On conventional bikes 20-40% of your weight is supported by your hands, but on a recumbent 100% of your weight is supported over your bottom and back…

On conventional bikes 20-40% of your weight is supported by your hands, but on a recumbent 100% of your weight is supported over your bottom and back. On a recumbent you sit on your buns, not your groin. Weight is more evenly distributed over a much larger area and you do not support yourself with your hands.

Studies by researchers at Boston University and in Italy, found that the more a person rides on a narrow saddle, the greater the risk of impotence or loss of libido. The link between bicycle saddles and impotence first received public attention in 1997 when a Boston urologist, Dr Irwin Goldstein, who had studied the problem, asserted that ?there are only two kinds of male cyclists — those who are impotent and those who will be impotent?.

In men, a sheath in the perineum, called Alcock?s canal contains an artery and a nerve that supply the penis with blood and sensation. The canal runs along the side of a bone, Dr. Goldstein said, and when a cyclist sits hard on a narrow saddle, the artery and the nerve are compressed. Over time, a reduction of blood flow can mean that there is not enough pressure to achieve full erection.

In women, Dr. Goldstein said, the same arteries and nerves engorge the clitoris during sexual intercourse. Women cyclists have not been studied as much, he added, but they probably suffer the same injuries.

Recumbent bikes are built for lots of reasons, but the main reason is comfort. There is really nothing like it. I have talked to long distance touring riders who feel their gel, Brooks, etc. saddle is comfortable. They may be more comfortable than a racing saddle but cannot compare to a recumbent. If conventional bike seats were so great we would furnish our homes with them, cars would come with them, and we would take them along to sit on at the beach or picnics. Of course this is silly, we sit on chairs and chairs are what you sit on when you ride a recumbent bike. Another reason is safety. On a conventional bike your body is in a vertical plane with your head first, and you sit above the wheels with a high center of gravity. If you hit something, lock-up your front brake or drop the front wheel in a porthole you can easily go over the handlebars onto your head. On a recumbent bike your body is in a horizontal plane and your feet first. Your weight and center of gravity is lower and between the wheels. In the same circumstances you will likely fall over onto your side. In fact some recumbent riders, including myself, have been able to step off in an accident rather than becoming entangled with a conventional bike.

Riding a recumbent is a very different experience from riding a conventional bike. The experience is more like driving rather than riding. Amazingly most recumbents take very little balance and this is the toughest part for a new rider. Learning the Zen of the recumbent is in itself relaxing. The more relaxed the rider, the more responsive and controllable the recumbent. A recumbent is kept upright by steering, not by body English. Speed in learning has much to do with the rider?s willingness to let go and learn something new. Persons attempting to ride a recumbent as they would a conventional bike will likely fall over or have a bad experience. Hundreds of people have learnt to ride recumbents and typically they have the basics in 15 minutes.

Conventional bikes attempt to configure the body around the bike. Recumbents configure the bike around the body, laws of efficiency and aerodynamics. Generally speaking recumbents are much more aerodynamic than a conventional bike. Recumbents of one form or another hold almost all human powered speed records. The latest top speed recorded over a mile was on the Wind Cheetah, a specially built, fully enclosed recumbent. In 1992 Chris Huber powered the bike to a record of 68.7 miles per hour. In the real world a recumbent designed for speed can easily be faster than a conventional bike designed for speed. Most riders become faster simply because they can train longer as the bike isn?t causing them pain. To be fast and efficient on a recumbent does take some time as your muscles have to adjust and you get your ?recumbent legs?. Recumbents utilize muscles differently than conventional bikes so it is difficult for a fast rider to just jump on a recumbent and be fast, but with a little training the payoff is fantastic. As for hill climbing you learn to ?sit and spin? while climbing rather than standing and pulling the bike side to side. Again it takes some training but you can be comparable. The payoff is the descents. Recumbents can be tremendously fast on descents and this is why most have superior brakes.

Most people have to really ride a recumbent in traffic to believe the advantage. A recumbent rider is at about the same height and position as a car driver. On a recumbent you are looking out at the road scanning for problems and getting eye contact with drivers. On a conventional bike you have to crane your head up to see past the front wheel. Eye contact with a car driver is very important, as this causes the driver to acknowledge you as a person and not an obstacle. Also recumbents are still a bit unusual and often drivers are watching you just to understand the bike.

Most recumbents are a really good value and are similar in price to a conventional bike of the same quality level. Moreover, they are not mass produced, each bike is individually handcrafted to precision. Also consider that there may be more involved in the construction of a recumbent, just look at the seat.

Other advantages of riding a Recumbent Bike

  • The view from a recumbent seat is spectacular! You can easily talk to other riders and focus on the fun rather than the pain of riding.
  • A more comfortable rider will likely ride more and gain more benefit from aerobic, low impact exercise.
  • It is not necessary to wear special padded shorts on long rides, simply wear whatever is comfy.

Sources: NIOSH, IPMBA.orgursf.org The New York Times Bentrider online For more information or a test ride on recumbents, call BikeStory at 9-111-2266 or visit our website www.bikestory.com (Limited sets on special offer this Christmas)