Invisible recumbents narrowly avoid death

A video looking at extreme recumbent risk-takers on Britain’s public roads… (or not)!

See how they blend into the tarmac!

I’ve been meaning to post something like this for years, literally. I make no apologies for having my tongue firmly in cheek with the subtitles… 🙂

So many people (if truth be told, other cyclists mainly) spout off about how recumbents inherently must be hard to see and express amazement that you commute on one for thousands of miles each year, let alone survive a trip to the corner shop without instantly being flattened…

Yet when you actually ride one, or see one being ridden, you inevitably think to yourself, wow – I wish riding a normal bike felt this safe, with so much room given by motorists…

We still have just the one recumbent versus seven ordinary bikes. There are lots of valid reasons why you might not want one. But based on my experience, safety on the road doesn’t come into the picture (unless it’s to say that you’re actually much better off on a recumbent than anything else!)

A tiny aside

Watch the road positioning between 50 and 60 seconds into the video. There’s a serious risk that motorists coming up this road will straddle the central speed cushion, forcing you right up against the doors of the parked cars on your side. This is neatly pre-empted by the assertive positioning of the lower recumbent rider (David Gardiner, the proprietor of the excellent Laid-Back-Bikes).

You will often hear people say that the only way to ride safely is to pretend that people can’t see you. On the contrary, mastery of the road requires you to understand and exploit the fact that everyone can see you quite clearly almost all of the time – their incentives just aren’t well aligned with your needs.

13 thoughts on “Invisible recumbents narrowly avoid death”

  1. Why the gutter hugging? Why so close to parked cars. With that positioning your are inviting other vehicles to overtake.

  2. Ha! I was assuming someone would have a go for riding too far out!

    I’m not sure which bit in particular you’re referring to? You would expect people to overtake at 15-20s? 30s? 40, 50, 60s?

    I think it’s probably fair to say that the rider on the taller bike was still getting their eye in (first recumbent, just a few miles of experience) but even having said that.. it looks OK to me overall.

  3. Well done Dave. Cant believe the space I get on the Velo now from drivers. Some People just dont like recumbents because it offends their perception of the world.

  4. but.the recumbent riders have no rear lights.
    cycling on british roads with NO rear lights is it?
    clearly they WANT TO DIE°!
    and they should drive like a car i.e.
    near to the central dividing line so any cars wanting to overtake have to cross over to the opposing lane as they would do when overtaking a car.
    if they drive too close to the kerb there are plenty of idiot car ,truck,bus and van drivers who will try to squeeze through and end up FLATTENING
    the recumbent rider STONE DEAD°!
    Anyway the main problem is british roads are simply NOT designed for cycling and cars.this is the main problem.
    the best thing is to rip up all the roads and get the dutch to completely redesign the entire countries road networks and implement a completely separate cycling superhighway that connects the entire country.

  5. Hah! Thanks for this. I’ll need to use it a lot 🙂 My experience is exactly the same as yours – in fact, all of the more dangerous incidents I have experienced have happened when I was using the upright.
    And it is have a low racer that I use. Even more invisible! How is this possible?

  6. Good work. I didn’t realise I was being filmed…. should have had the Cherrybomb light on the back! Of course that would have made me too visible and that can also annoy some road users.
    Actually I do ride at this time of years with lights on front and back. Ideally hub powered so they’re available as soon as I get on.

    One factor here is the fact that camera is quite high up – so basically large high vehicles can easily see ‘bents. Strange then that drivers of these vehicles often seem to be the most visually inattentive. If the camera had been lower down (ie car driver height) then these bikes would again have become too visible – thus making the captions not work so well!
    The video does show that visibility / height differential between the ICE B2 twin 26″ wheeled high racer and the 20/26 Nazca Fuego semi-low racer is irrelevant from a higher vehicle. The ICE rider has an orange fluorescent hung over a back bag so would score extra points in some areas. However lights, flags and fluorescents don’t count as high as road position and general looking over shoulder (or in mirrors in the case of bikes, trikes and velomobiles).

    Good video of a fairly typical run. Good on Dave C on his very new to him ICE B2 (He was recently on BBC2 Adventure Show – Sore in the Saddle Audax episode. Not quite gone totally laid back but working his way to doing more miles on one!)

  7. Funny! Where were their flags?
    Those guys seem quite high up. Having just taken delivery of my Ice trike, I can say that that is really low… And yet I seem (small sample size so far) to get so much more respect and room on the road than when I’m on my road bike. Maybe it’s the weaving around at 30mph as the wheels get kicked about on the crap roads in Fife. 🙂

  8. Hey Al, thanks for the comment.

    There’s nothing quite as relaxing as riding a trike! It’s like having an invisible force field (I’ve sometimes had to pull over to force drivers to overtake, as they’re making an embarrassing and unnecessary queue behind me from over-courtesy).

    Personally I’ve never bothered with a flag. My experience as a driver is that flags as supplied with recumbents aren’t visible at any significant distance compared with the bike itself – you’d need a really big banner for that. But, it’s largely a social pressure / conforming thing and so the actual usefulness is not so much the point (all IMO).

    I did once buy a novelty Lidl streamer banner (the kind of thing you’d take to the beach if you wanted to advertise where you were sitting) with hallucinogenic butterflies on it, but I never dared actually ride with it 🙂

  9. Dave as Dutch cyclist I have the luxury to run my Rapto low racer (26/26) most of the time on a cycle path, 99% of my 56km return commuting trip. From personal experience I know that cycle paths are not always the saves place to be, but with a pair of eyes and some brain cells it is relax cycling. But a few years ago I discovered that taking the lane can be as relaxing in spite the fact that Dutch car drivers are not used seeing cyclist leaving the bicycle lane and I ride in primary position. The record honking is 5 time over a distance of 200 meters but I had never had an experience that car driver didn’t see me. Personal I find always remarkable how I as recumbent cyclist can influence traffic around me by changing my position on the road.
    Keep up the good work Erik

  10. Nice one. This seems to be such a common experience with bent riders.
    I’ve been accosted once in my local supermarket by a lady to tell me she couldn’t seem me on “that” bike, and had someone cross the road to tell me the same, so it *must* be true.

    Like the other posters. I have more incidences on my upright than on a bent. Motorists don’t know what to make of you and make more room to protect their paintwork. Even the occasional pedestrian takes a step back on the pavement when they (don’t) see you, despite my usual secondary being about 1.5m from the curb.

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