Last week I saw this very unusual recumbent for sale on Fecebook. I’m always trying to get my friends’ butts on recumbents, and this one appeared to have a more adjustable seat and size range than a typical Easy Racers bike. And look at that — Phil Wood hubs? So I bought it.
Amazingly, a visiting Chicago friend of mine was willing to meet the seller somewhere in Illinois, and the seller was willing to drive all the way from Western Iowa to meet my friend, and it miraculously worked out so that just days after my purchase, this appeared in my driveway:
The listing said the frame was built by Tom Teesdale of West Branch, Iowa. I looked him up, and discovered he was highly respected but little-known beyond hardcore bike nerd circles. He died in 2014, attending the venerable RAGBRAI cycling event. In his honor, I decided to name this purple giant Hibiscus Teesdale.
At first glance, Hibiscus appears to be an Easy Racers Fold Rush clone. I already own a Fold Rush, so I was reluctant to get another, until I looked more closely at the photos. Hibiscus is different.
For one thing, she has a jack shaft. Instead of one long chain running from the crank to the rear cassette, she has two smaller chains: one from crank to jack shaft, one from jack shaft to rear chainrings. Since the Fold Rush chain often falls off and/or gets twisted when folding, this looked like a genius innovation. I could also see the handlebar stem was designed to fold in, a feature I wished my Gold Rush had. Was this the lightweight, improved-folding long-wheelbase recumbent of my dreams?
Well, no. The first thing I learned in real life was that her fold requires tools. In fact, she has an aluminum brace (the same gorgeous purple as the rest of her) that has to be unscrewed from the elastomer and unbolted from the frame before folding. There is no quick release on this brace; two wrenches are required. There is also no quick release on the handlebar stem. These are all old-school bolts, not Allen bolts, and in many different sizes, so I was glad to have a complete set of bits in my ratcheting wrench set, as well as an adjustable wrench.
The seat, at least, has a quick-release, and is very adjustable, although you still need a wrench to adjust the seat support struts. You can see above there is plenty of room for it to slide back for taller riders, and forward for shorter ones. That makes it more versatile than a typical Easy Racers frame, but it is a whole lotta extra bike if you’re short.
Hibiscus is indeed huge. And heavy. I think she is made of steel, other than her brace. She is at least as heavy as my steel Tour Easy.
She also feels like she might be indestructible. I’m asking the seller if he knows the recommended rider weight limit. I expect she could accommodate heavier riders than anything else in my stable.
Like the Fold Rush, Hibiscus has suspension created by the folding mechanism itself, similar to the suspension on a Brompton, another folding bike I cherish (I Bromptoned all over New York City when I lived there).
The ride is smooth and comfortable, but that could also be because the frame is so long, as well as the huge thick tires she came with. Usually I put narrower road tires on my ‘bents, but since she’s already wearing these wide nubbly shoes, I intentionally rode her on lousy streets, over cracks and gravel. I wasn’t looking for a gravel ‘bent, but now I have one.
I thought the stiff “Cobra” style seat was an odd choice for a heavy suspended bike. I have a Cobra seat on my small Gold Rush, and the ride is very harsh, but that’s probably due to its stiff, small, aluminum frame. On this huge long suspended steel frame, the seat didn’t feel harsh at all. I liked that it held my back up straight.
I don’t know exactly when Hibiscus was built, but she is equipped with Shimano Deore DX components, which were apparently produced between 1990 and 1993. She has these charming bar-end shifters to match:
I’m pretty sure the handlebar foam is original. Hibiscus is remarkably well preserved for her age. I do need to replace the chains, as a few links are rusting.
As of this writing, Hibiscus has been in my possession just over 24 hours. So far we’ve spent 17 miles together. I did many errands on her this afternoon, picking up and delivering things.
She is not fast. But the more I ride her, the more I like her. I don’t have room in my garage for 4 long wheelbase recumbents, so at some point one of my stable is going to move on. Will it be Hibiscus, or will it be Foldilocks (Fold Rush), Silver (Gold Rush), or Connie Bikeson (Tour Easy)?
Time to get a bigger garage.