Grasshopper: versatile, 20-inch wheeler, comfortable tourer.
My first recumbent was a HP Velotechnik Grasshopper built from a frameset in 2005 supplied by Kinetics in Glasgow. It was a good first recumbent: full suspension made it very comfortable, it was relatively easy to ride, the seat angle was adjustable allowing anything from quite laidback to fairly upright riding position, and it had an excellent rear rack taking standard panniers, making it a good touring bike. Its 406 wheels made gearing difficult however (I had a 65T ring at the front) and the full suspension made it quite a weight: just over 14Kg for the non-folding version. I rode nearly 20,000Km on the Grasshopper including a couple of cycle-camping tours and I would recommend it to anyone who didn't mind sitting quite low and wasn't too set on high gears (a 65T chainring and an 11 sprocket gives a 108 inch top gear).
Challenge Seiran SL – Super Bike: many strengths, a few weaknesses
Finishing Paris-Brest-Paris 2011 on the Seiran SL
When I started audaxing in 2009, the choice of lighter recumbents, especially high racers, had improved and I bought a Challenge Seiran SL – sadly now discontinued. The Seiran SL is a great bike: its 650c (571) wheels make gearing easy (each gear is about 8% lower than with 700c wheels) and although restricted in choice of rims and tyres there are some good quality ones of both so long as you are happy with 23mm tyres and 32-hole rims. If you want fatter tyres you could fit 559 rims with the same rim brakes which give a reasonable choice from 28mm upwards (but no top quality racing tyres for 559 rims). The long wheel base of the Seiran (1250mm) gives a comfortable ride even on 23mm tyres, and a 10-speed 12-27 cassette with a standard road triple chainset gives me all the gears I need for audaxes (27 – 107 inches) although it is a bit of a shame to be spinning out below 55kph when conditions would otherwise allow me to pedal faster. The ride and handling of the Seiran SL are excellent: fast and comfortable. Every time I come back to it having been on tour on my Bacchetta, it hits me – this is a great bike! I have ridden nearly 33,000Km on my Seiran SL, mostly in audaxes.
Drawbacks of the Seiran are principally the thin choice of rims available and the non-adjustable seat angle. I chose the shortest available seat stays to give the most laidback riding position which is very comfortable for ultra distance (69-hour PBP in 2011 with no aches or pains other than tired legs) but it isn't all that laidback and I would like to be able to get a bit flatter for some rides at least. Lesser niggles include the brakes (I never really got the supplied Bacchetta callipers to work as well as I would have expected of a dual pivot calliper) and the somewhat stiff gear changes brought about by the extra friction from the full length cable sheath runs required.