Back in 1996 when I was 15 my dad and I went down to a local bike shop and checked out a new type of bike I'd never seen before. It was called a recumbent, hand built by a small shop in Iowa called Linear. The sales guy said it would take some getting used to, and despite a wobbly start after 5 minutes I felt like a fish in water. My dad got one for himself but quickly realized that I was going to be riding it more than him, so he gave that one to me and got one for himself.
I would get up every day and ride the Fox River Trail from St. Charles down to Batavia or Aurora and back (averaging about 10 to 15 miles), racking up the mileage. I have had that bike and loved it ever since, logging probably thousands of miles in the last 25 years. To this day it's still not the most common sight on the trails and I get lots of smiles, thumbs up, and many questions. Recumbents are gaining in popularity but quickly being surpassed by recumbent trikes. Even so, I thought I'd share some thoughts on why I love my Linear recumbent so much.
One of the biggest benefits of riding a recumbent is the comfort factor. The riding position - with your feet out front while in a fully padded and supported seat sitting upright, is so relaxing. On a normal bike you're hunched over straining your neck to look up at all times with so much stress on your shoulders and wrists from putting weight on the handlebars. On a recumbent like a Linear with under seat steering your arms are almost prone by your sides. Now that I'm getting into longer and longer rides the difference is amazing. I can do 50 miles with no issues what so ever, and not being on a tiny saddle means no saddle sores or butt paste!
I am 6'6" so even on the largest standard bikes I still feel awkward, however on my Linear I can adjust the seat and handlebars to fit me perfectly. Both of them slide up and down the main beam of the bike easily, allowing adjustments in literally seconds.
I am not a competitive person, in fact I'm pretty much the opposite of that. Despite being on Strava I know I'm not going to be grabbing a KOM anytime soon. A long wheel base recumbent is meant for touring, long winding rides at a relaxing pace. I don't want to get on the bike and push myself to the limit, sweat my ass off, and worry about shaving seconds off my ride. I love grabbing a water bottle, tossing some food in one of my panniers, and just heading out having fun along the way, taking in the fresh air and scenery. I love riding at what Path Less Pedaled calls #PartyPace.
When you get on a road bike its difficult to focus on whats around you. Your natural head position is pointed down at the front wheel, so you're fighting that the whole time. On a recumbent, there's almost nothing in front of you apart from your legs and pedals, the view is wide open, and I personally find myself able to look around and take in the view much more on every ride. Getting up before the sun and heading out is amazing, and watching the sun rise while riding is a great way to start any day.
Looking at the photos you'd think the bike would be difficult to travel with, however it folds down very nicely. The whole bike can be packed down without any tools which is astonishing to be honest. The wheels and seat come right off, and then both the front fork and rear frame section fold down under the main beam. You can pack a Linear into a standard sized trunk, and reassembly takes about 5 minutes if you really take your time.
Check out Peter at The Bicycle Man giving a folding demo.
Take one for a spin
I recommend anyone interested in cycling to try out recumbents - be it a bike or a trike. If you're in the Chicagoland area, swing by The Bike Rack in St. Charles, they are the local recumbent experts (they also specialize in 'creative mobility', custom fitting bikes for those with physical disabilities or challenges). If you're not here in the burbs then find the closest bike dealer that carries recumbents and go get your butt in a seat, I promise you'll love it!
If you're curious about my specific recumbent, check out Linear Recumbent by The Bicycle Man in New York. They've made so many improvements over the years and truly are wonderful bikes which are designed and built in the USA. I'll write a more technical overview of my specific bike when it warms up and I can take some photos outside.