Recumbent Bikes and Trikes FAQ:
Useful Information About Recumbents
Recumbents spark interest. On this page, you will find brief answers and interesting facts to the most frequently asked questions about recumbent bicycles and tricycles (also denominated as recliner bikes or laid-back trikes). You will also find some fundamental information in numerous press articles, some of which we have documented on our press review pages.
Frequently Asked Questions About Recumbents
You’ll be surprised. On a recumbent bike with a well-designed steering geometry, you can start riding in an instant and feel safe in a few minutes. No comparison to when you learned to ride a bicycle as a child. Look for a street without much traffic (and without many spectators) and just give it a try. For a more relaxed recumbent test ride, we recommend renting a test bike or trike from one of our dealers for a few days. For some beginners, a bike with an upright sitting position and above seat steering is more familiar for a start. In any case, try a more reclined seating position and an under-seat steering if you can after some time. It is also an advantage if the seat and handlebars both are adjustable.
You can easily get started with a vehicle like the recumbent trike HP Velotechnik Scorpion, as balancing on two wheels is a thing of the past with this stable tricycle.
Of course, dedicated race recumbents with an extremely low seating position for aerodynamic reasons will not be the right choice for beginners in everyday traffic. (Low racer riders usually claim the opposite)
On most recumbent two-wheelers as well as on selected trikes with a high seat position, however, you ride at approximately the same seat height as a car driver. The slightly lower sitting position compared to a conventional bicycle is offset by the better visibility of the recumbent cyclist. On recumbent bicycles with high seating positions such as the HP Velotechnik Streetmachine Gte, most riders even have a good overview of many car roofs in front of you. For additional attention and visibility in traffic, you can install the bright orange HP Velotechnik flag.
On a recumbent, you have a better view to the front and a much better eye contact with the drivers in their cars. From a psychological point of view, car drivers do not seem to feel as threatened by recumbent cyclists as they do by conventional cyclists, similar to what some pedestrians experience with horseback riders – on a recumbent bike you are on one level after all.
Recumbents are usually safer: The lower center of gravity allows many models to be braked more efficiently without the risk of the rider flying over the handlebars like when riding a conventional upright bicycle. The recumbent cyclist can quickly put his legs on the ground when coming to a stop. In case of a collision, the legs are much more resistant than hands and head, and the falling height is much lower when sitting on a recumbent bike or stable trike.
In fact, the rediscovery of the recumbent bike in the early 1970s in the United States was motivated by safety and security reasons. American scientists searched for more people-friendly bicycle concepts and developed the “Avatar Safety Bike,” the prototype of all “long wheelbase recumbent” known today. (Actually, this design had already gained some popularity in the 1930s in France and some other countries.) The history of recumbent development is exciting to read, for example in the book “Das Liegerad” by Gunnar Fehlau, published by Moby Dick Verlag. Or take a look at our press report section.
The posture of a recumbent bike is comparable to that in a modern car seat, while the posture on a conventional upright bicycle is more like sitting bent forward on a stool. Give it a try: A good recumbent bike seat is not like a hammock, but an ergonomically designed, adjustable back support. Many people who complain of back pain and disc problems on conventional bicycles therefore opt for a recumbent bike or trike, not to mention the comfort of its comfortable suspension. In the recumbent position, the pressure on the vertebrae discs in your back can be as low as only one-third of the forward-bent posture. Active riding strengthens the back muscles.
A good recumbent bike seat not only pleases your back. The urologist Prof. Porst advises to use a recumbent bike: “This bike has all the advantages of a normal bicycle with the additional advantage that it does not restrict the blood flow in the genital area”. The sports doctor and urologist Prof. Dr. Frank Sommer has conducted precise measurements: The recumbent bike seat is better than any stylishly designed conventional bicycle saddle. Do recumbent cyclists love longer?
Yes, a rider on an recumbent bike has slightly less aerodynamic drag than most cyclists on a road bike. With the same conditions and bike components he can therefore be a little faster – but above all he sits much more relaxed on his recumbent bike! Some low racer recumbents, specially designed for high speeds, as well as recumbents with an aerodynamic fairing, can even be very much faster. For example, an athlete on a good low racer with a rear fairing has about 30% less drag than a racing cyclist. Fully enclosed recumbents can be really fast. Amateurs, who reach speeds of more than 80 km/h (50 mph) in their faired race recumbents , cause only little sensation in the recumbent scene. The current recumbent world record for the 200-metre sprint is over 140 km/h (87 mph).
Yes. On short steep stretches, obviously, upright cyclists can outperform recumbent cyclists: with a conventional bicycle, you conquer mountains by leaving your seat and standing on the pedals. However, the strength in your legs is so great that you waste much extra energy in your arms clinging to the handlebars. On longer mountain sections, however, this use of many low-trained muscles is very strenuous: for example, Tour-de-France riders ride in a sitting position as long as possible and try to avoid standing up until the sprint at the end of a stage.
The recumbent cyclist has a somewhat contrasting approach: he conquers mountains with a very different strategy. The recumbent rider must downshift to maintain a good efficient cadence. Since he is supported in the ergonomic recumbent seat, he can exploit his maximum leg strength. Arms and upper body remain relaxed. However, the adaptation to the muscle strain during recumbent cycling requires some time of training.
No, if you take a closer look, you will see that most of the so-called short wheelbase recumbents (front wheel behind the pedals) are no longer longer and wider than a conventional bicycle. The Streetmachine Gte measures approx. 1.70 – 1.95 m with a wheelbase of 1.04 meters (like a trekking bike). The Grasshopper fx is only 1.60 – 1.89 m long and foldable. That’ not just to please the conductor in the train when you travel with your bike.
The most attractive way: sit on your bike and enjoy the ride. If you want to be further away, you can also transport HP Velotechnik recumbents by car, train or plane.
This is easy with our versatile folding recumbents like the folding recumbent Grasshopper fx or the folding tricycles Gekko fx and Scorpion fs.
Even commercially available bicycle racks often work on the car. Newer models now also hold the large frame tubes of 50 mm (2″), as they are now also commonly used for MTBs and city bikes. The wheelbase (the distance between the wheels) of our recumbent bicycles is similar to that of a conventional upright bike. The recumbent bikes themselves are not much longer than a conventional model. You can also simply hang your recumbent bike on a rear carrier at the back of your car. There are special transport solutions for tricycles, for which you usually need a trailer hitch/coupling.
On the train, you transport your short wheelbase recumbent bike just like a conventional bike. It is beneficial to protect the chain and the chainrings well with one of our chainring covers. The possibilities for taking trikes with you are somewhat more limited, especially in long-distance traffic. Find out more when you buy your tickets at the ticket counter or inquire in advance.
For the transport by plane, you need a stable shipping box, as we also use it for the shipment of our bikes to the dealer. Ask at the bicycle shop, they will be happy to help you and not have to take the waste cardboard to the recycling center. If you got the box: Remove the pedals, tie the handlebars crosswise to the frame and remove the seat if necessary. Be sure to register your bike as bulky baggage a few days before departure. Foldable trikes can also be carried by several airlines. If you need the trike for health reasons, mention this to your airline service agent, this can facilitate things enormously When using pedelecs/E-assist, remember to remove the batteries from the pedelecs as they are dangerous goods and must not be transported in passenger planes.
Of course you do. Especially when it’s raining. Then about as much as on a conventional bicycle. That is why there are excellent rain protection products, which also work excellently on recumbents. A good protection for your legs and lower body is offered by a Streamer which also keeps cold winds away from your body in winter.
That depends on the structural design. It is important that the suspension is isolated from influences from the driving forces. This is easier and more robust to achieve on a recumbent than on an upright bike, on which you pedal in the same direction as the suspension moves. It’s true: A good bicycle suspension doesn’t waste energy, you can even go faster. You can read more about this on our No Squat page. You can experience it very easily during your first test ride on a state-of-the-art recumbent bike or trike designed by HP Velotechnik.
Sure. Recumbents are made by hand in relatively small quantities, so the prices are slightly higher than comparable high quality conventional bikes. In addition, the ventilation of the seat is sometimes a problem, so that you can sweat quite quickly when driving sporty. Therefore, intensive testing with new materials and designs is carried out. One result is the Airflow air-permeable seat cushion made of multi-layer fabric for HP Velotechnik’s BodyLink hardshell seat. Especially horrifying however: At every family reunion the dear relatives always want to test ride … 😉
Did you know...
- that recumbents are by no means a new invention, but were supposed to replace the “dangerous” high wheeler cycles shortly before the turn of the 20th century?
- that in 1912 Etienne Bunau-Varilla applied for the first patent for a bicycle with a streamlined fairing?
- that since 1934 recumbents have been denied access to official cycling races of the UCI governing body “because of excessive speeds”?
This page is partly based on information from the Dutch HPV organisation NVHPV.
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