The Perils of Buying without a Test Ride

a.twiddler

Über Member
The perils of buying without a test ride.

I'm even shorter than I thought!
I recently acquired a Dawes Low Rider with a view to trying out a SWB recumbent which is reputedly easy to learn to ride. I’d had some thoughts about maybe buying a recumbent that could be taken on a train as easily (or uneasily) as a “normal” DF.

The seat is nice and low with an easy step over and the seller in all good faith stated that it should fit someone with a 29” inside leg. It is a mesh seat with a triangular cushion similar to the Linear. Following my good experience with the Linear I bought it sight unseen as it is very hard to find any sort of recumbent within travelling distance, and I had to courier it. I assumed that a low seat height gave a good chance of a boom which would adjust down well.

The bike is in very nice original condition, the bronze green paintwork is very good apart from some minor scrapes. It doesn’t look as if it’s been ridden much. Even the plastic pedals and front chainguard look new. The nexus 7 hub gears work fine on the stand. It even has the original dynamo lights but the dynamo seems stuck in the off position -lack of use? So I haven’t been able to try it. The roller brakes work OK. Both have slight fore and aft play, which I assume is normal. The cranks are 170mm. A neat touch is a built in rear wheel lock with 2 keys and traditional pump pegs under the frame tube. It has mudguards which are in good condition.

A big however! follows. The boom was adjusted to within 2cm of the shortest setting to suit the previous owner. Nevertheless I can just reach the pedal at its furthest point with my toe while seated normally, with no chance of reaching it with my heel. I measured my Linear and came up with a pedal to seat back dimension of 37 inches. I measured the Dawes and came up with a dimension of 43 inches. Even if I were to move the boom back to its minimum I would only gain 2cm or about ¾ inch. I pondered about this for a long time. Even with 160mm cranks I would only gain 1cm, gaining 3cm in total. If I were to take a hacksaw to the boom (which I don’t want to do -the frame is too nice) there is only one cm between the end of the frame and the clamping bolt. This would make the reach a total of 4 cm shorter, less than 2 inches.

Plan B. Make up a seat rail to bring the seat forward. I found some perforated angle strip and a suitable exhaust clamp which with some old inner tube protected the frame. I experimented with several versions and lengths to get some idea but came to the following conclusions.

Moving the seat forward would work so far as pedal reach was concerned. However it has the following undesirable effects.

1. As the seat moves forward it increases in height, due to the frame sloping upwards to the front, losing the benefit of its main attraction, ie low seat height.

2. The gap between the seat nose and the steerer is reduced, making it awkward to get a foot over to mount and dismount.

3. The original seat position is well balanced between the wheels. With the seat forward more weight is on the front wheel possibly upsetting the handling, making the rear wheel more prone to skidding and probably more likelihood of inadvertent stoppies.

4. It just doesn’t feel right. The steerer is too close.


It’s in too nice a condition to maul about.
It looks as though I will have to return it to standard and sell it. It’s a shame as it’s a well thought out package. Someone of more average height would get the benefit of it, while I will have to do more research, though I’ve been finding it hard to find information on max and min dimensions for recumbents. It would seem that used smaller SWB recumbents are rare, with models having adjustability of both boom and seat likely to be beyond my budget.
Any suggestions welcome!

I’ve been spoilt by the adaptability of the Linear!
 
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cyberknight

As long as I breathe, I attack.
can you shorten the boom ?
aka hacksaw /pipe cutter
 
OP
a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Über Member
Not if I want to keep the welded on fittings for the clamping bolts. I need to find about six inches of reach. If I cut that off the frame and the inner boom I will also have some pretty serious heel interference with the front wheel. Also, most likely, an unsellable bike after that.
 
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a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Über Member
I was actually hoping for posters' experiences with SWB recumbents that would suit the vertically challenged. Low seat (within reason) and short reach from seat to pedal. As I posted originally, it's in too nice a condition to maul about.
 
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a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Über Member
can you shorten the boom ?
aka hacksaw /pipe cutter
I went out and measured up the boom, wheel and crank arm area after replying to this post and there is quite a bit of potential heel interference with the current near-shortest setting so logically, this being where the steering movement is greatest, moving the crank further back nearer the steering axis might tend to reduce this effect despite the wheel being higher nearer the fork crown. I have no experience of how this works in practice, but possibly shorter cranks could mitigate this. I used to use 165 cranks on my tourer in the 80s with no issues, I have seen recumbentists discuss using 160 or even 155 cranks but it is matching them with a suitable chainset that could be a problem. The frame tube bends downwards behind the boom area so limits the amount the frame can be cut back while still having enough safe length to retain the cut down boom. What is the likely safe minimum needed for the frame and boom? I can see that cutting a longitudinal slot under the frame in the boom area with a hole drilled at the end as per original wouldn't be a huge problem but what is the best solution for clamping the frame round the boom that a) works and b) doesn't look naff? Bearing in mind that this counts as major surgery to me, but if it works, it would be worth it.
 

oldwheels

Legendary Member
I went out and measured up the boom, wheel and crank arm area after replying to this post and there is quite a bit of potential heel interference with the current near-shortest setting so logically, this being where the steering movement is greatest, moving the crank further back nearer the steering axis might tend to reduce this effect despite the wheel being higher nearer the fork crown. I have no experience of how this works in practice, but possibly shorter cranks could mitigate this. I used to use 165 cranks on my tourer in the 80s with no issues, I have seen recumbentists discuss using 160 or even 155 cranks but it is matching them with a suitable chainset that could be a problem. The frame tube bends downwards behind the boom area so limits the amount the frame can be cut back while still having enough safe length to retain the cut down boom. What is the likely safe minimum needed for the frame and boom? I can see that cutting a longitudinal slot under the frame in the boom area with a hole drilled at the end as per original wouldn't be a huge problem but what is the best solution for clamping the frame round the boom that a) works and b) doesn't look naff? Bearing in mind that this counts as major surgery to me, but if it works, it would be worth it.
My Adventure HD has 152 cranks so shorter ones are available. I did not specify them as they came with the trike which was preowned but little used.
 
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a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Über Member
How tall are you?
For myself, I am a towering 5' 5 1/2" in socks. Used to be 5'6". Trousers 29" inside leg, though 28" is better. It would be nice to be able to buy trousers without having to shorten them. Or recumbents without having to modify them. Or even upright bikes, where even the smallest adult sizes are so variable so that I have to try them to be sure I can actually get on. And as for motorcycles, which I have always had one of since 1968... Yet anyone can just jump in a car no matter how immense or micro it is and in a matter of minutes get it adjusted to suit.

The Linear took more than a few minutes to get it to fit but there is plenty of adjustment left in it either way, which is one of the endearing things about it.

I don't think I am unusually short in the general scale of things, though obviously not average height, until I get reminded when buying a consumer durable how hard it is to get one that actually fits me. I see people going about their normal lives who are shorter than me. Tallness or shortness is probably more a matter of perception. People who are shorter than me are short. People who are taller than me are tall. Most people probably have a similar viewpoint.

Crank length is probably a bit of a red herring. I rode with 165s for years without thinking about it because it was what my chainset came with. When I bought a mountain bike it had 175s despite being a small frame and I noticed the difference (but that might have been due to the high bottom bracket) and soon got used to it. With recumbents it could be an advantage to have shorter cranks for wheel interference reasons and also because it might make spinning easier. My Linear has 175 cranks and I find them fine too. Mostly, you probably just ride wot you got unless it causes discomfort.
 
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a.twiddler

a.twiddler

Über Member
All the above has rather taken the gloss off the joy of getting a new bike. Got a good deal, rather diminished by the cost of a courier on top. Had hoped to just be able to ride and evaluate it without much further outlay but there are some options to minimise the amount of hacking the boom and frame about that might be needed. (Which I am still not keen to do due to the uncertainty of getting the desired result).

For example, a suitable seat back cushion to bring myself forward. Pros -cheap and simple. Cons-may not be comfortable, being forced to sit on a narrower part of the seat.

SJS do chainsets with shorter cranks and a range of chainrings. Pros-I had considered changing to a double or triple in the future to widen the gear range once I had time to evaluate what I've got. Cons-I wasn't planning to spend the money just yet. Would probably involve changing the perfectly good bottom bracket as well. Could cope with manually changing the chain over for now but while the bottom bracket unit is out, I could drill and tap the shell to take a bolt to hold a length of seat pin to act as a derailleur post. The seat pin idea has worked quite well on the Linear. Then cough up for a front changer. The chain tensioner rollers on the bike are currently fixed, not sprung. Would need to sort that out too. Getting complicated!

Pedal spacers are available fairly cheaply to take the heels further out to help with potential heel strike. Whether that might lead to knee issues due to a wider "Q" factor is unknown.

With hindsight, booking an appointment with Kevin at D-Tek for a test ride session would have been a wise thing to do, to give me more idea what I could actually ride without modifications, despite the cross country trek needed to get there.
 

PaulM

Veteran
Location
Portsmouth, UK
I think a practical minimum length for cranks is 140mm, but you might need lower gears to cope with less leverage. TBH, the Dawes is known to be a heavy lump and has limited gearing options with no FD post.

For SWBs that suit short riders, the Nazca Fiero XS and Azub Origami are good. I have the latter and am thinking of selling, but probably looking for more than you'd like to spend.
 
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