eBent Recumbent Cycling

A Bent Look at Self Contained Touring

Longbikes Slipstream / Ryan Vanguard Comparison Part 2

with 30 comments


 Contunued from Longbikes Slipstream First Impressions.

After, almost a year of riding the Longbikes Slipstream I am still very impressed by the Slipstream. This is a great long distance, self contained touring bike. As I get ready for my first long ride (>1000 miles) on the Slipstream, I find myself discovering nice touches that I’ve missed before.

In Part 2 of the Slipstream/Vanguard Comparison I will be discussing how the Slipstream addresses the Vanguard weaknesses. The Ryan Vanguard is a great touring bike and the Longbikes folks seem to recognize that. They have maintained what was great about the Vanguard, comfort, reliability, and stability. But they have also recognized the Vanguards weaknesses and improved the bike significantly.


Chain Management

The chain on a Vanguard swings wildly and could catch on the idler since only the lower portion of the chain was controlled by an idler. This chain swing had to hurt efficiency.

The Slipstream has an excellent chain management system. It has both the upper and lower idlers that capture the chain and prevent the wild chain oscillation and swing on a Vanguard.


My Vanguard arrived with what was the standard street gearing at the time. This bike had a very high top end that required flat ground and a faring to use. Most riders didn’t find a lot of use for the 52 on the outside of the triple and didn’t find the relief they needed for steep climbs with the 32 on the inside of the triple.

The Slipstream ships wit XT Mountain Gearing. This 22-32-44 front and 11-34 rear is about as nice as it can get. The mountain gearing helps new riders get started without straining their knees and get us older riders over the mountains.


The Vanguard has a very comfortable mesh seat but when I talked to Dick Ryan he said about 20% of riders could not live with the horn in the middle of the seat. The seat was also hard to adjust and keep adjusted with those plastic buckles. I had 2 problems with the seat. One, keeping it attached to the horn (easily fixed with a wire tie I learned eventually). Second that the horn was held onto the steering mechanism by only a few threads that eventually strip out.

The Slipstream has the most comfortable seat in cycling. It is a much plusher mesh than the Vanguard and has no horn. It seems a little wider but I haven’t measured it. The mesh tension is easily adjusted with Velcro straps but doesn’t need much adjustment. The seat back also folds forward for easier transportation.

The seat braces on the Slipstream don’t have quite the range as a Vanguard. So if you like to really lean back you may need to shorten the tubes and add a few holes. If you let the Longbikes folks know this up front they will handle it for you.


Frame Stiffness
The Vanguard had a bit of flex in the rear triangle. The Slipstream has a much stiffer and more efficient rear triangle that can be changed to accommodate 700C wheels.

Riding Position

The seat on a Slipstream is 2 1/2″ lower and the bottom bracket is 2″ higher than on a Vanguard. This position is slightly more aerodynamic and feels more powerful. The difference is real and for me about 1 MPH faster when not loaded. 1 MPH may not sound like a lot but on a 4 hour ride you finish 4 miles ahead of your Vanguard.

Vanguard riders will feel the difference and need to develop some new muscles, but this happens fairly quickly and thy will appreciate the feeling of power this more efficient position provides.


The hardware on the Slipstream is all top notch. They have kept the number of different fasteners to a minimum. You don’t encounter the same mix of SAE and Metric cap screws on the Slipstream you had on the Vanguard.

SeatClampL.jpgTake a look at the picture of the Slipstream Seat Clamp and compare it to the drilled phenolic part on the Vanguard. This clamp is typical of the beautiful parts on a Slipstream.


The Cronos rear hub on the Vanguard was marginal. I went through 2 until I switched to Velocity wheels with Hugii hubs. I am not really familiar with Alex Rims and the sealed cartridge Quandro hubs. But the rims are very sturdy, deep V of the type I have had good luck with. So far after a year and a few thousand miles they look very good.


The Avid Mechanical disc brakes are a dream for a loaded touring bike. You will play with them more than V brakes but they are so easy and fast to set up it’s almost fun. Plus no more worry about long descents loaded over heating your wheels.



The Slipstream has a very sturdy Tubis rack that is much more securely mounted than the Vanguard’s rack. Rack sway is gone with this rack.

The Slipstream rack also has a better shape designed to keepexpedition size panniers away from the wheel and stabilized.
The rack and bigger rear triangle of the Slipstream move the center line of my Jandd Expedition Panniers forward of the rear axle improving the weight distribution and stability of the bike when loaded.

I haven’t seen the new double rack for the Slipstream but it looks like just what Ortlieb pannier users needed to handle enough gear for self contained touring.


The Vanguard had a nice functional kickstand but the double kickstand on the Slipstream is a joy. It is like having a built-in work stand.


Cable Management 

The cables on my Vanguard were always worn from rubbing the chain. As you can in the picture the Slipstream cables are neatly routed and do not come close to the chain. 


The price of a Slipstream may sound high but it isn’t higher than the Vanguard price adjusted for inflation and this is a much better bike. In fact, the parts on this bike look like they come from a much more expensive bike.

If you want a recumbent for long distance self contained touring, there are not many other choices and no better choices. I know the Easy Tour and Rans fans will argue with this but if you put these bikes side by side the Longbikes Slipstream is clearly a better built bike.


Written by Roland

May 27, 2006 at 3:24 pm

30 Responses

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  1. Ryan Vanguard/Longbikes Slipstream Comparison

    Comparing the classic touring recumbent, the Ryan Vanguard, with Longbikes latest version of this classic, the Slipstream.


    May 27, 2006 at 9:21 pm

  2. I agreed with your summation of the Slipstream. I have found it to be a wonderful bike to ride and also to tour with. The new Slipstream seat is a superior, the best I have
    ever used. The first time I rode the bike I knew it was the finest recumbent I had ever ridden. It took me two years to be able to buy it, after buying a Vanguard tandem recumbent. It has turned out to be delightful and superior to the Vanguard tandem in a number of ways including seat, chain management and ease of pedaling. One problem for me on the Vanguard tandem has been the height of the seat–just a little too high for my 5’8″ body to reach the ground comfortably. Not so on the Slipstream.


    May 28, 2006 at 8:23 pm

  3. That lower seat and higher BB helps riders with shorter legs, reduces air resistance, and puts more of your energy into forward motion. I’d call that a pretty nice improvement and you have to love that seat. I’ve heard people rave about the RANS seat but I don’t think it even comes close on comfort for long rides to the Slipstream’s seat.

    James, Thanks for sharing your experience.


    May 28, 2006 at 10:17 pm

  4. It is a nice bike, great for touring, well built… In fact everything that you stated in your review. Now if they could just ship on time….

    Worth the wait?

    May 29, 2006 at 6:52 pm

  5. If you have ordered your bike and not received it yet. I highly recommend you call them and ask for a few things:

    1. The Information on the parts on your bike. I ordered special cranks and never got the technical information, In fact, no information came with the bike. I’d also like to know if my XT Rear Derailleur is rapid rise or not.

    2. Find out the spoke length used on your wheels. It is easy to buy spares if you know the length. I have never been able to get that information on mine.

    Longbikes is very helpful and flexible up to the point that they ship the bike.


    May 29, 2006 at 9:11 pm

  6. […] Go to  Slipstream/Vanguard Comparison Part 2. […]

  7. The Slipstream normally comes with a 170mm crank. Have you tried anything shorter for example a 165mm (or less)? I’m told it might be easier to spin and easier on the knees because you don’t have to bend them to quite the same extension. I’m rather tall at 6′ 9″ and normally spin in the 90-95 range on 170mm cranks. Using Sheldon Brown’s gear calculator, it seems to make a difference there as well although marginally I would think.


    June 29, 2006 at 7:33 pm

  8. I started riding diamond frames with 175 MM cranks because at that time long cranks were in. I switched to 170 MM cranks when I got my Ryan Vanguard about 12 years ago.

    I have very short legs (29″) for my height(6′) and find 170 MM cranks just fine if the bike is geared properly. I doubt that 0.2″ of crank length makes a lot of difference when you are riding in sandals with PowerGrips.

    But I am very sure that gearing makes a big difference so that is what I pay attention to.

    Enjoy the ride … Roland


    June 29, 2006 at 10:03 pm

  9. The twin kickstand is nice BUT you get tired of having to lift the bike every time to put the kickstand up.

    I’ve had a Vanguard but look forward to the day a yellow Slip 700? will be under my rump. Currently riding a Gold Rush and looking over the fence at a Stratus XP.


    November 9, 2006 at 8:54 pm

  10. Hi, I am looking to purchase a Stratus XP or the Slipstream. Do you know of anyone in the Phoenix area who has the Slipstream so i could see one…may thanks…Jerry

    jerry brink

    December 11, 2006 at 1:02 am

  11. Sorry no contacts in that area.


    December 30, 2006 at 12:03 am

  12. Hi Roland,

    Does having an idler on the power side of the chain make any difference on the Slipstream? Is it noisy? How is it wearing? More friction and resistance perhaps? Is it a toothed wheel or just a roller? As I recall, the Vanguard didn’t have an idler on that side.


    January 28, 2007 at 3:04 pm

  13. Very good question.

    The Slipstream has upper and lower chain guide. The upper chain guide prevent the wild chin swings that occurred on the Ryan and is a major improvement.

    On my Ryan when the upper section of the chain would swing down and lock under the lower chain guide.

    I had to adjust the chain guides after Ireceived the bike because initially it was noisey but after adjustment it is fairly quiet.

    I have noticed some wear on the upper guide and have though about upgrading the guides to thoothed idlers. I’ll ned to make a dcision on this before Spring.


    February 7, 2007 at 9:20 am

  14. I took delivery of my Slipstream in late December and have less than a hundred miles due to weather and work. However, I bought this bike because of arthritis in my neck and shoulders and have found it not only eliminates the pain I have been experiencing on my Trek DF bike; but has a limo ride to boot. The fit, finish, and materials are very high quality.
    I have wondered about idler sprockets for the chain.
    For me, the Slipstream won out easily over the Stratus.


    February 24, 2007 at 2:37 pm

  15. Congratulations on the Slipstream, Charles. It’s a great bike.

    Roland, do you think a toothed idler would have more, or less friction than the stock idler on the power side of the chain? Have there been any kind of tests? I’m just curious why everyone uses smooth instead of toothed idlers.


    February 25, 2007 at 12:26 am

  16. My Opinion (I am no ME) :These rollers are really chain guides and tieing them in more soildly could increase friction.

    However, better rollers like the Rans rollers I think would be an improvement. You also need to be careful that the chain is not cutting into the roller.


    February 25, 2007 at 9:48 pm

  17. I am biases and think the Slipstream is the best built recumbent I have ever seen.

    I also think that USS is a plus and that is definitely a minority opinion.


    February 25, 2007 at 9:50 pm

  18. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the Slipstream. The engineering, finish and design is superb. The bottom bracket height is perfect. I also agree about USS. Positioning of the rider’s arms is incredibley natural and relaxing. It will be interesting to see what form Greg’s proposed Longbikes delta trike will take.


    February 26, 2007 at 4:14 pm

  19. I accidentally ordered my Slipstream with 165mm crank arms…my inseam is 32″…175’s are too long…I rode with 170’s on my road bike for years. When I ordered my Slipstream I minused another 5mm…I could climb ok but after about 600 miles I felt cramped…on an ~8′ bike…the arc was too small…I realised my mistake and replaced with the 170 mm Ultregra…all has been right since.
    As far the the rollers go, I have 7500+ miles and ~325,000 feet of climb logged…my chain has just reached the point that it needs replaced…The rollers are still fine, they show wear and I plan to change them this year. One problem that I have had is that the bearings are not sealed from the weather. Water can seize the bearings. I have removed the rollers 3-4 times and used light (Marvel Mystery Oil) on the bearings…the bearing are still running smooth.
    I am happy with the performance of the rollers. They produce a sound that for me does not detract from the ride…a good solid/dependable way to manage the chain.
    I also agree about the fit and finish…Greg Peak has produced a very solid “road bike”.
    USS rocks!!!


    July 7, 2007 at 5:54 am

  20. I have had my slipstream for over a year and logged almost 3000 miles here in east central Florida. I just completed the horrible hundred put on by Florida freewheelers; best we can do for mountains is Lake County. I boast about most everything on my Slipstream, except for a few items. The first was overcome by re-spoking the rear wheel and the Longbike folks picked up the bill; everything is fine now. The last are the cables, bearings, and lightly protected steel hardware used to assemble the Slipstream. Had stainless been used, I still would have made the purchase and been much happier. Now the rust has begun and I am beginning to replace with stainless. The cables need to be lubricated to protect from seizing as do the many non-sealed bearings previously mentioned by Happycyclist. I chose to have my Slipstream painted pearl-white along with the luggage rack. Perfect painting on both parts! I had the factory add bottle cages and find they are in a good place. Except for these noted distracters I find great enjoyment in my Slipstream Longbike. I ride about 30miles per day to and from work.


    November 20, 2007 at 4:00 pm

  21. I have replaced the brake lever mounting screws with new stainless screws. Those screws are part of the brake kit they buy. I also reverse the position of the these screws so that they don’t rub the back of my hand.


    November 20, 2007 at 8:18 pm

  22. I’m looking to buy a slipstream soon having recently taken a test ride; nothing but a smile on my face. How’s the seat/setup working re: lumbar support and back issues (I have a L5/S1 bulge that cranks up from commuting in Denver)? Thank you.


    August 13, 2008 at 4:49 pm

  23. I am not sure how to answer this question. I don’t have a similar problem and am not sure what will work for you. But here are a few general comments.

    I like the Slipstream seat and mesh seats in general. One thing about mesh seats is that you can shape them by adjusting the straps. The velcro straps on the Slipstream are much easier to adjust than the Ryan Straps and stay adjusted.

    I have heard that a lot of Ryan Vanguard riders use a Thermarest (now Varilite but you still see both names) pad for lumbar support. I think what they use is this: http://www.sitincomfort.com/backrest.html or http://domsoutdoor.com/product.asp?pn=1-078098. You will need to add a velcro strap to hold the pad in place but that is easy.

    I suspect you will have to be careful about riding position and style because recumbents do put a lot of pressure on your lower back.

    Be very careful to avoid sliding down in the seat. If you find yourself doing that move the seat forward.

    Also, learn to be a world class spinner, nothing protects your back and knees better than avoiding the high stresses of pushing too hard with your legs. This will be a real challenge if you haven’t ridden a recumbent much before. Don’t worry about speed on the hills just gear down and spin up. If you start lugging get off and walk until you can spin up the hills.

    Good luck and enjoy the Ride.


    August 14, 2008 at 7:01 am

  24. Thank you, looking forward to the new ride…


    August 14, 2008 at 3:54 pm

  25. Roland,

    I wanted to thank you for your many comments, thoughts and opinions on the Longbikes Slipstream. In addition to other research I did, the opinions on this blog and those of other Slipstream owners convinced me to order one.

    With 2,070 miles on my custom-built extra-long Slipstream after five and a half months of riding, I am very happy with it.

    It is everything I wanted in a touring recumbent and certainly a worthy successor to my 25-year-old upright touring bike.


    May 14, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    • Longfellow, Thanks for the kind words …. I am so glad that the Slipstream has worked out for you.

      I have good news .. it takes most folks over a year of riding to develop the muscles that you use most on a recumbent. This year will be even better riding … enjoy.



      May 15, 2009 at 11:37 am

  26. […] Powerslide Slipstream ebent.wordpress.com […]

  27. I first got bent up feb. 2012 w/ a bike-e and quickly moved to a lwb oss from recycled recumbents. 1 wk ago I passed 2400 miles on that bike and have had the pleasure [or misfortune]of having access to a vision swb uss. After laying in a 60 miler and 200 plus more in less then 6 days w/ uss i am willing to sell my truck, jimmy, 4 other bikes and soul to retain that feeling uss gives me!!!!! Limo,Slip one or the other my last bike. maybe Dameon [64 3/4 young]


    July 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm

  28. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really nice,
    keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later. Many thanks

    Tablet Keyboard

    August 21, 2012 at 9:58 am

  29. Thanks for the review. This put me over the top. I ordered my Slipstream a few days ago.

    Joseph Solin

    November 20, 2017 at 7:08 am

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