Recumbent Bicycles

Recumbent Bicycles have been around for quite a long time but even today, most of us wonder what these bicycles all about are and the actual usage of them.
The sitting position is the major difference on a recumbent bicycle, you will be sitting back on a full seat in a much relaxed position and the pedals of these bicycles will be arranged according to your changed posture.
The next question that pops into our mind is about this new posture. Most of are not quite sure if the new posture is good or bad and are confused about the ride quality with this different sitting angle.

Riding Angle

On a recumbent bicycle, you will be sitting on a long seat that has full back support, including neck. This posture keeps your feet in a horizontal position and your bodyweight is effectively distributed. The horizontal position helps the rider to achieve the lowest wind drag but also maintains the best riding angle for both back and legs.
The relaxed posture also ensures very good front view and the only difference from a traditional bicycle is that the rider should learn to manage the additional front length of this bicycle.

To judge the different seating angle on a recumbent bicycle, we need to know how the original diamond frame bicycles got their seating position. Traditional bicycles were developed during those days when horse riding was the major mode of commuting and the idea was to develop something like "wheeled horse".
This is why the sitting position on a traditional bicycle is very similar to the sitting position on a horse. Interestingly, the origin of "saddle", the name used to refer bicycle seats were originated this way.

We can observe that a horse saddle inspired seat on bicycles was not something innovative and there were not many studies about the level of comfort and aerodynamic benefits of this posture. It was at a very later stage that many athletes as well as bicycle makers decided to work on seating position and designs that are different from the original design.
The fastest speed record for a bicycle is achieved by a recumbent model and this shows the efficiency of these bicycles in terms of aerodynamics and energy saving.

Why Recumbent Bicycles Are Not Very Popular?

There are many people who believe that recumbent bicycles are relatively new innovation and this is why they are not very popular in the bicycle world. But these people will be quite surprised to know that recumbent bicycles are around for almost a century now and the lower popularity of these bicycles are associated with other reasons.
It was a French inventor who took recumbent bicycles for races, which was in the 1920s and this bicycle did exceptionally well in almost all races, thus winning more than two international titles. However, the regulatory authority of bicycle races, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), felt that it is unfair to allow a bicycle with aerodynamic advantage in races.

This resulted in a ban on recumbent bicycles from races and diamond frame bicycles dominated the racing sector ever since. However, this brought a prestige factor and status to diamond frame bicycles and recumbent were never considered as a great machine by youngsters.
The popularity of these bicycles was limited to a crowd that loved functionality over other factors. However, the crowd who realized the benefits of recumbent bicycles always used these and a many cult groups were formed all over the world.

Back To Fame

Many technology freaks continued with designing bicycles without any sort of restrictions and their intention was to build bicycles with lowest wind resistance and friction. Their innovations were not just limited to bicycles but they were attempting on designs of as many human powered machines as possible.
An association named "International Human Powered Machines Association" was formed and most of the recumbent bicycle makers are the members of this association. With their hard work, the demand for these amazing machines has tripled in the last two years. Today there are so many users for recumbent bicycles all over the world and the popularity seems to increase day by day.

Practical Aspects of Recumbent Bicycles

For many of us, the news about recumbent bicycles is very promising but the big question still remains unanswered. How practical these bicycles are? Are they useful for everyday commuting? How good are they on hilly terrain? Is it easy to maintain these bicycles? These are just a couple of common questions that pop up into our minds.

Hills and Recumbent Bicycles - The stories about the incapability of recumbent bicycles on hilly areas are partially true because the earlier designs suffered a major setback on such terrains. The reasons behind their incompetency was mainly due to the extreme weight (usually twice of traditional bicycles) and very long wheelbase. However, the short wheelbase and lightweight recumbent bicycles eliminated this concern even though the latest models weigh a little bit extra over diamond frames.
The weight difference is very minimal but the efficiency of modern day recumbent bicycles on hilly areas is almost as good as the diamond frame bicycles. The body on pedal advantage that diamond frame bicycles have on hilly terrain is compensated by the excessive force you can apply on the recumbent bicycle pedal due to the sitting posture.

Front Wheel - Another great doubt about recumbent bicycles is about the smaller front wheel because diamond bicyclists believe that the lower wheel causes frictional resistance. It is true that the smaller front wheel causes rolling resistance due to friction but this disadvantage is overcame by the better aerodynamics that a smaller front wheel provides.
As most of us have noticed earlier, wind resistance is the biggest challenge in front of a bicyclist and eliminating this is the major concern.
There are models with improved suspension system and features 20 inch wheels in both front and back. The improved suspension reduces the disadvantage of wheel size to a large extent, not to mention the improved aerodynamics.

Cornering - Leaning on curves is a major challenge on recumbent bicycles. Compared to the traditional designs, learning to lean on curves does take more time.
In fact, it is important to put practice for at least a month on cornering well before starting to use these bicycles regularly. Once you become familiar with the cornering, it is very easy to maneuver the bicycle in corners as well.

These are the major positive sides of recumbent bicycles. However, we can see that there not many recumbent on the streets even though the annual sales volume of these bicycles have improved dramatically.
There are a couple of downsides for recumbent bicycles which you should know before purchasing one.

Visual Appeal - Recumbent bicycles are for those people who prefer practicality over looks.
As our eyes are very familiar with the looks of diamond frame bicycles, it is very hard to create a good impression with recumbent bicycles.

Price - Since most of the recumbent bicycles are handmade with highest quality, they cost a lot. Of course you are paying for the quality but the high price tag is considered as a downside.

Lack of Test Drive Opportunity - It is very hard to find a recumbent bicycle for test drive as many regular bicycle sellers do not keep one in stock.

Apart from these minor downsides, recumbent bicycles are quite promising and are a great option for daily commuting.
The maintenance costs associated with these bicycles are not very high and most mechanical parts can be replaced easily.

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