Recent Laid Back Bikes customer Richard Quincey has sent in a really comprehensive write-up regarding his new Nazca Fuego. I’ve interspersed photos:
Being a new recumbent rider (or going Dutch!)
If you have found these notes you are taking more than a casual look at a recumbent. A few months ago I was doing the same; these notes are my observations & comments after a few weeks acclimatising with a new recumbent.
Why I was looking ….
I was getting wrist pain and body discomfort on a normal bike; I also think the best European recumbent bikes are now quite mature as a technology and affordable (at least when compared with high quality road or touring bikes).
Some salient facts … my height is 1.69m, X-height 38”; I live in the countryside in Devon.
Why a recumbent ….
From a common sense perspective a recumbent helps solve the issues of:
- stress on the wrist & arms
- stress on the back & neck
- stress on the abdomen
- compression of the chest / lungs
- stress on the knees (must be properly set up)
- it is also significantly more efficient aerodynamically
- it is also very flexible in use …. touring, day jaunts, audax etc
And admittedly I came from the perspective of why not try something different! And yes you will get attention riding a recumbent … but so far the attention has only been
positive (& very curious!).
I was also concerned about safety … I googled it a lot …. so far my experiences on country roads (big and small, bright jacket but no flag) seem to reflect the anecdotal evidence from other recumbent riders that the traffic notices you more and gives you a wide berth (even more if you wobble a bit!).
Choosing a dealer ….
If you have found Dave McCraw’s website you will have found Laid Back Bikes (LB). Although a long way from home I used Laid Back Bikes specifically as LB provides a bespoke service that I think is important if you are to make an informed choice and to get the specification / bike set-up correct. LB’s experience with recumbents, your specific fit aspects, the details thereof and the time willingly spent with customers to get it just right is rare nowadays.
In looking for a recumbent I learnt about fit & position on bikes; it seems that with diamond frame bikes fit is most likely to be always a best compromise. The frame geometry and typical crank lengths mean a degree of ill fit and thus body stress, especially the knees. It is surprising how few riders know much about proper fit and crank length.
With a bespoke recumbent, boom adjustment and careful choice of cranks one can overcome these issues and indeed so far in use, now that I am in control and have relaxed, there is an absence of aches after a ride. Indeed my body feels quite refreshed after a ride and my knees if anything feel happier & stronger. I just need to build up my recumbent muscles; up hill is slower at the moment, but downhills are quite exhilarating although I really recommend using cycling glasses.
What I ordered ….
I needed a bike that was not too high; this meant something like a Challenge Furai or a Nazca Fuego. I opted for the Fuego after reading many reviews (flexiblity, handling, quality, availability, LB’s opinion etc) and a test drive (it felt good).
The Fuego has a robust steel frame and thus is potentially not the lightest of recumbents; I also wanted a hub dynamo, lights, mudguards. I was concerned about weight, so I took time to careful specify certain components to control the weight – the key choices made were:
- Medium frame
- Carbon seat / Ventisit pad
- ICE sourced shorter cranks
- Rack removed and replaced with a barrel tool bag strapped to the seat / headrest (shockcord works well with a recumbent shell seat together making for a flexible carrying system… no rack needed for day rides!)
- Folding Kojak tyres (lighter!)
- Lightweight SP SD8 hub dynamo (only 155g more than a normal hub and so compact!)
- B&M IQ LED lights (wiring in frame by Nazca .. very tidy, but long enough for the rack)
- Lightweight ICE headrest (also an excellent rear end lifting handle with no rack)
- Avid BB7 disc brakes
- SRAM X9 gearing, lightweight block
There is a lot of debate & opinions about recumbent bike weight on the web; I concluded that a fair comparison was with a touring bike or MTB with some suspension, not a bare road racer.
My Fuego weighs in at 16 kg (without tool bag) or about 15.5kg if you remove kickstand & mudguards; I will also change to my lighter SPD pedals once I am ready. I think this weight compares quite well with a Furai (or similar suspension recumbent), a handmade touring bike or a good mountain bike with part suspension. The weight figures also concur with the weight figures given by John Mills in his Readers’ Bikes entry.
Learning to ride …. again!
Learning to ride second time around makes you think; I realised that diamond frame bikes are ridden in at least two distinct ways …. you typically stand for greater control at slow speeds … the same is true on a recumbent albeit with some differences (obviously you cannot stand!).
This leads me to suggest that a Fuego can be considered to be ridden in two main positions:
- Position 1 = handlebars up, body sitting up (back, shoulders off seat)
- Position 2 = handlebars down, body sitting back (back, shoulders on seat, head on head rest)
Plus recognise that a recumbent is balanced & steered using:
- body weight / position
- steering position
- pedaling motion – unequal pedal pressure
However a recumbent is more sensitive / subtle; lean and steering movement is less pronounced.
So how have I got with learning to ride a recumbent?
The first few days are about trying & persevering off the public road! it soon becomes natural again …. here are my suggestions to newcomers about how to ride:
- Initially …. to get used to balancing … position 1, legs hanging down, roll down a slope … steer and lean it to just get the feel of it, where the limits are etc
- Starting off pedaling …. position 1, low gear (but not too low), lead pedal at 12 o’clock, push off firmly but not too strongly as this changes the bike balance … just enough to get some motion and the other foot on the pedal without wobble; once both pedals are in motion it aids balance
- Up to speed …. drop back into position 2 and enjoy (especially down hills!) – Slight adjustments …. slight steering movements or slight shoulder movements or slight knee movement (outwards) or unequal pedal pressure (this can also help correct over-lean for example in tighter turns)
- Straight cycling …. look at a point ahead on the road and take care when looking at the mirror or hand signaling as this alters balance
- Tight turns / U turns …. these are the hardest to get used to; use position 1 and you will find your in-built diamond frame bike balance sense will work, but you may have to ratchet the pedals back & forth to avoid catching your heel on the front wheel
And some other random observations …
- It is not far to fall if you screw up and the seat edge trim hits the ground first so at slow speeds (when you are more likely to come off) it is embarrassing rather than painful and no damage is caused to the bike
- At stop have the bike leaning positively to one side (ideally the non lead pedal side)
- Drop your feet down on the ground as you slow and the seat will stand you up as you stop
- Keep your knees upright not waggling outwards as this changes the bike balance
- Sorting a wobble …. steering into the lean will counter the bike progressively leaning over
- The recumbent back end can be quite light on the road …. use the front brake mostly especially on loose surfaces, use the rear brake to add braking power rather than on its own unless it is trim braking
- You might want to walk across busy road junctions
My thanks to Richard for an extremely comprehensive set of thoughts!
- Other readers’ bikes (or trikes!)