Why recumbent bikes?
Recumbent bikes are bicycles where you stand almost lay down without putting any pressure to your wrists. The back of the rider is supported and the rider's legs extend forward to pedals that are at about the same height as the seat.
Steering is made using a handlebar in front of the rider, or under-seat steering using a handlebar under the seat that extends to the sides. The wheels are often smaller and/or farther apart than on an upright bicycle.
They also have the great advantage of reduce the wind resistance as well as being very comfortable. Recumbent hold the world speed record for a bicycle and were banned from international racing in 1934.
Back when I suffer severe wrist injuries I searched for a way to start pedaling again without harm my wrists which were still very fragile. I have started with a static recumbent bike but I missed the open air and the wind on my face.
Then I started to search for any type of bicycle that do not put pressure under my wrists and I found out recumbent bikes!
This kind of bike it is not very usual here in Portugal but it is very common at countries like US, Germany, Nederland, France, Czech Republic and at many others.
Fast recumbent bike viewed from behind
Many people still think that recumbent bikes are just ready for asphalt roads and flatlands. But this could not be more far from the true as you can confirm in the next video.
Mountain Bike Recumbent Downhill
History of Recumbent Bikes
Recumbent bicycle designs date back to the middle of the 19th century. A couple were patented around 1900 but the early designs were unsuccessful.
Before the shape of the bicycle settled down following Starley's safety bicycle, there was a good deal of experimentation with various arrangements, and this included designs which might be considered recumbent. Although these dated back to the 1860s the first recorded illustration of a recumbent considered as a separate class of bicycle is considered to be in the magazine Fliegende Blätter of September 10 1893. The Challand designs of 1897 and the American Brown of 1901 are both recognizable as forerunners of today's recumbent.
On 1 April 1934, the UCI published a new definition of a racing bicycle that specified how high the bottom bracket could be above the ground, how far it could be in front of the seat and how close it could be to the front wheel. The new definition effectively banned recumbent from UCI events and guaranteed that upright bicycles would not have to compete against recumbent. For all intents and purposes, the ban is still in effect.
The UCI ban on recumbent bicycles and other aerodynamic improvements virtually stopped development of recumbent for four decades. Although recumbent designs continued to crop up over the years they were mainly the work of lone enthusiasts and numbers remained insignificant until the 1970s.
While developments had been made in this fallow period by Paul Rinkowski and others, the fathers of the modern recumbent movement are usually said to be Chester Kyle and particularly David Gordon Wilson of MIT, two engineers working in the USA.
A number of records are recognised, the fastest of which is the "flying 200 m", a distance of 200 m on level ground from a flying start with a maximum allowable tailwind of 1.66 m/s. The current record is 130.36 km/h (81.00 mph), set by Sam Whittingham of Canada on a fully faired Varna Diablo front-wheel-drive recumbent lowracer bicycle. The official record for an upright bicycle under somewhat similar conditions is 82.53 km/h (51.29 mph) set by Jim Glover in 1986 with an English-made Moulton bicycle with a hardshell fairing around him and the bike.
56.64 mph (91.15 kph) on a Recumbent Bike
Links to Recumbent bikes manufacturers
- AZUB - Made For Having Fun
Very fun recumbent bikes from Czech Republic. (the ones on the recumbent downhill video)
- Bacchetta bikes
High standard performance recumbent bikes.
- Bentech bikes
Build-It-Yourself Recumbent Bike Plans.
- Cycle Genius
Bikes you want to ride at prices you can afford.
Italian manufacturer of very low-cost recumbent bikes (from 585€).
- Linear Recumbents
Linear recumbents has been making perhaps the most comfortable and relaxing recumbent bicycles available in the America.
- M5 Lightweight
M5 is established in 1983 and is therefore one of the oldest recumbent companies in the world. (the ones from the World's fastest bicycles video)
- Nazca Ligfietsen
Very comfortable recumbent bikes from The Netherlands.
- Optima Cycles
High quality recumbent bikes also from The Netherlands.
- RANS bikes
They started to built Sailtrikes in 1974 and they grow to became one of the world leaders in recumbent bike and kit plane industries.
- Rapto bike
RaptoBike is a young Dutch company that focuses on building qualitative yet affordable and practical recumbent bikes.
- Rotator Recumbent
Quality recumbents made in California. Several models both in chromoly and Titanium.
- Slyway Projects
From Italy comes this great project which is guided by a steady and intense passion, a powerful attitude toward innovation, design and quality.
Designed and manufactured in Germany for your personal comfort.
- Turner Recumbents
With over 30 years experience in recumbent bicycle manufacturing, Turner it´s now a worldwide known company.
- Varna Bicycles and Tricycles
Varna also build handcycles which give people with disabilities an opportunity for physical activity, freedom, health and happiness.
- Volae Recumbents
The future of traveling is here today with the NEW VOLAE ES frames.
Built your own recumbent bike...
Did you ever thought about building your own recumbent bike?
Now you can... you just need some wooden craft skils and some tools. It is known that wood can be one of the best materials to built a bicycle. Wooden bicycles have been around since bicycles were invented.
Now you can have your own recumbent bike made out of wood - find some plansets from James Robinson who have designed several wood recumbent bikes, all built from ordinary construction lumber.
You can buy those plans through his site.
Recumbent Bike - Road Downhill
William from N on March 01, 2020:
claire de valero on March 19, 2019:
I am wanting ti explore a recumbent bike which supports a damaged spine which needs to lie down. where can I try one? TQ9 5FB
Recumbent Bike Enthusiast on April 17, 2010:
That video is awesome too, the "56.64 mph (91.15 kph) on a Recumbent Bike" is insane
Recumbent Bike Enthusiast on April 17, 2010:
Very cool, I ride, live, and love recumbent bikes. The are so fun to ride. Great article.
Glenn Frank from Southern California on August 09, 2009:
Very good article. I bought a recumbent trike, not because I was injured or unable to ride a traditional bike... but because it is just fun to ride and have been loving it. Check out my recent hub about my trike:
I also have a youtube video about my commuting to work on my bent trike...
kea on May 25, 2009:
I've always thought recumbent bikes were silly, but I see how they would be useful if you are injured. Great article. I did a triathlon once and saw a guy trying to figure out how to mount his recumbent bike in the transition area!
Brian S on February 11, 2009:
Thanks for the tips. I'm researching the brands you recommended and it looks like Cycle Genius is the winner. As a beginner, cycle genius hits my pricepoint pretty well. I'll upgrade later.
The Nazca Ligfietsen look awesome but I don't think they are available in US yet. If you know of a place on the web where I could order one, please let me know.
Ricardo Nunes (author) from Portugal on February 09, 2009:
Hi Brian, thanks for passing by! You`re right, recumbent bikes can be somehow addictive eheheh.
Choosing a recumbent bike is not an easy task and you got several brands who delivery high quality and fast bikes. I guess the money you are willing to spend is also going to be an important factor on your choice and of course esthetical... As I understand you`re from US, so I would recommend you Bachetta or Rans as the better choices (a bit pricey though) or even Cycle Genius as a more affordable option. But before you make a final decision I would advise you to experiment different kinds of recumbent bikes (you`ll find some of them having too much of a "racing" riding position). Personally I prefer Nazca Ligfietsen models as they are really ergonomic and comfortable (but they are from The Nederlands).
Hope this have helped you, if you need any other advise feel free to comment back or contact me through the contact link on the top of this hub ;-)
Brian S. on February 08, 2009:
I am just starting to get into recumbent bikes. I can already feel this hobby (obsession) taking a hold of me. What recumbent bike would you recommend for a recumbent beginner?
I have done lots of upright riding, both off-raod and on. I'm looking for a starter's recumbent that will last and get me some speed.
Thanks for the great hub and any help on this one.
SoulRider on September 06, 2008:
I know that Ecobent recumbent and the reason it is cheap is because it is lousy and very bad equipped. I would not recommend it at all nor even for beginners.
AuraGem from Victoria, Australia on January 04, 2008:
Adore this article! I have only seen a couple of recumbent bikes here in Australia. I had no idea what they were called. Adore bikes! Yet I have only ever had one ride on a superbike! It fulfilled a dream to ride a Bluebird! The experience was awesome! My first ride and yet it felt natural! Probably will never get the chance again! Can't even afford to buy a pedal bike these days. I would love a mountain bike. So keep writing bike hubs and let me dream!