so I can't compare power production. I live in fairly flat country, and the only thing that can keep up with me when I get happy feet, is another recumbent. But the hillier it gets, the harder it is to ride with uprights. They can't match me anywhere except on long climbs, where I can't match them. So riding together means one is always waiting for the other.
That's been my experience as well. The diff in rhythm is enough that I end up riding solo a lot on most brevets, but still end up finishing "mid-pack". I've thought about riding at least a few brevets on my df, just for more company, but that'd be the ONLY reason.

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Old 12-16-10, 05:38 PM   #22
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To turn the hill thing around and look at it from my point of view, my hill climbing seems normal to me. Uprights are a bit faster climbing, but they're slower everywhere else. Now THAT is not a compromise I'd want to make unless my riding was nearly all up/down.
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Old 12-16-10, 05:49 PM   #23
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Whether they are fast or slow is immaterial. 'bents are an abomination upon this Earth and shall not tolerated among the righteous and pure of spirit. I rode one once and had to shower and scrub myself (with a loufa!) for two hours before I felt clean again. I won't tell you what the priest made me do for penance.
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Old 12-16-10, 05:51 PM   #24
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To turn the hill thing around and look at it from my point of view, my hill climbing seems normal to me. Uprights are a bit faster climbing, but they're slower everywhere else. Now THAT is not a compromise I'd want to make unless my riding was nearly all up/down.
Gotta agree with you on that. My only reason for thinking about riding df on brevets is the "riding alone all the time" thing. Since virtually all my training rides are solo, I'm used to it, but it does get old. Oh well. Ya pays yer money and ya takes yer chances.

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Old 12-16-10, 07:02 PM   #25
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Yeah, riding with a group of road bikes ends up with me pedaling for all I'm worth to try and stay anywhere near the group on a hill, then braking all the time on a downhill, but there are days when the company is worth it to me. Other days, I just ride my own pace.
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