My FAQ for Recumbent Bikes - Kathy Bilton kathy at the domain
Originally written 9/27/94 - but last edited March 2000

1. What *is* that?

It's a recumbent bike.

2. I've never seen anything like that before!

I had never heard of them myself 'til just this past January (1994). They've been around for over 100 years, it's just that for some reason, they were sort of forgotten about until the last couple of decades.

3. Is it hard to ride?

I don't find it to be hard at all, but it takes a bit of getting used to for some people. I let someone (who shall remain nameless) try to ride it, and I had to hold on to the back of the bike and run around the neighborhood for five solid minutes with her before she felt comfortable on it. Others can ride it almost instantly. Others are afraid to even try.

4. Is it comfortable?

I find it very comfortable. In fact, that's why I have it. I had always loved biking but really never did that much as after an hour or so I would be uncomfortable. Part of my problem may have been that my old upright was never really suitable for me - but nevertheless, I wasn't motivated to get a new bike until I heard of recumbents.

5. How do you steer it?

The handlebars are under the seat on my bike. This is referred to as USS (under seat steering.) Other recumbents have steering that looks more "normal" which is called ASS (above seat steering.)

6. How do you balance that thing?

It's really not a problem.

7. What about going up hills?

Recumbents tend to be slower going up hills, but can make up for it on downhills and flat areas. I can't really compare going up hills with my 'bent vs. my upright, as I usually just rode my upright on the flat C&O towpath. Even though I live in the midst of a superb biking area, I was never motivated to take my upright out beyond the towpath. I guess that having heard that 'bents were supposed to be a bit hard to ride uphill was all the motivation I needed to immediately take it out and up as many hills as I could find (within reason.)

8. How much do they cost?

There's quite a price range. If you are willing to wait and shop around, you may be able to pick up a used one in the $300- 700 range. You can also pay upwards of $2000. And anything in between. It all depends. I almost got one for $225 that I think I would have been quite happy with but someone beat me to it.

9. Did you build it yourself?

No, but what a compliment that you think I could have done such a thing! (You weren't by any chance actually thinking, " looks like you took a bike apart and then couldn't figure out how to put it back together properly," when you asked that, were you?)

10. What brand is it?

It's a Haluzak Horizon. It was made out in California by Bill Haluzak. You can see a review of it in the September 1994 RCN.

11. What's the frame made of?


12. What about pedals?

It is imperative that you use some method of insuring that your feet don't bounce off the pedals. (Don't wait and learn this the hard way as some people have. There was a story in early July '95 on the HPV list which told of someone's horrible accident the first day he was out on his new recumbent. He hadn't gotten around to putting anything on his pedals...) Some people swear by clipless pedals. I had some for a while, and felt that I liked them. However, after I lost the shoes that went with the pedals, and therefore stopped using the pedals, I realized they were having a deleterious effect on my knees. I now just use some toe-clips. Others use something called "Power-Grips." They are sort of a strap which you slip your foot through on the pedal. Still others find that they don't need anything special as the kind of shoe they choose to wear - such as a hiking shoe with some cleats - sort of grabs the pedal and nothing further is needed.

The key is to be aware of the potential problem that exists with respect to keeping your feet on the pedals.

13. Where did you get it?

I got it at Mt. Airy Cycles which is just off Interstate 70 about 12 miles east of Frederick, MD. To get to the shop, take the Mt. Airy exit going south (away from the town of Mt. Airy). Make your first left turn onto Rt. 144. The shop is on your left just about 1/2 mile down the road. (And if you should go there, and find that the phone has not rung about a zillion times in whatever length of time you are there, please let me know.) I feel lucky to have a shop that deals in them so relatively close to me. Amazingly, people come down to the shop from New York and maybe even more distant spots.

14. Where can I find out more about recumbents? Here are some avenues:

15. Isn't it hard for you to be seen?

Well, possibly in certain situations, as the overall height is a couple of inches less than on a standard bike. However, I don't think it's a good idea to trust drivers to see you. After all, a lot of drivers claim they weren't able to see a motorcycle after being involved in an accident with a motorcycle... Therefore, I think it's imperative that a recumbent rider use a rear-view mirror to keep track of traffic. The one I use is a very tiny micro-mirror made by a company called Third Eye. (If you are other than a North American, you probably won't believe me about this. It seems to be the case that Europeans - and maybe others - don't believe in the necessity of having mirrors...) It's probably also a good idea to use a flag to encourage drivers to notice you.

16. How and when did you learn about recumbents?

Well…In early '94 I happened to be looking at the first color edition of the magazine "Internet World." There was an article in it about Steve Roberts and Behemoth. At the time I didn't even realize that his bike was an HPV, as it looked so large and heavy, I assumed it was a motorcycle. There was info in the article about the Nomadness mailing list that Steve had., so I decided to sign onto it.

It so happened that at that time, I had the name of my nearby town, Shepherdstown, in my .sig file. I was quite amazed a day or two later when I had a personal response from Steve, rather than the automated listserv message I had assumed I would get. He had noticed the name of the town and said it brought back a lot of memories. It turned out that Shepherdstown was one of the myriad of towns that Steve had stopped in on his initial travels across the States.

So, anyway, that's how I became aware of recumbents. Not too long after that, I noticed a message in the newsgroup dc.biking asking if anyone knew anything about recombinant bikes. Another person posted a reply that what he meant to have asked about was "recumbent" bikes, and suggested that the person visit Mt. Airy Bicycles to have a test ride

I often drove by Mt. Airy and determined to find the shop and do some test riding myself. In the meantime, I heard about WHIRL, and in early June decided to go on one of their regular Saturday rides in Rock Creek Park.

Note: This is the FAQ that the IHPVA FAQ is based on.

Back to the Main Recumbent Page

Kathy Bilton kathy at the domain September 27, 1994