Figuring out which bike to buy was difficult. Last summer we went on a few 100 mile rides (I’ll post an email describing one of them.) Although we had a few problems on each ride, we really enjoyed it. But I ran into a few problems. First, the pressure from my seat for extended periods of time was causing nerve damage and giving me prostate infections. I’ve tried several different seats, but I’m coming to the conclusion that I need to limit my rides to 2-3 hours. Second, my hands were going numb (tingling, not fully numb), and staying that way for several weeks. This may be carpel tunnel from my keyboard, rock climbing injuries, or a result of the pressure on my hands from the handlebars. Next, my lower back is somewhat fused, and I had one doctor tell me I should stop riding because it would cause damage above the part that was fusing (another doctor tells me it is fine.) And finally, Natalie and I ride at slightly different speeds. As long as we stick together she can leverage my draft to keep her speed up, but at times I lose track of where she is only to find we are separated by hundreds of yards. Also, as my pace pushes her limits, she is constantly working really hard to keep her speed, which isn’t mentally relaxing for her.
I don’t want to give up riding. I like biking too much. It has become a common hobby for us. So I started shopping for recumbents. I realize that these look strange, are uncommon, and have a stereo-typed rider of someone who is over-educated and under-exercised. But they address all of the physical issues I am dealing with on a bike. Unfortunately, the market for recumbents is small and there are no nearby dealers for the bikes I’m interested in buying. So at the end of summer I flew to Cincinnati for a recumbent bike convention so I could ride several of the bikes that were interesting to me. My favorite bike at the show was the Cruz bike. It just felt good. It is the bike I eventually want to buy. However, it wouldn’t do anything to help with the speed difference problem. The other bike I really enjoyed was the Azub tandem. A tandem eliminates the speed difference problem but it creates a new problem – it will be slower. As I thought through my options I decided that speed isn’t the goal – physical exertion and exercise is. The tandem, lumbering along, will give us a chance to exercise together in the outdoors. Next question: which tandem?
There were only two options that appealed to me, both made in Europe. The Azub Twin that I rode in Cincinnati and the Nazca Quetzal, a bike built in the Netherlands. They are similar in cost and size. I like the looks of the Azub with under-seat steering. Also, having a front shock might make the ride a little better for the person in the front (captain). I like how the Azub seats can adjust forward and back to accommodate different riders without having to change the chain length. I like the height of the feet for the person in the back (the stoker.) And finally, there was the possibility I could order it from a company in Utah which carries Azub’s other products (trikes.) Despite all of this, I chose the Nazca. Probably the biggest reason was the responsiveness of the co-owner, Monique. I’ve exchanged more than 80 emails with her over the last few months. She always responds and is always helpful. I didn’t have the same experience with Azub. (I met the president of Cruz bikes in Cincinnati and like Monique, he has been super responsive and helpful.) In addition to her responsiveness, Nazca’s tandem was preferred by people who had ridden both. It has the same size of wheels front and back, which simplifies things when packing for an extended ride. Finally, their attention to build quality appears to be exceptional. Nazca is a really small company. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is two owners and a part-time bike mechanic. The other owner, Henk, designs their bikes. They send their designs to a custom frame builder for fabrication and painting, and then build up the bikes in their shop. I wish our trip to the Netherlands would have allowed for a visit. Although I prefer the looks of under-seat steering, I think there are good arguments for the aero steer option on the Nazca – primarily due to its simplicity. I like simple. I also like the seating of the captain on Nazca’s bike – it is a little bit behind the front wheel, which seems like a more stable option.
I ordered the bike in the middle of November and have been anxiously awaiting its arrival ever since. I am writing this at the end of January and hoping to see the bike near the first of February. It was shipped a week ago and is now stuck in customs. The customs debacle deserves its own post. Wait for it.
Here is a picture of Henk putting the finishing touches on our new ride.