which recumbent for back and neck injured riders



Marjiesue wrote:

Hello again.

I just read through Yelps questions, similar to mine, and the replies
he received. I want to add a question to my original posting...

....would a recumbent trike be a good choice?

I have some dexterity problems stemming from the TBI (Traumatic Brain
Injury) received in the same accident that left me with herniated
discs. Hubby and I have wondered if the recumbent trike might be a
good choice.

I will be riding on the streets of our housing development at first,
and on a paved bike path through a park that adjoins our property.
Later, after my comfort level increases, I'll take to the paved roads
around our part of the city.

I'll also say that I am 5'5", ballooned up to 201 pounds, but am on my
way back down to an expected 135-140 lbs.

Again, thank you in advance for your replies.


Will replied:

Hi Marjiesue, I have been lurking on this group for a long time,
reading posts intermittently, but generally not posting. However, I
did think that helping you out with your decision-making process looked
like fun, and my experience may be of benefit to you.
I own both recumbents (EZ-1 and Tour Easy) and a trike (Catrike), and
my main problem with uprights has to do with arthritis in my neck.

I would imagine that my first advice would have to do with neck
position and support. Yes, both recumbents and trikes are a major
improvement over uprights, but take care with whether you are expected
to have your neck in a stable upright position of comfort (for you) or
one where you must flex the neck forward from too reclined of a seat,
and therefore have a constant force on the neck flexors. I opted for a
much more upright position of the EZ-1 and Tour Easy types of bikes
(both are Gardner Martin designs, though the EZ-1 is manufactured in
Taiwan (I think) rather than USA. Were I to recommend a particular
starter bike in the J & B Importers line of Sun bikes (again, great
designs originating with Gardner Martin, who unfortunately passed away
this past year, but executed less expensively in heavier and/or less
elegant parts, and in more mass production than Gardner's own company,
Easy Racers---Gardner wanted to get some great designs out to the
masses of beginners and the less monetarily endowed by entering into
this joint venture with J&B) it would likely be the EZ Sport in
aluminum, as that provides a full sized bike with 20' front, 27' rear
tires, like his bigger bikes made in California, without the "hit" of
the excess weight of unfancy (not cromoly) steel of the offshore EZ
bikes. Also be aware that Sun/J&B has extended the original line of
bikes to now include trikes of various iterations, both "tadpoles" with
the two wheels in the front, and "deltas" with the two wheels in the
back. J&B sends catalogs to literally EVERY BIKE STORE THERE IS, so go
to your local dealer and "ask to take a look at his J&B catalog"--just
by saying that, the owner will recognize that you know what you are
talking about, and will offer it up for inspection. If not, keep
trying other stores until you get a cooperative owner. Some shops will
have one or two models on the floor, and if you are lucky, or keep
looking or calling about, you may be able to demo ride all of the
various models to see which works best for you.

Now let me get more specific with the TBI stuff, if that is OK.
Recumbent-vs-Trike is a more complicated issue than you might imagine.
Obviously, with either bike, balance and control issues must be
discussed and assessed. If you have issues which limit the strength
and control of the arms, or where arm position capability is more
limited, this must be addressed specifically. However, my experience
is that with trikes, you have two "sticks" with all the controls there
at the sticks (convenient), but the G-forces and the potential to tip
toward the outside of a turn being much greater in a trike, one must be
in constant control--the trike is less forgiving and can get out of
control (read dangerous) very suddenly and surprisingly. You would
think that a trike would by its inherent stability of three wheels be
easier and more stable, but in fact, the opposite is more usually the
case. I find I must lean fairly aggressively into the turn, that I get
whipped around more, and that especially on downhills where the speed
can get going beyond one's ability to control it, that when accidents
occur, they are generally very quick and unforgiving. Being able to
"lean" the entire bike into a turn, as you can on a two wheeler such as
a recumbent, counteracts just about ALL of the lateral forces toward
the outside of the curve, whereas on a trike, no bike "lean" is
achieveable, and therefore the only thing you can "lean" into the curve
is your own body--think of the sailors on a sailboat hanging over the
upwind deck rail-- so you are actually much more "active" on the bike
moving around, shifting weight to maintain control. I have heard the
physics described as follows:

With a trike, think of a triangle on the ground made up of the tires'
contact points. Think of suspending a pendulum of "your total mass"
hanging from a point above that triangle attached to the "center of
gravity" of the bike+rider. If/when the tip of that pendulum swings
"outside that triangle", the instability is instantaneous and
catastrophic, that is, the bike will roll over. On an upright
two-wheeler (recumbent), the same physics applies, but with "lean" of
the bike+rider together, the tip of the pendulum can be kept in the
line of the two wheels fairly easily and naturally, and the forces of
centrifical and centrifugal force (the forces toward the outside, and
those you must exert by leaning to the inside) exactly cancel, and
instead you feel stable and "upright" even in a lean. If you've ever
been sailing on a sailboat, the boat gets actually MORE stable at
speed, as the forces of the keel counteract those of the wind.

Don't get me wrong, the trike is the more "fun" ride, by which I mean
challenging, active, whippy, zippy, etc. but when I feel lazy, hazy, or
crazy, the recumbent is by far the safer ride.

Sorry to be long-winded and perhaps opinionated (don't mean to offend),
but I just feel that the idea of three wheels being a "safer" choice
....my daughter rides an upright adult three-wheeler, just because she
never felt comfortable on a two-wheeler as a child, and believe me,
that thing REALLY has a high center of gravity, so she sticks to low
speeds and safe streets mostly...yes, much more stable at low speeds
because you can get on & off easily, and don't need to balance, but at
higher speeds, you must balance ANY bike in some fashion, and I just
think that those without experience can "roll" a trike more easily than
a recumbent.

Now just don't get me started on the issues of traffic
safety/visibility/etc. Suffice it to say, from the perspective of some
car's tire staring me in the eyeballs 12-18" off of the pavement on my
low Catrike, that is a whole other issue to be considered...flags,
flashers, etc. are just the beginning!!

Will McCreight