Recumbents and all feet forward machines
Well, Iâ€™ve been riding my recumbent for a few months now, gradually getting back into riding on a regular basis after a break of too many years. Until last weekend my riding has been alone, but on Sunday morning (Motherâ€™s Day), I joined a Bike North ride from Hornsby in Sydney to Cowan (the Pie In The Sky cafÃ©). I have ridden in groups quite a bit years ago, but this would be the first time on the recumbent. It was going to be interesting to see how it would be to mix it on a different machine. There was a group of around seventeen or eighteen riders at the start. Some serious looking machinery and very strong looking leg muscles. I was the only recumbent (no surprise there), but there was one greenspeed trike. We were split into three sub-groups, Fast (the province of the likes of sogood, mikesbytes and their ilk), a Medium group which contained the majority, and a Slow group. As this was my first ride, and unsure of the pace expected, that was my spot.
We were a group of about seven, headed off under the guidance of a leader, with a sweep rider behind us to scoop up anyone who fell off the back. Riding in a bunch gave me a good view of the backside of the rider in front, but not much else. I was also worried about collecting someoneâ€™s leg with my front chainrings. It was more comfortable to stay to the side of the group, or move to the front, which was easy as the pace was pretty slow. Coasting along on the flats, the lower drag of the recumbent was obvious, as I could very easily close on the leader, who seemed to maintain a position about 100 metres in front of the main group. Any slight downhill and I had to brake to stay behind him. This was slightly frustrating, as I knew I needed all the momentum I could to get me up the other side. And there were some decent hills ahead. Hills are not my forte. Recumbents are not known to climb well, but the real reason is fifteen kilos of unnecessary ballast and a lack of leg strength and fitness. I can get up them, but it is a slow, granny gear grind. I expected the group to sprint off at the first decent climb, leaving me in the clutches of the sweep. Thankfully, this didnâ€™t happen, but there was no way I could keep up with the leader on anything more than a short climb. I was the first to arrive at the halfway coffee stop (hah!), although I certainly wouldnâ€™t have been if the leader hadnâ€™t stopped a few times to let the group catch upâ€¦ Pretty much the same on the return leg as well.
I really enjoyed it. Group rides are lots of fun. Recumbents work in pretty well with conventional bikes, but being in a tight group can be a bit claustrophobic. They are definitely faster on the flat and going downhill. Just need to work on tuning up the engine for the uphill parts.
Here's a photo of the beast in question
So the old Bentech went well eh? Hmm. I've just been speaking to Flying Furniture and was informed that home made bents never go any good and that people aren't satisfied and that I should spend three grand on a new Barchetta - yes, the Barchetta would be lovely but I'd also explained that I spent all my dosh on the Black Beast and was looking at saving every cent I could. Ah well. I'll waste time and money building my brute, then wind up buying a new one some day.
Glad it worked for you. Any thoughts on how the Bentech would go with two equal sized wheels?
Thanks, but I think you've mis-placed me. I would be better placed in the medium group.
Bianchi, Ridley, Montague, GT, Garmin and All things Apple
That's a shame, I quite regularly ride with Bike North and their Pie in the Sky ride is one of my favourites so if I hadn't been busy on Sunday I would have been on that ride too and could've had a good look at your recumbent. My new 'bent should be arriving at some point this week, so there's a good chance of you having some reclined two wheeler company if you go on more Bike North rides
Yeah, I'll be a young gent out for spin in my armchair!
I'll definitely be working on the hill climbing, I'm told that 'bents typically use the muscle groups a bit differently to uprights and it can take a while to adjust and regain your previous climbing ability. I reckon it'll be worth the effort for the descents, with a considerably more aerodynamic bike with higher top gears I should routinely beat my current top speed
Speaking from a total lack of personal experience ...
The recumbent websites all talk about bents using a different set of muscles and some talk of taking some months or longer to develop those muscles. Once developed though, the big difference is that you can not stand and sprint up a hill. However, I'd have thought that on a long hill, a bent would be better because it's a bit more efficient in the way you use your body.
Of course, it probably depends on the machine ... and the ability of the rider ... and the quality of the chardonay in the drink bottle
you lot are going to have me spending more money real quick aren't you
For a start, your body weight would be below your pedals when you go up a hill, so no gravity assistance at all.
Gravity never assists you going up a hill, quite the reverse
Seriously, there is no such thing as gravity assist from standing on the pedals. It makes it easier for you to apply a large force but you're still doing all the work yourself.
You could get a gravity assist from the gravitational attaction from the rider in front, but you'd be hard pressed to notice it even if they were very overweight and your following very closely...
Hehe... Your first statement is quite correct. Gravity doesn't assist. But I am not sure about the second statement. It's a question of your frame of reference isn't it?
Funny you should mention barchettas. As we were riding back yesterday, a motorbike pulled up alongside us and gestered me to pull over. I thought something had fallen off my bike. No, seems the rider was a recumbent rider as well, and fancied a chat. What bike did she own? A Barchetta. A bike I too would love to own, and may yet one day. My bentech was a cheap foray into recumbents, and yes, I'm happy with it. Probably will be until I manage a ride on a barchetta.
In theory, it should go slightly better, as the rolling resistance would be less. In practice, I doubt it would be noticeable. It wouldn't be hard to do, but take a bit of redesign. Putting a bigger front wheel would mean rejigging the geometry to keep the steering rake and trail the same. This could be done by moving the steering head forward a bit and lengthening the wheelbase (which would also help to avoid wheel strike). It would also lower the seat a little, which would be good, as the seat on my bike is fairly high. All easy enough to do.
If I was doing mine again, I'd probably not bother with the angled boom tube. Making it straight would be simpler, and having the bottom bracket a bit higher wouldn't be a problem.
Putting my physicist hat on for a moment, the only way you can extract any work (energy/power) from the weight of your body is if you move downwards. When your bike's going up hill you can do this briefly during part a pedal stroke, but you're going to have to push your body back upwards even further elsewhere in the stroke to end up back where you started relative to the bike by the end of one complete revolution. This means you can 'borrow from gravity' for brief boosts which might enable you to keep the pedals turning at higher torque/lower cadence than you could otherwise, but you have to pay it back (with interest) each stroke.
Incidentally, it's possible for a recumbent cyclist to muscle up a hill in a high gear somewhat like a standing upright cyclist by pushing hard against the seat, but without the natural limit on the applied force of rider weight plus arm strength a strong rider would put their knees at serious risk by doing this. There's no advantage anyway as unlike the standing cyclist the mashing recumbent rider would still be in the same position using the same muscle groups so they're better off sticking to spinning which is generally more efficient.
The fact that you use the same muscle groups all the time on a recumbent does make a difference. I've been surprised to realise just how much you move around when climbing on a DF - hands on hoods, hands on top bar, forward on seat, back on seat, standing.... all helps to shift the load around. I always knew that if I was climbing seated, I had an extra surge available for a steep bit by standing. On the recumbent, when I start a climb, I'm committed to finishing it the way I started without any let up. It really does force you to concentrate on spinning effectively and at a pace you can maintain all the way.
I'm looking forward to getting some first hand experience to see what recumbent hill climbing is really like. I almost never stand on my upright and tend to spin at 90-95rpm pretty much all the time anyway so I'm hoping I won't find it too big a change. While I don't stand I am aware that I do vary my position and pedal technique to engage different muscles and it'll be interesting to find out to what extent I can do that when out for spin in my armchair
Latest ETA for the armchair has it in my possesion on Friday or Saturday morning, in time to take it for a spin this weekend
Oh goody. Riding over for a barbie?
What if you are in too high a gear? Would you have to get off the ride, lift the rear wheel for the gear change?
To quote Tri-Sled, an Australian manufacturer of recumbents:
There are plenty of other sites that can be quoted, all with similar verdicts and not all of them commercial sites. How about we put to bed any arguments about which is better - they are at best irrellevant and at worst, mischevious. Recumbents provide a different approach to human powered vehicles. End of story. IF you want to race, the UCI declared in 1934 that thou shalt use a diamond framed bike - this has resticted 'normal' bike development to that area but for those willing to step outside that restriction, there are a lot of interesting alternatives.
Richard's pretty much right, based on my brief test ride experiences it's much like a DF:
1. Remember to shift down when stopping
2. Position one foot on the pedal.
3. Push on the pedal (firmly, my biggest problem was not committing fully to the first stroke) to get moving.
4. Put the other foot on the pedal and ride away.
There are some variants to this technique, for example some (provided they're using clipless pedals) will pedal one-footed for a few revolutions before trying to bring up their other foot. The most important point is step 1.
If you forget step 1 then you might be able to use brute force to get going anyway, as on a DF. However 'bents typically have lower stabillity at ultra-low speeds because of the limits on how much you can use weight shift to help balance, so there's a greater chance of having to take the humiliating measure of getting off the bike to change gears.
Now, a 'bent with hub gears could do away with step 1 and any danger of having to get off the bike to change gears (they can shift while stationary), but it'll be a long, long time before I could afford a Rohloff...
Hub gears would address the hideously long chains too - the overall distance betwen pedals the drive cogs would be the same, but you wouldn't have to carry and control the extra chain to handle the derailleurs.
On a DF bike, we normally start off from a standing position, so that first pedal stroke is combined with lifting yourself onto the seat and gravity helps. Starting a recumbent is equivalent to starting a DF while sitting on the seat. A little bit harder. When I first got my bike, I really had to start in almost bottom gear to get a clean start. As I've become more familiar with riding it, this is becoming less critical. It's now pretty much the same as it was on a DF.
Another trick to make your starts smoother is to turn the front wheel very slightly towards the foot you have on the ground. When you push off on the pedal (firmly, as hotdog noted), this will bring the bike smoothly upright. I found if I didn't do this, I always got into a big wobble for the first couple of pedal strokes.
The same way as a loaded touring bike. Remember to change down before stopping.
Hill climbing on a recumbent is similiar to a loaded touring bike. (I've ridden both). Drop down to a decent low gear and spin.
I've noticed that there are some differences in leg muscles being used. Also in cold climates, gravity does not assist the blood flow to the feet and in icy climates the danger of frostbite to the toes is increased on a recumbent.
I'm seriously looking at a bent myself to alleviate arm and leg issues. Riding a loaded touring bent sounds like fun to me.
Something like this, this or this? (Pictures are from the Photo Tribute to the Fully Loaded Touring Bicycle page)
Probably more comfortable over long distances than this, anyway.
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