You would be hard-pressed to find someone with as much insight into the world of recumbents as Patrick Franz. The founder of the Terra Cycle, who sold his company to two of his employees a few weeks ago, has made sure that thousands of recumbent enthusiasts have had access to quality accessories for their bikes. Although he started by producing his own recumbent bicycle, the Terra-Za, he soon discovered that it would be easier to make only accessories for which there was a great demand.
Terra Cycle is best known for its pulleys and accessory mounts, but they also offer racks, headrests, windshields, battery holders, and much more. However, Pat also played an important role in Charles Coyne’s decision to hold the Recumbent Cycle-Con. Thanks to all his activities and friendly nature, Pat has an excellent overview of the world of recumbent bikes. So, I asked him a few questions about the company’s history, his plans for the future, and the possible standardization of some recumbent bike parts.
I settled on the SWB format and spent a lot of time designing and making a test bike with everything adjustable- head angle, fork offset, crank position, seat position, seat base angle, seat back angle, handlebar forward/back, and handlebar up/down. I finished it at 10:30PM on a Friday night, rode it home, loaded it on my Vanagon, and took it on a week long, 500 mile ride
What is the main change you have seen in the recumbent world while being part of it?
The strong transition to trikes. That, and seeing companies and products improve over time.
Which direction will it be heading in the future do you think?
Electrification of course, and continued thinning of two wheeled types as experimentation settles down on just a few versions.
And where would you want it heading? Any dreams you think won’t happen?
I’d like to see recumbents be more mainstream. They have so much to offer most riders. As to dreams that probably won’t happen- sustainable racing leagues in the US. It’s hard to get the attention of the new generation.
What did you enjoy most while being part of the recumbent industry?
The people, the riding, the industry camaraderie. All very refreshing, having come from the high tech field.
You have mentioned that after you retire, you plan to build things without thinking about how to produce them effectively and how to do business out of them. Can you let us know which parts or complete builds will be among the first?
The first thing that comes to mind is special needs products. It’s very hard to develop and sell such things and still make a profit. It keeps the prices high and the options low. There is a lot of need, but it’s scattered, and hard to address.
Finally, do you have on your bucket list any bike ride you have dreamed about for years?
I’d like to do long trike tours in Europe and Asia, but I’d like to start with a ride down the west coast of North America. It’s right in my back yard, and I’ve been too busy to do it. I have an industry tour percolating in the back of my mind too.
This is the first part of the interview. In the second part, which is exclusive to our Premium Members, you can read more about Pat’s thoughts about standards in the recumbent industry, about his thoughts on the Cycle-Con, or about the challenges and hurdles that he had to overcome when starting the company. Becoming a Premium Member also helps this website run and is only 10 USD a year.