Recumbents are gaining in popularity, you might have seen one around the City, you might even have had a chance to ride one, there are a few members of the campaign who ride them.
Regular readers of www.velovision.co.uk will know what recumbents are about, but some of you may not. The following is an article from momentum magazine on recumbent culture.
For the average cyclist, recumbent riders can be hard to figure out. Perhaps even a bit scary. The stereotype is that theyâ€™re bearded, late middle- aged, and know more about Linux than the average person. Up until very recently this was quite accurate. Fortunately for the recumbent community and cycling as a whole, this clichÃ© has started to fade.
â€œNowadays riders come from all walks of life, from farmers to doctors, plumbers to lawyers. Oh sure, youâ€™ve got some genuine geeks, but they are becoming the exception, not the rule,â€ said recumbent rider Denny Voorhees.
This swing of the pendulum has to do with the evolving designs of the bikes themselves. Short wheelbase recumbents with matching 650c or 700c wheels (often called highracers) are becoming quite popular. These bikes donâ€™t look quite as goofy to the average rider and have eliminated some of the geek factor. The name â€œhighracerâ€ is a bit misleading as not all of these designs are meant for performance. Big-wheel recumbents have also become quite popular in touring and commuting circles; their wider tire selection and ability to better roll over road imperfections is appreciated.
Not all recumbent riders are out there begging for acceptance. Certainly a good portion of the recumbent population feels slighted by the mainstream and is striving for acceptance. However, more still are perfectly content with their outsider status. In fact, this may be what attracted them to recumbents in the first place. Many recumbent riders are forward-thinking people. Theyâ€™re what marketing people in the tech industry like to call â€œearly adopters.â€Â
â€œWhen you find another recumbent rider, you know youâ€™re in for an interesting time,â€ said science fiction author Dr. David DeGraff. â€œThis is someone who doesnâ€™t have conventional views. They wonâ€™t be afraid to express an opinion, especially one that goes against the popular notions.â€
Recumbent riders are usually a very social bunch. True recumbent addicts are known to travel a thousand miles or more for a weekend rally hosted by a major recumbent dealer or manufacturer, and once theyâ€™re there youâ€™re just as likely to see them discussing their machines over a beer as you are to see them riding. If you listen in on these conversations the most popular topic is likely to be what bike or trike theyâ€™re going to buy next.
Many of the most vocal and knowledgeable recumbent owners have more than one bike. Actually the word â€œfleetâ€ could be a more accurate word to describe their recumbent collection.
â€œI think, as a recumbent owner, that thereâ€™s an incentive to own a lot more bikes than when I owned exotic road bikes because road bikes are constrained within such narrow design parameters, whereas recumbent design is all across the map,â€ long-time recumbent owner and rider, Don Clore said. â€œCycling devotees can wax ecstatically and debate vigorously the nuances of one builderâ€™s geometry versus anotherâ€™s, but in fact, there is very little difference ultimately. Recumbent designers donâ€™t have to obey any authority when designing the bikes. They are limited by physics and their imaginations, rather than cycling governing bodies like the UCI.â€
It is certainly true that there are so many variations on the recumbent bicycle today that itâ€™s almost difficult to describe to someone what a recumbent is. This can be intimidating to a prospective recumbent dealer or to the first-time recumbent buyer. Recumbent bikes and trikes are a major investment and buying one often requires weeks, if not months, of research. If youâ€™re a cycling enthusiast to begin with, itâ€™s easy to get sucked in. Recumbent cyclists are fairly evangelical as a rule and once you start poking around the very active recumbent websites and forums, itâ€™s easy to be seduced into their friendly, quirky, and occasionally smug world.
One recent phenomenon that is attracting more people into the recumbent fold is the growing prominence of recumbent trikes. The three-wheeled â€˜bents offer all of the comfort of a two-wheel recumbent while eliminating the awkward training phase that a first-time recumbent rider usually has to go through. Weâ€™ve all heard horror stories of people buying a recumbent bicycle only to get it home and find that they just couldnâ€™t adapt to it. You donâ€™t hear that about trikes very often. Of course there is a substantial performance penalty but with the introduction of higher performance â€œmainstreamâ€ trikes this drawback is being lessened somewhat. Reduced trike prices are also attracting more and more first-time buyers to three-wheelers. Lastly thereâ€™s the fact that, professionally speaking, theyâ€™re a freaking blast to ride!
Overall the recumbent segment is getting younger; as â€˜bents get lighter and faster, theyâ€™re attracting more young and fit riders. Comfort is still the primary reason for making the jump but itâ€™s not uncommon to find a young rider who has switched to increase his or her speed. The latest generation of lightweight carbon-fibre recumbents are at least respectable on the hills and are much faster on flat ground than the average road bike. And loudmouths are right about that 1934 ban thing. With equal riders, the average time trial bike doesnâ€™t stand a chance against a race-specific recumbent. Of course the meat and potatoes of the recumbent market is still the more conventional multi-purpose bike. Recumbents can do just about anything a good â€œconventionalâ€ bike can do. Theyâ€™re super comfy for cruising along on bike paths, they allow you to wear your regular clothes more comfortably if youâ€™re a commuter, and they canâ€™t be beaten for touring. In fact it seems that the cycling industry as a whole is gravitating towards the recumbentsâ€™ strengths. Touring and commuting are two of the fastest-growing segments of the industry.
If youâ€™re interested in learning more about recumbents, donâ€™t be afraid to ask your local recumbent rider. Most are very willing to share their experiences and maybe even give you a test ride. Just be aware that some of them get asked a lot of questions and may not be interested in a prolonged conversation. There are plenty of places on the web to read more about recumbent bikes and trikes. Be careful â€“ you might just get sucked in.
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