Recumbent Bicycles Introduction
Recumbent bicycles – informally referred to as ‘bent bikes – are bicycles in which the rider sits in a reclined, generally foot forward, position. I only discovered recumbent bikes about five years ago : I had to give up upright bikes decades prior because of a permanent back injury. After hearing about recumbent bikes, my wife and I gave some a test ride, and immediately made the investment. Riding ‘bent was not only comfortable, but the increased exercise of riding helped eliminate the back pain I’d been suffering. Frankly, I wish I had discovered recumbents a long time ago. Because of their comfort, we are riding more and longer than we ever did in our twenties, when we were in peak condition. Having nothing to do with a back injury, riding a recumbent is so much more enjoyable. Had I discovered these when I was twenty, I would have made th transition immediately.
The advantages of recumbent bikes are several, the first being comfort and health. On a standard upright bicycle, you’re sitting with the majority of your weight on a smallish saddle, leaning forward to varying degrees, weight on your hands, holding your head up in order to see ahead. No matter how well adjusted the components, Eventually the position becomes uncomfortable: stress on the wrists, elbows and shoulders, aching back, and the uncomfortable feeling that, despite all odds, the seat is actually trying to get intimate with you; and, in the long run, continuous riding of a diamond frame bike – an upright – is known to cause long term medical problems concerning the parts if the body mentioned above: the wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck and back.
In contrast, riding a recumbent with a well designed and adjustable seat, the riders weight is distributed along the derrière and the back; there is no pressure on the hands or wrist, the back is supported, rather than bent into an uncomfortable position, and the head is held in a natural, face forward position which permits the rider to enjoy a panoramic view of the scenery, rather than staring down at the ground, or stretching one’s neck trying to get a look at what’s ahead. The best part of all, however, is no part of the seat is attempting to get a bit too friendly. Riding a recumbent is like riding a recliner chair on wheels.
Another advantage of a recumbent bicycle – assuming one NEEDS another reason than that listed above – is that of aerodynamics. Any seasoned upright rider can tell you that, at a certain speed, the vast majority of a bicyclist’s energy is used overcoming the resistance of the air around them. The front of the body acts like a dam which catches the air, making it more difficult for the cyclist to move through the atmosphere.
On the recumbent bike, when the rider is in a reclined, foot forward position, they are aerodynamic, and a much greater percentage of their energy is devoted to velocity, not overcoming air resistance. Truthfully, not all riders are going to reach the speeds necessary for air resistance, per se, to be a major factor.
But have you ever ridden into a headwind?
The principle is the same. A strong headwind will have much less effect on a reclined rider. I enjoy riding out with my upright friends on a windy day, because invariably one of them will complain about the headwind. I can never help myself:
Fortunately, many of my friends have already converted.
Author on his Performance XPR Blade – a short wheel base recumbent
Darling Wife on her Rans Stratus XP – a long wheel base recumbent
Author’s Catrike 700 tadpole trike – arguably the world’s fastest production recumbent trike