After wasting way too much time reading about recumbent bikes, I decided to get a second-hand one. There are already tons of videos or blog posts about the pros and cons of recumbent bikes (is it faster? safer? can you climb?). So I thought I would write about the small and funny unexpected things I have discovered during my trips.
1. I can see the sky!
Obviously the main thing about recumbents is that you are in a nice laid back position. When people try the bike, one of the first things they say (even before they get the balance right) is that it is very comfortable. And I agree. But beyond this muscular comfort, you see the world from a different angle. Even when you push hard on the pedals, you technically cannot put your nose to the grindstone, and that's great!
Therefore, sunglasses are a must (yes, even in England). And by night, I also feel like you "enjoy" the lights of cars a bit more. (I even considered keeping my sunglasses at night, only for the cars with bright beams.) Classy! B-)
2. My pedals do not hit the sidewalk or the tarmac anymore!
On my upright bike, I have learnt to position the pedals to avoid hitting the ground, especially in downhill curves. I found myself doing that again on the recumbent, but that's of course pointless! The bottom bracket is much higher so there is nothing to worry about when riding downhill. I can concentrate on getting the best trajectory and harvesting kinetic energy.
It is also useful in a city, when riding on a narrow bike lane with a sidewalk next to it. It becomes possible to ride with the wheel almost touching the sidewalk, which is nice when overtaking traffic jams. I would not recommend relying too much on this feature however!
3. Kids love this bike
They are amazed. And they say it out loud, which is really cool! I have never had any problem with kids, they are always super enthusiastic. The bike is even a good way to start conversations that would have never sparked otherwise!
When they grow older they start becoming jealous, especially guys. It is not rare to have a bunch of jerks in a car tooting at you, which is sometimes slightly scary. But I have got used to it now.
4. I discovered unexpected muscles
I have read at many places that the muscles are used in a different way on a recumbent, but it was not clear how exactly. Of course, after my first long day trip, it became painfully clear. There is a small muscle in between the butt and the back that does get used a lot. The day after, sitting down and standing up can even become complicated projects.
I am not quite sure if this muscle actually contributes to the pedalling effort or if it is more the equivalent of saddle soreness, but one thing is clear: I am building it up!
More importantly, the great news is that the rest of the back is absolutely fine - the riding position feels so natural that is not a surprise. And the best thing overall is probably the arms, wrists and hands. They are not used at all! That makes a big difference compared to my upright bike, where they are the first body parts to be sore.
5. It's a fine city bike too
My plan for this bike was to do long distance trips, but I also end up using it in town, to go to work or to the shops. It just works fine like any other bike. It is not really harder to park it, I can put stuff on the luggage rack, it has got lights, and so on. Of course it takes time to get used to the riding style, but I am now happy to say that I find it quite natural.
So: just go get one!