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.
(from the wikipedia entry on recumbents)