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What are Different Types of Recumbent Bikes?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated May 23, 2024
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Recumbent bikes are a special type of bike that provide the rider with back support and have pedals that are located parallel to the seat of the bike. There are three broad categories: long wheelbase (LWB), compact long wheelbase (CLWB), and short wheelbase (SWB).

In LWB recumbent bikes, the pedals are located anywhere between the front and back wheels. They offer a smooth ride that is both fast and comfortable. On the other hand, these bikes can be difficult to maneuver at low speeds when ridden on pathways that are narrow or streets that are filled with pedestrians or other cyclists.

If the pedals are located very close to either the front or the back wheels, recumbent bikes are referred to as CLWB. These are the easiest to learn how to ride, because they are very stable and they respond well to the rider. They also have a higher seat, which makes it easier for the rider to see long distances and makes the rider more visible to other bicyclists and vehicles.

SWB recumbent bikes have pedals located ahead of the front wheel. They are easy to handle and to maneuver. Their compact size also makes them easier to move from place to place and to store when not in use.

Within these different categories, one can purchase styles meant for different purposes. Lowracer recumbent bikes, for example, are intended for fast riding. In fact, this style holds the world record for speed with a bicycle. They get their speed from their streamlined design and the severe reclining position it places the rider in.

Tricycle recumbent bikes are another variation of this type of bike. These can be configured with the two wheels in either the front or the back. They are ideal for handicapped individuals or for those who have difficulty maintaining their balance. For handicapped persons who have cannot use their legs at all, these tricycles are also available in a hand-powered variety.

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Discussion Comments
By wander — On Jun 27, 2011

I have never actually seen a recumbent bike locally. Even in the stores here you can't buy them, which I find unusual, as we aren't really that small of a city.

Does anyone know if you can buy good quality recumbent bikes online and have them delivered? If so, what kind of things should I be looking for when purchasing on?

I love the idea of being more comfortable when biking as I find I get a lot of strain from riding my traditional bike, especially in my knees and lower back. I am hoping that with a more seated position that I will be able to overcome that and get around more easily.

By animegal — On Jun 25, 2011

If you go to a gym check out the stationary recumbent bikes. I always thought these would be less of a workout because you are actually somewhat comfortable in a more seated position, but boy was I wrong. My trainer got me on to one of these because I was always complaining about my bottom hurting on the regular bike and the difference was amazing.

I felt a lot more secure in the stationary recumbent bike and got an amazing workout from it. On average if you are working hard you can burn upwards of 1000 calories on one of these bikes. I think that’s pretty impressive for sitting down and not being in pain.

By anon128957 — On Nov 21, 2010

This article is awful. Pedals parallel to the seat? What is that supposed to mean? Pedals anywhere between the front and back wheels? Doesn't that describe basically every bike in the world? If I didn't have the benefit of already knowing about recumbents and owning a few over the years, I wouldn't be able to figure out anything from this article alone.

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