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

OP
a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
I note the 1999 -2002 models had that rear frame mod which also allowed a V brake to be fitted. I'm surprised that a retrofit version of that wasn't marketed by "The Bicycle Man" as there must be many older Linears in the USA at least. I was quite apprehensive about buying an older aluminium framed bike such as this having seen the horror stories about frame issues. However, after checking it thoroughly before buying it, and even more thoroughly while doing the jobs to get it ready for the road, I am quite impressed by the condition of the frame. Apart from a light patina the frame itself is in remarkably good condition. Maybe it only takes a small number of frame problems to give the whole design a bad name.

I can only conclude that when it was designed it was deemed adequate for all normal uses that were foreseeable. Having seen the size of many Americans, being tall as well as broad, while on holidays, I can imagine that it must have been designed with that in mind. But obviously there are stronger riders about who must have regularly put them through stresses and loads that could not have been foreseen. Surely, despite the well publicised issues, many original Iowa Linears must have survived. Recumbents in my limited experience tend to be a bit pampered, not used regularly and in bad weather, so not exposed to wear and tear, salt and grit.

I have seen one recumbent this year, a trike, towing a trailer, who turned off after a brief glimpse of him before I could catch up. Perhaps I should get out more!

I'm awaiting a couple of tyres and a bike computer. I will do a few more short local rides to build up my confidence before I assemble some Linear specific tools (a lot of non metric American fasteners on this bike) and have a go at one of my local circuits to see how I manage.

I had an original aluminium Bickerton Portable a few years ago and that really felt like a collection of spare parts travelling in the same direction. It wasn't welded, it was held together with nuts and bolts. Even with everything bolted up tight, it squeaked. When you pedalled even moderately you could feel the back wheel moving about. Strangely though, and particularly for something with such small wheels, it was very comfortable.
If you concentrated on what the front end was doing, it was hard to steer in a straight line. If you just looked further ahead to where you wanted to go, it all fell into place. I think that the Linear will respond to the same treatment, though it feels a lot more together than the Bickerton.

I would be quite interested to see what your frame reinforcement looks like, if you could post a picture. I might get the urge to do something similar at some time in order to future proof it.
 

Gravity Aided

Legendary Member
Location
Land of Lincoln
I had a Bike E recumbent that gave me much the same initial experience, riding around like a four year old for about a half-hour before I took off. It had over seat steering, and was, as observed before, prone to the tiller effect. It also had a small front wheel, which did not help matters. I wound up with a recumbent trike as it suited my needs better, but the two-wheeled recumbents are a bit more graceful. Not maneuverable, but graceful.
 
OP
a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
There does seem to be a bigger following for trikes. Perhaps people find them more user friendly and accessible. There certainly seem to be more for sale at manageable prices than two wheeled recumbents. I had been tempted by a used KMX on ebay a couple of months ago but at that price point there seems to be quite a bit of upgrading needed to get it comparable to my current modest steel tourer, for example. I opted for a bike as my storage space is limited and I hoped to be able to get through the barriers on my favourite cycle trails without too much difficulty. Kissing Gates might be an interesting challenge (stand it on its back wheel?). Not intending to go through too many of those! A- frames, not so bad. Possibly 3 wheels might be a bit tight for getting out of my back gate, too.

Also, I liked the challenge!

For those who are interested, here is a fuzzy photo from the front of the handbook that came with the bike. It shows an over seat steering version behind an under seat steering version. No idea if the front end geometry was different. The potential is there for a different set up as the headstock and part of the front frame is separate, as it is designed to fold under for transportation.
535301
 

FrankCrank

Professional layabout
There does seem to be a bigger following for trikes. Perhaps people find them more user friendly and accessible. There certainly seem to be more for sale at manageable prices than two wheeled recumbents. I had been tempted by a used KMX on ebay a couple of months ago but at that price point there seems to be quite a bit of upgrading needed to get it comparable to my current modest steel tourer, for example. I opted for a bike as my storage space is limited and I hoped to be able to get through the barriers on my favourite cycle trails without too much difficulty. Kissing Gates might be an interesting challenge (stand it on its back wheel?). Not intending to go through too many of those! A- frames, not so bad. Possibly 3 wheels might be a bit tight for getting out of my back gate, too.

Also, I liked the challenge!

For those who are interested, here is a fuzzy photo from the front of the handbook that came with the bike. It shows an over seat steering version behind an under seat steering version. No idea if the front end geometry was different. The potential is there for a different set up as the headstock and part of the front frame is separate, as it is designed to fold under for transportation.View attachment 535301
Aha - I thought I'd seen them with both types of steering. The front end geometry looks the same for each, ie good for USS, but heaps of tiller for OSS. If you're not doing many tight turns, OSS may be OK, only way really is to try both and see which one suits.
 
OP
a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
The minimalist look of USS is growing on me. I've trimmed down the accessory bar on the front and transferred the mirror there too. The bars look less cluttered now. I did wonder about putting some sort of horn at the front with a remote button on the bars for those cycle trail moments but I just want walkers etc to know that I'm there, not make them run for their lives.

Another thought is that I've got a large shiny bell (there's a joke in there somewhere) which I could mount on the front bar, somehow operated by a spare brake lever on a bar end. It rattles when mounted on its side, but is quiet when mounted horizontally. I've got spare inner cables but my spare outers have disappeared. I've got loads of unmatched levers, centre pull cable stops and other possible solutions rattling about in my bits box. It's just a thought, as my impression is that as the front wheel arrives well before the rear, an audible warning at that end is going to be more effective than something that emanates from under the seat.

Of course all this planned bodgery is interfering with my riding time! Must get out more.
 
OP
a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
It's done! I happened to find a complete brake cable (inner and full length outer) in Wilkinsons yesterday for £2 (how do they do that?) so after a rummage in my bits box and a few false starts I came up with this. Spare brake lever on RH bar end. Initially fitted it with the free end pointing
535600

upwards but it looked likely to impale my thigh if I fell off so I turned it round.



The cable from this lever follows the existing front brake cable.
535601

This parts company with the front brake cable which curves downward to the fork. The bell cable curves up and round to an old Weinemann rear centre pull cable stop pointing forward from the handlebar clamp. After several experiments with attaching the cable via clamps to the bell lever, the simplest way was just to drill a hole in it large enough to push the cable through and fit a Weinemann brake saddle clamping bolt to the cable itself on the other side. The bell lever has a hefty return spring, and the V brake type brake lever has a good return spring, so there is no problem with the cable not returning after each pull. I will trim that coiled bit of cable when I get hold of some cable end crimps.
535602


Riders eye view (minus the knees). I unclipped the Cateye front light while working on the bell. Need to clip it back on.
535607

Front view.
535608

I suppose there is an incongruous comedy aspect to this, as when you pull a brake lever you don't expect the bell to ring. It's like turning on the kitchen tap and instead of water coming out, the light turns on. It's such a novelty at the moment that I can't stop doing it. Also this bell doesn't go brringg brringg, it goes ding dong with two different notes, which resonate for a while before they fade away. This set up could be used for other things, an Airzound springs to mind, if some kind of hinged arm could be devised to pull down on to the release button, it could work. Although an Airzound could be mounted anywhere, it's loud enough for its location not to be very critical!

The front reflector looks upside down, but "Top" is moulded on the top front of it. I put the bell/brake lever on the right side because unlike on a conventional bike, the rear brake does most of the work with the left brake lever -so as to be able to ring the bell and brake at the same time.
I do wonder, that being a US made bike, if it originally had the brakes and levers the other way round due to driving on the right.

Any hoo, once I have posted this I may just go in to the garage and give it a couple of rings!

I really am most childishly pleased that having thought about this only yesterday I have got it to work in such a short time.

Next job -sort out an adapter to fit the cycle computer on to the derailleur mounting block.
 

mrandmrspoves

Middle aged bald git.
Location
Narfuk
My first recumbent was also a Linear. I had some fun on it before I transferred over to 3 wheels. I well remember the first few "launches" - scary as.....
Even when I was more experienced, crossing a busy main road was always unnerving.
I did try a PDQ a few years later - and although I eventually got used to it (to some degree) it was much worse!
My Linear did have a front derailleur.......
 

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Grant Fondo

Oswalds legs look strangely human?
Location
Cheshire
All I can remember from my one (and only) sortie out on a recumbant was how much the top of my legs hurt! Not for me, but OP is a classic, so will keep tuning in. Cheers all :okay:
 
OP
a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
My first recumbent was also a Linear. I had some fun on it before I transferred over to 3 wheels. I well remember the first few "launches" - scary as.....
Even when I was more experienced, crossing a busy main road was always unnerving.
I did try a PDQ a few years later - and although I eventually got used to it (to some degree) it was much worse!
My Linear did have a front derailleur.......
I see that you had toeclips and straps on your Linear. I have the same on my conventional tourer, which I can use without even thinking about them but at my stage of the recumbent learning curve, that is superhero territory! I am at the stage of being quite pleased to be able to just get my feet on the Very Large Pedals each time I start off. As for crossing a busy main road, the length of the beast is probably not really an issue, a psychological barrier only, it's the getting going quickly that is the hurdle. Starting slowly and deliberately is not so bad, but trying to do it too quickly gets me wobbling. Just a matter of practice I expect. I am quite short, so the seat is well forward, which could be an advantage in getting more weight on the front wheel, though I find the seat height higher than I anticipated, but manageable. Possibly the 700C wheel has something to do with it.
On the positive side, the space between the back of the seat and the carrier looks like it could take a bedroll and small tent before I even think about loading up with panniers etc. I am looking forward to exploring the possibilities. In a year or so I might be looking back on my initial experiences and thinking, " what was all that about, then?"
 

mrandmrspoves

Middle aged bald git.
Location
Narfuk
I see that you had toeclips and straps on your Linear. I have the same on my conventional tourer, which I can use without even thinking about them but at my stage of the recumbent learning curve, that is superhero territory! I am at the stage of being quite pleased to be able to just get my feet on the Very Large Pedals each time I start off. As for crossing a busy main road, the length of the beast is probably not really an issue, a psychological barrier only, it's the getting going quickly that is the hurdle.
I never really thought anything of using toe clips because like you I was used to using them anyway. On a recumbent, it is easy to drop a foot off the pedal if for example you hit a bump, because your leg is outstretched and subject to gravity - so I regarded them as a safety feature, but I would only clip in once I was up to speed. (On a tadpole trike, clipping in is a must!)
You say the seat is far forward because you are short, I assume that you have slid the crank back towards you too?
 

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OP
a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
I never really thought anything of using toe clips because like you I was used to using them anyway. On a recumbent, it is easy to drop a foot off the pedal if for example you hit a bump, because your leg is outstretched and subject to gravity - so I regarded them as a safety feature, but I would only clip in once I was up to speed. (On a tadpole trike, clipping in is a must!)
You say the seat is far forward because you are short, I assume that you have slid the crank back towards you too?
How effectively do toe clips help keep your feet in place on a recumbent? I would imagine that they would have the same tendency for your foot to drop out backwards (or downwards in this case) as without, unless you do the straps up tightly. On my conventional bike, I don't do them up particularly tightly. I have never used cleats, and certainly not clip-in pedals and shoes.
If there was some kind of heel support, this would work with toeclips though might reduce the ability to get your foot down in a hurry. I've not done a long enough trip yet for my feet dropping off the pedals to be a problem, but once you start to get tired I can forsee the possibility.

Although my Linear has a clamp on bottom bracket assembly, I have not moved it as I didn't want to get into chain tensioning issues. Apparently some Linears had a welded on bottom bracket, probably the earlier ones. The seat adjustment has a hole or two left in its forward adjustment, and I did originally wonder if I might have had to move the bottom bracket back if the seat adjustment range wasn't enough, but it's fine, so I don't need to worry about moving it and then having to remove chain links. The (admittedly very sparse) handbook that came with it only mentions seat adjustment for leg length, and corresponding handlebar block adjustment.

I could see from the photos of the seat position that you are tall-ish, and the seat is right back, but on mine there is a distinct space between the seat back and the carrier. The previous owner was pretty tall, so I had to move the seat a fair number of holes forward to suit me. The Linear has an awful lot of adjustment for size, almost car-like, yet the handbook mentions a range of different frame sizes too.

Inseam Measurement Recommended Frame Size
22"-26" = 36"
25"-29" =39"
28"-32" = 42"
31"-35" = 45"
34" & over = 48"

I see in the preview that the way I've typed it has not come out as expected. It's still able to be understood, I hope.

It goes on to say, "The LINEAR is very adjustable and can accommodate a wide range of individual sizes. (For example a person with a 28" inseam can fit on a 45" frame.)

How they worked out the different frame sizes I can only guess. The main beam on mine is just about 42" so it's feasible that that was the part that varied between different frame sizes. That would mean that there was a foot in length difference between the largest and smallest sizes, and maybe a choice of wheel sizes on the smallest ones.

Definitely not a "one size fits all" with the Linear. This is irrelevant for most British Linear buyers, as they would all be pretty much pre owned and you would buy whatever became available at the time. But it goes to show that Linear tried to make a tailor made product for their customers buying new. I could have ended up with a 48" frame, while a larger person might have ended up with a smaller frame, depending on how much of the range was imported into the UK in the 80s and 90s.

I have wandered off topic here, but perhaps you might find the information interesting.
 

mrandmrspoves

Middle aged bald git.
Location
Narfuk
Certainly toe clips are not good enough for tadpoles where you do need cleats or at least heel slings but on a bike they help locate your foot in roughly the right place even with loose straps.

I am actually only 5'10" ish and inside leg is only 29.5" - but my frame was not a large one. Mine creaked like thr proverbial old gate when I got it - so I stripped it back and rebuilt it - lots of grease on the frame joints etc.
 

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OP
a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
Certainly toe clips are not good enough for tadpoles where you do need cleats or at least heel slings but on a bike they help locate your foot in roughly the right place even with loose straps.

I am actually only 5'10" ish and inside leg is only 29.5" - but my frame was not a large one. Mine creaked like thr proverbial old gate when I got it - so I stripped it back and rebuilt it - lots of grease on the frame joints etc.
I can see where keeping your feet strapped in would be important on a tadpole trike as it would be easy to break your leg if the front frame member caught it and it got dragged under while rolling along. Conversely it must be one of the great pleasures of triking to be able to stop and stay clipped in eg at the traffic lights or even to have a flask of tea while out.
No frame to catch you out on a two wheeler, probably more important for me at the moment to be able to get my feet down quickly and up again. Will review the situation as mileage and confidence grows.
Previous owner told me that he kept the folding joints well greased and the quick releases tight and that I should do the same. That seems to have worked as so far it is pretty quiet though if I ride further and pedal harder I might find it is less so.

I am 5'5 1/2 (or maybe 5'6" on a good day), probably 28" inside leg so anyone taller than that is "tall" from my perspective.
 
OP
a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Well-Known Member
I have been looking at the gearing to see what I could reasonably expect to climb on this beastie. I had the back wheel off and had a look at the 7 speed block while I was changing the tyre. It is a Shimano 12-28 which is a little disappointing as a 14? -32 was available. However after peering at gear tables, using the 38T middle ring and the 3 speed hub (-25%, +33%) with a range of 21 gears there is a possible range from 27.5ish to 113.9ish in gear inches. So the lowest is about 1:1 and may be the lowest feasible gear rideable without falling off on a bike like this, and would get me up most things, and the high gear is something that might be at my limit under favourable conditions, particularly as I am quite fond of my freewheel on downhills. If I found myself in Wales I might manually use the smallest ring which may be a 28 or slightly larger which might give me some more options for getting up them thar hills. As for the 52T ring, that seems a bit ridiculous with the lowest ratio around 38 and the highest at around 151 in gear inches. 151!

I will only know really, when I have ridden it in all sorts of situations, how realistic the original gearing set up is, so for now I will suck it and see.
 

Nigelnightmare

Über Member
On my Linear there's only one thing that bugs me and that's the rear dropouts open to the rear, making it difficult to remove the rear wheel without undoing the mudguard stays.
Or having the rear mudguard set with a BIG gap at the back, which don't look right to me.

I was advised to use 'copperslip' on the folding joints to prevent rattles/creaks.
The main thing that rattles are the grenade pins & split rings on mine which I cured with some 'Heatshrink'.

It does feel strange when you first start riding one and the best advice I was given was to relax back in the seat with a light 'grip' on the steering.
Have fun.
 
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