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those of you who ride 'bents...

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those of you who ride 'bents...

Old 10-04-08, 07:18 PM
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jiminos
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those of you who ride 'bents...

... i am considering a sojourn to the "dark side." There are so many 'bents out there. Keeping in mind that i fully intend to ride as many different as possible (given that i live over 125 miles from the nearest bike shop that sells 'bents,) which do you ride and why? what were the factors that helped you decide? i would especially like to hear from those of you of a similar build (6'1" 220 lbs)....

thank you in advance for your responses...

be well,

jim
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Old 10-04-08, 08:01 PM
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Seeing the usual bent theme is so positive, I'd might as well share my heresies.

I bought a high racer in great excitement last year. It now sits in the corner of my living room gathering dust ... with a flat tyre I can't be bothered fixing.

The myth of the 'comfy chair' - it is a myth, bents are no more comfortable than a properly set up upright bike. Sadly, most people have their upright bike's bars too low, the wrong saddle, the saddle too far forward and consequently find their bikes uncomfortable.

Years ago, I dislocated a shoulder falling off a trail bike and as a result, suffer a lot of shoulder problems and hand numbness - this is the sort of situation where a bent is supposed to really shine. In reality, the bent is no better than my sports bike ... because I've gone to a lot of trouble to set up my sports bike properly and now finally have the commuter working properly too.

Myth: 'bents are more efficient' - no they aren't. Less so in my experience.
If you are very fit and riding all the time, you will get on well with your bent. If, however, you let your fitness slide a little, you will need to rebuild your bent fitness before being fully comfortable on the thing. I have a body that loses fitness very quickly and takes forever to reclaim it - dunno why, that's just the way it is. This isn't a problem on an upright bike - you just ride a bit slower and have tired legs for a bit. On the bent, you're puffing and blowing and dead slow for quite some time. You really do need to be fit to ride a bent. More efficient? No way. However, if you're riding the thing all the time (and most bent fanatics are so they don't notice this phenonomon), that's not a problem. Part of the problem is having to hold those big legs so far up in the air - you don't have to do that on an upright - but I don't think you breathe as well when riding a bent as you do on a properly set up road bike because so many abdoment muscles are working to keep those darned legs up there.

You will be slower in traffic because it takes longer to start a bent than a bike - just leaping through a gap in the traffic isn't going to happen unless you're on a trike and have your feet up on the pedals to start with. Why? Because you have to lift your feet so much further to find the pedals. Combine that with the more limited visibility (mirrors help but only a fool trusts mirrors and turning your head is a problem), the fact that they take up more room because they're longer, they don't handle bumps, the fewer options you have for using body english to throw them around - bents are not good in the cut and thrust of traffic on the rubbish roads we get here. On a bike path, different matter.

Bumps are a problem - you've no choice but to ride over them. Although riding over a bump is more gentle than an upright (because you're between the wheels, not on top of one of them), you still can not lift your weight off the whack of the bump. It's annoying more than anything else.

I enjoy riding the bent. I don't enjoy having to be hyper fit to be able to fully enjoy it - my busy life doesn't afford me that luxury and the result is having to suffer the bottom end of the bent experience. I'm no more comfortable on the bent than the upright - less so to some extent because you can't do anything about the pressure of the seat right up your back and in hot weather, that's noticeable here.

Less hand problems? Rubbish. I've got hand issues worse than most due to my dud shoulder - I address them with carefull bike set up and component selection.

I'm a bent failure. It's not for sale because I enjoy the ride, but she'll be gathering dust until I find myself in a position where I can ride it regularly on bike paths.

But as you'll find, thousands out there disagree with me and mostly with good reason. Just don't swallow all the myths about why they're so wonderful that you'll find on any bent forum. They aren't better, just different and in some cases, that difference doesn't work. On the other hand, for many, the difference is worth the price.

Richard
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Old 10-04-08, 08:15 PM
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Iím fortunate to live 90 miles from a shop that sells many recumbents of
all styles manufactured by many companies. The shop owner even has purchased Linear and I believe heís got that company back on itís feet again. I had the opportunity to test ride LWB bikes with both high and low BBís, SWB High Racers and Low Racers, OSS and USS all on the same day at the same shop. That certainly made it easier for me to compare the bikes and narrow down the field to two or three choices. http://www.bicycleman.com/

I ended up buying a LWB Sun EZ Sport at about $1000 new. It was my first and I found it very easy to ride and extremely comfortable and it looks cool. Itís a bit heavy and considered to be somewhat of a Cruiser. It handles pavement, dirt and gravel equally well. Iíve got a little over 1200 miles on it and itís a pleasure to ride each and every time I take it out. Iíve got 1.5 inch tires on this bike.

I just recently purchased a used Volae Tour SWB. Itís very nimble and somewhat quicker than the EZ Sport. This bike felt very comfortable almost immediately, though if it were my first recumbent I suspect it would have taken me longer to get comfy on it. The Volae weighs less, is easier to maneuver due to being shorter, and is quicker. The Volae climbs better than any other bike in my stable, including the upright bikes. I believe the Volae comes in four frame sizes and there are two steering riser lengths and several stems to help customize the fit. Iíve got 1.25 inch tires on this bike.

I donít mind owning several bikes and take out which ever bike I feel will best suit the ride I intend to take. The EZ Sport works great for me on rides <40 miles or so where I just want to cruise around a bit( though I have done a century with it). The Volae works great on longer or shorter rides where I wish to ride a little faster and will mostly stay on pavement (though Iíve ridden it on dirt trails and with wider tires it would handle dirt and gravel just fine). The Volae can be fitted with relatively wide tires. Someday Iíll pick up a LWB for long multi-day toursÖperhaps an Easy Racer or something similar.

I ride both DF bikes and 'bents.....I always enjoy riding the 'bents more than the DF's. The only reason I ride my uprights any more is for commuting, I don't want to leave my beloved recumbent out in the questionable parking area provided to us. All my recreational rides are on my recumbents, it's just more fun! (I do occasionally take a DF out for recreational use but it's not as enjoyable.....if I don't use them, she'll
want me to sell them )

Just remember, you'll be happiest on which ever bike feels right to you.

Happy Trails

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Old 10-04-08, 09:46 PM
  #4  
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I too bought an EZ Sport as a way to try out bents at a reasonable cost. I got the AX (aluminum frame) version for about $1400. I had previously given up on riding because I couldn't find a seat/handlebar combo that eliminated crotch and hand/wrist pain simultaneously.

The stock Sport did this fairly well. Ultimately I had custom handle bars made to reduce arm reach and correct wrist angles. I added fatter tires and 1/2 inch wall foam hand grips and now the bike is really built for comfort. Now I ride 100 miles a week wth few problems. I really like this ride. It's comfortable, maneuverable and very relaxing to ride. I particularly like the upright (LWB) seating position, because it's mucho comfortable and you can take in the view while you ride.

If you find you like LWB's, try out several and pay attention to the difference in BB height and seat height. The less difference, the more leaned back you are. Upright v. leaned back is a matter of personal preference, and you need to figure out which is best for you. Good luck. bk

BTW, you can now get bars from Rans that are adjustable in length and wrist angle.
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Old 10-04-08, 10:16 PM
  #5  
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I own 4 upright bikes and 1 recumbent, a Sun EZ-Rider AX. As time goes by, I find myself riding the bent more and more, because it is such a comfortable rider. It's a long wheel base bent with dual 20" wheels with an upright riding position & it has a heavy duty spring shock in the frame which soaks up big bumps. It isn't a high performance bike but that's not a requirement for me.

If one can usually average 18-20 mph on an upright and wants to achieve the same out of a bent, then it will take some research to find the right one and some work to get the different muscle groups in shape. There are many bent riders who can do this, but I'm not one of them.

As to hand comfort, my most comfortable upright is a Trek 7600 hybrid which I've modified for an even higher hand position than stock. Right now the hand positions are about 3" above the saddle, and I have ergo grips on it. This works well for my hands, which are plagued with thumbs that have oncoming arthritis in them. However even this comfy position pales in comparison to how comfortable my hands are on my bent. I can ride for hours without the slightest pain in my thumbs.

Likewise I sometimes have problems with strained muscles in my lower back. When this happens, I can't ride my uprights until my back heals up. But I can continue to put in multi-hour rides on my bent. Thus I have found it to be much easier on my back than any of my four uprights.
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Old 10-04-08, 11:15 PM
  #6  
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Interestingly Tom, a lot of hand problems are not solved by handle bar height but by saddle position. I'm a fan of the balanced riding position expounded by Steve Hogg, Peter White and others - basically, you move your saddle back until you can take your hands off the bars and put them behind your back without undue abdominal stress. If you're very fit and flexible with good core strength, you may be able to ride with the old knee over the pedal routine but for most riders, and especially wombats like me, that just places undue weight on the hands. My saddle is now a long way back. The commuter, with its flat bars also makes great use of those ero grips, which do work.

The bent, although there's no weight on the hands at all (surely a plus you'd think), causes me other problems with my arms held up in front of me though that's more my weird shoulder than the bent.

Equally interestingly, lower back pain is often associated with having the saddle too far forward. A dud back wouldn't be much fun on my bent methinks, but mine has a laid back position and is probably not as forgiving as your more relaxed bikes (with the upright sitting position).

Having the luxury of a lot of bents to choose from and being able to test ride makes a HUGE difference and is worth spending the money to travel to achieve it.

I had to make my decisions via internet discussion and a lot of faith - I had both the seller and a couple of bent riders helping me so I wasn't sucked in by straight sales talk. The bloke who sold me the bike put a bit of effort into sorting out my 'problems'. Eventually he asked for and received a wide range of photos plus video of me riding the thing ... and the help disappeared immediately - makes me feel like I'd reached the point where it was all too hard. I have the suspicion that answers to my problems with the bike revolve new bits and different layouts. If it wasn't for the fitness requirement (see later), I might be tempted to throw even more money at the bike but not right now.

Yeah, in person help is pretty important and worth paying for.

However, none of that discounts the thing the disappoints me most about the bent - you have to be specifically fit to be able to ride the thing. You can leap on your upright and stagger off after months or years layoff and not do too bad. With bents, they tell you you need to develop your 'bent legs' - what they don't tell is 'don't dare lose your bent legs because you'll have to go through all that work again'. I can't see why I should have to do 500km of regular riding on the thing just to be fit enough to enjoy it, yet that's what's needed. I'm riding over 100km a week commuting right now so am reasonably fit, yet last time I tried the bent, I was slow, huffing and puffing like a broken steam train and dead tired at the end of it. That doesn't encourage me to keep fiddling with the thing, esepcially as I'm making it all up as I go along.

Regular bent riding is practical and probably works.
Irregular bent riding is not practical.
Therefore, buy a bent if you can use it regularly.

Of course, I may be completely wrong, but I'm not changing my tune without my experiences changing. I've tried really hard to make this thing work, harder than I've ever tried on an upright and the best I can get is 'disappointing' and not as satisfying as my uprights. I don't think I'm alone, but am betting I'm a long way from the norm. Try the things, but do it in person with a real life person guiding you along the way. If you can't, only do if you can afford to lose the money for the bike.

Richard
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Old 10-05-08, 12:03 AM
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Originally Posted by jiminos View Post
which do you ride and why? what were the factors that helped you decide? i would especially like to hear from those of you of a similar build (6'1" 220 lbs)
Well, I only have one bent dealer nearby, and luckily they are within walking distance. They sell Bacchettas. I tried two, the Cafe and the Giro 20. I had also considered getting an Actionbent because of the cost. Gearing was a concern because I live in a hilly area, all seemed to have adequate gearing.

My intended use for the bent was to do longer rides on weekends.
I wanted a bike that would fit on the bus racks so that I could transport it if necessary because I'm essentially car free.

The cafe was too long for the bus and in my test ride I didn't like how leaning it had no effect on steering. I liked the Giro 20, though it's steering was so light that I felt it was unstable.

Eventually I decided against Actionbents solely because it was my first bent and the unknowns were too much, and I felt that with a dealer nearby and with whom I was friends was better for uncertainty.

So after a couple of months of wrangling, the dealer dropped the price on the Giro 20 and I went for it, sealing the deal while I was 2,000 miles away at a conference. I also went for the optional fenders, kickstand and a rear rack. Those options were additional reasons to go with the Bacchetta over the Actionbent. I'm also 6'1, 185. The dealer was concerned that I might need the larger size frame, but the one I bought had been comfortable on the test ride, I took that one.

I've had the Bacchetta for about a year now. My only real misgiving is that the stick style frame is a bear to lock securely. But for long rides it's a lot more comfortable than my streetified Hard Rock. I've gotten comfortable with the steering, though it cannot be ridden hands free. But my cornering is now comparable to a DF bike. I've done the Joe Weber Arky 100 on it and actually beat one DF rider.
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Old 10-05-08, 01:14 AM
  #8  
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thank you for all the great info presented thus far. i am paying close attention. thank you all very much.

be well,

jim
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Old 10-05-08, 01:24 AM
  #9  
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For what it's worth Jim, I'm 6' and 220lbs. I don't see your size as an issue - it's not as though you're buying a carbon fibre 'racer' (where many come with max weights of 85kg and others have only a few sizes so you wind up with a seat post a mile long).

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Old 10-05-08, 05:06 AM
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Bents come in so many configurations, styles, price points, quality differences, etc. that it is really tough on a first time bent buyer to go out and decide what they want. First of all, most bike shops only stock a couple of models, if any, and the ones that they do have are often old models or heavy cheap units that don't really help a serious bent buyer fully appreciate what is out there.

OK, so, since jiminos can't really test drive thirty different models, I can only suggest that Jim head over to http://www.bentrideronline.com and spend hours reading reviews and searching back through the multitude of posts on the message board because the same question posed there will yield more offers to help than an 18 year old skimpily clad model with a flat tire would get on the highway.
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Old 10-05-08, 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Trsnrtr View Post
Bents come in so many configurations, styles, price points, quality differences, etc. that it is really tough on a first time bent buyer to go out and decide what they want. First of all, most bike shops only stock a couple of models, if any, and the ones that they do have are often old models or heavy cheap units that don't really help a serious bent buyer fully appreciate what is out there.
I think that's a huge issue if you're interested in buying an enthuiast level bike.

Unless a bike shop is moving a good number of recumbents they simply can't afford to floor plan very many. The ones they do stock are likely to be low end models which still run around $1,000. The staff, if they don't ride recombents, might not know much more about the nuances of recombents than a first time purchaser who has studied up on the topic. If I were serious about buying myself a recumbent I think that I'd have to plan a road trip to a specialty store. I'd also do it on a week day and call ahead to be sure that "the man" was going to be in.
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Old 10-05-08, 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
I think that's a huge issue if you're interested in buying an enthuiast level bike.

Unless a bike shop is moving a good number of recumbents they simply can't afford to floor plan very many. The ones they do stock are likely to be low end models which still run around $1,000. The staff, if they don't ride recombents, might not know much more about the nuances of recombents than a first time purchaser who has studied up on the topic. If I were serious about buying myself a recumbent I think that I'd have to plan a road trip to a specialty store. I'd also do it on a week day and call ahead to be sure that "the man" was going to be in.
Correct. My own LBS which is a fairly large shop only has a couple models at any time and they really aren't what I would consider decent bents. Recently, the owner of the shop remodeled and was telling me during construction that "over there will be the shoe department, and over there is where women's clothing will be, and over here tri stuff and over there, etc."

I asked him where the bent department was going to be and he smiled and said that until I got 5 people a month to come in and buy bents, the recumbent "department" would still be upstairs in the corner behind the Burley trailers.
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Old 10-05-08, 06:58 AM
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Unfortunately 'bents' are still a small market share and not an easy find... on to what and why I ride it. I have a couple of LWB, Linear and Rans Stratus.. also have SWB Lightning P-38... the SWB is the sports car of bents and the LWB is the easier riding in my humble opinion...Personally I like the LWB better, they just feel more natural as far as seating position...
Hope you get to try some more before you buy.
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Old 10-05-08, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by jiminos View Post
... i am considering a sojourn to the "dark side." There are so many 'bents out there. Keeping in mind that i fully intend to ride as many different as possible (given that i live over 125 miles from the nearest bike shop that sells 'bents,) which do you ride and why? what were the factors that helped you decide? i would especially like to hear from those of you of a similar build (6'1" 220 lbs)....

thank you in advance for your responses...

be well,

jim
I have a wide variety of recumbents and like them all. Besides the ones in my signature, I have an EZ Tandem which I ride with my wife. Your style of riding, though, will have a lot to do with which one you like best.

For club rides, a high racer like my Corsa seems to do the best job of mixing with uprights. It's also the one which I do all my randonneuring rides on. Most of the rural low traffic roads in my part of Texas are rough chipseal, and its dual big wheels and laid back riding position handle it well, while giving you enough speed to not be out on the road an unreasonable amount of time on a 130 mile ride.

For my weekday evening rides, which usually start from my driveway, and include lots of stopping and starting, and a couple of jaunts down glass, gravel, and debris filled road shoulders, the lower bottom bracket Stratus XP is the one I ride. Long wheelbase bikes are lower, and put your feet nearer the ground.

I'm not buying any of this "recumbents aren't any more comfortable than uprights" talk. I ride with enough riders of both styles of bikes to know that it's the upright riders who are complaining about everything that hurts on the ride breaks, not the recumbent riders. But, like any bike, getting everything adjusted properly is important.

I'll just add that the longer the test rides you can make, the better. Research is great, but the only proof is riding yourself, and there are lots of different recumbents to try. And, like buying any bike, buying the best you can afford is usually a good idea. Enjoy, and of course, all this is just my .02.
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Old 10-05-08, 08:13 AM
  #15  
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I have nothing to add here but a simple request. Please stop referring to normal, upright bicycles with the abbreviation "DF".
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Old 10-05-08, 09:36 AM
  #16  
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I recently moved on up to a new RANS V-Rex after about two-and-a-half years/5500 miles on a 2000 Tailwind, my first 'bent. Very short learning curve going from a CLWB to a SWB. The long, flexy frame of the TW does soak up some road irregularities but I find the V-Rex even more comfortable and decidedly easier to ride faster. I was almost too tall (6'1"/45" X-seam) for the TW. Very easy on both bikes to put both feet on the ground when stopped.
I bought the Tailwind after a ride around the block (the price was right) and ordered/bought the V-Rex with no previous riding. No regrets. But, agree you should test-ride if you can, especially for a first 'bent.
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Old 10-05-08, 10:13 AM
  #17  
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Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
I have nothing to add here but a simple request. Please stop referring to normal, upright bicycles with the abbreviation "DF".
You may have to learn to live with this if you read bent threads. On bent forums, it is widely used and so it becomes a part of the normal conversational language. Instead of writing upright, which is not exactly accurate as several bents are ridden upright, or "normal" which implies that bents are "abnormal", it is much easier just to lump all road, mountain, hybrid, etc., bikes into a simple two letter designation - DF for diamond frame.

It works, it is simple, and it reduces confusion.
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Old 10-05-08, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
I have nothing to add here but a simple request. Please stop referring to normal, upright bicycles with the abbreviation "DF".
Be careful what you ask for because you might get it.

Some recumbent riders refer to normal, upright bicycles as "wedgies".
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Old 10-05-08, 10:56 AM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
You may have to learn to live with this if you read bent threads. On bent forums, it is widely used and so it becomes a part of the normal conversational language. Instead of writing upright, which is not exactly accurate as several bents are ridden upright, or "normal" which implies that bents are "abnormal", it is much easier just to lump all road, mountain, hybrid, etc., bikes into a simple two letter designation - DF for diamond frame.

It works, it is simple, and it reduces confusion.
Your logical explanation does nothing to remove the burr in my saddle that flares up every time I read that silly acronym. I don't expect anyone to stop using the term. I just wanted to say that I don't like it. I'll just start referring to recumbents as "GM" (geekmobiles).
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Old 10-05-08, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
Be careful what you ask for because you might get it.

Some recumbent riders refer to normal, upright bicycles as "wedgies".
That would be an improvement.
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Old 10-05-08, 11:40 AM
  #21  
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The "D" in "DF" does not stand for "Dumb".
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Old 10-05-08, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by janmm View Post
the "d" in "df" does not stand for "dumb".
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Old 10-05-08, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
Your logical explanation does nothing to remove the burr in my saddle that flares up every time I read that silly acronym. I don't expect anyone to stop using the term. I just wanted to say that I don't like it. I'll just start referring to recumbents as "GM" (geekmobiles).
That's what Hubby might have called them until he started having a LOT more shoulder pain (total shoulder replacement in left shoulder; severe osteoarthritis in right shoulder) after long rides on his road bikes. He LOVED the ride on the recumbent loaned to him by a member of the group. He said he could ride all day and keep going. Before he reached this point, he tended to be one of the ones who looked and laughed.... not anymore.
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Old 10-05-08, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by europa View Post
Interestingly Tom, a lot of hand problems are not solved by handle bar height but by saddle position. I'm a fan of the balanced riding position expounded by Steve Hogg, Peter White and others - basically, you move your saddle back until you can take your hands off the bars and put them behind your back without undue abdominal stress. If you're very fit and flexible with good core strength, you may be able to ride with the old knee over the pedal routine but for most riders, and especially wombats like me, that just places undue weight on the hands. My saddle is now a long way back. The commuter, with its flat bars also makes great use of those ergo grips, which do work.

Moving the seat back should indeed shift more weight off of the hands, especially if the hand position is higher. That's exactly what comfort bikes and crank-forward bikes (and recumbents) do. They relax the seat angle relative to the pedals, which shifts weight to the seat.

A road bike will typically have a seat angle of 73-74 degrees. If you get a set-back seat post and move your saddle back as far it will go, you will reduce this further.

A comfort bike will typically have a seat angle of 68-71 degrees. A crank forward bike will typically be in the mid-60s.

However if you move it back and keep your hand positions low, then that will result in shifting some of the weight of your upper torso back onto your hands ... depending upon how long your arms are and how low you set the bars.
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Old 10-05-08, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Yen View Post
That's what Hubby might have called them until he started having a LOT more shoulder pain (total shoulder replacement in left shoulder; severe osteoarthritis in right shoulder) after long rides on his road bikes. He LOVED the ride on the recumbent loaned to him by a member of the group. He said he could ride all day and keep going. Before he reached this point, he tended to be one of the ones who looked and laughed.... not anymore.
I have no problems with GMs or the people who ride them. I just don't like having my bikes referred to as DFs.
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