Were you Born to Be on a 'Bent?


One of the big questions in cycling for everyone is 'What should I be riding?' Many folks find – sooner or later – that the answer to that question is a recumbent bicycle or tricycle, and in some cases the criteria are fairly obvious. A number of us choose bents because of a biomechanical issue, such as lower back, neck or shoulder pain, sore wrists, or a need for greater stability. Some of us simply prefer the comfort and heads-up attitude. Others of us like the individuality or fun of riding something a bit unusual. There may even be some truth to persistent rumors that some folks ride recumbents simply because they look so different, are more technologically intriguing or get a lot more attention from the other nerds we meet. In any case, I suppose it's only fair to admit that it probably wouldn't be very difficult for any reasonably attentive and unbiased observer to note at least some of the common characteristics for at least some small subgroup of recumbent riders. For example, try this quick photo quiz for yourself:

Which One of These Trikeys is the Real Recumbent Rider?
Real Recumbent Rider? - Number One Real Recumbent Rider? - Number Two

If you guessed the rider on the left, Number One, you have just proven yourself to be eminently qualified as a Natural Born 'Bent Bum - - - purely on the basis of the uncompromising individualism you've just displayed by ignoring or futilely disputing the blatantly obvious!

Now of course, there is absolutely no real basis in fact for the pervasively prevalent popular presumption that all recumbent riders are 'pudgy old techno-geeks with white beards and marginal social skills'. Oh sure, a few of us may roughly fit that tacky stereotype, but certainly not all of us and even those of us who do still manage somehow to maintain a remarkably light-hearted attitude about it. With that thought firmly in mind, we've tried to collect a reasonably representative cross-section of some of the more common indicators that seem to often apply to various members of the unique recumbent riding sector of our general cycling population. If you have ever wondered how closely you conform to the popular 'bent rider sterotype, if maybe you are after all just exactly the kind of person who's 'ready for a recumbent', whether or not you currently ride one, you may enjoy perusing the following list of cues, somewhat in the style of Jeff Foxworthy's 'You might be a redneck...'

You may have been born to be on a 'bent if:

  • You have more fur on your face than hair on your head.

  • You sincerely believe that the catch phrase Pain in the Ass evolved simultaneously with the development of the traditional upright bicycle.

  • You know the precise number of hexagons and pentagons that make up a Bucky Ball.

  • The first place you look in the local newspaper for the names and faces of your friends is the obituary column.

  • You never wear a red jersey when you're riding because little kids keep chasing you yelling 'Santa!'

  • Neighbors comment that your garage, patio, family room and dining room are all half full of cycles... but you think of it as half empty.

  • The only time you ever touch one of the drops of a traditional road bike handlebar is when you use it for balance to pick up the water bottle that fell from your vibration-numbed fingers.

  • You've always felt that jumping feet first off a high platform into water made a lot more sense than diving.

  • You honestly believe the look of white socks with SPD sandals is quite stylish and/or fashionable.

  • Your Christmas wish list has ever included a helmet-mounted rear view mirror.

  • Even as a little kid you had figured out that whizzing down the slide was a lot more fun than climbing back up the ladder.

  • You can't think of any real good reason why your bike wheels should have a larger diameter than your pizza.

  • For most of your cycling history, the number of gears on your cycle has increased roughly proportionally with your age.

  • You were the first kid on your block to ever swoop down a hill on your Sting Ray, lying flat on the banana seat and steering with your feet.

  • You were already too big to ride a Sting Ray when Schwinn first introduced them way back in Nineteen and Ought Sixty-Three.

  • The only time on an upright bike that you lift out of the seat and stand on a pedal is when you're beginning to get off it.

  • Your riding accessories (rack, panniers, tools, spares, extra clothes and hydration) usually outweigh your basic bike.

  • The difference in the width of the tires you ride today versus the ones you rode ten years ago is proportionally about the same as the increase in your waist measurement.

  • Your typical pedaling cadence is lower than your age.

  • Your copy of 'Bicycling Science' is autographed by the authors.

  • You have ever worn a homemade helmet visor.

  • You know four or more of the first names for Mssrs. Martin (not Arnold!), Mueller, Brummer, Haluzak, Delaire, Sims or Whittingham.

  • Your hands inadvertently curl into fists whenever you hear the phrase 'Carpal Tunnel Syndrome'.

  • You have memorized the ETRTO equivalents for at least six US or English wheel sizes.

  • You were once heard arguing that having a smooth aerodynamic contour is more important than minimizing weight – and some eavesdroper thought you were talking about your body rather than your bike.

  • You not only 'think outside the box', you have spent hundreds of hours on your computer making 3D virtual reality drawings of much better boxes.

  • You've ever noticed a faint greenish aura around a recumbent cycle as it was passing you.

  • When bright colors or pastels were in, you always wore basic black, but when the Goth look got hot, you suddenly switched to wearing DayGlo Lemon Yellow.

  • You regard transporting your cycle not as a hassle, but as an exciting engineering challenge.

  • You have ever told another cyclist, "Well, it's a little slower going uphill, but it makes up for it by going a lot faster downhill!"

Please note that this list is not in any way intended to be taken as a careful scientific, comprehensive compilation. In fact, if you have observed any other characteristic(s) reasonably common among recumbent riders, please email them to me as potential additions.

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Last updated Sep 26 2004