If you have spent some time cycling in your local area, you may have noticed that some cyclists lie back on specialized bicycles as they cycle instead of sitting upright.

So what are these bicycles where they lie down? These bicycles are known as recumbent bicycles, and they function in a similar manner to standard upright bicycles. They operate the handlebar and brakes from the rear of the bicycle where the seat is located, while their feet turn the pedals situated at the front. Like any other bicycle, the only two things you need to ride a recumbent bicycle are balance and a push. The ways that the various mechanisms and parts of a recumbent bicycle operate are also very similar to those of an upright bicycle.

There are, however, a few important differences to keep in mind if you are new to recumbent bicycles and have only ever ridden upright bicycles. It is important to familiarize yourself with the unique characteristics of recumbent bicycles before you make a purchase.

Why do people ride recumbent bicycles?

There are a few reasons why some cyclists choose to ride recumbent bicycles instead of upright ones. Some people like to have a variety of bicycles in their collection, and a recumbent bicycle offers a different sitting position to a typical upright bicycle.

For those cyclists who find that upright bicycles cause discomfort in their backs, the seat of a recumbent bicycle may be better suited to their posture. Cyclists who ride recumbent bicycles are generally seated lower to the ground compared to those who ride upright bicycles. They are therefore able to ride faster due to the recumbent bicycle’s more aerodynamic shape.

There are, however, some disadvantages to riding a recumbent bicycle instead of an upright one. The first is that the cyclist’s lower sitting position can also cause recumbent bicycles to be less visible than upright ones. The cyclist also has to take into account the fact that their own range of vision is affected when they use a recumbent bicycle.

Recumbent bicycles are also often more expensive than upright bicycles, and the parts involved in their construction can sometimes be specific to recumbent bicycles. Despite this, many cyclists still feel that the advantages make owning a recumbent bicycle worthwhile.

For some cyclists, recumbent bicycles mean increased comfort

Unlike the saddles of upright bicycles, recumbent bicycle seats are essentially chairs. For those who feel discomfort after leaning forward for long periods of time on an upright bicycle, the seat of a recumbent bicycle may be better able to support the cyclist’s back.

Mounting and dismounting the bicycle may also be easier for those who prefer to step over the bicycle frame rather than swing their leg over the rear wheel. Recumbent bicycles may therefore help to make cycling more accessible to those with lower mobility.

However, you do not have to dislike using upright bicycles to enjoy recumbent bicycles. Many cyclists like to own a collection of different bicycles to add variety to their experience. If you are thinking of trying something different, a change in seating position by using a recumbent bicycle is one possibility to consider.

Recumbent bicycles are faster

The lower height of a recumbent bicycle, combined with the fact that the cyclist is lying back rather than sitting upright, means that there is less air resistance while the bicycle is moving.

Not only can recumbent bicycles reach higher speeds compared to their upright counterparts, it also means that less effort is required to reach the same speed. This is ideal for those cyclists who want to be able to ride slightly faster while maintaining a comfortable pace. Cyclists who enjoy riding routes involving plenty of descents will also be able to make use of the recumbent bicycle’s aerodynamic characteristics to reach their vehicle’s highest speeds.

Even if the route is fairly flat and uneventful, virtually every cyclist would benefit from the higher speeds that the recumbent bicycle’s shape can help to attain.

How cyclists who ride recumbent bicycles address the reduced visibility

To other road users, a recumbent bicycle is less visible than an upright bicycle because the cyclist is easier to spot if he or she is using the latter.

One way that cyclists who use recumbent bicycles try to improve their visibility is by placing a tall flag on the back of their bicycle. These flags are typically brightly colored, which helps to alert other road users of the recumbent bicycle’s presence. Another disadvantage of riding a recumbent bicycle is that the cyclist will find it much harder to look directly behind themselves compared to when they use an upright bicycle.

This is because a cyclist is higher from the ground and can see further away while sitting on a saddle. This cyclist would also not have to worry about a recumbent bicycle seat blocking their vision. It is for this reason that cyclists often attach mirrors to their recumbent bicycles.

With mirrors, the cyclist is more aware of any other road users that my be present behind him or her.

Recumbent bicycles have their own market

While recumbent bicycles are not radically different from their upright counterparts, the specialized parts that may be required during any repairs cannot be as easily found as upright bicycle parts.

Cyclists will often discuss their purchases with recumbent bicycle specialists who focus their marketing on this type of bicycle. Recumbent bicycles are also often more expensive compared to upright bicycles. Fortunately, this can also be seen as an advantage in that recumbent bicycles are often made of high quality materials and manufactured by those who are experienced in working with them.

A recumbent bicycle that has been set up correctly by a highly regarded specialist is better suited to touring than a cheap upright bicycle.


Whether it’s for exercise, touring, or for recreation, a recumbent bicycle is a fantastic addition to any cyclist’s collection. If you have been thinking of purchasing a bicycle that you might find more comfortable and slightly quicker, while also one that will help you approach cycling from a new perspective, you may want to consider the wide variety of recumbent bicycles available.