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1984-85 Lightning

I have owned 4 recumbents the Lightning I just bought being the 4th. Man do I have a lot of questions. Mainly because this one APPEARS to be possibly one of the original production models yet looks simular to the mid production Lightning types. I cannot find a stinking serial model number anywhere. Yes I have looked on the inside of the rear drops as well as on the bottom bracket. Nothing. I am wondering if this could be a knockoff or is it a prototype that was sold without a stamp? I know it is dated to 84-85 because of the research I have completed on the components. This bike appears to be an unmolested, garage kept mid 80's first run Lightning. Let me give you some clues as to why I think it is truely an original 80's. 1. No model or serial number stamp. 2. Original peel and stick sticker on the frame with no patent number, just patent pending. 3. 6 speed Shimano HB6207R and a HB6207F. 4. Shimano Biopace double crank FC1050. 5. Mistral M17 630 Sun wheels. 6 DiaComp brakes. 7.Suntour Cyclone M II friction real derailer...these are to name a few. To me, this is not important unless Lightning mfg would like to have it back as an original model for whatever reason and if they do they are welcome to it before I start taking all the original parts off and making it a little more modern so that I can ride it without a lot of frustration. Now, all this being said, and after skimming through some of the blogs, I am concerned that changing parts for the upgrades may not be as easy as taking one part off and replacing with a newer version. Ex...bottom bracket, double biopace chainring to a triple, from a 6 speed to a 9 or 10 speed, from a friction shifters to indexed etc etc..Any help or advice that anybody would like to offer me would be sooo apprecitive. (Is there a way to post pictures of the bike on this forum? I would gladly post if I knew how :)

Hi Scooter-

1) Sometimes I find serial numbers on the driveside rear dropouts of old Lightning P-38 bikes, and sometimes I don't. Why? Don't know. But your experience is not unusual. I do not think Lightning would be interested in your old bike. What they are mainly interested in is SELLING new bikes. You know... bread and butter. Can't blame them for that. They have bills to pay too, just like you and me.

2) The very oldest P-38 bikes had seats that were permanently integrated into the frame. You could not remove them. I believe they offered removable seats as an extra-cost option. Your bike may date from the middle eighties, even earlier than I first thought. An oldie but a goodie.

3) The first thing I would do is ride the bike the way it is. Adjust the crankset boom so that it feels right to you. There should be a small bend in your knee when your leg is fully extended. Make sure that the seat mesh is pulled taut. If the mesh gets loose, it can rub against the rear wheel and the driveside chain idler. This can very quickly put holes in the mesh. So get it taut, and keep an eye on it so that it remains taut. Ride the bike and find out what works properly and what does not. Maybe the tires are old and getting ready for replacement. Likewise the brake pads, cables and cable housings, chains, etc. The first thing to work on is making the bike fit for use: replacing stuff that is worn out.

4) After replacing worn out stuff, you need to ask what components would make you happier than what is on the bike already. Ride in a hilly area? Get a triple crank to replace the double. This will likely mean a whole drivetrain upgrade - bottom bracket, crankset, chain, rear wheel, shifters, cassette. The old derailleurs might still be OK. I never really liked the Diacompe caliper brakes, but if they stop you reliably, maybe leave them alone. You need to decide what modern stuff would really improve your ride quality. I sometimes am able to find nice bike components on eBay at low prices, both new and used.

5) A really old steel bike that has gotten hard and prolonged usage can eventually suffer from metal fatigue and develop cracks. Keep an eye on the areas around the head tube and the seat in particular. The frame might be fine now. Just being old is not the problem. Being used by a heavier rider over big miles, especially with a heavy load on a rack over rough pavement is what puts real wear and tear on the frame. Give the frame a close visual inspection now and then.

Keep us informed regarding what you do, and what works for you and what does not.

Safe riding,
Joel Dickman

These three prevent most accidents: seeing, being seen, & (usually) common sense.

Thank you Joel for your seemingly expert advice. Riding it as is is what looks like I will do and will change parts as needed. I am just not satisfied with one unsolved problem. No serial number. I am probably over looking it. I am going to get a bunch more eyes on this thing cause I wanna know what yr. it is, not for any other reason than to just say I have a true vintage!!!! I will be back from time to time with plenty questions I'm sure. Oh...are you in cahoots with Brimmer or why or how do you know so much or seemingly the go to guy for all the questions? Thks again!!!!

Hi again Scooter,

Glad I could help a bit. I have no business relationship with Lightning, and do not get paid for maintaining this site. It is a labor of love. I have been riding recumbent bikes since 1981, when I first got a Hypercycle. I have had many different bikes since then, but regard the Lightning recumbents as the best all-around bikes I've had the pleasure of riding. Not the best bikes for Battle Mountain or riding off-road, or for winning races in the unfaired classes at the velodrome. But the best for street riding, recreation, and commuting. Comfy, safe, nimble, fast. And if you are not satisfied with just going fast, but insist on going outrageously fast, just fit your Lightning bike with an F40 fairing. There is nothing else commercially available in the bike world that is like the F40. Which is a real shame. The basic design deserves much greater popularity than it has enjoyed.

I am not the go-to guy for information about Lightning bikes though. Tim Brummer is the expert, since he designed the bikes and continues to build them. I'm just an enthusiastic rider who has been very fond of these recumbents for many years. Got my first Lightning around 1996 or so. For the hard questions you need to consult with Brummer. But sometimes I can handle the easy ones.

There is a page on the Lightning website about P-38 serial numbers. Based on your research into the age of your components, I would say it is a sure thing that you have one of the first 100 P-38 bikes. Don't worry about not finding a serial number. It has likely just worn away over the years. Just ride the bike, get healthy, and enjoy yourself.

Safe riding,
Joel Dickman

These three prevent most accidents: seeing, being seen, & (usually) common sense.


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