bicycling

HP Velotechnik Street Machine Gte to complement the Rans Stratus XP

Recumbent bicycle

I now own two recumbent bicycles: a HP Velotechnik Street Machine Gte, which is short, and a Rans Stratus XP, which is quite long indeed.

Front view of Street MachineI got the Street Machine last weekend, purchased at my "local" recumbent bicycle shop that's 50 or so miles away in Fort Collins: Spring Creek Recumbents.

While recumbent bicycles are not exactly unknown or unseen in the bicycling mecca of Boulder, there isn't a single bike shop that sells recumbents. I don't know why.

In fact, Spring Creek seems to be the only serious recumbent bike shop anywhere in Colorado. I'm just glad they're in relatively easy driving range.

They're also very knowledgeable and friendly. They have dozens of models of recumbents and even quite a few trikes. And they have quite a few that you can rent by the hour, so you can try some of the models out for extended periods before making any buying decisions.

Anyway, twice before this spring I went up to Fort Collins to test ride some of the various SWB recumbents they had. I confess I was lusting in my heart for a SWB bike.

My Rans Stratus XP recumbent bicycleDon't get me wrong. I love my Rans Stratus XP. I've ridden quite a few miles on that bike, considering that it's been largely winter since I bought it. But I wanted something shorter. Lighter. Easier to maneuver when not riding (e.g., when parking it at the office).

So now that I've done a bit of riding on the Street Machine (which yes is a pretty dorky name – what you may or may not expect from a German company), I can say that it is definitely quite different from the Rans.

No surprises there. For example, the riding position on the Street Machine is a bit more compressed than on the Rans, which has me working different muscles, which I figure is a good thing. The Rans is really more like sitting in an easy chair with pedals. The Street Machine is much more of a sport machine.

My new rideWhat did surprise me was that the biggest adjustment for me would not be the higher bottom bracket, which has me pedaling much higher off the ground, or the under-the-seat steering (more on that below), but rather the short wheelbase with the small front wheel.

Every time I hit a deep dip, such as the rain gutters that cross the street in a nearby neighborhood, I get this feeling that I might actually endo on this thing!

The feeling is exacerbated by the front fork shock absorbers, which bear the brunt of the shock but leave the front end of the bike dipping a bit further than I'm so far comfortable with. I trust the engineering, so I figure I just need to get a bit more accustomed to this feeling, but it was something of a surprise.

Rode my Rans

Rans recumbent bicycle

My Rans Stratus XP recumbent bicycle on the bike rack on my carLabor Day weekend was simply gorgeous in Boulder. Lots of sun, not too hot, blue skies. It was a perfect weekend for getting to know my new Rans Stratus XP.

Earlier in the week, I picked up a Thule rack and a RockyMounts R4 rack that could handle the 65" wheelbase of my Rans.

The bike fit perfectly. I took off the seat for the drive from Ft. Collins to avoid catching a bunch of bugs in the mesh.

Assembly

All I had to do was put on the front wheel and the seat. Within a few minutes, I had it all together.

There was a bit of trickiness when it came to the wireless odometer computer. I just couldn't get it to pair up! Turns out, I had failed to properly reset the thing. It works fine now.

My Rans Stratus XP recumbent bicycle

The First Ride

I had no trouble riding from the start. That's why I chose the Rans Stratus XP over the various short wheelbase and other long wheelbase recumbents. But I was still a little wobbly at lower speeds. It was nothing too bad, but it did take me a couple of rides to get truly comfortable at lower speeds.

I started conservatively, doing a little 2-mile loop around my neighborhood. But that was too easy! So I did another larger loop, and ended up with a 6-mile ride.

I marveled at how comfortable the entire ride was. I don't know about you, but when I ride a regular bike, I get saddle sore. My wrists get sore. My fingertips go a little numb. And my back gets stiff. Maybe it's age. Once upon a time, I used to ride and ride and ride without these problems.

But the Rans changed all that.

The Rans Stratus XP is the Harley of bicycles.

No, it's not loud. It's comfortable.

It's a cruiser.

My Rans Stratus XP recumbent bicycleYou sit mostly upright, feet in front of you.

If I were to encounter someone coming the other way on a Rans, I'd wave low, left hand by my hip, like the Harley folks do with each other.

Okay, maybe I'm being silly.

But the thing is that the only limit is fatigue from exertion, without the fatigue from having to be in an awkward, unnatural position like you are on a regular bike.

That counts when you have had the chance to vote for more than three people for president.

Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

For my second-day ride, on a whim I rode down Jay Road, and turned towards the airport. There's a really mean hill there, and I almost didn't make it. I kept telling myself to go just a little bit more, and I would rest at the top of the hill.

But when I got to the top, I found I was able to rest while still riding. I just pedaled lightly and cruised while I caught my breath.

Bought a recumbent bicycle today

Rans Stratus XP
Today, finally, after saving many nickels and dimes, I bought a Rans Stratus XP. I don't actually have it in hand as it is being configured with a rack, fenders, a small mirror and some different tires. I'll pick it up next Saturday, assuming I can get a roof rack for my car and an appropriately long bike rack for the roof by then.

I was going to get it back in the Spring, but, well, that didn't quite work out. I test rode a lot of recumbents up in Ft. Collins at Spring Creek Recumbents (which is pretty much the only recumbent bicycle shop in the entire [much] greater Denver area) back then and, honestly, did not much care for the short-wheelbase 'bents that are so popular in the Boulder area. I didn't like the high-bracket position of the pedals, and the steering felt twitchy to me. Maybe I could have gotten used to that, but the whole cycling position did not feel comfortable for me – nothing like the Rans, anyway.

Now I can hardly wait to pick it up. This recumbent will be a weekend enjoyment for me, and once I'm back into shape, a commuting bike as well. And maybe I'll finally lose some weight.

Any advice on recumbent bicycles, and where to buy one in the Boulder area?

So I'm thinking about getting a recumbent bicycle for sports touring and some commuting to the office. My regular mountain bike is just a bit hard on my back and wrists, so part of my motivation is looking for comfort. But I also want something that I can use for longer rides. And, of course, this being Boulder, I don't want a tank -- I'll be climbing hills and riding some dirt and gravel trails.

Any buying advice?

Any suggestions where I can go in the Boulder area to test-ride some of them, maybe buy one?

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