j.c.f.'s mods to the 'bent.

Last Updated 11/14/01.
Hits since 12/4/99:

      You can't ride a recumbent without seeing better ways of doing things on it, or at least I can't anyway.    Fortunately the Vision R-40 I have lends itself to modification, it is indeed a work in progress with each year's new model having features re-designed on it without exception.    So here's how I've modified the rear cable routing to stop the bike from turning in a circle when wheeling the thing around, how I've come up with some kick ass rear-view mirrors for it, how I've set the seat up so you can lock the bike up and tote the seat away with all the lights and other goodies in a convenient pack, and how I've crafted the chain guard into a non-irritating thing.

The rear cables.

      Possibly the very first less than excellent thing that you notice about an R-40 and Vision's other similar models is it's tendency to turn to the left as you wheel it out of the bike shop for a test ride.    So you wheel the thing hunched forward one hand on the handlebar and one pushing the seat because there's no way you can lean the thing far enough over to the right to stop it going to the left.    And then you try and wheel it through the doorway, ugh.    Well this of course irritated my engineer/tinkerer's brain something righteous so I examined the problem long and hard.
      The problem stems from the rear brakes and derailer cables being bent in a tight enough radius to exert significant torque on the steering assembly.    On a normal bike this is countered by the cables on the other side of the handlebars, however on an R-40 this is not the case.    So I figured if the cables were lengthened and looped around the left side of the handlebars then the flex would be cancelled, and I was correct.    So what to have to do is to route the cables like this (easiest to see with the seat removed):

cable routing

      Instead of bending the cables around you pass them under the handle bar to the left side:


      Where they can be looped around and back under the body to the cable receptacles:

and around

      Having done that you can wheel the bike around with the same kind of ease as a regular bike as the resting position of the handle bars is now in the center:


The rearview mirrors.

      No one makes mirrors for recumbents, there's just not enough demand for them.    So everyone makes do with the hokey velcro setups that Vision recommends or they use the one Cat Eye model that adapts well to a recumbent but suffers from the singular failing of vibrating like nothing else on account of it's slim cheap plastic stem, and if that doesn't piss you off then the mechanics of adjusting this mirror soon will.    Or they can do what I did and that is to creatively modify a set of Rhode Gear mirrors.    These mirrors are great, they adjust easily, they don't vibrate and what's really cool that no other solution I've seen offers, they fold out of the way easily and can even retain their adjustment after being folded back into position.    To cap it off, the way I mount them you can ride real close to something and the mirrors are easily pushed out of the way by whatever you have come close to, instead of breaking.
      For each mirror you do however need a 1" hose clamp, a 1" stainless steel counter sunk philips head machine bolt with a nylon locked nut and two panel washers, one that fits the bolt nicely and another with a considerably bigger hole through it, say 1/4".    First you take your Rhode Gear mirror:


      Chop off the part that's supposed to mount inside the handlebar and throw away everything on the right:


      You can do this with an exacto blade, it's not tough plastic.    Next you drill a hole through the hose clamp about a 1/2" from one end so the bolt can be threaded through it and then clamp it onto the handlebar with the head of the bolt downwards:

mirror mount

      The reason I like the philips head bolt is that it grips the handlebar nicely, assuming you do the hose clamp up good and tight of course.    Yes, it's going to scar your handle bar, if you care that much about it I suppose you could wrap the bar in something, but your handlebar is going to get scraped up by other things anyway -- like the chain if you've got an older R-40 without two idlers like mine.    Next the larger washer:

large washer

      Followed by the mirror and smaller washer:


      Put the side of the mirror that you cut the plastic off downwards butting to the larger washer.    Next the nylon locked nut:


      Don't be doing the nut up too tight, you want to be able to swivel the mirror.    As you can see it folds out of the way very nicely:


The seat.

      Another special consideration with a recumbent is locking the thing up.    I use a 6ft cable looped through the rear wheel and then through the front wheel to a U-lock around the boom.    The U-lock has to go around the chain so one has to handle it carefully to avoid getting grease everywhere but it does a passable job of locking the bike up, however the lights and seat would still be left behind.    Admittedly, you can thread the cable through the seat (and I do for quick lockups) but for the day long untended park I find it best to remove the seat and fortunately you can setup a system where the lights and emergency kit can all be removed in one fell swoop with the seat.    I found an old Zenith portable computer bag, saving me the $80 for the Vision special:


      I took the old strap and sewed it to the bag so it attaches to the seat and threaded some cable ties through to hold it in place:


      Then the battery for the lights is attached:


      Now you can take the headlamp:


      And stash it in the bag:

in the bag

      Using the old computer carry case has a distinct advantage beyond the dollar saving, it has handles on it, one of which is enough for our purposes so that you can undo the seat and pick the whole bundle up very easily:


      And then you can sling the entire thing over your shoulder:


      It has the distinct advantage of leaving behind something that most people just can't make out, they can tell it's a bike but that's about it:


The chain guard.

      Ever since I stuck the 20" front wheel on the R-40 I've really needed the chain guard, especially given my propensity for white clothes.    But the stock Vision job has a huge drawback, it's rear mount is supposed to be the idler mount:

chain gaurd

      Which is all fine and dandy except that the chain travels over the idler and of course it vibrates.    Now this is not normally a problem, however attach a honking piece of lexan to that idler assembly and the lexan nicely amplifies said vibration for us.    Hmmm, not freaking likely.    So we chop the rear portion of the chain guard off and make ourselves a bracket to attach to the water bottle cage out of some sheet metal:

sheet tin mount

Miscellaneous Mods.

      I like to mount the seat on the rear set of mounts, but having a pack rack makes that impossible -- that is unless you take to the pack rack with a 4lb sledge and bend the front of it up:

bent pack rack

      Tucson is 365 day a year Birkenstock territory, unfortunately birks don't go too well with the pedals that the R-40 ships with, and forget about the clips, urgh.    Fortunately for me years ago I came across some micro clips which suit a birk excellently and combined with some BMX pedals I can ride in comfort without (a) destroying the birks or (b) risking catastrophe:


      Well, I decided to go out on a limb and buy some clipless pedals for the 'bent fully expecting to waste $200 on SPD shoes, cleats and pedals (although my outlay was more like $160).    And you know what?   They're even better than I hoped!    They hold my feet in really well, I can hit the bumpiest sections of road without a worry and what's really unexpected is that when the feet really need to come out of the pedals in emergency situations they do!    I've had at least five emergency unexpected stops in the months since I bought the pedals and each time my foot has just ripped itself free and done the right thing.    This includes the left foot which for me would usually stay attached however when I over balanced once when stopping I was still fine (if a little embarrassed).    And today when I hit a drift of three inch deep pea gravel in a turn which would usually be curtains even at the low speed I hit this unexpected gravel out snaps the right foot and miracle of miracles it hits the ground skating along and stops the bike from falling over and me hitting the dirt!    Maybe the left foot staying attached to the pedal had something to do with it.    The trick is that as the bike starts to tilt over it sets the foot up to swivel free from the SPD mount, it's like they were thinking of 'bents when they designed the things.    Amazing, thoroughly recommended.    And if those points weren't good enough to cap it off the Shimano sandals are really cool for summer riding.    Oh, and you can probably ride a bit faster too ;)

(Pictures will be forthcoming when I get my new camera and re-work this entire page).

      I got worried that the charger for my ancient Brite Lite had no indicator that it was in fact charging the battery, so I built one for it.

Should you really want to communicate you can eMail to: jforster@someplace.spam.dont.go

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