Because Charles Mochet’s recumbent bicycle, piloted by second rate racer, Francis Faure, was far outpacing the competition, rewriting the bicycle racing books, in 1934, the Union of Cyclists Internationale (UCI) banned them. Their decision turned a very conformist, top-down driven world into believing that a recumbent was not a real bicycle and as a result, recumbents disappeared from the mass consciousness for 35 years. Or in other words almost two full generations of people thought they knew what the bicycle under their Christmas tree was supposed to look like.
From time to time we hear stories of recumbent bicycle sightings in the 1940s and 50s such as the one Dale Clark, owner of longtime recumbent shop, Angle Lake Cyclery, had heard about a recumbent rental bike concession at Green Lake in nearby Seattle. He was told of a fleet of armchair bikes that were in use around the lake during that time.
For the most part, recumbents remained hidden from all but a few Americans. The window to a different possibility was reopened in 1969 when Popular Mechanics published photos and a story about the recumbent called a Groundhugger that hang gliding expert, Robert Q. Riley, had been shopping around in Southern California.
This video of Robert Q. Riley’s recumbent was shot with 8mm film in 1965 in Griffith Park Los Angeles.
Now back in the day, Popular Mechanics was the leading tech magazine when, before the Internet, that was how people got their information about the latest and greatest. Owned since 1958 by the William Randolph Hearst empire, their readership still stands at over one million.
Several years before Riley (right) hit the jackpot with Popular Mechanics, it’s a little-known fact that the Ground Hugger was introduced at a dealer show run by Howie Cohen, the man who brought Nishiki and other Japanese bicycles to America.
Called West Coast Cycle & Supply, at a private showing, dealers placed orders for about 50–60 of them, but Riley and his partner ran out of money and couldn’t deliver. If it were not for that, they would have introduced a production recumbent in 1967.
As it turned out, Riley’s bike ended up only being available if you built it yourself from the plans the PM credential helped him sell thousands of sets of. As a result of this visionary success, he has gone on to become a prolific creator of plans for electric automobiles as well as his other cutting edge innovations in the recreation, fitness, and medical industries. He keeps his original Groundhugger plans current and is also now having success with the carbon fiber recumbent plans he now also sells. You can buy his plans at our site.
You can also hear the podcast he and I did together if you do tune in you will learn Robert Riley is beyond legendary.
Also in 1973, in the middle of the USA, in Kansas, Randy Schlitter had begun making sail trikes that took advantage of the recumbent seating position. For the next ten years, his company, Rans, would end up selling 1,600 of these wind surfer bikes for $800-$1,200 apiece.
Here is the Rans Sail Trike in action.
Then in 1975 he spent a couple of hours replacing the two back wheels on the sail trike with one wheel so that he could go out for bike rides on it. When his brother John Schlitter, who was racing competitively, couldn’t drop him on his Colnago, he started working for Randy to build the recumbent bicycles that were the result. This well before John helped to start Bacchetta. And as such, making Rans America’s oldest recumbent bicycle producer.
Short-lived Rans Response of 1996 built to replicate Sail Trike Power Plant
If you want to hear Randy talk about a lot of the above and how he also got into the airplane business, here is the podcast we did:
And here up close and personal, is the also amazing man, Jerrell Nichols, to whom Randy, early in 2015, entrusted the bike part of his business, Rans Bikes.
Also in 1975 Kyle and Lambie, the two streamliners, formed the IHPVA. The officers and board of directors of the IHPVA included such notables as Tullio Campagnolo, owner and president of Campagnolo — then the largest racing-component manufacturer in the world, Sir Hubert Opperman, O.B.E. Australian Member of Parliament and renowned holder of numerous long-distance cycling records, Eddy Merckx of Belgium, many time winner of the Tour de France, and famous authors Frank Whitt and David Gordon Wilson, creators of the best-selling cycling book,Bicycling Science.
Soon on both coasts small time tinkerers began to crop up. Some such as Dr. Alan Abbott, who in 1973 set a world record when he went 138.8 mph behind a race car, were interested in how they could change the look of a bike so they could go faster.
In 1975 Abbott went 38.8 mph on this bike.
Also in 1975, Gardner Martin, who with his wife Sandra was on the cover of the famous 1969 Woodstock album (she still has the quilt!), was busy making custom parts such as gas tanks and fairings for motorcycles of which he owned in his own words in an interview he did with Kelvin Clark the “best and fastest ever built” when he saw a magazine cover that would change his life. By Chet Kyle, it read “Are Streamline Bikes in Your Future?”In the article, the challenge, “Let’s have an anything-goes speed contest race in the spring of 1975,” excited him. Gardner got busy.
I’ve been familiar with Martin Krieg‘s amazing story for years. I’ve also been aware of “Awake Again”, the book Martin wrote to share his story and had made a number of mental notes to myself to read it sometime. Then, I guess life happened and I just kept putting it off.Well, I finally read it and frankly, I’m kicking myself in the rear for not reading it earlier. Soon after reading the last page, I had conflicting emotions. A part of me wanted to encourage others to read this extraordinary story and a big part of me was worried that my words would not do the book justice. But the story in itself helped me find the courage I needed to risk sharing my thoughts.You see, this book is not just about Martin’s horrific ordeal and his journey back to physical and mental health. It is not just about a guy who, in spite of incredible obstacles, managed to bike across the USA twice! Sure, all of that is a big part of the story but there so much more. This is about Martin’s journey into himself. It is a story that gives the reader so many insights about the things that are really important in life.It is a story about learning about the value of examining our motives, facing our fears, understanding our most inner feelings and discovering so many hidden truths that can set any of us free and also put us on a path to becoming the person that we were intended to be. In this book, Martin candidly reveals his weaknesses and fears. In so doing, we not only come in touch with Martin’s extraordinary strengths but also we get a better understanding of that which is essential for us to be strong in ourselves so that we can help others and add a whole new dimension of meaning to our lives.
Written Feb 2016