How much faster are recumbents to road bikes?

Discussion in 'Recumbent bicycles' started by JTE83, Feb 24, 2005.

  1. Hull 697

    Hull 697 New Member

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    Again, depends on the bent. I ride a high racer which puts me pretty high up, on a level with riders crouched over their bars. I also have a large, bright yellow bag on the back. I get lots more room than the riders around here normally seem to. Then there is the "different" aspect. A bent rider does not blend into the drivers' expected road things so we seem to be noticed. As more folks ride bents that will change, dang it!

    Most seats have lumbar support built in, mine does for sure. The angle of my legs to my body is more open than a DF rider. It took me a while to get used to it - a different neck angle - but I simply started more upright and moved the seat down a notch every 200 miles or so. Never caused me any problem.

    In addition to increasing aero efficiency, I find that the more open position contributes to better breathing and more power on hills. I brace my shoulder blades to the seat back and power from the core. Awesome. A word of caution, you are in much the same position as an inclined leg press. You should ride perhaps 1,000 miles before really letting this loose. Some people have blown their knees out overdoing this.

    Go ask the medical opinions - damned if I know. Wouldn't surprise me, DF's are designed by a committee to fit a rule, not a human.
     


  2. Aussie Steve

    Aussie Steve New Member

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    Well done Hull697...:cool:
    post was intelligently worded, clear and concise and conveyed the passion that you obviously feel for this activity, as well as your knowledge of the topic.
    I have said this before, this is the reason I reckon this forum is a fantastic way of discussing our stuff...
    good on ya champ;)
     
  3. blazingpedals

    blazingpedals New Member

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    Here is the avatar I use on another forum. The pic is me, at 22 mph. Based on the angle, I'd say I was pulling about 0.8 gees. The only limit to a bent's cornering ability is the traction limits of the tires.

    [​IMG]

    Many, if not most 'bent riders I know rode uprights for years before finally giving them up and going to the recumbent platform. It's funny that you should bring up the denial question, because I've often thought the same thing about upright riders - that there are many who suffer away, but won't switch because the road bike is too integral to their self-image. For those whose uprights don't bother them, there's really no reason to switch - acclimating fully to the new position can take up to several years; so those switching purely for speed are usually bad candidates because they won't have the commitment to stick with it long enough.
     
  4. Aussie Steve

    Aussie Steve New Member

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    On the 200 kms last weekend, I kept getting numbness in the hands from vibrations of the rough road surfaces. I was able to reduce this by varying the hand positions regularly, also getting out of the saddle helped with sore butt.
    Can a 'bent offer a variety of positions like a DF? or are you limited by your seating position...
     
  5. Ergoman

    Ergoman New Member

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    I've been considering the "bent" vs. DF issue for awhile now, done a lot of research and reading, mulled over the calculations, etc., and here are some conclusions I've drawn based on a comparison of equally priced bikes of both types:

    Recumbent Pros:
    More aerodynamic
    More comfortable
    Unique and different if you want attention

    Recumbent Cons:
    CRR higher due to typically smaller diameter, wider tires
    Drive train less efficient due to long routing of chain and frame flex
    Ergonomics restrict maximum and most efficient power input (can't stand, use different muscles, can't use upper body)
    Heavier
    Less visible in traffic
    More difficult to transport in a car or by air
    Bikes, parts and service much harder to find
    Far less quality for the money
    Limited social opportunities in terms of clubs and numbers of riders
    Unique and different if you don't want attention

    In terms of speed, my analysis has shown me that a typical tourist or weekend century rider who averages 15-16 mph will be better off and faster on a conventional DF. At lower speeds, the mechanical inefficiencies of a recumbent overshadow the aerodynamic advantages. OTOH, if you're a stronger rider who wants to go fast on the flats or in the wind, the aerodynamic advantages of a recumbent outweigh the mechanical disadvantages....until you come to a real hill. Once continuous grades get into the 3% range, the aerodynamic advantage goes away, and even the lightest carbon lowrider will get spanked by an equally strong rider on a DF.

    My conclusion is that for the average non-competitive rider, the main reason to consider a recumbent is comfort, and the main trade-off is practicality. For a strong, competitive rider who wants to race, a DF is the only answer since racing isn't about absolute speed, but relative speed and since the recumbent racing scene is relatively non-existant. High performance low-racers are for those into technology and gadgets or those few strong riders who stroke their egos by showing up at a flat century and blowing by all the overweight middle-aged ladies on conventional bikes.
     
  6. poweredbysweat

    poweredbysweat New Member

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    I don't see too many middle-aged ladies along this guys ride. He's passing the DFs like they're standing still. This is why recumbents aren't allowed in the Tour de France.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-E3OFW3S7mw
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMGN94NVU3k
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=HBV7-h6sIyo&mode=related&search=

    I'm not near this fast on my bent, but I don't race. I have more of a Utility bike.
     
  7. blazingpedals

    blazingpedals New Member

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    I think this gives an idea of how much faster a bent *can* be. About 25 miles into what was about my fourth club ride of the year. I'm riding one-handed and my speed is limited by my cadence and my inability to shift with my camera-holding hand.

    Sprint Video

    Ergoman, some of your 'cons,' like transportation are duly noted, but many of the others are not cut-and-dry. For instance, low-end bents are pretty expensive compared to entry level uprights; but mid and upper range bents are much more comparable in quality to their upright competitors. Weight? The average is heavier, but you can get a 17 pound bent. Parts and service? They're more alike than different: derailleurs, chain, brakes, etc. The different stuff like seats and frames don't tend to need much work. Tires can be an issue. (I stock spares.) Visibility is more in the mind of the uninitiated than a reality.
     
  8. Ergoman

    Ergoman New Member

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    The TDF is a competition among men, not bikes. The bikes are just tools. To allow fair competiton, the tools are all the same. That said, I doubt that even the best recumbent would make the time cutoff through the Alps and Pyrenees.

    As far as the videos you reference, those guys are young, in shape riders on very expensive and exotic carbon low racers that are very good at going in a straight line on flats or rollers. If they had to turn around in the road, they'd have to get off and pick their recumbents up to turn them by hand. If they had to climb a real hill, they'd be walking alongside pushing. Not too practical. The folks they are passing may not be all overweight middle aged ladies, but none of them are racers either. It's a century ride full of weekend tourists.
     
  9. blazingpedals

    blazingpedals New Member

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    Thanks for saying I'm young! :cool: I'm 51 and a bit chunkier than I'd like at 205 lbs. I've ridden short steep hills, and I've ridden mountains in several eastern states. What qualifies as a 'real' hill? One at the limits of *your* ability? Is this going to turn into a "my hill is tougher than your hill" contest? Um... I'm not a racer either; just another middle-aged guy who's on a faster bike than those other guys. Which was the original question of the thread: "how much faster?"

    Edit: The guy in the streamliner is roughly 70 years old, the guy on the ultra-low lowracer is in his low-to-mid 50s.
     
  10. Ergoman

    Ergoman New Member

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    I'm glad to see my comments here have stirred some discussion. It's heartening to learn that middle-aged guys are having so much fun on recumbents.

    On the other hand, I stand by my analysis. A DF is going to better serve the needs of low speed tourists and weekend riders. A recumbent racer will be faster than a DF on a flat or windy loop, but will lose all advantage when the average grade on a route approaches 2% (which is typical around D.C.), and will get spanked when grades get into the 4 to 6% range. High end low racers are exotic (read hard to find) and expensive and impractical for real road use.

    Finally, just to stir the pot, here's what I saw in your video:

    25 miles into the ride, the video started with you behind the three riders shown. At least one of the riders is wearing a back pack, and they seem unaware and/or unconcerned that you're chasing them. If you were faster, how did they get ahead?

    Using a classic wheelsucking maneuver, you took advantage of the paceline's draft to attempt to slingshot past. The lead rider sees you coming and takes advantage of the DF's ability to accelerate. He matches your speed with a few short strokes and touchs you out at the line.

    The video cuts off without an epilog. Wonder what happened next?

    Now here's the big question. If you want to race, why aren't you doing so on equal terms? If you just want to pass people by means of different technology, why not use a motorcycle?

    Don't get me wrong. I'm enthusiastic about recumbents, but I'm just plain sick of the rediculous moaning about how fast recumbents are and that they're banned because of their speed. Recumbents can be fast, but only in a very limited range of conditions. The reason they're not seeing more popularity (after about 100 years of use) is lack of practicality for the typical rider. The reason UCI bans recumbents is to ensure equal competition, not as part of a vast conspiricy to keep more advanced technology from encroaching on their cycling domain.

    All this said, I'm still trying to get my hands on a good low-racer.
     
  11. blazingpedals

    blazingpedals New Member

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    Easy - I was riding with them but when I started digging out my camera, they took off.

    There was no wheel sucking involved. I started well off the back of any possible draft, and you could clearly hear the wind coming off my knees with each stroke; something that would not happen if I was in a draft. And if you notice, my feet were well ahead of my camera. So I touched him out, not the other way around.

    I immediately put my camera in my lap and coasted, of course! Which is exactly what the others were doing too, minus the camera.

    Hey, this was a recumbent ride! THEY started the sprint, and THEY were on the wrong machines, not me! ;)

    As far as a speed advantage for the average person - you're right, many recumbents have NO speed advantage; but then most garden-variety 'bent riders get into recumbents for the comfort not the speed. In that arena, an upright isn't even in the same universe. A rider like me gets it from two sides at once: uprights who consider 'free speed' as cheating somehow (but they still think pacelining is OK,) and the sunday-driver bent riders who think going fast must mean I'm not having fun. <Sigh> I guess I can't please everybody...
     
  12. poweredbysweat

    poweredbysweat New Member

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    I agree with the comments about comfort. I love my Bent for that. And I also agree that, for the normal rider, the recumbents that are being ridden, are not speed machines. The recumbent that I own, can carry a much bulkier load for touring, than I can fit on a DF. And I have toured on this recumbent through mountain passes in Colorado, without walking the bike. Is that steep enough?

    I still ride my old beater mountain bike. I'm taking it into work tonight, because they're forecasting 4-6" of snow here (in Mid-April?), and the recumbent is not good in the snow.

    As mentioned by others, my experience is that different bikes have different strengths. I use a folder, when I'm combining trips with mass transit. How convenient is that!

    All this said, the original comment did talk about "passing middle-aged women", and the videos that I introduced, simply refuted that comment.
     
  13. Aeliel

    Aeliel New Member

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    I disagree with about 2/3's of what you are saying.

    A DF is not a better bike for most low speed tourist. Not even close. Most people are more comfortable and will ride longer on a bent than on a DF.

    The biggest reason I bought a bent is because I recognized that with a bent I would actually ride. A DF is a torture rack for all but the most fit and young among the average American public.

    This is why most Americans don't touch a bike. Take the average Joe with an extra 30 pounds on who isn't in the best of shape. An extra 5-10 pounds on the bike isn't going to matter compared to the seat on a DF that kills his ass and makes riding more than 5 miles a narcisistic excersize.

    As for speed... Most people will be faster and ride safer on a bent. Why? Because while you can stand on a DF you aren't supposed to. Ask anyone who knows anything about the knee and they will tell you the best way to ride a hill (for fitness and keeping your knees from getting fragged) is to shift down and spin. A recumbent forces you to do this.

    Does this mean you will be slower up the hill? Sure, slightly. But it means you will keep riding while others are napping on their couch with knee pain.

    The only people who will be faster on a DF (in the mountains anyway) are those people who ride religiously. Those who have a leather ass. Although my experiance is that the additional speed downhill can generally make up for, or come close to making up for, the speed deficite going uphill.

    And while low racers may be the absolute fastest bents out there due to low wind resistance , there are many who can compete with DF's that are less radical. A Volae Team or Baccheta Corsa for example, will give a DF a run for their money with equivalent riders on both and are both more comfortable and not difficult to transport.

    The real reason bents aren't more popular is obvious. Price. A low weight bent starts at $2500 and even low priced models are $700-1000.

    I agree the video isn't conclusive but my years riding a DF in local racing and cross country are what I'm counting on for my information.
     
  14. blazingpedals

    blazingpedals New Member

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    Relating to speed, I stand by what I wrote in posts #2 and #3 in this thread. I could relate lots of other stories, but they're realy unnecessary and might come across as bragging. Not my intent. As I always tell everyone, it's the bike, not the engine! If DF riders were honest with themselves, a lot of them would admit that they buy nice bikes and upgrades with the intent of ekeing out more speed; it's just that for the money, what I bought really worked and what they bought... didn't.

    All that other analysis really is off-topic for this thread ("how much faster are recumbents...") so I'm trying to not get sucked into little side issues other than to note that speed and racing aren't a major reason to get a bent.
     
  15. Aeliel

    Aeliel New Member

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    Adding one thing...

    A bent will not be faster if all you ever do is a 5-20 mile ride around a loop. The differance is that when a DF rider is starting to have pain, a person on a bent isn't, at all.

    Any rider with a high mileage goal will be well served by a bent. They will be faster because they don't need to get off the bike hardly ever. They may be slower up the first 3 or 4 hills but at the end of the day, when the DF rider is struggling, the guy on the bent will just keep right on spinning.

    I live in the hills of rural Western NY. My driveway is in the midst of a 3 mile hill. The only bents which may be an issue on these types of hills are the very long wheelbase bents due to instability at extremely low speeds.
     
  16. Vespaboy

    Vespaboy New Member

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    I am sorry but as a former bent rider I disagree with you on the majority of what you say. I am a former bent rider who owned 2 bents for 3 years and I got rid of them for the following reasons:

    1. It has been my observation the bents are slower then most DFs.

    2. They do not climb well compared to the average DF.

    3. While climbing they are hard on the lower back. (The exception is the trike. You can climb at 2 mph and not worry about balance.

    4. They are much harder to transport because they are bulkier.

    5. They have less quality when compared with DFs within the same price.
    range .

    7. There are many different bent formats LWB, SWB, Tadpole Trike, Low Racer, High Racer and on and on.....and this becomes very confusing for the average "Joe" (Me).

    8. They don't have the touring options nor can they carry as much as the standard DF touring bike.

    9. They are heavier.

    10. They are harder to ride in traffic.

    I have toured on both types and for me a properly set up touring DF will win every time.:)

    I will agree that for the average recreational rider the bent is comfortable because it is easier to fit out of the box. However, there are bent comfort issues such as "Recumbent But", and foot and toe numbness".

    Richard.:)
     
  17. Aeliel

    Aeliel New Member

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    It all depends on the bike and the rider. The bikes I mentioned have no problem competing with DF's with similar riders. The other issue is the rider being used to a bent. Bents use some different muscles than a upright.

    I dont know what kind of bent you had but I would bet it wasn't a sporty model.

    I already addressed this. They don't climb faster in a sprint or a short ride but they're every bit as good for most riders if you are going to go more than a few miles.

    Never had this problem and I find it hard to believe that a bike with lower back support would be harder on your back than a bike with none. But anything is possible I suppose.

    Again this depends on the bike. Short wheelbase models can be thrown on most any rack a regular bike can.

    I agree with this one. Of course you have to take into account that they have much more complext seats, longer chains, and are built in low quantities...

    I'd agree here. But once someone educates themselves I see it as a positive. There are bents that will fit almost anyone except those who want to go to sanctioned races.

    This one is completely wrong. Do a google search for 'Tour Easy touring' and tell me they dont have options. A rack behind the seat can easily hold everything I need for a weekend tour and there are bags that fit almost anywhere on a bent.

    Primarily due to the seat (unless its a long wheelbase model). But a good sport model runs 24 pounds. Not exactly heavy. Comparing that to a 18 pound racing bike is a bit absurd. A 18 pound racing bike is virtually unridable for most people. Comparing them to the mountain bikes most people ride 24-28 pounds doesn't sound bad.

    Tour Easy just released the Javelin. It's a medium wheelbase bent that weighs about 20 pounds.

    Again, depends on the bent. Many aren't.

    Foot and toe numbness is an issue on every kind of bike on the market. It's not a bike issue as much a shoe/pedal issue. And recumbent butt is laughable compared to a 4 inch wide peace of pleather. It's an issue for recumbent riders who do more than 50 miles but the average joe wouldnt last 10% of that on a regular bike seat.

    Some of your complaints are true but only on long wheelbase, heavier models.

    I suspect alot of it is what you are used to. If you're happier on a DF its all good. But I've watched an aweful lot of people get on a bent for the first time and most of them are blown away.
     
  18. blazingpedals

    blazingpedals New Member

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    (Shrug) Some are, some aren't. And some riders simply don't put the same effort into training as they did on their uprights. Even on a lowracer, speed ain't free.
     
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