What flag for a Cruzbike Quest? Thicker seat padding?

What flag for a Cruzbike Quest?  Photo by Tom Page, "MadGeographer" More work here: https://www.flickr.com/people/73422480@N00
On Thursday, July 30, 2015, F— M—- wrote:

Do you have a recommendation for a flag for the Quest?  I am feeling more confident and would like to venture out on the road.

Also I find the padding of the seat is not the greatest.  Any suggestions?  I have made a pad out of an old Yoga mat which has helped greatly.

– FM


Hi F—,

Flag: I’m assuming you mean a safety flag and not, like, an American flag?

If you mean a safety flag, I personally don’t ride with a flag, so I can’t suggest a solution that I believe in.  And I rarely sell flags except to trike riders, where it seems there is more clearly a safety advantage.

If you mean a country flag, I suggest the stars and stripes, man!

My own approach, if I’m looking to be noticed on the road, instead of a flag I wear a high-viz lime green helmet (Bell and Lazer make models) and usually high-viz clothing — a shirt or a highway worker’s high-viz safety vest/jacket and/or a high-viz “Buff” neck gaiter.  (Check out these high-viz reflective buffs.)  For high-viz gear, here’s a link, though I don’t know these guys.


Seat padding.

It seems that different riders have different experiences with the seat padding on the Quest (and other recumbents).  For me, the standard padding is fine but I know others have wanted something firmer or thicker.

Yours is actually one of the better solutions I’ve heard because the yoga mat is probably closed-core foam rubber, which should be durable.  I’d maybe glue the old yoga mat together permanently and then cut it to shape, or search on-line for closed core foam sleeping pads that I could cut to shape.  Here’s a pad made by Alps Mountaineering.  Alps generally makes good stuff.  If I was to do it properly, I’d also buy some velcro and attach it to the seat.  I have one customer who likes using computer packing foam under the back of his seat.  There’s no “official” solution for this one from Cruzbike.


Recently, a customer sent me this helpful note regarding the seat foam:


Maybe helpful info concerning your blog entry:
“Cruzbike Quest: Flag? Seat Padding?”

On the Cruzbike forum at
“Silvio 2 seat”

There is a strong recommendation down near the bottom for Wondergel https://wondergel.com/ for about $100 – $130.

I added my 2 cents, $40 actually, for a wheelchair foam cushion, cut to fit, which works OK for me. Much better than the extreme torture, my experience anyway, of the standard Silvio seat cushion.

I got the wheelchair foam cushion from Robert Jacobson Surgical Pharmacy, across the street from Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, NY. A medical supply company like this has a wider selection than a regular pharmacy.

A Google search or Amazon search will show a lot to choose from too. I suppose that any one would do. There are a lot of gel cushions to avoid, because one needs to cut to a smaller diameter.
Jim L—


Have fun and stay healthy,



Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2015 Robert Matson

Cyclist settles for $70,000 after being hit by car.

I was chatting with a customer today and he told me about the time, several years ago, that he was hit by a car.  He was struck pretty badly and claims he wouldn’t be here today if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet.

I asked him if he broke anything.  He said, no, but he did lose a lot of skin.

I asked him if he hired a lawyer.  He said, yes.  I asked him how much he got.  He said $70,000 and the lawyer took thirty.

It reminded me of another time I heard a story, back when I worked in an office, but this time it sounded like the pedestrian was deliberately trying to get a payday.  All week, our team was working till the wee hours of the morning.  The previous night, one of my colleagues was taking a limo service from the office to his home.  On 42nd Street, at right about Grand Central, a homeless guy threw himself onto the limo’s hood while the car was moving.  We assumed it was to try and get a payout from the driver’s insurance company.  We were amazed.  Now I wonder if it doesn’t happen a lot more often.

I also wonder, now, if this doesn’t explain why so many of the stories I hear about cyclists being hit, involve a hit-and-run driver.

Watch out for cars,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2014 Robert Matson

Will improved helmet technology reduce cyclist injuries and deaths?

Can improved technology reduce cyclist injuries and deaths?

The Invisible Bicycle Helmet | Fredrik Gertten from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

Thanks to NYC Volae-rider Dan C. for forwarding this video to me.  The invisible airbag helmet is a nice idea.  Would it reduce cyclist deaths and or injuries?  Would it work for recumbent bike* riders?  Is it only comfortable for riders sitting in an upright “Dutch style” riding position?
[*I’m learning to write out the bulky phrase “recumbent bike” in order to enhance my search engine optimization.  Aren’t I good?]

I don’t have an opinion — “good” or “not” — though I agree it’s cool.  However, I prefer solutions that involve no technology and little expense for the rider, if possible.  Surely the invisible helmet airbag will be an expensive device, won’t it?

The solution is safer streets for everyone — cyclists, pedestrians and motorized vehicles — and these will result in fewer cyclist injuries and deaths.  I do not believe the solution is either greater helmet technology or helmet laws (not that the video gets into that).

While I don’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole of helmet safety for this blog entry, briefly, statistics show that the larger the number of cyclists, the fewer the number of cyclist deaths and that helmet laws discourage cycling.  Therefore, helmets (and helmet laws) appear to have the effect of increasing the number of cyclist deaths.

In 2005, Dr. Ian Walker of Bath University conducted research which suggests:

“Cyclists who wear protective helmets are more likely to be knocked down by passing vehicles, new research from Bath University suggests. The study found drivers tend to pass closer when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets than those who are bare-headed.” [from the BBC]

As it relates to the “invisible helmet” in this video, all this should mean the “invisible helmet” will provide an effective double buffer of safety for the cyclist.  Cars will give more space to the cyclist who is not (apparently) wearing a helmet and, if that cyclist is struck, the airbag helmet will give needed protection.  Fantastic.  But I can’t say I want to spend money on — or deal every time I ride — with that airbag helmet device.  I suppose plastic and foam helmets are funny looking, but they’re also pretty simple, even if they’re of limited effectiveness.

Here is more research about bicycle helmets.

The only effective and fair solution is for government to develop street infrastructure that encourages cycling, same as was done for cars.  This would include bikeways — bike lanes, greenways, separated bike paths — wider shoulders on roads, reduced and enforced speed limits for cars,

Have fun and look out for the damn cars,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

To the Mayor of Toronto from Taylor Flook.

To the Mayor of Toronto from Taylor Flook.  But this could have been written to many other mayors.

My Letter To Rob Ford
Taylor Flook

My Letter To Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto

Dear Mayor Ford,

As the mayor of this city, you are charged with the safety and concern of all its people, not just the ones you like or identify with. I am a cyclist who has suffered an accident because there was no bike lane for me to ride in. Right after the accident, good people got out of their cars and helped me to the side of the road and stayed with me while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. I was quite shaken up and these perfect strangers showed me a world of compassion. The police that appeared on the scene deemed that neither they, nor myself were at fault for the incident, but that a bike lane would have avoided the whole thing….

Read the rest of it here.

Ride and advocate for safer cycling,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

Fairing on a Cruzbike. No, for the front; yes, for the rear. But wouldn’t you rather have an aero helmet?

From a customer:

On Thu, September 12, 2013 10:10 am, James L______ wrote:
Robert and Maria
The ADEM headrest has been wonderful.
I am riding almost 100 miles a week to and from work
I want to go the next step and get a fairing to improve efficiency.
Any recommendations

Hi James,

Your weekly mileage is fantastic!  Great job!

Fairing on a Cruzbike.

Fairing: front

I advise NOT using a front fairing on a Cruzbike.  (Front fairings work better on traditional, non-Cruzbike recumbents and trikes.)

Although I’ve read a few posts and have seen one photo on-line of people using front fairings on their Cruzbikes, I believe a front fairing is dangerous on a Cruzbike for two reasons: 1) front fairings are heavy and that weight is likely to negatively effect steering; and 2) front fairing are sail-like and they catch wind from your back, therefore wind gusts will cause the front wheel to turn in unexpected ways on a Cruzbike.

I’d also mention that, generally speaking, small front fairings — which would impact steering less — give very little aerodynamic benefit (a customer and I once did a series of tests to measure it).  The main benefit of the small front fairing is to keep your feet warm during the winter.  (And they do this well.)

Large front fairings (like the one from HP Velotechnik) — which would impact steering more — help keep you drier in the rain and warm in the winter (and for this, they are GREAT), and will give more aerodynamic benefit than a small fairing, but I haven’t measured this.  At any rate, it’s hardly worth the downside (on a Cruzbike).

So, I don’t recommend a front fairing on a Cruzbike.  However, you may be able to find posts on the Cruzbike forums of riders using a front fairing on a CB with success.  Also, while there have been rumors that John Tolhurst, the Cruzbike designer, once toyed with designs for a front fairing, it hasn’t been introduced.

Instead of using a front fairing, I suggest you experiment with a steeper recline of the seat.  This will give a significant and comparatively safe aerodynamic advantage.

Fairing: rear

A REAR fairing (a.k.a., tail box, tail sock, etc.) gives significant aerodynamic advantage without as much effect on steering.  (My customer and I measured this as well.)  TerraCycle sells a “Tail Sok” but you’re on your own in terms of figuring out how to attach it to a Quest (or any other Cruzbike).  If you figure it out, please tell me, because I like the TC Tail Sok!

An inexpensive and practical alternative to the rear fairing is an aerodynamic bag on the seat back or rack, such as those from Radical Design or Ortlieb.  This doesn’t give as much benefit as a rear fairing, but I’ve measured a benefit.

The easiest and cheapest way to improve your aerodynamics is with a time trial aerodynamic helmet which you’ve bought on sale.

In a conversation, Maria Parker recommended using more aerodynamic clothing, such as a lycra race kit (a.k.a., roadie clothing, spandex, etc.).

I believe an aerodynamic wheelset helps a lot, but these can be expensive.

On that note, another inexpensive option is to look at the tires you’re using.  Schwalbe makes excellent race tires, that are also durable, and are available in 26″ sizes.  This isn’t to improve aerodynamics but to decrease rolling resistance.

If there’s a reader out there who has had a different experience, or would like to share a solution they have tested with great success, please post a note.

All best,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

Ticks. Thick with Ticks.

I just got back from a little two-day, one-night jaunt up to…let’s call it a “major wild area within a good day’s ride.”  My friend and I peddled, pushed and carried our bikes up an overgrown and flooded (therefore highly entertaining) woods road to a spot where we shouldn’t be, stashed our bikes and camping gear, and then spent a day hiking some beautiful unblazed terrain.

What a blast.  We had great weather, by which I mean sun, rain and fog.  And we had…great balls of tickage.  I’ve never seen so many ticks.  We picked maybe 30 off our clothes (that we saw) and three or four out of our bodies (those that we found, as of now) and discerned three different varieties including the infamous “crawling spec of dirt,” also known as the deer tick.

For Pete’s sake.  Talk about a dampener on your fun.  Give me rain or wind or mud, any day.  Hoping I don’t catch something from the little cesspools of disease.

Now I have to clean and sterilize all my clothes, camping gear and shoes and boots and panniers.  I’m wondering if I don’t have to pick over the bikes as well.  What a mess.  (But what good clean fun we otherwise had.)

I Recommend to others who plan to go out this year:
– Permethrin for treating your clothes.
– Deet

Learn more about ticks.  There may be ads on this page for tick resources and there are also some pages here, at the University of Rhode Island TickEncounter Resource Center.

Insect and tick-repelling clothing.

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

Check out the Clothing for Recumbent Riders

blue tie dye pants

Recumbent riders have somewhat specific needs for jerseys and shorts. For jerseys, it’s better to have pockets on the front than on the back, as they are on a traditional cycling jersey. For shorts, padding is unnecessary (though I find it blocks the wind on a cold day).

The following companies have good options for bent riders, though I don’t necessarily have experience with any of them other than Ice Breaker.  (And I’m not sure what I think of the spectacular tights.  Maybe I’ll get them for the Halloween ride.)

Aero Tech Designs. Some unpadded shorts. Slightly cheesy site, but try and look beyond that. Check out the tights!
Ibex. Merino wool sports clothing. Good stuff.
Ice Breaker. Merino wool technical clothing. Hard wearing. Highly recommended.
Regatta Sport. Unpadded shorts and tights for the non-cyclist look.

Reverse Gear. Specializes in recumbent clothes.


P.S. Today I was hit by a car. Bruised calf muscle but otherwise okay. More about that later. It’s been a rough four weeks!

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2011 Robert Matson

In case of accident…important information

Recumbent bikes are the ultimate long haul bike.  So comfortable, it barely matters how long you’re in the saddle.  For some of us, that means “yearnin’ for the open road.”  Even if it’s just for a weekend, for me, there’s simply nothing quite like living by bicycle for a while.

However, some trips are less than all roses.  Predictable challenges come in the way of steep hills, bad weather, rough roads, motor vehicles, and getting lost — all part of a good day’s riding.  However, there are also unpredictable challenges, the worst of which are illness and injury.  Drinking bad water or hitting the pavement can mark the end of a — up till then — great trip.
There are good habits a cyclist can adopt to avoid accidents.  New York Cycle Club recommends all riders read Bicycle Safe for advice on avoiding accidents with oil-powered vehicles.  There is no question; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
God forbid you’re in an accident, but I can’t think of any cyclists who haven’t hit the pavement at least once.  On trips, I try to live by the rule “prepare for the worst” so the worst doesn’t happen.  I also believe that thoughtful preparation helps us avoid accidents because it heightens our awareness to common dangers.  If only preparation could be prevention.  Most cyclists are protected by little other than skin, thin fabric, a helmet, and, if you’ve planned ahead, a few pieces of cycling armor.  Soft body, hard road; a bike accident is going to hurt.  (On long trips, besides a helmet, I wear padded shorts and elbow guards since these are common contact points in a recumbent fall.  Mine are from Six Six One and there are a few other manufacturers of bicycling body armor.)
Before I go any further, I will say that a responsible cyclist should obtain Wilderness First Aid (WFA) training.  This two-day class is offered by a few different schools.  Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities (SOLO) teaches the class in multiple locations several times a year.  A trip leader could benefit from Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training, also available from SOLO.  This course generally involves 70 – 80 hours of class work.
If you can’t wait for the next class from SOLO, look into the day-long class in basic first aid and CPR/AED offered by the American Red Cross.  You’ll learn principals like checking for scene safety, wearing gloves to protect yourself from the victim’s body substances, using direct pressure to stop bleeding, recognizing the onset of a heart attack, and other basic skills.  Although there’s a big difference between getting hurt in the office and getting hurt on the road, it would be a mistake to dismiss this training.  If all you learn is to wear gloves before touching an injured friend, it may not save your friend’s life, but it might save yours.
The information here is intended to help you prepare for a severe accident as a result of which, due to reduced consciousness, you are unable to provide vital information that would assist with your medical care.  These recommendations are based on information that Wilderness First Responders are trained to gather when they first make contact with a victim.
Some training, racing and touring organizations gather an emergency contact’s name and phone number and not much more.  I’d be concerned that it expects too much of a spouse, friend, mother, etc….that they will a) be available during the critical hours after an accident, b) be able to provide complete and correct information, and c) know what medications you take, your drug allergies and your medical history.
Before your next trip, record your vital medical information in a permanent, non-electronic form that you can carry with you.  Accidents are tough on things and are more likely to occur in wet weather than dry, so make sure the material is strong and waterproof.  I suggest using a Sharpie pen on Tyvek or strong tape.  Personally, since I’m fortunate to have a short medical history, I write my information on removable tape and attach it to the main tube of my bike.  There’s no guarantee a rescuer will see it there, I realize, but it’s better than doing nothing.  If you have serious and chronic conditions, like drug allergies or diabetes, this information should be on a wrist or ankle in the form of a bracelet or tattoo.  You might also consider writing medical information in your helmet, though there isn’t room to write very much.
If you want to keep your information private, write it on Tyvek, fold it, and tape it to your bike.  Clearly label it as medical information so it isn’t easily overlooked.
The following information will be highly useful to first responders.
Name, age, sex (Don’t assume it’s obvious.)
Allergies (especially drug allergies and those that can cause anaphylaxis like bee stings, peanuts, etc.)
Medications you take, including all over the counter, herbal remedies, health supplements, prescriptions and restricted substances.  Natural remedies and dope are considered medications for this purpose.  Include when you had your last dose and information about what happens if you do not take your meds.  On long trips, write down doses in a log book to make it easier to keep track.
Past medical history.  Be complete, be honest.  Include all serious injuries, surgeries and psychiatric conditions as well as chronic conditions.  It may be a good idea to include significant emotional conditions if you know they could interfere with care.  If you’re alert, medical providers will want to know your prior history as it relates to the specific injury or illness.  However, if we are making advance preparations in case of an accident, we need to cover all bases as we won’t know how or where we might get hurt.  This may require a bit of work the first time, but if done properly and in enduring form, it only needs to be done once.  After that, just update the list.
Last oral intake.  On a multi-day trip, I keep a simple log book with the date and time of significant meals, what I ate, and the itinerary and mileage for the day.  I don’t agonize over it to the point it ruins the trip.  The point here is that a little information is better than none.  From the perspective of providing medical care, it will be helpful to know if it’s been 24 hours since a patient ate, or only an hour, and whether it was an energy bar and water or a Big Mac and shake.  A side benefit of a food log is that it may help you see how nutritional intake affects performance.
Emergency contact name and phone.  There’s a reason I list this last.  For cynical reasons — identifying a dead body or inquiring if a victim has insurance — yes, this is important.  But for emergency care of a living patient, this decreases in importance if you provide the other information on this list.  It’s more urgent for ER doctors to know if you have drug allergies than the name and number of your spouse.
On long trips, I keep an itinerary or log (paper-based).  This should include point of departure, way points and planned finish.  This isn’t to prevent spur of the moment changes in plan, a.k.a., “fun”.  It provides a basic framework so rescuers know what you’re up to.  It will be helpful to know if you’re traveling ultra-light 500 miles from home, or just out for a day ride in the hills.  For multi-day trips, worthwhile information would include waypoints, mileage, anything notable that happens, nutritional intake, when you take meds, injuries, illnesses, and mechanical problems.  As a bonus, at the end of the trip, this will be a nice little trip diary.  “5am woke up.  Cold.  Lips chapped.  BK: oatmeal w/ protein powder, hot choc.  Tightened seat bolts.  Got water.  I’m out.  Plattsburgh tonight — apx. 75 miles.”
Please feel free to write if you have questions about any of this or believe I’ve missed something.
Robert Matson
copyright 2011 Robert Matson

Darn it. That’s why I ride a bent.

Darn it.

Yesterday I fell.  Thankfully it was in a bike lane and not in the middle of Second Ave.  But I think I broke a bone in my shoulder.  Maybe the scapula (shoulder bone), maybe that and a bit more.  Tomorrow I’m going to reassess it and (maybe*) go to the doctor. (*As in, “maybe I won’t be a fool, and actually go see the doctor two days after the accident.”)

It happened in a predictable way.

As one does, I was riding fast in the Second Ave. bike lane in the East Village.  Cutting with confidence through the slush and snow and over the ice.  Thought I was the boss, didn’t I?  Feeling sure of my gear — specifically my fat carbide steel studded tiresas one does, before being reminded of how soft one really is…compared to asphalt.  Hit a patch of frozen slush which then lost cohesion.  And suddenly I was flying through the air, with the greatest of ease, down to the street, shoulder first.  Arm, hip, and leg impact next.

That should tell you something: I wasn’t riding a bent.  And it should tell you something else: no matter how good your tires — and I still love my Schwalbe Marathon Winters — they only grip as well as the substance they’re gripping to.  Ice, hey that’s great.  But semi-frozen slush?  Look out.

Now, had I been riding a bent, I would have hit the pavement ass first, and from only two feet off the ground.  Instead, I was riding my beater diamond frame, an awesome Surly Cross Check as I usually do during the messy months, and so my shoulder  had a good six feet to travel down to the streetscape.  Of course, it was exactly as I always tell people; on a DF, it’s usually the upper body that leads in a fall; on a bent, it’s the feet and ass.  You’re better off leading with your feet and ass.

Well, I got up and kept going.  And continued my day.  Saw friends.  Attended a discussion about the nature of reality (you don’t miss this kind of thing when it’s moderated by Deepak Chopra).  Had coffee.  Attended the Downtown Meditation Community’s potluck.  And rode another 15 miles or so on slippery streets.  As a real man (a.k.a. idiot) does.  I still had full rotation of my arm and wrist, didn’t hit my head, nothing obviously broken.  I could support my upper body on the handlebars w/o problem.  But all the while well aware: the body and mind can mask injuries initially (as it’s supposed to do).

Thank God I didn’t tear the merino.  (That’s really amazing stuff.)  And thankfully my 800-fill down sweater was safely stowed in my rear basket.  That would have been a mess.

But today, darn it, the shoulder pain has increased, as it might for a broken scapula.

Friggn-A.  Like I needed a reminder.  If you’re going to fall on a bike — and everyone falls sooner or later — it’s better to fall from a bent, than a diamond frame.  Better to fall towards your legs and ass then towards your head and shoulders.

Go ride a bent.

Update: saw the MD, got X-rays. Nothing broken!  Just bone bruises.  As for tendon or ligament damage, I’m still waiting.  Maybe, just maybe I haven’t blown my swimming season.

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2011 Robert Matson

Slipping on gravel and for when you do.

This will be short.


Use the fattest tires possible. In turns, instead of leaning the bike into the turn, lean your head and upper body as much as possible to provide the counterbalance, as you’d do on a trike, and keep the bike as near vertical as possible. Avoid pebbles like the plague. If it looks like you are going to be forced to turn on gravel, you may safely assume you are going to fall. Brake hard and dramatically reduce your speed to a crawl before you reach the gravel patch.  This is your only hope for avoiding a fall, but even then….

For protection, since frequent riders may find a gravel skid nearly inevitable, wear body armor such as that used by mountain bikers.  A friend of mine (Neile, Ti-Aero rider and a New York Cycle Club ride leader) wears Six-Six-One armored shorts and roller blade-style elbow pads.  I now own some too.  Why not.  I’d consider some mountain bike body armor with shoulder pads, too.

Lots of MTB armor here, but I don’t know much about the shop.

If and when you lose skin from a skidding fall, take the injury seriously.  There is no such thing as “mere road rash.”  Anytime you lose skin — one of your body’s main defenses against infection — and dirt (pebbles, gravel, etc.) gets into the wound, you are at substantial risk of infection, which, if inadequately treated, can lead to death.  No joke.  Immediately scrub the entire road rash wound thoroughly with a medical sponge (or clean gauze pads) and soapy water.  The scrubbing will hurt, but you must clean out every speck of dirt, leaving a clean wound that can heal properly.  Dress the wound with clean bandages to prevent further infection.  If the wound is large, immediately see a doctor.  If you’re treating someone else, isolate yourself from their bodily substances (like blood) before touching them.

Those are the basics, but they are not the whole story.  You must get training before you give first aid.  I strongly recommend taking one of the Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder courses offered by SOLO before another day goes by.


Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2010 Robert Matson