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Recumbent What IS that thing?! Recumbents may be odd looking, but they have many advantages over a "wedgie" bicycle. Discuss the in's and out's recumbent lifestyle in the recumbent forum.

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Old 07-02-12, 07:43 PM   #1
lmzimmer
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advice for adjusting to recumbent

My wife and I purchased a Rans screamer tandem last November. we have ridden it off and on since then with some time off for the winter. We are continuing to have some difficulties getting comfortable on it and I was seeking some wisdom from those who who have successfully adjusted to the recumbent life.
First - we are used to riding tandems and have ridden thousands of miles on an upright tandem with few issues as far as teamwork etc. We like to ride predominantly road riding in rural/suburban and occaisionaly urban riding with rides in the 20 -40 mile range. We had comfort issues- seats and also for me neck and shoulder pain on longer rides. We also ride in some fairly hilly areas. We had hoped that the recumbent would make this better and allow longer rides.
Our issues are: 1 . Twitchy steering- the bike seems to take a lot of steering input from the captain(me) to hold a really straight line. This makes me reluctant to take one hand off the bike to scratch my neck because it changes the steering- ultimately this is fatiguing . I have reversed the stem to get out of the Hamster position because the bike originally felt claustrophobic . that is better but the steering still seems sensitive.
2. Starting up on a hill. This is a big problem when you need to stop at or near the top of a hill to allow traffic to pass. We can usually do this but there have been some situations where starting has been difficult and then this makes steering worse because of the low speed and effort yo ar putting into getting going.
3. Not feeling the overall lack of comfort that makes us feel that this bike is what we want to go further on. Example this weekend we rode 23 miles on the recumbent and were fairly beat. The next day we rode the same 23 plus and additional 7 or 8 and actually felt better afterwards.
The bike seems to be well built and working well. I look forward to any advice that you all might have to help us go forward with recumbent riding.

Last edited by lmzimmer; 07-02-12 at 07:45 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 07-02-12, 09:22 PM   #2
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My advice: return the thing and get your money back. Get a pro bike fit for your upright tandem. Adjust that position as needed, and do the off-bike exercises that are crucial to keeping good form on a road bike.
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Old 07-02-12, 10:26 PM   #3
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Adjusting to riding a recumbent takes time- the muscles are slightly different, and they take time to adapt. The Screamer is a little peculiar- the captain's and the stoker's riding positions are different, so you and your wife are both adapting to new positions (from upright bikes) along with different styles of riding on the same bike.

Also, the captain is pretty high up and forward, so the front wheel is highly loaded and highly sensitive. You're probably over-controlling the bike. One of the keys to steering a recumbent is to relax your hands, arms, and shoulders. You can't propel the bike with your arms like you're used to doing on an upright, so let them go slack. Try keeping a very loose grip on the bars by making an "OK" with both hands.

I've known a number of Screamer-riding couples that have covered many miles. I rode a couple Cycle Oregons with one father-daughter team who rode many days as fast as me and my wife on our single recumbents. They also claim to have topped 58mph down hill, so it's possible to be speedy on a Screamer.
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Old 07-03-12, 11:52 AM   #4
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Are you sure the bike is properly set up?

Before I retired I had a coworker who bought a Rans Screamer several years ago. He was very enthusiastic about it and didn't mention any of the problems you have listed. Are you sure the bike is set up correctly? Is there any play in the steering? My early experience with a long wheelbase recumbent climbing hills was similar to yours but I soon got better at controlling the bike as long as I anticipated stopping and downshifted before stopping. This particular bike, a long wheelbase Linear, was a bear to control if the steering had any play in it. If the tie rod that controlled the steering was properly tightened it was a fine bike to ride and didn't require more than a feather touch to keep going in a straight line.
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Old 07-03-12, 01:04 PM   #5
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While I dont want to start a big war between DF and bent riders, the advice saying to get a "proper fit" is hog wash. DF bikes have small hard seats, and put weight on arms and hands. Also holding ones head up to look around after several miles becomes painful.

Stick with the bent tandem, before long you will not notice the twitchy steering.
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Old 07-03-12, 04:12 PM   #6
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As Jeff Willis suggests a Screamer requires a relaxed captain. The harder you try to hold a nice line or make a smooth turn the more the bike seems hard to control. My wife and I did a Screamer ride in Hays while checking out the factory. Even though we were both experienced bent riders the first few hundred yards were not pretty!

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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
While I dont want to start a big war between DF and bent riders, the advice saying to get a "proper fit" is hog wash. DF bikes have small hard seats, and put weight on arms and hands. Also holding ones head up to look around after several miles becomes painful.

Stick with the bent tandem, before long you will not notice the twitchy steering.
In my experience the huge majority of experienced recumbent riders do not agree with the sentiments above. The poster is best ignored.
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Old 07-03-12, 07:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lmzimmer View Post
Our issues are: 1 . Twitchy steering- the bike seems to take a lot of steering input from the captain(me) to hold a really straight line. This makes me reluctant to take one hand off the bike to scratch my neck because it changes the steering- ultimately this is fatiguing . I have reversed the stem to get out of the Hamster position because the bike originally felt claustrophobic . that is better but the steering still seems sensitive.
Reversing the stem is probably the WORST thing you could do to fix twitchy steering. On a recumbent, you want your hands slightly behind the steering axis. Put your elbows at your ribs, 2-3" in front of your lateral line, then bend your elbows 90 degrees. Like this:
That's where the bars should be. Then, when you let your hands hang limply from the bars, the weight of your arms will naturally center the steering. You're probably *pushing* the bars all over the place, trying to do what should almost do itself. That's a sure recipe to be all over the road.

Quote:
2. Starting up on a hill. This is a big problem when you need to stop at or near the top of a hill to allow traffic to pass. We can usually do this but there have been some situations where starting has been difficult and then this makes steering worse because of the low speed and effort yo ar putting into getting going.
Starting on hills is tricky on 'bents. Almost a Zen thing. It just takes practice. Specifically, it takes practice to relax your upper body and hold it still while exerting significantly with your legs. This is not an upright, DON'T use your whole body!

Quote:
3. Not feeling the overall lack of comfort that makes us feel that this bike is what we want to go further on. Example this weekend we rode 23 miles on the recumbent and were fairly beat. The next day we rode the same 23 plus and additional 7 or 8 and actually felt better afterwards.

It took me about 300 miles to get comfortable on my first recumbent, and about a half a season to return to my former speed. If you're not relaxing like you should be, then you probably feel beat to death after a 23-mile ride. Again, both of you should consciously try to relax your upper bodies while you ride. Having only your legs tired at the end of a ride is a great feeling! Oh - and from my experience, Screamers are pretty heavy, with predictable results. Don't expect to hang with the fast crowd on climbs.

I wonder why you got the recumbent in the first place. Were you uncomfortable on your upright? Generally, in my experience, people who get one just to get one (that is, without a specific complaint with their upright,) are poor candidates. The reason being, they expect the recumbent to be just like an upright only with a more comfortable seat; but they discover that it's a completely different animal from an upright. Different speed profile, different road feel and handling, different muscles... and without a commitment, they usually find that it's easier to go back to what they had before. So, in a way, there's a grain of truth in what creakyknees says. I believe that you can learn to love the Screamer, but you haven't tried hard enough yet to expect success.
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Old 07-03-12, 08:04 PM   #8
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Thanks for the ideas, especially Blazing pedals. We got the rans because of seat and shoulder/neck problems on the upright tandem which were worse after 30+ miles. We were hoping the recumbent would solve all of those issues,hoping to do longer rides and feel better afterwards; and generally they are better, but as I mentioned I had anticipated a learning curve but this seems to be longer than what we intended. We are going to the midwest recumbent rally next month in Wisconsin and hope to have some expert input there . Thanks again!
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Old 07-03-12, 08:28 PM   #9
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Interesting Thread!

We bought our Screamer 9 years ago for the very same reasons as the OP, after riding a DF tandem for a dozen years. It has been a huge learning curve, but 19,000 km later, we would never go back. We now tour, pulling a B.O.B. and are happily tandeming more than we ever used to riding the DF. Have hauled the tandem from Canada to ride Bike Florida the past 6 years and hope to continue to do so.
For me, the captain, the twitchiness in the steering ended as soon as I learned to relax, but that took me awhile. I did reverse the stem to "open up the cockpit" and we've left it that way. Our Screamer came with a 54/44/30 crankset and an 11x30 cassette. Can't climb our hills with that set up, so we tricked it out to a 48/36/24 and an 11x34. We don't walk hills anymore. As previously mentioned, muscle groups are different; we've learned to spin smoothly and cruise along at 90+ rpm cadence without any bouncing. It just feels natural to us. It didn't always, but now we're used to it. We're slow on the hills climbing, but who cares? Is it always a race? Coasting downhill we often manage 70+ kph and on the flat we can hold our own.
Bottom line is, we're happy, and managing 2,500 km in our 6 month riding season suits us just fine. Be patient. The Screamer is a great bike. Mike
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Old 07-04-12, 07:32 PM   #10
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I did reverse the stem to "open up the cockpit" and we've left it that way.
Reversing the stem is okay, as long as it's done as part of the full conversion to 'tweener bars, which have enough pull-back to compensate for the lost tiller AND are wider to make them more forgiving to nervous inputs. More tiller = more stable. You never want your hands in front of the steering axis.
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Old 07-12-12, 09:41 AM   #11
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I really dont want to start a DF/bent war here but. Someone mentioned a "pro bike fit". We hear that all the time from the DF boyz. The hard fact is while it may help some, it just cant make up for all the pain and discomfort that DF bikes cause. The many other advantages include view and safety.

Wittness the fact that a high percentage of Xcountry riders are switching to bents because of the long days in the saddle or on a comfortable seat in the case of a bent.
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Old 07-13-12, 12:23 PM   #12
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If the steering geometry is similar to other Rans bikes , switching to EVO bars may help. (made a world of difference on the kid's Wave).

Having down angled handgrips makes a big difference.

Here's the link- they have two styles Pro and Sport- http://www.calhouncycle.com/productc...Bar-39p265.htm

Additionally, almost no one supplies the correct gearing with 'bents. Like said above smaller rings make a big difference.
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