Why do recumbents seem so slow up hills?

Discussion in 'Recumbents, Trikes and HPVs' started by bof, 1 Oct 2007.

  1. bof

    bof Senior member. Oi! Less of the senior please

    The world
    I am vaguely thinking of getting one, but when I have done events with bents on them, they do rather seem to trundle up hill. I'm overweight and no spring chicken, but on my upright even I seem to leave most of them behind.

    I can understand some of the slowness due to extra weight of the bike and in the drive train, but is there more to it than that?
  2. BentMikey

    BentMikey Rider of Seolferwulf

    South London
    They're not all heavy, though many are. The owners aren't all fast whippets either.
  3. mcd

    mcd Well-Known Member

    Recumbent trikes can be slower up hill because, well, with a nice comfy seat, and low gears - why not?

    On steep hills, a common technique on diamond frame bikes is to stand on the pedals, using arm and upper body strength to provide short bursts of power. Here the legs are doing some of the work, but by being relatively straight, they are allowing upper body strength to be used. This is not necessarily very efficient - but it can get you up short sharp hills quicker. On a recumbent, while it is possible to get a lot of power to the pedals by pushing against the back of the seat (like doing a bench-press at the gym) - all this work is being done by the legs, with no help from the arms/upperbody.

    In other words, I think that going up hill on a recumbent is like going uphill in the saddle on a diamond frame bike. On both types of bike it is possible to develop a smooth pedaling style that is more efficient. The difference is that on recumbents you've no other option, and on diamond frame bikes you don't have to - you stand up on the pedals instead (which is what most people do).

    Does that make any sense?
    classic33 likes this.
  4. Andy in Sig

    Andy in Sig Vice President in Exile

    Obviously the inability to stand in the saddle is the chief factor and what it means is that you have to select the absolutely correct gear for the hill and/or your fitness levels. It is very encouraging when after a few weeks you can go up the same hill one gear higher. Bench pressing, as described above, is very beneficial in this regard.

    I wouldn't let slowness going uphill be the chief factor when considering a recumbent as overall advantages of them far outweigh upright bikes IMHO.
  5. BentMikey

    BentMikey Rider of Seolferwulf

    South London
    My point was that a light bent with a fit rider is not slow uphill. You don't get to see this combination so often as with racing bikes, because so many recumbents are not the racing equivalent, but are instead heavy. The same goes for owners - many are not into serious racing, and there aren't many about, so it's easy to draw the wrong conclusions about bents going uphill. It'd be a bit like concluding upright bicycles are slow on the flat by only looking at mountain bikes and tourers.

    The second and third placed 2-person teams in RAAM (Race Across America) were on recumbents this year. This race has a shed-load of climbing in it.
  6. squeaker

    squeaker Über Member

    I recall reading 'somewhere' that the actual amount of work that your leg muscles can do is reduced by about 10% due to the raised leg position, which would explain a lot (in conjunction with the other reasons already expounded). FWIW I'm noticeably slower on my (heavier, more drag) trike than either of my 2-wheeled 'bents, but the lack of weaving once you go really slow is nice ;)
  7. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    Salford, UK
    The French roadie trying to outrun Mike Burrows on his Ratcatcher last summer might argue with the assertion that recumbents are slow uphill...

    Horses for courses I reckon. I'm generally overtaken uphill, no matter what I'm riding, and no matter what the other person is riding...

    But on the downhills, the recumbents make it up...;)
  8. NickM

    NickM Veteran

    ...and on the flat bits, and into a headwind ;)
  9. OP

    bof Senior member. Oi! Less of the senior please

    The world
    Thank you for the answers. I'd get a bent for comfort and because its faster on the flat, I could live with it slowish up a hill, but it does seem to be the trikes and the ones that look like mini-submarines that really seem to slow right down - I guess weight is the main issue.

    A couple more newbie (to bents, not uprights) type questions.

    The one time I tried a bent 2-3 years ago my buttocks were soon feeling the strain of unfamiliar exercise. For winter training are the reclining type gym bikes a reasonable approximation to riding on a bent as riding the roads of West London at night on any form of bike is not something I regard as a pleasure? Alternatively has anyone managed with a turbo trainer - my guess is they tend only to be settable to 26in and 700C wheels, so no?

    A lot of recumbents are made in the Netherlands - does anyone know if can you get notably better deals there? With family connections there, I am not too worried about warranty return issues...

  10. domtyler

    domtyler Über Member

    I think you'll find that was totally staged.
  11. andharwheel

    andharwheel Senior Member

    Frozen North
    My friend once dropped a former Scottish TT champion while going up a hill on a Kingcycle Wasp, which weighs well over 20KG. I remeber my mate telling me that the rider in question was saying how slow recumbents were up hills. Steve remarked that he was late for his tea and promptly dropped the roadie.
  12. Number14

    Number14 Über Member

    Surely the reply to this should be; "Why are traditional diiamond frame bikes so slow at going down hills?" :biggrin:
    classic33 likes this.
  13. Johnny Thin

    Johnny Thin New Member

    I can bop up the hills easily on my light folder when I have to commute back on it (about 20 miles) but I get tired in no time due to the cotton wool aerodynamics, having only had lunch. But on my bents I've been taking the country lanes all summer and not even thinking about supper, and it's 10-20% faster overall.

    I've done several hilly audaxes on my bent, and have found that on light hilly courses it's about the fastest bike overall, roadies taking shortcuts etc notwithstanding. On rolling countryside it's a bit faster than the roadies just behind you, and on very hilly terrain you'll only get overtaken by a few, not the whole pack as I was expecting on this year's Elenith. This is a bike weighing 16.5kg too and it came in about halfway down the field.

    What's important is how much you have to train though. Of course roadies will always come first because at that level they will get the sponsorship from Trek etc.
  14. Valiant

    Valiant Senior Member

    My recumbent trike isn't slow up hill, well I've over taken people up pentonville road etc.

    I think the thing is, most bents you see on road are the heavier touring variety rather than roadbike equivelent, sometimes to do with prices, other times with convinience.

    Yes you're able to push down more power on an upright so they seem faster in general.
  15. Kerher

    Kerher New Member

    I think that I read somewhere that most roadies (I like to call them weggies now) with some experience with hills will not stand and peddle on hills. instead stay sitting to conserve energy. Standing and peddling can take a lot out of you and is not real efficient. I road my road bike for nearly 2 years to and from work. After a little while I stopped standing to get up the hills, found it to be just as I read, to exerting.

    BTW, my average speed on my Bent is about 2 mph faster on the same route as I have always used. It did however take some muscle conditioning to get there, bent riding is not the same as the road bike. Bent bike is about 8 lbs heavier too.

    I don't think that I am faster up the hills, if anything I am probably slower, but I definitely make it up. My friends, have so far, drafted me on the flats because I have a faster pace on the bent. But I have yet to do a long ride, looking forward to my first metric on May Day.
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