Experiences with a recumbent bike
The couch in Russia
Already my first long distance recumbent ride, a Russian 1200 km brevet, I finished without any physical problems.
But when I planed to built and to ride a couch, I did not imagine, that it could be so difficult...
Learning to ride recumbently
Riding a couch is much different than riding a normal bicycle. With the couch you can not push with one foot on the ground when starting. Also you can not put your body weight on the pedals for start up or for climb hills. When I wanted to use the couch for the first time, I had to practice how to start. I needed a lot of practice, until I was able to bring the couch on an ascending slope up to speed.
The biggest difficulty was to go slowly straight ahead. Unlike than on an upright bike, the upper part of the body can not be used to stabilize the physical balance. Your body is immobile if you lie on the couch! In addition the sense of balance is unincisive in the horizontal body position. In the beginning, like a drunk driver, I needed big steering movements to keep the balance. I had to learn new stabilizing movements.
Influence of geometric design
As a main technical cause of a bad direction stability I could find out the weight distribution on the wheels. With personal scales I found that with my road bikes about 40% of the total weight lies on the front wheel. With the couch there was 60% of the total weight on the front wheel. With the given frame this lack can be corrected afterwards no more completely. I installed the seat as far as possible to the backside and shortened the crank beam. Now after these actions lies about 50% of the weight on the front wheel. The driving behaviour is now more stable.
On my trip to Russia I found out, that the more luggage weight is packed on the rear wheel, the more the driving behaviour becomes stable.
With the design of a next couch I will bear this effect in mind!
When I began riding the couch, I was much slower than with my road bikes. I was not able to give my full power to the pedals. I needed some thousands kilometres to trim my muscles for the couch. Now with the couch on flat roads I am faster than I ever was with a road bike.
Sensitivity to flat tires
With the couch I use the same wheels and tires than with my road bikes. But with the couch I have much more flat tires than with my road bikes. Main reason of the flats are snaps through (snake bites) by driving through pot holes or driving over stones. I think the sensitivity is caused on one hand in a higher maximum speed and on the other hand in missing the suspension effect of the arms and the legs. On the couch the body weight (I am not a light weight!) presses more directly on the wheels.
Another disadvantage of the couch is, that it is pretty difficult to make way to obstacles. Because of the seat position the front wheel is not visible and you cannot look directly before the front wheel!
The flats problem has not been solved yet, but I am working on it. Wheels and tires of a motorbike are a little bit to heavy for my low human power output :-))
On the whole I am contented with the couch and would not like to miss it. A normal road bike and the couch have different advantages and disadvantages..
A road bike is more maneuverable and faster in climbing hills.
The couch is a snug sun lounger, a comfortable voyage vehicle for long distances and, because of low air resistance, a speedy rocket on flat roads if you want.
If you have questions concerning recumbent biking, please feel free to ask. I will be glad about questions and comments!
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