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Recumbents – Why Haven’t You Tried Riding One?

By Christopher Ashley

Us cycle commuters have to answer three common questions. Don’t car drivers give you a hard time for getting in their way? No, they’re politer than social media leads you to believe. Aren’t you tired? No, I’m hard as nails. Wouldn’t it be more comfortable to drive? My car is for long journeys and heavy lifting.

Then I met a guy who commuted on a recumbent and I couldn’t stop myself asking those exact same questions. So, here are his answers.

Don’t car drivers give you a hard time?

If you’re looking head-on at a recumbent, or approaching from behind, the supine riding position means the overall profile is smaller. But not as small as a cat, dog, or small child – and if one of those runs in front of your car, you’re expected to react.

This video shows that cars are very low on the list of recumbent cyclists’ concerns. Recumbents have a longer profile when viewed side-on, making them less susceptible to sideways collisions. And as Bikes, Trikes & Razors! points out above, car drivers give him more space when he’s on his recumbent than when he’s on a regular bike.

Aren’t you tired?

If my legs start aching on a ride, I know what to do. If my quads hurt, I get out of the saddle to let my calves and hamstrings take some of the strain. When they start to burn, I get back in the saddle. If you’re lying on your back and pedalling, you don’t have that luxury. So, aren’t recumbents slower?

Recumbents can be faster, thanks to their aerodynamic efficiencies. Cyclists spend a lot of their energy pushing air out the way. That’s why the peloton in tour racing is so important – the rouleurs create a slip stream for their jersey contenders to ride in. Recumbents give you that advantage for free.

Aren’t traditional bikes more comfortable?

Recumbent riders have to point out the obvious – that they’re lying in a comfortable supine position without ever having to worry about how their pelvis is positioned on a saddle. So, happily, a recumbent bike is more comfortable. Also, your upper body isn’t stressed as much meaning you can push your legs and cardio even further.

This video accurately sums up the pros and cons of riding recumbent vs an upright bike. Ultimately, you choose your bike based on what you want to get out of it. If you want to give your legs and cardio a real push, then recumbents are for you. Maybe it’s time you made room in the garage for one more bike.