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Another new recumbent rider (well, owner!)

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Another new recumbent rider (well, owner!)

Old 09-17-11, 06:47 PM
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Another new recumbent rider (well, owner!)

I hope I may be allowed to ask for advice from some of the experienced recumbent riders?

I bought my RANS Stratus LE yesterday, after riding it a couple of times in the parking lot of the store. I brought it home and fiddled about with the various adjustments, then took it for its, and my, first ride on the road. Having now read the string started by Falcon_54, I have to go out and try again with the palms of my hands on top of the grips instead of gripping them with white-knuckles! Let me thank posters for that helpful (I hope!) advice.

The difficulty I find in using the steering to adjust the balance is the lateral amount the grips have to move across the bike to effect a very small steering angle change. Does it help to adjust the bars so that the grips are more nearly in line with the steering head?
I find that I'm not leaning back on the seat backrest and it seems that adjusting the handlebars as described above would reduce the likelihood of leaning back?

I've been riding a fat-tired bike that I bought because it had suspension at both ends, but my ancient knees still protested a bit..... something that I had heard was less apparent on recumbents and something I didn't feel either in the store parking lot or my brief trial ride today. I should have thought of finding this forum and asking about knees and recumbents before buying it.... but I'd still like to ask if anyone has any experience with under-lubricated knees arguing less on a recumbent?

Any help or advice would be gratefully received!
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Old 09-17-11, 07:01 PM
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Congratulations on your new bike and best wishes for years of great rides.

The steering you describe is typical for long wheel base recumbents, so common it even has a name, tiller steer. It can take a bit, but LWB riders get used to it to the point where a bike without much tiller steer feels wrong.

A recumbent can be hard or easy on your knees depending on your riding. Especially with protesting joints it's a good idea to get in the habit of getting your power from spinning faster and opposed to pushing harder. My own knees spent way too many hours on the football field and ski slopes but even long fast rides on a recumbent are no problem.
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Old 09-18-11, 02:11 AM
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With my left knee replaced, and my right knee junk, I sorta know all about knees and pain.

I recently abandoned my upright in favor of a recumbent trike. And found that the seat-back makes it rather easy to torque your knees without really knowing it. As stated above, 'spinning' is the key to happy knees (on most any bike). Plus, you will need to get your "bent legs" - which can take a bit, as you are using different muscles than are used on an upright.

Just take it easy, and don't try to break any records for a while, and before you know it, it'll feel better than you ever thought riding a bike could feel - congrats on your new ride too!
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Old 09-18-11, 10:16 AM
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I am a very happy owner of a Stratus LE. Since I came from a Rans Tailwind I had no problem what so ever with the Stratus. I now have 8000 miles on it with no problems what so ever.

Now about tiller. This is what I did. I moved the handlebars so the verticle part of the chopper bars are in line with the headset. This puts me into what is called the "Superman" position with my arms straight forward. This pretty much eliminates the tiller you feeland keeps your arms well clear of your knees. I like the Superman position as it give me a better aero profile and keeps the armpits cool. The great thing about the chopper bars on the LE is they are fantastically adjustable, so you can set them to any way you could possibly want.

Im sure as you get things personalized, you will really like your Stratus. IMHO it has just about the biggest bang for the buck of any LWB bent on the road.
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Old 09-18-11, 12:57 PM
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Thanks very much to gcottay, Peter_C and rydabent for your interesting answers. I can't wait to try your suggestions.

It's raining like hell here so I haven't had an opportunity to try either the "hand on top of the grip" or the Superman position. I had considered adjusting the bars to a more forward position to reduce what I now know is the tiller (well-named... I was a sailor, too!) effect and get my hands more nearly even with the steering head, and then, as I got used to things, gradually increasing the tiller.

Even as I have the bike now, I'm not leaning back against the backrest and I can't imagine being able to reach it if I have the bars much further forward than they are. I guess I could move the seat forward a bit, but I want to be able to get my knees almost straight at bottom dead center. What do you do about that, rydabent?

I'll try to learn to spin more than grunt, as you suggest, in the interest of relieving the stress on my knees. I can't claim any reasons as athletic or glamorous as yours, gcottay, for being gentle with them, just anno domini, I fear.

I'm surprised at how effective the twist-grip shifters are.... I nearly swapped them for trigger shifters, but thought I'd try it stock first, and now I'm glad I did.

I don't want to start a war here, but before plunging on the Stratus, I was considering short wheelbase models, both Volae and Bacchetta, mostly because I thought the shorter wheelbase would be so much more maneuverable, but I was assured that such beasts were considerably more twitchy. Any comments on such differences? I also don't much like the idea of having my feet above my head (I know, a slight exaggeration!).
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Old 09-18-11, 01:54 PM
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If you are not comfortably sitting with your back against the seatback, then the handlebars/riser/stem need to be adjusted closer to you. Or, the seat recline needs to be adjusted so that you are more upright and closer to the bars. Or, both. You have to be able to comfortably reach the bars. Do you have the chopper bars or the T-bar setup? A new Stratus LE could come with either.
A good position should also enable you to have your legs just slightly bent at full extension.

There is a learning curve for learning to ride a recumbent. Be patient and persistent. A LWB/low bottom bracket 'bent like your Stratus has a reputation for being easier to learn than a Long- or Short-wheelbase bike with a higher bottom bracket. That said, I find both my long- and short wheelbase 'bents with higher bottom brackets to be fairly easy to ride. That's easier to say now after riding them each multiple thousands of miles.
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Old 09-18-11, 03:05 PM
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Easier said than done, JanMM! My seat is as upright as it will go, ie the pins are in the top adjustment holes and the handlebars (the chopper bars, I think.... at least not the T-bar that I saw in a Youtube video) are not as far forward as I'd like. I shall have to see if Mr RANS makes longer seat stays and if he doesn't, I'll make something myself.

I understand that changing to a recumbent is not an instantaneous move, and I went into it with the expectation that learning to ride it safely and with something approaching one's instinctive reactions when riding a DF, would take a while. However, it's reassuring to read, from someone with thousands of miles under his tires, that that day will come. Actually, I don't think riding the Stratus will ever be as automatic as riding a DF, but I hope it will be fairly close.

From that video, there doesn't appear to be much adjustment available to the T-bar, though I see from the RANS site that one can select from quite a number of stems and bars. How does the much narrower T-bar compare with the multi-adjustable, wider chopper bar? I have been riding motorcycles for many years (not Harleys) and always preferred narrow bars, but motor-bikes' steering behavior is very different from pedal bikes' in practice, though theoretically the same. I suspect that the chopper bars make the necessary counter-steering unnatural, whereas it might be more natural with the T-bars. What do you think?

Thanks for your help, too, JanMM.

Last edited by artec540; 09-18-11 at 03:10 PM. Reason: Corrections
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Old 09-18-11, 03:42 PM
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RANS sprint braces (seatback supports): https://www.shoprans.com/products.asp?cat=21
You could give them a call if you have questions about appropriate braces.

Yes, probably less adjustability with the T-bar than with the chopper bars. My first 'bent, a Tailwind, had a long riser with T-bars and my V3 has a bit short riser with tweener bars. Each system worked/works for me. Chopper bars are more similar to the tweener style.

Pics of your seat/bars/riser, etc. setup?
This works for me:



This bike came with a straight riser - the bars were too far in front of me. I replaced the riser with one angled back towards me which puts the bars in a good position.
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Old 09-19-11, 03:14 PM
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In answer to the couple of suggestions that I post photos of my Stratus, here they are. The second one was taken from a point exactly in line with the bars and the third exactly in line with the seat. The idea was to demonstrate the relative positions and angles, so that anyone who had views on it could comment on the relationship.

Now that I look at the photos, particularly the second one, it looks a bit like a shrimp, with all those antennae!





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Old 09-19-11, 07:26 PM
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Looks as if your handlebars/grips are too far away from the seat back, which is confirmed by your saying that you aren't resting against the seat back. If you are unable to relax against the seat back, then you will be hanging onto the bars instead of lightly gripping them.
Are you able to adjust the hand grip sections of the bars so that they come closer to you? Perhaps that would allow you to sit back and still easily reach the grips.
Tilting the chopper bars back towards you a bit would also put the grips within your reach.

Setup of the 'bent I first rode. The Tailwind had some tiller, but it wasn't a problem.

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Old 09-20-11, 10:31 AM
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As to the superman position I suggested, first of all you need to adj the seat fore and aft to satisfy proper position for your leg length. That is the most important thing. Then adj the seat back angle to suit, probably more upright to start with. Then the bars for the superman position if you can obtain it comfortably. Oh and relax the less tense you are the smoother a bent rides.

BTW after 12,000 miles on bents and long ago I am totally comfortable on my bent, and everything is automatic. Riding my mountain bike is what seems weird. On it I feel perched high in the air, and feel I could go over the handlebars any time.
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Old 09-20-11, 01:33 PM
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Thanks again to both JanMM and Rydabent.

I've had another ride since reading your posts. I've got the fore and aft position of the seat OK and I've ordered longer seat-stays from RANS so that I can tilt the seat forward and lean back against the backrest.

I could angle the whole top section of the handlebars back, or rotate the grips back towards me to allow me to lean back more, but both these expedients would increase the tiler effect. I can wait for the longer seat stays to deal with the backrest issue, knowing that the problem is solved.

The problem that isn't solved I don't think is connected to the handlebar/seat relationship, though it may be connected to the tiller effect. I haven't got an empty parking lot near me so I'm riding on a little traveled suburban road, two lanes wide, with a median, so that I only have to cope with one direction of traffic. It attacks from behind of course, but I've got a mirror.

The problem is that I seem to be really wobbly... that is, I need wide steering corrections to stay balanced, even holding the grips lightly or riding with the palms of my hands on top of the grips. I'm wondering whether part of this difficulty is due to the width of the bars and hence the length of hand movement and time it takes to effect the necessary steering correction to move the line between the contact patches back under my CG. Would it be easier/quicker with narrower bars? I agree that the chopper bars allow virtually limitless adjustment, except of the width of the bars. And I notice that in the photo of you (I assume), JanMM, on your RANS, you have a T-bar rather than the chopper bars (which model is that, by the way?). I realize that this issue is likely to decrease in severity with practice but a) I'm impatient and b) it feels as if it's part of a bigger geometrical problem. The lateral movement of the CG (way back towards the back wheel), in response to a steering input and the shift of the front contact patch is very small. So the smaller the movement of the rider's hands/grips one can use to effect a given steering angle change, the quicker and more effective should be the correction.

Does this make sense and does it mean that multi-adjustment capability notwithstanding, I'd be better off with a T-bar?

Sorry to be so long-winded...... I want to be clear.
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Old 09-20-11, 04:08 PM
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I no longer have the green bike (Tailwind) with T-bars. My current bikes both have tweener bars like the blue bike (V3) in the other picture - more similar to chopper bars than T-bars. On both bikes, my grips are far apart but that doesn't cause wobbliness.
If you are still unable to rest/relax your back against the seatback, that could cause unsteadiness.
I have never found tiller to be a problem. Just takes some getting used to. Riding a bent - any bent - will always feel different than riding an upright bike.
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Old 09-20-11, 09:02 PM
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I think your point of longer seat stays may go a long way to making you feel more comfortable and in control. Being able to lean back and relax will make the bike feel more stable. Wobble goes away with more miles. It was not too long after I started riding a bent that I found I wobbled less taking off than I did on my DF bikes.

Oh and BTW after getting used to your bent, you will be hooked and probably never go back to DF bikes, bents are that good. I might point out to people talk a lot about a solid bottom bracket. Your Stratus has 5 tubes holding it. I dont think any other bike ever on the market has its BB held so solidly in place.
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Old 09-21-11, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by artec540
The lateral movement of the CG (way back towards the back wheel), in response to a steering input and the shift of the front contact patch is very small. So the smaller the movement of the rider's hands/grips one can use to effect a given steering angle change, the quicker and more effective should be the correction.
Correct. The initial problem with many LWB 'bents is the rearward biased CoM. This problem is exacerbated with longer legs because it puts the rider (CoM) even further rearward. This is exactly why taller individuals with long legs are usually a better physical match on SWB 'bents.

In addition to trying narrower bars, you should at least employ bars with the grips angled downward such as the Calhoun Evobar. https://bikesmithdesign.com/EvoBars/EvoBarSetup.html

The Evobars won't eliminate 'tiller', but will decrease 'tiller effect'.
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Old 09-21-11, 08:55 AM
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Thank you PaPa, the Evo bars are clearly something to explore. I had started to look into changing to a T bar, but, from what you say (and it certainly makes sense to me), the downward angling of the Evo looks as if the wrists would like it better.
Since I qualify on three of the four reasons for choosing the Sport bend (the short cables don't apply), it looks as if that one should be my choice.
I understand what you say about taller riders being a better match with an SWB. I was looking at a Lightening SWB before I decided on the RANS but I found the high bottom bracket very daunting, to say nothing of the Formula One riding attitude.
Although I can't find any numbers in any of the literature, looking at most recumbents it appears that they have negative trail/castor angle. Is that an illusion or is it something that's different between recumbents and DFs? If they really have negative trail, wouldn't positive trail produce more lateral CG shift per degree of steering change? The raked out steering head angle is stolen straight from a Harley Chopper and those usually corner like a super-tanker (though this is independent of trail, of course) .

Last edited by artec540; 09-21-11 at 09:03 AM. Reason: Correction
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Old 09-21-11, 08:59 AM
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Thanks again Rydabent.
Yes, I have hopes for the longer seat stays. It seems to me that the less I move my CG laterally while riding, the less wobbly I should be and the more effective my steering inputs should be in correcting balance. And being able to lean back against the backrest should help decrease lateral CG movements. I'm impatient to get them!
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Old 09-21-11, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by artec540
Although I can't find any numbers in any of the literature, looking at most recumbents it appears that they have negative trail/castor angle. Is that an illusion or is it something that's different between recumbents and DFs?
In alignment with uprights, some 'bents typically benefit from a little positive trail (although I, personally build my LWBs without trail)
Negative trail is to be avoided.

Originally Posted by artec540
If they really have negative trail, wouldn't positive trail produce more lateral CG shift per degree of steering change?
Yes, positive trail causes a momentary lateral CoM shift, opposite the direction of the rider initiated turn. This only occurs during the initial phase of the turn. Once the bike is leaned, the CoM is realigned with the bike's contact patches (more accurately, the bike's contact patches are realigned to the CoM). This is one of the reasons why a bike with zero trail is more responsive to steering inputs - and is 'usually' preferred because it improves slow speed maneuvering. However, there is a multitude of dynamics in play here - such as CoM placement (both longitudinally and vertically). tire type and pressure, steering mass, forward velocity, etc.

BTW, At least some positive tiller is desirable - I usually recommend 6-8" (measured from the steering axis rearward to the grips). This minimal 'tiller' helps stabilize and improve self-centering.

Last edited by PaPa; 09-21-11 at 10:56 AM.
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Old 09-21-11, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by artec540
The raked out steering head angle is stolen straight from a Harley Chopper...
Actually, the resaoning behind the 'raked out' head tube (on 'bents), was to move the steering axis closer to the rider's shoulders - thus, minimizing excessive tiller
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Old 09-21-11, 08:31 PM
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Curious to know if you have tried adjusting the riser and bars so that you are able to lean back against the seatback as you ride? Have you tried riding the bike like that?
The advantages of being comfortably seated may outweigh perceived steering issues.
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Old 09-21-11, 09:37 PM
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To PaPa, yes, I agree, raking the forks out like a Harley chopper would certainly reduce the length of the tiller, and while bringing the steering head back and setting it at a more upright angle would increase the possibility of the pedaling feet fouling the front tire, I wonder if the chopper imitation needs to go so far. With the rake angle as flat as it is the effect of a given steer input is less than if the rake were less flat.

To JanMM, no I haven't tried that; I was waiting till the longer seat stays arrived. Now that you suggest it, though, I will try it tomorrow morning. I don't know how much I'll have to lean the bars back in order to lean myself back far enough to reach the seat back. I'm going to try with the grips angled back more and the bars themselves angled less, as suggested by someone earlier in this string, bringing the width down a bit, too. Then I'll try leaning the bars back till I can lean on the backrest. Lots of interesting experiments!

Thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to take an interest in, and offer help in my predicament...... I really appreciate it.
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Old 09-22-11, 09:21 AM
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To JanMM. Just to bring you up to date in this thrilling saga, I tried both sets of adjustments this morning. The first one, grips angled in a bit and chopper bars less angled, was a small but definite improvement. Actually, it's hard to know how much of the improvement was the adjustments and how much was just more practice..... some of each, I'm sure.

Your suggestion, lean against the seat-back and adjust the bars to suit, unfortunately put the grips and my knees in direct competition for air-space. I thought about pulling the top pieces of the chopper bars further out but they'd have had to be like those ape-hanger bars affected by some Harley riders (why, I'll never understand!). So I shall have to wait for the longer seat stays' arrival to be able to stabilize my upper body against the lateral reaction to pedaling. I think you're right and that will turn out to be important.
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Old 09-23-11, 07:35 PM
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Here's another Stratus LE owner's setup - seems to work for him.

https://retrocycler.blogspot.com/
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Old 09-23-11, 10:42 PM
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Interesting, JanMM, thanks again. Does that look as if his knees and bar ends would interfere with each other, or would they clear in practice?

I've been trying to make sure that my knees are never inside the bar ends, after falling over because I couldn't get my foot down because my knee fouled my grip (no harm done except to my pride!) Maybe I've been over cautious?

I got my longer seat stays this afternoon and fitted them. I'm hoping the weather will allow me to try again leaning against the backrest. The very brief trot up the road felt good so I'm optimistic!
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Old 09-24-11, 09:15 AM
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My knees are always inside the bar ends/grips and under the horizontal section of the bar. On both my bikes. (23.5" wide bars at the bar ends. RANS B39) On sharp turns, like u-turns, I use care with pedaling, such as taking the inside foot/leg off the pedal. Hitting knees on the bars ends has only been a problem briefly very early in learning to ride these bikes. This is part of the learning curve of learning to ride a 'bent. It's just like riding a bike except different.
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Bacchetta Giro A20, RANS V-Rex, RANS Screamer
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