Monday, August 14, 2006


I have received some request about making a how-to article about building a recumbent. I intend to build one just for this blog, but it will take a little time and I have more general information to give out before I do this. This post is a primer to get you started and guide you in the right direction until that article is created. Here you have two pictures of recumbents I built myself. The one with the flame job is the first one and the two others are my last builds. Four more recumbents where built between those and I actually bought a manufactured one. I might not be a recumbent guru, but I know what I'm talking about. So let's get started.

Many of you are caressing the dream of owning a recumbent, but you wonder if it is worth the extra expense. Your first step is to get all the information you can on the subject. Get educated on terms and what a recumbent is all about. The very first search I did when I first got connected on the web was "recumbent bicycle" and it went crazy from there. At last I had access to all the information I could possibly want on the subject. A lot more than a few scenes in the movie "Scanners".

The one thing that struck me was the variety present out there. Long Wheel Base(LWB), Short Wheel Base(SWB), Over Seat Steering(OSS), Under Seat Steering(USS), Front Wheel Drive(FWD), streamliners, trikes and all other kinds of craziness in between. Everyday there is a company or a homebuilder who adds to this wild variety of bikes.

Recumbents have the advantage of a more powerful pedal stroke and a more comfortable seating position. The seating position utilizes more muscles in the legs. It is the same power you have from pushing something with your legs while sitting with your back against a wall. As for the seating position, well you are sitting down on a chair, you can't get more comfortable than that! Well actually, you can. One disadvantage of sitting down in a chair is that you can't get up to avoid the hits from bumps and holes in the road and you can't get up on the pedals to use your upper body strenght to climb hills.

Two solutions for these drawbacks: 1-Rear suspension will take care of most bumps and make for an even more comfortable ride. 2- Lots of gears and more mileage in the recumbent position will developp those dormant muscles in your legs and with time, hills won't be that much harder. Bottom line is that recumbents are better for long rides since you won't kill your butt, hands and neck during the ride. My biggest kick about riding a recumbent is to lean down at 45 degrees on a hard and fast turn while sitting down in that comfy chair/seat. What a blast, it feels like riding a fighter jet at 10 inches off the ground. Trust me, it's just awsome.

To get on a recumbent on the cheap is not easy. You have a few options.

  1. Get on the net, get out your tools and build one. There are all kinds of homebuilt recumbents on the net. From wood framed bents made from 2X4's, to no-weld construction and full carbon composites. You don't know how to weld, no big deal. Prepare your pieces and hire a welder. This the 21st century dude, outsource it!
  2. Rent it, there are some bike shops out there who offer recumbents for rent. If you are lucky enough to have access to such a place, use the opportunity to try out different kinds to find out what you like best.
  3. Buy used, some people out there have bought the wrong bike for them and are desperately trying to get rid of them. These bikes are not for everybody and finding a buyer is sometimes hard. There are also people who end up in possession of a recumbent without knowing their true value. It's rare, but it happens. Go hunting for your lucky break.
I've used option 1 and 3 myself. I used option 3 once and the result was a dud. It was a LWB USS job with 20 and 16 inch wheels with 105 speeds(See how you get to use that new knowledge you acquired in paragraph 3 right away!), it was extremely comfortable but very slow. Option 1 I have used 7 times so far and had a lot of fun doing it. The main thing that you have to ALWAYS remember when building a recumbent or HPV yourself is that when in doubt, OVERBUILD. You cannot cut corners and half-ass it without expecting a major break down at the worst possible time.

Now if you are ready, it's time to explore. I'm leaving you with some links that will get you started. Recumbent and HPV people are very friendly and eager to share there knowledge. Ask questions if you don't find the answers you are seeking, join discussion forums and get your hands dirty! Warning, homebuilding HPV's is addictive, that's it you've been warned. It's now out of my hands.

Check out these sites for a good start:


Anonymous said...

Hi Gerry.

Your site rocks ! Now you have a fan in Copenhagen Denmark.

For all kinds of custom and recumbent bike building check out www.atomiczombie.com.

Another cool Canadian site.


Gerry Lauzon said...

Thank You Mikael

I'm glad to hear that you enjoy my work. Makes it all worthwhile. It actually made my day this morning. I checked out atomiczombie, wow! I'll had the link to the post. People, be sure to check their link page, very complete.


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