I’m Considering Buying a Recumbent Bike – What are the Benefits & Advantages?
So you’re thinking about taking the leap and getting a recumbent bike. While they are not traditional (and they may get you some weird looks around town) there are a ton of benefits to riding a recumbent bike. And don’t worry about sacrificing speed for comfort–the land speed record for a human powered vehicle was set on a recumbent bike!
Benefits of Recumbent Bike Riding: A More Comfortable Ride
Many people turn to recumbent bikes because they are tired of hunching over the handlebars of a traditional bike, or they are fed up with the narrow saddles of most bikes. Thankfully, there is a better option.
Recumbent bikes are unique because they use a seat instead of a saddle to create a reclined riding position, making them the ultimately comfortable ride. Handlebars are always built to be easily reached from a seated position, meaning you don’t have to lean or strain to steer.
The pedals of a recumbent bike are in front of the rider, so the riding position is a lot like sitting in a recliner. Rather than having to stare at the ground or a little ways out in front of you, like you have to on a road bike, a recumbent bike lets you take in all the scenery you’re riding through.
The seat also disperses your body weight across a greater area than a traditional saddle does, which means less pressure for you. Even the softest, most comfortable saddle puts all of your weight in a very small area, but this just isn’t so with a recumbent bike.
Reduce Some Common Injuries
Even though cycling is a low-impact exercise, there is a large potential for stress injuries. Many bike designs put a great load on your lower back and pelvis, and may even put too much strain on your legs.
The unique design of a recumbent bike can alleviate a lot of these problems. Rather than having your weight pushing only on a very small area of your body, sitting in a seat spreads out the weight more evenly, which can reduce strain on your pelvis and lower back.
Some riders with knee or leg pain might consider trying out a recumbent bike. Though these injuries are sometimes caused by a poorly fitted or adjusted bike, they may also be caused in part by the typical design of a bike.
Rather than pushing down on pedals, a recumbent bike makes you push out. This difference in motion might be enough to make a difference in knee or leg pain. However, you still have to be careful–it’s tempting to push on the back of the seat to increase your power. Though you can do this cautiously, it might cause you to over-exert yourself, which can lead to injuries anyways.
The difference between a traditional bike and a recumbent bike is the difference between hunching on a barstool and relaxing in a recliner. Would you want to workout for 45 minutes on a barstool, or would you prefer your favorite lazyboy?
Let’s face it: recumbent bikes just look slow. Maybe your goal isn’t speed, but you still don’t want to be held back by your bike if you change your mind. But never fear, despite their looks, recumbent bikes are some of the fastest you can get.
Think about it. On a regular bike, you’re sitting up on the saddle. That means the wind catches you square in the chest, increasing your drag, which in turn decreases your speed. Unless you commit to pretty extreme hunching, you can only reduce this drag so much.
On the other hand, that slow-looking recumbent bike actually has a huge aerodynamic advantage. In your comfortably seated, reclined position, the wind just slides right over your body. Rather than straining to make your body as small as possible, all you have to do on a recumbent is sit back and enjoy the ride.
(Oh, and like I mentioned before, the land speed record for a human powered vehicle was set by a rider on a recumbent bike, clocking in at almost 90 miles per hour!)
First it has to be said that, given their lower profile, cyclists riding recumbent bikes need to take extra precautions when riding among traffic, such as rear-view mirrors and safety flags. However, recumbent bikes are overall safer for some riders than traditional bikes.
If you have trouble balancing a bike, or regularly hit particularly uneven terrain, recumbents can be a big help. Your center of gravity will be closer to the ground, making you overall more stable. The first few rides on a new recumbent can be a little shaky, but as you get the hang of it, you’ll feel more balanced than usual.
Traditional bikes also have bigger risks of worse crashes. Braking too hard could send you over the handlebars, a sharp corner could cause a slide, and the distance you would fall is pretty large.
However, on a recumbent, things are different. You physically can’t send yourself over the handlebars, no matter how hard you try. There is also a much lower chance of wiping out on corners because of the lower center of gravity, and of course, if you do find yourself eating pavement, there is a far less distance to fall.
Perhaps the biggest perk of a recumbent bike is the sheer enjoyment they bring. Like I already mentioned, traditional bikes keep your focus on the road, maybe just a few yards in front of you. Looking any farther requires some pretty serious straining.
Recumbents, on the other hand, make it easy for you to take in everything around you. Whether you are cruising along a grassy path or crushing your neighborhood training route, life won’t just pass you by on a recumbent.
And something has to be said for the pure joy of riding a recumbent. The low-slung design harkens back to whipping around on go-carts or spinning out a big wheel. If your goal is to make cycling an everyday part of your life, getting a recumbent can be a wise first step.