Many people encounter recumbent bikes but never take the time to know about them. Most probably, you’ve also seen them. Yes, those odd-shaped bikes which have a lot more in common with lawn furniture. Maybe, you’re wondering what they’re all about. Most probably, you’re wondering why an increasing number of individuals are using them.
You might even be wondering whether they’re comfortable to ride. Maybe you’re speculating that it might be difficult for you to ride one. Worry not, because this section will inform you all about recumbent bikes. We’ll define what recumbents are. This guide will give you ample knowledge about what you didn’t know about before.
What’s a Recumbent Bike?
It’s a bike that puts the rider in a laid-back reclining position. Many recumbent riders prefer this kind of design for ergonomic reasons. The weight is comfortably distributed over a larger area. The back and buttocks support this area. With traditional upright bicycles, the weight rests on a smaller part of the lower body.
All a recumbent bike does is reclining the rider into a seat (rather than the saddle). It spreads out the rider’s weight over a large surface area which makes contact with the bicycle. Recumbent bikes are available in a broad range of configurations. Such include long to short wheelbases, over seats, and under seats. Others include no-hands steering and rear or front wheel drives. Variants with three wheels are often referred to as recumbent tricycles.
Recumbent bikes are considered as the ‘oddball’ of the bicycle world. Recumbents can solve a laundry list of pains and general comfort problems. Such are often encountered when using the regular upright bikes.
When compared to traditional bicycles, recumbent bikes are:
- More comfortable
- And more fun
The ergonomic seat’s design of recumbent places you in a naturally relaxed position. It gives full support for incredibly comfortable rides. The seat bottom is often much larger than seats on any upright bikes. In turn, the pressure applied onto your rear becomes lesser than that of upright bikes. The high shoulder seat back will support you like no other bike would. That eliminates almost all back stress.
The natural upright position ensures no weight will be placed on the upper body. Hence, it’ll reduce pain and soreness in such areas. Finally, the seat construction of recumbent bikes helps absorb road shock. That helps increase comfort.
The braking distance is often less than that of upright bicycles. That eliminates the possibility of going over your bike’s handlebars. That’s enhanced by the low center of gravity and the front-rear weight distribution. Most recumbent bikes are smaller than regular ones. You can transport them on most car racks. As well, they’re easy to store and park.
Besides, the upright head promotes good visibility in traffic. It permits auto drivers direct eye contact so that they notice you readily. The ideal weight distribution and direct steering deliver superb handling and unmatched braking performance. With a recumbent bike, you’re able to avoid almost all unsafe situations.
Recumbent bikes are faster. In fact, the speed record for human-powered vehicles had ever been set on a recumbent bicycle. Several reasons explain that. But, the main one would be its pretty impressive aerodynamic fairing. The reclining position helps create a less vertical surface which air pushes against.
Now, imagine an upright bike where the rider is completely vertical. In such a case, we’d have a larger wall between where the air is and where it’s trying to go. The reclining position allows the wind and air to glide over the rider’s top. That makes riding in even the most dastardly headwinds easy.
Let’s backtrack a little bit. What is a fairing? It’s a large aerodynamic shield. Often, it’s a thick plastic piece which mounts to the recumbent’s front. Sometimes, it’s a stretchy fabric piece which covers the entire bicycle. That smoothens out all corner or harsh surfaces.
Fairings are helpful in various ways. They enable you to be more aerodynamic and even ride unencumbered by blocking the wind. As less wind pushes against you, it’ll help you stay warmer, especially on cold winter rides. Also, it’ll keep debris and moisture from getting on you.
Riding a Recumbent Bike
Riding a recumbent bike isn’t hard. You’ll get used to these bikes’ positions within a matter of minutes. The cranks’ proximity to the front wheel implies that your feet might hit the front wheel in sharp turns. With practice, it becomes easy to make slow turns. The availability of pedal extenders makes this quite less of a problem.
Different recumbents come with various seat positions. It might take several minutes to learn the proper balance of a recumbent bike. Most people can ride after just a single day without any problem. But, it might take some time for your muscles to get accustomed to the different positions. You’ll take the time to develop a proper cadence. After just one month, most riders become proficient enough. They surpass even their best performance on standard bicycles.
Why the Small Front Wheel?
The larger front wheel raises the seat height and the bottom bracket height. It raises the center of gravity. That results in:
- Less responsive handling
- Increased aero drag
- Increased braking distance
- Difficulty reaching the ground for entry, starting, and stopping
Note: What works best for upright bicycles isn’t necessarily what will, for recumbents.
There are various standard designs for recumbents. We go a little bit deeper into these different models below:
1. Short Wheelbases
These recumbents have wheels underneath the rider. The crankset is often out in front of the fore-wheel. Builders often work a telescoping feature into the tube which the crankset is on. The two back wheels usually bear the same size. You’d only need one extra tube when heading out on rides.
2. Long Wheelbases
Such recumbents place the front wheel right in front of the crankset. They differ from the short wheelbases in that they run larger tires in the back, but a smaller one at the front. Although it’s not always the case, the large 700c in front would block your field of vision when riding.
3. Recumbent Tricycles
These bicycles often have the crankset out in front of the wheels. But, they’ve got the telescoping feature mentioned before. There are varying designs of recumbent tricycles, though. In some, you’ll find one rear wheel connected to the drive train. The rider sits on a chassis that’s used for steering, while both front wheels are out to the sides. That creates the need for two bearing assemblies to enable each wheel to turn.
There’s another kind of the tricycle design. Here, a drive train is connected to the gear and an axle onto which two rear wheels get connected. The rider will thus steer with one wheel out in front of the crankset just as they’d with a regular bicycle. Such designs place you into a more upright seating position but in a seat instead of a saddle.
Would We Counter Recumbent Bikes?
No, we wouldn’t, and neither do we assert that they’re better than traditional bicycles. That would be a broad topic to discuss on. While they’re preferable in some ways, they might not be as capable in others. All we’d say is that recumbents are different, which makes for excellent fun. They’re faster than most traditional bikes and make great long-distance touring cycles.