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Bacchetta verses P38

Am a content rider of a PHANTOM Want a faster bent to stay with my BIANCHI uprite fellow riders. Thought a BACCHETTA CARBON AERO would do the trick. Would like some input as to get a P38 with the works instead??? DOUG DANIELE

Hi Doug,

You write that you are content with your Lightning Phantom, but want something faster in order to keep up with your riding friends on Bianchi upright road bikes.

You do not say what sort of terrain you are riding in.

Let me take a wild guess: you are having trouble keeping up on the longer and steeper hills, right? And you are wondering if a lighter bike, like the Bacchetta carbon high racer, will help more than your Phantom?

Don't you just hate it when your friends pull away from you on the climbs?

I think that the Lightning recumbent bikes with the traditional heads-up mesh seats are the best climbing recumbent bikes. Naturally, a carbon fiber R84 with the lightest components will have a weight advantage over your cro-moly steel Phantom with ordinary components.

I do not think a Bacchetta high racer, or any other bike with a very laid-back seat, will help you on the climbs. I think it will hurt you. The laid-back seat and high crankset will give you a real speed advantage on the flats and downhills, but will work against you on the tougher climbs.

Let's give the devil his due: traditional upright road racing bikes can climb faster than even the best-climbing recumbents (like Lightnings) when the hills get bad. Why? I don't know. One theory is that upright riders can utilize core body muscles and upper body muscles that recumbent riders cannot use efficiently. Upright riders can also switch positions, and give some muscle groups a rest while using others. I know that there are some recumbent riders who claim that they can climb just as well on their 'bents as they can climb on an upright racing bike. I am not sure I believe them. But even if we accept what they say as true, they are a very small minority of recumbent folk.

So what are your options? You could get a super lightweight Lightning bike, like the carbon fiber R84 with all the trick components. It will be expensive, and will be a wonderful bike. But my bet is that your Bianchi-riding friends will STILL pull away on those really tough climbs, though more slowly than they do when you ride your Phantom.

This is just one person's opinion, and I am sure that some other recumbent riders will think I am full of fecal matter about this. I wish I could offer you more helpful advice.

Safe riding,
Joel

Joel, I asked you to help me make a choice about the ability of me keeping up with my upright Bianchi- riding friends before. I'm only 5ft 5 and we ride on the west coast of FLORIDA( no hills). The new P38 Velocity 2x9 seems more fit for me, especially in tight quarters. When we ride, Bacchettas seem to go by us very often. I've never tried to mount one yet,but am told the high seat and crank position might be too much for me. I'm in good shape,but 70years old. I've always liked your advice in the past. DOUG DANIELE

For riding the flats of Florida, you could squeeze out some more speed by switching to the new laid-back carbon fiber seat offered by Lightning, the "midracer" seat.

(Of course, you should first find out if you will be comfy on this type of seat. There is no point in being a little faster if you are not comfortable.)

The laid-back seat will give you an aerodynamic advantage on the flats similar to what the Bacchetta riders have. Can you convert your present Phantom to the newer laid-back seat, or will you need to get a new bike? I don't know. Get on the telephone with Tim Brummer at Lightning to find out.

If you are 5'5" tall, I would stay away from the various high racer style recumbent bikes. They work better for taller riders. You will have trouble getting your feet flat on the ground at stops.

Clipless pedals help, if you do not have them now. Skinny high pressure racing tires help, as long as the roads are nice and smooth. The same tires can beat you up and slow you down on rougher roads.

My congratulations to you for continuing to ride and stay fit at the age of 70! If some other rider manages to pass you, try not to take it too hard. It happens to younger riders too. There is always someone more fit than you out there.

I hope that I can be riding when I reach your age.

Best wishes,
Joel

Joel, Thanks for the quick response. I do ride clipless and do not want to go for the layback seat. I'm going to spend the bucks and get a new P38 Velocity 2x9. just needed your advice. We stop a lot on our rides as you get a ticket if you don't stop at intersections or crosswalks. Need to plant my feet in a hurry. Will not be able on a high racer. Thanks again DOUG DANIELE

Hey Doug-

Tim Brummer and the Lightning folks will probably feel like strangling me for saying this, but...

If your main reason to switch from your trusty Phantom to a new Lightning P-38 is to increase your average speed on the flats of Florida, I think you are making a mistake. I do not think the more lightweight bike with nicer components is really going to make a difference in your speed. On the flats, it is AERODYNAMICS that really count. The lighter weight of the P-38 will make a certain amount of difference on the climbs. But as you have said, you are not doing any real climbing worthy of the name.

Suppose that you just want to treat yourself with a newer and nicer bike. Something prettier, lighter, with fancier parts. Then by all means, get the new bike. It can help inject a little bit of novelty into your cycling life, and you can keep the Phantom as your rainy-day and grocery-getting spare.

But if going faster is really the important reason to make a change, my suggestion would be to get a fairing for your Phantom instead of the P-38. The little handlebar mounted Zzipper fairing would help some, at least when you are really cranking hard. If you are into do-it-yourself projects, you could construct a fairing out of Coroplast plastic sheets at minimal cost. There is information about this to be found on the web by going to Google and typing in "Lee Wakefield recumbent" and by visiting Warren Beauchamp's site:

www.recumbents.com

You can easily find the links to the Wakefield stuff listed on the links page of this site too. Even if you do not feel like building your own fairing, it is worth taking a look at what he has done with plastic sheets available at signage shops.

If you want to go EXTREMELY fast on the Florida flats, you might even consider getting a Lightning F40, the fully-faired version of the P-38. A number of older riders - like Tyger Johnson and Bill Hannon - regularly give spankings to much younger riders when riding their F40 bikes.

Of course, if you get an F40 you will not be able to ride with the Bianchi road bike friends anymore. They will not have any chance at all of keeping up with you.

Safe riding,
Joel

I'm a physicist and sometime fluid dynamics guy. The Terracycle XT fairing (the small one, not the larger GX) will give you more bang for your buck than the small Zipper fairing. Yes, you will get more wind on your hands than with small Zipper. But you will get a greater aerodynamic effect from the coverage of your feet.

As for larger fairings, either the large Zipper or the Terracycle GX look to me to be equivalent.

OK, if your trying to keep up with the west coast FL Bacchetta guys who your talking about.
John Schlitter... He would be fast on my Surly Big Dummy.
John Tanner... even faster... (Both John's are accomplished DF racers as well)
Troy Timmons... a beast...
James Ossa... the amazingly super great guy who is very humble about his abilities... but again extremely talented guy.
Bacchetta has done a very good job at getting some of the fastest bent riders in the south east on their bikes. They've made converts of some of the strongest DF riders as well.

Keep perspective about who your getting passed by! There are also many top tier tri-guys in South West Florida. On flat ground though laid back is the way to go if the position works for you. It would be too hot to try faired. My problem in Atlanta with an F-40 is heat.

I 2nd the two above recommendations.
A fairing is the best way to gain speed on the flats, downhills and into the wind.
The P-38 has an upright riding position so a fairing helps more on this type of bike than on a more laid back position bike like, say, a carbon Aero.
I have a large P-38 with a full size Zzipper fairing which I bought used from the BROL classifieds. The fairing has made a big difference in how the bike picks up speed so quickly as soon as the road flattens out or, (yes I love it), goes slightly downhill.
If your riding conditions include moderate grade rollers a faired 'bent can really make some significant progress going down the road. The trick is to hammer the downside of the rollers, easy to do on the p-38 with it's 700c rear wheel, so the momentum you gained will help carry you up the upside. On conditions like this I can often leave everyone in my wake.
I used to ride in Central FL (Orlando) which has more hills than the west side of the state but that was when I had a Burley Django or a Rans SXP. I sometimes ran into the West Coast crowd and yes, they were fast. There was a guy named John, don't remember his last name, who had a ti Aero and of course Mark Power on his carbon Aero.
Now I live in OR and although the fairing is of little help climbing our numerous hills it offers such an advantage in other ways, including shielding the lower extremities from the rain, that I keep it on year round.

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