For the past week I’ve been riding the Brompton recumbent around town and a couple of shortish (10-15 miles) rides out into the country.
Now I have the bike working well on the road here are some reflections on what it’s like to ride, and how I might use it after the excitement of racing it in the Brompton World Championships next Sunday.
My initial experience with the bike when I first had it in 2012 was quite difficult, but there were some tricky problems combining the Brecki kit (Juliane Neuss refers to it as a ‘Brecki’ so I should follow suit) with my Mountain Drive and the whole thing never worked that well. The bike is now quite different, with a simple single chain drive, and it all works pretty smoothly.
As a result I’ve been able to ride it every day and feel a lot more comfortable and confident. It’s OK at very low speed on the level in traffic and much better than I expected on uphills. Once I got over my upright rider’s tendency to pull on the handlebars and pushed back into the seat instead I can usually get out of any problems that require more power although starting off on slight uphills is tricky if I’m in the Mountain Drive higher ratio. (Low ratio can leave me spinning wildly half way across a junction).
Pleasures are seat comfort, and a definite improvement in level or downhill speed. The slightest downhill really causes me to accelerate and I can cruise at 20mph plus on slight downhills without pedalling. If I can hit an uphill at a good speed I find I can maintain a good pace for a long way up the incline although if I am forced to slow down it soon becomes a plod.
On our very poor urban road surfaces in Sheffield avoiding potholes becomes an absolute priority as the Brecki is very unforgiving, each rut or pothole gives me a punch up the backside, and at speed I am always worried about stability going over potholes, more than on the upright which feels more stable. The city is doing a major road surfacing project and when you hit one of the new sections of smooth tarmac it’s suddenly all pleasure.
I noticed some flexing of the boom while going uphill in the lower ratios on the Mountain Drive the other day but it turned out to be the hinge clamps on the frame and boom had worked a little loose. The bike hadn’t been folded for a week or more and I’ll need to check the clamps regularly if I’m not unfolding it.
I’ve thought quite a lot about whether I could make the bike civilised enough for touring. It needs a breathing seat pad like a Ventisit pad, which you can get tailor made and I’m looking at underseat steering which is quite possible and would reduce weight. There’s some weight to lose on the seat support beam too. Transmission is still a bit of a question. The Mountain Drive gives me the range of gears but I’ve been tending not to use the derailleur on the lower ratios as they clash horribly with the very high chain tensions involved, so it’s 3 widely spaces low ratios and 6 closer high ones. I’ve just been fiddling with the adjustment on the derailleur and it’s working better, so maybe it just needs some TLC.
In the end the ride will always be against it, even if I can get some more shock absorption and maybe some kind of steering stabiliser or a new fork with more trail. Luggage capacity is also a big question. And the brakes are just not up to those high downhill speeds. The bike just wants to go faster than feels safe so you have to use a drag brake most of the time.
But it’s given me a good taste of riding a recumbent and I’m tempted by a HP Velotechnik Grasshopper, which seems to be the second most foldable recumbent after the Brecki and a serious touring bike.
BUT…I am wondering about that tour of British Bromptons which makes an epic ride across some great parts of England and Wales. What better bike to do it on?