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Recumbents

ben@31[email protected] Posts: 2,322
edited January 2015 in Road general
Has anyone ever used one? What are your thoughts on them compared to normal road bikes?

I wondered why if they are so efficient and aerodynamic, why have recumbents never became mass priced and popular? I very rarely see them? Come to think of it I've never seen them for sale in a bike shop.
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  • timothywtimothyw Posts: 2,482
    It's certainly true that they are faster over level terrain (and downhill) but they have several disadvantages vs regular bikes:
    - Heavier, so slower going up hill
    - Can't stand on the pedals which means you struggle if you go up a particularly steep hill and run out of gears for spinning.
    - Can't shift your weight to absorb bumps, which means most of them have suspension for comfort, adding weight, complexity, expense.
    - Bulky and harder to store
    - if you're using a two wheeled recumbent balancing is harder (hence why most are three wheeled)
    - Low position makes you harder for other road users to spot. This combined with larger footprint makes filtering prohibitively dangerous I'd imagine.
    - Niche status of product makes them expensive
    - Aerodynamic advantages vs regular bikes is negated when riding in a group/slipstreaming.

    With all that said I did once bump into a chap on my commute riding a recumbent, we had a brief chat and he seemed happy enough, although I didn't have any difficulty keeping pace with him on the vintage steel racer I was riding at the time.
  • I guy I knew got one. His comments on it were favourable in certain circumstances. He said that it cornered noticeably better than a normal bike, i.e. faster, brake later. He said it accelerated slower and wasn't as good on hills. Being lower it is obviously a case of lower sight levels, you can't look ahead through/over traffic. I doubt it is any good for commuting.

    My mate (although I rode a bike I knew him throughother sporting activities) used to ride a lot with a group and his wife. Both were keen cyclists who would do a lot of touring but he was more keen on cycling than his wife. AS a result when he got the 'bent after one trip out with it his wife said she would never ride with him again if he was on his 'bent. Never found out why but I guess she had no confidence in his safety on it. It was a 2 wheeled one, which I always thought most were. The hand bikes are different propositions I think. The true recumbent is 2 wheeled and comes in two basic forms IIRC, one with a shorter wheelbase and higher position = higher centre of gravity. I think I've only seen a handful of 'bents, one or two of the higher ones but mostly the lower ones with longer wheelbase. I've seen maybe 5 hand bikes in use over the last decade but I think these are in a different category because they are generally 4 wheeled (at least 3 wheeled) or they are a kind of disabled wheelchair attachement (saw one of those in the Peak District at a cafe/bike shop/bike hire centre where the Tissington and High Peak trails meet, they had a few different disabled hand bike types available to rent).
  • Just to add that they are expensive due to small numbers being sold and the complexity is a bit higher I think. They will never take off into the mainstream bike types like MTB, road, CX, Hybrid, etc. However I think there will always be specialist makers around, I wonder if they are the same makers who do tandems??

    One thing to note, they do make interesting tourers apparently. I've seen photographs of people touring with them using special panniers. One guy online once said they carried better than traditional tourers. Looking at the loaded 'bents I'd also say they maintained their aerodynamic advantage when kitted for a tour better than standard touring bikes.

    I would like to try one and the same goes for a hand bike (proper one not a wheelchair attachment type). Just out of curiosity. Same curiosity that makes me want to try a track bike and a TT bike once in my life. They are all just different forms of bicycles and interesting ones at that.
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,368
    I've come across a few recumbents when touring. They are slow uphill and it looks like hard work for the riders when I have overtaken them, even with me carrying full camping gear in four panniers. But on flat and rolling roads, they are significantly quicker than a regular bike. I remember being caught by a recumbent on a flat valley road in the Pyrenees. He rode alongside me for a while and we chatted. I had difficulty maintaining his pace. He told me how good they were for cornering and braking. He then left me for dead.
  • woolwichwoolwich Posts: 298
    I agree with the downsides mentioned above. There is a cultural element as well, Brits are just rubbish at being different and standing out. The Dutch however have no problem with them, I have been overtaken many times by speedy giant cigar shaped objects in Holland, although of the terrain much more suitable.

    If your interested in recumbents google Human Powered Vehicle Association. I am sure they will cover the benefits properly. They even have a handful of closed circuit race events a year.
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  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    I'd think I can get a lot more conventional bikes into my garage than I can recumbents !

    I know they're great on the flat - but its the low position that puts me off more than anything.
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