There are many ways to improve your recumbent road bicycle’s performance, but below we list the easiest ones.
One simple way to significantly impact your bicycle’s performance is to upgrade the wheels and tires. For example, if you can drop the weight of the wheels and tires even slightly, you will definitely notice a meaningful difference when you ride. There are many options available in the market for upgrading your bicycle wheels. Wheel manufactures usually offer products with a variety of rim styles made from different materials. Wheels are also available with many variations of spoke designs. As a result of the improved quality of spokes, bicycle wheels are being built with fewer spokes but with relatively comparable strength and durability.
When you upgrade your tires, you’ll see a difference in the ride. This is because higher quality tires are lightweight which just naturally reduces rolling resistance. This gives you a noticeable difference in the ride. Better tires have more threads inside the rubber holding the tire together, allowing you to increase air pressureas high as 150 PSI. This reduces the amount of rubber in contact with the road which results in a faster bicycle-ride.
Believe it or not, a newly paved asphalt road will ride faster than one several years old. The older asphalt will not have that nice, new, smooth surface, as the tar will have deteriorated, leaving very small pits which results in air resistance. That may seem unimportant, and if speed is not an issue it’s not. So tread pattern on the tires also has an impact on ride comfort. The less tread on the tires, the less rolling resistance and the better performance gain.
For most road bike rims, it is possible to change the width of your tires. Tire width also makes a difference on the ride. A narrower tire again, reduces the amount of rubber on the road. Decreased rolling resistance always increases aerodynamics and a smoother ride. Now, wider tires are more comfortable because they can absorb more road bump, so there is always that to consider. Are you looking for comfort or aerodynamics?
To find out the width of the tire, you can look at the dimensions written on the sidewall of the tire. For example, a marking of 700×25 means the tire has a circumference of 700cm with a width of 25cm. Since we’re talking about a road recumbent skinny tires with an air pressure of 120 PSI may be your best choice. Your seat will provide the best comfort even on rough surfaces. Others are going to want a fatter tire to absorb as much shock from the road as possible, which is just part of each riders preference.
Durability is another important aspect to consider when choosing tires, which again leads back to the more expensive brands. If you log lots of miles the additional cost of $100 for the IRC Formula Pro Tubeless Tire won’t surprise anyone. You may or may not be a CAT 1 rider, willing to invest this much for tires. Just remember we are talking about tires for a road recumbent, where speed on downhills can significantly heat up the tire. The security of a construction that can tolerate more than the average amount of heat generated by friction from the road might then seem more important than the price.
Faced with fewer flat tire issues as well along the way will be your experience when you choose more durable tires. In the bicycle tire marketplace, there are many brands of tires specifically designed for durability which have a Kevlar belt designed for protection. As you research tire construction, Kevlar may seem to be the minimum where materials for peak performance are concerned. For those looking to avoid flats but don’t have the budget to upgrade, you can choose to fill your bicycle’s tubes with a
puncture sealant. This sealant liquid inside the tube will automatically fill any punctures that may occur. It’s a mess when you eventually have to change out the tire as cheaper tires won’t tolerate many punctures before the possibility of tread separation. Still it is the cheaper alternative.
In addition to puncture sealant, you may want to choose thorn-resistant tubes. These are made of thicker rubber to “resist” punctures. That doesn’t mean they can’t be punctured, just that they are less likely to be. An experience with a six-inch spike encountered on a suburban road five miles from home that ruined the tire and tube may be exceptional, but it happened. The downside for this flat protection is its heavier and adds more to the rotational weight. Remember added weight decreases rolling resistance and speed. So don’t kid yourself. If you’ve invested in a recumbent for the road, you want speed. Tires that will give you that plus flat protection and durability will definitely pay for themselves and your peace of mind on that downhill at 60 MPH! Do you want to be worried about a flat at that speed?
Maintenance advice for recumbent road bicycles and trikes
For your recumbent bike or trike, you should do frequent maintenance. This is obvious for own safety and peace of mind when riding. There’s no question about this when it comes to how much you enjoy your ride when it’s trouble free. Here are some things to consider:
- While there’s not much to lubricate outside of the chain or gear cogs, it’ still a good idea to check them. It would not be normal for hex nuts to come loose as they are normally so tight it would be difficult. The same goes for seat post, steerer tube, pedals and such. One area that can loosen is the retainer ring on the head tube. There is so much vibration from the road it is possible for this to work it’s way loose, so be aware.
- You should inspect for structure damage by visually checking the frame for signals of structural imperfection, especially if you have a homebuilt recumbent! A factory model would rarely have structural issues for obvious reason of liability. None the less you should also pay attention to those areas where the frame is welded and those hard to reach parts such as the bottom bracket, which on many models is the greatest stress point.
- A quick wipe down of your recumbent after every ride you should do it, especially for those who ride your bicycles on a regular basis.
- Inspect the wheels and tires to make sure that they are moving straight, as it’s possible to get the rear wheel on slightly off center. Make sure you look to see if the tires are worn or cut. Spinning the wheels will generally wobble if one of the spokes is loose. A bent rim could also be the result of a wobble!
- You should check the brake pads for wear making sure the cable clamp is tight. Also, give your brake levers a firm squeeze to see if the rubber pads evenly and firmly get to the rim.
Windscreens or fairings are an awesome addition for your recumbent. Made from acrylic it helps keeps the weight down, but depending on the type of fairing, it will increase your speed. If for no other reason it’s worth adding to your bike or trike. As with recumbents in general, it just adds to the “cool” factor as well! As to performance, the frame material will also determine your recumbents ride.
So these are just a few suggestions on how to get the best performance from your recumbent bike or trike. Attention to these will go far in creating the performance you got a recumbent for in the first place. You do want to have a blast riding bike again…right? As you will soon discover, it’s all about “getting bent!”