Pressespiegel - Cycling Today, May 1999 (1. Teil)
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Recumbents: In at the deep end
This month, CT's intrepid Frank Deayton overcame his
prejudices and took to the streets of London on a recumbent. Abandon all ye who
People notice you on a recumbent. Which for a novice is a blessing since you sit
two feet lower than on a conventional bike and one of your biggest fears is of
being crushed by an unsighted bus. The downside, unless you have an ego the size
of Chris Evans, is that it's not just traffic that notices YOU, pedestrians gawp
too. So, you have to be comfortable being on the receiving end of the kind of
attention given to a clown peddling an armchair up the high street on a rag week
So they notice you but what are they thinking? About half an hour into my first
ride a drunk on a cycle path almost stubbed his cigarette out on my head. It was
unintentional but even if deliberate not completely unexpected. When they're not
registering astonishment people have a bit of a problem with recumbents.
Introduce the topic into the conversation next time you're with your cycling
mates. (Ridicule and vitriol is what you get). Very few will have tried them of
course but so what, the gut reaction is likely to be antagonistic.
I confess to some personal empathy with the drunken fag stubber. It revolves
around the question 'why?' Why not just ride a bike like the rest of us? Why
draw attention to yourself, and by association heap yet more public ridicule on
the cycling community in general? Why not just go away and stop being a complete
prong. And the machines themelves are aesthetically challenging to say the
least. Somehow they look unfinished, all that flapping chain, odd sized wheels
and ugly fat tubes. Bunch of contraptions for weirdy beardies. Ashtrays for
So with such an open mind I went to collect my recumbent and confront a few ugly
It didn't go well from the start, there was some early humiliation as I snagged
my trousers on the bars because I didn't reverse in to the seat correctly. Then
because the front wheel was underneath rather than clearly visible ahead I
panicked every time I started, lost direction, had to dab with both feet and
rolled down the street like an inverted beetle. It's like learning to ride all
over again only without stabilisers and a handy dad to hold you upright.
All this is made worse by the fact that you can already ride a bike perfectly
well, just not this one. I was nervous, tense, fuming and all over the pace.
By the time I'd failed to get round the block four times without losing it on
two out of four corners it was dark and I couldn't face the rush hour. I dealt
with defeat manfully - I decided to retreat and regroup although unkind
observers might have interpreted this as sulking and walking off.
Wounds licked, the next day I was under supervised instruction and perhaps
crucially started off on a semi recumbent, compact, long wheelbase Bike E. The
position is similar to driving a car with the handlebars where the steering
wheel would be and a more elevated although definitely recumbish position.
After 10 minutes on this I switched to my nemesis from the night before, the
Street Machine. This is a short wheelbase, fully recumbent machine with under
seat steering. The cranks poke out front and the small front wheel lies roughly
under your knees. This time I had lift off, no uncontrollable wobbles or corner
dabs. It was time to put on the face paint, large floppy shoes and head out into
For the most part the novelty value keeps other motorists at bay, I've never
been given such wide berths by taxis before. Then again there are plenty of
arseholes who take the machine's weirdness as an attack on their masculinity and
seem willing to drive up the pavement if that's what it takes to reduce you to
a diminishing dot in their rear view mirror.
You can't weave through gaps like an eel but one person's weaving is another's
suicide mission. Skilled handlers can still get through reasonable holes but if
progress is impossible, recumbents comfortably occupy an entire car's space.
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