Road Bikes and Recumbents

Bikes are the big scary question mark right now. Not only do we have bikes in need of repairs (me) and an overhaul (Russ), but we’re also going to need recumbents to ride half time so we can vary our physical positions, body stresses and sit spots to stay healthy and keep riding. I’m not really sure what we’re going to be able to do about it either. In the comparatively low end bike price range, the repair or replace decision comes at a lower price point simply because it doesn’t take as many parts to add up to a purchase price, especially when there are service costs as well. But, the photo above is the stock that was available when I took my bike in for repairs a few months back. I’ve been shopping at this store pretty much since it opened, and I’ve never seen it like this. The situation kind of makes the decision for you, at least as long as there are parts to be had. I’m keeping my eyes open in the used market too, but it is harder to find second hand bikes that are compatible for riding together, especially with our above average height requirements.

Our current bikes are Giant brand. They are good bikes when in repair, well above department store quality, but ours are at the bottom end of what good bike shops offer and serious cyclists expect. Giant is considered a pretty good quality in the lower price ranges, but a lot of brands make good bikes, and fortunately, we’d happy with any of them too.

I have two bikes. One is a Giant hybrid that I was riding the first time I trained for a century. I was visiting my mother in south Alabama with it during a house fire. When Russ replaced his bike, I bought a road bike, to be able to keep up with him. Speed is increasingly important the more mileage a rider does, not just because we’re riding together and pacing each other. It’s also about the number of hours in the saddle. I took the hybrid back to my mothers to have a bike there without taking it.

Then, more recently I was without the road bike for a year. I let a kid who wasn’t ready for a learning project commit to some repairs. The kid saw a chore instead of an opportunity for some pre-OJT, so I brought the hybrid back from my mother’s. Riding it again felt like an old friend and allowed me some extra patience. I needed to be faster for training though. So, I sucked it up, considered the lost parts lost forever, took the overdue job away from the kid and made the appointment to fix the road bike. By now, shop repairs where I bought the bike were by appointment due to the pandemic. Early project photographs might have either bike.

I’m refining it a bit, but, I guess I see a bike as a frame with wear parts attached. It is best if all the wear parts are a similar quality, are compatible, and made for the same purpose. Some parts wear out pretty quickly. For instance, tires will last between 1,500 and 2,500 miles without road damage. That’s 7-10 weeks at the rate we will be riding when we’re up and running in full project mode. Since it’s actual production at stake, not an inconvenient change of ride timing, we’ll be doing repair on time for the project, and hope that it will be a lifelong habit afterward.

I spent about three quarters of the original purchase price on parts and service. It was much closer to the repair or replace mark than I expected. I’ve broken spokes without obvious cause recently and it may need new wheels soon. That could be due to the rough riding surfaces when the trail was full of storm litter. Or, it could just be that the wear parts have worn. I’m riding the road bike exclusively since the repairs. One thing I noticed when I got the road bike back is that it was quieter. Keeping the adjustments properly made and replacing the cassette as soon as it’s worn will be important to reducing unwanted ambient noise while recording (and it helps to keep the bike faster too :). We’ll need to teach ourselves to get better at doing that maintenance ourselves.

Russ’ bike, was at the repair or replace point before he crashed it in November. I really think he would have replaced if they had any stock, or even had any on the way. He rode with crooked handlebars way too long. The uncomfortable question is, would he have crashed his new bike, or would the new bike have handled the road trash better and kept him from crashing?

The pandemic rush on bikes could result in a flood of second hand bikes at just the right time. Our second hand search handicap is not knowing enough about bike brands and models to know which bikes/models might be better. Bicycle Blue Book could help to know what the right price should be, but I’ve heard some scepticism on it’s accuracy and we don’t know enough to have our own opinions. My pet peeve is quickly becoming people who advertise their bikes without listing the size. Reading through a whole write up to see if any of it matters is inconsiderate. Not everyone knows their size range, but some people do and it should be in the title.

Being the thrifter that I am, I learned from experience that it’s easy to accidentally get a bike that needs a lot of repairs, and the shops don’t cut you any deals on repairs if you didn’t buy the bike from them. I’m afraid that the combination of Russ’ height needs (he’s 6’6″), current market availabilities, and our need to be on bikes that perform well and similarly enough for us to ride together will push us higher in price ranges.

Recumbents

Choosing a recumbent is daunting, and not just a little. Really. There are good guides, but many recumbents are order online propositions and we’re talking about the difference between book knowledge and experience. When I buy a regular bike, first, I have experience riding one and second, I’m at a shop where I can test ride it in the parking lot. High end bikes are too expensive to experiment. I need to get it right on the first try. I joined some facebook groups to see what I could figure out, but they were different enough in focus as to be unhelpful.

We narrowed it down a little. We thought about tandems from time to time, but finding one of those in the right size is likely to mean custom, and I’ve always been a little afraid I’d be a slacker (without intending to) on a tandem. A tandem could be fun for a lark on some other occasion, but when I consider that one of us might need to go for help or the car, that settles it. Sticking with separate bikes/recumbents also leaves us open to put cameras on each bike, potentially doubling our videos without doubling travel cost or time. All we have to do is buy more cameras, equipment, accessories and mounts.

Recumbents come as bikes or trikes. I want to maintain core muscles and all things being equal would choose a two wheel recumbent, but I don’t think all things are equal. I don’t have great balance (which is why I want to maintain what I have). I think there will be more sway evident in my video than I notice while riding. The three contact points of a medium to long wheelbase trike will offer greater camera stability with less sway and producing the best video we can is the point.

Fantasy Island

I don’t even know what Fantasy Island looks like for the bikes. There are so many uncertainties. Fantasy Island doesn’t include automatic shifting or electric assist. I”d like for us to ride road bikes in one direction, store them, and ride recumbents in the other direction. That way, we won’t need automobile back up and will get good temporal spacing on videos. I haven’t decided if I want to try to set up cameras at the same height for both bikes, or if I want to have two different perspectives. I’m leaning toward different perspectives for practicality and variety. But those things will sort once we see what we have to work with.

The bikes need to be strong, fast, quiet, stable, safe and comfortable. We’ll need panniers for the road bikes I don’t usually care about color unless it’s heinous. I did notice Russ riding in front one day in a lime green Jersey. It looked so much like chromakey green that I thought about coloring everything, kit and equipment in chromakey green so that they could be easily removed at some point if anyone wants. I don’t know that anyone would, but options sometimes turn into actions.