In 1996, after testing various machines from De Liggende Hollander, I decided to order a Challenge Wizard. This model, which they market as a touring/commuter machine, is still in production, although the detailed design has changed a bit - in particular, it’s now available with an aluminium frame, and has got considerably lighter.
The seat is a conventional metal shell with foam cushion, which I want to change to a more permeable material at some point, and I went for hydraulically-damped rear suspension, which is a delight, the Sachs 3 X 7 combination (with the then-fashionable gripshifts - aaargh!), and Magura hydraulic rim brakes.
The handlebars are arranged to tilt up and down freely (there is no weight on them, of course), so that they can be raised out of the way when boarding and alighting (you can’t use the word “mount” for a recumbent!) or pulled down to a more comfortable riding position. The seat angle is also adjustable.
Most people in the Netherlands who ride recumbents (called ligfietsen here) use them for commuting to work. Since I live so near to work that it’s as quick to walk (something no Dutch person will ever believe!) my mileage is rather lower than most, but in the first year I covered some 2000 km. Included in this were two “international” trips with luggage: south along the lf1 cycle route to Brugge (Bruges), and across the North Sea to Yorkshire.
The Wizard copes well with baggage. You can hang a pair of large panniers on the back wheel, and another pair either side of the seat, although the latter tend to get in the way of the horrid contraptions they put on British cycle paths to deter (motor)cyclists. Since the weight is low down and sprung, it doesn’t make the bike any more difficult to control, and you have the bonus that you can get at the seat bags without dismounting - handy if you want to eat something while riding, or look at the map.
Everyone asks “Yes, but how does it climb?” - I’ve always been a terrible climber, and here in Holland I don’t have much practice, so I’m probably not a good person to ask! Ny subjective experience has been that I can get up moderate slopes more easily than on an upright, allowing for the weight difference. On very steep slopes I find that I run out of balance before I run out of gears, so I get off and walk a little sooner than I would on an upright. Update - August 2003
Rather to my surprise, I’ve discovered that the Wizard is approaching its seventh birthday! After all that time, it’s still my favourite touring machine. If there’s a train journey involved I usually take the cmpct or the Brompton, and the Brompton also gets used a lot for short local hops, but for anything else I’m likely to use the Wizard. Of course, this may change a bit when I get the Trice Micro…
To summarise seven years of experience: the Wizard is a solid, well-designed tourer. It has few bad habits, it has so far given me little mechanical trouble, and it is a pleasure to ride, especially for long distances. Vices:
- The back brake locks the back wheel at the slightest provocation, and is best left strictly alone (a common problem on swb recumbents - the front brake has all the stopping power you need, anyway)
- The quick-release used to adjust the handlebar angle is a bit too close to the inside of your thighs
- The adjustable seat tends to reset itself to the most reclined position in moments of stress - except on very long tours I don’t really feel the need to change the seat angle, so I normally leave it fully-reclined
- So comfortable that it sends you to sleep :-)
- Steady as a rock in a straight line
- Extremely comfortable
- Touring baggage doesn’t seem to affect the handling at all - you only notice it’s there when you climb, or when you attempt to go through British anti-cycle obstacles