Some people hate uncertainty. It makes them feel insecure, worried, stressed. So here are some hard facts: In the early 1980’s the idea of recumbent cycling, originating in the 1920’s was just becoming cool again in certain geeky Californian and European circles. In deepest Iowa a man with an aluminum fabrication company got bored with truck bodies and trailer frames and grain elevators and decided he needed to diversify. The result was an unholy miscegenation between the technology of aluminum framing, which is based on rectangular cross-sections, and bicycle technology, which is based on tubular cross-sections. The offspring was the Linear Recumbent Bicycle. Today there are many recumbent bicycles, but the Linear remains quite unique. The marque is still going strong, although with its few but endearing design faults smoothly ironed out. Consult Mr Peter Stull of New York State, ‘The Bicycle Man’, for full details.

In the late 80’s a man in the UK went on holiday, and found a bicycle-hire company, that bizarrely, included a Linear in its fleet. It was love at first sight. Since he already owned a very nice upright bicycle, and was stupid enough to work for peanuts teaching people useful skills, instead of understanding that greed was good, and selling people dud mortgage deals instead, and so did not have a lot of money to throw around, he lived for the next twenty years with a Linear shaped hole in his life. Finally, in the early years of the Twenty-first Century he managed to bargain for a very old, cranky, idiosyncratic example of the brand, and proceeded to obsess over it (and ride it every available moment). Finally he thought, ‘If I don’t write down all this stuff that spins around in my head, I’ll get more and more peculiar and end up muttering to myself in public’. And so this blog was born. If you see me muttering in public, it’s because I am just trying to work out my next blog entry . . .


Meet Linus.

No, no, the cool one, on the left, with pedals . . .

I know stern, hard-sinewed men and women with viciously well-defined calves, who say you should never give your bike a name. It’s just a collection of parts they say, and in pursuit of optimum performance you should be prepared to cannibalise, destroy and discard, unhindered by sentiment. Fact is, I don’t have that kind of money so, ironically, I can afford to be sentimental.

When I finally got my very own Linear, it got a name. Not a ‘painted proudly on the prow’ kind of name you understand, just an ‘in the family’ kind of name: Linus. After Linus Pauling the famous scientist of course, because in its black and silver finish, it looks kind of serious and scientific. Also after the insecure but intelligent kid with the comfort-blanket in Charles Schultz’s ‘Peanuts’ cartoon. And Linus Torvald, initiator of the open-source computer operating system, Linux, because Linears are kind of cool but geeky, with a sort of ‘open source bicycle’ approach in their modular design. And because it’s snappier than ‘The Linear Recumbent’. It’s also not as embarrassing as the official model name: The Mach II. I’m deeply grateful they didn’t write that anywhere on the bike. I don’t really have the Right Stuff for Mach numbers.

All references to ‘Linus’ hereinafter can therefore be taken as referring to that collection of black and silver bits that I use for the same purposes that most normal people use a bicycle for. I’m not actually sentimental about it you understand, I don’t for example, ride up to people and say ‘Hi, would you like to pat Linus? He’s very friendly!’ I don’t whisper ‘Goodnight!’ when I put him/it away. I just . . . oh hell, I’m going off the idea already. Linus. It’s convenient, alright?

Do you like my header image?
It’s a family thing. Number one son is an artist. He draws stuff. In depicting me and my bike he has used Artistic Licence. This means he has a licence that says he is allowed to lie. I don’t have that much hair. Also, my forehead has more than two wrinkles. In fact it has so many wrinkles I am officially entitled to a Klingon passport.
Actually it was he, number one son, who thought of the title for this blog. So I have allowed him to lie about my hair, and about what shape my bike is. It is obvious to anyone with any mechanical literacy that the bicycle depicted, although very efficient, would be unable to turn corners. And my bike is not front-wheel drive anyway. But fie! If he can lie about my hair, he can lie about that. Anyway, who needs corners? Its just being fussy.

So, self, wife, two kids and another family all roll up at a holiday bike hire place in Devon UK, where we planned to ride a cycletrack made on the the bed of an old railway. Nice sunny day, melee of happy kids and parents being kitted out with bikes, trailer-bikes, helmets, etc etc. And me. I had spotted the magic word ‘recumbent’ in the hire company’s brochure. I had read about these machines from another dimension where they ride differenty dimensioned bikes, and made sure my name was down for one. As it turned out, the only one. And that is how I came to be sitting on the shiny silver beam of light. A little girl was struggling to stare at me as her mother wrestled with her helmet straps. I sat with one foot nonchalantly resting on the ground in a yard full of kids falling over on unfamiliar bikes. The little girl’s helmet was finally fixed. Her head swivelled round in my direction, accompanied by a small accusatory finger. “That man doesn’t know how to do it!” was her very loud comment, immediately shushed by an embarrassed parent.
I was stunned. She was of course, absolutely right. I also realised, with a cold chill, that with my own two small boys watching, it was imperative for paternal dignity that I get this right, first time . . . so, here is how you learn to ride a Linear in one minute flat:

1. Feel the fear -fear of failure: Not that dull hopeless feeling that it’s all going to go wrong and you don’t care. I mean the other kind: The heart-pounding, parachutist’s, stuntman’s ‘failure is not an option!’ kind of fear.

2. Ride a scooter as a child. Everywhere. For miles, until the back axle is sawn in half by the plain bearing. Then get a new one for Christmas and carry on . . .

3. As a teenager and young adult ride a skateboard. Everywhere. Preferably a longboard.

4. Experience with an ordinary bicycle is some help . . .

5. By shuffling along with both legs on the ground, get the bike pointed accurately down a stretch of unoccupied right of way, and with the derailleur in a reasonable gear for starting.

6. Keep one foot on the ground and place the other on the pedal, positioned just a little before TDC (Top Dead Centre).

7. Grip handlebars in a relaxed but fatalistic manner.

8. Push like hell and get that ground-foot up onto its pedal with the speed of a lizard avoiding a buzzard’s shadow.

9. Whatever happens in the next few seconds, keep spinning the pedals.

10. Convince your panicking brain that somewhere under the seat is actually the right place to be fumbling with the steering, and that to let go and grab wildly for where the handlebars should be would be counterproductive.

11. Lean back, relax, and enjoy the scenery -at which point a child on a BMX swerves in front of you yelling “Why are you riding that funny bike mister?” Slam both feet on the deck, while hauling on the brakes, and start the whole sequence over again from no.6.