From the title it is going to be clearly obvious this page may be a bit biased, and quite frankly there is no apology for that. There are many upright, diamond frame riders who have made the switch, to a recumbent bike. It may be a Low Racer, a Long Wheelbase Tour Easy Clone, a High Racer or Short Wheelbase. You’d be amazed at the number of “mature” riders on Recumbent Trikes!
Recumbents In The U.S. Were In The News
Recumbent bikes have become more popular now than ever. It is just 40 years ago that Gardner Martin debuted his Gold Rush Human Powered Vehicle, and Olympic cyclist Fast Fredy Markham shattered the 65 MPH record to take home the $18,000 prize offered by DuPont. It may have been covered by a sophisticated fairing, but other than the giant chainring, underneath it was a factory production Tour Easy frame propelled by human power. Recumbents in the U.S. were in the news.
No upright production bike has come close to duplicating this, and recumbents have continued right through 2016 breaking land speed records, now at 89.56 MPH under total human power. No dragsters creating a vacuum in front of the HPV, just human effort.
In Truth The Disadvantages Of A Recumbent Will Make A Short List
So the question may be running through your mind, what is so important about all that? You don’t plan on entering any races, so what’s the benefit? Just the same as all the race car events have produced improvements in the automotive industry that are passed down to everyday drivers in their cars, the same holds true for the cycling industry, and most importantly the recumbent bicycle sector. Improved frames, materials, lubricants, tires, brakes, other components, fairing construction, perhaps one of the more important being carbon fiber that is now being used for frames.
So let’s address what may be the easiest part of this page. The Cons. In truth disadvantages of a recumbent will make up a short list. Here are the few which are areas to be addressed:
slow up hills
getting feet down at stops
transport on LWB
Let’s address pedaling up hills. Unlike a standard road bike, or any bike, where you can stand in the pedals to put more oomph into going up those hills, with a recumbent it is simply a question of gearing down to find where you’re comfortable pedaling. You will get to the top, even though you may also get passed by many. Just remember, if you can stand the speed, you’ll pass them all on the downside! That’s on the Pro side.
Then there is the issue of visibility, mostly in high traffic areas like city riding. A recumbent bike, even one with dual 26” wheels, still has a lower profile that an upright bike. So this makes it a challenge for both riders and drivers. One of the ways to improve this is through the use of flags, fiberglass rods with flashing lights, streamers, any colorful object to draw attention.
Getting feet down at stops is an issue for riders on the SWB or short wheelbase bikes. Because the crankset is out on a boom in front, keeping the feet high off the ground. When riding shoes are clipped in to the pedals, unclipping for stops to get the feet down takes practice, and can cause some anxious moments until practice makes perfect.
Transport of a LWB such as a Tour Easy presents a problem with most bike carriers mounted on the rear of vehicles. The front wheel as a rule needs to be removed to keep too much of the bike from sticking out beyond the chassis of the vehicle. On smaller cars this is more pronounced.
Expensive by comparison to department store and inexpensive upright bikes. While there are some entry level models, by comparison to entry level upright bikes there is a price gap.
So what about the Pros?
no sore wrists
no numb fingers
no sore necks
conducive to longer rides
comfortable wide seat
less effort for same calorie burn as upright
scream on downhills
low profile prevents serious injury on fall
sudden stops avoid going over handlebar
greater view of surroundings
never ride sore
You can not apply any of those factors to riding an upright bike! There are bound to be upright riders who will do their best to disagree, since most of them believe “no pain-no gain!” Riding recumbent means “all gain-no pain!” The case can be made with just two points. Body position and seat on an upright. If you have spent any time at all on any upright bike, the point is made.
There is nothing aerodynamic, comfortable, that avoids sore necks, wrists and numb fingers on an upright. On a sudden stop you’re over the handlebar on your nose. There’s no such thing as a 14” wide seat or back rest, and the list goes on. As for transport, there are special carriers made for recumbent bikes. If you’re going to invest in a LWB, then transport and the appropriate carrier are a must.
Perhaps one of the greatest Pros of a recumbent is never having to ride sore. Add to that less energy required for the same result, meaning you’re likely to ride further and longer. That just helps to burn more calories…and you can enjoy it to boot.
Without question, the greatest asset of a recumbent is the seat and backrest. Sitting on a comfortable cushioned foundation with a backrest slightly reclined, is like nothing you have ever experienced before. No more pushing against you own weight. Now the effort is all in the legs and hips supported by the backrest, which is why you expend less energy. You’ll finish your ride with energy to spare. Guaranteed, in no time you’ll be ready for a 50 mile ride, and be amazed that you can.
So you weigh out those Pros and Cons. do your own research, but do it from the seat of a recumbent bike that you’ve rented from a bike shop in your area. Check the internet for events if there isn’t a shop close. Nearly any recumbent owner becomes an evangelist when asked about their recumbent, so don’t be surprised when you’re offered a ride, or if you should ask and they agree.
Recumbent bikes are nearly all Pros. What are you waiting for? The motto for recumbent riders is, “Riding recumbent means never having to say you’re sore!” You could add to that, “or sorry!”