Recumbent bicycles have always intrigued me. If you don´t know what a recumbent bicycle is, a picture says more than a thousand words…
I’ve seen a few over the years and even seen one here in Bracknell once. I stopped to chat to the rider and he told me he was forced to get one because he loved cycling, but he had sustained some kind of back injured years ago which prevented him from riding a conventional bike.
It took me years to decide to buy one because they are quite expensive (even second-hand ones) and there was always the chance I would not adapt well to the experience, but the idea had been growing on me. I read an article somewhere last month about someone who had toured from Spain to the UK on one and decided to go to eBay and see if I could find any. There were a few and I added them to my watch list. These bikes are not very common and the ones with a higher spec were selling between £700 and £900 pounds with a few on offer at up to £1400. New ones are sold in upwards of 2 to 3 thousand pounds, depending on specs, so price wise they are in a pair with high spec conventional bikes. I’s a high investment for someone you’ve never tried before and have no idea how it rides.
I’ve let some of them go and then decided I was going to try to get one setting a max. bid of £800 delivered. A bit to my surprise I got one, a Dutch made Challenge Hurricane.
Got the bike on a Friday and after all the unpacking and minor assembly I anxiously sat on it. Even seating on it felt like this was going to be indeed a challenge and I tumbled to the sides a few times until I realized you must have the brakes pressed when you want to seat on a Recumbent. On this particular model the rider goes in a very laid back position, so your feet tend to push you to the back. If you don’t counteract this force by pressing the breaks the bike starts rolling backwards until your feet are no longer able to sustain yourself.
So, you may think this is ridiculous, but even the process of seating on is a new learning experience. I presume recumbents in which the rider is in a more upright position the challenge is less pronounced.
As suggested by some of the videos I watched in YouTube, I started on a gentle slope in a straight line. Just pushing myself with my feet slightly raised from the ground. Tried to pedal and immediately fell. This was going to take a while to get used to.
I gradually started to become more comfortable with the type of balance required and was able to balance myself for more than a few meters without putting my feet on the ground. The problem became how make turns. Tried a few times unsuccessfully.
As much as I’d have liked to continue, my Friday lunch break ended and I had to go back to work. After work I was determined to learn. Took it to my back road and repeated the procedure of pushing with my feet for some hour an hour and slowly attempting to pedal. Must have fallen some 3 or 4 times, but the good thing is that you are so close to the ground you can simply reach it with your hands.
Long story short, it took me about 1h to learn, even if in a very awkward way, to keep myself from falling and make turns. After that, I went for a 8.5 Km ride around the block. Still fell 3 times during this ride. Riding it required my undivided attention and full concentration. I lost balance once just by looking right to see if any cars were coming at a road cross.
In conclusion there is an interesting learning curve when you start to ride a recumbent bike, but so far it’s worth it. They make for a very comfortable ride. Just not sure I will ever go touring on my Hurricane. It looks not very suited for long distances and I don’t think it would be able to carry heavy loads on bags. I’ll cross this bridge when I get there.