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Taking the plunge

After 20 years of riding LWB (Ryan Vanguard, RANS Screamer, Easy Racer GRR) I going ready to go SWB. I'm leaning heavily toward a P38 but have never ridden one. The idea of spending over 3K on a bike I've only seen pictures of and read about makes my head spin. However, like the other bikes I've owned, the P38 has been around a while and has a loyal following.
So, here's where I'd like to pick your brains for information.
I'm thinking of a new bike and want to stay around $3200. I like the idea of light weight, quality components and wonder if it makes sense ($) to go with a frame set for $2,000 vs a complete bike for $3200?
Napa, CA

Hi Howard,

1) If you have not had a ride on a Lightning P-38 yet, it would be prudent to try it out before purchasing one. There has to be a friendly Lighting rider somewhere around Napa California who would let you take a spin. Post a request on Bryan Ball's bentrideronline website, and someone will probably respond. There might even be a dealer not too far away from you - Tim Brummer of Lightning could tell you.

Determine what size frame you need first, and mention that when you post a note on Bryan's site. Someone reading here might contact you too, though this site has a much smaller readership than Bentrideronline.

I have owned the Ryan Vanguard and Easy Racers Tour Easy bikes, though not a RANS Screamer. Each bike has its own personality, strengths and weaknesses. It is best to try before you buy, since each rider has different seat preferences, riding styles, and the like.

2) The frameset versus complete bike decision depends on a number of factors:

a) Have you ever built a bike up before? Do you know the details (such as threading orientation on the bottom bracket)?
Do you already have the necessary tools?

b) Do you already have the components you will need, or at least some of them? Are you fussy about exactly which parts you want on your bike?

If you have experience and tools, and are picky about component choice, the frameset option is a good one. If you are not experienced and not so picky, I would go with a complete bike.

Another option to consider is to buy used. Many recumbent riders switch bikes like ordinary people change their underclothes. This means there are bargains to be found if you are willing to poke around the web looking for them, and are patient. Just make sure you are getting the right size frame. And look for a post-1996 bike with the little ovalized cross brace between the top tubes in front of the seat. The post-1996 frames are somewhat more robustly built than the earliest bikes.

I still have an old Tour Easy, mostly used by my girlfriend. I sometimes regret selling my Ryan Vanguard. Have had about fifteen different recumbent bikes over a thirty year period.

Still think the Lightning P-38 is the best all-around machine though. It has very agile handling, a very comfortable mesh seat that lets my skin breath during hot & humid Chicago summers, a heads-up seating position that is excellent for riding in motor traffic, and other strong suits too numerous to mention...

Such as being transformable into an F40 street streamliner.

The P-38 is expensive, but it is hand-made one at a time in a small shop in California. Not mass produced in a gigantic factory in China. (Though the Phantom frame is made in Taiwan.)

For an experienced recumbent rider like you, I think it is worth the money. I still suggest a test ride first.

Safe riding,

Thanks for the reply.
I have a test ride set up on a P38 for June 21, with Tim's brother-in law. He's the rep for this area.
A friend of mine has a similar bike called the J-Bar by Woodside Cycle and we're were planning to do a comparison.
As for building a bike from a frame set. That's not something I've done although I am presently rebuilding an antique motorcycle. However, I have a friend who is a bike mechanic.
I enjoy upgrading my bikes and have made a number of performance modifications to my bikes.
As for finding a used one. I have had a 'P38 wanted' posting on bent rider for a few weeks asking for a large size in the N. CA area. About a 100 people have viewed it but no replies.


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