Lightning P38 Recumbent Bicycle
The legendary P-38 is still
Lightning's flagship and at 24 lb., one of the lightest recumbents made.
It has a steeper head angle than the Stealth for a bit more nimble ride.
At high speeds it takes a bit more getting used to than a Phantom. The
triangulation of its space frame design makes it stiff, strong and one of
the fastest climbing recumbents around. At first, you won't be fast on any
recumbent; but after a few months of regularly riding a P-38, you should
be ready to out climb your old bike. If you used to climb standing on big
gears on your old bike, you will have to learn to gear down and spin.
The P-38 seat lacing needs
to be re-tightened after the first 25 to 50 miles, it's pretty easy to do.
I do not recommend the Campy component option. It shifts well but has a
limited cassette selection. For instance if you want a 26 tooth low gear
you have to put up with a 13 tooth high. A bike as fast as the P-38 really
needs an 11 tooth high gear.
One fall I rode a P-38 on a
20-mile road club ride. I started in the middle of 70 riders (5
recumbents, 65 uprights) and caught the leaders in about two miles. I had
no trouble staying with the lead group without drafting them. I easily led
every climb the whole ride. Once, as I led up a hill a roadie in the group
said, "that will be enough of that!" He and his friend jumped out of his
saddle and chased but didn't catch me. At the end of the ride, a friendly
wedgie rider told me they had heard recumbents were slow, but they guessed
no one had ever told me!
Over the past 20 years stronger riders than I have demonstrated how fast
the Lightning F-40 with fairing is. Here are a few highlights: Seattle
to Portland record holder - 192 miles in 7-1/2 hours (26 mph average)
San Francisco to Los Angeles record - 400 miles in 18 hours (22 mph
average). This speed advantage is partly due to the recumbent seat
position, which has less frontal area and, therefore, less wind
resistance. On the P-38 this results in a ~15% speed increase over a
standard road bike. The P-38 with the optional Zzipper fairing and wheel
covers can yield an additional 15% speed advantage.
The P-38 and F40 with sidepull brakes and the medium P-38 or F-40 with a
20” front wheel has a front fork with very little tire clearance. There
are only two tires that I know of that will fit in this fork, both are
fast, neither is particularly durable.
The P-38 is a great
recumbent for club racing, touring and recreational riding. (If you want
to do HPRA or HPVA races, look out: low-racers will eat you alive on a
flat course!) The P-38 is one of my favorite bikes.
Lightning F40 Recumbent Bicycle
The P-38 with a full fairing is called the F-40. For racers and
high-performance enthusiasts fully faired F-40 can be extremely fast. If
you are an experienced lightning rider having trouble keeping up with
low-racers on your beloved P-38 this is the magic bullet. The F-40 is so
fast that it holds some long distance world speed records. The fairing
adds speed and warmth but requires more bike handling ability,
especially in a gusty wind. The F-40 is the Race Across America team
record holder. A 4-rider team taking turns on a F-40, pedaled 2910 miles
in 5 days and 1 hour (24 mph average). This bike is not for timid or
casual riders. It is for riders with the skills to be safe in it and a
strong desire to fly.