WHY RIDE A RECUMBENT ?
The first and foremost reason to consider a recumbent bicycle is comfort. When you ride a recumbent bicycle your body feels good — no pain. Your arms and wrists are totally relaxed, as they do not support your weight. Your neck and shoulders are relaxed because you’re looking straight ahead. The recumbent seat offers full ergonomic back and base support. While riding a recumbent, you should not experience any pain, chafing, or numbness.
Another benefit of the recumbent seating position is a more open chest and diaphragm that makes for easier breathing. You’ll be able to ride longer with less fatigue and arrive at your destination feeling refreshed. You’ll have a better view of the road and your surroundings. Recumbents are great for touring and day rides.What is a recumbent?!?
The term “Recumbent” refers to the seating position and means: “lying down.” Or to be supline!
RECUMBENT: re•cum•bent adj.
1. Lying down, especially in a position of comfort or rest; reclining.—re•cum•bence or re•cum•ben•cy n. —re•cum•bent•ly adv.
2. Combining comfort and speed on a bicycle. Very fast, comfortable, different and cool! The bicycle for the next century!
3. A long and kind of stupid sounding term that we are stuck with, but continue using. It describes laid back and comfortable arm-chair bicycling.
Often referred to as: semi-recumbents, recliners, comfort-bikes, HPV’s (Human Powered Vehicles) or “bents” as slang for recumbent. Most often recumbents have two wheels, sometimes three, recumbent tricycle, and sometimes four, as in a pedal car.
Are they comfortable?
Recumbents are extremely comfortable. The seats are the most high-tech bicycle seats on the face of the planet. They are light, comfortable and made to sit on for many hours. They have full support for your buttocks and back. Seats are generally either a composite shell with foam and covering or a breathable mesh covered sling frame made of aluminum or steel or a hybrid of the two. You actually sit in the seat. The handlebars are either above the seat in front of your chest, known as over-seat steering (OSS), or below the seat known as under-seat steering (USS). Recumbent bicycles do away with neck, shoulder and wrist pain and offer a very comfortable ride unlike any other bicycle type that you have ever tried.
How much do recumbents cost?
Recumbents can be expensive. They can cost nearly twice as much as a comparable upright bike. Entry-level bikes cost $500 and up. Serious riders can expect to spend $1,000-$2,500 & often much more dependant on frame materials & accessories.
Recumbents are more expensive because they are built by smaller manufacturers and use fewer standard bicycle parts. Recumbent seats are a good example. They must be lightweight and very comfortable.
How do I choose a style?
Though it seems like an impossible task, with a bit of education, and a few test rides, you’ll quickly get an idea of what works best for you.
Here are some considerations to help with your decision:
Are recumbents difficult to balance and ride?
For most riders on entry level models, you’ll be able to ride in 15 minutes or so. We recommend that you start out on a low pedal long-wheelbase or compact long wheelbase for your first ride. Recumbent balance can be different — they actually require less balance. Riders unfamiliar tend need to become familiar with their new bike, relax and not be so stiff/tense as they are riding an upright bike.
Trikes will help solve any balance problems that you may have & tadpole trikes are the best recumbent for hilly areas, as you do not have to balance them as you move slowly up any hill. Pedal & sit in comfort on a tadpole trike at your own rate of speed without weaving back & forth as you go up hills.
How do I start off on a recumbent?
Sit down on the recumbent seat, grab the brake handle so you won’t roll backward, place your power-foot in the 1:00 position, give it a push of power, catch your balance and go. It’s best to start out on a downhill grade on a quiet side street or in a closed parking lot with little car traffic. Have someone experienced with recumbents stay with you until you are comfortable with the handling while riding. Be sure you’re dealing with the shop’s recumbent expert.
Ergonomics — Which configuration will work best for me?
There is no such thing as typical recumbent ergonomics. Some models have upright seats, others have-laid back seats. Some have low pedals (in the same position as a diamond-frame bike) and others have very high pedals (up to 9 inches higher than your seat base).
Basic user-friendly ergonomics include a moderate seat height of around 20 or so inches off the ground, with pedals mounted noticeably lower (a similar height to a diamond-frame bike). This design would place the rider in a fairly upright position which places much of the rider’s weight on their bottom, which for some riders, can make for recumbent butt. This position is similar to driving an automobile.
As the pedal height is increased, the seat can be reclined more, thus taking some of the weight off the rider’s bottom. Often, however, raising the feet can cause foot and toe numbness, may require clipless pedals; it can also take a second or two longer to get your feet to the pedals or back to the ground. When the pedals are raised way up and the seat is reclined way back (what we describe as an extreme position), there can also be neck fatigue, as one has to lower one’s chin to neck fatigue, as one has to lower one’s chin to look straight ahead. This is usually found on high- performance and racing recumbents and may not be suitable for average riders.
For new riders, the best place to start is a compact or LWB with low pedal height. If you’re an athlete or more advanced rider or if you have a special need, finding the optimum riding position and model for you may take some time and patience.
Fit Notes — If you’re 5’6” to 6” tall you can ride¨ most any recumbent. If you’re shorter or taller than average, you should check out recumbents that come in multiple frame sizes. Shorter riders may want to check out LWB’s, trikes, and SWB’s with 16- inch front wheels. Models with full-size wheels may be too tall for you. Larger and/or taller riders might want to try LWB’s and longer SWB’s (those with wheelbases of 40 inches or more). Look for stiff, strong frames and low pedal heights with more moderate or open riding positions. Ask about weight limits, capacities, and warranties. Opt for fatter tires if possible (20- and 26-inch tires offer the most options).
What are the different types of seats?
What are the types of recumbent steering?
There are two basic types of recumbent steering:
1. Over-seat steering (OSS): This is the more common, normal, user-friendly, and performance-oriented (in most cases) type of steering. These are your basic upright handlebars that connect to a stem or riser into a head tube (or false head tube on some models).
2. Under-seat steering (USS): These are the handlebars that are down at your sides underneath the seat. USS is considered more comfortable by many riders, though it can take more time to become accustomed to. USS adds more complexity to designs because of fork modifications and steering linkages.
Some recumbents have linkage (steering rod and rod-end bearings) which are more complicated and require frequent inspection.
What kind of wheels do recumbents use?
The 26-inch (559 mm) rear wheel and 20-inch (406 mm) front wheel combination is the most popular. Reasons for using other sizes would be more performance (650c or 700c), lowering of the seat (combos using 20- and 16-inch wheels), or making a bike more compact (20/16 combos). Small wheels don’t perform as well, wear more quickly, and have less gyroscopic inertia than their larger counterparts. Small rims and tire sizes can be more difficult to find.
Tires: Consider using fatter tires than you would normally use. The reason is that you cannot deweight your wheels when riding as you can on a diamond-frame bicycle. Fatter tires are more comfortable, less skittish to ride, and have fewer flats.
Do recumbents require special components?
Most recumbents use a mix of components and wheels from road bikes, mountain bikes, BMX bikes and folding bikes. Most parts are fairly standard, though often will need to be purchased from a recumbent specialist.
Mid-drives, two-chain drives, independent pedaling options, hydraulic brakes, and/or other proprietary parts can complicate your bike and make service and parts replacement more difficult, time consuming, and costly. We recommend that you keep a cache of spare parts for your specific bike in case of a problem. You should consider keeping a spare tubes, tires (one of each size), mid-drive cassette, suspension shock, etc.
What about those long chains?
Recumbents use standard bicycle chain times two or three — sometimes more. The chains are connected by your chain brand’s quick link. Replacing a recumbent chain can be expensive, so take care of it. 9-speed chains are the most expensive.
Do I need suspension?
A cushy ride can be wonderful and may spoil you. It works even better with small wheels (20-inch drive wheel). However, it can complicate the bike: fender and rack mounting, added weight, more moving parts (shocks, swing arms, pivot bolts) and suspension parts need to be serviced at regular intervals.
One small wheel models achieving acceptable gearing (with a small drive wheel) is also a consideration. CLWB’s and LWB’s can best utilize rear suspension. SWB’s can best utilize front suspension (first) or full suspension.
Are recumbents fast?
That will depend a great deal on the "motor"!
Performance is a hotly debated topic. Recumbents do hold all of the human-powered speed records. This is because they are aerodynamically superior to conventional bicycles; less frontal area means less wind resistance. The Lightning F-40 currently holds the Race Across America speed record of five days and one hour. Gardner Martin's Easy Racer Gold Rush ridden by Fast Freddie Markham was the winner of the Dupont Prize for breaking 65 m.p.h. You can currently buy production versions of these bicycles. Fairings for street use are common and optional equipment on most commercially built models. They protect you from rain, cold and wind with up to a 30% reduction in drag. The general rule for ideal conditions (reasonably flat terrain), is that a recumbent is about 10% faster than a conventional bike. With a fairing, it can range from 15%-25% faster. With a full body it can be even more, perhaps 40%? Recumbents for street use are not always faster than conventional bicycles.
Despite the aerodynamic advantage of most recumbents, they are often a bit slower than their upright counterparts in real world riding. The fastest recumbents are lowracers, highracers, faired SWB’s, and LWB OSS models with front fairings (though not necessarily in this order). Which will perform best for you will depend on which type fits your body type, riding style, locale and how much bike you can handle (or adapt to).
Are recumbents twitchy handling?
A recumbent may initially feel foreign to you: too sensitive, overly quick, or it may take you some time to get accustomed to the closer-to-the-ground position. These are traits of the recumbent newbie. The word to remember is RELAX! Lean back in the seat and enjoy the ride. Many problems can be traced directly to the habit of upper-body stiffness from riding your conventional bicycle. Allow your body to relax and stay loose.
Are recumbents safe?
Yes — as long as you’re on a model that you feel safe on. For on-road riding, you’ll need to at least be at eye level with motorists. Practice riding on quiet streets or a closed parking lot until you’re familiar with your bike. Be sure to ride with safety gear, cycling shoes, reflective gear, helmet, rearview mirror(s) and perhaps a safety flag.
All recumbent riders should use a rear-view mirror, as turning to look behind you is more difficult on a recumbent than on a diamond-frame bicycle. Riders should also use bicycle safety gear such as reflective clothing, a helmet, a horn, a safety flag, and lights when riding at night.
How to you transport a recumbent?
Most smaller recumbents (CLWB and SWB) will fit on normal bumper, hitch or roof racks. There are custom extended trays to fit most recumbents to roof racks. On a vehicle with a relatively long roofline, you can use roof rack with a fork clamp mount to the front fork and rear wheel tray for the rear wheel (or lay a piece of foam in the tray and rest the frame tube (just in front of the rear wheel; works for Easy Racer bikes).
There are lightweight trailers that will accept bicycles. Having truck or van is also helpful, but not necessary. Your best recumbent transporting advice will come from your bike’s manufacturer or your local recumbent dealer.
Where can I find more information?
Read online publications such as www.bentrideronline.com - it has been such a great help to me over the years as I have ventured into the world of recumbent'cy personally & business wise (Grant Patton - owner/mgr. Bentley Cycle & Trading Post).
You will also learn a lot about many different types of recumbents on www.bentrideronline.com . Try & heartily support your local recumbent dealer as they are far & few between. Check out newsgroups, join the mailing list from: www.ihpva.org , attend rides, & join (or start ) a rider group.
*Recumbent bicycles are the most comfortable bicycles, tadpole & delta trikes on the road today. Recumbents also hold many speed and performance records. They can be quite fast thanks to superior aerodynamics. There are recumbent bicycle models available for recreational riding, commuting, sport riding, touring, racing, off-road and even recumbent work bikes.