Our Choice of Accessories

 

When we first started, we didn't have a clue what we were doing!
  In the beginning we talked with other riders (in person and on the web) and learned from them.  We tried lots of things, experimented, and customized our bike to make it truly ours.  It is our hope that this page will be helpful to those of you that are searching for input like we were.  As of this writing we have over 9,000 miles on our bike and are still learning, fine tuning, and making it even better!

We started out with a few of the items below, but most we added as time went by.  The more we rode, we learned what we liked and what we didn't.  A big part of that was our own self discovery; figuring out what type of bike riding we enjoyed most (see: Finding "Your Thing").  We then looked for what accessories would improve that experience.  This page contains information on what items we chose and why.
   
Pedals

We had never tried them before, but when we got the bike we had them install clipless pedals.  Then of course we got the special shoes to go with them.  We absolutely love them!  From a couple sources,  I had heard the recommendation that they were especially good for the "stoker" (back seat rider on a tandem).  The reason was that if the "captain" (front rider) needed to stop suddenly, or hit a bump without warning the stoker, their feet could slip off the pedals.  The other reason for getting them is that it allows us to pull as well as push and thus get much more power as we ride (especially nice on hills).  The pedals we chose have a clip for the shoe on one side, and a regular flat platform on the other side (Shimano PD-M324, see the picture below).  When I ride in a stop and go situations, like a downtown area, I stay on the platform side.  Once I get out on a longer stretch I clip in.  The stoker stays clipped in the whole time just as the passenger on a motorcycle keeps their feet up the entire ride.  We did have the same pedals installed on the back anyway, so when we give other people rides they can use the platform side of the pedal.  We definitely recommend them!  The shoes we chose look like walking shoes (made by Specialized).  The clip on the bottom (once installed) is recessed so when we take a break on one of our rides for lunch or shopping we can walk around without a problem.

   
Helmets  
We found a particular bike helmet we really like.  It is the Bell Metropolis.  It has a place on the back to attach a flashing light and is designed for a rain cover that just snaps on.  The cover is great, not just for rain but it really helps keep your head warm in the cooler weather!

   
Cargo Space  
One challenge we have always faced is just how to carry all the things with us that we want to take on our rides (check our "Riding Tips" page for things we recommend taking along).  When we first got the bike we included the yellow "tailpack" from the maker of the bike (left).  We soon found that we needed even more space.  We found this black case on the web made by a company called Otivia.   It is a lockable hard shell case that only weighs two pounds.  It was originally designed for recumbents so the width is the same as our seat.  It has a surprising amount of room inside.  On the days we rode to work, I took my laptop computer back and forth in safety!  We are very happy with it.  I had to do a little bit of modification to get it bolted on to my particular rack, but not too bad.  It also makes a good place for our web address!  (For a LOT more cargo space... check our Touring Page)
   
Tires  
We were not very happy with the standard tires that came on the bike.  The original stock tires were 1-1/2 inch wide and ran at 100psi, basically rock hard and the ride felt like it.  It was especially apparent with the 20" front tire.  We considered putting a suspension front fork on the bike to improve the ride, but I could only find one on the market that was rated by the manufacturer for a tandem (others are used on tandems, but not with the blessings of their makers).  The initial cost and maintenance requirements of that fork were both high.  I was told before jumping in that direction to try the 2 inch "Big Apple" tire by Schwalbe (top).  It has a maximum rating of 70psi, so it is still quit hard with good rolling resistance, but when you do hit a bump they flex much more than the stock tires.  We noticed a substantial improvement on the very first ride!  They also have Kevlar belts to resist punctures.  Ah yes, the other reason for changing our tire choices... flats.  I got so tired of flats, especially on the back tire, that I went looking for other options.  I found the "Marathon Plus" tire also by  Schwalbe (bottom).  It has a foam layer (the blue) between the tread and the tube, just in case anything gets through the Kevlar belts.  An object would have to be longer than a quarter of an inch to reach the tube.  We chose this tire in a 1-3/4 inch width for the back tire.  It also runs at 70psi, so it has good rolling resistance.  Only two flats in 5,000 miles of riding, when we ran over long nails.  We were so pleased with its performance on the back, we eventually put one on the front as well.  We lost a little bit of our soft ride going from the 2 inch Big Apple to the 1-3/4 inch Marathon Plus, but no flats was worth it.  We still have a much better ride than we did with the original 1-1/2 inch tire. 
 
Chainrings  
We rode with the original factory supplied chainrings (front set of three gears) for two years.  In most of our riding there was no problem.  However up steep hills we never felt like we had a low enough gear.  There were times when we really needed a good "granny gear."  We would be straining hard and yet unable to keep the RPM at a decent rate.  The standard set of chainrings that come on the Screamer are: 55, 44, and 32 teeth.  (I wonder if the fact that the Rans factory is located on the plains of Kansas has anything to do with it.)  After a ride one day with a lot of climbing, I started looking into changing the gearing.  I discovered that when the Hostel Shoppe builds there own version of the Screamer, they had already figured this out.  For their "Ultimate Screamer" they get the frame from Rans then install their own list of components.  On that bike they use chainrings of 53/38/26 teeth.  I copied that on my bike, and it is fantastic!  I now have the equivalent of about two gears lower than my old lowest gear.  It makes all the difference on the steep hills!
   
Steering & Idlers  
I discovered an awesome resource.  It's a company in Portland who makes top quality parts for recumbent bikes.  Builders of "high-end" bikes around the globe use their products.
I replaced the flex stem on my bike (circled in blue to the right) with one made by TerraCycle.  I hadn't been happy with the amount of slop in the steering column on my bike.  After talking to several people, someone recommended checking with TerraCycle.  Their product is amazing.  The quality is so far superior to the stock equipment that comes on most all recumbents.  The first ride after I installed it made me a believer!   I can definitely endorse it.  Because of the great feedback on this product, some bike manufactures are now installing them in the factory.  I eventually ended up replacing the mast and handlebars with TerraCycle equipment also.
  Other TerraCycle modifications are the chain idlers.  They make replacement idlers for most  recumbents with superior bearings that improve performance.  The best way I can describe the difference is that the whole drive train feels much smoother.  The two stock front idlers are replaced with one, located farther forward on the bike (far left).  The rear pair take the place of the stock set in the same location.
 
Fairing  
We added a Windwrap Fairing (now also made by TerraCycle).  Since getting the bike I had considered a fairing.  One of my reasons for hesitating was that wind tunnel tests show that you don't really gain much aerodynamic advantage until you are above 20 mph.  We don't often exceed that unless we are going down hill.  Well, I wasn't thinking that the speed is "air-speed" not "ground-speed."  If you are riding at 15mph into a 15mph headwind, the aerodynamic effect on the bike is 30mph!  Since adding the fairing, I have noticed three changes:  we accelerate much faster going down hill, it is much easier riding into the wind, and my legs stay dryer in the rain.  I love it!  To add stability, especially on rough roads I added a diagonal brace to the front of the "T" holding the fairing.  (You can click on the picture to the right to see a larger version.)
 
Lights  -  "see and be seen"  
I think we get more comments about our lights than any other single item on our bike.  We're always looking for better ways to make ourselves more visible.  I added these flashing lights front and rear.  The rear light really is as bright as a car's tail light!  Other riders regularly tell us that it's the brightest rear bike light they had ever seen.   The lights are called "Foxfire" made by Marpac.  I actually purchased them from Columbus Supply, they were a little less expensive than buying them from the manufacturer.   I did have to fabricate my own bracket since they are not designed for bicycle use (lower set of pictures).  They come with magnets on the back, which I removed.  I used the existing screws to attach to my brackets.  On Marpac's website, they now offer one that fits on the seat stem of an upright bike, but that doesn't help us "bent" riders.  The lights run on 4 AA batteries each (I use rechargeables). 

I also have a stock high intensity light mounted below the fairing (above) to help me see the road at night.
   
Beverage Holders  
One thing we talk about on our "Riding Tips" page is making sure you have plenty of water with you on long rides.  Most bikes are not equipped with a sufficient number of places to install water bottle cages.  I have seen riders come up with some very creative solutions on where to mount additional cages.  On our bike we have places for 7 bottles (three on each side and one in front).  Even at that, on our longer rides we have to stop and refill them!  In the picture to the right, two of the cages use factory mounts on the back of the seats.  The one toward the back of the bike is mounted on the rear seat support with hose clamps.
A couple years ago we discovered Polar Bottle, insulated water bottles.  I don't know if you have had this experience.  Before you leave home, you load up your bike with plenty of bottles so you can stay properly hydrated on a long ride.  By the time you get to bottle number three, it's lukewarm and you can hardly force yourself to drink it even though you're thirsty.  At first I was a bit skeptical that this bottle would really work but now I'm a believer, it works great!  Here is the trick, fill the bottles part way with water and put them in the freezer the night before.  Top them off with water when you leave in the morning.  Two hours later you will still have ice cold water!  You have to experiment, too much ice and it won't have melted when you want to drink it.  The 24 ounce bottle (which we bought) is taller than a regular bottle so make sure you have space on your bike.  You can find them at most bike shops (local and online).
Okay, I admit this must be a real Northwest thing, combining bicycle riding and drinking good coffee! We have always enjoyed heading to our favorite local coffee shop for a latte'.  Once we started riding the bike on a regular basis, it meant riding to the coffee shop and sitting there while we shared a cup.  When we rode the bike to work, we wanted to find a way to pick up our coffee and take it with us!  I found these at The Bike Gallery in Portland.  They're called: "Trek Soho Commuter Mugs" (made by Trek).  They are stainless steel insulated coffee cups.  The really cool thing about these cups is that they actually fit into a standard water bottle cage!  That's the reason for the unique shape.
   
Horn  
As well as being seen, we like to be heard also.  There are times when you need to make your presence known.  We actually have three different "noise makers."  We start out with a nice friendly bell.  A nice little "ding-ding" is usually all it takes to get someone's attention as you approach them from the rear on the bike trail.  If that doesn't work, we have a bulb type "ah-ooooga" horn.  If that fails, we use our "Airzound" air horn.  It's as loud as a car horn!  You pump it up with your bike pump, and get an ear piercing blast.  We don't need it often, but it has come in handy.  I once blasted it at a driver who cut us off, and it was loud enough that they turned around and looked back to see what it was!  It's available lots of places, I ordered mine online from the Hostel Shoppe.
   
Rack  
The first year we had the bike, all of our rides had to start from home.  Our motivation to get some kind of rack was a desire to join in some organized rides.  Naturally we had to be able to get the bike to the starting point of those rides!  There are some bike racks on the market designed for tandems, but none that I was happy with when used with a tandem recumbent.  So I built my own.  I no longer have the car in the picture, but I still use the same rack.  I bolt it into the bed of a small utility trailer that I tow behind our car.  For construction I used all aluminum and stainless steel so I wouldn't have to worry about corrosion.  The frame is square tubing with a channel for the tires to sit in.  The bike is held on with flat bars bent in a "V" with turnbuckles on each end hooked to u-bolts.  To keep from scratching it, I put pieces of rubber tubing over the bike frame .  The white PVC pipe thing on top is to hold the seat supports steady while the seats are off during transport (in the trailer I leave the seats on).  I remove the fairing while traveling to prevent damage by the wind at freeway speeds.    
 
Accessories related to touring are on the Touring Equipment page.
 

 
 
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