Recumbents and all feet forward machines
Last night I bought and rode my first recumbent - an old bikeE CT 2.0, which is a 2-wheel LWB bent. I thought it might be interesting for others to capture some of my first impressions and questions on getting 'bent.
I've been riding road bikes for a few years now, but only really got 'into' riding mid-last year. Most of my riding is just commuting, which is about 180km per week, plus a little family and social riding on the weekends. As much as I like my job, I like to get to and from work as soon as possible, and usually average around 30km/h my roadies.
Over the last couple of months I've become a little intrigued with recumbents. I'd been thinking of requesting a Bacchetta for my 30th birthday this year, but the huge price tag and 'enough' (I must be getting close to s-1) other bikes in the shed made me think twice. However when the aforementioned bike turned up on Gumtree for $100, I got a very strong indication that bikeE, number 5, equals s-1.
The chap selling the bike is a touring enthusiast. He'd owned it from new and hadn't put many kms into it. I spent a lot of time chatting and not a lot of time test riding, but aside from being severely out of tune and the mesh backrest needing a minor repair, it was obviously an absolute bargain. Jumping straight onto a 2 wheeled 'bent was surprisingly easy. I thought I'd massively oversteer and squirrel all over the place, but staying conscious about relaxing the upper body got me following straight lines in no time.
After the major tune up, it was too late for a decent test ride. Instead, I took it out this morning for the commute. What I *should* have done first was chuck some SPD pedals on... To top it off, there was plenty of water on the path from overnight rain, which the front wheel flicked up to provide a lovely cooling spray, complete with exfoliating nodules. I also met one of my regular riding buddies (who I usually have to slow down for) after a couple of kms and after the obligatory look over the new machine, took off down the path. I only held him up a touch on the first hill, climbing at about 22km/h. Initially on the next couple of down hill sections and on the flat, we went about the same pace for the most part, but he started pushing me to speed up before long. He knew he was pulling away (deliberately, the cheeky bugger), but at each slow point he was surprised I was only 5-10m away. That said, on uphill sections where he was pushing, he pulled away fairly easily.
I was pretty disappointed with the average speed of the trip, noting there were lots of stops and slow points. To my buddy's exit it was just 25km/h. I got caught in a charity walk on the way into the city which decimated my average even further. The amount of spray from the front wheel was also quite surprising. Rolling up the hills wasn't quite as bad as most report when riding bent for the first time, but I never stand up on the pedals when climbing on a DF anyway. I can tell that my technique for putting power out is nowhere near optimal, but my legs feel like they've done a reasonable amount of work. Something I found myself doing far too often was trying to pull the handlebars toward me. It was hard to make myself push back against the seat to get leverage and my cadence was much slower than usual (not helped by using flat pedals). In spite of the apparent down sides mentioned above, I have zero fatigue from the hips up and I'm pretty sure I'd be happy riding for many, many kms without needing a break.
A couple of questions that I have for the more experienced recumbanteers is 1. how long did it take to unlearn all the DF habits, especially if you mixed DF and bent riding? 2. how quickly did you pick up the pace after your first few rides?
SPDs were fitted as soon as I got home last night. Again, my average speed was a bit slow on the evening commute - just over 25. However I was more conscious of spinning lower gears on the climbs toward the end of the ride.
This morning I tried to apply the lessons learnt to the whole ride and barely used the top gears at all. I still found myself grinding away on occasion, but I'm learning quickly on that front. I was happier with the average this morning, which was just above 27. On some of the faster downhill sections I was also able to hit similar speeds to my roadies. However I'm noticably slower to get up to speed. I'm wondering if shorter cranks might be the ticket - the stock ones are 170mm.
At this point I'm thinking I'll stick to the 'bent for a few more commuting days and start throwing DFs into the mix. I've got my mrs a little worried that the DFs aren't going to get used anymore...
Don't be surprised that you think of selling the DF bikes because your backside, back, neck and wrists are more comfortable riding bent and the speed doesn't really matter any more (you need to go more reclined for more aero advantage). You probably want to keep one DF to a: remind you why you like riding bent and b: for those short periods of time where your bent is being repaired. Alternatively you could go through N+1 in bents. I'm sure Poiter will be able to tempt you with Eileen the Lizard or some other contraption.
You don't need the best kit, you just need the best attitude.
Haha, no doubt you're right about more N+1 with bents...
However, I must confess that I cheated this morning. My mid-back is a little stiff and sore - the good kind of stiff and sore that comes with using new muscles. The ride home was hard work last night. I managed just over 26 average, and hit some speeds in the low 50s. But my legs were starting to complain big time on the last climb on the way home. I took my roadie this morning and rode it in anger, averaging 31.7 (including the slow ped dodging sections on Commonwealth Bridge and the Regatta Point footbridge) and topping out in the low 50s on some sections. It felt really strange for the first couple of kms, mostly due to being up so high!
In spite of the extra speed, you're right, I can feel the fatigue in my shoulders, hands and torso. What I'm most impressed with is being able to put out so much power on the road bike at the end of the week, in spite of feeling like I've been hammering it every day.
The bike E CT is not really a fast recumbent bike. Generally faster recumbents have the bottom bracket above the seat and the seat leaned back to reduce the frontal area. I did a google image search for "fast recumbent bike" and the images generally give the right impression. So if a bike E compares well with a road bike in terms of speed, it speaks well for recumbents in general!
Bike E could well have ergonomic advantages over a standard diamond frame (larger seat/ better body weight distribution on seat / something for the legs to press against) but the aerodynamic advantages would not be huge without installing fairings.
My 20c worth, happy if others disagree. Meeting other recumbent riders, chatting and riding their bikes is the best way to find out more and there is an active ozhpv group in Canberra, see http://www.ozhpv.org.au/stategroups/stategroups.html
Yeah, I'd agree. Not a hell of a lot more aerodynamic than a good position on a road bike. Being lower to the ground I have noticed less wind though.
From what I can gather on the BikeE, it seems to be similar to a Giro 20 or a Bella in terms of purpose. There are a few claims out there that the BikeE would be faster than 'regular' bikes (true) and 'even keep up with road bikes' (I guess that depends who's on the road bike...). Bent is more comfortable by a country mile and the BikeE is stupidly easy to ride. Should add another disclaimer, and that's that I've much to learn about riding bent.
For those interested in data, I've attached the Veloviewer charts of each ride. Both are morning commutes to work, with essentially no wind. GPS wasn't perfect on either run, but there was nothing too untoward in the output (like random cuts across houses). BikeE was 27.4 average, road bike was 31.7 over the same 18.1km ride. Ignore the estimated Watts, as the road bike is set up properly, but the BikeE isn't close.
Cheers. I had to leave the BikeE at home today, as I had a heap of stuff to carry to work. I need to set up some portaging paraphernalia behind the seat... Should be set to ride it for the rest of the week though.
Now come on, that's not fair... The better half has only just come to terms with this acquisition... My bike collection needs to keep a different sort of low profile for a little longer!
Back on the BikeE this morning and tried sticking with the middle hub gear for most of the commute to put less gap between ratios. I topped out at 39 descending, but had a higher flat riding cruise and similar climbing speeds. The last couple of descents I switched the hub and got up to 50. I overtook a lot more bikes this morning, and only fell behind one pretty fast guy on a roadie. Average was 27.4 and it felt like I could go faster. Hopefully I'll nudge closer to 30 by the end of the week.
On the way home today I discovered another hazard of riding a recumbent - people love to have a chat. A hazard, but not one I'll complain about. In spite of the chat, where I went easy to keep with the guy, I still averaged 27.4. The new shift strategy is almost certainly a winner.
It was not meant in a bad way....
You are comparing a poor recumbent against a DF.......imagine the gains on a 'better' low racer recumbent......
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It's cool. I didn't misread your intentions. I'd love to jump on a low racer and see what I could do.
The BikeE and the roadie are worlds apart. The former is almost 13kg, while the road bike is just under 9kg. The roadie also has STI brifters and a 10 speed cassette, which makes shifting more intuitive and provides a better range of gearing on the same chainring. The BikeE has grip shifters and an internal gear gub, with only 7 sprockets on the cluster, and use of the gear hub is essential to provide a sensible range of ratios of gears for the terrain. I've had this road bike for about 8 months and I've got it set up to fit like a glove. I've also ridden road bikes for about 15 years and of course other DFs since I was 4 or 5 years old, while I did just my 7th recumbent ride this morning.
28.4km/h average this morning. Looking at Veloviewer, I'm getting a lot more green mixed in with the amber on my personal segment positions, with most in the top 1/3 fastest of my attempts (on all bikes).
That's not hanging about.....
HAve you noticed lower effort for similar DF speeds ?
I saw 15-20% see HRM (effort) for similar speeds on a DF compared to my Musashi.... I love the fact you can ride for 200km and get an average speed of 27 - 28 kph with average HR of 120 - 130 bpm..... I cannot physically ride a DF that far due to my gimpy back.....not sure I would want to either due to the poor ergo - wrists, shoulders, neck, back & bum...
Hehehehe, gotta love recumbent efficiency !!
Hard to say. I haven't used a HRM on either.
Most of my riding is commuting ~18km to work (plus a couple more, depending on the route). I can reel out between 30-31km/h average (solo) on the DF with relative ease (noting this is also a commuting run, so there's a bit of stop-start, pedestrians and traffic to slow down some points). Going above 31 average takes either a tangible amount of extra effort or a fairly clean run. When I take it really easy and barely raise a sweat, my average usually ends up ~27-ish.
Last week, riding the BikeE felt like I was working hard and going nowhere. However my legs quite happily backed up for ~32km/h commuting on Friday on the DF. Yesterday and today have been much easier on the recumbent. This morning felt like a normal DF level of effort - well, in terms of the legs anyway. I have zero fatigue in my hands, arms and core. My middle back is a little stiff though, but again, not as bad as last week. While I'm on the bike, there's no soreness. I do have a weird feeling that I need to put a seatbelt on though...
DF = diamond frame bike
ie normal road bike
Masi Speciale CX 2008 - Brooks B17 special saddle, Garmin Edge 810
A much better nickname for conventional bikes than 'wedgie'...
Just to add a bit to the above, my calves, particularly my left calf, started to cramp up on the way home. Most disconcerting, but good to know they're getting involved.
Funny you say that. I didn't have any issues backing up for the rest of the week. Climbing isn't too much of a task and I'm getting up to speed reasonably quickly. My back's not sore from pushing back into the seat either. I made 28.4km/h average a few times this week and I'm not feeling like I'm putting effort in without being rewarded with speed.
To illustrate my progress, I've extracted some more data from Veloviewer, all from my commutes over the last 2 weeks (most recent at the top). The boxed rides are on the BikeE. I've got 2 rides on roadies in the picture where I was taking it easy - one was due to the path being covered in debris and the odd fallen tree, and the other because I didn't want to raise a sweat carrying all my stuff in.
I was hoping to eke out a bit more pace by the end of this week, but I had terrible runs traffic/pedestrian-wise. If it wasn't for those factors, I'd probably have nudged over 29 last night (Thursday). Saying that, I have the same traffic issues on the roadie and I still easily average over 30.
I've now got 3 weeks off work, so hopefully I can do some longer rides on the BikeE.
I did the first big ride on the BikeE today. Looped the major three Canberra lakes to notch up 101km from door to door. My average speed was pretty good, up around 27 after looping Tuggers, heading north past Scrivener Dam, up the Caswell path and hit Lake Ginninderra (around 27kph). Got a little lost on the weird system of paths around the lake, then found out how 'wonderful' the 'shared path' is to get back to Burley Griffin... I went anticlockwise around LBG and had to pass, from front on, 200-300 schoolkids on the path, not once but twice... But still got home in almost bang on 4 hours.
I can happily report that the bike was great. My legs are the only thing that got fatigued, only my right buttock is a little sore from the ride (dare I call it 'recumbutt'...? Another great bit of 'bent' jargon) and I feel I could do it all again tomorrow. I haven't done a century for over a decade and I remember how sore my hands, feet and backside got at about the 80km mark. I used to take 2-3 days off to recover my sore bits, even though my legs were fine.
Sounds all good to me. Especially on a BikeE.
Sounds like you are having fun.
I reckon the nice bit about a bent versus a DF is how much
more comfortable it is and the lack of sore bits.
So, it's been a few more weeks. I've hit two milestones today. Firstly, I've ordered a Performer Toscana from NESS. Secondly, I averaged (just) over 30km/h on the commute home today on the BikeE, even with a slow gauntlet out of Civic and a fair few stops on the way: http://www.strava.com/activities/126151324/overview
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