If you have been around bicycles for any length of time you have eventually come across that odd looking variety called “recumbents“. Wikipedia describes them this way:
A recumbent bicycle is a bicycle 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. On a traditional upright bicycle, the body weight rests entirely on a small portion of the sitting bones, the feet, and the hands.
Most recumbent models also have an aerodynamic advantage; the reclined, legs-forward position of the rider’s body presents a smaller frontal profile. A recumbent holds the world speed record for a bicycle, and they were banned from racing under the UCI in 1934, and now race under the banner of the Human Powered Vehicle Association (HPVA).
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; and rear wheel or front wheel drive. A variant with three wheels is a recumbent tricycle.
Pay attention to the highlight portion of the description because it contains the real reason for the existence of these bikes in moderns times. By placing the rider in a more aerodynamic position he gains some efficiency on flat and slightly downhill terrain. Some of the early U.S. pioneers in the recumbent field were situated on the west coast of the United States. Among them was Gardner Martin whose Easy Racers bikes became a staple at recumbent races.
Lonnie Morse is a longtime owner and rider of Easy Racers bikes. In fact the social riding group to which he belongs is largely populated by current and former owners of these bikes. One of the special interests he has is in riding faired versions of these bikes.
In the photograph to the right Lonnie is pictured with a front fairing (silver) and a “Stars and Stripes” body sock which completes the full fairing ensemble. Such a “get up” for his bike increases its overall aerodynamic efficiency.
So why isn’t there more recumbent riders using fairings ? ?
Mostly because of the left over mind-set from the up-right bike whence we all grew up with. It also has to do with ”the flock” the rider chooses to ride and race with.
Even though the faired bike gives more performance with less energy – your performance window could be a mis-match with the groupie your riding with.
Easy Racers recumbent bikes basically started the fairing movement years ago. The addition of a front fairing on a long wheel base “LWB” bike with low bottom bracket “BB”became a natural for the noticeable improvement. It is rare not to see a Tour Easy, Gold Rush, ti-Rush without a fairing or body sock.
Here in the Great NW – the Oregon Human Powered Vehicles “OHPV” have had faired recreational riders for years. We fair our bikes not to go faster – but to ride a preferred speed easier.
If you want to immerse yourself in the investigations of aerodynamic efficiency then by all means visit his blog.