Confessions of recumbent virgin or ....first ride on my Iowa Linear

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
(Ooer, missus)
I bought this Iowa Linear not having had a test ride of any type of recumbent. I live miles from anywhere that could give me a trial. I got this bike for a good price and thought I would just give it a go.
After ten days or so of fettling, I had been waiting for a calm dry day for a test flight. Just wearing ordinary clothes, bike clips, track mitts and battered baseball cap
Overcast, rain earlier. Roads are dry, no wind. Took a photo of the Linear in front of my trusty NTV. It is actually longer than the Honda.
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Once outside, while I was locking the gate a bloke on a mobility scooter came past and said, “That’s a long bike!”. It certainly is. 88" long in fact.

There is a gradual downhill to the left outside my back gate, and I thought this would be a good place to relearn my bicycling skills. It is usually quiet at this time of day, though there is a minor road junction about 25 yards downhill on the right.

I got the bike on to the road and sat on it. I adjusted the mirror, and checked that I could find the brakes and gears easily, unable to see them as they are under the seat. I tried each foot separately for reach to the pedals. Everything seemed OK. I felt hypersensitive to everything going on. I was not going to risk takeoff while there was a car within a quarter mile. Random pedestrians seemed to appear from nowhere, crossed the road and disappeared. My wallet was digging into my right buttock, so I removed it. The wallet, not the buttock. OK then. How hard can it be? It’s just a bike.

All clear. I got my right foot on the pedal just before 12 O’clock and pushed off as prescribed. Wobble wobble Aaargh! Both feet down. Tried again. This time heading for the other side of the road. Crammed on the brakes, pushed back to the kerb. This was not going to be as easy as I thought. Looked around furtively. Nobody about to witness my embarrassment, thank goodness.

Tried once more, had to jam on the brakes and stick my left foot out to avoid colliding with the kerb.

At this stage a bunch of teenagers appeared and crossed the road in front of me so I theatrically whipped out my phone and pretended to be answering a call. Oh yes, I meant to stop here. I always ride like this, at least on this bike. Nobody actually said anything, but I had my excuses ready.

What spawn of the devil was this contraption? A lifetime of riding bikes and suddenly I am 4 years old again! Do I need stabilisers at my age? I’m going to master this thing! After pondering for a bit I decided to paddle downhill without pedalling and take it from there. After a couple of false starts I got rolling and after a couple of zig zags got it under control. That was better. 75 yards later the fear and loathing had subsided and I managed to stop in a straight line without falling over.
Time for the legs now. Same procedure as before. Right pedal just before 12 O’clock, a touch of back brake, a good look round, all clear, push and release brake simultaneously, sweep left foot up to meet rising pedal, push and continue smoothly. Steering still a bit erratic, like my folder you need to point it where you want to go. Rode for several miles like this, experimenting with the gears and finding things easier as I relaxed back into the seat and slackened my death grip on the bars.
As I passed a family group on the pavement I heard a little girl shout, “Mummy, Mummy! Look at that funny bike!” I suppose I will have to get used to this now.

Some interesting points. You can pedal while cornering. My perception is that it tends to fall into corners so you need to pedal while cornering to maintain a smooth line. Also, while trying to make a tight turn you need to pedal, and gently apply the rear brake to make control easier. These are motorcycling techniques, which seem to work with this bike.

The steering is not like a bike with a large front wheel. It doesn’t flow into corners, you have to actively control it with the bars. There is no play in the linkages, although the bars themselves have a few mm of up and down movement -if one side rocks downwards, the other rocks upwards and vice versa. I need to experiment with different thickness of washers on the pivot bolt. The steering is very sensitive to input, and I have to adapt to that – more like fingertip control. I have made some hand signals and the steering even responds to taking a hand off the bars so I need to learn to compensate for that too.

Having your knees flying around before your very eyes like the business end of some Edwardian traction engine will take some getting used to. Despite doing quite a bit of cycling this year I’ve not really got my legs out so I will definitely need to put my shades on to avoid being dazzled if it ever gets warm enough to wear shorts.

Starting and stopping are the new skills I have to learn, a matter of gaining confidence and developing muscle memory. It is easier to do than think about. Stopping is probably the easier part, knowing how slow you can go before putting your feet down to make an elegant stop.

I was expecting to have a lot of squeaking and creaking from this aluminium frame but it is pretty quiet. The previous owner advised me to keep the folding joints well greased and tightly done up and for the purposes of my 5 mile test ride at least, it is effective. The noisiest thing on the bike is the bell, which rattles. Will have to do something about that.

How would I sum up this test ride? Pretty scary to start with, but as my reactions became more attuned to the bike’s feedback it got better. It is certainly comfortable. It really is analagous to flying, with the takeoffs and landings being the stressful part. Got to practice starting off, getting going at junctions quickly and then once I am OK with that, starting on a hill. Probably will just happen with practice.

Looking forward to longer rides.
 

FrankCrank

Professional layabout
Been riding a homemade LWB for a few years now, and tried under seat steering and above. My preference is above, just feels more natural to me. I still get the willies starting off, especially at junctions or the slightest of gradients. Turning circle is large, so planning ahead is necessary. Benefit of LWB is smooth limo ride. Main thing is to have fun, and stay safe :okay:
 
OP
a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
Yes, I can see the advantage of having Over Seat Steering as you can see what you are doing with the controls and have somewhere to put bike computers, mirrors and such like. Still, for now what I've got is what I've got, and I'll see how I get on with it. It has the turning circle of a supertanker and some of that must be due to the indirect steering linkage limiting the front wheel movement, possibly might be smaller with some kind of direct steering, but probably not by much. Despite the ratio of movement being 1:1 there isn't much feedback from the front wheel. Whether that might be better with direct steering is hard to say, it might be more to do with rake, castor, head angle or even having a draggier or stickier front tyre. I will be changing the tyres at some stage, the rear (a 700C) has noticeable cracks in the sidewalls while the front (20 X 1 3/8) is not so bad but will still need changing.

Meanwhile I just have to get out and ride it a bit. Being at be back of the queue when the legs were handed out I had hoped that the seat might be a little lower than it is, but it is manageable.

It has been raining this afternoon otherwise I might have been out on it again.

Starting off certainly seems to be an issue with recumbents, and planning ahead is definitely high on the agenda. I wonder how Lowracer type bikes compare for starting off?
 

FrankCrank

Professional layabout
I think a lowracer would prove difficult for a novice. You would have a higher BB relative to the seat, and this increases the learning curve by heaps. One of my projects was a SWB, but gave up on it as couldn't get used to having the high BB. I suspect those that take to lowracers are young, athletic and with flexible bodies, so no wonder I found it hard going. Can you convert yours to OSS?
 
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a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
I think a lowracer would prove difficult for a novice. You would have a higher BB relative to the seat, and this increases the learning curve by heaps. One of my projects was a SWB, but gave up on it as couldn't get used to having the high BB. I suspect those that take to lowracers are young, athletic and with flexible bodies, so no wonder I found it hard going. Can you convert yours to OSS?
This was my impression too. The higher BB looks to be a psychological barrier as well as a physical one. I suppose younger people bounce better when they slide off the learning curve. Getting your feet up quickly and down again would be more of a challenge, even if the seat was closer to the ground. Since I am a bit vintage, unathletic and not very flexible I think I made the right choice with this LWB with the slightly higher seat position.

I have a very basic manual which came with the bike and the picture on the cover shows two versions, one with USS and the other with OSS, with a set of immense ape hanger bars. There is a conventional quill stem set up at the front end ( It came with a stem and short section of bar for mounting lights, computers etc on) so I imagine using a quill stem and suitable bars, it could be converted to OSS fairly easily. The cables would need to be replaced with longer ones but I suppose the brake levers and gear changers would swop straight over. The only problem with such long bars I can see is that they would need to hang out a long way to left or right when manoevreing.

After you brought up the subject I went out to the garage and had a look at the set up. The USS handlebars are set up on a block which can slide back and forth to match the seat adjustment, and the two sets of adjustment are independent of each other. The steering rod has a matching set of holes so it can be adjusted in length accordingly. It's not impossible to fit the handlebar block in front of the seat. Some kind of vertical folding rod with bars at the top could be devised to fit the pivot block and still make use of the indirect steering. It's not so simple and elegant as direct steering but would minimise the overhang when turning tightly. Perhaps that aspect is less of an issue than I imagine? How have you found it?
For myself, that type of bodgery is well into the future, as I haven't ridden it enough to come to any conclusions as yet. I am finding your input very interesting.
 
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a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
Just looking at the photo of your linear; I cant see a front derailleur...
how are you able to move the chain between the 3 chain rings I can see?
I suppose the short answer to that question would be "with great difficulty" compared with just pushing a lever! It has a Sachs 3 speed hub at the back with a 7 speed block giving 21 gears. As far as I can find out, Linear LWB bikes of that era (late 1990s as far as I can tell) which had the Sachs 3X7 set up were sent out with the front derailleur mounting block in place and triple chainset but not the cylindrical post or front derailleur. Versions with just a 7 speed hub had the functioning front derailleur set up.

I assume that being a small company with small production quantities, they probably had large stocks of the triple chainrings on their shelves and just used up what they had. There are lots of photos of Linear recumbents on the internet which seems to bear this out. Linear have had a few owners in their history, originally being produced in Guttenberg, Iowa, and are still going today in New York State. There have been some changes over the years but a Linear from the 80s or 90s is still recognisably similar to the updated modern ones.

If I wanted to, I could fit a front derailleur, giving 63 gears which is kind of cool. Meanwhile it is quite easy to manually change the chain over with a metal tyre lever or screwdriver before your ride. The chainset is 52-38-28 (haven't counted the cogs on the small ring) and I am using the 38 while I'm still getting used to it. Space is a little tight on the underseat handlebars so I would have to find an alternative place to fit an extra lever if I did fit one.
 
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bobcolover

Veteran
Location
south london
I may be wrong , and i dont know definitively about the front triple chainset think that its a bit weird to have a triple and the dual drive hub gear and rear derrailleur set up, but i think it is fitted sometimes on trikes as they can go up the steepest slopes without worrying about balance issues. I have a couple of recumbents with 3 x 7 at the back and the advantage is that you can change gear while stationary in traffic. You might be right about just fitting the triple as they had them, but even so it would have been unnecessarily more expensive than a single chainring...
 

404 Not Found Anywhere

Well-Known Member
With a LWB like that and relatively conventional head angles I think over-seat steering would be pretty challenging - there’d be a huge tiller effect. The indirect, USS system at least gives you a much better feel of what the front wheel Is doing. Much of what you’ve described seems normal for a first recumbent experience, keep at it and before long it will seem pretty natural!
 
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a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
I may be wrong , and i dont know definitively about the front triple chainset think that its a bit weird to have a triple and the dual drive hub gear and rear derrailleur set up, but i think it is fitted sometimes on trikes as they can go up the steepest slopes without worrying about balance issues. I have a couple of recumbents with 3 x 7 at the back and the advantage is that you can change gear while stationary in traffic. You might be right about just fitting the triple as they had them, but even so it would have been unnecessarily more expensive than a single chainring...
It is a bit weird. I'm only surmising from the pictures that I've seen. Who knows what individual owners might have done in the intervening decades since they were built. It's just that there is a strange consistency in the photos, and the chainrings seem to be the same pattern in many of them. It does seem to be an uneconomic belt-and-braces type of thing for a manufacturer to do.

If your rear hub gear filled itself with shrapnel in Sweatsock, Nebraska, probably the local bike shop could supply you with a standard wheel to get you going again, and the triple would be there in case you wanted to fit a cheap front changer.

The original photocopied handbook that came with it refers only to "18 speed gears". with no specifics. The previous owner had it for 20-odd years. He said it came with a 26" rear wheel which as I understood it came with the hub gear, which he had built into a 700C wheel. The front end had no derailleur when he got it. It also has a non standard hub braked front wheel, and the fork has no braze ons for a V brake.

If only it could talk!

As a matter of interest, as you say you have a couple of trikes with 3 X 7 at the back, what type of gear changer do they have? Mine has a standard triple chainring thumb shifter, non indexed, which I thought was strange. High and low ought to be OK, but something with a positive click for middle gear would be reassuring me that middle gear was being retained in the correct position and not wearing splines. It all works fine, and the seller said he just got used to it. I suppose I associate hub gears with trigger shifters. I have read that the SA trigger shifter is compatible, unless you have another suggestion. I am not so bothered about having changers that match, as you can't see them under the seat.
 
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a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
With a LWB like that and relatively conventional head angles I think over-seat steering would be pretty challenging - there’d be a huge tiller effect. The indirect, USS system at least gives you a much better feel of what the front wheel Is doing. Much of what you’ve described seems normal for a first recumbent experience, keep at it and before long it will seem pretty natural!
I think I've got to get to know the beast better. Thanks for your reassurance!
 

bobcolover

Veteran
Location
south london
I dont have any trikes but 2 wheel recumbents;

the recumbents with the hub gear/ rear cassette are pashley PDQ Sram 3x7 probably original but v old, 25 years maybe, indexed twist grip on the hub gear,
and a modern HPV streetmachine Sram dual drive also indexed 3 speed twist grip.

I forgot also in my shed an Optima Dingo that i havent used for ages, that has a dual drive and a 3 speed Sram Attack indexed twist grip.

all have above seat steering.

I might be persuaded to part with the Dingo....
 
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a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
I dont have any trikes but 2 wheel recumbents;

the recumbents with the hub gear/ rear cassette are pashley PDQ Sram 3x7 probably original but v old, 25 years maybe, indexed twist grip on the hub gear,
and a modern HPV streetmachine Sram dual drive also indexed 3 speed twist grip.

I forgot also in my shed an Optima Dingo that i havent used for ages, that has a dual drive and a 3 speed Sram Attack indexed twist grip.

all have above seat steering.

I might be persuaded to part with the Dingo....
Thanks for the info. I think I've got my hands full at the moment. Also can't contemplate n + 1 until the cloud I'm currently under from buying this one dissipates!
 

FrankCrank

Professional layabout
With a LWB like that and relatively conventional head angles I think over-seat steering would be pretty challenging - there’d be a huge tiller effect. The indirect, USS system at least gives you a much better feel of what the front wheel Is doing. Much of what you’ve described seems normal for a first recumbent experience, keep at it and before long it will seem pretty natural!
When I built my LWB, I used a head tube angle with OSS in mind, ie to lessen the tiller as much as possible. It also worked well when converted to USS, but as said my preference after all was for OSS. As you've rightly indicated, the head tube geometry on this bike is designed for USS, and would agree a conversion to OSS would have a huge amount of tiller, so conversion works successfully one way it seems. More saddle time might sort many newbie nerves. I decided the SWB was not for me after nearly a year of regular riding, best not to make hast decisions eh.
 
Great to hear the experiences of a new rider getting to know my very old friend the Linear. My advice is don’t overthink it! The turning circle for example, will feel huge at first, but you are using all the right techniques. After a few months and relaxing into it, you will find you can spot the front end exactly where you want it. I still can’t get my short wheelbase lowrider round a certain 30degree oblique reverse corner that I used to cruise round on the Linear every day!

For the history, and all things Linear, consult the website of ‘The Bicycle Man’ who, from his shop in New York State, keeps the brand alive today with some fine modern versions. The thing about the old Linear is it is an example of what used to be called ‘Yankee Ingenuity’ eg, getting by with the simple, basic solutions. The seat slings on the early models were allegedly sewn by Amish women. It’s that kind of bike! Hence things like the triple with no shifter. The option is there to upgrade, or just to choose your favourite cruising gear by changing manually. I ended up using my front mech post as a light mount!

Give yourself time to get to know the Linear. It really is a one of a kind bike, even in the world of recumbents, and many of its ‘bugs’ are actually features of simplicity. Hope you have as much pleasure as I am still having in mine. In spite of their occasional rattles and shakes, these are durable bikes that can take you as far as you have the appetite to go.

The one serious weakness of the old model Linears are the stamped rear stays, which can pull sideways if ridden for a long time by a strong rider prone to ‘mashing’ the pedals. (Easy way to wreck your knees on a bent!) Mine had a bad case, made worse by an evident crash under previous ownership. I straightened the ‘rear frame’ as Linear call it, on a home made bench jig with lots of string plumb lines and some long studding fixed into the drop outs. I then cut a horseshoe shaped reinforcer out of thick ally, and had it professionally welded on. This is basically the same fix Peter Stull, the Bicycle Man mentioned earlier, when he first put Linear back into production. It works well. Later Stull had the whole rear frame redesigned as you will see on his website today.
 
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