Bent Etiquette by Len Brunkalla
'Bent Etiquette An editorial by by Len Brunkalla
8/1/2000

An amazing aspect of my involvement with recumbents, has been taking notice of the blatant enthusiasm that recumbent riders and owners exude. I have met very few ho-hum recumbent riders. Their enthusiasm can be displayed in many forms. I even find myself falling into various degrees of the types of enthusiasm that I will attempt to describe here. There is nothing wrong with enthusiasm, provided you follow certain rules of etiquette...call them the Do's and Don'ts of recumbent etiquette.


The Inquisitive
Some people must ask a myriad of questions (as do I), of every recumbent rider that they meet, anywhere, any time. Do feel free to ask questions. Do not bombard a rider with questions if he/she has just finished climbing a long steep grade. Don't be a pest. Most 'bent riders ('bent being a shortened form of recumbent, for those who haven't yet figured that out), are very willing, some overly willing, to answer questions about their ride, their steed, their stable of 'bents at home. Some are far more eager to talk about recumbents, than many of the curious ever wanted know. There is goodness in moderation.

The Inspector
Some people just have to examine every square inch, every nook and cranny, every aspect of a recumbent that is new to them. Look with your eyes. Do not fondle other peoples equipment. See...it doesn't even sound socially acceptable. Sometimes, not every inch, or aspect of a particular bike is accessible from a non-touching standpoint. Do ask the owners permission, or assistance in doing a more thorough examination, although you should keep in mind some owners will draw the line here, rather than submit to the turn your head and cough thoroughness.

Hands On/OFF!
Still others feel the compulsion to test ride every vehicle that they come across, every vehicle that they can lay their hands on. These "hands on" enthusiasts are the ones to be wary of. If you own a recumbent, or if you are one of this type of enthusiast, pay close attention to these words of advice.

If you see a delightfully new recumbent, and you have a burning desire to give it a test ride, your first objective should be to find the owner, and ask permission!! Don't assume anything, and don't always expect a positive response. Recumbents on the average, are not cheap, and in some cases are very rare. The rare ones are logically the most tempting (and probably expensive), and consequently, likely the most protected by possessive owners. Rightfully so. Don't just plunk your butt down on a strangers bike and expect to be met with kind regard. Instead you may just meet a pump upside the head. Have common courtesy, just like that old golden rule (not the one that says do unto others and run like hell). If you are a 'bent owner that has suffered through an unfortunate loaner catastrophe, you have my sympathy.

If graciously, you are granted permission to take the bike for a spin, do not try to test the structural integrity of the frame. There are several engineering terms that describe finite elemental behavior. These terms include, stress, load, yield, and ultimate. Do not attempt to explore any of these design limits on anything but your own property. Remember that some recumbents that you might come across, will be custom built, or homebuilt, or custom homebuilt. There may be a much higher price for breaking one of these than a simple dollar amount.

Recently, a friend told me of an experience that he had encountered with a stranger trying his recumbent tricycle on for size, without this friend's permission, or knowledge. There are several key words to note here, like - recumbent tricycle, stranger, and without permission or knowledge. Recumbent tricycles are very rare as it is. This particular tricycle was one that I had custom built for this particular friend, making it virtually irreplaceable. The stranger in this story, plopped his butt down onto this trike while it was parked, and the owner was not in the immediate vicinity. When my friend came back to his trike, the stranger was holding the brakes and pushing very forcibly on the cranks. When my friend asked what the hell the stranger thought he was doing, the stranger replied, "Checking the flex in the frame." My friend made it very clear what not to do on his trike, and if that stranger is smart, he'll stay away from Northbrook for a year or so, change his name, maybe get some plastic surgery to alter his looks.

Maybe it would be more poignant to put it another way. If someone borrowed your car without permission, you would most likely call the police, and be very unhappy. If someone asked permission to borrow your car, and damaged it, but offered to pay for the damages, you would still be less than happy about it. Do you think anyone would feel comfortable with the idea that it is okay to break their recumbent, as long as you offer to pay them? Hopefully, you see my point. 

To make socializing in the recumbent world a more pleasurable experience, remember these few simple rules...

1) If it isn't yours, don't touch it.
2) Always ask permission to do anything that involves touching someone else's property.
3) Do not torture test other people's property, regardless of your ability to repair or replace.
4) If it does not belong to you, treat it better than your own stuff.
5) If there is a recumbent that you really must test ride, go to a 'bent dealer and ask to test one of theirs.

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