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Recumbent What IS that thing?! Recumbents may be odd looking, but they have many advantages over a "wedgie" bicycle. Discuss the in's and out's recumbent lifestyle in the recumbent forum.

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Old 08-24-08, 03:15 PM   #1
markwebb
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Recumbent Muscles

My back is shot and riding a traditional road frame has become painful. I'm looking at recumebents, but not necessarily growing the requisite white beard

Anyway, I am looking at a traditional LWB like the Tour Easy with a diamond sorta geometry.

Question - I am really concerned about losing ability to climb hills on a recumbent. In spite of my back problems I am still an excellent hill climber and better than 90% of folks out there on road bikes.

I have severe atrophy in my calves because of the nerve damage in my spine, but my quads stay in pretty good cycling shape.

So here is my question - on a recumebnt like a Tour Easy - what muscles are most important on 1) flats and 2) climbing? If calves were most important, then I'd lose any advantage I get standing and climbing or pushing on my traditional frame, and I'd be walking up most hills.
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Old 08-24-08, 03:37 PM   #2
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My wife bought a Rans V2 last month and after several hundred miles she's reporting that her quads suffer more, riding the same routes, than riding her Calfee.
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Old 08-24-08, 04:05 PM   #3
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I wonder if that means she's working out her quads more than on her standard roadbike - which would be good for me. Maybe she uses fewer muscles (less calves etc)?

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My wife bought a Rans V2 last month and after several hundred miles she's reporting that her quads suffer more, riding the same routes, than riding her Calfee.
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Old 08-24-08, 04:46 PM   #4
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Hmmm. I feel like a bit of a rookie responding here as I've only been riding bent for 6 years, and about 11,000 km. For me, and we're all different, my legs seem to be getting a more complete "workout" on the bent. My quads, calves and hamstrings ached for a long time when I started, but not anymore. Yes, I'm slower up hill, but I don't care. I can hold my own with the DF's on the flat and I'm faster downhill. But it's all about comfort. Ten years ago I herniated two discs and carpel tunnel and neck and butt pain made long distance riding impossible. I can't count the number of stem extensions, saddle positions, etc., I tried but nothing seemed to work. The recumbent has solved all of that. I'm having fun once again and enjoying the distance without pain. I don't really care how fast I am. I have been managing 2-3000 km in our 6 month cycling season so I'm happy.

Mike
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Old 08-24-08, 05:30 PM   #5
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As a fairly new bent rider (since Feb), I've found that my calves don't get near the workout that my quads do.
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Old 08-24-08, 06:23 PM   #6
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I'd say that bents isolate the quads rather than the calves. Calves are worked more while standing, and obviously you can't stand on a bent. On the hilliest days on RAGBRAI this year, only my quads got sore.
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Old 08-24-08, 06:29 PM   #7
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You should be fine. I ride a TE, the trick to climbing on any recumbent is to spin. Make sure you have your gearing low enough for the steepest hills that you ride. Don't worry about the speed at first that will come as you develop bent legs. Put a fairing on the bike that will make it more aero and help with the speed you want.
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Old 08-24-08, 06:34 PM   #8
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If you have limited use of your calves, the best thing for you to do is likely to move your cleats (assuming you ride with clipless pedals) as close to your ankle as possible. The whole purpose of the calf muscles is to use the foot as a lever to give one that extra "kick" in, say, running or jumping (although their function in cycling is mostly just to prevent the foot from rotating towards the patella under power). The end of that lever is the ball of the foot, which is normally where the cleat should be for optimum power; however, with limited calf function, it would be best to move the cleat back on the foot to improve the leverage of the calves and decrease the amount of work they have to do.

Having said that, if your feet don't have any trouble staying in their proper position while pedaling, your calves are probably strong enough. Fiddle with your setup to find what works for you. And keep in mind that you will definitely be slower at first on a recumbent regardless of your setup, because you won't be adapted to the motions yet. I'm sure it would be the same story if you rode a recumbent your whole life and then switched to a DF.
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Old 08-24-08, 08:36 PM   #9
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That's a great independent evaluation for a phenomena that I discovered several years ago, although I did not know enough to attribute ity to the calf muscles. I use toe clips on my road bike, and I use larger than normal toe clips so I can move the middle of foot over pedals and thus push more with the middle of my foot than the ball/toe area. I get more power that way. You substantiated what I found. Thanks !!!

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If you have limited use of your calves, the best thing for you to do is likely to move your cleats (assuming you ride with clipless pedals) as close to your ankle as possible. The whole purpose of the calf muscles is to use the foot as a lever to give one that extra "kick" in, say, running or jumping (although their function in cycling is mostly just to prevent the foot from rotating towards the patella under power). The end of that lever is the ball of the foot, which is normally where the cleat should be for optimum power; however, with limited calf function, it would be best to move the cleat back on the foot to improve the leverage of the calves and decrease the amount of work they have to do.

Having said that, if your feet don't have any trouble staying in their proper position while pedaling, your calves are probably strong enough. Fiddle with your setup to find what works for you. And keep in mind that you will definitely be slower at first on a recumbent regardless of your setup, because you won't be adapted to the motions yet. I'm sure it would be the same story if you rode a recumbent your whole life and then switched to a DF.
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Old 08-24-08, 08:38 PM   #10
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Yup - it's that excruitating butt pain that makes it so difficult to ride a road bike anymore.

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Originally Posted by mchell View Post
Hmmm. I feel like a bit of a rookie responding here as I've only been riding bent for 6 years, and about 11,000 km. For me, and we're all different, my legs seem to be getting a more complete "workout" on the bent. My quads, calves and hamstrings ached for a long time when I started, but not anymore. Yes, I'm slower up hill, but I don't care. I can hold my own with the DF's on the flat and I'm faster downhill. But it's all about comfort. Ten years ago I herniated two discs and carpel tunnel and neck and butt pain made long distance riding impossible. I can't count the number of stem extensions, saddle positions, etc., I tried but nothing seemed to work. The recumbent has solved all of that. I'm having fun once again and enjoying the distance without pain. I don't really care how fast I am. I have been managing 2-3000 km in our 6 month cycling season so I'm happy.

Mike
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Old 08-25-08, 05:31 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markwebb View Post
... on a recumebnt like a Tour Easy - what muscles are most important on 1) flats and 2) climbing? If calves were most important, then I'd lose any advantage I get standing and climbing or pushing on my traditional frame, and I'd be walking up most hills.
I think there are some articles in the human powered vehicle literature. The one paper I have read did not show striking differences recumbent vs upright. However, the "recumbent" position studied was not very recumbent because the bottom bracket was well below the seat. This would make the results more relevant to the Tour Easy versus a typical high- or low-racer where the BB bracket is at or above the seat height.

Reference: J Biomech Eng. 2005 Apr;127(2):301-10. Functional roles of the leg muscles when pedaling in the recumbent versus the upright position. Hakansson NA, Hull ML.
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Old 08-25-08, 06:38 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markwebb View Post
That's a great independent evaluation for a phenomena that I discovered several years ago, although I did not know enough to attribute ity to the calf muscles. I use toe clips on my road bike, and I use larger than normal toe clips so I can move the middle of foot over pedals and thus push more with the middle of my foot than the ball/toe area. I get more power that way. You substantiated what I found. Thanks !!!
You're welcome. Enjoy the 'bent!
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Old 08-26-08, 01:46 AM   #13
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Because i put crank shorteners on my HiRacer i also lowered the gearing to compensate and put a mtb crank on. My ride climbs like a mountain goat now. Just spin like a fiend and as you probably know, as your 'bent legs get stronger you'll be able to spin in higher gear

+1 with the moving the cleats back.
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