Recumbent Cycle Convention: brief notes

The most important note first:

Creating safe roads for cyclists is as important as building and selling bikes.
The town of St. Charles and the surrounding area — where the show was held — has wonderful bike trails and paths and I was able to enjoy them with the Cruzbike team on the morning of the second day of the show.
But I didn’t see any bicycle advocacy organizations represented at the show.  It is vital that each of us, as cyclists and industry workers, are involved in advocacy.  We each play an important role in expanding opportunities to bicycle safely in the USA.  We can’t simply be bike lane users.  We must also be bike lane builders.
Here’s something you can do, starting today.  It’s fun and you’ll meet people who may become lifelong friends.  Dedicate just 4 hours per month — 48 hours in the year — volunteering for your local bicycle advocacy organization or otherwise engaged in bicycle advocacy.  That small amount of time will help save lives — not to mention the planet.  It will help save the life of somebody with a name, and a mom and dad.  That “somebody” might be you or someone close to you.  Toss this aside and you’re tossing aside someone’s life.

If you don’t have a local bicycle advocacy organization, then join Bikes Belong, a.k.a., PeopleForBikes and give them the equivalent of 48 hours/year of your income.  Want to do more?  Run for your local community board or city council.

Thank you to Charles Coyne, Coyne Publishing and the RCC Team for producing this show.
Visit them here
Charles Coyne and his crew do an amazing job of producing RCC.  It’s is incredible that they are able to do so much.  All the workers were friendly and professional.  The show was well-organized and well-attended.  He had nearly all the top manufacturers there.  Also, on the above note of advocacy, Charles and his group are a great example of people working hard to promote bicycling with no eye — as far as I can tell — to personal gain.  If anything, it seems to me he’s putting himself at significant financial risk to put on this show.  Thank you, Charles and team.
The new Silvio and Vendettas are very impressive on many fronts – performance, adjustability, weight, features, capacity to work with wide range of drivetrains.   Both bikes share many of the same qualities.   I rode both and put in about 20 mi. on the Vendetta during the Cruzbike morning ride.  Both models are better than ever and they’ve shaved 16 oz. off both frames, in part by making the new seat in full carbon fiber.  I initially wondered if I’d like the new front boom and drive-triangle, shared by the V and S, but it’s excellent: stiff, highly adjustable, light, clean appearance.  The new Vendetta’s paint is a metallic red.  The white Silvio looks good too.  All in all, the new designs are winners.There’s a very interesting spec effecting drivetrain options, but it’s not published so I don’t want to spill the beans in case something changes.  In short, it’s great news and it looks like there’ll be more versatility than in the past.

The Cruzbike booth was popular and, often, nearly all the bikes were out on the test track.  I’ve already sold several Silvios so I anticipate the current run to sell out, maybe by end of winter.  Go and get yours now.

HP Velotechnik
Nothing but top marks for HP Velotechnik.  New Gekko fx 26 is perfect.  The new Scorpion “Plus,” perfect.  The new “adaptive” pedals and accessories are easy to use and well-made.  The new seats, fine.
I’m at a loss for words when writing about the brand and the models, because there’s nothing more to say.  They are the gold standard.  There are no surprises.  They simply continue to prove they are probably the most professional and reliable recumbent manufacturer in the market.
HP Velot. was one of the most popular booths at the show.  No surprise there either.Hase

They’re continuing their tradition of being one of the foremost manufacturers of adaptive cycles.  They are clearly entirely dedicated to producing the highest quality machines.  Again, I don’t know what to say: they’re great.  They too had one of the most popular booths at the show.
Patterson Transmission (from FSA)
Superb new internal gear system to replace front chain rings and rear wheel 3-speed hub gears.  Inexpensive, quiet, works well.  Only time will tell how durable it is over thousands of miles, but I liked what I saw and may well install one on one of my own bikes over the winter to use and abuse it. Rider On-line

Also one of the most popular booths at the show.  Bryan Ball seemed to be in high spirits and told me they sold out of their merchandise by the afternoon of the first “public” day of the show.
Go build a bike lane,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2014 Robert Matson

“Granny Gear” banned from shop as sexist terminology.

Here at New York City Recumbent Supply we have officially banned the phrase “granny gear” to describe that single easiest, hill-climbing gear on a bicycle.  It’s sexist terminology and has no place in this shop.  Also, I’m among many recumbent cyclists who frequently find themselves using that gear on steep hills; so what does that make me?  Yes, a granny.

So, from now on, that single easiest, hill-climbing gear on a bike shall be known as the “mountain gear.”  That makes me, and everyone else who uses that lowest gear, a mountaineer.  And I like that better.

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


Does a long chain get dirtier than a short chain?

A diamond frame rider named Joel posted the following message on Peter White’s Google Bicycle Lifestyle forum:
>> I have always been curious about the long chain on most recumbants.
>> To this decidedly-not-an-engineer that seems a possible source of
>> maintenance issues.
>> Are any recumbant designers experimenting with the drive shafts that >> have been popping up on bikes of late? Is this even an issue?
(Photo: Timo Sairi’s shaft drive prototype recumbent — with smile.
The following was my reply on the forum:
First of all, please understand that, like diamond frame (DF) bikes, recumbent models vary in quality and have a wide variety of designs. Some of the manufacturers’ engineers have addressed the problems mentioned, and some have not.
First of all: ‘bent designs
There are two basic ‘bent designs: long wheelbase and short wheelbase. I only work with short wheelbase ‘bents since a) they are the best adapted to the widest range of uses and b) the manufacturers I choose to work with only make short wheelbase models and c) I like them better.
Chain wear:
My belief is that chain metal experiences wear when it moves and hinges to pass over cogs, and no additional wear as it moves through the air. ‘Bents use identical gearing systems to uprights, with identical cogs and pulleys except that many ‘bents also use one or two guide wheels — called idlers — to maintain chainline and tension. It seems that, overall, long chains wear slightly slower than short chains since any given link is passing over a cog fewer times over a 100 meters of travel distance.
Accumulation of chain dirt:
It seems to me that dirt is introduced onto a chain from the bike’s own tires, from other nearby vehicles and from the wind. It is logical to believe there is a saturation point for dirt on any given link on any given chain; once a chain link is covered with dirt, no more dirt will accumulate.
Naturally, a 2 meter chain saturated with dirt will be hold more weight in dirt over it’s length than a 1 meter chain saturated with dirt. However, I would anticipate that each dirt-saturated chain link is saturated with the same amount of dirt.
Chain care:
It’s the same on ‘bents and DFs. A 2 meter chain will have more dirt over its length than the one meter chain; so a two-rag cleaning job on a ‘bent will be (roughly) a one-rag job on a DF.
Protecting the chain from dirt and your pant legs from the dirty chain:
The most common way to protect the chain from dirt, as on DFs, is with fenders. Everyone knows about those.
Specific to ‘bents, the next most common chain protection is the chain tube, best implemented by HP Velotechnik (HPV). HPV’s chain tube is intended to protect the rider’s legs from chain dirt, to slow down the accumulation of dirt on the chain, and to help prevent chain dirt from getting on the clothes of fellow passengers when you take the bike on a train (or ferry, etc.). This photo from the HPV website shows the chaintubes.
Dutch manufacturer Flevobike, with their Green Machine ‘bent, follows the Dutch tradition of attempting to design a low- or no-maintenance bike. They fully enclose the chain. It’s an intriguing solution since they seem to be using the chain-protecting case as a structural element. But it’s also about 50% more costly than a similarly specced HPV. The metal chain cover appears almost certainly to be structural, efficiently serving a dual-role.
If the bike is not an HPV, I prefer to fit it with fenders, at minimum. With the HPVs, the chain tubes come standard.
Alternatives to Chains:
Shaft drive:
Timo Sairi (, a Finnish architect has designed a shaft-drive ‘bent, not yet in production. One can see it here. We do not think the rider is Mr. Sairi.
More info.
Gates carbon:
While the most promising cost-effective solution would be Gates Carbon Belt Drives, there are numerous design challenges involved in having a long belt drive. At Interbike 09, Gates belts were shown as tandem timing chains, so we are hopeful to see them on a bent some day.
Imagination Drive:
An entirely maintenance-free and weightless solution that is available everywhere for free.

All best,

Robert Matson
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Instead of clips or clipless pedals: Notes from Interbike 2009

Instead of clip less pedals — this just in.

I’ve long questioned the full value of clipless pedals, not to mention toe clips. After reading a compelling article in the “Early 2009” issue of the Rivendell Reader (#RR 41), a compelling case is made for ignoring clip systems entirely. And so I began experimenting with using better platform pedals and riding in ordinary shoes. The article’s writer claimed to know of people wearing Crocs on cross-country tours, and so I began trying that too, wearing my bright green crocks and wool hiking socks out and about. How chique. Not. Nevertheless, I think we’re on to something here and have been watching for “better” pedal systems, whether or not they include some sort of cleat or clip.

The other day, after returning from Interbike 2009, I posted the following note to Yahoo’s RANS recumbent rider newsgroup. Recently, a friend and customer — Dan, yellow V-Rex — broke his leg when his shoe cleat refused to release from his clipless pedal. So, both for my own reasons, as well as having his injuries on my mind, I was intrigued by one pedal system I saw there, designed for BMX riders. My note follows.


I just got back from Interbike about an hour ago (2am now here in NYC). Vis a vis pedals, I saw something there that could be great for ‘bent riders and directly addresses Dan’s questions [regarding other pedal systems that people are using].

For two reasons — both my own questions about whether clipless systems are optimal for ‘bents and also knowing about your injury — I have been on the lookout for better pedal systems. Like others, I have had close calls with clipless pedals using metal cleats in the shoes. (Brief note here: be very wary of worn out cleats and pedal clamps that have gone out of adjustment.)

At Interbike, I came across a small enterprise with a product that could be good for recumbents. They appear to have been designed for BMX racing, which is interesting because it seems that BMXers have to be able to get their feet on and off the pedals a lot.

Look up: Proton Magnetic Pedal Locks

The magnetic pedal locks work by using a magnet on the pedal, and then a steel plate on your shoe, where the cleat would normally be. This lets you release far more easily, and I can see no reason why there would ever be a clip-out problem.

Furthermore, this addresses a concern I have with recumbent riders who tend to “pull up” hard on the pedal, to counter the push of the other foot, instead of mainly/only “pushing.” I suspect this “pulling” can lead to knee injury. I find myself sometimes doing this when trying to crank up a hill w/o having a low enough gear. (Our knees seem to have evolved to be better adapted to pushing down against the ground rather than pulling up.)

With Proton’s pedal locks, the magnets firmly hold ones shoes against the pedal so your feet won’t slide off. It’s a pretty interesting idea, easily applied to bents, and I think it could work well.

Other side note, for bents, I have good experience with Keo brand, though they are not walkable. My jury is still out on Speed Play. I seem to keep returning to GOOD — not bad — platform pedals and right now am happily using a pair of big grippy MKS Touring/Cyclocross platform pedals that are so good that I haven’t missed cleats. I have also recently bought a set of Power Grips to test, for which I have high hopes, but haven’t had a chance to try them.

[Addition, Sept. 2010]
Over the past year, I’ve kept the Power Grips on my “beater bent.”  I’ve ridden regularly with them and have done some rather hilly routes.  In summary, they’re good enough.  I don’t feel I get a lot of power in the “pull” direction, but I may get a little.  Best thing is they hold my feet firmly to the pedals and so I believe I get a little more power on the “sides” of the pedal stroke.  A downside seems to be that I get a little knee pain on extremely long rides due to the need to constantly, slightly, twist one’s legs to keep one’s feet “gripped.”  But what I particularly like is that they fit any shoe, so they’re good for riding with boots in cold weather.  I use them with the MKS Touring pedals mentioned above and I’m pleased with the combination.

I hope this proves helpful to folks.

— [Dec. 10, 2009 update] —
A customer recently e-mailed me about the Proton pedals to see if I had more up to date information. We exchanged notes and he sent me a link (below) to a review.

The reviewer is rather luke warm on the pedals. At any rate, personally, since writing the entry here, I’ve been preferring instead to use high quality platform pedals for my urban stop/go/slow riding. It may remain a pretty good basic solution.

—end update—

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