A main focus at this phase is getting the right bike for the mission. I got my inspiration from my role model, Les CycloMigrateurs, two French cyclists who have been touring the world for 5 years on recumbent bikes. There’s no question that the recumbent is the smart choice. Unless you like achy shoulders and neck, neuropathy in your hands, not to mention crotch and butt issues; recumbents are the right choice. Also, in many cases, they are faster, by virtue of better aerodynamics.
For selecting the right components and building the bike, I turned to my good friend, Dana Lieberman, owner of Bent Up Cycles in North Hollywood, California. He specializes in recumbent bikes and trikes.
Months ago, I called Dana to discuss the project. Most important for me was reliability and serviceability in places where bike shops might be scarce and primitive. It also should be a recumbent, of course. Dana recommended HP Velotechnik StreetMachine GTE, with a Rohloff Hub. It has cable disc brakes and full suspension. It has 47 mm Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires which rarely get punctures. The design has a long history amongst touring cyclists. I was not surprised to learn that Dana has demonstrated HPV trikes and bikes for other touring cyclists. For instance, Matt Galat, has been touring and blogging for years test rode his first HPV trike at Bent Up Cycles. Also not a surprise to find the solution Dana found was quite similar to the ones used by Les CycloMigrateurs.
Dana has built many bikes for me over the years, as he was my go to sponsor in my bike racing years. He knows me, and makes good decisions. The less I get involved with selection of individual components, the better the bike turns out. On this bike we only had one disagreement. I thought it needed a flag.
Dana cuts the molding features from a carbon fiber seat.
Bent Up Cycles is more than just a bike shop. Dana has acquired at least two bike manufacturers and advanced the designs of both the Carbent and the Barcroft. The Carbent Raven is the lightest recumbent frame on the market. It is remarkably stiff. I have set a solo RAAM course record with this bike.
We agreed, that I would arrive on Wednesday, July 10 to get fitted and test ride it. Sure enough, it was done when I arrived, in spite of a scramble to accommodate a last minute change to a smaller chainring. We went out for a 20 mile ride with some hill climbs and descents. The seat and boom were adjusted. Mission accomplished, or so Dana thought.
I set up the schedule so that I could have two days to fuss over the bike. Dana didn’t know this until after my arrival. I took up a large space in his showroom for both days, swapping out equipment and wiring up the dynamo the way I liked. Dana’s customers had to step over it occasionally. JV, the shop mechanic jokingly referred to this space as the debris field. I slept at Dana’s house on the first night. The second night I slept on the floor next to the bike, like a new puppy on its first night away from its mother. We needed to bond.
Let it be known that I did feel guilty about abusing Dana’s good nature and hospitality. However, Dana never once said anything about it. He was always very supportive. He even drove me to the hardware store so that he could buy a better soldering iron, late on the second day. He even donated the flag.
Next Steps: Eugene Oregon and beyond
I caught the Coast Starlight Amtrak train to Eugene Oregon. This 24 hour train trip gave me some time to write up this blog.
One I get to Eugene, I will take a 5 day class in self contained bike touring. I hope to use this new knowledge while cycling home to San Francisco.
I plan to get back to SF on August 4. There I will meet up with two Belgians that are also finishing up their travels down the coast from Seattle. Together we will spend a few days kicking back at my place, then we all get on the same plane bound for Amsterdam. I will visit with Sam and Wouter, then bike to Paris to meet up with Michelle Santilhano.
Near Paris, we will see the start of PBP, then tour France for a week or so. I am hoping to arrange a rendezvous with the CycloMigrateurs in Fougierres, a city where bikes and crepes join forces to form a rich tradition.