Let's get bent!

 As I have a bit of spare time these days, I decided to go down to Dulwich park to try out some recumbents, the www.londonrecumbents.com shop is based there and hires them out, from really low-end kiddy recumbents to some quite nice serious ones.  I had never ridden one before so I was recommended to try a highish position one to begin with. What I started on is the orange machine pictured here, it's a HP Velotechnik; It's full suspended with a 20" rear and a 16" front wheel running on a SRAM dual drive setup.  It combines a 3 speed hub with a 7 speed cassette which gives you quite a large range of gearing.

Initially I almost rode the bike into a bush, it's slightly harder to balance because your centre of gravity is lower than an upright but I quickly got used to it.   As the riding position on the Sprint was reasonably upright it wasn't too far a stretch from a normal bike.  Starting off was a bit strange, but you just give it a strong kick to give it some initial momentum and you're off.  The suspension was quite good and smoothed out a lot of bumps, you could get up quite a lot of speed and it still felt very smooth over rough ground.  One niggle I had was that the front wheel would lock up quite easily, even on bitumen.  It didn't help that the ground was a little wet but I suspect it was because the front wheel was a fair bit more forward and the bike had a rear wheel bias.  Also the BB5 disc brakes were made for larger wheels not tiny 16" wheels and were probably too strong.

SRAM dual drive and Avid BB5 discs

I quite enjoyed riding it, it was just something different.  I have been always somewhat fascinated with recumbents because there is a lot more scope for design.  The basic design of upright bikes has barely changed in the last 100 years, componentry has changed a lot though.  As much as I love racing bikes, they all tend to be very much the same, blame the UCI rules or lazy manufacturers but there is bugger all difference between a Scott CR1 and a Specialized Tarmac.

I took it back and swapped it for a more sporty model, the Challenge Hurricane.  Recumbents tend to be classified by their seating position, high, mid and low.  The Hurricane is a mid or low racer style, the seat is a fair bit lower than the Sprint and the steering is done by a tiller with the front wheel a lot further behind the bottom bracket.  This gives the bike more of a front wheel bias and introduces a slightly more complicated chain run.  You might notice that the chains on both bikes are enclosed in black tubes, this is to stop it rubbing on your legs.  I didn't notice any extra noise, the only thing I did notice is that when you kick the pedals backwards to get them into position it wouldn't spin freely.  Otherwise I didn't notice any extra friction when pedalling forward.

The Hurricane features 20" wheels, rear suspension and the same SRAM dual drive 3x7 drivetrain.  This model also had Magura hydraulic rim brakes, brakes I hadn't seen since the 90's.  However I was surprised by the braking, there was no locking up like the Sprint; I think this was probably attributed to the higher front weight bias.  The handling was completely different, because it was a tiller style it was a lot twitcher but a lot more natural feeling.  I felt that subtle shifts and movements would cause it to turn, more like an upright bike.  The lower riding position, thinner higher pressure tyres all made this bike feel a lot faster.  This thing just flew on the flats compared to the sprint.

Cockpit shot

The steering and braking felt a lot more direct due
to the front weight bias

I had to take this shot one handed whilst riding
which was a bit of a challenge.  I don't know if you can ride
these no handed like an upright.

After riding both of these, I had this sudden urge to find out more about bents.   I'd always been somewhat interested in them, particularly a certain model called the Velokraft Nocom.  It's the most impractical recumbent you can get, super super low ground clearance and almost all carbon fiber but amazingly fast and beautiful.


Well one day when I have space, money and time.  I don't think I'd be too keen to ride any of the low racer style recumbents in traffic but I can imagine myself riding one on the weekend over long distances.  It was a really good experience to ride both of these bikes and it's given me a newfound respect for recumbents.  I'd always seen them as a bit odd and almost comical, but now I know better.

Thanks for reading.


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