Recumbent bikes have a laid-back riding position, with you reclining in a padded seat instead of sitting on a saddle. Your feet are higher up as well. Recumbents are more comfortable than standard ("upright") bikes, because there is no strain on you neck, back or wrists. You also have more of your body in contact with the bike, so painful pressure points are reduced. Recumbents are also faster - your legs are in front of you instead of below you, so the aerodynamics are better. Recumbents are at least 30% faster than standard bikes, and can be a lot more - the current speed record on the flat is over 80mph! Because of this, recumbents have been banned from competing against conventional bikes since 1934.
Types of Recumbent:
There are perhaps more types of recumbent than of all other bikes put together:
Racing recumbents -
These are built purely for speed. They are often very low to the ground to make air drag even less, and have very thin high-pressure tyres. Many also have aerodynamic fairings - streamlined plastic or fibreglass shells to make them even faster.
Touring recumbents -
Like conventional touring bikes, these are designed for long treks. They can carry a lot of luggage, and because they are so comfortable you can cycle further than you would on a conventional tourer.
Tricycle recumbents -
Imagine a go-kart with pedals, and you get the general idea. Variants exist for touring or racing, and they are all a lot of fun to ride. Because they cannot tip over, you can also go up very steep hills without worrying about falling off.There are lots more - off-road recumbents, tandem recumbents, load-carrying recumbents, city recumbents... But all can be divided using a couple of classifications:
Short or long wheelbase -
This describes where the front wheel is. Short wheelbases have the front wheel behind the pedals (as in the picture above) and are fast and manoeuvrable. Long wheelbases have the front wheel beyond the pedals, and are generally more relaxed.
Overseat or underseat steering -
This describes where the handlebars are. Overseat steering has the handlebars above your legs, which is more aerodynamic and slightly more manoeuvrable. Underseat steering (like in the picture above) is more comfortable for longer distances, and makes it a bit easier to get on and off.
Recumbents are fast, comfortable to ride, and a lot of fun. You can go farther and faster than you would on a normal bike, and with much less discomfort.
You won't be faster right away - recumbents use different muscles to normal bikes, and it takes 6-8 weeks for your legs to adapt. It can also take a while to master riding them, although most people have the basics after 15 minutes. You must not mind attention - because they are unusual, you get a lot of it!
Expect to Pay...
Prices start at about £800 but you could pay in excess of £1500 for a specialist one.
Image CopyrightsImages depict bikes manufactured by HPVeloTechnik Recumbents are available from a number of other manufacturers and use of HPVeloTechnik recumbent images is in no way an endorsement of their product for this purpose.
Permission for use of the images has been sought from Kinetics (one of HPVeloTechnik's distributors in the UK) and copyright over these images remains with the respective supplier.