Advantages of Recumbent Bicycles
By Dawn Marcotte
, last updated November 29, 2011
Recumbent bikes have been in existence since the early 20th century. The advantages of recumbent bikes were not sufficient to keep them from being banned from competitive biking in 1934. The recent resurgence of interest in this style of bike has renewed interest in learning more about these very fast vehicles. Recumbent bikes are faster than standard bikes, provide excellent support for individuals recovering from injuries or with back problems, are safer than standard bikes and are more comfortable for longer trips.
Speed and Safety of Recumbent Bikes
Recumbent bikes are built lower to the ground and naturally produce less wind resistance than their taller counterparts. This results in faster speeds for these bikes. On a standard bike the rider uses almost half of their energy simply displacing air. This is not the case for a recumbent bike. The bikes allow a rider to sit comfortably in a chair like seat, rather than perch up high and have to bend over uncomfortably to pedal. A recumbent bike has the pedals positioned out in front of the rider rather than directly below.
The position of the seat also improves the safety of the bike. The seat is low over the crank shaft and far enough back that the rider is unlikely to be thrown forward if the bike is in an accident. The rider is facing forward with a clear view ahead and no tendency to look straight down. Riders on upright bikes spend a lot of time looking down both to cut down on wind resistance and because this is a more natural position from leaning over the handlebars. The lower position of the seat also means less injury if there is a fall since the rider doesn’t have as far to go to hit the ground.
Biking is wonderful cardio exercise that will help an athlete improve their overall health. However because of the way a rider must sit on an upright bike this activity can be very uncomfortable for those with back problems or a back injury. The use of a recumbent bike allows individuals who have suffered an injury to their back or torso to take advantage of this type of workout. A recumbent bike has a fully supportive seat, rather than the backless version of the standard upright bike. The angle of the seat also supports the upper body to allow the legs to be strengthened. A recumbent bike is a great way to strengthen the hips, legs and core muscles without straining the joints and give a cardio workout to improve overall health. This support allows anyone who has an injury or is prone to back problems to use the bike without fear of further injury.
Comfort of Recumbent Bikes
The seats for recumbent bikes support the entire torso and are far more comfortable to sit on for long distances. No matter how padded a standard bike seat is the support is limited to a much smaller area, creating pressure points that can become painful. Distance bikers who ride 50 or more miles at a time will benefit from this extra comfort. Individuals who are training for long rides and use a stationary bike may want to consider the recumbent version to take advantage of this additional comfort.
History of Recumbent Bikes
Recumbent bikes are not nearly as widely used as their upright cousins. They were invented in 1897 in Geneva and called the Normal Bicyclett. Changes and improvements were made over the succeeding 30 years until a recumbent bike set a world record for the longest distance in a 1 hour test. The Union Cyclist International (UCI) organization refused to recognize the record. They subsequently banned recumbent bikes from competitive races that they sponsored or recognized. This organization has set forth rules that standardize the length of races, how they are run and what constitutes a bike. This ban significantly reduced the number of people who were interested in a recumbent bicycle despite its many advantages. The upright bike became the standard in racing and subsequently in leisure biking.
The recumbent bike has become more popular in recent history as many people are looking for alternative transportation. A recumbent bike is easier to drive than a standard upright bike. It is safer and more stable as well. Recumbent bikes can be made with cargo space and used as a way to commute to and from work for many people. The recumbent bike also has competitive races for those who want to get involved in the sport. The recumbent bike will grow in popularity as its many advantages become better known.