a standard upright bike (what we're all
familiar with) or one of those funny looking
bikes with the comfortable seats? What are
the advantages and disadvantages? Let's
take a look.
Let me start by asking a question: When
your body is telling you that you've ridden far
enough for the day, is it your leg muscles that
give out first, or something else? With
me, it was because my hands were tingling, my
arms were tired, my neck and shoulders hurt, and
my rear end was sore from sitting on something
that is euphemistically called a seat! On
a recumbent bike, all those issues go
away!!! The only factor is the condition
of your leg muscles. As a result, I can ride much farther in a day on a
recumbent bike because of the comfort level.
After a 70 mile ride, the only parts of my body
that are tired are my legs. I would never
be able to say that about an upright bike!
I can ride several times farther on
a recumbent, because it is less taxing on my
entire body. I have heard the story many
times; someone who has been an upright cyclist
for many years is faced with having to
set their bike aside because of a health
problem. They reluctantly make the move to
a recumbent as a "last ditch" effort to keep
riding. After a short time their response is
something like: "This is fantastic, why
didn't I switch years ago?"
(Regarding comfort, check out the
"Ferrari vs. Towncar"
I am always
asked if recumbents are hard to ride. They
are not easier or harder, just different.
I guess two analogies come to mind as I think of
both my first experience, and watching that of
others. It resembles either a little kid
wobbling down the street with dad running along
behind, or a drunken sailor trying to ride a
bike back to his ship! Your center of
gravity is totally different on a recumbent, so
it just takes time to get your brain "rewired"
in how to keep your balance. Eventually it
becomes just as natural as what you are used to
on an upright.
think recumbents are slow.
This probably comes from two things, the
relaxed look to the design, and that
fact that they can tend to be a bit
slower on hills. On an upright
bike you have the option of standing on
the pedals as you climb a hill for extra
power. Obviously that is not
possible on an recumbent because of
their design. However, when I rode
an upright, I rarely stood on hills.
I would gear down and stay seated,
that's just the way I liked to ride.
If you compared riding on an upright
without standing, to climbing the same
hill on a recumbent, I don't think there
would be that much difference. So
how do they compare overall?
Upright bikes do have an advantage going
up hill. But recumbents are faster
downhill and on flat ground. So,
the bottom line is that if you have
equally trained athletes, one on an
upright and one on a recumbent, the
rider on the
recumbent will have the advantage. As
far as overall speed is concerned,
nearly all bicycle speed records are
held by recumbents! The maximum
speed record on a flat track is 82 mph!
Even more amazing the most miles
traveled in one hour (also on a flat
track) is 54 miles!
So why don't you see
recumbents in most bike races? Both the U.S.
and international biking associations won't let
them race. They say they have "an unfair
aerodynamic advantage." In other words,
they beat and embarrass the uprights! I
don't think things are likely to change since much of the sponsorship money for the
races comes from the manufacturers of upright
bikes. In a 2003
Armstrong was asked about recumbent bikes,
He said: "If it were legal, we would have tried
it by now... aerodynamically, it's far
The Race Across
Recumbents are allowed in this
race. The route is over 3000
miles, touching 14 states and climbing
over 100,000 feet. Teams have a
relay format and race 24 hours a day.
Solo racers have the challenge of
balancing a few hours of sleep each
night against race deadlines. This
truly is a race. Unlike other famous
races, like the Tour de France, RAAM is
not a stage race, once the clock starts
on the west coast, the clock doesn't
stop until each racer reaches the finish
line on the east coast. RAAM is 30%
longer than the Tour de France and solo
racers finish in half the time with no
In June of 2009, the 4 man team event
was won by a recumbent team
That is the same company that makes our
tandem. So much for the notion
that recumbents are inherently slow!
As you can see from the banner, they
completed the route in 6 days, 3 hours
and 40 minutes!
Just for fun,
let's talk about nick-names. The word
recumbent is often shortened to "bent."
Those in the recumbent community sometime refer to an
upright bike as a "wedgie" (for obvious
My conclusion: I am a major
convert to recumbent bikes. I can go much
father with more comfort on a recumbent,
therefore I can have a lot more fun on my rides
than I could on a "wedgie."
Here's a good "FAQ"
page on recumbents: