The Bike: The RANS Stratus XP is the perfect tour bike for me. I do not see how there could be a better selection. It rides very well. I was able to give it sufficient power to climb hills. Mechanically, the bike is up to the task. I do have a concern. I found the RANS seat was not comfortable for my bottom with the many riding hours [20, 11, & 10 for the 3 days]. I think the foam pad does not eliminate the possibility of the pan, particularly from the back of the pan. On return, I spoke with Ronnie at RANS to see if there is an option that offers greater comfort. He says no. I will confer with Dana of Bent Up Cycles today. During my up to 50 mile (80.5 kms) rides, the seat seemed OK. Ronnie said seat discomfort has not been reported as a problem. It may be my bottom [a normal not that wide or big on a 168 lb. (76.2 kg.) man] and its interaction with the seat on extended rides. I really want to try something different before my 1,000+ mile (1,609 kms) tour. One other minor problem: The nylon idler/chain keeper broke in Petersburg, VA. My son fashioned a replacement keeper [reaming out a piece of nylon coat hanger] that got me back to Fayetteville and I think will take me for many more miles. Thanks Michael!
- Cargo Carriers: The Rans Panniers and the Streamline TailPack worked very well. The Chopper Bar Fairing Bag is the BOMB. It is very convenient.
- Neck Rest: This is a welcomed addition to the bike and helpedwith my comfort during the long riding hours. I’m still tuning it in. I do have some tenderness at the base of my neck. I think it is from the rest. I do not know if it is the “support,” the fabric, or the position, relative to my riding positions.
- Shoes: I rode with Lake Sandals. I think they were more comfortable than my Sidi MTB shoes would have been. I’m using SPD cleats. The bottom [next to the foot] of the Lakes was many times uncomfortable, kind of hot. I’ve read about this. I have to reread. I noted last evening that I have a small blister on the inside of my right great toe. I must have gotten it yesterday.
- Lighting: I rode I rode over 10 hours in the dark. The
NiteRider Flight, with 16-LED tail light and the LightSpin dynamo, with 2 headlights and the Stand taillight are the perfect system for me. I used their dynamo powered lighting system along with the NiteRider as opposed to just emergency lighting, although it still serves that purpose. Caution: I began the tour with the NiteRider Flight on low-beam and used most of its battery by day-break. Given that I had 3 hours of night riding later in the day, I had no battery for the headlight. The dynamo powered lights did their job, except when I stopped, no headlight. I also used a CatEye white flasher at the top of my safety flag.
- Safety Flag: I think it is essential for travel on public roads. Fortunately, I did not have any near-misses. A few jerks passed by too closely. Remember–put a light of some type at the top of the pole.
- Horn: I use the AirZound. It is a GREAT horn, particularly at its low cost. I did not have to use it in traffic situations. I did use to when dogs started a pursuit. They all stopped. I had a count of AirZound 10, dogs 0, but; lost count after 20 or more encounters. I ran out of air [I need a larger reservoir–I replenished in Richmond] or I needed to use shorter blast. Had I not blown the horn, I do not know what the dogs would have done. I do not need to know that.
- Handling: I rode over 3 hours in the rain–no unusual problems. Control and braking [disc] was adequate.
The people: Overall, my impression are positive, more so for my experiences in North Carolina versus Virginia. It seems some have never seen a recumbent. Many were complimentary on the RANS. As I rode through a small NC town on Sunday night, I even had someone yell obscenities from a porch. Some seemed to display the attitude that a bike did not belong on the highway. I found cars that passed me at night gave a total lane berth, whereas during daylight, some just moved over a few feet. My NC night travel was on the highway. My VA night travel was in north Petersburg on US 301 and US 1 and then VA 10. The US 301 and US 1 route was hilly, not what you want for a LWB recumbent. Over 50 years of cycling, this was my worst experience to date. Overall, I might conclude it is safer to ride a bike at night [with proper lighting of course] than during daylight. I’ll give the people an 80% positive vote.
The Engine: Although I’m working with a 60-year old body, I feel fit and up to the task. I think I have my “bent” legs already. Some say it takes time [6 months or so]. I think miles. I have near 600 miles (965.6 kms) in my short period of ownership. I had the pleasure [or displeasures] of riding many hills. I can spin rapidly and motor up the hill as fast as I want. Or, I can spin more slowly and just pedal, without mashing, to the top. I tend to not use the granny gear because of the LWB instability, particularly in traffic [and at night], add horn blowing and yelling passengers to that–well you get the idea. As I have read on BROL, my heart rate was about 20 bpm lower on this recumbent that on my DF. I’ll have to research more to determine why. My average speed on the bent was slower than my DF. I’m not sure I understand why. I know when touring, you should go more slowly because of the distance you will be riding. I also read on BROL to expect a 10-12 mph (16.1 – 19.3 kph) touring average for certain type of tours. I find that to be an accurate prediction.
Nutrition & Hydration: From my perspective, I apparently did it right. That is, my weight on return was within a mound of my departure weight. I did not bonk; although this was my first double century and I rode over 10 hours each day. I did nothing scientific in determining what to eat. I had bananas, raisins, chocolates, Gu, fig bars, pistachios, peanut butter, etc. I used Gator Aid as my sports drink because of its availability at gas stations. The foods are items that have worked for me in the past. For recovery, I also drank lots on no-fat chocolate milk last night.
Anomaly??? At the end of the day, after finally arriving at my Son’s home and conversing with he and his wife for a bit and then going into the garage, where the bike was parked, to get a few items, I suddenly felt dizzy, somewhat nauseas, and warm at the face. I’ve never experienced this before. It took an hour or so for the symptoms to go away. I drank more water and ate a bit. I’m not sure what that was about. I seem to have survived for 2 more days of riding and I think I’m OK now. We will see…
Plan for the FL Tour: Relax and enjoy the ride with the confidence [plus, I’m to have the added benefit of the Angletech Aerotrunk (tailbox)] that I can go at least 218 miles (350.8 kms) in a day and that I have strung together 3 days on centuries or more. I did 5 centuries last year [my first year of doing centuries]. I expect to more than triple that this year. Life is short. Enjoy it as much as possible.