I have a confession to make. Even though my shop sells recumbents, I still enjoy riding my upright bike. Honestly, there is a lot to like about my bike. It's a custom-made titanium Seven. I can't help but smile riding it because it is literally the only bike I have ridden that fits my 6'8" body. The great thing about recumbents is that I can make the boom long enough to give me a great fit as well.
People ask me all the time if recumbent bikes are as fast as regular bikes. My response is that if you are on the right recumbent, you should be able to go just as fast as your friends on an upright bike. This month I decided to test the theory. I would take the same ride on my upright and a recumbent and compare the results. For this test, I selected the HP Velotechnik Scorpion. The trike is fast, but not a race bike so I thought it would be a good match for my Seven.
I needed a route that I could easily do with moderate effort. I didn't want it to take all day so I selected a 20-mile roundtrip on the Pinellas Trail from Tarpon Springs to Dunedin and back. I did the test on two consecutive Sunday mornings so the traffic would be similar.
I have logged thousands of miles on my Seven which weighs half as much as the Scorpion. Based on these two factors, I was pretty confident that my Seven would be at least two miles per hour faster than the Scorpion. Sorry HP, but a lightweight upright is going to be faster than a heavier three-wheeler.
Are you ready for this? After completing the 20-mile course, the data was sliced, diced and compared and the winner is......A TIE! That's right, my average speed on both the Seven and the Scorpion averaged a respectable 14 mph. Even the top speed from both bikes was within a few tenths of each other. I really couldn't identify any statistic that would make one bike stand out.
OK, so the stats are the same, what about the intangibles?
The Scorpion is the clear winner in terms of comfort. It's not even a fair fight. Recumbents deliver a comfortable ride without the problems of uprights.
Seven wins here as well. It is pretty tough not to see a tall guy wearing red on a 71.5 cm frame! The Seven also seemed easier to see oncoming trail traffic and cars seem to see me easier as well.
Ok, so the "climbing" was limited to one overpass. This Seven wins here as well. On the Scorpion, you climb by spinning a lighter gear, but it seems more difficult to maintain speed.
The "Wow" factor goes to the Scorpion. This is based solely on the number positive comments and head turns.
Come by the shop and try the Scorpion and see if you agree it is as fast as your favorite upright bike.