Recumbent Bike Basics
By Shari Bernhard
COMFORT - If there could be one word that defines a recumbent bicycle, it would be comfort. A recumbent has the rider sit in a chair-like seat that does away with almost all neck, wrist, butt, and shoulder pain experienced with an upright road, hybrid, or mountain bike. Almost all recumbent riders report they can ride all day and not feel any stressful pain or fatigue. Thanks to these satisfied customers, recumbents are the fastest growing segment of the bicycle industry today.
Many recumbents are built in small batches and made in the USA by niche recumbent manufacturers. Some Ďbents are hand-built, custom jobs designed and built to the customerís specification. Several recumbent manufacturers are having bikes built overseas by experienced bicycle-building plants. Prices for new production line recumbents start at around $450 and can run up to several thousand dollars for a custom-built model. Used recumbents are available at lower prices. There are also sources available to allow a person to "home-build" a recumbent.
TRANSITIONING TO A RECUMBENT - Recumbent bike riding does not take any special skill, although it will at first feel "different" from an upright bike. Balance on a recumbent is not a problem if you can ride any other type of two-wheeled bicycle. One main difference is that riding a recumbent uses different leg muscles than riding an upright bike, so new recumbent riders should take their time building up to riding long distances, and not expect to start out at the speeds they usually ride - it may take a month or so. But you'll be up to your upright riding speeds and distances in short order, and with no discomfort.
For those who are balance-challenged, recumbent tricycles are available, and we're not talking something Grandma would ride, either! Many trikes are low-down racing machines and handle like a go-kart. There are two types: delta, which have two wheels in back and one in the front, and tadpole, with two wheels in front and one in the back. Each type has its advantages, and each has a different "feel". Both types have the same great feature Ė no problem with balance!
CAN MOTORISTS SEE RECUMBENTS? - Most recumbent riders report no problems with motorists seeing and avoiding them since recumbents are really not that much lower than upright bikes. In addition, most motorists tend to be very much aware of recumbents. They look so different from upright bikes, they draw plenty of attention.
ARE THERE DISADVANTAGES TO RECUMBENTS? - About the biggest problem some people may notice is that it takes a little longer to climb hills on a recumbent. With most recumbents having 21 gears, it is not that difficult, but it will be slower. Luckily, due to the comfort factor, being done with a ride quicker isnít foremost on a recumbent riderís mind.
Another problem is that it may be difficult finding a bicycle shop that actually has recumbents in stock. Most major dealers, however, are listed in the IHPVA website (www.ihpva.org). Used bikes can be found at www.recumbents.com or at www.BentRiderOnline.com