Recumbent Cycle Convention [Conventional? Not.]

I just returned to New York from the Recumbent Cycle Con (RCC) in Los Angeles. A superb experience and a fun trip. Loved the light, ocean, and mountains. Too bad about all the driving, highways, and traffic. I’ve heard people wonder how New Yorkers get by without cars. But how do Angelenos get by with them? I felt I couldn’t easily get anywhere!

Out with the Cruzbike family on our semi-daily daybreak Death March and chat, complete with great views and glorious sunshine. Robert on left. Tom in yellow. Abram with hat. Maria in green. Jeff in blue. Photo copyr. 2013 R Matson

But RCC was a blast. I continue to believe that the best things about bikes (and trikes) are the people you meet as a result of being a cyclist, and the experiences you have with those people, whether it’s shooting the breeze with a fellow cyclist at a traffic light, or going on a group trip, or racing, or advocating for cyclists’ rights, or helping a fellow cyclist you find sidelined along the road, or attending a bike show, or any of those other experiences that result from being an engaged member of the world’s cycling community.

Robert demonstrates a brief track stand on a Mirage Nomad, a shaft-drive ‘bent.
Glad to have had the chance to ride it. Photo copyr. 2013 R Matson

As for the machines themselves, bikes are cool, some more than others, but they’re just bikes; they’re a means to an end, not the end-all and be-all. They’re a lever, a tool for amplifying what your mind and body want to do and could perhaps do anyway. Without the machine, you could have similar life experiences, you simply wouldn’t go as fast, or as far, or, maybe, get into as much trouble. So, the potentially coolest thing about a bike show, for me, is the people; next, it’s the experience I might have with them; thirdly, it’s seeing what people are thinking about and the problems they’re trying to solve with human powered equipment — the bikes/trikes/drivetrains/chains/headsets, etc. Maybe it’s because I’m less a gear-head and more a traveler, but what excites me about a great machine is not the engineering; it’s the experiences a machine could open up for me and, then, whether that machine will get me safely to the other side. I feel similarly when it comes to dealing bikes. First and foremost it’s about people and the experiences a 2- or 3-wheeled human powered tool make available to them, whether during the sales process, or years after when they’re pedaling through Arthur’s Pass (South Island, New Zealand).

At RCC, I met many people who, till now, I knew only by name, e-ml, phone or photo. People turned out to be pretty much as I anticipated: people I thought would be super, turned out to be super. I had wonderful conversations with the people from Cruzbike and HP Velotechnik and I’m going to continue what I’m doing with them. In their own segments they are the leaders for good reasons. Had good conversations with several others, too many to name. I met Catherine and Hubert van Ham of Radical Design, the recumbent pannier manufacturers, who didn’t have a booth but attended the show as visitors; really nice people. Azub, Greenspeed, Ice, and Hase remain impressive. I was also pleased to meet the other dealers in my “neighborhood.”

Trisled Rotovelo, brought in by Nanda Holz of SpinCyclz. Photo copyr. 2013 R Matson

Several discoveries in terms of bikes and trikes. Yes, lots of trikes were shown as manufacturers try and respond to the demand for T’s. The average number of wheels per bike over the entire show was, I don’t know, 2.9 or so; less cleverly, more clearly said: trike showings dominated though maybe not in terms of speed. A few manf’s. had prototypes of clever trikes, folding and otherwise, and it’ll be interesting to see what they present as production models. A few new bikes, some of which I may bring in. I won’t be too specific right now so as not to disappoint people. Also, again, when it comes to recommending machines to customers, I’m highly concerned about reliability and quality and, with new machines that lack a track record, can we be sure to get that?

Cruzbike Morning Death March, group photo. Photo copyr. 2013 R Matson

Cruzbikes won the “slow-riding” as well as the “turning radius” contests.  No surprise.  But also the jockey Abram (photo of Abram) was, I heard, a gymnast in the past, so it might have been more than just “about the bike.”

I realize readers of this blog might like to hear my analysis of what I saw and liked or otherwise, but since I’ll be making business decisions based on my ideas, I’ll keep them to myself.  Meanwhile, event organizer extraordinaire Charles (Chuck) Coyne of Recumbent and Tandem Rider Magazine was there, along with Chris Malloy and Travis Prebble of Recumbent Journal, and Bryan Ball of BentRider On-line, and I’m sure we can depend on them to write round-ups.

Recumbent Journal has kindly posted photos on Flickr, here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/recumbentjournal/sets/72157637250627184/with/10640849036/

Here are a few notes that I’ll share:

– Nanda Holz of Spin Cyclz (CA) imported a couple dozen of the Trisled Rotovelo and had one at the show.  Good ride and nice idea for an inexpensive velomobile.  Good enough in every way with one aspect I thought was non-ideal: the pedals rotate rather close to the pavement so I personally needed to adjust foot position to avoid heel strike.  I don’t believe I personally, could ride it with clipless pedals or toe clips; someone with small feet might be fine.  I pedaled near my instep with platform pedals, which is okay, but not my normal pedaling position.  I’d recommend using heel straps with it.  Lots of storage capacity inside.  Call me if you want one.

– HP Velotechnik was, as expected, extremely polished and professional and was possibly the busiest booth.  They had their usual top of the line bikes/trikes and the new dirt trike.  They showed their new electric/pedelec system which is, in several important ways, an improvement over the Bionix solution.  Call me if you want more info., etc.  (Robert: T: 646-233-1219.)

– Cruzbike was possibly the darling of the show and Maria Parker gave one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard at the industry dinner.  Entitled “Doing something hard,” it was ostensibly about her experience during RAAM, but was equally a TED-type talk about how to…do something incredibly hard.  For the bikes themselves, only a very few people seemed to have trouble “getting” the Cruzbikes.  I think we (the dealers) have gotten better at teaching people how to ride them.  For a limited time, there is a slight discount on the 20″ folding model.  Call me if you want more info., etc.  (Robert: T: 646-233-1219.)

– Prototypes of several new folding trikes and bikes were shown in addition to the usual suspects who have production models.  There’s a long way between prototype and production model, but it was exciting to see people working away at this challenge.  I’ll keep folding machines on hand and will increase what I carry if and when the new ones pass the various quality tests and go into production.

– The Mirage Nomad shaft drive prototype was there.  Nice idea and the ride quality is as good as similar designs.

– TerraCycle has a full length fabric fairing/sock.  They are again making their tailsocks but now they are also offering a full length sock that attaches with velcro to their front fairings.  So, if your bent can accept TC’s LARGE/FULL front fairing, and has the mounting points for the TC tail sock, you can inexpensively make a fully faired ride.  Head opening at the top and totally open on the bottom.  I’m a Terracycle dealer if you want more info., etc.

– Lightfoot showed several of their HUGE fat wheel bikes and their ATV-like Quad.  They use Surly Large Marge rims/tires.  Fun to ride.

Next Recumbent Cycle Con. slated for Sept. 27-28, 2014, in Chicago!

I arrived in Los Angeles and went straight to Manhattan Beach for a swim.
While there, I took a photo of this guy who looks a lot like me. Photo copyr. 2013 R Matson

Have fun and stay healthy,
Robert
————
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

2 comments on “Recumbent Cycle Convention [Conventional? Not.]

  1. Robert, what did you think of the Mirage Nomad? I just watched a video on youtube and it looks like a wicked, cool bike. Thoughts? I'm looking for a good bent and don't have any idea what to buy. A lot of the Finnish companies aren't doing much with their two wheelers. Lightning bikes has a few great products. Any thoughts? I think Mirage may be an awesome recumbent maker but I always like to wait for the 2nd or 3rd model to come out.

  2. I don't feel I can recommend one bike over another without knowing more about a specific riders intended usage and budget. What do you intend to do with the bike? Do you have any physical limitations? What's your budget? That sort of thing. A bike that's great for me might be overkill for someone else; or a bike that's great for high-speed club riding may be terrible for commuting, etc.