Eric’s Simple Choice
Speaking only for myself, there are not a lot of options because of back problems (Forestier’s Disease, entrenched Cervical, Thoracic and Lumbar vertebrae spondylosis), I am simply not able to use a standard bicycle. Sitting on a narrow seat and hunching forward on a standard upright bicycle is enough to cause major problems – and that is without getting into peddling the bike along. So, in short, it’s a simple choice when there is only one option. There are two places in the ‘outside world’ that I feel comfortable: one is weightless in the deep blue sea and the other is on my recumbent tadpole trike.
If you have any sort of balance issue, or really just don’t like gravel rash – with a low centre of gravity, three wheels and a comfortable seat… there are not many bicycles that are as easy to keep upright especially when you come to a stop.
If you have ever ridden a bicycle into a corner on the road that has a bit of gravel on it, and found that you back wheel, or worst front wheel, decides to go in a direction other than of your choosing, three wheels and a low centre of gravity again come into play. You have a greater chance on a tadpole recumbent (two wheels up front) of doing a 180/360 degree turn than falling off – and you’re still in your seat with no gravel rash.
Now, it’s easy enough for me to ride out a distance, but then what about getting back home if all doesn’t stay well? Power assist.
Below is not me… but some days it feels a bit that way.
Recumbent trikes are not just for the older or less mobile. More and more younger riders are choosing recumbents to avoid developing problems associated with torturing your body on a rack (bicycle);
More common pain areas (apart from where you are seated) such as the wrists and back are almost unaffected when riding a recumbent trike. The neck area are far less affected and, again from my own condition of having severe cervical spondylosis, this means the difference between riding or not. This ability for greater mobility and involvement in life doesn’t just affect me, my family also feels a release in my greater freedom as life for them is less restricted also in many ways. Yes, non-mass produced trikes are expensive, but in some instances you may be able to get assistance from local support groups or government funding:
In the recline position you are cradled in the chair which is well designed for most body sizes and with a greater recline you can cut wind drag by as much as 35%. This allows the rider to go further without fatigue making it ideal for touring and commuting – or just faster.
There are available some special gearing sets that can be fitted to your recumbent to make changing gears a piece of cake. This can assist greatly for taking off on hills and coming to a stop at traffic lights – no need to be actually moving to change a gear and no chains clunking over sprockets. Of course, speaking of cake – you can carry unto 40kg on the optional rack and you already have a comfortable spot to eat.
Recumbent Trike Comfort and Safety
Grab handles can be fitted over the front wheels that can support your full weight as you get settled into or out of the seat.
A good mesh seat strung with elastic cord makes for and airy and comfortable mobile lounge (yes, compared to a bicycle seat – a lounge).
You should at least try one.
Recumbent Trikes and Kids
Yes, trikes are also great for younger riders. These particular trikes are adult size trikes but can be quite suitable for younger riders. Modifications can also be made for smaller riders or those with other disabilities.
How to Choose a Recumbent Bicycle – Greenspeed
As of this writing, there are over 200 models of recumbent bikes and trikes available. These vehicles come in a huge variety of styles, weights, comfort levels and prices. There is something for everybody. The question is, which one is right for you? With recumbent bikes, as with many things in life, there are many compromises. It is hope that this information will help you decide which compromises are best for you. In choosing a recumbent bike, there are several thing you need to consider:
- Your price range
- Your height/weight
- Your riding style
- Your level of fitness
The first thing you will want to consider is the price. Recumbent bikes start out higher than upright bikes because they are not yet mass produced at the level of the “WalMart” variety of bikes. Also they have the equivalent of a high end office chair grafted onto the top of them, which adds to the price. The lowest priced ones are about $500. The bikes you will find in this price range are quite serviceable and easy to ride, but are often very heavy. You can get a great recumbent for around $1000, and this is the price range you should be looking in if you will be riding once a week or more. If you are a casual rider, or on a limited budget, you will want to start out with one of the lower priced recumbents. High end recumbent bikes and trikes can be priced up to about $7000. Paying higher prices for a recumbent will buy you things like light weight, space age components, exotic materials, suspension, and more speed.
Rider Height and Weight
Most recumbent bikes are designed for a specific range a rider heights. If you are shorter you will find that due to the lower seat height, the bikes with a smaller front wheel will be easier to ride. If you are taller you can ride most any style of recumbent. If you are overweight or have circulatory issues in your legs, you will probably want a long wheelbase (LWB) recumbent with a lower bottom bracket. These are generally long wheelbase bikes. If you don’t have these issues, or want a sportier feeling bike, you may want a short wheelbase (SWB) recumbent. People with circulatory issues in their arms will find under seat steering (USS) more to their liking. I recommend above seat steering (ASS or OSS) for those who don’t have those issues, as it is more aerodynamic.
As with upright bikes, some recumbent bikes are designed with comfort in mind, and some are designed with performance in mind. The higher performance models are not normally less comfortable, but they are usually more expensive. Recumbent bikes priced around $1000 generally have a good tradeoff between price and performance. If you want to go fast, and can ride in areas where excessive traffic is not an issue, a lowracer or quasi-low racer is a good choice. These bikes have the best aerodynamics. If you want to go fast, but will be riding in higher traffic areas, or riding up large hills, the highracer design would be a better choice due to it’s more visible position and higher efficiency drivetrain. In general, the higher a bike’s bottom bracket (BB), and the more reclined the seat, the more aerodynamic the bike will be (this means you can go faster). The tradeoff is that the bikes with high BBs and laid back seats will require a higher skill level to ride. Recumbent bikes with upright seats and a lower BB, such as compact long wheelbase (CLWB), or long wheelbase (LWB) bikes are quite easy to ride, most novice riders can jump on and ride without issues.
Your fitness level is a major consideration. If you are a casual rider, and are just into tooling around once in a while, I’d suggest a bike under $1000. Most of the bikes around the $1000 mark and below are designed for comfort, and as such, your will be trading off potential speed. If you ride once a week or more, or want a higher performance bike, I’d suggest a bike around the $2000 mark. If you are a casual rider and buy an expensive bike expecting it to make you go fast, you may be comfortable, but disappointed in your speed. If you currently ride a road bike, and purchase a performance oriented recumbent, you should eventually be as fast or faster than on your road bike. Note that it will take a few months to develop your “‘bent muscles”.
If you don’t want to deal with that balancing thing, like to ride on the ice, or just think trikes are cool, there are recumbent trikes available for every task. Generally the tadpole trikes (two wheels in front) are better at cornering, while the delta trikes (two in back) are more stable at high speeds. Trikes come in a huge range of weights and prices. Recumbent trikes are generally slower than recumbent bikes.
To help you in your ‘bent quest, click here for a web page that will show you bikes with the characteristics that you want. If you need a lower priced recumbent, take a look at the Used Recumbents page.
Whichever recumbent you choose, be sure to do the research and take as many test rides as you can. Most recumbent riders will let you take a ride on their bike, don’t feel bashful about asking. Many bike dealers will let you take one home to try it out before buying. Post on the HPV bulletin boards and ask questions about the models you are considering. Recumbent riders love to give their opinions.