The Legendary Lightning P-38

Blazingly fast, sports-car maneuverability and great seat!

Bicycling Magazine

Made in the USA

2018 Lightning P-38 XT with disc brakes and carbon fork
P-38 XT (custom Illusion Orange Cherry)
  • NEW Front and rear Shimano hydraulic disc brakes on all models
  • NEW Carbon fork standard on all models
  • 26×36×48 front gearing with 11 to 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 to 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 2×10 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


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. Click here to order online.

P-38 Midracer!

Lightning P-38 midracer

Lightning strikes again with 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

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 2×10
Sizes S, M, L, XL M, L, XL
Rider height range 4′9″ to 6′8″ 5′2″ to 6′8″
Rider weight limit 160 lbs. (S), 200 lbs. (M), 220 lbs. (L), 250 lbs. (XL)
Colors Azure Blue, Metallic Blue, Metallic Green, Crimson Red, Starlight Red, Traffic Purple, Starlight Silver, Polished Aluminum, Titanium, Pearl Yellow, Pearl White, Jet Black See the full color chart.
Weight 23 to 26 lbs. 23 to 26 lbs. 23 to 25 lbs. 22 to 24 lbs.
Wheelbase 41 to 47 inches
Overall length 60 to 76 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 Full carbon fiber
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 20 to 120″ 19 to 118″ 26 to 120″ 26 to 120″
Brakes Shimano hydraulic disc Shimano XT hydraulic disc Shimano hydraulic disc Shimano XT hydraulic disc
Brake levers Shimano hydraulic
Bottom bracket Sugino Shimano XT, tube spindle Shimano, tube spindle Lightning carbon integrated, ABEC5 sealed bearings
Crankset Sugino XD-350 28×38×50 Shimano XT Hollowtech 26×36×48 Shimano Tiagra Hollowtech 34×50 Lightning carbon integrated 30×50, 160 to 180 mm
Chain KMC X10
Cassette Shimano LX 11 to 36, 10 speed Shimano XT 11 to 36, 10 speed Shimano LX 11 to 36, 10 speed Shimano XT 11 to 36, 10 speed
Front derailleur Shimano Sora Triple Shimano XT Triple Shimano Tiagra Double Shimano Tiagra Double
Rear derailleur Shimano Deore Shimano XT Shimano Deore Shimano XT
Headset Origin 8 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
Front tire 16″ Schwalbe Marathon 37-349 (16×1⅜), 100 psi 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″ Schwalbe Marathon 38-406 (20×1.5) 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 RX-31, M, L, XL Mesh seat Velocity A23 OC, 28 spokes, M, L, XL Mesh seat
Rear tire 700c Schwalbe Marathon 700×28, 105 psi Schwalbe Durano, 700×25, 120 psi
Rear rim 26″ Sun CR18 26×1.5, 36 stainless spokes, S and M ARCD Aero, 28 stainless spokes, M, L, XL carbon seat Velocity A23 OC, 28 spokes, M, L, XL carbon seat
Rear tire 26″ Schwalbe Marathon 38-559, 100psi Schwalbe Durano 28-559 (26×1.2) 115 psi

P-38 options

Please allow 3–5 weeks for delivery.
ROX wide frame and tire upgrade add $150
Non-standard paint color add $90
Indicate the color you want: __________

* Note: Existing P-38 frames can have the Voyager option retrofitted. The price for this is $2,500.


For details on framesets, check the frameset page.

Accessory prices and ordering information

See also our Accessories page.

Handlebar bag Buy now!
Slip on seat bag Buy now!
Hydration bladder Buy now!
Chainring disc only Call
Chainring disc and chain guard tube Call
Cycle computer Buy now!
Fenders Buy now!
Kickstand, for Phantom and P-38 Buy now!
Mirror Buy now!
Rear rack Buy now!
Panniers Buy now!
Pedal extenders Buy now!
Quick Adjust Kit/Chain Tensioner Buy now!
Shorts Buy now!
T-Shirts Buy now!
Zzipper Fairing Buy now!
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California residents add sales tax of 8.25%


  • Cancelled orders and returns for unique/custom products may be subject to a 10% restocking charge. Also, a full refund will not be given if returned merchandise is not in new condition.