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Different Kinds of Bikes: Pedaling to the Beat of Their Own Drum

Some Bikes Just Don’t Fit the Mold


Photo of a recumbent bicycle.

Recumbent bicycle.

(c) Sun Corporation

Maybe you’re one of those people who likes to make their own way in the world. Or maybe you’ve got a special situation that means the run-of-the-mill offerings just aren’t ideal for you. Regardless of your reasons, there are several styles of bikes that offer you the chance to bust out of the ho-hum list that extends only to road bikes, mountain bikes or hybrids.


Recumbents are bikes that look like a chaise lounge on wheels. These bike are much lower to the ground and feature a wide chair-type seat and backrest usually made of a mesh material. Instead of being over the pedals and pumping your legs in an up-and-down motion, your legs extend straight out in front of you and you pedal like you might have pedaled a Big Wheel when you were a kid.

One advantage of recumbents is that wind resistance is less of a factor than on upright bikes. However, you may find it harder to climb hills as you can’t use your body weight in pedaling, such as when you stand up to pump the pedals on a regular bike when you get into a big climb. A wider gear ratio is usually built into these bikes to take this into account.

Also, some people may have a bit of difficulty at first feeling balanced on a recumbent. This comes from the different center of gravity that recumbents have, and may also be compounded by the positioning of the handlebar steering mechanism which sometimes sits below you, down by your hips. Usually a test ride of any duration will tell you if this will be an issue for you. You may need to special order a recumbent as bike shops do not always carry them in stock.

Recumbents are well-suited for people who have back (or backside) pain that makes riding a standard style bike uncomfortable. Also, the rider’s position on a recumbent bike does not have them hunched over handlebars, which avoids the painful pressure on hands, wrists, or shoulders, other common complaints of cyclists riding traditional bikes.

Warning: people who buy recumbents often go completely wild for them, exhibiting a unrivaled maniacal devotion to their bikes. They form recumbent-only clubs and email each other pictures of their bikes. If you are concerned about becoming that zealous and enthusiastic about a bike, proceed with caution when checking out recumbents.

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