What customers say about the P-38 …
“I wish I would have known how comfortable cycling could have been 20 years and 50,000 miles ago. Amazing comfort day after day! I ordered a P-38 with a Rohloff internal gear hub. The Rohloff hub is well worth the extra cost. You can put the bike in any gear while sitting still, and the change from gear to gear is a nice even 13.5%. I like to ride in hilly areas and do loaded touring. I’ve climbed some hills with 20% grades on it. Tim and everyone else at Lightning have been a pleasure to do business with. I have 1,500 miles on the P-38 already and I’m still amazed every time I ride it!” — Hank Holz (via Facebook)
“I LOVE my P-38. Very easy to tour, NO painful butt, sore wrists, or neck pain. I can easily travel 100 miles a day at a leisurely 18 MPH average. Once you have converted to a P-38 you will never go back to a regular bike.” — yachtkeljen via YouTube
“I just got off the Colorado Rocky Mountain bike tour: 493 miles, two centuries, two passes over 12,000 ft, 2 passes over 9,000 ft, and one over 8,000: by the end of the ride, people were starting to ask questions about the P-38. It out performed many of the ‘regular’ bikes. I was able to keep up on almost every climb and had a blast passing on the downhill, the headwinds, and the flats. Thanks Tim for getting the carbon cranks to me in time to use them on this ride. They are sweet.” — Sue Yocom via Facebook
“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
“I am finally back from Southern California and took my new bent out for a ride today. It was awesome! I love the bike. I cannot believe how much faster I am and how easy it climbs. Today Jeff rode my Vision and he's beginning to think a recumbent is the way to go. I want to thank you [Zach Kaplan] again for all of your help. You are an amazing and gifted man and I appreciate all the time and effort you put into helping me select my new bike.” — Wendy Sparks
“My P-38 has 38,400 miles on it which has included loaded touring, organized century rides, and 13 years of commuting while I was still working. Love the bike.” — Bob Simonds on Facebook
“Still the Classic, still the most comfortable and a fast bike even compared to the latest wunderbikes made of burnt toast and glue. This bike outclimbs a Ti Aero — data by a rider that owns both!” — Paul on Flickr
“My P-38 is awesome! There should be at least two of these in every garage!” — Mark DeVaney
“I took this bike out on a 50 mile ride to Port Washington. Man! It’s fast, light, completely sure footed, and extremely comfortable. The best of ergonomic posture for pedaling, great handling dynamics, and sexy light for a cromolly frame. Lightning really knows how to make bikes [...]” — Recycled Recumbents
“After 35 years of riding ‘normal’ bikes, I bought a P-38. my first recumbent. I wobbled for the first 20 meters, but didn’t fall. Stopped, thought about this strange contraption for a while, then tried again. I was very concerned as I had bought the P-38 and couldn’t return it. Had I been impulsive and made an expensive mistake? Off I went again. This time I didn’t think about riding, I didn’t wonder about the direct steering under my feet; instead I looked ahead and didn’t worry about the small front wheel. Hooray! Around and around the parking area, eventually venturing onto the street, then around the block, and another, and another. That’s all it took, not worrying about steering.
“I’ve ridden 15 miles every evening for the last week, and the amazing thing is that I’m not sore nor stiff when I get home. On my wedgie my wrists would be numb and my back stiff, In fact so stiff I would creak as I walked bent ‘til I was able to straighten up.
“Yesterday I caught up with a traditional cyclist, and I easily passed him watching in the mirrors as he faded into the distance. This happened with 5 other cyclists. Okay maybe they weren’t racing, but neither was I, I just pulled away from them.
“I’m very very happy with my ‘new bike.’ I’ve get lots of comments from pedestrians at traffic lights and of course lots of hollering from kids.
“This weekend, I’ve planned an 80 mile ride, that’s how effortless and comfortable this bike is. Now I wish I could meet other recumbent riders here in Florida?
“Thanks Lightning: GREAT BIKE.”
See Mac via Facebook
“I just purchased a used 1998 P-38. My first turn of the wheel was yesterday in the Seattle to Portland two day ride. A two hundred mile test ride. My bike is an XL with the suspension front fork. It definitely climbs better than my Tour Easy.” — Kip Milam, Chehalis, WA
“The Lightning is much faster in rolling hills than my road bike.” — Bob Fourney, 3 times RAAM winner
"My daily commute, either an 8 mile ride from Mill Valley to Sausalito, or a 19 mile ride into downtown San Francisco, has been absolutely a delight. Two thumbs up.” — Ken Lisaka
“I just wanted to tell you how pleased I’ve been with my P-38. I ordered it via Rob at RBR early this year (a Large frame built to XL weight specs in green), and have since ridden it in a 200k/300k/400k/600k brevet series, at least a half-dozen centuries, more metrics than I can remember, and, as of last weekend, a 1000k brevet called ‘Endless Mountains’ in Eastern PA with over 40,000 ft; of climbing. Oh, yeah, and commuting 40 miles round trip a couple days per week.
“So far, I’ve put about 4,000 miles on the bike, and the only things I’ve worn out were the seat mesh and the power-side idler, both probably due to putting a lot of power into the climbing. Frankly, I’ve put that bike through a lot, and it’s performed admirably and without complaint.
“So, long story short, thanks again for a great bike.”
“Here is an update of adventures on my P-38 so far this year: My P-38’s second week-long outing was Cycle Oregon. Over that week I rode 430 miles and gained about 24,000 feet. As always, my P-38 was an absolute pleasure to ride. After one of several many mile, fast, twisty downhill runs, when I pulled over for a break one of the upright riders who passed said, ‘Gee, you're really agile on that bike.’ Indeed! Thanks for the great bike.” — Jay
“I did my first ride on my P-38 on Saturday, a 62 mile organized ride that we do every year. I was tremendously pleased with the bike. How could I not be? I averaged over one half mph faster over the 62 miles that with any other bike I’ve ridden upright or recumbent. I’m still working out some rattles and trying to get the seat back tight enough, but I can tell that it’s going to be a great season of riding. The P-38 is a real thoroughbred. Thanks for all your help in getting my bike together.” — Anonymous
“Hello! This is Hector Sanchez from Argentina. I bought a P-38 a time ago from RBR, in State College, as you might remember. I want to let you know that the bike has 35.000 km. already, and it had satisfaction me lots of times. By now is a little old and it is showing the much use it has. I’m participating in bike-tours meetings in my country with road cyclists.
“I’m sending you some pictures and I want you to know that in the last December I crossed again the Andes cordillera. I crossed to Chile and then I returned by the extend and hard way up In the meetings that I’m participating, I do it with a lot of cyclists, about 120 and 350, most of them; and in most of them, my P-38 is the only one. We travel for one or two days and we do 90 to 350 km approximately at a velocity of 30Kms/hours. In this moment I’m training to be able to participate in a huge event in which I will travel from Buenos Aires, the capital of my country, to Cordoba, the state where I live.
“Good bye! And congratulations for this bicycle, that had satisfactioned me lots of times.”
“I am happy to report that my venerable P-38 recently went over 20,000 miles. This has been my all-time favorite bike and has been commuted, toured, and ridden fast on club rides. The milestone was passed this past weekend at the bentrideronline.com rally in the Finger Lakes region of New York. While I was at the bentrideronline.com rally, I had the opportunity to ride lots of bikes: high racers, low racers, you name it. The P-38 is still my favorite.” -- Bob
“After a year in which I owned a BikeE FX/RX and/or a Challenge Taifun … with many trial rides on a GRR, P-38 and other recumbents … today I took my new Lightning P-38 XT for its first road ride. right out of the box the P-38 is a wonderful recumbent. It is very light, fast and responsive, with a fluid transfer of power from body to legs to pedals. It has the adjustable steering riser, bar end shifters and the extremely comfortable Lightning seat.
“Just about everything on this recumbent seems to ‘fit’ me almost perfectly. For me at least, the P-38 appears to be a one-bike solution that’s much preferable to either a quasi-low-racer or an upright, low bottom bracket recumbent.”
“I love the bike, I just put it on a fluid trainer for the winter so I can keep on riding.” — David Harris
"This bike is, ummmm, well how else can you say it? TOTALLY AWESOME! The bike shifts very smoothly, and responds very quickly. When pedaling this bike it feels as if nearly 100% of the power put into the pedals goes directly to the rear wheel." — Scott
"Lightning Cycle Dynamics P-38 SWB
"Pros: Light weight, stiff frame Fast and comfortable
"Cons: Less stable at low speeds Small front wheel rides harshly on chipseal
"The Bottom Line: Buy it and love it. Ideal for group rides, Audax, racing. A classic design that's still one of the fastest 'bents because it's hard to improve on perfection.
"I ordered my 2005 P-38 after a lot of Internet research. My requirements were for a fast two wheeled recumbent that would fit on a standard bike rack. I wanted a mesh seat and straight derailleur gearing — no hub gears.
"My first impression of the P-38 when researching bikes was that it couldn't possibly be fast. How wrong I was!
"My yellow P-38 has a large frame and an XL seat with the 'fast' wheels (Mavic Open Pro), a 105 groupo, and Zzipper fairing option. I am 1.8 metres tall and the large P-38 frame is right on the edge of being too small for me. I sized the bike using the charts on the Lightning web site. The large framed P-38 has a 20 inch front wheel. I consider 20 inch wheels to be the limit for a reasonable ride on chipseal.
"The bike was well set up when delivered in its large box. After some minor assembly, I nervously set off and wobbled … and jerked … and panicked. I'd never ridden an SWB and the learning curve was steep. It took about 20 kilometres for me to start to ride smoothly and another 20 or so to gain confidence.
"I absolutely adore this bike. It is COMFORTABLE. You sit IN it, not ON it. The P-38 climbs hills well enough to keep up with road bikes (albeit with a bit more effort, probably due to the weight difference.) For a steel framed SWB, the P-38 is light at 12.8 kilos.
"On the flats and downhill it's fast. On a short straight descent, the P-38 peaks at 67 kph while high quality road bikes max out at 62. You notice the claimed 30% advantage in head winds. The road bike group drop back as the P-38 just powers away — I LOVE head winds!
"High speed stability is excellent. Currently my fastest descent has been a shade over 70 kph — it feels the same as 40, but with more wind! The bike can be turned sharply at low speed — there is heel interference so you need to practice getting the inside foot up. But the bike turns instinctively when you lean. On swooping curves you turn by leaning — it's very addictive."Plowracer (from epinions.com/review/Lightning_P_38_2000/content_211433197188?sb=1)
Other stories and photos
- This P-38 carried its owner across the Alps.
- Think you've done some touring on your P-38? Check out what this woman has done.
- Touring the Pacific coast on a pair of Lightning P-38s.
- Gérard’s Lightning P-38.
- Larry’s Lightning P-38 Voyager.
Copyright © Lightning Cycle Dynamics, 1977–2015