Smoothing out those #%&! rough roads.

Between my place and Prospect Park, there is currently 400 meters of construction that will eventually result in a beautiful separated bike lane. This project was unfunded for some 20 years, till now, and has included laying new pipes, and piloting around a construction robot doing I don’t know what, and generally digging up a road that used to be fairly smooth by New York City standards.  As it is now, with the temporary patch jobs they do each time they finish a parcel of work, it’s the roughest #%&! road you can imagine.  Take a washboard road, add 50 speed bumps of all sizes and shapes, intersperse each speed bump with a pothole or two, throw on some gravel and rocks, and put it on an incline, and you’ve very nearly got this road (at this time).

Needless to say, I avoid it when I can, but it’s the shortest route to The Park.  A bad road is unpleasant on a standard frame bike, but with an SF, you can post (raise yourself off the seat).  On a bent, you can’t.  So, every few days, I’m reminded of what I like about fully-suspended recumbents or — if I’m riding an unsuspended bent — what I might have done to make this stretch more comfy.

Here are a few tips for smoothing out your own local worst road.

1. Full-suspension.  If you’re shopping anew, consider full-suspension recumbent bikes or trikes.  If you know you’ll be on bad roads, there’s no replacing the safety and comfort of keeping all wheels — whether two or three — in contact with the road at all times.
2. Steel is real.  Favor steel recumbents over (non-suspended) aluminum bents. While a steel frame can’t absorb potholes, it does have a marvelous capacity to absorb road vibration and this goes a long way towards improving control on bad roads.
3. Fat tires, baby.  Speaking personally, 1.5″-wide tires are my minimum for city tires and I like them at low pressure.  My favorite?  Schwalbe Big Apples. These are “balloon” tires.  They’re relatively light, flat resistant, grippy, have low rolling resistance, can run as low as 35 psi, and provide “built in” shock absorption.
4. Big tires, baby. 26″ wheels roll over the rough stuff better than 20″ wheels.  I realize that means we’re talking about high-racers and there are reasons why high racers are sub-optimal in the city, but there’s no getting around the benefit of big wheels.  If you decide to look at this solution, check out a Cruzbike Sofrider or Cruzbike Quest: big wheels without the typical high-racer’s seat slope.
5. Sling mesh seats.  While I love hard-shell seats for climbing hills, a sling mesh seat is comfort factorial on bad roads.

Would I put it all together?  Say, a fully-suspended HP Velotechnik Street Machine Gte or Scorpion fs, with Big Apple tires and an Ergo Mesh seat?  Or a dual-suspension Cruzbike Sofrider with 26×2.15″ Big Apples?  Yeah, I’d consider it.  At some point it may become overkill, but I’m not sure we’ve yet reached that point.

Stay healthy,
Robert
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Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2012 Robert Matson