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Recumbent Bikes: Rocket-Fast Recliners
The recumbent bike is a surprisingly speedy alternative to the standard-issue cycle. Read Groupon’s study on the aerodynamic machine.
An alternative to less ergonomic upright bicycles, recumbent bikes lay the rider back in a reclined, legs-forward position, distributing their weight evenly on a wider, more supportive seat. Though the design is most common in stationary exercise machines, it can be applied to mountain bikes, tandem bikes, and other speedy vehicles as well. Many riders claim the recumbent design provides greater comfort, better balance, and even improved aerodynamics in motion.
Though the recumbent bike has existed since the mid-19th century, it was vehicle pioneer Charles Mochet who truly steered it onto the public’s radar. A builder of small, “light” cars before World War I, Mochet had constructed a four-wheeled bike for his son meant to be safer than two-wheelers. It was indeed safer, but it was also something else: really, really fast. Several modifications later, Mochet began pushing professional cyclists to use his two-wheeled HPV—or human-powered vehicle—in races during the 1930s. Pro Francis Faure stepped up to the challenge, and amid widespread scoffing, left critics and competitors alike in the dust. He even smashed esteemed world records, which led to further backlash and, eventually, the banning of recumbent bikes from competition in 1934.
The 1934 ban sent the recumbent-bike industry into a tailspin, one that it didn’t recover from until a resurgence of interest in all types of biking during the 1970s oil crisis. Since then, alternative competitions such as those hosted by the International Human Powered Vehicle Association have cropped up to challenge riders who have gone the recumbent route.