September 20, 2005

Exactly how dorky...

Is a recumbent bicycle?

The Loneliness of the Recumbent Bicyclist

There are lots of them here in Madison. I thought I'd warn you.

29 comments:

P. Froward said...

Dude, recumbent bicycles are totally cool. The only trouble is they're low to the ground; I wouldn't care to ride one in traffic.

Mark Daniels said...

I have long wanted to get a recumbent bike. Because of back problems, I can no longer ride a conventional bicycle. But I can handle a recumbent. And actually, I think they look sort of cool, too.

Jonathan said...

Very dorky. Their proponents tend to insist on the superiority of these machines to conventional bicycles. Yet, like the Dvorak keyboard, the recumbent never catches one with more than a small minority of users.

Meade said...

Let me put it this way - 75% of the people on this album cover ride recumbent bicycles.

Isaac said...

True they look dorky, but it is true that they are, in some sense, vastly superior to normal bikes. On most terrain, a recumbent is much faster than a normal bike (wind resistance and all that) which is why international road racing organizations have banned recumbent-type designs from competition.

Pat Patterson said...

Yeah,dorky, but the ultra-cool Christopher Walken rode around one in 'Brainstorm'. Even the dorkiest of devices can have their moment of glory.

mcg said...

Well, yeah, lmeade, but THIS GUY thinks they're cool, so I think he wins out.

XWL said...

It's not that they are dorky as they are redolent of vintage mid 70s academic style institutional counterculturalism.

I've seen these quite a few times here too (in Santa Monica), but I don't think I've ever seen anyone ride one who didn't have a close cropped grey/light brown beard or under the age of 50.

Their appeal is obvious to engineering types of a certain age, and absolutely no one else.

Bruce Hayden said...

Professor Froward

Solution for being so low down - tall flag, typically a long whip like antenna with a florescent flag attached to the end. May not help their own visibility.

Also, many such riders seem to have the rear view mirrors attached to their helmets.

Decklin Foster said...

I wouldn't say they're particularly dorky, but they sure do seem to attract comments!

Rockeye said...

I see them all the time in Madison where I work, and they scare the hell out of me. They don't look very maneuverable so I can't depend on them to get out of trouble by themselves. Now my car isn't maneuverable in the least but its got airbags and a ton of steel protecting me. Even with the long flag poles they are hard to see. Some day I'm going to have a geek-sized greasy smear on the bottom of my car and I'm going to have to undergo therapy to excise the guilty residue inside my skull from squashing one of those dudes.

Slocum said...

Quite a few of 'em around here, too. In principle, they are faster than standard bikes on the flats (lower wind resistance), but not on hills (they're heavier and you can't stand up in the pedals). But none of them I ever encounter on my daily rides actually ARE fast, since they're all ridden by old guys (but oddly enough, come to think of it, never older women).

DonSurber said...

"There are lots of them here in Madison"

Dorks or recumbent bicycles?

bill said...

Take a look at the Greenspeed recumbent trikes. The pictures look uber-dorky, but after seeing one in person during a bike ride, this is one badass machine. Next bike I get will be one of these.

DaveG said...

Dorky, schmnorky. The problem is that they're durned expensive.

Jonathan said...

Yeah they're fast, but they can't climb, and who wants to sit on a lawn chair when it's hot and your back is sweaty. Plus, as someone pointed out, they're not as visible to motorists as are conventional bikes. But to each his own.

The guy on the Greenspeed does indeed have a thin-cropped grey beard. Hmm...

Jeff said...

All three of the guys that ride these in Manhattan are have close-cropped grey beards!

They are the bicycle equivalent of the dreaded umbrella hat.

the Rising Jurist said...

I like the ones (like Greenspeed's) that are super-low to the ground. Between their height and the negative camber wheels, those things look straight-up tough.

Wurly said...

Yeah, a long, whip-like flourescent flag would really reduce the dork factor.

I never see anyone on a recumbent bike who appears to be under 50, and I always get the feeling that they are one step away from puttering around town in a four-wheel motorized scooter.

Art said...

So, Ms. Althouse, do you ride any sort of bicycle, upright or recumbant?

I ride an upright to work most days until the temperature drops below 20 degrees. But when I was having back problems I considered getting a recumbant.

I tested a Greenspeed and only the fear of explaining a 24 hundred dollar purchase to my wife kept me from walking away with one.

Ann Althouse said...

Art: I used to bike to work. On a regular bike, of course. It is actually quicker for me than driving (considering the parking and walking entailed in driving). But I don't do it anymore because I consider it dangerous. I would rather take 10 more minutes and walk if I'm going to avoid driving. But I stopped walking to work because bicyclists who considered it dangerous to stay on the street where they belong kept crowding me on the sidewalk, making walking dangerous. Which is why I drive. I'm protected inside metal, in a pleasant temperature-controlled space that I find quite nice.

John said...

I see them around Iowa City all the time (or at least the same one multiple times). This last time, it was the dead of night and I only saw it because of the rider's helmet-mounted headlight.

And yes, they are dorky... and it's precisely because of their association with said "mid-70s academic-style institutional counterculturalism".

jeff said...

We have several of them in the Salem area.
I personally wouldn't mind having one - I don't have any hills to worry about, and I've noticed at the gym that the recumbent stationary bikes don't hurt my knees as much as the vertical ones do.
I'd hope for the same result here - perhaps that, plus the price, is why you seem to only see old guys riding them.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bill said...

damn, sippi, that's just harsh.

Telecomedian said...

There are a decent amount of them in Washington, D.C. as well. I'd like to try one out, but I'm only 32 with a full head of hair and not even a shred of grey yet.

Jim Bouman said...

A few comments:

Some wag (but a wise wag) observed that that if there were any logic in matters involving traveling "astride" that men would be the ones who ride sidesaddle.

All the macho posturing by previous common taters reeks of nonsense spouted by those who have a bike in the garage with tires that have rotted flat. They take them up to Central Wisconsin once a year and cycle through tommy town on the ridiculous Elroy-Sparta bike path. Ha!

I do twenty-five miles, four times a week, recumbent. When I feel like "century" I go all the way from Waukesha to Cottage Grove and back.
And, I do it recumbent.

And I don't have to squash the family jools into ridiculous cycling tights, then mount a punishing saddle just to feel like John Wayne on his horse.

Jonathan said...

Hey, you should ride the bike that you like. I would like to try a recumbent, but I like the way conventional bikes feel and I like to ride hills. In my rides in the mountain West I have never seen a recumbent on a steep climb. There must be people who ride such bikes in the mountains, but the fact that there are so few of them suggests that recumbents are not well suited to the task. I suppose the low frequency of recumbents could be explained by widespread ignorance of their benefits, but it seem more likely that the technology is flawed in some way that everyone but a few enthusiasts recognizes.

And of course, riding a recumbent would make me look dorky instead of studly and Lance-like, and I need all the help I can get.

Alan Bentrider said...

Well, I'm not concerned about my image, but I am concerned about the condition of certain anatomical parts, so I took up riding recumbents a year ago. :-)
Here's my blog:

http://www.thebentriders.com

PS - They're fast under the right engine..