Cycling Around Wisconsin – The Midwest Recumbent Rally

This is a guest post by Darryl Jordan. Interested in writing a guest post for the Bike Fed? Click here.

Recumbent Bicycles

You couldn’t help but see them beneath a forest of flags. Low flying bicycles and tricycles conquered the roads in mid- state Wisconsin under colorful visibility bike banners during the annual Midwest Recumbent Rally hosted by the Hostel Shoppe bicycle store in Stevens Point, August 9th through the 11th.

Recumbent bicycles and tricycles have a seat with a back support and pedals out front of the cyclist instead of underneath as on typical “upright” or “diamond-frame “designs.

This was the 20th year of the rally and several hundred riders from the Upper-Midwest and a few far-flung states attended with recumbent bicycles and tricycles of exotic imports and domestic homebuilt designs. Recumbent bicycles and tricycles have a seat with a back support and pedals out front of the cyclist instead of underneath as on typical “upright” or “diamond-frame “designs.

What that does is takes the weight of the cyclist off the small area of sits bones, feet and wrists and spread the weight across the bottom and back. By the end of the ride there aren’t as many sore pressure points and raw contact areas that afflict many cyclists. Beyond that, there isn’t any single standardized form of the bicycle, which adds to the intrigue of the form or serious confusion for the beginner.

Homebuilt Recumbent Bicycles in Wisconsin
In the bicycle form the bicycle can be described by how high or low the seat is placed on the frame or if the pedals are in front or behind the front wheel. Some models are built strictly for speed and racing, others are built for comfort and easy cruising. Some have straight tubes, some have curvy tubes, big wheels, little wheels, handle bars in front, and handle bars to the side. They come in steel, aluminum or carbon fiber frames. There are domestic brands and imported brands. Some very expensive and quite a few are affordably priced.

Once learned, it becomes almost second nature.

The trick to them is getting the feet up on the pedals and starting. Once learned, it becomes almost second nature. Plus side is that once the bike is stopped, feet can reach the ground without getting off the seat. But even that doesn’t eliminate some of the clumsiness for some people. Hence, the fastest growing form of recumbent is the tricycle.

The tricycle sits lower to the ground which is easier to straddle to get on and off. Once on the trike, the feet don’t even have to leave the pedals when stopped. So stopping at stop signs and lights is not as awkward as riding most kinds of bicycles. And while riding uphill, stopping to catch your breath doesn’t mean unclipping from the pedals and dismounting. But the main draw of the tricycle is a shallow learning curve. There isn’t the awkward mounting and kicking the feet up that beginners struggle with. You just sit down and start pedaling.

2 thoughts on “Cycling Around Wisconsin – The Midwest Recumbent Rally

  1. Thanks for giving attention to this big event in our small city of Stevens Point.

    From a Poky Pedaling point of view – the view we always take here at Poky Pedaling Stevens Point – there is one special feature of recumbent trikes regarding the ability to climb hills. To be clear, I’m not talking about the hill-climbing ability of athletes. I’m talking about the hill-climbing ability of the vast majority of ordinary people in ordinary clothes going to ordinary places at speeds of 10 MPH or less.

    Two-wheeled bicycles need to go a minimum speed or they fall over. This is what makes climbing hills a challenge. For Poky Pedalers, it can often be too difficult to pedal uphill at that minimum speed. Low gearing may not help, as the comfortable gear ratio might be too slow to stay upright.

    Three-wheeled tricycles won’t fall over, no matter how slow one travels. This means one can install really, really low gears on a trike for making hill climbing comfortable. Very slow but comfortable, even if you are carrying/towing a load of groceries or children or work material or whatever.

    That one hill on your commute – even a railroad overpass – might be a primary barrier that dissuades a Poky Pedaler from deciding to use a bicycle instead of a car for commuting or errands or other general transportation. Access to extremely low gearing on a trike can remove this barrier from an otherwise level commute of a couple of miles.

    If we’re really going to create a transportation system where, say, 25% of trips are made using pedal power, then we must find ways for this vast majority of Poky Pedalers to overcome the barriers that limit their pedaling.

    This ability to gear down recumbent trikes far below what is feasible on two wheels is what makes them a special vehicle with big potential for getting more people to choose a bicycle for transportation more often.

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