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Phantom, P38, R84

Due in part to chronic wrist injuries from years of mountain biking and road biking, I purchased my first recumbent( Lighting Phantom) last December at tender age of 63. Opting for the Velocity Fusion wheel upgrades and removal of the adjustable angle steerer and chain tensioner pully, the medium size was quite a solid ride and at about 26 lbs.; fairly light. The upright position seemed more “ power based “ if less aerodynamic but a lot safer . After knee surgery in March 5th , I started riding taking the left ( my injured knee side) crank arm off and using an old windsurfing mast adaptor as tubing I made a rest for my immobile recovering knee and took to pedaling one legged on flat surfaces. Within 6 weeks I started in easily with both legs and by the end of May got my first ½ century ride in Santa Fe. Passing all the other recumbents and staying with the top 10% was a great surprise for what I had considered a “geezer” ride (as well as a boost to the ego).
The Phantom was stable, fast and a lot of fun to ride. Since climbing hills and mountains had been my strength I wanted to upgrade to find if climbing could even improve . A P38 frame was ordered and existing parts transferred to the new frame. My initial impression was that it was not very much faster. After several rides I seemed to adapt to the new frame and saw a noticeable improvement in climbing.
After 2 months in Baja , standup paddle surfing, mt. Biking and windsurfing I was anxious to get back to this new “sit- down ride” . 3 and ½ century rides over the next month on the P38 ( I had sold the phantom) was a good test of my ability to max. out the P38. I found in the flats I would get passed by my equals on uprights and some on laid back recumbents. On the hills less than 8 degs. I could keep good pace with the uprights and pass the laid back recumbents fairly easily.
The famed R84 was on the radar by now. I had seen the video of Tim passing the upright racers on his R84 so this had to be the machine. A used came up on the message board , which was a large, but w/i my xseam length , so I bought it. It had been built out by a shop in Texas as a cruiser for an injured warrior. I had to replace a lot of parts to get to light components and a compact drive train. Wanting the lightning crankset , but a bit out of reach , I went with a 150mm Black Widow BMX crankarms ( lightweight) and a American Classic Ti BB., which turned out surprisingly light. The overall weight is a tad over 20 lbs. I have ridden this R84 for about 2-3 weeks and it keeps getting better as I get use to the new configuration. Definitely faster than my 2 previous Lightnings on hills and acceleration. On the flats not a whole lot different. I have not had a good judge of long distance speeds on the bike as the 2 centuries done on it were; one before I had changed components to upgrade and the second was 2 flat tires and some wrong turns at key intersections( gotta love those lack of course signs).
Quick impressions of my limited experience: the phantom , with a few upgrades is one of the best bangs for the buck out there, the P38 is stiffer , smoother and lighter( mine did not have all the top end components). I dropped about 4 and ½ lbs going to the R84 , whereas about 1+ lbs going from the Phantom to the P38, due to the Phantom already being slimmed down. The bikes seem to get more refined in performance and differences as one goes up the ladder. I have been asked whether it was worth the extra cash going from one model to another. For me yes as I am into competitive riding quite a bit. Perhaps for a occasional weekend cruise , the Phantom is more than adequate. The P38 is solid and very verstile from doing errands to competing in 100 mile rides. The R84 is for those wanting to max. out the potential of a recumbent that can climb. I hope this is helpful .

Hi Gordon,

Thanks for the interesting write-up about the various Lightning bikes you have owned. I have never had a chance to ride the carbon R84 bike myself, and envy you. A question: how do like the front and rear suspension on the R84? Does it make the ride feel different from the P38? Is it mostly a benefit on rougher roads, or is it helpful generally?

I understand that you have only had the new carbon bike briefly. When you have more miles on it, please post your impressions, especially regarding the suspension.

Safe riding,
Joel

Joel, My first impression was that it was not that big of a difference. I am light @ 128 lbs . and probably do not get as much out of it as someone heavier. Having done two century rides on it , it takes the edge off quite a bit of the rough parts of the pavement. On the P38 an unforeseen bump or small pothole at speed would be a " wham" experience. The P38 is tough and can take a bit of abuse but the r84 will smooth quite a bit of that " jar" out. This helps with control and the smoother rides means less tension at speed thus better strength . Not a black/ white issue but definitely noticeable over several long rides. Without the lighter weight and better hill climbing I would be happy with the P38.
I have very smooth,high pressure, narrow tires so my gravel experience is limited.I suspect if I had 1.5 " wide / aggressive tread tires the suspension would help on gravel. I'm not sure I would want to put a super light carbon racer through that as rough pavement is enough.

geatman12 thanks for your writeup. I really enjoyed reading it. I went straight for the R-84 as after years of riding a Tour Easy I swore that I would never ride another unsuspended recumbent. I ride with an F-40 fairing on my R-84 and have a lot of fun.

I hope to follow your lead with a f-40 fairing soon for century and flat land rides. Is the fairing stable in side wind? Are you able to increase your speed on flats by 1/2 with the fairing? Thx Gordon

I have not done a careful comparison but I feel that on flats I am about 30% faster in the F40 that I am with my upright.

You have to be conscious of crosswinds riding an F40. I live in Brisbane, Australia and it is not a windy place; particularly where I live in the western suburbs away from the coast. Yesterday was one of our few "windy" days. We had 20MPH average winds with gusts to 30MPH. I was still able to ride the F40 but I had to be careful.

In general if you feel yourself being blown around in an F40 then SLOWDOWN. I don't understand why but reducing speed makes crosswinds MUCH less of an issue.

When the wind is up a bit the areas that give the most trouble are bridges, fast downhills and where wind is channelled along between buildings.

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