The First Recumbents

Jan Heine has discovered recumbents.

“While the racing world outlawed recumbents soon after Francis Faure set an hour record on a recumbent in 1933, cyclotourists and randonneurs couldn’t have cared less about what the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) thought: That recumbents weren’t “real” bicycles.

Recumbents appealed to “real-world” riders because they seemed to offer speed and comfort, in addition to novelty. “

He tried a mid 1930s Velocar but found it difficult to ride because he is too tall for the  machine  but has been offered another go when it has been adjusted to suit him..

As with all bikes, they must be fitted to the rider.

As he says, “recumbent seats have come a long way since 1933″ and I would certainly agree with that statement.

My current machine is superbly comfortable.

Read his post in full

Nazca Gaucho HiRacer 28

I visited SPEZI in 2018 and enjoyed the spectacle of the place.

I am still looking for a simple, lightweight machine that will easily pack into a suitcase for travelling.

The Zox caught my eye and I was impressed by a short ride around the test track. They are not the most elegant of designs, being made from rectangular tubing which gives them a rather agrucultural look.
Next day I returned for another ride and realised that the seat is more upright than I am used to and is not easily adjustable.

Then I noticed the Nazca stand had their Highracer 28 available for a test ride. I was encouraged to take it for a long ride to get a feel for it.
The seat is noticeably higher than my Rosetta and the 700c wheels could fit only 28-700 tyres with no room for mudguards so I was prepared to dismiss it from my wishlist.

However the frame looked as though it could be fairly easily dismantled and fitted into a smallish box.

I had been walking around most of the day and the prospect of a ride was appealing so off I went.

I immediately felt at home on the bike and started thinking about the possibility of perhaps fitting smaller wheels to lower the seat a bit. The Gaucho is made for rim brakes only so it would need longer brake arms for smaller rims.

My suggestion of using disk brakes was dismissed as detracting from the design philosophy and degrading its performance.

After mulling it over for some weeks and emailing Nazca about what I wanted I placed an order for a frameset with disk brake mount on the rear end.  They did not want to make a disk brake fork but I had carbon fork in my shed that I decided to use.

It took some months for the frame to arrive and was a bit fiddly to assemble some parts.

I have been riding FWD bikes for many years and was really not sure I would be smitten with this one but it has grown on me.

It is a very relaxing bike to ride and I am enjoying the lack of wheel slip on the very steep climb up to our house.

Why Not a Recumbent?

I have been reading a book by Robert Penn called “It’s All About the Bike” which a friend gave me last week. Penn has been a life-long cyclist and rode around the world in his late twenties.

The book is the story of his love affair with cycling and the journey to build his dream bike.
He goes into great detail about the invention and development of the bicycle but never once mentions anything beyond the traditional diamond frame design.
It would appear that he had never heard of recumbents, which have been around since at least the early 1930’s (Francis Faure captured the world hour record in July 1933).

Interestingly, he describes one of the factors that lead me to recumbents:

“I’ve suffered from numb hands over the years. It’s a common cyclists’ complaint, often dubbed ‘cyclists’ palsy’.”

and, describing a particular long descent he says:

“First my hands went numb – something I was used to – but the alarm bells really started ringing when I realized I couldn’t feel anything beneath my elbows, nor could I pull the brake to stop the bike.”

Coincidentally I read a thread on the [Randon] email list today about handlebars wherein Jake says:

“I should say I’m still looking for the magic bullet for hand and shoulder pain which has only gotten worse in my ~12 years  of long rides.
I’d like to not switch to a recumbent. (I’m not making a dig at recumbent riders. You guys rock!)”

Another commenter says:

“I have nerve damage and carpal tunnel.”

One of my memories of the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200km randonnee is from after the event when a number of us were reliving our ride in St Quentin.
The discussion revolved around saddle sores, neck and shoulder pain, numb fingers and other ailments.

I could not think of anything to complain about, having not suffered any of those problems since switching to a recumbent.
The only issue I occasionally suffer from is “hot-foot” – a burning feeling on the soles of my feet on long hot rides which happens on uprights as well.

I wonder what it is that stops people from trying something different, even when it is recognised as potentially solving a problem they are having?

Ideal Crank Length

Crank length is part of a system of hinges and levers that must operate in the larger context of an individual’s biomechanics.
Longer cranks increased flexion and the range of movement required at both the hip and knee.
Where there is indecision, cyclists should opt for a shorter crank to reduce the risk of injury.

There does not appear to be a strong argument for optimising crank length in terms of pure performance.
There was no significant change in power when cranks were as long as 200mm or as short as 150mm.
Longer cranks can make a difference, but only for short sprints from a standing start with a fixed gear ratio.

Read Matt Wikstrom’s article here


The Ideal Randonneuring Bike

I could not agree more with Pamela Blalock who says:

A good brevet bike is one you use on a brevet with little or no hassle or pain.

This means the bike is:

  • reliable and comfortable
  • has enough storage capacity that you can carry what you need for the distance and conditions (including clothes and tools) and/or store what you no longer need.
  • and since the longer brevets require lights and usually involve sustained night riding, a bike used for longer brevets should have reliable long-lasting lights.”
    For me this means a hub dynamo is essential. Current ones are quiet, reliable and create imperceptible drag.
    They can also charge gadgets such as phones whilst also powering lights.

ReadPamela’s post here

Recumbents at PBP

Bob Fourney rode a Lightning F-90 in the 1999 PBP and had a crew. According to this link he completed it in 47 hours.

Results for the four fastest recumbents at PBP 2011:

  • Jérôme Deloge – Zockra lowracer 51:27
  • Andreas Koerner – M5 Carbon High Racer 52:39
  • Robert Carlier – M5 Carbon High Racer 53:00
  • Hans Wessels – Quest Velomobile 55:30

David Cambon looks at Paris-Brest-Paris & Recumbent Bikes

See also:

Recumbents as Audax Vehicles

PBP 2003 results for “Other Bikes”



recumbent bicycle places the rider in a laid-back reclining position.

Recumbents come in many different sizes and configurations usually with either two or threes wheels.carbent4

Most recumbents are rear-wheel-drive but there are many FWD models available.

A well designed recumbent is far more comfortable than an upright bike;
the rider’s weight is distributed comfortably over a larger area, supported by back and buttocks.

There is minimal weight on the hands so you should not suffer sore wrists or numb hands/fingers after a long ride.


On a traditional upright bicycle, the body weight rests entirely on a small portion of the sitting bones, the feet, and the hands.

Early Recumbents

Recumbent bicycle designs were around from the 1860s of both prone and supine varieties can be traced back to the earliest days of the bicycle.

Before the shape of the bicycle settled down following Starley‘s safety bicycle, there was a good deal of experimentation with various arrangements, and this included designs which might be considered recumbent. Continue reading “Recumbents”