The history of the recumbent bicycle is filled with intrigue. Only a few people today realize that the current surge in interest and ownership of recumbents is a renaissance of what occurred at the end of the previous century and in the early years of this one.
The banning of recumbents from bicycle racing in 1934 had the effect of putting the recumbent bicycle design in the closet for fifty years, until it was re-discovered there primarily by MIT professor David Gordon Wilson and his student. To him, I and thousands of other laid-back cyclists will be eternally grateful.
But let's go back to slightly before that foolish day in 1934 and look at three recumbent pioneers: Charles Mochet, his son George Mochet and cyclist Francis Faure.
Before World War I Charles Mochet built small, very light cars. His wife had decided the common bicycle was far too dangerous for their son George, so Charles built him a pedal-driven four-wheeled vehicle.. The four-wheeler indeed reduced the danger of falling over. Nobody had guessed what else it might lead to. The four-wheeler proved to be exceedingly fast. Little George was delighted with his 'human powered vehicle' (HPV) when he easily left the other kids on bikes behind.
This soon led to a demand for the vehicles and Charles Mochet ultimately decided to give up the building of automobiles in favor of devoting himself to the construction of HPV's. He built a two-seated, four-wheeled pedal-car for adults that he called 'Velocar'. They had the comfortable seating position and the trunk of a car, with the pedal propulsion of the bicycle. The technical equipment included a differential, three gears and a light fairing made of the airplane windshield material Triplex. After the First World War the poor economy in France aided their sale. Buying a 'real' car was an unreachable dream for many Frenchmen, but Mochet's Velocar was affordable. So Charles Mochet was able to sell many of his HPVs. Until the thirties the sales of the Velocar steadily increased.
In practice the Velocars turned out to be very fast. From time to time they were used as pace vehicles in bicycle races. The Velocars soon reached their limits. At higher speeds, that were easily achieved, cornering got very dangerous. Every curve meant having to brake hard and then re-accelerate. One had to pedal hard to be fast on a curved path. Charles Mochet experimented and built a vehicle with three wheels, but its tendency towards falling over in curves was even worse than the four-wheeler.
The invention of the recumbent bike
Finally Mochet had an idea: Divide a Velocar into two halves. He built a two-wheeled version, in effect a recumbent bicycle. The bike had two 50 cm wheels, a wheelbase of 146 cm and a bottom bracket / boom that was about 12 cm above the seat and adjustable to the drivers height. It was possible to change the elevation of the seat and an intermediate drive provided the necessary gearing. During the development of his recumbent bike Charles Mochet acted deliberately: long and careful planning and much thinking preceded the actual building. Mochet not only wanted to show that the recumbent bike is faster than the common bike. He also wanted to convey to other cyclists that a recumbent bicycle is also highly suitable for touring and every-day use.
On the racing side Mochet was looking out for a good rider to ride his new recumbent bike in cycling events. At first Mochet had Henri Lemoine, a pro cyclist, riding it. Henri was astonished at the comfort and how easy it was to steer. Even so, he couldn't be convinced to ride the Velocar in contests. Perhaps it was the ridicule of other cyclists that kept him from riding it in competition. In any case Henri Lemoine never entered a single cycling event on a recumbent bike, much to his loss.
Mochet's second choice of riders was Francis Faure, brother of the famous cyclist Benoit Faure. Francis was a decidedly lesser rider than either Lemoine or his brother Benoit. But he was the first serious cyclist who really took an interest in Mochet's recumbent bike. After a few test rides he decided to enter a race riding it.
At the start this event the other riders laughed at him and said: "Faure, you must be tired and want to go to take a nap on that thing. Why don't you sit up upright and pedal like a man?" They quit laughing when Faure poured his annoyance into the pedals and left them all behind. They couldn't even get close to him. Afterwards they were upset that they couldn't even draft his funny bike. One after the other Francis Faure defeated every first-class track cyclist in Europe, taking advantage of recumbents' clear aerodynamic superiority..
The following year Faure was practically unbeatable in 5000-metre events. Even in races against three or four top riders, who would alternate pacing a leader, Faure would leave the Velodrome in the yellow jersey. Beside the successes on the track the Velocars and their riders won a lot of road races. Paul Morand, a road racer, won the Paris-Limoges in 1933 on a recumbent bike constructed by Mochet.
The hour world record
After Faure had established new world records on various short courses and other cyclists on recumbents had handily beaten their competitors at road races, Charles and George Mochet as well as Faure decided to attack the hour record, long considered the 'ultimate' bicycling record. Mochet wanted to be sure that a record with his split Velocar would be acknowledged. He therefore queried the Union Cycliste International (UCI) in October 1932. He received a positive reply to his letter: "The Velocar has no add-on aerodynamic components attached so there is no reason to forbid it."
From the beginning of the century until the thirties the French cyclist Marcel Berthet and the Swiss Cycling-idol Oscar Egg battled over the hour record. In 1907 Berthet established a record of 41.520 kilometers per hour. During the next seven years the record passed six times from Oscar Egg to M. Berthet and back, before Egg covered the sensational distance of 44.247 km (27.4) in 60 minutes. This record lasted almost 20 years - up to 1933. During the war many cyclists lost their lives, were disabled or neglected their training so it is understandable that there wasn't a serious record attempt in the years immediately after the war. Nevertheless the record by Oscar Egg has to classified as an outstanding performance.
In the meantime various designers and bike enthusiasts had begun experimenting constructing cloth fairings. In 1913 the French man Etienne Bunau-Varilla began offering a fairing that could be fitted to a regular bike. German bike manufacturers like Goericke and Brennabor let riders of their teams take part in races with cloth-faired vehicles. In the following years various faired bikes competed with each other. The first race of this kind took place in Berlin in 1914. The Dutch world champion Piet Dickentman and the European champion Arthur Stellbrink from Berlin raced. The world champion crashed and died. Possibly as a result of the fatality, the UCI changed the rules in 1914 and specifically prohibited add-on aerodynamic devices such as fairings or nosecones. The faired racing events soon fell into oblivion.
The 7th of July 1933 was to be the decisive historical day. Francis Faure rode 45.055 km (27.9 miles) in one hour on a Paris velodrome and thereby smashed the almost 20 year old record by Oscar Egg. Faure and Mochet's Velocar abruptly grabbed the media's attention. In journals and cycling magazines pictures of the record setting vehicles were being published. Soon questions were asked: Is this actually a bike? Will the Faure record be acknowledged? Will the common bike be made obsolete by the Velocar? Statements, interviews, comments and "political" cartoons all addressed this issue.
It was utter chaos. A decision became absolutely necessary on August 29, 1933, in Saint Trond France when Maurice Richard, on an upright, also bested the hour record set by Oscar Egg, who had ridden 44.077 kilometers in one hour. (27.4 miles). Which record was legal? The recumbents or the upright's? Who was the world record holder-Richard or Faure? Would the recumbent be legitimized as a legal bicycle to ride in UCI-sanctioned competitions, or be banned forever from the sport? A decision had to be made.
It had become apparent to all that the hour record set by Francis Faure riding the newfangled half Velocar developed by Charles Mochet was going to be hotly debated at the 58th Congress of the UCI on February 3, 1934.
An amateur rider demonstrated the Velocar to the Congress by pedaling one around the officials conference table. The officials were all amused and interested, but their opinions on the bike's legality for racing diverged sharply. The English UCI representative was surprised that the recumbent was so safe to ride, and prophesied a great future for it, saying that it could be the bicycle of the future. The Italian Bertolini, on the other hand, was of the opinion that Mochet's invention was not a bicycle at all.
In addition to factual arguments presented for and against 'allowing' recumbents, non-technical issues also entered the discussion. Some officials were of the opinion that a second-class cyclist like Francis Faure hadn't earned the right to participate in a world record setting event. Faure had only shown his skills in short races and sprints. How could such a cyclist now presume to hold the highest of all records, the hour? These critics preferred the clearly stronger rider, Richard, over Faure.
Rousseau, the French UCI commissioner, brought the issue back into focus. He stated that the UCI and its rules were intended to regulate races, define the legal length and breadth of the bicycle, to prohibit add-on aerodynamic aids, but not to define the bicycle itself.
The other commissioners apparently disagreed, and designated a task force which would define, or in effect, re-define exactly what was or wasn't a bicycle. They then voted to recognize the (upright) record of Maurice Richard. Immediately thereafter the [new] definition of what constituted a sport bicycle was accepted by a 58-to-46 vote. The following rules would be in effect in UCI sanctioned racing from that point in history on:
The bottom bracket had to be between 24 and 30 centimeters above the ground.
The front of the saddle could only be 12 centimeters behind the bottom bracket.
The distance from the bottom bracket to the axle of the front wheel had to be between 58 and 75 centimeters.
According to these rules, a recumbent wasn't a bicycle, but something entirely different, despite having two wheels, a chain, handlebars, a seat, and human propulsion. The ruling would take effect on April 1, 1934. It was to be recumbents' darkest day. Faure's record was shuffled into a new category called 'Records Set By HPVs without Special Aerodynamic Features'.
Embittered by the decision of the UCI, Charles Mochet wrote an appeal letter to the Union. No luck. Rumors at the time were that the decision 'banning' recumbents had less to do with sportsmanship than with economics: The upright bicycle manufacturers and professional riders had money and contacts and together formed a powerful lobbing force.
Had the UCI had decided otherwise a lot more riders might be riding recumbents today. The UCI's decision did, however, make Richard and Faure famous, and left Henry Limone behind in cycling obscurity. Promoters were organizing races between the two of them all over Europe. Francis Faure was unbeatable on his Velocar, but the fame belonged to Richard. The public loved to watch the races of these 'forbidden' machines and their infamous drivers!
The streamlined Velocar
The idea of a streamlined bicycle was not new. Marcel Berthet demonstrated an upright bicycle with a fairing in 1933. At the time he wanted to be the first cyclist to break the 50-kilometres-in-one-hour (31 mph) barrier. He almost did it: On November 18, 1933 the measurement at the end of the hour showed 49.992 kilometers. And Berthet was 47 years old! His record was also placed in a special category created by the UCI for 'sport bicycles' with aerodynamic components.
In 1938 Francis Faure and Georges Mochet decided to try to better the record of Marcel Berthet in the special class. Francis Faure also wanted to be the first cyclist to ride more than 50 kilometers in one hour. They produced a faired Velocar. The frame was modified: Faure sat lower and a smaller front wheel was installed to reduce drag.
The two men tested the first model by doing laps on the 4000-metre track at Vel d'Hiver in Paris. The first timed lap took place with Faure's head exposed and no bottom fairing. Faure achieved 48 kilometers per hour, (29.8 mph), able to complete a lap in five minutes - 20 seconds faster than a cyclist on a normal racing bicycle. This was significant in light of the fact that the faired Velocar weighed 11 kilograms (24#) more than your typical racing bicycle of the day. Still, this lap speed would not be sufficient to beat the one-hour record, so modifications to the Velocar were made. In the next run the vehicle was modified to have a smaller opening for Faure's head. His average speed rose to 49.7 kilometers per hour, saving an additional ten seconds per lap.
A bottom fairing was added for the third attempt. Francis Faure was now able to shave an additional 18 seconds off his lap time. The fourth run took place with the track having been polished. This time Francis Faure beat the 55-kilometres-per-hour mark, requiring only four minutes and 20 seconds for each 4000-metre lap It was decided to make the attempt at the one-hour record with this configuration. The record attempt had to be aborted, however, because the wind in his eyes was causing Francis Faure to lose control of the vehicle.
A fifth attempt was going to be made. Georges Mochet built a Triplex fairing to enclose Faure's head. It worked fabulously. On March 5, 1939, Faure rode 50.537 kilometers in one hour requiring under 4:15 minutes to circle the 4000-metre track!
On March 5 1938, the eve of the Second World War, Francis Faure became the first cyclist to travel 50 kilometers in less than one hour without a pace vehicle. He rode 50.537 kilometers on the Vicennes Municipal Cycling Track. The press went wild, both in Europe and the US Pictures of Francis Faure, Georges Mochet and the Velocar appeared in all the bicycling journals.
When the war broke out, Francis Faure moved to Australia, where he died in 1948. George Mochet continued to build Velocars and moped versions thereof. These sold well clear into the '60s, because they could be driven without a driving license. Eventually a change in the law spelled the end of the motorized Velocars.
Velocars are still in use. In Marseille you can rent these old HPVs and tour the city in an ecologically sound fashion. The rental shop manager has let it be known that he is looking for a manufacturer because after 30 years some of the bicycles are starting to wear out beyond repair. He feels few manufacturers can come close to the quality of the Velocars, so in the mean time he has chosen to continue to repair the old ones as much as possible.
Francis Faure, Charles and Georges Mochet showed the bicycling world what recumbents are capable of. The UCI ban showed the world the power a few misguided, narrowly focused individuals can have on the future of a sport like bicycling. Their decision set back the acceptance of a safer and more aerodynamically efficient bicycle by 50 years. The formation of the IHPVA and other organizations dedicated to racing and promoting human powered vehicles regardless of their recumbent or upright configuration is largely responsible for undoing that damage, as the present renaissance of recumbent bicycles so clearly demonstrates.
Georges Mochet is retired now, and lives with his wife Francine in St. Aygulf in France. He is involved with the French HPV Association, which has now been in existence for a year. His one-hour record from 1939 remained unbeaten in France until very recently.
The Mochet recumbent found a place in the German bicycle museum in Einbeck. The Mochet automobile may be seen in the automotive museum in Osnabruck.
The USCF has for all practical purposes 'continued' the ban on recumbents in the US bicycle races they sanction, although more sympathetic(?) commissioners will persuasively argue that recumbents aren't 'truly' banned. Those recumbent riders who have attempted to enter recumbents in USCF races (through 1995) have been disqualified for a variety of 'safety' issues such as exposed gearing, bicycle overall length and so on, all in the 'name' of safety, but having the overall effect of banning recumbents from competing. Not that there are that many recumbent riders strong enough to enter USCF events, but those few who have been so bold to attempt to do so have in general given up after being given such a inhospitable reception. Most of these 'bent riders have retreated to IHPVA and Midwest Streamliner racing events where 'bents are both welcomed, and the norm.
An attempt to get the USCF to come out and flatly say whether recumbents are or are not allowed in their races fell flat. A letter I wrote requesting a 'simple decision' faxed, copied, and emailed to several USCF officials went largely unanswered. One friendlier official responded - he quoted me all the various minutia and rules that apply. In effect, what this says to me they (the USCF) is (still) saying: "We refuse to come out and make a decision as to whether a recumbent is a "legal" bicycle." Wake up guys, it's 1996. WHN :)
This article has traveled a long journey. It was edited by Wade H. Nelson with permission back from a German translation by Gunnar Felhau of an adaptation of an article which originally appeared in a 1990 issue of Cycling Science. Translations back from German thanks to Paul Goodrich and Volker Hilsenstein. The original article was written by Anfried Schmitz.
The above article appears at the web site for the now defunct Cycle Genius and is referenced by Cruzbike. There the author makes the point that the recumbent was banned the same year Hitler came to power in Germany. Dr. Parker, the Cruzbike founder also makes the point that two years later, in 1936, Hitler tried to ban blacks from the Olympics because “their physiques are stronger than those of civilized whites”.
Fortunately the Intl. Olympic Committee voted him down. While the UCI has perpetrated a ban that has very successfully kept the recumbent bicycle looked down upon for generations.....
Maria's RAAM finish as the top women rider has become even more astonishing. Here is her husband's report about the 65 mph woman, distracted by her cell phone, that crushed into Maria's slow moving follow-vehicle in Arizona. Besides losing three crew members, ending up with a bleeding son in need of careful observation less he have brain trauma and having to sort through twisted metal and broken glass and plastic to salvage usable bike parts, clothing and other gear at an Indian reservation junkyard, Maria almost lost her one remaining bike later that day when a crew member drove it into a garage overhang. This almost reads like fiction:
In the video above, you can watch a true recumbent bicycling ambassador in action! As some of you may have seen yesterday, Maria Parker, finished RAAM, in 11 days, 20 hours. She was the first female finisher by several hundred miles. And did so by being forced off the road for a full day because her support van and three of her crew members, were lost because of a car accident.
The recumbent and Cruzbike communities rallied around this amazing 50-year old mother of four and she rewarded us with what is being called the biggest comeback in the history of RAAM!! She showed all of us that her heart was as strong as her very f a s t machine. Too exciting!
btw: In case you missed it, HERE is the interview she and I did just before her epic effort!
Sergey Zimin the Russian rider aboard the titanium recumbent he built himself has abandoned his second attempt at RAAM. He had reached Prescott, Arizona, some 441 miles from the start, falling short of his 2012 attempt in which he made it 536 miles to Flagstaff.
We just had the honor of finding out what makes one of America’s most loved recumbent bicycle minds tick. Through Coventry Cycle Works, Marilyn Hayward is gaining widespread acceptance for the supine position in the Pacific Northwest. In the FOLLOWING INTERVIEW, you will hear some of the near insurmountable obstacles she has had to overcome on her way to also becoming so widely revered.
And after a full day off the road because of the accident that consumed her support vehicle and three members of her crew, Maria not only leads the women on her pretty much stock Cruzbike, but she is in Ohio, a little over 500 miles from the 2013 RAAM finish line in Annapolis, MD!!
Maria Parker, now in Missouri, well beyond the half way point in the Race Across America, is now the women's race leader! Toward that end, she is making what race officials are calling the greatest comeback in the history of RAAM, if not all of sport. This is all too exciting. Here after she loses her main support vehicle, three of her crew members, her two back-up bikes, most of her tires and wheels, food and miscellaneous supplies too numerous to itemize, and she's now on a pace to claim the all-time fastest female crossing of America ever!!
This as the support for her sister and brain cancer research is pouring in from all over the USA! HERE is the article the RAAM people featured about Maria at their site. HERE is video they are running about Maria. HERE is the podcast she and I did in April. HERE is where you can keep up with her or donate.
Details are still being pieced together but Maria Parker has climbed back to second place in her division after being forced to temporarily withdraw after a wreck destroyed the support vehicle that was following her. The only recumbent in a field of dozens of other bike racing competitors, Maria had pedaled nearly 600 miles and two days straight when the van following her was rear ended just east of Tuba City, Arizona. In addition to the several crew members who suffered minor injuries, including scrapes and bruises, one had a head injury, how serious I have been unable to ascertain. If that was not demoralising enough. Maria's back up bike, tires and food (her liquid race diet) were all destroyed.
However, the Cruzbike community answered her call for a bike with a plethora of offers to help with their own personal machines. Local bike shops have pitched in. And another support vehicle has cropped up.
And Maria is back in the race hunt all over again! She even just passed Kathy Roche-Wallace, the holder of the current female RAAM record of 12 days, 15 hours and 59 minutes. In her division, only RAAM legend Seana Hogan—the event’s only 6-time winner— who is back for her first RAAM since 1998, stands in Maria's way!
To learn more, be kept abreast and/or to see Maria in action along with all the loving support she has surrounded herself with, facebook.com/ 3ktoacure is a public page that will greatly inspire you!!
Visit 3000milestoacure.com to donate or text "RACE" to 20222 to give $10. Updates on Parker's race can be found at facebook.com/ 3ktoacure.
No doubt the world's toughest test of endurance, Maria Parker, a 50-year old mother of four young adults, is showing the world she has as much power as her indomitable Cruzbike!!
btw: To hear her talk about her sister who has brain cancer that she is doing this ride for and how trained for it, go HERE.
And then there are the people who ride recumbent bicycles, a marginalized population of cyclists indeed. They are seen by many of the mostly younger cyclists who ride traditional upright bikes, as being less capable. They dismiss the recumbent rider as being a man or woman who is limited by age, health or weight problems. So the fact that since 1982, I had only been riding recumbents, partly in an attempt to get attention for the National Bicycle Greenway, seemed to communicate that I had special needs; that I couldn’t ride a “real” bike. It seemed to be telling people who had no visible way of knowing that I had already crossed the country on an upright, that I wanted a Greenway so I would have a place to ride my ‘sit down’ bicycle.
I had not realized that I was limiting the support I needed for our vision until I started riding the HiWheel. In hindsight, however, I do take comfort in the fact that I am still cycling all these years later. Looking back I had seen so many of the same upright cyclists who looked down on me for riding a recumbent, fall by the way side because of the discomfort their bikes were causing them as they got older.
While my pedaling kept me fit, I watched as the familiar faces around me were in a constant state of change. While I knew some of them had simply moved to new cycling turf, I was also sure that an even larger number of them had traded in the two-wheel road for the luxury and unhealthy ways of the automobile. This was corroborated for me once in a while when I would spot one of them filling up at a gas station or sitting behind the steering wheel of a car at a traffic light.
Besides the butt, shoulder, neck and sometimes arm pain that forced a lot of them off the saddle, there are also the issues of attire, functionality, even peer pressure. As many of us grow older, only to find more and more demands placed on our time, the conventional bicycle often becomes less and less attractive because it is harder to build into our lives. In terms of special wear, padding and chamois for one’s hind quarters must be bought, kept clean and just changed in and out of with each ride in order for one to be an effective upright cyclist.
Besides wearing the right, tight-fitting bike clothes for two wheel efficiency, there is also the subtle pressure the upright bike industry (97+% of bikes sold) places on its cyclists to remind them that they must look and go fast. From what their helmets and upper body wear (preferably brightly colored jerseys with lots of corporate logos on them) are supposed to look like to the kinds of biking events that appear on our TV screens (the Tour De France and to a lesser degree the Race Across America), to how cars are needed for our activity (at such races, we see a mass of cars and motor homes with bikes on top of them following the two wheel speedsters around), etc, there is both a dress code and a code of conduct anyone who wants to be seen as a serious cyclist must abide by.
Despite the fact that recumbent cyclists do not need special clothes and their bikes can carry more, something we’ll talk more about later in this chapter, those who ride them, even if they look young, healthy and fit, are still dismissed as being lazy cyclists. This notion was affirmed by the UCI when they banned them from racing in 1934, saying bike racers should not be allowed to gain advantage because of their machines The now defrocked bike racer, Lance Armstrong, helped to embed this attitude in the mass consciousness. For the better part of two decades, the myth of who he was served to define the meaning of the term serious-cyclist.
For the many millions of cyclists following his lead, results took on far greater importance than how much fun they had when they cycled. It became necessary to look like you were working for your miles. Smiling or waving at one another was frowned upon. And no longer were your rides about processing thoughts or communing with nature or your Maker. You achieved esteem by calling your time spent in the upright saddle a “training ride”. Made all the more important by how well you watched your various metering mechanisms, your watch, speedometer and/or your power, cadence, or heart monitors, etc.
In such a way, not only was comfort on your bike a secondary consideration, but the real heroes of bicycling, those who replace car trips, are cast by the wayside. As a result, the needs of transportation cyclists are not placed on center stage. Instead, those chasing speed become the unofficial ambassadors of what is supposed to be seen as a sport that also requires motorized support.
While there are becoming more of those who make, sell and promote conventional bikes that are designed for comfort, even transportation, the market of such users is always reminded that they are B-League cyclists. Because such pedal machines go slower, those who ride them are made to feel almost like they need to apologize for not being young and able to withstand the pain of a traditional road bike any longer.
When I say conventional bikes are limited in how much they can carry, the racks and saddlebags that can be added to them change the handling characteristics of the bike. And odd shaped purchases or things one might have to get to, and/or from work, school or play, are more difficult to mount on a traditional pedal machine.
All of this changes on a recumbent. Because the seat is shaped more like the chairs found at one’s dining room table, besides the comfort of a large seating area and then having your back supported, it is easier to hang or drape things off of them. All this as the recumbent cyclist pedals away in loose fitting clothes that one does not have to change in and out of in order to do a strong ride. If all this is not enough to warrant that we should see more of them on the road, if for no other reason than to keep older cyclists out there with us, the higher speed potential the UCI affirmed in 1934 when they banned them, keeps growing.
In fact all the present day human powered land speed records were established using the recumbent design. They are pushing 83 miles an hour with the recumbent power plant. Even the English Channel was flown over by a man pedaling supine because engineers determined that that was the only way they could get enough power for such an effort. And if one wanted to spend the money, depending on their fitness level, there are recumbents a person can buy that will put them at the front of most any racing pack.
Recumbents are also safer bikes to ride. Because you are much closer to the ground, the impact of a fall is not nearly as great. Over the years, I have known more than a few upright cyclists whose lives were ruined, some of whom even died, by crashes from a machine, the upright road bike, that makes the head and not the butt the point of impact. Nor is the recumbent rider so low that he or she cannot be seen. Not at all. In fact the biggest part of their body is what is most directly in the car driver’s field of vision instead of legs or skinny bike tires.
Besides their comfort, safety, speed and practicality, are there other reasons why do we not see more recumbent bicycles on the road? To begin with, we do not see many of them in bike shops. And if they do show up there, they are often not supported by an enthusiastic sales staff. This is so because the same pressure the ad man uses to tell a person what serious cyclists are supposed to look like, finds its way into the bike shops where most of the employees have not reached the age where comfort on a bike is a concern, Since they tend to sell and be knowledgeable about what their conditioning has told them is acceptable, even fashionable to ride, the recumbent is an unknown oddity to them. As are those who express interest in knowing about them.
Sure one can go out on the web and find such a machine. However, since mechanical support is harder to find from the bicycle marketplace, a lot of shops for example do not like to even do repair work on recumbents, interested buyers will often need some mechanical aptitude in order to build one out of the box. And once they get it out on the road, they must be able to play the game of being an instant cycling authority as they answer all the many questions that will always be asked.
If however they are new to cycling or have been away for a number of years, much strength of character will be required in order to consistently ride a recumbent. This is so because as they redevelop their skills or learn new ones, it will be harder for them to remain anonymous. Insecure in themselves as cyclists, it will be harder for them to ignore the looks of disdain or outright disapproval that will also come their way once in a while.
Such a cyclist, lacking in confidence, will also have a harder time laughing at comments such as ‘get a real bike’, ‘quit laying down on the job’ or ‘where’s your remote’, etc, that they can expect to hear on occasion. And yet new or returning bike riders, the ones we most need to grow the activity, are the same ones who may never get a chance to really ride the only bike that it makes sense for them to ride.
I could not wait to return to the speed and the comfort of a recumbent bicycle but for now I was a man on a mission. The above is excerpted from "How American Can Bike and Grow Rich, the NBG Manifesto", an e-book that can be found HERE
While I was in the States with limited computer access, Richard Ballantine, the man whose book, "Richard's Bike Book" along with a lot of his other writing brought bicycling into the mainstream died May 29. He also famously maintained that if he were to own just one bike, it would be a trike......
An avid bicycle collector, Richard Ballantine was passionate about pedal power in all its forms, especially recumbent bicycles that had been banned from road-racing competitions
Here is the obitury that appeared in the Guardian:
Richard Ballantine obituary
Cyclists' champion who made the case for assertive urban cycling before it became fashionablee
Richard Ballantine, who has died aged 72, was one of cycling's most influential and eloquent advocates, inspiring generations of cyclists. He was instrumental in promoting cyclists' rights and popularising mountain bikes and recumbent bicycles. Richard's Bicycle Book, first published in 1972, quickly became the cyclists' bible, selling more than 1m copies through numerous editions. Its encyclopedic format combined astute practical advice on buying and maintaining bikes with an original, passionate, eco-conscious manifesto for cycling – presciently, in light of the Opec oil embargo of 1973-74.
For Richard, riding a bicycle was a defence against the alienation of modern life and the dehumanising effects of cars. "Now look at what happens to you on a bicycle," he wrote. "It's immediate and direct. You pedal. You make decisions. You experience the tang of the air and the surge of power as you bite into the road. You're vitalised. As you hum along, you fully and gloriously experience the day, the sunshine, the clouds, the breezes. You're alive!"
"Sex," as one interviewer asserted, "had Dr Alex Comfort. Cycling had Richard Ballantine."
Richard made the case for assertive urban cycling long before it became fashionable. He provided bold, colourful advice on how to handle motorists (compete for road space as an equal – don't cower in the gutter), lorries (beware when riding on the inside, make yourself obvious) and – despite being an animal lover himself – aggressive dogs (reciprocate hostility as needed). He proposed a utopian future of separate bike lanes and free bikes in city centres. "A better deal for cyclists," he wrote, "is a better deal for society." An advocate of campaigning through direct action, he had a radical's fearless instinct for a cause and a pen to match.
Born in Kingston, New York state, Richard was the only child of Ian and Betty Ballantine, who pioneered paperback publishing in America, first with Bantam and later with Ballantine Books. Richard grew up between Woodstock and New York, where he attended the Browning school and, briefly, Columbia University. As a student, he was an activist in the New Left movement.
His real education came from growing up in the family's publishing business, which mass-marketed JRR Tolkien, Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov, and introduced authors such as Ray Bradbury, Philip K Dick and Tom Robbins to a wider readership.
After working variously as a chef, shooting gallery attendant, book editor and housing community organiser in New York, Richard moved to the UK in the early 1970s. Following the success of Richard's Bicycle Book, he launched Bicycle, the UK's first glossy cycle magazine for everyday cyclists. His passion for innovations that improved urban cycling led him to import the first high-security, anti-theft D-locks from the US.
After testing an imported US prototype mountain bike in 1982, Richard realised that they could transform cycling, but needed to be promoted. When two young Australian law students, Tim Gartside and Peter Murphy, approached Bicycle with a plan to ride across the Sahara on roadsters, Richard decided they should ride mountain bikes and that he and I should import them together. The success of the landmark, 3,410-mile, north-south crossing of the Sahara inspired us to import a further 20 mountain bikes to kickstart interest in them. Subsequently Richard co-launched the Fat Tyre Five series of mountain bike races, staged over five weekends in 1984.
An avid bicycle collector, he was passionate about pedal power in all its forms, especially aerodynamic, recumbent bicycles that had been banned from road-racing competitions. He co-founded the British Human Power Club in 1983 and was its chairman, and also chairman of the World Human Powered Vehicle Association, until his death.
He wrote several more books on cycling, including (with myself) Richards' Ultimate Bicycle Book (1992), as well as campaigning columns for publications such as the Guardian and New Cyclist. In his last book, City Cycling (2007), he returned to providing inspirational and amusing instructions on how to survive as a cyclist in an urban environment.
A warm-hearted and fun-loving colleague, he had an editor's eclectic range, editing books that included an 18-part series on the Vietnam war; the astronaut Michael Collins's memoirs of the Apollo 11 moon landing; and The Sawtooth Wolves, documenting a six-year study of a wolf pack.
Richard was an accomplished blues guitarist and five-string banjo player, having been taught the banjo in Woodstock by the American folk musician Billy Faier.
He is survived by his wife, Sherry, whom he married in 1974; his children, Danielle, Katharyn and Shawn; his grandchildren, Alexander and Norah; and his mother.
• Richard Ballantine, author and publisher, born 25 July 1940; died 29 May 2013