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Downhill Terrors

P-38 ROX, XL size

I experience considerable shaking of the handlebars when going downhill and/or fast (>20mph) on the flats. I've seen pictures of P-38 bikes with handlebars other than stock. Would trying different handlebars (i.e. Bacchetta-style) help to mitigate this issue? If so, might I solicit suggestions?

I have "crashed" because of the issue. It was a gentle wreck into the grass on a bike trail. I was moving quickly and the handlebar started shaking. I panicked and took the bike into the grass. There was no damage to the bike or myself. However, that incident would have been much less benign if I had been going down a hill on a real road.

Every other aspect of the bike is sublime. The low-speed handling is fantastic. Although I only spend five percent of my riding dealing with the handlebar shake, I would like to fix the issue. At present, I'm not going downhill faster than 20mph.

Hi Hank -

Something is seriously wrong with your bike. Maybe a very loose headset? I don't know, and can't know without examining the bike. You should take the bike to a recumbent-friendly mechanic and have it checked out thoroughly before riding it again. You might prefer some other handlebar to the stock one, but I am sure that it is not the stock handlebar that is causing your bike to get shakey at speed. Glad your gentle wreck did not result in serious injury, but next time you might not be so lucky. Get the problem diagnosed and cured by an expert. And do it pronto.

Safe riding,
These three prevent most accidents: seeing, being seen, & (usually) common sense.

I hope that I have my terminology correct and am repeating everything accurately. The headset itself was fine. The "collars" (that hold the headset in place?) were replaced. There was a thin silver collar that did not seat properly. It was moving around as I rode.

What is the rubber O-ring used for? The mechanic had no idea. It came out with one of the collars. He gave me back to me with the parts he replaced.

In any case, the bike is much more stable after the fix. The repairman assured me that the bike was safe. I am slowly regaining my nerve and going downhill. I would guess that I'm up to 20-25mph and have felt no shaking.

Hello again Hank -

Glad you got the problem solved. The O-ring that your bike mechanic removed was put in purposefully by Lightning when the bike was built. It is intended to act as a steering damper. Some riders think that the Lightning steering "feel" is too quick, and prefer a more relaxed handling quality. The steering damper provides this, slowing down the way that the handlebar / steering column / fork / front wheel turns. I would not worry about it being removed. You should get the hang of the handling just by putting in more miles. The headset of a bike is a critically important component. If any part of the headset gets loosey-goosey you can crash. A high speed crash going down a long steep hill can ruin your whole day.

Safe riding,

Thank you for the kind reply. If, at some point in the future, I want to reinsert the O-Ring to dampen the steering, where does it go?

Hey Hank -

I think that the O-ring just goes around the steerer tube so that the outer edge of the ring can rub against the inner surface of the head tube. The friction of the rubber O-ring against the steel inner frame tube slows down the steering. I suppose that the rubbing would eventually wear the O-ring down and lessen the damping effect. It is a simple and low-tech way to change the steering "feel" of the bike.

Safe riding,

I won't worry about the O-Ring. The handlebars feel just fine. Going faster than I ever did before the repair (probably 25mph range) with no issues...



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