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Of all the bikes you might consider for a commute, a recumbent probably doesn’t enter your thoughts. But maybe it should.
What benefits will you enjoy with a recumbent commuter bike? And what are the downsides?
This article will tell you all you need to know about riding to and from work in a reclining position. It might inspire you to try something completely new!
Can I Use A Recumbent Bike To Ride To Work?
If you can ride it, you can ride it into work. You can definitely ride a recumbent bike into work, but how practical is it for commuting? Below are all the salient points.
Extra Speed Or Less Effort (Good)
If you get yourself into a more aerodynamic position on any bike, you’ll ride noticeably faster. It might only make a difference of 1 or 2 mph, but on a recumbent bike this benefit is magnified. Notably, the aero gains don’t come at the cost of comfort.
You can expect to ride around 30% faster on a recumbent than you would for the same effort on a road bike. That’s once you’re used to riding one.
Compared to other bikes, a recumbent will be significantly quicker, because your smaller frontal profile doesn’t have to push as much air out of the way. Of course, you’re not obliged to ride faster; you can save energy instead at the same speed as usual.
More Comfortable (Good)
A recumbent bike is more comfortable than a regular bike with triangular frame. This comfort comes from weight distribution. Rather than perching yourself on a relatively small seat, you recline into a larger seat with your back supported.
Plainly, you do not lean forward on a recumbent bike either, so you don’t place pressure on your hands and wrists like you might with other bikes (especially road bikes).
Video: Recumbent Bike Riding
More Distance (Good)
Closely related to speed and comfort is distance. If you’re planning a long commute, a recumbent may give you the confidence to take it on. You can move quickly, more efficiently, and cover a lot of ground in good time.
Weather Resistance (Good)
On a regular bike, you’re completely exposed to the elements when it’s windy and raining. The only defense you have is adequate clothing and fenders.
With recumbent bikes, you may be able to add a front fairing that acts as an aerodynamic windscreen and shields you from cold wind and some rain. A racing recumbent with full fairing will cover you completely.
Fun & Fitness (Good)
Never underestimate the fun factor in any type of bike. If you love riding a bike, you’re more likely to commute on it and reap the health benefits as a consequence.
The fact that a recumbent bike is more aerodynamically efficient doesn’t mean you’ll get any less of a workout. You burn a few less calories at any given speed, but you can get tremendously fit on one.
Depending a bit on your psyche, the extra speed of a recumbent may encourage you to push harder than you would on a regular bike. One way or another, you’ll capitalize on the unique properties of a recumbent.
Less Susceptible To Theft (Good)
Bike thieves like high-value bikes that they can sell on without attracting much attention. Some of them ride away on the bike they’ve stolen.
A recumbent bike attracts attention from passers-by, and thieves that have never ridden one are unlikely to attempt a getaway as their maiden voyage. Naturally, you still need to lock one up if you’re leaving it in an accessible place.
No Back Ventilation Or Backpack (Bad)
Because your back will be covered by the seat, you can’t get any air to your back on hot days or carry a backpack on any day.
You can fix a rack and panniers to a recumbent, so that’s a workaround for your luggage.
Less Visibility (Bad)
Although some sources state the opposite (mostly sources with a vested interest), you are less visible to other road users on a recumbent and have an inherently poorer view of traffic. You may feel vulnerable when you’re at bumper level with large vehicles.
Many recumbent riders take extra steps to increase their visibility by adding flags or multiple lights to their bike.
Less Agile (Bad)
If your daily cycling commute involves weaving in and out of traffic, you’re better off doing it on a regular bike. The average road bike or cyclocross bike is good for that purpose. Recumbents are less maneuverable.
Choose a recumbent if your route is simple and unobstructed, whether on the road or bike lanes and paths. You can’t make any deft sideways movements, pull bunny hops or bump up and down curbs.
Static Weight (Bad)
The weight distribution that makes your ride comfortable on a recumbent bike also has its downsides. It’s harder to climb steep hills, for instance, when you can’t shift your weight forward or stand up. You’re relying on pure leg power.
This inability to change position on the bike and maneuver it also makes a recumbent unsuited to bumpy off-road riding. The smoother the riding surface, the better.
Recumbent bikes are ideal for flat, smooth rides into work. They’re great for comfort, distance and speed.
Aside from the practical issues, recumbents are fun and comfortable to ride. Once you’re used to riding one, you’ll be hooked! Choose from touring or racing recumbents in two-wheel or tricycle forms.
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