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The first time I ever came across recumbents was reading Richard's New Bicycle Book, a book I first read around 1990. The chapter Zzzwwaaaammo! was a revelation; here was a completely new style of bike (not until later did I discover that recumbents were first developed in 1933) and I wanted one! I wasn't in the position to get a recumbent for about twelve years, but the day came that I could finally buy my recumbent.
But which one? The different types of recumbents are outlined elsewhere and I now had to pick which style and which model I was going to own. Well, first two choices are the Moulton and the Windcheetah. The Moulton isn't a recumbent but is a very fast upright, due to the small wheels and gearing. The Windcheetah is a recumbent trike, very low and very fast. For both of these bike I could get only the bare machine, but I wanted to get fairings, panniers and an uprated specification. This put the Moulton and Windcheetah out of my reach.
Next stage then was catalogues and window-shopping. After much hunting, I finally came down between the Bike-E, The Trice Trike, and The StreetMachine and SpeedMachine. I went to a couple of London Bike shops, tried out the bikes on my list, and after a lots of fun, decided on the H P Velotechnic StreetMachine GT.
Two weeks later, I went back to the bike shop, clutching my shopping list. I took the bike out for a spin again, out with a new bike amongst the crowds out doing their Christmas Shopping. Control was great, and I was sold on the idea of the StreetMachine. I handed over the cash and placed my order. Two weeks later I took delivery of my new bike (minus the fairings which came a fortnight later) and cycled through London and back home on the Saturday before Christmas.
I have now been riding the SMGT for about three years. My legs are now well adjusted to the demands of riding the recumbent in the Chilterns, where every journey involves a climb. One of the first changes which had to be made was the fitting of clipless pedals (as listed in the above specification). If you don't have clipless, then it's hard work keeping your feet lifted up onto the pedals, let alone doing any pedalling. If you go recumbent, then you really must go clipless as well.
One problem which I have had (and continue to have) is a sticky front brake. Not a problem with the bike itself, but with the single component. There is something in the hydraulic mechanism which is preventing the brake releasing properly. I've tried stripping down the whole brake and rebuilding, but nothing seems to cure the problem. Apart from this one niggle, I am as happy with the bike as on the day I bought it.
Every now and again, there's a chance you'll fall off your bike. Happens to the best of riders. I had been out on the SMGT one day on a very long ride, and was very tired as I approached home. There's a mini-roundabout at the top of a long hill. I approached the roundabout heading for the descent, and discovered just too late that the road had just been resurfaced. This was one of the council's quick-fix repairs, just putting a layer of new tarmac on top of the old, then steam-rollering grit into the surface. Result is always a layer of loose gravel on the road. I came round the corner banked well over, hit the grit and the wheels slid out from under me. When you come off a recumbent, you don't fall in the same way as you do when you fall off an upright. You're in a sitting position and you are close to the ground. It's more that you just slide out of the seat and end up sitting in the road. This is what happened to me, save that I was still travelling at about 20 mph. Result - some superficial damage to the fairings on the recumbent, and a very painful backside. The seat was ripped out of my shorts, and a lot of the skin was ripped off my backside.
In the 'final specifications' photo above, you can see the fitting of my front lamp, slung low under the crankset. It's fixed here so that the light shines under the fairing. It works, but it does put the light in a place where it is vulnerable to damage. When I crashed, the nose of the recumbent went straight into the pavement and smashed the light. The B&M isn't too expensive, and if I fitted another B&M, I'd be happy to fit it here again. However, cyclists always regard crash damage as an opportunity to upgrade components. I took the usual advice from the CyclingPlus forum, and had decided that the best option would be the Schmidt E6 and E6-Z lights. Schmidt make the Hub Dynamo which I already have fitted, and the Schmidt lights are matched to this.
The Schmidt lights are BRIGHT, and certainly live up to the hype. In fact, they are just a little too bright at the moment. Currently, I have the lights fitted on the front derailleur post, using the bottle mounting bosses. When first fitted, this was great. However once the fairing went on, the problems arose. The lights illuminate the inside of the fairing, and this is so bright I can't see anything else. The high reflected light makes my pupils shut down, and that combined with the very high contrast between brilliant fairing-reflection and the dark road means I can't see the road at all. Once again the C+ forum comes to the rescue, and suggests various ways of mounting the lights to eliminate reflection. Still to decide on the best option, but it will probably have both lights fitted right at the end of the fairing's forward support boom, bringing the lens of the lights flat against the inside surface of the fairing. This depends on whether I can get the angle right so that the light shines down onto the road. The less-favoured option is to bolt the lights on the outside of the fairing and drill holes through to route the wires.
One thing I don't like about the SMGT is the placing of the water bottle bosses. One is on the front derailleur post, and can't be reached from the seat. The second is underneath the seat. Though you can reach it whilst in motion, it's very awkward to get the bottle out. I've never been able to get to a bottle whilst in motion, and have always had to stop when I need to take fluid. In any case, at the moment I can't use either. The front bosses are given over to the lights (although these are going to be moved, my arms still aren't long enough to reach there) The under-seat bottle cage now holds the reservoir bottle for my AirZound horn. During the summer, I use a seat-back pannier from Radical Design, which has a couple of bottle-holders. In winter though, I still need a fitting point for bottle cages. The solution has been to use a couple of jubilee clips (hose clips) to fix the cages onto the fairing's upper support beam. I can now get a bottle out easily whilst still in motion, though I have to stop to swap the bottles around when the first is empty.
(Lots of loose wire tucked away with cable ties in this picture - haven't yet decided the final positioning of the lights, so spare wire for when I try moving things around. That'll be cut back when the final fitting is made.)