Occasionally I get asked what recumbents work best for rando and ultra-racing. Ugh. That’s such a hard question to answer. If the person has no ultra experience, or worse yet, no recumbent experience, it’s almost an impossible question. All I can do is answer in general terms. (…but at least you know they are honest, mature terms. I won’t try to brainwash you into believing there is only one type of bike that can do the job well, nor am I going to try to sell you something with a French name…)
(….note: for purposes of this discussion, it is assumed that the person asking the question has either already made up their mind to use a recumbent for such endeavors, or at least is recumbent-curious… It leaves out the obvious alternative of some sort of upright bike. Which one of those to ride is a whole separate ball of wax….)
Obviously, ultra-racing and rando are activities that challenge a rider – either to complete the ride or to go as fast as they can. And while rando is less about speed than ultra racing is, the same bike characteristics that produce ‘efficiency’ are the same ones that produce ‘speed’.
So what are the fastest/most efficient bikes?
Any of the ones with the word ‘racer’ in the name of the category they belong to….lowracers (think Fujin or Raptobike), midracers (think Musashi), and highracers (think Bacchettas, Carbents, Rans Rifle, M5 CHR, Metabikes (Metaphysic and Metaphrastic builds)).
Other bikes that have been successfully used in ultras and randonees that do not exactly belong to one of these so-named ‘____racer’ categories are the Rans Xstream and the Cruzbike Silvio and Vendetta. All fast bikes, for sure. Also, the Lighting P-38 has seen a lot of rando use, and works well in that theatre, but perhaps less so in ultraracing use (it’s probably not quite aero enough).
That’s a lot of bikes I just listed there, and it’s not even a complete list, even among unfaired bikes. And I clearly haven’t mentioned any velomobiles or faired bikes (like an F-40, for instance).
There is a lot of variety in that list. Narrowing the field or determining which bike one might choose among them requires a lot more information and thinking.
All bike designs represent a series of compromises and a list of priorities. There is no one bike design that is ‘best’. It all depends on the preferences and priorities of the person riding it. The goal is to bring the rider’s preferences and needs into alignment with the bike’s specific qualities.
What people really should do is the following (in this order):
- Try to narrow the field intellectually.
- Test ride a bunch of bikes to narrow it more.
- Just do it. Buy a bike. Ride it for a year or two. Do some rando and/or ultra racing.
- Repeat the above steps if necessary. If anyone thinks they will buy the ‘perfect’ bike on the first try, they are being overly optimistic. With additional experience in hand, you will get closer to buying the ‘perfect’ bike each time you go through the process of evaluating your needs.