Why I Ride a USS LWB Recumbent
Long wheelbase recumbents (LWB) are heavy and underseat steering (USS) doesn't let you use your arms on hills. With those disadvantages, why are USS LWB Recumbents so popular for cross country rides?
The simple answer is that they are comfortable, can carry a heavy load, and are reliable. Plus they have a relaxed feel and provide a great view of what is around you. Let me expand on that a little to give you a better feel for what I mean.
Loaded touring is not fast so feeling relaxed and having a good view is important. Many bikes do not handle well when you load them with 60 ponds of gear and then ride in the rain and pick up another 10 pounds of water. A frisky or quirky bike can be fun on a day ride but after a week on the road toting your camping gear this is not what you need, you want to relax and enjoy the ride. After you have ridden for a while a LWB USS Recumbent just seems to become part of you. The shifting and turning just happen without thinking. You can let your mind wander if the road is quiet and enjoy just being there. They just handle whatever comes along quietly and predictably, no surprises.
Being able to relax while you ride make the miles go much better. On a long tour, the aches and pains build as the miles accumulate on many bikes. If you are relaxed and comfortable, yes, you may be tired at the end of the day but you aren't hurting. You get off of the bike and are ready to enjoy being where you are. Your knees may feel tired but your neck and hands don't hurt, your body feels good.
With a LWB Recumbent, you always have a comfortable seat with you. If you stop somewhere to enjoy the view, you already have a comfortable seat. I also think that USS besides giving you a great view of the world lets your arms and shoulders relax. You don't get that tension between your shoulder blades that you get when driving a car.
One of the reasons I ride is the joy of discovering and exploring new places. With a LWB USS Recumbent, their great low speed stability lets you hover and enjoy the view. You don't zip around a new town but you leisurely explore it at a pace that lets you talk with the people you meet.
This pace and style is not right for a lot of riders. But if you have ever snorkeled or scuba dived, you know "The faster you go the less you see." This is also true of Bicycle Touring.
I thought of trying a recumbent for years before I actually bought one. I was finally forced to try a recumbent when the pain in my hands and the cramp between my shoulders made riding unbearable.
Two years before I bought my first recumbent, I had switched from a Trek 520, a steel bike, to a Canondale T700 with an aluminum frame. The stiffness of that Aluminum frame just seemed to tear up my 50 year old body.
When I got my Ryan Vanguard, I felt like a kid learning to ride a bike. I wobbled around the neighborhood learning to ride again (see Learning to Ride a LWB USS Recumbent), grinning, and enjoying every moment. I was a little frustrated by my old habits and lack of recumbent muscles. At the end of the week, I started riding from my home, Dover, NH, to Bar Harbor, Maine about 250 miles.
That trip opened a new world of cycling to me. Cycling at a slower pace but cycling with my eyes on the world not the road. My thoughts were "Why did I wait so long?"