See The USA

Reader Contribution by Rick Stiles
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See the USA on your ReeeCumbent . . . somehow that doesn’t rhyme like the 1950s car commercial that encouraged us to See the USA in your Chevrolet. Once I agreed to See the USA my wife quickly mentioned that I didn’t have a ReeCumbent.

There are a lot of different recumbents out there. There are long ones, short ones, two wheel ones and ones with three wheels.  One model had my feet positioned so high above the seat that when I pedaled down the street my bottom looked like two doughboys punching it out inside my pants. Note to self: forget that one. A tricycle was a lot of fun to zip around in but was so low that I needed two men and a small boy to get me out. Note to self: forget that one, too.

I settled on a short base, two wheel model made by Bacchetta: a Giro 20. It had good reviews, my butt wasn’t totally exposed while pedaling, I could get off by myself, and I managed to stay upright without using training wheels.

Speaking of staying upright. Balancing on a 2 wheel recumbent takes practice. Your legs are parallel to the ground, thus there is no pendulum effect from your legs to help balance. Your feet are stuck out in front; pulling one off a pedal and putting it down when stopping is different. Another thing, you cannot stand up and use your body weight to get going or to pedal up hills; it is all leg power. Also, the model I selected has a small front wheel under the bike which makes the steering real twitchy when going slow. However, after a week or two of practice I started to feel like a professional, except when I fell over at a stop sign, when I didn’t put one foot down fast enough.

Turns out, recumbents are really fun. The seat is comfortable, hands and shoulders don’t take the brunt of supporting the upper body or get jarred from bumps in the road, and there is no cramp in the neck from constantly looking up. Another note to self: thank Tom for suggesting recumbents.

Besides basic accessories such as helmet, front and rear lights, and water bottles, I added shoe clips to hold my feet on the pedals. My life flashed before me when one foot bounced off a pedal going downhill at 30mph. After much research I added Arkel recumbent panniers to carry all my gear. A more complete list of all accessories is covered on my website:

My next post will cover getting in shape. I didn’t realize how out of shape I was until a 7 year old girl with training wheels on her bicycle passed me up one day. If I am going to pedal a 55 pound bicycle (including accessories) plus gear and food on a cross country trip I need to get in shape.

Take care, and talk at ya’ later.