The Legendary Lightning P-38

“Blazingly fast, sports-car maneuverability and great seat!”

Bicycling Magazine

Made in the USA

2013 Lightning P-38 XT with disc brakes
P-38 XT (color metallic blue)
  • Now with front and rear Avid disc brakes
  • 26×36×48 front gearing with 11–36 10-speed rear cassette provides an incredibly wide gear range
  • Average riders can climb grades up to 10%

“Comments on the bike? Most of the bike shops visited to test ride bikes said that the P-38 was ‘twitchy.’ After 10 feet on the P-38. I realized that they’d never been on a P-38. You don’t really ride a P-38, you more or less pilot it. This is a finely tuned machine worthy of great respect. It reigns supreme in the SWB market.”

DW White Wolf Racing

“After testing out most recumbents in the world from many manufacturers, my favourite is the P-38. It is the most comfortable all-around bike that can do loaded touring, hills, commutes, etc.”

Corbett Rowell, Velocity Racers

No less than legendary

The legendary Lightning P-38. With the efficient and unique, patented space type frame that is very stiff in the direction of pedaling forces, but at the same time very light and strong. Unconventional in design, yes. But also, comfort, safety, and speed many times greater than conventional bikes. Experience what thousands of Lightning riders have already discovered, the pure cycling enjoyment and exhilaration of the P-38.

The P-38 is Lightning’s flagship bicycle and it’s not hard to see why. Only the P-38 has had nearly 30 years of refinements and record-setting experience to bring it to its current state of development. The P-38 is one of the lightest recumbents made, at just 22–26 pounds (depending on size and components), and only its cousin the R-84 climbs better. If you’re ready for the best, the P-38 is ready for you.

Forget what you’ve heard about recumbents not being good climbers. Bicycling magazine dubbed its latest review of the P-38 “A recumbent that can climb!” After about a month of acclimation, a P-38 rider will normally match or exceed his previous performance on an upright. The key is training, as a recumbent uses slightly different muscles than an upright bike, especially during climbing. To see a Lightning climb hills, see the video on our Cyber Test Ride page.

Key P-38 design features

  • Each P-38 is custom built to match your size, weight, and color choice giving highest performance and comfort.
  • Race-proven design: has set numerous world distance records with optional F-40 fairing, and numerous speed records with non-production X-2 fairing.
  • Chromoly space frame design for stiffness, strength, and light weight
  • Compact overall size: no larger than a conventional bicycle
  • Standard 700c rear wheel for numerous tire choices
  • Patent-pending Ergofit seat integral to frame for strength
  • Oversized TiG welded stem and handlebars
  • Optional Ergospeed carbon midracer seat
Julia on a Lightning P-38
Performance Wheels version 3×10 gearing (color crimson red, with optional seat bag and mirror)

See a video of a P-38 walk-around by Lightning dealer Rose City Recumbent Cycles.

Why such a good climber?

The seat and bottom bracket position result in higher power production, and the stiff space frame design means most of this power is transferred to the rear wheel, not lost in frame flex like other designs. No other recumbent matches the P-38’s stiffness and pedaling efficiency.

The many faces of the P-38

The P-38 seems to have multiple personalities. The standard bike works well for many uses. With the Lightning Seat Bag and Fenders it’s ready for all-weather commuting or recreational riding. Add a standard rear rack and Lightning’s special no-drag panniers, and you have the ultimate in touring comfort and performance. The Performance Wheel and Velocity 2×9 versions are ready with no additions for fast club rides and centuries. Equipped with wheel covers and the optional F-40 fairing, it becomes the world’s fastest road bike, ready to contend for the lead in any event.

P-38 XT set up with panniers for touring
A P-38 XT set up for touring, randonneuring, and brevets with custom no-drag Lightning panniers, handlebar bag, and seat bag (see the Accessories page for details).

Voyager upgrade: The ultimate in take-along bikes!

Lightning Voyager case

An entire riding season and almost 10,000 miles in racing and riding (real world) field testing, the P-38 Voyager is ready for prime time! Simply put, the Voyager is a P-38 that collapses conveniently into a suitcase. The bike is safe and secure in its hard-shell case. Assembly or disassembly takes approximately 30-45 minutes.

The Voyager includes three S&S frame couplings (which are actually stronger and stiffer than the original frame tubing), coupled seat frame, quick release seat, boom and stem and hard-shell case. Not some kind of strange folding bike, the P-38 Voyager is a no-compromise high performance bike perfect for flying to races, tours and varied bicycle adventures anywhere in the world with no worries. See the P-38 Voyager page for more details and photos on this amazing bike.

What customers say about the P-38

“This summer I took a four day tour in Switzerland, and I climbed a 2,400m (8,000 foot) high pass, named Nuffenen, the highest in Switzerland. The difference of altitude was 2,000m (6,500 feet), and for the last 9 km, the slope was 12%! I even passed two upright bikers in the last part! The downhill run after the pass was fabulous. It was 40 km long with sometimes a speed of 80 km/h (waaahuuu!). The P-38 was very stable and I feel secure on it.”

Gerard Kloos

“On grades up to 6%, I climb faster on my Lightning than on my road bike. Also, the road bike doesn’t have an noticeable advantage unless the grade is greater than 10%.”

Peter Penseyres, 4 time RAAM winner

Read more customer comments on the P-38

Read about the P-38’s design history

P-38 Midracer!

Lightning P-38 midracer

Lightning strikes again with new Midracers! Utilizing a lightweight, hand laid up carbon seat with an integrated strong, rigid frame attachment, and a cool, ventilated, comfortable, plus aerodynamic seat pad, the Midracer upgrade increases speed on the flats plus gives sleek, modern styling. Available with the Performance Wheel and Velocity 2×10 component packages.

More info here: Midracers

P-38 Velocity
P-38 Velocity (color starlight red)

Lightning’s Cyber Test Rides: See our collection of video clips showing Lightning bikes in action.

Check out the owner’s manual.

Here’s a list of serial numbers for dating your P-38.

P-38 model specifications

Component Sport 3×10 XT 3×10 Performance
Wheels 3×10
Sizes S, M, L, XL S, M, L, XL M, L, XL M, L, XL
Rider height range 4′9″ – 6′8″ 4′9″ – 6′8″ 5′2″ – 6′8″ 5′2″ – 6′8″
Rider weight limit 160 lbs. (S), 200 lbs. (M), 220 lbs. (L), 250 lbs. (XL)
Colors Azure Blue, Metallic Blue, Yellow, Metallic Green, Jet Black, Starlight Silver, Golden Gage, Crimson Red, White, Starlight Red. See the full color chart.
Weight 23–26 lbs. 24–27 lbs. 23–25 lbs. 22–24 lbs.
Wheelbase 41 to 45.5 inches
Overall length 60 to 74 inches
BB height 24 to 26 inches
Seat height 18 to 20 inches Ergomesh; 17 to 19 inches Midracer Ergospeed carbon
Seat angle 50 to 65 degrees Ergomesh; 35 to 40 degrees Midracer Ergospeed carbon
Ergomesh seat Patent-pending Ergofit bend, 7005 Aluminum frame. Nylon mesh back with fitted foam cushion.
Midracer Ergospeed carbon seat Hand laid up woven carbon fabric/epoxy resin seat with integrated aluminum bar frame attachment fittings. Ventilated plastic honeycomb type seat pad with fitted aerodynamic cover.
Rigid fork Brazed 4130, Custom True Temper Taperlite Blades
Braze-ons Water bottle (2), pump peg (for Zefal HP pump), drop-out eyelets, cable guides
Frame Nickel Silver brazed Multigauge CrMo, 7005 Aluminum B-B Extension
Stem LCD Customlite Aluminum
Handlebars Aluminum, Customlite LCD Drop Bars
Gear range 19–118″ 19–118″ 19–118″ 26–123″
Brakes Avid SD7 V type Avid BB7 Disc Tektro Quartz Dual Pivot Tektro Quartz Dual Pivot
Brake levers Tektro SR
Bottom bracket Shimano XT, tube spindle Shimano XT, tube spindle Shimano XT, tube spindle Lightning carbon integrated, ABEC5 sealed bearings
Crankset Shimano XT Hollowtech 26×36×48 Shimano XT Hollowtech 26×36×48 Shimano XT Hollowtech 26×36×48 Lightning carbon integrated 30×50, 160 to 180 mm
Chain KMC X10
Cassette Shimano LX 11–36, 10 speed Shimano XT 11–36, 10 speed Shimano LX 11–36, 10 speed Shimano XT 11–36, 10 speed
Front derailleur Shimano LX triple Shimano XT Triple Shimano LX triple Shimano XT Triple
Rear derailleur Shimano Deore Shimano XT Shimano Deore Shimano XT
Headset Diatech threadless
Hubs Deore LX Shimano XT Shimano 105 Velocity Race
Shifters Shimano Dura Ace bar end
Front rim 16″ Sun CR18, 349 mm (16×1⅜), 28 stainless spokes, S And M N/A N/A
Front tire 16″ Schwalbe Marathon 37-349 (16×1⅜), 100 psi N/A N/A
Front rim 20″ Sun Alloy CR18 406mm, 36 stainless spokes, L and XL Velocity A23, 406 mm, 20 spokes, M, L, XL
Front tire 20″ Panaracer Minits Tough 32-406 (20×1.25) 100 psi Schwalbe Durano 28-406 (20×1.1), 110 psi *
Rear rim 700c Sun Alloy CR18 700C, 36 stainless spokes, L and XL Shimano 105 Aero, 20 stainless spokes, M, L, XL Mesh seat Velocity A23 OC, 28 spokes, M, L, XL Mesh seat
Rear tire 700c Panaracer Ribmo 700×28, 105 psi Schwalbe Durano, 700×25, 120 psi
Rear rim 26″ Sun CR18 26×1.5, 36 stainless spokes, S and M Mavic Aero, 28 stainless spokes, M, L, XL carbon seat Velocity A23 OC, 28 spokes, M, L, XL carbon seat
Rear tire 26″ Panaracer Ribmo 32-559, 100psi Continental 650×23, 120 psi

* Note: Due to limited fork space front tire choices are limited to 28-406 (20″×1.1″) on these models.

Lightning P-38 ROX
P-38 ROX. See the Laidback Bike Report video here.

The ROX frame upgrade has thicker tubing and a gusset under the seat, plus a very wide fork crown for tires up to 2.5 inches wide. Stock it comes with 2-inch wide Schwalbe Big Apple tires. The rear tire is 26-inch size to clear the seat mesh! Finally for heavier riders we can make the seat frame from steel, as is shown in this picture.

P-38 prices and ordering information

Please allow 3-5 weeks for delivery.
Frameset only   $2,260
V brake braze-ons add $60
Disc brake braze-ons add $100
P-38 complete bike:
Deore LX components $3,700
Above with performance wheels $3,700
XT 3×10 components with disc brakes $4,160
2×10 Velocity components $4,560
ROX wide frame and tire upgrade add $150
Midracer with carbon seat add $300
P-38 suspended front fork add $400
Voyager suitcase bike with S&S couplings and case add $1,900
Non-standard paint color add $90
Frameset parts:
Tektro Quartz caliper brake each $70
Tektro brake levers, modified (V or caliper) pair $40
Dura-Ace bar end shifters $120
16″ or 20″×1.25 front rim, tire, tube, spokes $100
16″ or 20″×1.25 front wheel and tire/LX hub $130
20″×1.0 front rim, tire, tube, and spokes $110
20″×1.0 front wheel and tire/105 hub $175
Indicate the color you want: __________

*Note: Existing P-38 frames can have the Voyager option retrofitted. Price for this is $2,000.


For details on framesets, check the frameset page.

Accessory prices and ordering information

See also our Accessories page.

Handlebar bag (Black, Blue, Red) $30 Buy now!
Slip on seat bag, 700 cubic inches (Black, Blue, Red, Yellow, Safety Orange) $85 Buy now!
Hydrapack hydration bladder, 1.5 liter $42 Buy now!
Chainring disc only $22 Buy now!
Chainring disc and chain guard tube $45 Buy now!
Cycle computer with cadence, Astrale $70 Buy now!
Fenders, Planet Bike $65
Kickstand, for Phantom and P-38 $28 Buy now!
Mirrycle mirror, brake lever mount $50 Buy now!
Rear rack $50 Buy now!
Panniers, 2,000 cubic inches (Black, Blue, Red, Yellow, Safety Orange) $380 Buy now!
Pedal Extenders: decrease front wheel/heel interference $30 Buy now!
Quick Adjust Kit/Chain Tensioner: allows full crank movement without adjusting chain $80 Buy now!
Shorts (Small, Med, Large, XL) $78 Buy now!
T-Shirts (Small, Med, Large, XL) $10 Buy now!
Zzipper Fairing $380 Buy now!

California residents add sales tax of 8.25%

Shipping information

Bicycles are 90% assembled and shipped by UPS Ground 48 states.

Item Amount
Recumbent frameset or complete bike $120
Complete F-40 or F-90 with fairing $250

Payment information

The full amount is payable when the order is placed by credit card (Visa or Mastercard), money order, or personal check. For credit card orders, mail, or phone in the credit card info.