The Nerd Factor, Part II

Tour Easy Recumbent

While we’re at it, we might as well see how folks feel about those other nerdy bikes, recumbents. So, let’s ask the same question. How about you? Would you feel self-conscious riding a recumbent bicycle? Does the look of a recumbent turn you off or would you feel comfortable riding a bike on which you lean back into a seat? (I’m talking purely self-image here, not practical reasons related to bike design.)

Would you feel self-conscious riding a recumbent?

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PS – I rode recumbents for years, so I’ve earned the right to call them “nerdy”. —Alan

47 Responses to “The Nerd Factor, Part II”

  • Gaff says:

    Velomobile yes. Standard recumbent no, not a chance.

  • Pat McKay says:

    I’ve been riding SWB and LWB recumbents, folders, and tandems for years along with DF (my Surly LHT has been my primary ride the past several years) bikes, and I thought that I was pretty much immune to worrying about what others thought of my choice of bikes. But then I tried out a recumbent trike… I’m just not ready for that yet.

  • kfg says:

    I didn’t feel self conscious riding around on the tadpole trike I cobbled together out of an old DF, a sign post, a couple of wheelchair wheels, framing lumber and plywood; so I don’t see that I’d feel self conscious about riding a really nice one.

  • Mr. S. says:

    There are two ways I could answer: ‘yes’ I would feel awkward to be seen on a ‘bent, ‘no’ because it is unlikely I will be seen on a ‘bent. Call me small-minded if you must, but until my body requires I give up the double-triangle frame, I won’t.

  • peteathome says:

    What’s odd is that while I’m fine with a recumbent or a folding bike, if they are functional and serve my needs, I won’t ride a mixte “girls bike”. What’s that about?

  • Joel van Allen says:

    In places where bicycling is popular enough that it’s taken up by a spectrum of the demographic population, seeing a diversity of bicycle types even in urban settings makes them not so much nerdy as unnoticed (although true bike nerds habitually do double-takes riding down the street, even at \normal\ bikes, with the almost fettishistic hope of glimpsing something pretty or unique). This said, where bicycles are fashionable, they’re also type-cast. How many times have I seen the pot-bellied retiree in spandex on his recumbent, or the middle-aged yuppie on his Brompton, or the young (some would say retired) hipster with racing cap on a neon fixie? The list is long and elaborate. In the end, however, I think people would rather be stereotyped than go unnoticed. Bicyclists in the States are still such a minority (albeit a proud one)– what a perfect frontier for creating / recreating yourself?

  • Bob Baxter says:

    Since I ride a tadpole trike, a Dahon folder, and a Rivendell mixte (aka “girl’s bike”), and have owned 3 different recumbent bikes, I’m obviously not concerned with how people perceive me. When I was younger I worried about what people thought, then one day I discovered that no one was paying attention.

  • Graham says:

    I would only feel self conscious on a recumbent if I were riding around town for fun or doing basic errands. If I were touring or doing some kind of ridiculously long ride then I’d feel totally normal. Maybe this is a “right tool for the right job” kind of idea?

    Recumbents seem like more hassle for short trips given that even our limited bicycle infrastructure isn’t set up for them, while for longer trips the reduced drag and infinitely more comfortable position make them ideal.

    Recumbent and Diamond frame cyclists will no doubt immediately object to my characterizations, but I’m just giving you my 2 cents.

  • yangmusa says:

    I’ve owned 3, so I must be a “no”! :-)

    It depends on the bent, I think. Some are nerdier than others. My previous bike had under-seat steering, and many people couldn’t work out how I steered the thing. The majority of people reacted to that bike by pretending they didn’t see me when they obviously had (like some people do for wheelchairs?) Well, except kids – they always shouted “look! Cool bike!”

    My new bent must look more “normal” somehow, most people now don’t act weird and even adults comment favorably (it’s an ICE B1 with open cockpit setup).

    I probably wouldn’t ride most US made bents, many of them look (to me) like they’re home made, or the designs haven’t changed in 30 years and look dated. I’d ride a Bacchetta, but in general I much prefer the modern European bikes that are constantly evolving technically.

  • Ian says:

    Not at all. Been on recumbents for 10 years now. Started with a Lightning, which I still have, and have to think look the oddest; tiny little front wheel, big back wheel, just weird. And now, for the last couple years, been riding a Quest velomobile. Though with that I do wonder how many folks figure it just has a small gas or electric motor in it. *shrug*

  • Mike says:

    EVERYBODY waves at me on my Greenspeed tadpole recumbent. And, it is so much easier on my hands and back than my Raleigh Technium was.

  • Tucker says:

    There are a lot of recumbents in our area, so riding one would be normal in most respects around here. However, I would feel somewhat self-conscious riding the one pictured above. There are other models a little more modest and, in my opinion, a little more interesting than that one.

  • Mark says:

    The idea of being seen on a recumbent doesn’t bother me, but I don’t think one would fit my particular commuting or utility needs very well. Since you sit so much lower on them, I *think* I would feel uncomfortable around traffic. They also seem like they would be a little less maneuverable at slower speeds, but I could be wrong there. The do look quite comfortable for a long ride away from traffic, though.

  • Mike says:

    Alan, looking at this picture, could you actually fit water bottles in those cages? There seems to be a conflict between the bottle cages and the handlebar bag.

    I’ve got a Tour Easy myself, and I’m not sure how to answer the question. I don’t feel self-conscious in a bad way, but I’m definitely aware that people are noticing me. I’ve gotten a lot of positive comments about it, and while I’m sure a lot of people notice me as the dork on the weird bike,… whatever.

    I switched to a LHT a few years ago for various reasons, but lately I’ve been dusting off the Tour Easy and dreaming of another cross-country ride.

  • Patrick says:


    I have a Raptobike LowRacer and I’m more of a sporty type, so people see the handsome, low-laying Sports-ace (at least in my colorful imagination…..)

    So, as long as it’s a nice-looking, modern recumbent like the Raptobike, a Grasshopper, Hurricane, etc. I’m ok with it. I wouldn’t be so self-conscious on a ugly selfmade bike or most velomobiles.

  • Brian Daniels says:

    I rode recumbents for four years and owned three of them. I’ve also tried others including tadpole trikes (a Terra Trike that was dog slow and a GreenSpeed that was an absolute blast) For me they did not do it. Ultimately I’m too wedded to the steel road bike tradition. While the infatuation lasted it was fun.

  • bongobike says:

    I ride almost nothing but recumbents nowadays. I’m going to get rid of all my DF bikes except one (the one in this site’s gallery). I’m keeping it for certain special errands and commuting trips where it might be a little more practical than a ‘bent. But I’m basically a recumbent rider and you can’t pay me enough to go back to riding DF bikes on a regular basis.

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    I voted “depends,” as for me it depends entirely on the design. I have seen some recumbents that look perfectly “normal” to me, and I would love to try. But 80% of the ones I have scene have been unappealing.

  • CedarWood says:

    I test-rode a semi-recumbent once, and it was very comfortable. If I could construe a need for one, great! Self-conscious people don’t ride bikes here because most people think ordinary person + bike = DUI or one card short of a deck.

  • Don says:

    Never having ridden one, I don’t know how comfortable I would be with the low center of gravity and positioning, so my hedging is based on the potential for feeling incompetent as a rider.

  • dave says:

    I ride recumbents exclusively these days and yet I still vote “depends”. There are a lot of really cool / aesthetically appealing recumbents out there. There are also a lot of really weird looking recumbents.

    I think that it’s unfortunate that recumbents are seen as rides for “fat, old, retired, etc.” guys. If they hadn’t been banned from competition, today they would be equally as popular as DF bikes as they would be considered “cool” because athletes would use them in competitions. Imagine the speed a Cat1 racer could generate on a 15lbs carbon lowracer that has been through 70 years of engineering evolution.

  • Mark K. says:

    Riding no…of course, I’d have to get the hang of the weird balance on them to even attempt to ride one…SO, falling off of one, no, not so much! ;-)

  • Ben W says:

    I have a bunch of bikes and take pleasure in mixing things up and the unique traits of each. One is a “high-racer” style above-seat-steering recumbent.

    Technically… it’s really only good at one thing. It eats up miles very quickly. It really is king of the open road, allowing me to keep the power on longer, and go faster, in ridiculous comfort. That bike will let me ride until my legs are absolute mush, since there’s no other pressure point issues to worry about. But this isn’t about the technical merits. As far as feeling like a nerd… It’s double edged. Bike geeks give me me the most crap, but it’s often ignorent crap. Kids think its awesome. Recreational cyclists are curious. People ask questions. I think my stupid grin says everything :-)

  • Brian says:

    I have certainly felt self-conscious in the past, especially if I was riding in town where there were a lot of people. Factors include 1) very few people ride where I live, 2) Lycra, ’nuff said, and 3) riding year round (although winter riding is on an upright). The recumbent is only one of many factors that could make one self-conscious. However, I have found that by riding my bike so much in traffic (read: around people), I care less and less about what other people think. It is hard to give most people’s opinions about recumbents or riding in general much weight because they have never done it. I have. I like to ride and that is enough for me, plus my butt really likes the recumbent for long rides.

  • voyage says:

    I’ve ridden them and I don’t think they are safe in 90% of the real (urban, even suburban) world, 90% of the time. There are visibility and vision issues.

    I don’t think they are efficient…the long chain and for what: to sit down?

    I think they appeal to people who like to tinker.

    and there’s nothing wrong with that…

  • Pete says:

    I think there’s a highly self-selected group here!
    That’s all I’ll say… ;)


  • geoff says:

    It seems to me that when riding a bike is about creating a certain look, the rider will always be self-conscious, no matter what kind of machine it is.

  • Roland Smith says:

    Currently I’m on my third recumbent (a tadpole trike) after having owned two other recumbent bikes in the last ten years or so. About five years ago I gave my last diamond-framed bike away because it had been gathering dust in the shed for years.

    Recumbents aren’t as rare here in the Netherlands as in other parts of the world, so around town I hardly get reactions anymore. And most of them are positive, as far as I can recall. Which is nice.

    But what other people think of my bike doesn’t really matter to me. Riding the trike brings a smile to my face every time, and that’s what counts! Commuting to work or getting groceries becomes an enjoyable ride.

    Every time I have to use a standard diamond-frame bike, I’m reminded how bloody uncomfortable a bike saddle can be. :-)

  • Donald Bybee says:

    I told my daughter when she was a teenager (now going on 24), when you stop worrying all of the time about what people think; that is the time you will start having more fun in life.
    Sacramento, California

  • Eddie says:

    @Dave: I, too, voted “depends” for the same reason you mention. I don’t ride recumbents exclusively but when I want a solo ride at maximum speed and comfort over a long distance, I ride my lowracer. I also appreciate the clever engineering and sleek design esthetic, the out-of-the-box thinking for a bike designed for speed. Its curved monotube frame, cockpit steering and low-slung carbon fiber seat scream it. I don’t feel especially self-conscious riding it as I would, say, a lawn chair hose-clamped to a frankenframe. (Sorry if that offends my recumbent brethren!)

  • Brian says:

    What’s weird is riding a diamond frame bike and being totally invisible on the road. Ride a ‘bent and you get used to the stares pretty quickly.

  • Nick says:

    Velomobiles, yes.

    A tadpole trike like the kind that are made into velomobiles, yes.

    This one pictured here, no! It looks like a cross between a lawn chair and a chopper.

  • charles says:

    I own and ride both a recumbent and several upright bicycles in various configurations.
    I’m not worried about someone who would pass judgment on me for riding a recumbent and I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who would do that anyway. Too many of us spend too much of our lives trying to impress people we wouldn’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t even like.

  • Mike says:

    Next up: Cargo bikes! Or how about penny-farthings?

    I might feel self-conscious riding a bicycle if it was not fit for the purpose that I was using it for. I might also feel self-conscious riding a bicycle that is widely regarded as a “women’s bike” by the local population, such as a mixte in North America (oddly enough, I don’t think I’ll feel this way about riding the loop-frame bicycle (a WorkCycles Omafiets) that has been ordered for my wife, probably because that style of frame is so rare where we live). Come to think of it, I’d probably feel pretty self-conscious riding a carbon-fiber racing bike…

    Assuming I could control it well, I’m sure I would feel that way about riding a recumbent.

  • Peter says:

    I’ve put 60,000 km on a Bachetta recumbent commuting and touring. I also own a mountain bike and a folder. I probably feel more conspicuous on the folder than the other bikes. My needs and interests have changed over time resulting in different cycling choices. At the end of the day they are just different forms of the same thing. I enjoy riding all kinds of pedal powered vehicles.

  • Larry Knapman says:

    My favorite bike is a folding recumbent. The Bike Friday “Saturday” Classic. Nerdy? Not hardly. Comments are usually “Cool Bike!”

  • Judd says:

    6’4″ 260#. If it fits I’ll wear it, same goes for folders.

  • Robert McAlister says:

    I have had a SWB recumbent for years. I feel self-conscious when stopped, but then again I feel the same even when on my DF. I enjoy my recumbent because of the comfort when riding on the road. I enjoy my DF on dirt. Neither is fun on ice.

  • John Huggan says:

    I’m a recumbent fan all the way. Own three, short, medium and long wheelbase. Enjoy them all.
    Now started building (welding) my own. Using AtomicZombie plans have built a racing trike (Warrior) and am in process of creating a high racer (26″ wheels front/rear.)
    Learned a lot about bike assembly, mechanics and design. If it wasn’t for my original interest in recumbents I likely would not have tried building my own. Enjoy this blog, thanks Allen.

  • patrick says:

    no way would i ride a ‘bent. it might be great for the open road, but i don’t see those all that often. and it’s not really an issue of being self conscious of other folks and how they see me.
    the foldie.. is a practical bike for the city, but is totally nerdy.
    I just bought one, and drew a couple of pics for my blog.
    and here it is in ACTION
    it’s dorky, but feeling dorky adds a special little pleasure to it all.

  • Alan says:

    Nice sketches, Patrick!


  • Frank says:

    I am a convert over to recumbents – I have both a long and short wheel. People really take notice of recumbents. Many people think they are neat, comfortable and practical. However, I think the main reason that more people don’t ride them is because they feel self-conscious or know they would feel self-conscious if they rode one. This assumes they are not self-conscious on their upright with their tights, latest helmets, tour shirts, no lights, no kickstand, no bags, light-weight bikes. Hah – we are all self-conscious.

  • Jed Reynolds says:

    I recently got a Rans Tailwind, and I’ve had the opportunity to commute to work in it a few times. I’m getting used to it. Different bikes for different needs. I have a road bike, an Xtracycle and now a ‘bent.

  • Tommy Douglas Ray says:

    For me, aesthetics plays a big part. I know that when it comes to bikes it should be function over form, but I’ve never seen a recumbent that looked really good to me. I would consider riding one, and looks be damned, if I were going to bike tour though, because I think it would be more comfortable than an upright, and there is little need to hop curbs outside of the city.

    That said, there are quite a few upright bikes that I don’t like the looks of either – those aerodynamic triathlon bikes with all the graphics on them for instance. They scream performance but are just not my cuppa and I’d feel like a nerdy wannabe riding one because I just don’t have the sort of horsepower needed to really wring one out.

    In 2010 I purchased a Dahon Speed P8 folding bike (so no nerd fear there) and a BMX bike (Eastern Grim Reaper) both of which I like looking at almost as much as I enjoy riding.

  • Tim D. says:

    I echo the “I’m way too young for that” sentiment. I like being high up and putting my weight on the pedals…it just feels right.

  • dweendaddy says:

    I do think they look nerdy, but like most readers of this blog I do something bike related (or non-bike related) that is nerdy!
    My biggest hang up is how low they are, since I do all of my riding in a city and like to be high up. Upright is all right!

  • Evan says:

    Even if I would feel comfortable riding a recumbent, I’m under the age of 40, I don’t have a beard, and I don’t wear socks with sandals. That’s required to ride one, right?

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