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Brakes/Tires on P-38 versions

I am ordering a P-38 with performance wheels and caliber brakes. Most of my riding has been fast group rides on my upright bike, which is why I chose this version. I rented a P-38 and rode it about 50 miles on roads I am familiar with, and really like it.

Does anyone have any opinion about whether the other version of the P-38 with V-brakes is better or worse? I hope to do some touring on the bike, and I noticed that the Voyager P-38 comes with the caliper brakes.

Hi again John,

My first P38 was a 1994 bike with DiaCompe single-pivot caliper brakes. I was not happy with them - they slowed the bike down some, but did not have enough stopping power for me. I think a good pair of modern dual pivot brakes would be much better than those antique DiaCompes though.

My concern is less about brakes than your choice of fork. Lightning offers the 20" rigid fork in two different versions: a unicrown racing version, and a lugged touring version. While the racing fork offers some weight savings over the touring fork, it limits you to skinny tires only (Schwalbe Durano, Continental Gran Prix, and the like) and no room for fenders. When you use the racing fork, a caliper brake is mounted on the back of the fork. The clearance between the skinny tire and the fork is extremely tight.

The touring fork gives you substantially more room for fatter tires and fenders, at the cost of a little more weight. You can still use skinny racing tires on this fork. I think when you order the touring fork, the default option is a V-brake in front. I don't think a caliper brake will work with this fork, though there is a mounting hole for one. The reach of the caliper would not be long enough.

A number of P-38 riders have ordered bikes with the unicrown racing fork and have experienced remorse regarding the choice. I think both Bob and Paul have written about this.

My personal preference is for the lugged touring fork and V-brakes, but you need to discuss this more with Tim Brummer before making your decision.

Safe riding,


Thanks for your reply. I am new to the recumbent world and value your advice. I am used to riding an upright road bike with 700cX23 tires. Is there a special reason why I would need fatter tires on a recumbent?

Hey John,

When you ride an upright road bike and come to an area of the road that is in poor repair, you can lift your butt up off the saddle and use your legs and arms as a sort of shock absorption system. When the road becomes smooth again, you can sit back down in the saddle.

This maneuver is not really workable on a recumbent bike. To some extent, you can avoid road shock on a Lightning bike by leaning forward in the seat and de-coupling your back from the seat. You lean back when the road gets smooth. But this recumbent "lean-forward" trick is not as effective as the butt-lifting technique used on upright bikes.

What to do? One approach is to only ride on nice, freshly-paved roads. Not a practical option for most of us. Another approach is to add front and rear suspension to the bike. This is expensive, adds weight, and involves more maintenance. On a bike with a full fairing like an F40, this is usually a good idea. On an unfaired bike, fatter tires can provide the extra margin of shock absorption needed by recumbent riders. A front tire like the Greenspeed Scorcher or the Schwalbe Kojak can be a better choice than a Conti Gran Prix for everyday riding. When the roads are nice and smooth, you can pump up the fatter tire to maximum pressure (or perhaps even more than max) and go very fast in comfort. When the roads are in bad shape, you can let some of the air out of the fatter tires for improved cushiness. As long as you do not go super low in pressure, you will probably not get pinch flats.

In my experience, the skinny racing tires are not as adaptable to different road conditions. Unless they are pumped up pretty hard, they tend to pinch flat.

I ride around Chicago and the suburbs, and the roads around here often are in rotten shape. This undoubtedly influences my tire choices.

It is also nice to have the option of putting fenders on your bike. Fenders will keep both you and the bike much cleaner when riding on wet streets.

One last idea: if you are ordering a new P-38, you might as well get it with the F40 fairing mounting stub brazed to the crankset boom, and a disc brake mount on the rear. These two options will only add a small amount of weight and cost to the bike, but will keep your future options open. You might not think riding fully faired is in your future. But a few years from now this idea might seem more attractive. Ditto the rear disc brake.

Just a thought.

Safe riding,


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