Frequently Asked Questions about Recumbents

Why do you ride one?

In a word, comfort. The most common complaint from cyclists is getting a sore rear end. Recumbent seats are far easier to endure on long rides and the riding position puts no strain on the upper body or hands. Gone are the aches and pains in wrist, shoulders, neck and numb fingers. And many people find they enjoy a better view from the heads-up position rather than bent over staring at the road.

How fast are they?

The recumbent riding position results in a smaller frontal area compared to upright bikes and higher speeds are often obtained, especially down hills! When it comes to climbing, most riders find themselves going a little slower due to several factors: No leg or body weight over the pedals, and carrying a little more bike weight compared to uprights of similar quality. Overall, the downhill speed generally makes up for a little time lost on the upgrades. The current hour record for a time trial bike is about 35 miles while a streamlined recumbent has done over 47. The best speed achieved by a recumbent on level ground is 82.33 mph.

Are they dangerous?

While some people claim they are harder to see in heavy urban traffic, overall recumbents are safer due to their lower riding position. You have a shorter distance to fall, generally land feet first rather than head first, and the bikes will rarely flip forward under heavy braking.

Are they harder to ride?

Some designs are easier than others, but if you can ride an upright bike then you can ride a recumbent.

How much do they cost?

Due to lower production volume and the fact that most recumbents are hand built in the US, they are more expensive than equivalent road bikes. Entry level recumbents start around $500 with many in the $1000-1500 range.

What are the different styles?

As designs evolve, names are changing constantly but there are two main styles Short Wheelbase (where the pedals stick out beyond the front wheel) and Long Wheelbase (where the pedals are behind the front wheel). SWB’s have quick handling and are easy to transport but may ride harshly while LWB’s have slow steering and can be harder to carry but ride softer. There is no superior design, it all comes down to a personal preference. In recent years a new style known as Compact Long Wheelbase has become a popular compromise. The handling is nimble and yet there is no foot overlap with the front wheel.

Where can I ride one?

There are several shops in the Portland, Oregon, area that stock recumbents. See our links page for more information.