Ask people why they don’t ride a recumbent bike and most will say something like “I don’t need one yet” or “I have a regular bike”. People go to great lengths to make their diamond-frame bikes more comfortable. Raise the handlebars, tilt the seat, wear padded shorts and gloves, the list is almost endless. Yet after a long ride, most riders admit to being uncomfortable. Recumbents let you ride with your upper body relaxed so you get off the bike without all the pain and numbness associated with traditional bike designs. Plus, you don’t need special clothing to make recumbents comfortable. Think of your position on a regular bike and your position on a recumbent. A regular bike has you in the unnatural position of sitting hunched over with your neck at an angle with your weight on the seat, handlebars and pedals. On an upright bike you are always watching the next six feet of road.
Recumbents position you with your legs in front of you and your body in a more relaxed position. If someone asked if you would rather watch a show sitting on a sawhorse with your hands on the front of it, or sitting in a chair with your feet up, what would you choose? Seems obvious when you think of it that way. It is also easier to breath on a recumbent. When you are hunched over the bars of an upright bike it is more difficult to get a deep breath. The problem gets worse the longer you ride because as you tire, you tend to slump even more. The recumbent positions your body in a much more natural position where your upper body can relax and your lungs can do their job without struggling to get enough air.
No matter the type of riding you do, there is a recumbent for you. Recumbents come in all varieties from fat-tire off-road trikes to recumbent bikes that can blow the wheels off of the fastest diamond-frame bikes. In fact, in 1938 the International Cycling Union banned recumbent bikes from most competitions because they had an “unfair advantage”. The fact is the fastest recorded speed on a bike is on a recumbent. The aerodynamics are so much better on a recumbent because you are pushing a much smaller block of air than an upright bike. It’s like the difference between a perfect dive and a belly flop. You still feel headwinds on recumbents, but they are much less of a problem. Now I am not claiming that buying a recumbent will make you faster than the average roadie. Speed is a function of the “engine and the incline”. I have personally found similar performance results on a recumbent and on a diamond frame. The big difference for me is comfort.
If you are looking into getting a new bike without considering recumbents, I think you are making a mistake. If you don’t know what it is like to ride a recumbent, why not stop by the shop and give it a try?