How do you get started on a 2-wheel recumbent?

Discussion in 'Recumbents, Trikes and HPVs' started by Maz, 30 Jul 2007.

  1. Maz

    Maz Legendary Member

    I mean, quite literally, how do you get started? Do you push off with one foot (hand?) like with a 'normal' bike?

    [Beginner question, or what?]
  2. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    Salford, UK
    No worries maz..

    You sit in the seat, with your feet down (most people can either get both feet flat down, or at least on the toes).

    Put on foot on the pedal (most use SPDs or similar) and clip in if applicable.
    Get pedal to good position - which is similar to on an upright - just in front of top dead centre.
    Push on pedal, lifting other foot to other pedal.

    As with an upright, the momentum of the first push should carry you along until you have both feet on pedals and are turning.

    For beginners, the problem is adjusting to the different body position, and balance. As with uprights, some people take to it instantly, some take a few goes, some more. It can help to have someone hold the bike up, allowing you to get both feet up to start. It also helps if you force yourself to push off and lift the other foot gently, in a flowing motion, as opposed to a panicky movement, if you see what I mean. It can make a difference if you are have under- or over-seat steering, but again, people differ - often they falter because they aren't used to the steering, rather than not used to the pedaling position. And some bikes are just inherently more stable, just like the geometry on uprights. Finally, it's also a mental thing. A very few poeple are so determined to fail, or so nervous, that they can't relax into it.

    Also of course, the bike has to fit right - you need to be able to reach the pedals properly, and for me, I like to be able to get both feet flat to the ground to feel stable starting off - some seats are too high for my stumpy legs. I was chuffed to sit on the new ICE bike at the CTC rally, and find that it was low enough. Now I just need the money, and a bigger hallway...
    classic33 likes this.
  3. Having watched a few people crash mine when trying it out, here's a few hints:

    Before you do anything else, make sure it's in a low-ish gear - but not too low.
    Relax and put your shoulders into the seat - nervousness tends to make you tense up and lean forward.
    First time you try this, find somewhere with smooth tarmac and a slight downhill slope.
    Looking straight ahead, not at your feet or anywhere else, push off confidently and start pedalling smoothly.
    Keep relaxing - the only thing not relaxed should be your legs.
    When it's time to stop, remember that bikes have brakes. The levers are in the usual place, on the handlebars. (Funny how people forget this in the euphoria... or is it panic?... of finding they're actually riding a wierd bike)
  4. OP

    Maz Legendary Member

    Woa. Sounds like learning to ride a bike from scratch again. Must give it a try sometime (not sure how, though).
    Another couple of beginner questions...are recumbents generally faster than uprights due to better aerodynamics (+ greater leg power on the pedals?)? Do people generally choose recumbents cos they have back problems or just cos they want to/prefer them?
  5. derall

    derall Über Member

    Home Counties
    Same as a regular bike. Just put your foot on the pedal and push. But. Speed - you have to accelerate harder to get quickly up to a stable speed. See the other threads on stability. Also, on a regular bike you begin the pedal stroke with the crank just past TDC and push vertically, so you have just under 180 degrees of pedal stroke before you need to have the other foot on the pedal for the remainder of the stroke. On a bent you start the pedal stroke just before TDC and press horizontally so you have just over 90 degrees. That means you need to take a much stronger first stroke to get that bit of power in. On a bent you have to go clipless, not just to stop your foot coming off the pedal, but also because that first pedal rev has a lot of 'pull' not just 'push' as you get the other foot clipped in, often you need to pull well into the 'upstroke' before the second foot is in place. Seat height is also important - too high and that all important stabilising toe ain't going to reach the ground and you go over. The 'bent rider's equivalent of the clipless pratfall.

    Otherwise, wot Arch said.

    As to the aerodynamics, yes and no. A recumbent is just a bicycle where you're in a different position. But add a fairing and it's a whole different ballgame. There's a very long hill in Grampian called The Devil's Elbow. On an upright I can get up to about 65km/hr. On my faired StreetMachine I have no idea of my speed, as the 'puter only goes up to 99.9km/hr. For general cycling the fairing doesn't make much difference, and I tend to leave it off the bike around here as the weight doesn't justify it, especially on the climbs. You need to be going over about 25km/hr before the fairing gives aerodynamic advantage [Ballantyne]

    Leg power - okay, with a hard shell seat you can brace and push, but there's not much advantage over pulling up on the handle bars as you push down on the pedals as you do with an upright.

    I ride a 'bent for comfort. Big wide seat or skinny saddle. Easy choice.

    As to learning. I went to BikeFix in London, borrowed an SMGT and was riding up and down the street inside half an hour. Following week I tried again and was riding around the block. Ordered one and collected two weeks later. Rode it home. Through central London. On the Saturday before Christmas. Really, they're not as difficult as they look :thumbsup:.
  6. Some people have just sat on my bike and straightaway ridden it around the block with nary a wobble, never having ridden a 'bent before. Others fall off immediately (usually bending the handlebars) and give up. You might be the first kind of person.

    I think it's fair to say that it takes some practice to become confident, and to ride safely in traffic. Aiming for narrow gaps, riding at walking pace in slow traffic and following what's going on behind you all take some getting used to. Slippery surfaces and loose gravel can be particularly hair-raising.

    I don't agree about pulling the pedals round to get up to a stable speed. I do use clipless, and I do find I do this. But I don't have to do it, and I can quite happily ride my bike with ordinary pedals. I can be stable at a gentle walking pace - although it took practice to perfect this. (Trackstands I'm working on...)

    Generally faster due to aerodynamics. Most speed records (if not all) have been set by faired recumbents - although these are pretty specialized beasts that you wouldn't usually ride on the road! A general purpose, unfaired 'bent is probably as fast or faster on the flat, a lot faster downhill, but most find them a bit sluggish uphill. No-one seems to know why - or they don't agree why anyway.

    I think you'd get as many answers as there are recumbent riders. I like the comfort, and the variety of a completely different riding position from my uprights. And whether it really is or not, it feels fast!

    Whatever it takes, give it a go. You won't regret it, if you live (as I believe Mark Twain said...)
  7. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    Salford, UK
    Yeah, the relaxing, I forgot that. The more relaxed, the better.

    And some people are more natural than others. I'm in the 'others' category - I get nervous, tense, lose confidence... I may get there in the end, but it takes a while. But my late friend, Tom, he could just get on and ride anything, on gravel, wearing the 'wrong' shoes:


    This one was fun though, if a little impractical... ;) Ultra short wheelbase...

  8. squeaker

    squeaker Über Member


    Better aero, usually less power (something to do with recumbent position / blood flow?). Amuse yourself here.
    Yes! (1/2-hour on one of my 'bents improves my lower back if it is giving me problems), but you forgot no wrist pain and better head / neck posture - you can see where you are going despite being in a good aero position ;)
  9. OP

    Maz Legendary Member

    I never thought about that until now, but isn't your view of traffic so much more resitricted on a 'bent? I guess you use mirrors for rear viewing (and a periscope for the front! (joke))
  10. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    Salford, UK

    Not much. I have a mirror on my trike, but I don't rely on it entirely, I still glance over the shoulder and use my peripheral vision and hearing (and sixth spidey-sense type stuff).

    The only forward restriction is sometimes turning into a road with lots of parked cars - your feet edge out first. But I've never found it a huge problem. In traffic, or the open road, you just look further ahead perhaps so as not to get boxed in, visionwise, which is a good habit to have anyway...
  11. derall

    derall Über Member

    Home Counties
    On my SMGT, my head height is at about the same level as for a car driver, so visibility is no more restricted than for them.

    I have to use mirrors for seeing behind. I find I use my ears a lot more. Approaching junctions I try not to stop - don't want to put my feet down and try to get started off again, so I listen for traffic as I approach, trying to go as slow as possible until traffic is past and away as soon as the junction is clear.
  12. TimO

    TimO Veteran

    There was a recumbent trike (bike?) a few years back, I think it may have been Mike Burrows Cyclops, where the rider did get his view of the world via some sort of fibre optic system. It was used to reduce the overall drag of the cycle, rather than because he couldn't actually see behind (although he probably couldn't, due to the full fairing...)

    Anyone got a link to a site, or even a picture? I just have some very vague memories from an episode of Tomorrows World, but hunting with Google I can't find anything useful.
  13. I bought my two wheeled recumbent on an impulse and found it pretty easy to get on with from the word go. No harder to learn to ride than an upright really, although I did have a mirror mounted somewhere.
  14. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    Salford, UK
    You wanna pop into Commuting and mention that to bonj? He's got another bee in his bonnet....;)

    What sort was/is it?
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