Selecting A Recumbent That's Right For You

Selecting A Recumbent That's Right For You
If you are in the market for a new recumbent and you’ve been inquiring as to which one is right for you, you have probably come to realize that there are many different types to choose from. There are high racers, mid racers, low racers (oh-my!) and quite a few renditions of each of these basic types. There are also long wheelbase, short wheelbase recumbents, tandem recumbents, front wheel drive (crank forward) recumbents, above seat steering and below seat steering recumbents. If we want to take a more broad definition of “recumbent bike”, you can also include “trikes” in the mix. The beauty is, each of the different options within the recumbent bike strata has its own advantages and disadvantages over the other. The difficulty is determining which style of recumbent is the best compliment for your “x-seam”, and your riding style (or the riding style you aspire to get to).

Let’s take a brief look at the three basic recumbent bike styles and what each of them has to offer the rider

High Racer

Bacchetta Corsa S/S shown above

The high racer gets its namesake from the fact that this style of recumbent positions the rider higher off the ground then the mid and low racers. Because the rider is higher off the ground, high racers also have a higher center of gravity. This becomes quite important at low speeds and especially when riding at slow speeds on a steep incline. The higher center of gravity means that the rider can use more body “English” to balance the bike at slower speeds. Along with that higher center of gravity, high racer recumbents also generate slightly more wind drag than their mid and low racer counterparts.

The other factor that is crucial when considering a high racer recumbent is your x-seam. Your x-seam measurement is the distance in a sitting position with your legs straight out in front of you from your lower back to the soles of your feet. If your x-seam is on the shorter side, you will need to consider either one with smaller wheels, or look more closely at a mid racer recumbent or else you probably will not be able to straddle the bike properly at a stop.

Overall, high racers are usually considered the most versatile of the three recumbent styles. Not the most aerodynamic, of the three but definitely more forgiving at slow speeds. Their added height also makes them a bit more visible in high traffic areas.

Mid Racer

CatBike Musashi shown above

The mid racer is a great all around bike for getting around town. They are however a little lower to the ground than the high racer, which means they are a little bit harder to balance at slow speeds, and they are marginally harder to see in traffic. On the flip side, since the rider is placed a little lower to the ground, mid racers are very easy to mount and dismount and are also easy to push forward with your feet on the ground when trying to navigate at slow speeds through high traffic areas. Mid racers can be ridden comfortably by adults of nearly any height.

If you are a strong hill climber, you should be able to tackle challenging hills nearly as well on the mid racer as you could on a high racer. Just keep in mind though that you probably will not be able to “granny gear” it up steep hills at very slow speeds (i.e. under 5 mph) without losing your balance. If you are a strong climber though, you will be able to take advantage of the slightly reduced wind resistance on flats and down hills that the mid racer enjoys over the high racer.

Low Racer

Velokraft NoCom shown above

The low racer is the fastest of all racer types on flat ground and down hills. However, they are not easy to see in traffic because they are considerably lower to the ground than their high and mid racer counterparts. They also are not very practical for commuting around high traffic areas or climbing hills of any significant incline. You will usually see low racers at organized events like track competitions and century rides that do not incorporate much climbing in the course.

Short Wheelbase and Long Wheelbase Recumbents

The wheelbase of a bicycle is measured between the contact point of one bicycle wheel to the ground to the contact point of the other wheel to the ground. Generally speaking, a short wheelbase recumbent will have a wheelbase up to about 48 inches. Anything larger that 48 inches is generally categorized as a long wheel base recumbent. Short wheelbase recumbents are going to have sharper handling characteristics, while on a long wheelbase recumbent you will enjoy a relatively smoother ride.

In Summary

If you find yourself with more questions now than you had when you first starting contemplating making the jump from “wedgie” to “bent”, do not fear. Fortunately, there are a number of very helpful resources out there to help you select the right recumbent for you. For detailed, insightful reviews on a wide range of available recumbents, we recommend checking out the Buyer’s Guide. This is the most comprehensive collection of feedback and reviews for available recumbent bicycle models on the internet. Here you will also find a robust selection of forums. One of the forums you might find particularly timely is titled “NEW to Recumbents”.

You will also find some additional information on things to consider before buying your first bent here as well.

We hope this information gets you one step closer to evolving your ride!