Recumbent bikes are bicycles on which you sit in a reclined position, almost like sitting on a chair in your lounge. This reclined position means that you do sit very comfortably. It is quite a contrast to normal bicycles where your only point of contact to the bike would be on your buttocks, feet and hands. On a recumbent bike your points of contact are the same spots except that the contact point on your buttocks is spread over a much larger area meaning that you don’t get the same saddle sores that do get from a conventional bicycle. There is also much less pressure going through your wrists so your hands also don’t get as sore.
It can’t unfortunately be said that riding them is like riding a bicycle. It does take a little getting used to. They do handle differently to conventional bikes and this will need some practice. Also because of the change in position you’ll be exercising slightly different muscles to those you normally use on any other bike so you might find you have sore muscles the first time you ride a recumbent.
Recumbents have been banned from UCI races since the early 1900’s because they give riders an unfair aerodynamic advantage. This is generally why the major bicycle manufactures don’t produce them. All unofficial UCI speed records are held by recumbent of some sort so there is a lot of controversy over these bikes.
There is also often the misconception that recumbent bikes can’t ride on hills as easily as normal bikes. Given the correct gearing recumbent bicycles can ride just as comfortably over hills as any other bike. They are also just a fast, if not faster given the history of the speed records.
Recumbent bike steering is also generally split between one of two types: Above and Under Seat Steering. In Above Seat Steering models the steering handlebars are positioned roughly at the riders shoulder height. On Under Seat Steering models the steering bars are situated just below the rider. This makes the bike look more like a go-kart. Under Seat Steering is not a difficult as it looks so with a little practice anyone can ride with this steering model.
Recumbent bikes are also divided into two main types when it comes to length. Short Wheel Base models normally have the front wheel behind the pedals making the bike shorter. These bikes are normally easy to maneuver and because they are shorter they’re easier to store and transport. Long Wheel Base models have the pedals behind the front wheel. These bikes are generally more stable making them easier for beginners to learn from. This stability also generally makes them slightly harder to steer in traffic thus making commuters normally go for the shorter models.