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  1. #1
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    Optimal Bent for Touring/Gravel

    I have a Longbikes Slipstream (LWB/USS) and love it. This bike is built for the long miles, and I spend 99% of my miles on quiet, country roads in the rural Midwest. However, half these rural Midwest roads seem to be gravel, and this bike doesn't excel on gravel.

    Back in my upright days, I rode a road bike for years until hybrids were invented. My Trek 720 is a go-anywhere kind of bike and opened up a whole new world. Not that I'm going to give my Longbikes up, but I'm wondering if there is a recumbent that will similarly open up this gravel-roaded territory again, while not giving up the touring capability. (And, I really have no desire to return to the wedgie world.)

    I've gone back through all of the recumbent threads here and, I think, the features of an optimal bike for both the long miles of touring and the rough miles of gravel roads involve bigger wheels and bigger tires and LWB. My priorities are (a) comfort and handling on the rough roads, and (b) comfort and not having to slog the long miles. It looks like my main candidates for consideration may be a: (1) Rans Formula 26; (2) Rans Stratus XP; or (3) Lightfoot Ranger.

    (Question 1) Are there any bents to add or remove from this list?
    (Question 2) Are there any bents that compare well with upright hybrids on gravel roads?

    Thanks for any opinions you may have.

  2. #2
    bobkat
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    I frequently ride a bent on our gravel roads out here particularly when pavement gets icy, in fact did about 20 miles on gravel today. I would imagine pretty well any LWB would do fine. My own bike is a Burley LWB frame with upgraded components, and it does as well as my wife's Raleigh hybrid on gravel, arguably a bit better. I've done may rails to trails miles and it is much better than road bikes on those surfaces. Probably better than mountain bikes here too, as mountain bikes are a bit overkill for the rails to trail paths that I have seen.

  3. #3
    Senior Member bentbaggerlen's Avatar
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    I ride my Slipstream and our Gulfstream on all kinds of roads, including gravel.

    One thing that i find really helps the handling is a big fat tire, 2" wide. I found this out only by chance, the wife and I were on tour in Maine on the Gulfstream fully loaded. One morning after setting out I noticed a little thump thump thump as we rode along. We stopped so I could check the tire, and sure enough I found the tire was falling apart the bead was tearing away from the tire casing. (This was a brand new $$$ tire) I lowered the tire pressure a bit, hoping that it would prolong the tires life just long enough to get us to a shop. It did, but it was late fall and the only 20" tire the shop had was a cheap ($8) Kenda tire. It beat walking so I mounted the cheap tire, re mounted the fender so it would clear. The bike handled much better in the loose stuff with the larger tire. So much that when I got home I mounted bigger tires on the front of the Slipstream. The $8 Kenda tire is still on the Gulfstream.

    You might want to try a larger tire before spend all that money on a new bike, unless you just want a new bike.
    Bentbaggerlen
    "When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." - Arthur Conan Doyle

  4. #4
    Recumbent Evangelist
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    What about a trike? There is virtually zero danger of a wheel slipping in rough gravel, they are as comfortable as any other recumbent, and they can be just as fast. A delta-style trike like the Kettweisel will allow you to have two drive wheels, for more traction than any other bike period.
    www.rebel-cycles.com

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  5. #5
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    I have two recumbents: a RANS Force 5 and an HP Velotechnic Street Machine. The Street Machine is the heavier, has front and rear suspension, and 1.5" tires* at 100 psi : gravel roads are no problem. On the other hand, it is about 2 mph slower than the RANS which has 1" tires and is uncomfortable on gravel.

    If you do not mind the weight, consider the Street Machine.

    *Let me take a moment to plug Schwalbe tires: wide, high pressure, and 4200 miles with only one flat - and that was a slow leak so I did not need to do a change in the field.
    Fastest lawn chair in the county.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
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    I haven't been a 'bent rider for long, but I do know that bigger tires and lower tire pressure works on up rights (mountain bikes). I don't see why it wouldn't be the same for 'bents. If the road is rough just drop the tires psi down from 60 to say 45 or so.
    Just a thought from a fool, thinking out loud.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    The best two wheel recumbent for gravel is the Cruzbike. It has front wheel drive and the rider is sitting in the center of the two wheels. The bottom bracket is lower than the seat similar to many LWBs. I've read several messages from Cruzbike owners that say it is exceptional in off road conditions.

    Smallwheels

  8. #8
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    I have the HP Velotechnik Street Machine. I did a loaded tour of the Gaspe on it last summer, where I hit several sections of construction with long stretches of gravel. I had no problems navigating it.

  9. #9
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    How about a Rans CF

    The Rans Crank Forward bikes do very well in gravel and such without losing too much in comfort. The Dynamic models are especially designed with off road in mind.

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    i too live in a rural area, depending upon which way i go it is 6-8 km of gravel/dirt/mud/etc
    road any sort of paved road. tires are key to control and comfort on unpaved surfaces,
    have 47x406/559 Marathons on my street machine, found them to be the most effective
    on these "mixed surfaces".

  11. #11
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Buckster
    .... ....My priorities are (a) comfort and handling on the rough roads, and (b) comfort and not having to slog the long miles. It looks like my main candidates for consideration may be a: (1) Rans Formula 26; (2) Rans Stratus XP; or (3) Lightfoot Ranger.

    (Question 1) Are there any bents to add or remove from this list?
    (Question 2) Are there any bents that compare well with upright hybrids on gravel roads?

    Thanks for any opinions you may have.
    .....With a LWB, depending on the bike and your own height, two-thirds of the weight may end up being carried on the rear wheel--so having a larger-diameter front wheel is not really all that important. It's nice from the aspect of only needing to carry one size of spare tube and tire, but it certainly isn't necessary.

    .....Most "recumbent" fender kits seem to be intended for tires around 1.5" wide. A lot of fenders will rub on a 2.3" tire, because (regardless of the fender's width) the fenders diameter is sized to curve around the diameter of a tire about 1.5" wide, with a bit of space between. I have some planet bike fenders on a bike with 26"x1.75" tires, and the tires almost rub; 2" tires would defnitely not fit. So if you will want fenders, forget about the standard kits, because they aren't going to work. You may be able to get some newsboy-cruiser fenders and modify them somehow, because these fenders are made to go on a bike that's running 2"+ wide tires mounted on wide rims.

    .....And if you know that you will be running wider tires, then you should get wider rims put on too. Yes, you can put 2.3" Big Apples on a narrow 25mm rim, but when you air them down they will have too much side-play and the tires/bike won't feel very solid laterally at all. You would feel a significant benefit from putting some downhill-width rims on there instead (~34mm or so).
    ~

  12. #12
    Senior Member Rogerinchrist's Avatar
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    I tossed this idea around on another forum.
    http://www.easyracers.com/vbb/showth...&threadid=2999
    Although I'll admit to zero recumbent experience, I did go to the Hostelle Shoppe (one of the most respected recumbent shops in the country) http://www.hostelshoppe.com/, & talked with Mr. Rolf Garthus himself about such a bike. He agreed that the Easy Racer Tour Easy set up in such a way as discussed in the above forum would indeed be a wise choice & good set up.

    I currently run Schwalbe Marathons & wouldn't think twice about mounting 'em on such a bent.

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