Like a lot of people, I have a bicycle. Actually, I have two bicycles. My wife has two bicycles as well, and one of my daughters has one too. You can’t really call us a bicycle family, however, because I am the only member of the family who rides often. And even then there are restrictions. I do not often ride my 29” aluminum diamond frame beach bike, because it is…shall we say, uncomfortable? Yes, I think that’s the word. It’s uncomfortable. I would be happy to never ride it again. It’s barely used. The little rubber nubby bits are still on the tires for goodness sake and I’ve had the bike for well over a year now.
That’s got to say something about my lack of affection for the thing.
My other bike gets a fair amount of use. Thousands of miles so far, in fact. It’s a RANS Rocket, a short wheel base recumbent with 20” tires and more gears than I care to use. Although to be honest I have used them all at one point or another on the road.
The RANS Rocket is fantastic. I can ride it for hours without any significant discomfort. Well, that’s not entirely true. My toes tingle a bit after an hour or so in the saddle. But that seems to be a common occurrence among short wheelbase riders. So I don’t pay the minor irritation much mind.
Earlier today I drove a couple towns down the highway to look at another short wheelbase recumbent. It’s a used model made by a manufacturer I haven’t heard of and can’t find any mention of on the Internet. But what really caught my eye was the other recumbent this gentleman had under his shed’s roof. It is a long wheel base recumbent with under seat steering. In recumbent terms is a LWD with USS. And I loved it.
Long wheel base recumbents are known for a smooth ride for the same reason a Lincoln Town car has a cushier ride than a Smart car does. The wheelbase is longer. The physics of the car, suspension aside, lend it to a smoother, more pleasant drive. The bike has the same benefit and the same detraction – a wider turning radius. While my Rocket can do amazing things in turns, the LWB model is lazier, less twitchy, and decidedly less interested in doing tight circles in the street. That’s okay, though. I’m not much into the trickier side of riding anyway. I ride for exercise. Tooling down the street on a sleek head turner of a human powered machine beats the living snot out of trudging along on a treadmill for mile after mile while the scenery stays exactly the same, including the television channel the gym regulars choose, and the smelly guy with intestinal difficulties on the treadmill immediately to your right.
The under seat steering feature really intrigued me. The owner let me take it out for a spin around the lake next to his home, and it really does ride beautifully. Eventually it does, anyway. Initially my intention to turn right out of his driveway became a left – because that’s where the bike seemed to want to go.
Under seat steering has real advantages once you get the hang of it, though. It’s a breeze, in fact. And with your arms down at your sides and your feet out in front of you, the mechanics of riding become almost second nature and far more comfortable than any traditional diamond frame bike can offer.
Understand, I’m not trying to convert you. Ride what you like, or don’t ride at all. It makes no difference to me, surely. But I will be buying the second short wheelbase bike from this fellow, and dreaming of his long wheel base under seat steering model until I either find one of my own, or until he sells the thing. I really got a kick out of it. And what better motivation to exercise is there than that? If you like it, you’ll do it. And that’s that.