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Back in the sling again

Well after several years without a lightning P-38, I am riding another. I came across a low mileage fairley new P-38 in nice condition. After receiving the bike which arrived unharmed from its' shipping journey, I removed several parts which I planned to upgrade. Out went the Octalink BB and cranks and in with the tried and proven Shimano Tiagra triple crankset FC-4403 (NOS) and a UN-55 sealed JIS square taper bottom bracket. Next, I added sealed bearing pullies to the LX long cage rear derailluer. Then I upgraded the idlers to TerraCycle Sport kit. New chain rounded off the drivetrain upgrades. New Schwalbe Durano tires were installed after Velocity Veloplugs were installed along with high pressure rim band to ensure no pressure fluctuations. New cork tape was installed and brakes, derailluers, and fit were all adjusted just right. Maiden voyage was quiet, fast and fun. Must say, big difference from my TourEasy which feels more solid and heavy. It is like driving a classic Porsche compared to a modern Porsche. Both great but different.

Like you, I have both bikes. My wife mostly rides the Easy Racer Tour Easy, but I hop on it now and then. Usually I ride my Lightning bikes. When I have a long wheelbase urge, I have a Rotator Pursuit to satisfy that craving.

Sadly, Rotator Recumbents is history. Though used Rotator bikes can be found if you are diligent.

I think the Lightning and Easy Racers are the best bikes in their respective classes, and their longevity in the marketplace indicates that a chunk of cyclists are having their needs met by these two very different styles of recumbent.

The Easy Racer bike has a smoother ride, all things like tires and pressures being held equal. Some of this is due to the fat cushion under your butt, but mostly it is due to the much longer wheelbase. All that extra frame tubing just soaks up the bumps better. Since the vast majority of recumbent riders are in it for comfort, the extra cushiness of the long bike is a major benefit.

The Easy Racer bike has much more relaxed handling than the Lightning. A tiny touch on the Lightning handlebars yields a big change in direction. The Easy Racer bars are much more forgiving of small movements. This means you can go off into La La land to a greater degree when riding the Easy, and sometimes this is nice. When riding a Lightning, you need to stay sharp or you may find yourself getting into trouble. Weight distribution on the Lightning is much better. The long recumbents are biased towards the rear in weight, and this can cause poor traction in front on wet or sandy surfaces. Sometimes the much greater agility / nimbleness of the Lightning bike is more fun. Other times I prefer to veg out with a long bike and go into a meditative state. I think the contrasting handling quality of the two bikes is the most salient difference between them. That together with the different seats.

For new recumbent riders, or people who are somewhat balance challenged, the Easy Racer style recumbent is clearly easier to hop on and ride without tears. The EASY in the name of the bike company is fully justified. Naturally, since most of us first learn to ride upright bikes instead of recumbents of any kind, some period of adaptation is needed. But having the crankset so low to the ground gives newbs a great feeling of safety. If they feel a bit shaky, they can just plant their feet down in no time at all. The Easy Racer long bikes also work better for people who are smaller in stature. The low seat height and triangular shape of the seat bottom makes getting flat-footed at stops no big deal. The Lightning "midracer" carbon seat helps shorter riders get their feet on the ground with minimal fuss.

The downside to the low crank position is that if you ride without a foot retention device of some kind - clipless pedals or power grips or whatever - you are in greater danger of foot suck / leg suck injuries on an Easy Racer. An old friend suffered a serious injury some years back while riding his Easy Racer. I have not heard of Lightning riders having this problem. The low crank position of the Easy bikes also can cause heels to hit the street when taking corners sharply, especially for those of us with big feet.

The Lightning is easier to store and transport due to the smaller size. It is lighter in weight. While you can put a Zzipper bubble front fairing and body sock on the Easy Racer and go very fast, it is not in the same league as the F40 fairing on the Lightning. The F40 fairing closes off the bottom of the bike and is a closer approximation of a fully enclosed streamliner. Of course, not everybody wants to go at streamliner speeds. For many people, a faired Easy Racer is fast enough.

The Lightning bike is a better hill climber. I think this is due both to the lighter weight and the "crunch" seating position. The same crunch seating position can be a problem for riders with generous bellies.

Having a variety of different bikes can add a little spice to an activity that you repeat over and over. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't.

Having said these nice things about the long wheelbase Easy bikes, I will note that if I could only have one bike, it would surely be a Lightning.

Safe riding,


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