Riding a recumbent

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I’m not an expert, having only ridden for about nine months and got about 800 miles under my belt. But here are my early thoughts on riding a ‘bent.

I tried out a Challenge trike for a quick spin around a park. I borrowed a Ice Trice Q trike from the famous Auntie Helen (thanks!) which I enjoyed, but, as a tall lad, I found the low position weird. I had my feet too high and ended up with numb toes, even after a short ride.

I didn’t get on with the low position on the trikes as I like to see where I’m cycling. I was looking into the doors of passing cars and not over the dry stone walls, of which there around here. So I was looking for something higher, like the HPV StreetMachine or the Azub Six.

I had a go for less than 100m on a StreetMachine and it was much like coming from a 700c to a folder like a Brompton with 16″ wheels, a bit twitchy. I didn’t drop at all and only had a bit of a problem with steering as the handlebars hit my hips. I didn’t find it bizarre at all, I knew straight away that it was something to explore further.

I got an Azub Six after many hours spent clicking, reading, head-scratching and “erm”ing. There was something about the Azub and the company that just made it feel like a right thing to do.

I set off without support on the back street and quickly figured out that I needed to ride further than just up and down the lane. The saying goes that you need about 1000 miles under your belt before you feel at home and have your ‘bent legs. I think I had a small “advance” with not having cycled for nearly three years before. So I lost my cycling legs and had to build them from scratch anyway.

The biggest learning curve was clipping out and putting the foot down and holding the bike on one leg. Not because of the weight of it, more the seating position and that my cycling shoes have no grip whatsoever.

I picked the USS (Under Steering System) because of my arms and hand ailments, and I felt that it would be a nice relaxing position. It felt very natural riding with the arms hanging down, just had to learn that you don’t honk (pull the handlebar) when going up a hill, like on a upwrong aka normal bike. I have had no problems with my arms or hands riding the Azub. Best of all, even on days where my back has been a bit sore, where I know an upwrong would have made it worse, I had no problem with my back.

Since you are nearly sitting on the front wheel and with your legs kicking out in front of you, on a bike like the Azub Six, it took some time to learn how to turn without hitting something. But that is just like a new bike or car, they all handle differently.

It feels very stable, though at times when hitting bumpy ground it does feel a bit like you are about to slide off the seat. Leaning into corners is fun, though I did blame the tyres at first for what felt like a lack of grip. I think it was just me, who was not used to the riding position and that I have not ridden for a while, when I got the Azub.

Yes, it is a bit slow up hills, but I get up them, I’m not trying to do records either. I like to have a look around, I pootle and stop to look at the views. I have climbed up anything from 10 to 20% without stopping. Yes there was one hill that got me beat, but after a few goes I got up and over.

Even on Strava I’m not last up some of the hills, about #2500 out of 2800 attempts, but not last! Said the man who is not trying to set records. ;)

Hills around here, that I know if I had done on my Surly Long Haul Trucker, at the top I would have been huffing, puffing and trying to put my lungs back in again. But on the Azub, I get up without a heart rate about to blow a gasket and still able to speak. Yes, since I’m just getting back into cycling my legs are a bit tired.

I have been out on 15-24 miles loops, with 1200-1500 feet of climbing. When I get home I feel like I have done a bit of exercise, but not beaten up. I have read many ‘bent riders say – that you go out for a ride and at the cafe stop, they have no pains or aches when getting back on the bent, like when they did doing the same on a normal bike.

I haven’t had any problems with not getting the space while out riding. I get more smiles and space when other road or path users see me. You get to hear some fun things shouted at you.

I also picked the Azub Six for the height, so I’m not hidden down low. I’m at most car drivers eye height and can see through the parked/passing cars and best of all over most drystone walls. I know other trike users don’t mind that, but that is what I like when cycling, heck that is why I like driving our van, a nice vantage point.

Took it out on some bridle ways and canal towpaths around there. When it is rough the small front wheel is a bit twitchy. But I’m sure I get used to that and if I put some more grippy tyres on that would make the riding in the rough easier.

It is a full suspension bike, which makes it a comfy ride. I tightened up the suspension which made climbing the hills faster. But there is still enough bounce in them to take on the rough tarmac around here.

Once thing I noticed is that I can ride through water much easier than I could on the Surly. Since the feet are up away from the spray, even with good mudguards, you sometimes have to lift your feet of the pedals. On a bent I don’t.

I have ridden on a few cold days, one near -brrr, but haven’t yet found that my toes have gone cold or numb. Either my shoes/socks are good or I haven’t cycled long enough in the cold.

I find that I am warmer on the ‘bent, I think it is because I’m seated with most of my bum and back. So there is no cold draft taking the heat off your back and cooling you down.

As of yet I have managed to miss the rain, but that is something I need to learn: how to stay dry and stop rain coming in, in the gap between trousers and jacket.

I can’t bring the bike in through the back door, as it is massive, longer than my 58cm, 700c Surly LHT. It doesn’t handle so well when off the bike, even on the bike the turning circle is huge. That is where the hamster handlebars on a recumbent helps a bit when pushing it around. I think that is the biggest minus with a bent, the size and not so easy to move about. The Azub isn’t much heavier than the Surly, just not so easy to grab.

Still early days, but I feel very comfortable on it. It’s such a joy to ride. I’m still a bit wobbly when looking behind me, which I’m sure that another 800 miles would cure. I prefer looking forwards, anyway! ;)

2 COMMENTS

  1. In 2008, you wrote about the 10 little cyclist in Denmark. I live in Jutland, make small videos as my hobby. Try to have a lokk at this video, I maked over the music made by Freddy Fræk.
    Hope you can read my english in this letter?
    https://youtu.be/kFTfUKNbVT8
    Kind regards
    Poul Koefoed

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