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Your head is up in a natural position, giving you a great view of your surroundings and the road ahead. No more neck and back pain from being hunched over. Hands, arms, and wrists are comfortable because they are not supporting your weight. You slice through the wind faster and easier, due to reduced frontal exposure. Handling, cornering, and stopping are more assured due to a significantly lower center of gravity. Saddle soreness is not a problem, even at the end of the longest rides.
The bike seems to vanish beneath you as you cruise along, experiencing the scenery (and potential hazards) as never before. You’ll find yourself cycling longer and farther than before, and arriving at your destination refreshed. Once you’ve experienced a recumbent, it’s difficult to ever go back to a conventional bike!
You may as well be driving a Ferrari for all the attention you receive. Motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists do double-takes as they watch you breeze by — seemingly without effort.
The lowered designs of recumbent bicycles offers advantages. Most obvious is that you can easily place both feet down to the ground!
Recumbents tend to stop faster and smoother than typical designs. Their enhanced handling and cornering provide superior accident avoidance capability. In an unavoidable accident situation, rather than taking a long head-first spill over the handlebars as with a conventional bike, a recumbent rider can simply roll over sideways and can better avoid head and shoulder injuries.
A recumbent bicycle provides between fifteen to thirty percent lower wind resistance over the typical racing bike. With less wind resistance, friction, and rolling resistance, there’s less effort.
In fact, recumbents do climb well provided they are geared to do so (as with any other bike). Despite the fact that you cannot stand on the pedals, you can leverage power against the seat. Different muscle groups are employed, and a short period of adaptation to recumbent climbing should be expected. Shorter wheelbase versions tend to do better at climbing than longer models. Cornering and overall control is enhanced by the recumbent’s lowered center of gravity. Many riders report feeling that the bike seems to be “running on rails.”
Of course, nothing is quite as convincing as visual proof that recumbents can indeed climb hills.
Visibility in traffic is a concern for any cyclist. Many recumbent riders indicate that they are generally better seen than other bikes because they are noticed more. Furthermore, the “head-up” position lends itself to making better eye contact with motorists.
Nonetheless, use of safety reflectors, markers and flags is recommended for riding in traffic. Helmets are a must for any bike rider!
Although the overall designs recumbent bicycles are exotic, their components are not. In fact the chain, brakes, grips, shifters, pedals, wheels, tires, and other components are the same as those found on other elite road or mountain bikes. This means that your recumbent can be serviced at any of thousands of bike shops throughout the world.
However, just because the bikes can be serviced doesn’t mean that all bike shops will be willing to work on them. If you are an RBR customer, give our contact information to your local bike shop so that we can advise them on specific issues. This might make them more willing to work on a recumbent.
Every bike has its good and bad points for a particular use. For example, you would not use a mountain bike for road racing. You would not use a road racer for grocery runs. You would not use a cruiser for rock hopping.
Similarly, recumbent bicycles are not the end-all be-all for every type of riding. However, when we are asked “how does it compare to a ‘regular’ bike”, we are being asked to compare a very limited aspect of both bikes – seat position and its impact on the basics of bike riding.
Recumbent bikes and trikes are the kings of comfort in comparison. Upright bikes range in body position from fully tucked to fully upright. No point in that range is comfortable for the shoulders, hands, back, or bottom. On a recumbent bike, your entire back and bottom are supported, often times with lumbar support. There is no pressure on your shoulders or hands, so you won’t need padded gloves or a full body massage after a ride.
Upright bikes allow you to shift your center of gravity up, down, left, right, forward, and back. As a result, the body can be used to counteract a variety of cycling conditions. Recumbents give you only left/right balance and are therefore limited in this respect. But you can take balance out of the equation altogether by riding a recumbent tricycle.
While some brave souls have taken their recumbent two wheelers out on mountain bike trails, it isn’t generally advised. For road, rail trail, and path riding, neither bike has a particular advantage. If you need to jump a curb, and upright bike is your only choice as you need to jump with the bike – tough to do if you’re lying down on it.
On an upright bike, you spin until that is no longer effective and then you stand. On a recumbent bike, you keep right on spinning and then push back against the seat when you need more torque.
Many casual cyclists experience sticker shock they first time they learn about the price of recumbents. With thousands of bikes available at big box retailers for $100-$200, the natural question is: what makes recumbents so expensive?
Recumbent bicycles and tricycles represent a very small portion of the overall bike market. Some estimates have put it at less than 1%. Because of that, recumbents manufacturers remain small scale operations that build all their frames by hand. The frames for each model are so specialized that there is very little shared in terms of frame components, leading manufacturers to build bikes and trikes as they’re ordered so as to reduce overstock. Major bike manufacturers benefit from economies of scale in that the more they make, the cheaper it becomes to do so, but the recumbent market is not broad enough yet to support that scale.
Due to the high degree of engineering required on recumbents, the components have to be relatively high end to compensate for things like long chain runs, grip and shifter placement, support for the upper body, and fast braking. They are also designed to last thousands of miles. The use of these components helps to drive up the price of recumbents. Components on big box bikes are not meant to last even a year, so they use much cheaper components with the idea that consumers will simply buy an entirely new bike when something breaks down.
Materials sometimes come into play, but no more so than any other type of bike. As the frame material becomes stronger and lighter, the cost increases. There are upright road bikes that run into the $9,000 range as a result.
In the US, import costs and exchange rates are sometimes a factor in price. Bikes and trikes from manufacturers like ICE, HP Velotechnik, and Hase come complete with much higher shipping costs.
Overall, though, the cost of a recumbent can be reduced to two factors: limited availability and high quality. When you think of it in terms of cost per mile, a $500 bike that you ride 100 miles is $5 a mile, but a $1500 recumbent that you ride 1000 miles is a mere $1.50 a mile.