Recumbent Bicycle for Touring? « Pros and Cons

Recumbent Bicycle for Touring?

Imagine this: you’re riding in a comfortable chair, and you can view the sky and mountains passing by. Isn’t that pure bliss? With recumbent bikes, you can easily have the best touring experience of your life. 

A recumbent bike lets you sit on it in a laid-back position while you enjoy the view touring across different parts of the city. This bike is preferred by riders due to ergonomic reasons and proportionate weight distribution over a large area. 

These bikes are unique, but not many people use them. However, they do offer decent benefits that normal bicycles don’t.

This is why many people wonder what it would be like to take them for touring. Would it be efficient or ineffective? 

To answer their questions, this article has all the pros and cons of recumbent bicycles for touring. 

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What Is a Recumbent Bicycle?

A recumbent bicycle is a unique bicycle that is often referred to as a bent bicycle. Unlike standard bicycles, a recumbent bicycle has the rider sitting in a reclining riding position. One has to lay back on the seat with both legs out in front of them while pedaling. 

Recumbent bicycles were first introduced in the late 19th century and became popular in the early 20th century.

The first well-known recumbent bike was created by French car inventor Charles Mochet in the 1930s.

These bikes are often available in two-wheel and even three-wheel trike designs. They are popular because they deliver a comfortable riding position. 

People invest in them mainly because of ergonomic and aerodynamic benefits. The large seat of the recumbent bikes is designed to distribute your weight across your back and butt instead of your arms, legs, or sit bones. 

A vast majority believe they are specifically for people with disabilities, but that is a huge misconception. They are, however, designed for everyone, and anyone can use them. 

Who Should Use a Recumbent Bike?

A recumbent bike is a type of stationary bike that allows you to pedal while reclining in a comfortable position.

Recumbent bikes make it a great choice for:

  • Someone who has back or joint pain
  • Seniors
  • Anyone with limited mobility.
  • Someone working out in hot weather
  • Cyclists with injury
  • Cyclists who want to fix their posture
  • Anyone looking for a new cycling experience

Pros of Recumbent Bikes

#1 Less Painful

They are known to reduce lower back pain as well as put less stress on your joints. This is because the reclined sitting position of the bike is meant to distribute the body’s weight across the back and butt. 

This also makes it easy to ride for a long time without getting tired or having sore muscles. This is especially beneficial if you take your bicycle for touring. 

Many of recumbent bikes even come with a lumbar support seat, which makes them ideal for people who have osteoarthritis or lower back pain. 

You can easily rest your hands on the handlebars, preventing your wrists from getting numb or sore. Lastly, they keep your neck in a neutral position which prevents it from getting sore. 

This is why this type of bike is mostly recommended for elderly or obese people. 

#2 Increased Aerodynamics 

Recumbent bikes offer increased aerodynamics because they have a low profile shape and riding pistons which produce less drag as compared to standard bikes.

This is also because a person’s body cuts through less air since they are seated in a horizontal position rather than a vertical one.

Therefore it has less surface area, which prevents drag, so you won’t have to use your energy to ride against the wind.  

#3 Efficient

Recumbent bikes are more efficient in terms of covering more ground in less time and allowing you to ride longer without growing tired or causing sore muscles.

These bikes are also good for touring as you can cover more distance using less energy. 

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#4 Comfortable

Recumbent bikes are comfortable because of the reclined sitting position they offer. The large seat of the recumbent bikes offers a lot of paddling and support for the back. Many of these bike seats also offer lumbar or neck support. 

Think of it as sitting in a reclining chair, but one that lets you ride. You won’t have any weight on your arms or your neck.

You can easily cover long distances while riding in a comfortable position. This makes it ideal for touring as well. 

#5 More Speed

They travel quite fast on straight roads and downhill as the air doesn’t have much surface area to push back on. 

The low center of gravity, as well as the aerodynamics, allows these bikes to go at the speed of up to 40 mph while going downhill. 

#6 Easy On the Knees

Many people kill their desire to ride a bicycle because of their knee pain. However, these bikes go easy on the knees and are quite ideal for people with joint pains. 

Recumbent touring bikes offer a comfortable sitting position that holds all of the body weight and puts less pressure on the knees when pedaling.

With them, you won’t have to hold all your weight on your knees, unlike with a standard bike.

#7 Stability

They also have improved stability because they have wide seats, and their riding position puts the body closer to the ground, hence lowering the center of gravity and causing increased stability.

This significantly reduces the chances of falling off and losing balance.

#8 No Pedal Strike

As they have bottom brackets which are raised above the front wheel, you don’t have to worry about the brakes hitting the ground while leaning for a turn.

This feature allows you to maintain speed even through rough corners. 

#9 Better View

Imagine laying on top of a bus roof and viewing the sky and the beauty of the world around you. These bikes offer that kind of experience since you will be seated in a laid-back position and have a full view of the surroundings. 

#10 Less Severe Crash

The recumbent touring bikes are closer to the ground, so even if you crash and tip over, you will have little distance to fall. Because of this feature, you have a less severe crash impact with them compared to a standard bike.

This means you won’t have any severe injury even if you fall because your human instinct will cause your feet to hit first rather than your head. 

#11 Cardiovascular Fitness

Recumbent bikes improve your breathing since you aren’t in a hunched-over position like on a standard bike. 

This is why it improves cardiovascular fitness. This is also a major reason why these bikes are used by people who are at risk of cardiac complications or other underlying medical conditions. 

Cons of Recumbent Bikes

#1 Less Maneuverable

Bent bikes have a large turning radius because of their increased length. This is also why they can’t handle unright turns. This can make it a hassle if you’re riding in a tight-spaced area. 

This is mainly why recumbent bikes are not recommended for daily commutes in the city where you constantly have to stop and go.

» Read my blog post about: Bamboo Bicycle Frame « Pros and Cons

#2 Expensive

Compared to standard bikes, they are more expensive because they are bigger and often need more material and technology to build. This is why they are a niche product and manufactured in many smaller quantities than standard upright bikes. 

Manufacturers can’t take advantage of economies of scale since it costs more per unit to build a recumbent bike.

So if you are someone who can’t afford them, you either need to stick with a standard bike or look for a used one. 

#3 Heavy

They are bulky. In other words, they are bigger than standard bikes and take up a fair amount of space. Recumbent bikes for touring also have a long wheelbase because they use more material to build which makes them heavier as well. 

The weight of an average recumbent bike is around 20 kilos. Meanwhile, the majority of touring bikes weigh around 12 to 15 kilos. 

However, there are some lightweight recumbent bikes in the market, but they are not recommended for touring or covering long distances. 

#4 Repair Parts

Normally they have standard parts, which include the drivetrain, wheels, brakes, etc. However, there are some proprietary parts that you will have to purchase from the manufacturer if they get damaged. 

These parts include the seat, steering parts, and racks.

You won’t be able to find these parts for repairs or replacement if they end up failing while you are traveling through a remote area or a developing country. 

You might have to consider getting your bike shipped back home along with you if you happen to fail at repairing it. 

#5 Bad For Riding Uphill

Recumbent bikes are heavier and bulkier, which is why it is a huge task to move that much mass when you’re climbing uphill. This will take more energy and force. 

When you’re riding a recumbent bike, you’re leaning back and can view the top of the hill, which can intimidate you while riding on climbs.

 Many of the riders find it tiresome to ride uphill slowly. 

If you’re an adventurous cyclist who loves taking risks, recumbent bikes might not be the best option for you. They’re not made for off-road biking or extremely bumpy courses.

#6 Numbness

They can also cause butt numbness, and many riders have complained of the same. This numbness can be caused by the lack of blood circulation or because intense pressure is applied to the butt area. 

Butt numbness is common for many bike riders. However, it is more common in recumbent bike riders as they stand up or lift their butt off the seat for a break like they can on a standard upright bike. 

#7 Expensive to Maintain

These bikes have some parts that are expensive to maintain, such as the chain is longer than the standard bike chain.

Plus, if you end up in a situation where you need to buy a new seat then you can expect to spend at least $100 to $200. 

#8 Mechanically Complex

They are built differently from standard bikes with more technology and this is why they are more mechanically complex. The complexity also depends on the design of the bike you have. 

Their indirect steering system is the most complex part because of the handlebars since they are not connected directly to the fork. These bikes use a form of linkage and tie rod to turn the wheels. 

This is most common in under-seat steering bikes, but it can also be applied on some over-seat steering ones, so the chain does not interfere with the steering system. 

All these designs are mechanically complex and hard to repair for a normal bike repair expert.

#9 Less Visible To Other Drivers

They are a bit hard to spot for other drivers because they are much lower and closer to the ground. This can be dangerous because the drivers can’t see you, and they are most likely going to end up hitting you. 

Due to this many of these bike riders install a flag that sticks up from the bikes, so it is easier to spot them. 

#10 Difficult to Transport

They are difficult to transport due to their technical parts and longer frame. You can’t fit this bicycle in a normal-sized car. A long wheel-based recumbent bike won’t even fit into a standard bike spot on a train or bus. 

If you want to fly with them to another destination, it’ll be hard for you to fit them into a standard bike box. This can also be quite expensive since you would have a piece of oversized luggage. 

#11 Exposed to Elements

You are more exposed to certain elements on the ground because of its low position. For example, you will need special riding gear to ride it in rainy weather since your helmet won’t keep the rain out of your eyes because of your leaned-back position. 

Riding recumbent bikes, your legs will also be exposed, so you would need rain pants that contain a seal around the ankles to keep your legs dry. 

The sunlight can also cause discomfort to your eyes, you would need sunglasses as well as a sunblock to keep your skin healthy. 

» You can also read my post: Titanium vs. Carbon Fiber in Cycling

FAQs

Can You Tour On a Recumbent Bike?

Yes. Touring on a recumbent bike can make your journey worthwhile since it requires less energy and less soreness in the muscles. Moreover, you can view the natural beauty while riding them because your head will be in a leaned-back position. 

Are Recumbent Bikes Good For Long Distances?

Yes, they are ideal for covering long distances in less time as well as taking less energy. 

Conclusion

Overall recumbent bikes are great for touring, they do have their fair share of pros and cons, but if you think you can handle the cons, ride them on your touring ventures

They’re great for exercise and you get to enjoy the comfort while riding as well. Even if they are a bit on the expensive side, the comfort they provide beats every drawback they have. Plus you don’t have to use much energy.

Therefore, if you are someone who prefers comfort over everything, these bikes are ideal for you.

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