Recumbent or DF for Senior Vet

Bud Baker

Member
I am 68 years young and have back issues involving L4-5 my Doc describes as a train wreck. I have a C spine fusion due to combat trauma in Viet Nam and thus my range of motion is not great. My thumbs are sometimes painful and X-ray confirms arthritis. I was an avid MTB about 20 years ago but now own a beach style cruiser. I am in reasonable shape working out 4x per week. Ok now my question. I would like to tour Rails to Trails like the GAP and venues like the Erie Canal while I do not yet drip oatmeal on my bib. My thinking is that with a pedlecbike I can tour at a faster speed covering more ground at 40 miles per day with less stress. The position is still the same as a conventional DF but there will be times I can be more relaxed and enjoying the sites vs maintaining cadence. The other option is a recumbent but the cost of a decent bent like a Catrike without electric assist is equivalent to a very good Ebike. The touring I would do would be considered Credit Card touring so my bike/recumbent would not be supporting a self contained tour. All the advice I am reading and my Ironman son points me in the direction of the recumbent. My heart is sided with the pedlec assist bike. I would love some feedback from those of you who might have some knowledge and advice in this journey. Bud Baker, Enfield, NH ( at the top of a monster climb in either direction)
 

Noreen

Member
Hello Bud - Just to be clear, I think you are asking about an e-bike vs. a non electric recumbent. If that's not it, feel free to ignore my answer. I also have back issues - but they are minor compared to what you describe.

I sold my recumbent in September (Bacchetta/Corsa SS) and bought a Stromer ST1, and am happy with my decision. I loved the recumbent, but was never 100% comfortable on the 2-wheeled version. It definitely helped with my sore back and wrists, but I was too wobbly in traffic. Also, I did not clip in, which might have helped with climbing, but I know I would have crashed. The Cat Trike has 3 wheels, so likely my issues will not be yours. But, the CatTrike is also very low to the ground, so I wonder whether your vantage point for touring will be sufficient? Also, I would be concerned about being so low if you plan to ride in traffic - a flag would seem necessary.

To cushion my back on the Stromer: I replaced the seat with a saddle that has springs. There are also seat posts you can use that dampen the bounce. I alas changed the grips so my wrists/ fingers are in a better position. So far, I have been able to ride the Stromer without having issues.

Would you consider an e-recumbent - that might give you the perfect combination?
 

Bud Baker

Member
Thanks for sharing your experiences. Yes you were spot on with my question. I was looking at a trike more for the stability it offers over a 2 wheel recumbent. With regard to being seen in a recumbent, as you would expect there are people on both sides of the issue. Also many would say to try both and as many of both as you can. This is easier said than done as LBS offering both or even one are far and few between within 200 miles. Buying an untried recumbent or ebike is less than optimal and this is why I was soliciting advice from any and all that have made this journey. I do believe fitting any DF or recumbent is important in making your ride comfortable whether electric or not. The fact that you made modifications to your Stromer and find it comfortable is the most important information you offered. An e-recumbent would run over $5000 for a quality build. I welcome any other thoughts from the community on customizing your ebike to make it comfortable for 4-6 hour a day week long tours.
 

Noreen

Member
Hello Bud- there is a really good e-bike dealer in NH - E-Bikes of New England, in Derry. That is where I bought my Stromer. When I was up there, I noticed he had a recumbent in the shop and was adding a BionX kit for the owner. I think it was a trike. He might be a good resource for creating the bike you need. I had my LBS in Burlington, MA (Cycle Loft) do the modifications for the stem, seat, grips, and general fitting. They are great, and are e-bike enthusiasts. They just don't sell Stromer, or I would have purchased it there.
 

Bud Baker

Member
Yes thanks, I found their web site and am planning a trip perhaps next week. I have looked at the Stromer with interest but every piece of advice I get tells me to go only with a mid-drive motor and not a hub motor due to the hills I need to conquer to get home. As an owner I would enjoy learning your experiences. BTW there is a Catrike dealer in Turners Falls Ma. That is offering a moderate level trike with a Bionix for around $3500.
 

Noreen

Member
Be sure you call before going - I don't think the shop is open full time in the winter. I love my Stromer - but again, was only able to ride it a short time before we got hammered with snow. For specifics on extended real world experience, go to the Stromer forum on this site, and look for Gus' posts: "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly." It is packed with really helpful information, done over a long period of time.

Thanks for the heads-up re: Catrike. I don't think I would get a bike so low to the ground - not for my usage which is an around town, car replacement. Until it snows, then I can't wait to get into a heated car and drive. Hopefully, I will be able to reduce my driving come Spring.
 

calvin

Active Member
Back issues involving L4-5 my Doc describes as a train wreck... Whoa Nellie! Better double check with a good doctor first. Tell him you are thinking about getting bounced around. What is he/she think about that?
 

Chandlee EBS

Active Member
If you're going with a Catrike/bionx combo, I'd go with an Expedition as a downtube battery can mount of the front tube. This will allow you to get the largest battery kit, the S 350 DV. It's a good fit for the extra weight of the recumbent. The Trail (which folds) requires the rear rack battery, which is fine too, but the weight distribution is better with the Expedition.

The bionx combo is absolutely fantastic. You won't even notice the pedal assist on the first level.

-Chandlee
 

Bud Baker

Member
Thanks for the Catrike advice Chandlee. It is important to know I can use a DT version. Any experience on hill assist with the Bionix. My trek home consists of a mile of 7-10% grade in one direction or a 2 mile 4-6% in the other to a rail trail. Then mostly flat. My touring will be supported on rail trails like the GAP or T and O or the Erie Canal. These trips should have no issues with a hub motor.

Calvin, my Doc tells me to do anything till it hurts and do this until you need a sticker on your jacket that says "if found return to.... "
 

lilrich1959

Member
I really empathize with you Bud having two laminectomies and an L5 fusion done old style so the results were never stellar as well as the other atrocities I subjected myself to with good living, motorcycling and bone cancer. As far as doctor approval mine is amazed with what I still do but I'm not ready to look at the flowers from the roots up yet. Anyway I would strongly encourage you to get some saddle time in with test rides whenever possible, even if you have to travel to try out your prospects. I am currently trying to scrape the funds up to do a tadpole conversion not so much that is what I think is my only option but just to fill some holes in the toy box. I am fortunate in having access to virtually any model I want, working in the industry and have both the Neo Jet and Stromer Sport (predecessor to the ST1) in my personal stable. For comfort I have both equipped both with Selle Royal Drifter seats and switched out risers to allow adjustable handlebar positioning. The saddle has very soft springing and gel padding which while not eliminating all the bumps sure makes it nice on the bad days, a thudbuster or other suspended seatpost would help too but my inseam requires a fairly low seat height. Both these machines are hub motors and I regularly tackle some very aggressive hills around the Baraboo area. Even on my worse days when I can't contribute much to help, or even just throttle up the powertrain performs flawlessly. Sure it burns the battery down quickly but I tend to use the power pretty aggressively anyway, I doubt I would get much if any saddle time on a pedal only bike. Ebikes can of course get costly and especially when you look at recumbents which are pricey even without power. IMHO power assist has given me and many others a new lease on life. Your requirements in an e-bike are nothing that can't be technically met easily by many models out there or easily fitted accessories. Welcome to the forum and best of luck with your search for the right bike. Keep rolling....
 

Bud Baker

Member
A very nice reply and my thanks for taking the time. As Mark Twain said "riding a bike is fun, if you survive" or sometching to that effect. I will certainly take your and many others advice and try on as many as I can of each. Everything I have read points to DF bikes equals pain. Knowing that fit and customization can eliminate most of discomfort even for 40 mile daily trecks over a week is a vital knowledge base going into a purchase of this size. My MTB life was in my 40s and well before life cought up. Therefore this is a return to biking after some years added. My questioning of DF vs. recumbent came after my son, who does Ironman competitions, said I may find the discomfort after hours on a bike may keep it in the barn. It isn't the fatigue factor but the position. I want to believe a good DF Ebike well fitted and customized will entice me to get out and ride.
 

JoePah

Well-Known Member
Thanks for sharing your experiences. Yes you were spot on with my question. I was looking at a trike more for the stability it offers over a 2 wheel recumbent. With regard to being seen in a recumbent, as you would expect there are people on both sides of the issue. Also many would say to try both and as many of both as you can. This is easier said than done as LBS offering both or even one are far and few between within 200 miles. Buying an untried recumbent or ebike is less than optimal and this is why I was soliciting advice from any and all that have made this journey. I do believe fitting any DF or recumbent is important in making your ride comfortable whether electric or not. The fact that you made modifications to your Stromer and find it comfortable is the most important information you offered. An e-recumbent would run over $5000 for a quality build. I welcome any other thoughts from the community on customizing your ebike to make it comfortable for 4-6 hour a day week long tours.

First, let me thank you for the service to your country... We do not exist without the likes of you!

There are a lot of us on this forum who own Stromers and think very highly of them.. Even though it is a hard tail you can buy a suspension seat, or a suspension seat post to smooth the ride nicely over regular roads and paths.

OTOH: If you feel you are experiencing more pain as the years go buy, an eBike won't help.. I see quite a few cat trikes in my area, and the seating position seems very comfortable.. What I don't like about them is that they are SLOW, and the postion is too close to the ground... I like sitting up. Still, if your son thinks you'd be better off with a trike, he probably wants what is best for you.

Gonna say the same thing I tell everyone else... test ride the bikes you are interested in.. Not a ride around the parking lot but a full hour going where you want to go... You'll end up spending $5k on something, and while it's not a huge waste, you want to be able to enjoy your new toy as much as possible.. Have fun!
 

Chandlee EBS

Active Member
Thanks for the Catrike advice Chandlee. It is important to know I can use a DT version. Any experience on hill assist with the Bionix. My trek home consists of a mile of 7-10% grade in one direction or a 2 mile 4-6% in the other to a rail trail. Then mostly flat. My touring will be supported on rail trails like the GAP or T and O or the Erie Canal.

Yeah, I've used s 350 and D-series in very hilly terrain. The D-series eats any hill for breakfast. The S 350 set in Mountain mode, geared properly is going to give lots of assistance, but not as much as an Easy Motion or 350 middle drive. You'll still get your workout. I've found that people with cycling experience prefer the S 350 over anything because it feels so natural. However, first time riders usually want more power. There are rumors floating around of respoked 26" D-series rims. Bionx doesn't produce it or condone it. We haven't tried it. However, that, paired with an expedition would be the best of all worlds...

I'll reach out to some of our catrike guys, and ask them about their hill experience.
 

Bud Baker

Member
I have to remember it is only January and it is a big nill outside with a wind chill at -10. At 9:45 AM. I would be interested in experiences with a Bionix equipped recumbent. Thanks to you all for your thoughts and I hope to learn more but test rides will need more Spring like conditions. Till then research and the gym. I found this comparison of uprights to recumbents. I thought some might find it interesting.
http://www.biketcba.org/TRICORR/compare.html
 

lilrich1959

Member
Just did a 2010 Catrike Villager conversion this weekend. Sure like the seating position for my back issues. Quite a different animal from a bicycle though a bit of a learning curve in cornering especially with the increased speed. Will give more details and pix on this build as I get the time and the weather allows. I can dress for the cold but the damn salt is hell on machines just hate to mess this one up with spring only a few weeks away knock on wood.