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  1. #1
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    Safety: recumbents vs. diamond frame

    I don't want to start a major argument, but I have been thinking safety issues recently, and have a general question. First, I really enjoy biking, and it is, in fact, the only exercise I can say that I have really enjoyed. However, I still have concerns about safety. Of course, when friends know that you are a biker, they all tell their horror stories, so you always hear the worst. But even from within biking circles, it does seem that there are fairly frequent, sometimes serious injuries even in very experienced cyclists. From my limited experience, it seems that many of the more serious injuries result from unplanned excursions over the handlebars. I have a friend who recently suffered a hip fracture after such a fall.

    Here’s my question: is there much information regarding safety of recumbent bicycles versus diamond frames? I know there are sometimes concerns about decreased visibility of recumbent bicycles in traffic. It would seem to me, however, that the risk of serious injury might be diminished because of the much lower risk of being thrown forward and landing on the head or neck. Thoughts?

  2. #2
    el padre
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    I will not say much cause most of my biking is for exercize only (maybe an errand once in a while)... Once I had an over the handlebars 3 point landing and one of the points was the top of my bike helmet, of course my head was in it. I was not hurt, cept the embarrasment and some scrapes. If i had the same mishap on a recumpent something would have suffered but maybe not the same parts. It is anyones guess if it would have been worse or not.
    I disagree with the decreased visibility but I have a flag on my recumbent so that is my argument.
    I may be going out on a limb but I think most would say the recumbent casualty would be less in the fact that one is lower to the ground on the majority of bents.
    Not much information but something to get the thread started.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by y2kdad99
    Here’s my question: is there much information regarding safety of recumbent bicycles versus diamond frames? I know there are sometimes concerns about decreased visibility of recumbent bicycles in traffic. It would seem to me, however, that the risk of serious injury might be diminished because of the much lower risk of being thrown forward and landing on the head or neck. Thoughts?

    I know that this issue has been discussed on another forum, Bent Rider Online. (I highly recommend BROL, as BF is not that great for recumbent issues, IMHO).


    I would say that a recumbent is most definitely safer than a DF:

    A. As you mentioned, much lower chance of getting launched over the bars.

    B. Recumbent riders sit lower, so there is less distance to fall if you go down.

    c. Recumbents are rather unusual, and drivers might pay more attention to that "weird" bike when they see it.

    D. Recumbent riders sit back and look up at the world, as opposed to sitting hunched over the bars looking down at the road and your front wheel. You get a better view of traffic.


    Recumbents do have their own safety issues, but these are minor. Generally, they're harder for beginners to ride and can feel twitchy or unstable at first. Some recumbents don't handle well at very low speeds (Don't try doing any track stands). The riding experience is different and there is a definitely a learning curve. However, once you've mastered riding a recumbent they are really fun!

    Another minor issue is that recumbents are not as sidewalk friendly as a DF. They're really meant for riding in the street. You can't really hop a curb, or jump potholes. They are also generally bigger bikes that a DF, and slightly less manuveurable in tight places.

  4. #4
    Opt-in Member GreenGrasshoppr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Recumbomatic
    D. Recumbent riders sit back and look up at the world, as opposed to sitting hunched over the bars looking down at the road and your front wheel. You get a better view of traffic.
    Except when you want to look behind you. You need good mirrors to compensate.

    I'd say that overall, it's just as risky to ride an upright as it is to ride a recumbent.

    I would also add that the couple of times I've had close-calls with car drivers, they never got mad at me, compared to the unwarranted, infuriated reactions I got when I was riding an upright.

  5. #5
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    I appreciate that I am closer to the ground on my 20 in.-wheeled LWB recumbent. And don't have as far to fall to the ground. However, I doubt if anybody has data to demonstrate the comparative safety of recumbent and upright bikes.

  6. #6
    Recumbent Evangelist
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    I don't know of any official study that compares the safety of the two. I can tell you this, though: I feel a whole lot safer on my trike (just 6 inches off the ground) than I ever did on my Trek hybrid. I ride through rush hour traffic every day.
    www.rebel-cycles.com

    The official Canadian dealer of TW-Bents recumbent bicycles!

  7. #7
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    I ride an EZ Sport, LWB recumbent. One of the things I like about it is that I can sit on it with my feet on the ground. Last year, I was riding the local paved trail, and chatting with my ride buddy. I went off the trail into deep, loose gravel. I knew I was going to lose it, so I leaned over, planted mly left foot, let the bike go and then planted my right foot. I was ready to put both hands on the ground, but didn't need to. I had my balance. So, I had stepped off a moving bike and didn't have a scratch. I was amazed. bk

  8. #8
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    I have moderate athritus in my neck and it is difficult for me to tilt my head back and see far down the road when riding my upright 'comfort' bike. Last year I was riding on one of the local bike paths shared by cyclists and pedestrians (the pedestrians are usually few and far between). As usual my head was tilted slightly down and I was looking at the pavement no farther than 50' in front of me. All of a sudden a woman and a baby stroller was in my immediate path and I had to take quick evasive action not to hit them. Luckly she did not panic and I manuvered around them, excusing myself all the way! That was my last ride of the season and this year I'm switching to a recumbent, or I'm not riding at all. It was just too close a call take a chance on happening again!

  9. #9
    ppc
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    Quote Originally Posted by y2kdad99
    Here’s my question: is there much information regarding safety of recumbent bicycles versus diamond frames? I know there are sometimes concerns about decreased visibility of recumbent bicycles in traffic. It would seem to me, however, that the risk of serious injury might be diminished because of the much lower risk of being thrown forward and landing on the head or neck. Thoughts?
    There are two issues : the safety of cyclists in general, and the safety of recumbent cyclists in particular.

    Regarding cyclists on open roads, I don't know the stats, but I would think that as long as you choose your route to avoid busy thoroughfares and ride reasonably carefully, there isn't much risk beyond the occasional drunk driver who swerves in your way. About the safety of city cyclists however, I know a bit about it because I happen to advocate against compulsory bike helmets: statistics show that the risk you take on a bike riding in a city is roughly the same as your risks walking as a pedestrian on the sidewalk.

    Now, re the safety of recumbents: it's not as simple as with normal bikes: the format of a DF bike is more or less the same for all manufacturers, across all their models. Even a Brompton folder isn't all that different from a downhill mountain bike or a tandem. In both case, you sit on a saddle that's at the same height and you hold a handlebar in front of you. With recumbents however, it's different: you can find almost as many types of recumbents as recumbent riders. Some have above-seat steering, some under-seat steering, some are very reclined, some are semi-recumbents where your torso is fairly upright, some have a long wheelbase, some have a short wheelbase, some have a "compact-long" wheelbase, some have big wheels, some have small wheels, some have boths, some have 3 wheels, some make you sit high, some make you sit low, etc... the list is endless.

    My experience with recumbents is that almost all of them are at least as safe as DF bikes on open-roads, if not safer. Some SWB bikes can be twitchier at speed than others, but once you're used to your bike, you'll be just fine. In heavily congested cities however, my opinion is that the DF bike is king: you can see better front and back, you can turn and avoid things quicker, you're as high as cars, you can accelerate harder, and you can pass small urban obstacles like curbs a lot easier. I reckon the only kind of bent who comes close to DF bikes downtown both in terms of safety and nimbleness is the CLWB format, like BikeEs. Imho, any other kind of recumbent is going to decrease your safety level and your ability to negociate traffic: either the bike will be too long, too low, too twitchy or you'll be too reclined to take a look behind without superhuman head twisting abilities. I'm not saying your safety will be totally compromised with a bent downtown, but it'll be less than with a DF. There's just no better bike than a DF in traffic. This said, one can get used to anything: I personally ride an Optima Condor in town, and while it takes a lot of getting used to, it's definitely doable safely.

  10. #10
    A1A cyclist
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    Tools

    A bike is a tool, for whatever, getting exercise, transportation whatever. You may have heard what they say about tools and the job.

    LWB is perfect on the open road, touring carelessly. My seat is 15" above the ground. But I wouldn't ride it in congested urban city traffic. And vice versa. That's why we have more than one bike

  11. #11
    sch
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    This can be approached from two points of view:
    1) The bike: Bents in general are not as nimble as one commentor put it so
    are not as safe in general as DF in dicey situations. The DF can 'get out of'
    situations that a bent can not. A small tired bent is going to be more easily
    thrown by holes, drop offs and uneven pavement, especially in the rear where
    the fr tire might have a chance of climbing a 1.5-2" drop off (think edge of asphalt
    on top of formerly wider road) the rear tire will NOT and will slide out with loss of
    control and possible fall or at least a halt of forward momentum. LWB bents are
    particularly prone to rapid slide out of the front wheel on sand, slick paint, RR tracks
    etc. Of course the vast majority of DF riders can't bunny hop any better than a
    bent rider can but at least the option is there.

    2) Rider pov: Bents, though more likely than DF to get into trouble, are less likely
    than DF to damage the rider. The seat/bar/pedal triad gives some protection to the
    torso of the rider in a fall and the lower cockpit level (24" max height compared with
    more like 34-38" saddle height for DF, head height much lower even at 24" seat
    height than DF) is unquestionably safer. Height equals energy and the head is the
    worst place to deliver kinetic energy to. It is harder to catapult the bent rider from
    the cockpit, but not impossible. Bike+rider is going to slow down a lot faster
    together than separately. All of this refers to bike versus bike or bike versus
    terrain, not bike versus car though I would much prefer to be side swiped on my
    bent than on a DF by a car. ( I ride a LWB Rotator Pursuit.)

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