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Lightning R84

I've been riding a P38 for 5 years and have 30,000+ miles on it. I am very happy with it and use it for all my touring adventures. However, I would like a lighter, faster recumbent for riding locally with non-recumbent friends. I am looking at an R84 and I'm wondering if anyone out there could comment on the pros and cons of this recumbent. I live in the mountains and climb hills of 8% - 10% on every ride. If I head up to the the pass, the inclines are steeper and longer. I also have a Bacchetta Corsa (steel) which is really fun to ride except for one thing: it takes a couple of weeks to transition from Lightning muscles to Bacchetta muscles. I've looked (on the internet) at a Carbent and a Bacchetta Carbon Aero (which is unavailable at this time). This is a big investment for me so I'm seeking information on any or all of these recumbents.

1) If a Lightning P-38 and an R-84 are the same frame size, and have exactly the same components, how much less will the R-84 weigh than the P-38? I don't know, but would guesstimate that it is between one and two pounds. How much money is getting rid of between one and two pounds worth to you? Yeah, the R-84 has some additional nice features, such as rear suspension. And it certainly looks cool. But presumably the rear suspension and looks won't help on the tough climbs.

2) The conventional wisdom regarding recumbents and upright road bikes on steep hills is that recumbents are at a disadvantage because they weigh more. So if you equalize bike weight, and compare a recumbent and a road bike used by equally fit cyclists of like body weight, the hill climbing advantage enjoyed by roadies should disappear. On this view, the power-to-weight ratio is the whole story in climbing steep and long hills.

My own opinion is that the conventional wisdom is mistaken. Knocking some weight off your recumbent bike - say, by switching from a P-38 to an R-84 - won't allow you to keep up with the roadies on steep hills, even if you and your upright cycling partners are closely matched in fitness and body weight. You should have the advantage on the flats and downhills, but they should continue to have the advantage on the steep uphills. Yes, power-to-weight ratio matters bigtime. But it is not the whole story.

This is not to say that you shouldn't get a lighter recumbent bike if your heart so moves you. But don't expect that losing a pound or two is going to make a big difference in steep and long hill climbing. It will help, but only a little bit.

3) If you could write up something giving your impressions of the P-38 and the Bacchetta Corsa, in a sort of "compare and contrast" exercise, I am sure many of us would find it interesting. It does not have to be long and detailed. Just write whatever you feel like.

Safe riding,
Joel Dickman

Thank you, Joel, for your response. About the weight: I absolutely agree that a few pounds would not make much difference. Awhile back I talked with Tim Brummer on the phone and he assured me that the 2007 R-84 really does weigh 19-20 pounds. I just went out and weighed my P-38 (with fairing, pedals, and kickstand) and it tips the scales at 33 pounds. I am estimating a 10 pound difference once all is said and done. Is that worth the big bucks? I'm not sure.

I've read and heard that the drive train is noisy. That would bother me. I like a quiet bike with no squeaks or creaks and only want to hear the rushing wind, my blood pulsing, and my heart pounding (from excitement, not exertion, of course!).

I haven't read any reviews or spoken with anyone about the 2007 R-84 (new molds). The price tag pretty much makes me faint! This would be a retirement present to myself after 37 years of teaching. I might have to teach one more year if I decide to purchase one!

Hi again Elizabeth,

Your P-38 tips the scale at 33 pounds. But that is with a) S&S couplers (for the Voyager model P-38 you have), b) a kickstand, c) a fairing of some sort, and d) unspecified components and wheels.

When Tim Brummer talks about the R-84 being 19 or 20 pounds, that is with no S&S couplers, no kickstand, no fairing of any sort, and the most pricey carbon fiber and titanium components. Such as his own ultralight carbon crankset, for example.

The question I would pose to Tim before laying down my hard-earned cash is precisely how much weight is saved by using the R-84 frame itself (over the P-38 frame), independently of the ultralight components and wheels.

There is a review of the older R-84 by Jim Langley. You can find a link close to the top of the links page on this site. Bryan Ball of the 'Bentrider website is in the process of writing a review of the newest version of the R-84. You could email him for his take if you do not want to wait for the review to appear on his site. Also: if you scroll down towards the bottom of the first forum page here and look under "Front suspension fork" by ncaudio, there are some brief impressions of the R-84 in relation to the P-38.

I have also heard that the R-84 drivetrain is noisy. The chain actually passes inside the hollow frame. This may somehow amplify mechanical noise. And some R-84 owners in years past have complained about a variety of little reliability issues that may take some of the fun out of owning the bike. The loudest complaining on the internet a few years ago came from a guy who is not trustworthy. But other more believable riders have been critical too.

Of course, choosing a bike does not have to be so scientific. If the R-84 gets your blood flowing - for any reason at all - or for no reason whatsoever - and you can afford it, why not? You only live once.

I do not know anything about the Carbent and Bacchetta Carbon bikes. I would guess that they are similar to your Corsa, but a few pounds lighter. Some Carbent and Bacchetta owners report liking them in posts to Bryan Ball's site. But some of the enthusiastic accounts come from riders who switch expensive bikes like other people change their underwear.

Whatever you decide to do, please write back to us with your impressions of the new ride. That is, if you get one!

Joel Dickman

I'm thinking of buying a Lightning Voyager to have a second bike in addition to my Phantom. At first I though I would have a faster and lighter bike with the Voyager, but for me now it's more important to have one bike setup with rack, bags, and wider tires for town trips and touring, and a second bike for group and supported rides, and not concentrate so much on total weight. The Phantom is very sturdy and heavy, but I can use a light 700c wheel as well as a wide range of 26" tires. But, if I could afford a R84, I would get one.

You've got a great blog, Elizabeth.

Larry Guevara

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