A recumbent bike for those who are so inclined
Fitness: Middle-aged knees and back starting to hurt from riding your bike? Here’s a bicycle built for you. Never mind that it’s a bit eccentric looking.
First you get a tricycle. Then training wheels for your bicycle. Next, a 10-speed or even a full-suspension mountain bike.
Then you get old, or your knees hurt, or your back aches. Maybe it’s time for a La-Z-Boy on wheels.
Actually, there is something like that — a recumbent bike.
And while it will probably never be as popular as the Italian racing bikes that whip past autos in traffic, the recumbent bike is increasingly the choice of cyclists looking for a bike that spares them pain.
The “bents,” as owners sometimes call them, feature cushiony seats that recline within easy reach of the ground. Handlebars are above the seat at shoulder level or below the seat at the position where arms naturally hang. Enthusiasts say this combination creates a comfortable ride.
“It’s like sitting in a chair as you would to watch TV,” said mail carrier Bob Felechner, 62, of Irvine.
Felechner hung up his 10-speed two years ago after pain in his back, arms and prostate became too much. That meant giving up the 35-mile biking treks he made on weekends with a church group.
“I put up with the pain because riding was a way for me to get out of the house and socialize … but it got to the point that it wasn’t enjoyable.
“I knew there had to be a better way.”
In addition to putting less stress on knees and other body parts, recumbents are more aerodynamic than regular bicycles. In fact, the fastest riders can top 60 mph.
Felechner has purchased two recumbents and says he’d never go back to a regular bike. His first purchase, the Lightning, was too fast, he said, sort of “like driving a Porsche in the parking lot.”
Riding the recumbent is so comfortable, Felechner said, that for the first time he is using the bicycle to commute to work. (It’s a 14-mile round-trip between his Irvine home and the Newport Beach post office.)
Recumbents may be hot these days, but they are not new. They were popular in the 1830s as racing bikes but soon banned because of their aerodynamic advantage.
“We’re just not meant to have little seats go up our rears like that.”