The Best Homebuilt Recumbent Is The First!

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Building your very own recumbent bike is far less expensive than buying one from a local bike shop. What’s more important is the pleasure you get from riding something you have made with your own hands that actually works. The icing on the cake may come from participating in a bicycle event where you can ride alongside other recumbents costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and be just as comfortable, ride just as fast, and look just as good, at a fraction of the cost.

scambent-22

That’s the original, made from an old, discarded road bike frame found along the street that the owner had put out for the trash to pick up. Along with some lengths of galvanized electrical conduit, a smaller, used front wheel and seat, additional chain, brake and gear cables, this is the finished product.


Instead of tired and sore, on the recumbent the energy was there for more!

Everything else was used from a fairly new hybrid bike purchased some months earlier, suffering through 5,000 miles of discomfort before deciding to make the effort to build my own. That decision only took one ride of 35 miles through the same areas I had ridden on my hybrid bike. A riding companion loaned me his homebuilt recumbent for the test. Instead of finishing that ride tired and sore, the energy was there for more! It was obvious there was no going back.

Being somewhat mechanically inclined helped in understanding how to cut the road bike frame, using a simple design showing where to make the cuts and what measurements to use and at what angles.

original-roadbike-frames-1998

My riding friend loaned me his homebuilt recumbent while he went on vacation. Using the homebuilt recumbent as a model and daily inspiration from some awesome rides really kept the excitement level high. By the time he returned the frame was all cut, sanded, bent where needed and ready for welding.

scambent-frame-primered-1998

Once the frame was welded it was time for primer to get it ready for a coat of bright yellow. Out on the road there is one thing for certain. You want to be seen by everyone, especially drivers! It’s not about ego, rather self-preservation!

So, assembled, completing last touches almost forgotten such as connections for brake calipers, painted, ready for the inaugural ride. There’s no really good way to relate the feeling, emotion or experience in words of that first ride. At least for me, none that do it justice.

There will always be those who will balk at that “funny” looking bike, especially one that may not look quite as finished as one from the factory. Any excuse will do to avoid indulging in something out of the norm. It is amazing to me how fearful it is to be different.

Would you rather continue what you’ve always done, to get what you’ve always got when it comes to riding a bike for any distance or time?

You have to know how fast you're goin'
You have to know how fast you’re goin’

Or does eliminating the discomforts of riding the typical road bike, mountain bike or cruiser, that hangs from the rafters of your garage, sound like something you might be willing to sacrifice looking different for?

Very few have ever gotten on a recumbent that didn’t like it!

It has been my experience that very few who have ever gotten on a recumbent, and overcome the difference in balance which takes a few laps, has ever said they didn’t like it…or love it!

Consider the seat, which is one of the major advantages of a recumbent, that measures roughly 14 inches in width, with a very comfortable cushioned seat, AND a seat back to rest against. Right away you have something that no regular bike can offer.

Then consider that because the pedals are out in front of you and not directly underneath the seat. So you’re not pushing against your own weight. Instead you are pushing with your hips resting against that backrest. Then consider that because of a lower profile, there is less wind resistance creating a more aerodynamic flow.

That helps to cut your pedaling by 25 percent, still giving you the same amount of exercise from an aerobic effort. For those accustomed to riding a cruiser bike, you still get that upright position with an enormously comfortable seat and better support. Add to that, sudden stops will never threaten to hoist you over the handlebars head first!

For those used to riding on the road, whether on a road bike or mountain bike, a long wheelbase (LWB) recumbent will eliminate many of those jarring bumps because of a frame that has some flex to it. That with the cushioned seat might be enough to convince a few. Include not having to crane the neck to see the road, or aching wrists from all the weight of the upper torso bent forward, and what you get is a more totally comfortable ride.

A recumbent that you have made yourself can and will offer all those advantages. Many converts have likened it to riding a lawn chair in comparison to comfort.

If you have ever made anything as a do-it-yourself project, whether a decorated/specialty cake, furniture, customizing a car, building an outdoor fountain, then you also know the satisfaction of having done it yourself. Especially when it works or turns out as expected.

Now imagine as well, riding down the road completely relaxed, maybe around your neighborhood on a beautiful weekend morning, getting a few strange looks from neighbors that you can wave to without falling over, and a bunch of kids out playing stop in the middle of their activity stop to say, “Cool bike!”

Do you think a smile might cross your face, and your chest puff out just a bit? You’re darn tootin” it will! You built this bike. It works as intended, and is more comfortable than you originally imagined. Because of that you are subconsciously encouraged to ride it more often, and the exercise form that is just a huge added benefit.

My good friend Jose has coined a saying he uses as a slogan on his blog. “Riding recumbent is never having to say your sore!” You will say the same thing. Are you ready to dive in and build yours? Then diyrecumbentproject.com is a great place to start. You may end up with something like this:

HPV2 2004, Brian Piccolo Park, Cooper City, Florida.
HPV2 2004, Brian Piccolo Park, Cooper City, Florida. Coroplast fairing.

This is a little overboard, but what fun. This HPV design was good for 36 MPH in the Velodrome!


 

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