At first glance, my bicycle looks a bit funny. Most people wonder how you can ride such a thing, let alone know how to mount it. However, it isn't awkward at all, and most people get used to the different seat position in a couple of minutes.
So, why a recumbent bike? First of all, it's an absolutely cool driving experience. There's nothing in front of you except your legs, and your unrestricted view is directed to the landscape, not the next few meters of asphalt. Curves feel different because of the changed rotation axis (you rotate around an axis going from your head through your body; the normal bike axis sticks out of your stomach). There's absolutely no pressure on your arms and hands; the bike is steered like an airplane. Actually, it feels like a rocket spaceship when going downhill at high speed. It is very comfortable, because your body's weight is distributed across your entire back, not just your sensitive bottom. Like many modern bikes, it has full suspension, so you don't notice small bumps in the road.
OK, before you throw away your old bike and go shopping, be advised that a recumbent bicycle is not for everyone and every need. It's mostly for long distances (over 5 km) over cycle tracks and asphalt roads. Because of its seat position you cannot turn around your head (a rear mirror is obligatory safety equipment), and monitoring heavy traffic is difficult. You cannot drive up sidewalks, so its not much fun in the inner city or pedestrian precincts.
Though it's perfectly possible to drive up even steep slopes, you cannot use your entire body (e.g. by standing up); the entire power must come from your legs. The stretched-out, open position is really terrific on hot summer days (you get an even suntan when driving topless); on spring and autumn days you cannot protect against the cold by sitting hunched together. So you'll enjoy this bike most on warm, sunny weather.
A recumbent bicycle is a derivative of a touring bike; it's no mountain bike. Fortified tracks through the woods are no problem, but off road the small wheel diameter and body position will cause problems with steering and balance.
There are many different types of recumbent bikes, and each feels different. I firmly recommend to try out some bikes before buying. I've bought my bike from Pedalkraft F. Eberhardt Spezialräder, a shop located near Stuttgart, Germany. Each spring, this vendor offers short test drives for a group of interested people; bikes are swapped multiple times during the trip, so you get a chance to directly compare each bike with the others.
Here's some technical data about my bike. It's a Toxy 3x7 short rider; for more details, see the Quantum Toxy manufacturer's website. Back in June 2000, it cost DM 3500,-, that's roughly 1750 EUR.
On average, I drive about 1200 km each year. Usually each tour consists of 20-60 km ; my longest route so far has been 110 km. My average speed equals 23-24 km/h. From May until September, I regularly go to work (5 km) by bike, too. Actually, that's the best thing you can do; start the day with a small workout, fresh air and a fun transportation device!
Here in the southwest of Stuttgart, there are many good cycle tracks and even more small roads which are open only for agricultural traffic. This area is close to the Black Forest, and there's the Schönbuch national park nearby.
Ingo Karkat, Aug-2002