Taking a break today while training for RAGBRAI at Chalco Hills recreation area in Omaha.  Thought it might be nice to show everyone what it looks like from my perspective, from the reclined position of my recumbent bike.

I have what is called twist shifters on the handlebar ends, which are very easy to use.  From the left you can see my mini bell, in such a position I don’t have to remove my hand from the grip, simply flick my thumb.  Next to it is my rear view mirror on a adjustable post.  Extra large to see as much as possible.  Next to that is my Garmin bike computer which, via GPS, tracks everything including my speed, distance, time, calories burned, altitude, climb and descent, cadence, heart rate and records this data for my review and comparison to other rides.  (Check out ebay as I did, much better deals than buying new)

At the center is my water bottle on the handlebar post. In front of that is my can of pepper spray in a leather pouch.  It’s there in case I ever need it for one of those farm raised four legged furry ankle biters.   Never had to use it, hope I never do.

I’m thinking that empty space to the right would be perfect for a remote control holder so I’d feel right at home.  But hey, look at that view!  Who would want to change channels on that!!

For the last year I have been researching and considering a fairing for my LWB Burley recumbent bicycle. Fairings, by design, are supposed to give you a little more mph and less wind resistance.  Articles and forums I have read say you really don’t see much improvement unless you are doing 15 mph, BUT anytime you are heading into the wind, there is a noticeable increase from no fairing at all.

Burley stopped making recumbents about five years ago so precise fitting accessories are often hard to come by, even replacement parts can be difficult to find. Both Windrap and Zzipper had fairings that would work, but the cost would be $300-$500, way more than I wanted to spend.  As luck would have it I came into position of a Zzipper fairing, scratched but usable, but without any hardware.  I think it is actually for a trike, but I was determined to make it work.  A day of researching brought me to the conclusion that about the only way to attached these is to mount a upper and lower bar to the front of the bike that holds the fairing in place.  Frustrating, to say the least, as mounting kits at Zzipper were as much as $500 and about $100 less at Windwrap.

With a few years experience rebuilding two vintage VW’s, a little skill with  a grinder and a rivet gun, I decided I could probably build the same or better mounting hardware myself.  I first took stock of my current bike design and what parts and scraps I had on hand.  As luck would have it I had an old steering mast that I could attach the the front steering hub which acts as my main support for the entire fairing.  Where the handle bars were suppose to go on my steering mast, I used a piece of tubular aluminum deck railing.

The upper bracket was bent using a conduit bender.  The diameter was too small for the steering mast bracket, so I took an old inner-tube, cut it into a strip and rolled it around the top bar until it was big enough to be held in the mast bracket.  The brackets that hold the fairing to the bar are made from pieces I found at my local Mennards home improvement store (like a Lowes).

Examining how the lower front of the fairings are attached I found a large metal ring, the bottom of a barrel and cut it to fit, then riveted it to the fairing using a black metal curtain rod.  Getting this to attach securely to the bottom of the steering mast was the greatest challenge, but finally I came up with following using an aluminum tube that is meant to be a deck rail (same as I used on top fairing support bar). Where it attaches to the steering mast I cut the tube down the middle, carefully split it apart and mounted it to the two bolts on each side of the steering mast.

Nylon wing nuts from Lowes and bolts from Mennards (they had a wider head) were used to mount all brackets to the existing holes in the fairing.  Once I tested it and made final adjustments I disassembled and spray painted everything a gloss black.  Here is the final view showing the entire bike.

The first time I took the bike out with the fairing I was not impressed as I thought I was feeling the same type of riding against the headwind and no difference in performance.  That, I discovered, was wrong as my first ride was without my speedometer.  Once I put my speedometer on I was amazed at how much faster I was going, especially into the wind.  As an added benefit, I found it works as a sail with a tailwind.  However, on my ride today with 22 mph winds and gusts of 40 mph, it was quite a challenge when I was hit by a side wind.

Overall, though, I’m extremely happy with the results and doubt I will ever ride a recumbent again without a fairing.  I’m anxious to see how it does on my ride across Nebraska (BRAN) next week.

Additional Notes Added June 3:

After many test runs I determined that my support system for the faring was a bit wobbly and created a rattling of the fairing, especially on the lower outer area.  Last night I designed a couple of tubular support bars which I hope will help.  This will keep the outer edges of the fairing from bouncing in and keep the whole fairing from bouncing up and down (which was only slight before, but noticable).

The big debate, should I reduce weight or reduce drag on my bike, and which will have the biggest impact on performance?

Last year was my first year taking on a long distance, statewide bicycle rides, first doing BRAN, then RAGBRAI.  My training had been on mostly flat terrain here in Omaha and I regrettably neglected to consider what impact the daily (hourly) hills of Nebraska and Iowa would do to my riding performance and, quite honestly, my ability to finish the rides (I sagged out 40 miles of BRAN, exhausted and fearful of an accident).

Now, I ride a recumbent and not a light one at that.  From the factory it should weigh 33 pounds.  I’ve added a rear bike rack, a rack bag, a seat bag, seat struts and two water bottles.  Not sure how much my Kevlar tires add to the weight, but every little bit adds up and checking on the scale I came to a shocking 45 pounds.  What on earth am I carrying in those bags?  Well, for the statewide rides I do one needs to carry nutrition, cold and rainy weather gear, sunscreen, etc.

If I could lose 10 p0unds off the bike I could see a real difference, but that’s not going to happen.  Instead, from what I have researched, adding a fairing, even though it adds weight, can have a significant difference.  I’ve read on various biking forums this can actually give one 1-3 mph more in speed, but one needs to be doing above 15 mph to see a difference.  However, if you are heading into the wind, the mph is less of an issue and one can see big improvements.

This will be my second year riding on the Bike Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN) and after the struggle I had last year I decided to do whatever I can to make the ride easier and more enjoyable.  I’m planning to add a fairing to help reduce wind drag, to increase speed and reduce effort.

Keep an eye out for a future post where I show how I make my own custom fairing mount.

My recumbent bike was made by Burley and the style is a Canto, which premiered in 2002.  Burley built several styles of recumbent bikes for a few years, but stopped production completely in September of 2006.  I’m not really sure what year mine is, but built sometime between 2002 and 2006 I would guess.

It should be noted that this is known as a convertible recumbent, in that it can be switched from short to long wheelbase.  I prefer the long, which is great for long rides.  The long is a bit wide on the turns and not good for city street traffic.  The shorter version is excellent for the city commuter.

Here are the specs as it came from the factory (with changes I made in parentheses):

Colors: Pearl Silver

Model:  Canto

Weight:  34.5

Year:      2002

Brake Levers:     Shimano BR-420

Brakeset:             Shimano BR-420 brakes, Shimano BR-420 levers

Front Brake:       Shimano BR-420

Front Brake Lever:           Shimano BR-420

Rear Brake:         Shimano BR-420

Rear Brake Lever:            Shimano BR-420

Bottom Bracket:               Shimano BB-UN52

Chain:   SRAM PC-38, 1/2 x 3/32″

Chain Size:          1/2 x 3/32″

Chainrings:          30/42/52

Crankset:             3-piece aluminum, 30/42/52 teeth

Front Derailleur:               Shimano Sora, clamp-on

Front Derailleur Type:    clamp-on

Handlebar:          Hsin Lung aluminum

Handlebar Stem:              aluminum

Headset:              1 1/8″ threadless Cane Creek STS

Headset Diameter:          1 1/8″ threadless

Largest Rear Cog:             32

Number of Rear Cogs:   8-speed

Pedals:                 Fasten NWL-953 (replaced  in April 2010 with Wellgo platform/clipless pedals with shimano SPD cleats)

Rear Cogs:           8-speed, 11 – 32 teeth

Rear Derailleur:                 SRAM ESP 5.0

Rear Shock:        Not applicable

Saddle:                 Corbin custom

Shift Levers:       SRAM ESP 5.0

Smallest Rear Cog:           11

Fork Crown:       unicrown

Fork Material:    chromoly, unicrown crown

Frame Construction:       TIG-welded

Frame Tubing Material:                 chromoly

Wheelbase:        40.5″

Front Hub:          Shimano Deore

Front Rim:           Weinmann Zac 19

Front Tire:           Primo Comet (Replaced  in April 2010 with Primo Comet with Kevlar Belts)

Front Tire Size: 20 x 1.75″

Rear Hub:            Shimano Deore

Rear Rim:             Weinmann Zac 19

Rear Tire:             Primo Racer (Replaced  in April 2010 with Primo Comet with Kevlar Belts)

Rear Tire Size:    26 x 1.50″

Spoke Brand:     DT stainless steel

Spoke Holes:      32-hole

Spoke Material:  stainless steel