Eearly Recumbents

Geared recumbents , as distinct from early front-drivers , first appeared in the 1890s, soon after the pneumatic-tired safety bicycle.

Charles Challand , a professor in Geneva, built what was probably the first geared recumbent (Swiss patent 11,429 of 1895, British patent 6,748 of 1896).

He called it the Normal Bicycle, because the riders posture was more normal than that of a stoopedover rider on a standard bicycle.
The rider sat directly over the standard size back wheel, directly steering the smaller front wheel.

The crank axle was a few inches behind the steering head.

The patent drawing shows a skid shoe brake, and Paul von Salvisberg mentioned this brake in his report on a lightweight timber-framed version of the Normal Bicycle displayed at the Swiss National Exhibition of 1896 (von Salvisberg 1897, 47-48).

The American consul in Geneva was so impressed by Challand s machine that he sent a drawing of it to the State Department.
According to a report published in the New York Times on October 25, 1896, the bike had been tried in the streets of Geneva and had made a favourable impression.

In 1897 a tubular steel version, weighing about 26 pounds , was shown at the Paris Salon du Cycle.

Oscar Egg, from Switzerland, set the world hour record in 1914 at 44.247 km.

The First Recumbents

Geared recumbents , as distinct from early front-drivers , first appeared in the 1890s, soon after the pneumatic-tired safety bicycle.

See Early Recumbents

Jan Heine has discovered recumbents.

“While the racing world outlawed recumbents soon after Francis Faure set an hour record on a recumbent in 1933, cyclotourists and randonneurs couldn’t have cared less about what the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) thought: That recumbents weren’t “real” bicycles.

Recumbents appealed to “real-world” riders because they seemed to offer speed and comfort, in addition to novelty. “

He tried a mid 1930s Velocar but found it difficult to ride because he is too tall for the  machine  but has been offered another go when it has been adjusted to suit him..

As with all bikes, they must be fitted to the rider.

As he says, “recumbent seats have come a long way since 1933″ and I would certainly agree with that statement.

My current machine is superbly comfortable.

Read his post in full

Ride Far

Whilst this page is written for  self-supported bikepacking and long-distance cycling in general, the advice and information may be useful for randonneurs.

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Nazca Gaucho HiRacer 28

I visited SPEZI in 2018 and enjoyed the spectacle of the place.

I am still looking for a simple, lightweight machine that will easily pack into a suitcase for travelling.

The Zox caught my eye and I was impressed by a short ride around the test track. They are not the most elegant of designs, being made from rectangular tubing which gives them a rather agrucultural look.
Next day I returned for another ride and realised that the seat is more upright than I am used to and is not easily adjustable.

Then I noticed the Nazca stand had their Highracer 28 available for a test ride. I was encouraged to take it for a long ride to get a feel for it.
The seat is noticeably higher than my Rosetta and the 700c wheels could fit only 28-700 tyres with no room for mudguards so I was prepared to dismiss it from my wishlist.

However the frame looked as though it could be fairly easily dismantled and fitted into a smallish box.

I had been walking around most of the day and the prospect of a ride was appealing so off I went.

I immediately felt at home on the bike and started thinking about the possibility of perhaps fitting smaller wheels to lower the seat a bit. The Gaucho is made for rim brakes only so it would need longer brake arms for smaller rims.

My suggestion of using disk brakes was dismissed as detracting from the design philosophy and degrading its performance.

After mulling it over for some weeks and emailing Nazca about what I wanted I placed an order for a frameset with disk brake mount on the rear end.  They did not want to make a disk brake fork but I had carbon fork in my shed that I decided to use.

It took some months for the frame to arrive and was a bit fiddly to assemble some parts.

I have been riding FWD bikes for many years and was really not sure I would be smitten with this one but it has grown on me.

It is a very relaxing bike to ride and I am enjoying the lack of wheel slip on the very steep climb up to our house.

Why Not a Recumbent?

I have been reading a book by Robert Penn called “It’s All About the Bike” which a friend gave me last week. Penn has been a life-long cyclist and rode around the world in his late twenties.

The book is the story of his love affair with cycling and the journey to build his dream bike.
He goes into great detail about the invention and development of the bicycle but never once mentions anything beyond the traditional diamond frame design.
It would appear that he had never heard of recumbents, which first seem to have appeared in the 1890s, soon after the pneumatic-tired safety bicycle.

Interestingly, he describes one of the factors that lead me to recumbents:

“I’ve suffered from numb hands over the years. It’s a common cyclists’ complaint, often dubbed ‘cyclists’ palsy’.”

and, describing a particular long descent he says:

“First my hands went numb – something I was used to – but the alarm bells really started ringing when I realized I couldn’t feel anything beneath my elbows, nor could I pull the brake to stop the bike.”

Coincidentally I read a thread on the [Randon] email list today about handlebars wherein Jake says:

“I should say I’m still looking for the magic bullet for hand and shoulder pain which has only gotten worse in my ~12 years  of long rides.
I’d like to not switch to a recumbent. (I’m not making a dig at recumbent riders. You guys rock!)”

Another commenter says:

“I have nerve damage and carpal tunnel.”

One of my memories of the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200km randonnee is from after the event when a number of us were reliving our ride in St Quentin.
The discussion revolved around saddle sores, neck and shoulder pain, numb fingers and other ailments.

I could not think of anything to complain about, having not suffered any of those problems since switching to a recumbent.
The only issue I occasionally suffer from is “hot-foot” – a burning feeling on the soles of my feet on long hot rides which happens on uprights as well.

I wonder what it is that stops people from trying something different, even when it is recognised as potentially solving a problem they are having?