A recumbent bicycle is a bike that places the rider in a laid-back reclining position. Most recumbent riders choose this type of design for ergonomic reasons; the rider’s weight is distributed comfortably over a larger area, supported by back and buttocks. Most recumbent models also have an aerodynamic advantage; the reclined, legs-forward position of the rider’s body presents a smaller frontal profile.

Recumbents are available in a wide range of configurations, including: long to short wheelbase; large, small, or a mix of wheel sizes; overseat, underseat, or no-hands steering. Recumbents can be categorized by their wheelbase, wheel sizes, steering system, faired or unfaired, and front-wheel or rear-wheel drive.


Bacchetta Corsa, a short wheelbase high racerLong wheelbase (LWB) models have the pedals located between the front and rear wheels; short wheelbase (SWB) models have the pedals in front of the front wheel; compact long wheelbase (CLWB) models have the pedals either very close to the front wheel or above it. Within these categories are variations, intermediate types, and even convertible designs (LWB to CLWB) – there is no “standard” recumbent.

Wheel Sizes

The rear wheel of a recumbent is usually behind the rider and may be any size, from around 16 inches (410 mm) to the 700c of an upright racing cycle. The front wheel is commonly smaller than the rear, although a number of recumbents feature dual 26-inch (ISO 559), ISO 571 (650c), or ISO 622 (700c) wheels. Notable among these are “highracers”, such as the Bacchetta Corsa and Strada or Volae Team, or the “LWB-style” RANS Stratus XP. Larger wheels generally have lower rolling resistance but a higher profile leading to higher air resistance. Highracer aficionados also claim that they are more stable, and although bicycle stability increases with the height of the center of gravity above the ground, the wide variety of recumbent designs makes such generalizations unreliable. Another advantage of both wheels being the same size is that the bike requires only one size of inner tube.

The pivoting-boom front-wheel drive Flevobike racer with 700c wheels (NL) Cruzbike Silvio (2009) A pivot-boom, front wheel-drive, 700C road bike (with rear rack).The most common arrangement is probably an ISO 559 (26-inch) rear wheel and an ISO 406 (20-inch) front wheel. The small front wheel and large rear wheel combination is used to keep the pedals and front wheel clear of each other, avoiding the problem called “heel strike” (where the rider’s heels catch the wheel in tight turns). A pivoting-boom front-wheel drive (PBFWD) configuration also overcomes heel strike since the pedals and front wheel turn together. PBFWD bikes may have dual 26-inch (660 mm) wheels or larger.

Recumbent Tour Cycling

A superb source of information on recumbent tour cycling is the bikepaths.org website.
Its owner, Charles DiBella has been bicycle touring independently with a Lightning Stealth recumbent for over ten years. On the website he aims to provide in-depth resource on recumbent bikes and tries his best to answer questions, and welcomes open dialog to discuss anything related to recumbent bikes or bicycle touring in general.