Author Topic: Regional popularity of recumbents  (Read 1783 times)

Cudzoziemiec

  • Eating all the pies and drinking all the tea.
Regional popularity of recumbents
« on: 24 February, 2021, 03:38:16 pm »
A RANDOM CYCLIST CONVERSATION yesterday with a man working on a Grandini outside his house led to the observation that when he had lived in London, he used to see "hundreds" recumbents, but since moving to Bristol in 2009, he's only seen about one. I can't comment on London but certainly recumbents are a very rare sight in Bristol; much rarer than other "unusual" cycle types such as cargo bikes or even unicycles. Nevertheless, they are seen in the lanes around the city. Here's my bullshit hypothesis to explain this – please add your own observations and demolish, finesse or endorse as you see fit.

My bullshit hypothesis rests on two propositions: that recumbents are almost exclusively ridden by Keen CyclistsTM, as opposed to pragmatic cycle users; and that recumbents are at their best in rural environments. The first I think is pretty sound, the second is likely to be typical forum-user bullshit about things they have no experience of (the only not-quite saving grace being that in this case it's self-acknowledged bullshit).

So, firstly, recumbents are expensive. They are also bulky, which makes storage difficult. The expense makes indoor storage, especially in an area of high theft-risk, which Bristol is, pretty important, but the expense of urban living, Bristol being a high example again, makes indoor space more difficult to obtain. So you have to already be a Keen Cyclist in order to be a recumbenteer.

On the second point, I'm basing my assumptions on the idea that both aerodynamics and comfort are more of a gain outside town. Aerodynamics because you tend to be riding faster out of town, and also because built-up environments tend to reduce wind speed. Comfort because journey distances tend to be shorter; it's usually less distance from home to work etc in a city than commuting into a city from the surrounding area. This factor would also reduce the gain from aerodynamics. Similarly, you rarely see a full-on aero TT bike being ridden in town. Finally on the urban question, recumbents might be considered less practical than uprights in town traffic, both for riding (harder to see over traffic) but more so for parking (I'm sure it is possible to lock one to a sheffield stand, especially with a long chain, but it would require more space either end of the stand – often lacking – and once done you're back into the risk factor).

Therefore, most recumbenteers will probably already have at least one gnuprite bike which is more likely to be used for urban riding. The recumbent will come into its own for weekend play.

But that's for a city where you can be out into the countryside in say half an hour tops. Transfer that to a place the size of London and all the parameters shift. Commutes etc are likely to be longer, therefore more benefit from the aero and comfort. It takes longer to get out of the city, so more of the weekend rides (play) are likely to be within the city. Incomes are generally a bit higher, so the extra cost of a recumbent compared to another machine is less. London specifically has a good (by British standards) network of cycle lanes, so increasing the speed benefits. And of course the larger population means you're more likely to have a shop within reach that sells or at least knows about them, and meet other people who have one, as well as lessening the outlier effect (in all walks of life!).

So, logically I'd expect higher per head 'bent ownership – or perhaps that should just be higher per cyclist bentsmanship – in say Birmingham and Glasgow than say Brighton and Gloucester. But I expect it isn't really like that at all...
Riding a bike through a city is like navigating the collective neural pathways of a vast global mind.

Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #1 on: 24 February, 2021, 04:14:15 pm »
Not getting out much?😂

Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #2 on: 24 February, 2021, 05:16:20 pm »
Bristol is hilly which makes it more challenging than Portsmouth, say.

My perception is is that their popularity overall has declined a little and there has been a shift from bikes to trikes which has contributed to a reduction in the number of people learning to ride a recumbent two-wheeler. Trike sales are buoyed up by ICE being a manufacturer but new bike sales are almost in terminal decline. How many dealers are there now compared to 20 years ago?

Scotland seems to have a good number of riders, helped by two dealers who actually keep recumbents in stock.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #3 on: 24 February, 2021, 05:27:55 pm »
I'd certainly agree with your synopsis of what Keen Cyclists™ are likely to ride when.  You don't see many recumbents in cities for the same reason you don't see many Bromptons out in the lanes - the exception in both cases tending to be the people who are away from home or who only have the one cycle - eg. disabled trike users or those constrained to a folder by storage space.

Anecdotally I'm more likely to meet a random recumbent rider in the lanes of Worcestershire and Warwickshire than I am in central Birmingham.  The exception to this rule being handcyclists, who don't tend to cover large distances, particularly in hilly terrain.

I don't think hills are a barrier to recumbent riding per se - especially as trikes have a distinct advantage for slow climbers - but they're not a reason to use one for transport in the way that windy flatlands or a London commute might be.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Cudzoziemiec

  • Eating all the pies and drinking all the tea.
Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #4 on: 24 February, 2021, 05:41:40 pm »
I wondered if terrain might be another factor but then thought, well, people who ride recumbents do ride them up hills, and there are plenty of cities, not to mention rural areas, hillier than Bristol. Nevertheless that's another aspect of regional variation: are they more popular in the Eastern Flatlands than, say, Wales or even the Cotswolds?
Riding a bike through a city is like navigating the collective neural pathways of a vast global mind.

Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #5 on: 24 February, 2021, 06:00:33 pm »
Maybe the Fens does well because they have D-Tek nearby.

Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #6 on: 24 February, 2021, 06:07:32 pm »
I see more recumbents when I'm cycling to the east of Sheffield than to the west and I haven't ever seen one within the city.

I've only ever seen 1 'bent in the Peak, meaning I've seen more handcycles, trikes, tandems and cargo bikes than 'bents out west and less than 10 'bents out east. They truly are rare round here.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #7 on: 24 February, 2021, 06:07:38 pm »
Maybe the Fens does well because they have D-Tek nearby.

Probably the other way round, given how difficult it can be to get him to sell you anything  ;D
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Blodwyn Pig

  • what a nice chap
Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #8 on: 24 February, 2021, 06:15:20 pm »
30 years ago, when I lived in Whitstable, the owner of Herberts cycles had a home built lwb 'bent. Since then I've seen maybe 5 others, until I got mine,( not including BHPC events) and 2 of those were accompanying a Velomobile whilst on holiday in UK, 2 are trikes, and one was a 'grasshopper' on tour.  I'm in N. Kent

Cudzoziemiec

  • Eating all the pies and drinking all the tea.
Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #9 on: 24 February, 2021, 06:20:25 pm »
I see more recumbents when I'm cycling to the east of Sheffield than to the west and I haven't ever seen one within the city.

I've only ever seen 1 'bent in the Peak, meaning I've seen more handcycles, trikes, tandems and cargo bikes than 'bents out west and less than 10 'bents out east. They truly are rare round here.
Do you think that's because of the hills – Sheffield being precisely the place I had in mind as a city hillier than Bristol! – or other factors too?
Riding a bike through a city is like navigating the collective neural pathways of a vast global mind.

Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #10 on: 24 February, 2021, 06:26:13 pm »
I wondered if terrain might be another factor but then thought, well, people who ride recumbents do ride them up hills, and there are plenty of cities, not to mention rural areas, hillier than Bristol. Nevertheless that's another aspect of regional variation: are they more popular in the Eastern Flatlands than, say, Wales or even the Cotswolds?

Recumbents go up hills just fine.  Sometimes I overtake road cyclists going uphill, sometimes I get overtaken. It’s all about fitness and gearing. As with other bike formats.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #11 on: 24 February, 2021, 06:31:40 pm »
I wondered if terrain might be another factor but then thought, well, people who ride recumbents do ride them up hills, and there are plenty of cities, not to mention rural areas, hillier than Bristol. Nevertheless that's another aspect of regional variation: are they more popular in the Eastern Flatlands than, say, Wales or even the Cotswolds?

Recumbents go up hills just fine.  Sometimes I overtake road cyclists going uphill, sometimes I get overtaken. It’s all about fitness and gearing. As with other bike formats.

We know that, but lots of people who haven't the benefit of experience might be put off considering recumbent bikes if they live in a hilly area.  Same way that people are put off by the idea of being low down and 'invisible'.

(I'll also add that there is a grain of truth, in that while recumbent climbing is just power vs weight like any other bike, some recumbent bikes are challenging in the stall-speed department, and can be tricky to get moving if you stop on a steep climb.)
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #12 on: 24 February, 2021, 06:34:27 pm »
Do you think that's because of the hills – Sheffield being precisely the place I had in mind as a city hillier than Bristol! – or other factors too?

It's certainly the reason I won't be buying a recumbent anytime soon, though I'm not entirely against the idea

Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #13 on: 24 February, 2021, 06:36:24 pm »
True but many a rider on a road bike struggles on steep hills with keeping front wheel down whilst weight over rear for traction. Not a problem on a recumbent.

Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #14 on: 24 February, 2021, 08:02:03 pm »
You just have to play with the gearing to climb hills. The Windcheetah I have has 32t rear and 32t front as the lowest so can climb most hills with ease. You just don't go very fast. Use mine on local cycle paths and canal tow paths. Nottingham is also full of hills but at least we have cycle tracks.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #15 on: 24 February, 2021, 08:11:29 pm »
Also, let's not overlook that the most popular form or recumbent cycle (in terms of what people are buying today, if not mileage ridden) is the electric assist tricycle.  Hills are no problem when you've got electrons.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Cudzoziemiec

  • Eating all the pies and drinking all the tea.
Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #16 on: 24 February, 2021, 08:16:03 pm »
I think all the recumbents I've seen in and around Bristol have been bikes not trikes. Not sure about electric assist. Anyway, I note that fixies and single speeds are rather popular here (though it's a trend that's past its peak here too).
Riding a bike through a city is like navigating the collective neural pathways of a vast global mind.

Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #17 on: 24 February, 2021, 09:56:56 pm »
So, logically I'd expect higher per head 'bent ownership – or perhaps that should just be higher per cyclist bentsmanship – in say Birmingham and Glasgow than say Brighton and Gloucester. But I expect it isn't really like that at all...

In my experience, recumbent ownership in Glasgow is very uncommon. I used to see far more when I lived in York than I do here. I'm not hugely surprised, as:
  • A large proportion of housing is flats, and old ones (lifts? Ha!). Carrying a "normal" bike up several flights of tenement stairs is bad enough; I'd hate to try lugging a recumbent!
  • Theft - bike theft is rife, sadly, so bikes with any sort of value have to be kept inside (no point leaving them in communal stairways, as they'll get stolen there too)
  • It's a bit hilly - not hugely hilly compared to some places, but enough to put some people off. E-bikes are becoming more and more popular, though I'd guess that's the case in most places.

Interestingly, Kinetics is less than a mile from me, so there must be some demand. I'm not sure where they all are, though!

Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #18 on: 24 February, 2021, 10:13:44 pm »
Recumbents common in London? Where? When? It's still a novelty to see even one out and about and invariably they're ridden by eccentrics* rather than commuters.

The logistics of storing one in London* don't bear thinking about. After you've got your yacht and your Ferrari you can get yourself a lockup garage.

(* On reflection, I'm not sure how you'd spot a non-eccentric recumbentist)
(** real London anyway. The places in "London" where normal houses have garages are not London)

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #19 on: 24 February, 2021, 11:10:04 pm »
Interestingly, Kinetics is less than a mile from me, so there must be some demand. I'm not sure where they all are, though!

Yeah, but they do most of their business mail-order.  They're (amongst other things) the UK's go-to place for all things HPVelotechnik and custom Brompton engineering.

One day I really ought to visit in person.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #20 on: 24 February, 2021, 11:11:40 pm »
* On reflection, I'm not sure how you'd spot a non-eccentric recumbentist

Neither beard nor sandals, obviously.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

fd3

Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #21 on: 24 February, 2021, 11:25:32 pm »
* On reflection, I'm not sure how you'd spot a non-eccentric recumbentist
Neither beard nor sandals, obviously.
Objection your honour!
Strange things are afoot at the circle K.

Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #22 on: 25 February, 2021, 06:37:02 am »
My experience after doing umpteen thousand of miles around the UK while on tour is that .....
Recumbent are so rare that unless you are in the right place at the right time you'll miss seeing any.

Luck .........  ;D

Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #23 on: 25 February, 2021, 09:36:39 am »
I like being the only recumbent rider in my area as when I get noticed I get told “your that guy on that funny contraption thingy”  ;D

JennyB

  • Old enough to know better
Re: Regional popularity of recumbents
« Reply #24 on: 25 February, 2021, 10:06:13 am »
I like being the only recumbent rider in my area as when I get noticed I get told “your that guy on that funny contraption thingy”  :-D
Reminds me of the time my brother brought his recumbent trike down to ride with me, and one of the locals asked me later who was the 'poor handicapped lad' I was out with.
Jennifer - Walker of hills