Recumbent bike | Source: Wikimedia


A recumbent bicycle is a variety of bicycle which places the rider in a seated or supine position (rarely, in a prone position). The back of the rider is supported, and the rider's legs are extended forward to pedals that are about the same height as the seat. Steering is either above seat steering, which uses a handlebar that is located in front of the rider, or under seat steering, which uses a handlebar located under the seat. The wheels are often smaller and/or further apart than on an upright bicycle.





Charles Mochet riding his recumbent

Recumbent designs can be traced back to the earliest days of bicycle designs as a good deal of experimentation with various sitting arrangements was made. Some of these designs could have been considered recumbent. Although these dated back to the 1860s, the first recorded illustration of a recumbent considered as a separate class of bicycle was published in 1893. That is also the year when the first "genuine" recumbent hit the market. It was named, the Fautenil Velociped.

A four-wheeled, two-seater, pedal-propelled car called the 'Velocar' was built in the 1930s by French inventor and light car builder Charles Mochet. Velocars sold well to French buyers who could not afford a motor car, possibly because of a poor economy during the Great Depression. Mochet experimented with a three-wheel design to make these faster and finally a mould-breaking two-wheel design based on the Vélocar technology, which in essence was a recumbent.

Francis Faure setting up for the race

Looking for a way demonstrate the speed of his recumbent bicycle, Mochet convinced cyclist Francis Faure, who was not one of the top cyclists, to ride the two-wheeled Velocar in races. Faure was highly successful, defeating many of Europe's top cyclists both on the track and in road races, and setting new world records at short distances. riders, a second-rate racer, Francis Faure, set a new world record for the hour on one on July 7, 1933, covering 45.056 kilometers (28 mph) at the Velodrome d'Hiver of Paris. Another cyclist, Paul Morand, won the Paris-Limoges race in 1933 on one of Mochet's recumbents. Everything seemed to go well for the recumbent bikes.

Recumbents in an amateur HPV race


Eight months later, the manufacturers of upright bicycles successfully finished lobbying the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to ban recumbents from competition. As a result, recumbent bikes have been banned in biking competitions since 1934. This effectively killed the mass production of recumbents for many years. Yet enthusiasts still continued to build and ride recumbents on a very small scale. Although recumbent designs continued to crop up over the years they were mainly the work of lone enthusiasts and numbers remained insignificant until the 1970s. That is when two engineers and their students began experimenting with fairings for upright bicycles, also banned by the UCI, leading in 1974 to the International Human Power speed Championship, where recumbents were again allowed to compete. Recumbents were soon back in production again, and quickly gained popularity for their speed and comfort.

About recumbent bikes

Please watch the video below put together by Claude for more information about recumbent bikes. Editor's note: Thank you Wendy for the video editing.

Recumbent: 13:53 min


Recumbent bikes facts

  • Recumbents hold all human powered speed records.
  • Many cyclists who ride both types of bike (diamond frame as well as recumbents) report 3 mph (4.8 km/h) to 8 mph (12.8km/h) faster average speeds on the recumbent bikes.
  • Usually considered safer than upright bikes as there is a shorter distance to fall from a recumbent and also the reclined position makes it almost impossible to fly over the handlebars.
  • New recumbent riders typically climb hills slowly until they develop "recumbent legs".
  • There are many types of recumbents. Some of these are: lowracer, highracer, mountain bike recumbent, tricycle recumbent, handcycles, tandem recumbent.
  • Recumbent bikes provide a way for traditional bicycle riders suffering from stress injuries to the back, wrists, neck, and shoulders to continue to cycle.


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