I am researching into faired recumbents, bicycles or trikes, such as the Velomobile Quest or the Sunrider. I'm interested in cycling long distances as a daily commute and for touring, but have no interest in racing or mountain-biking. My current, upright bicycle (Koga Miyata) has a Rohloff gear and on my trips, I use both the smallest and the largest gear regularly. According to Rohloff, typical derailleurs do not have a higher gear range than the Rohloff Speedhub (which has 526%), although Wikipedia reports gear ranges up to 700% for derailleurs.

Faired recumbents can be really heavy (45 kg for the Sunrider) and really fast (2% downhill, 100W, 63.8 km/h, but also 30% faster than racers when flat). Really fast means one wants to have a very high gear, but really heavy means one also wants a really small gear to make it up steep slopes. Considering that I'm already using the full 526% range on my current upright bicycle, I wonder; do heavy, faired recumbents need more gear range than upright bicycles? I love my Rohloff, but should one consider getting a higher gear range on a faired recumbent?

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    Why do you feel the need to pedal going downhill? Jun 3, 2013 at 17:11
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    @DanielRHicks To go faster. If it's steep then of course there is no need, but if it's a moderate downhill freewheeling might be just a little bit too slow. However, also on flat terrain faired recumbents are faster so the point holds regardless.
    – gerrit
    Jun 3, 2013 at 18:03
  • Well, you should figure out the top speed you see being worthwhile putting effort into (vs just coasting) and pick your biggest gear accordingly. For folks like myself 25 or so would be it, but others I can see wanting 35. Jun 3, 2013 at 22:14
  • @DanielRHicks To be clear, is that km/h or mph?
    – gerrit
    Jun 5, 2013 at 11:47
  • I be speaking mph. Jun 5, 2013 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


Short answer: yes, but a Rohloff works for me.

I've been riding a Rohloff-equipped RotoVelo on and off for a couple of years now. I did play with the gearing a little when I got it and it's pretty usable now. The RotoVelo weighs about 33kg and I live in a relatively flat city.

I have it set up so that spinning reasonably fast in bottom gear I'm doing about walking speed - say 3km/hr. That way I can go up overpasses and the sort of hills we get in Melbourne and Sydney with a bit of work. Set up that way I spin out at about 80kph. Frankly, at 80kph I've usually stopped pedaling and I'm just going "wheeeeee!". My top speed ever is over 100kph, which was a bit scary.

When I stop at a traffic light I shift all the way down then back up a couple. And I mean all the way down, typically at 30-40kph cruise speed I'm in gear 9 or higher, so it's much easier to just twist all the way than try to remember what gear I'm in. Which is an advantage of the Rohloff - all the gear intervals are the same so you can just keep shifting without worrying.

It's possible to combine a Rohloff with a front derailleur if you really need to. I suggest waiting until you have the velo before committing, but make sure you can if you need to - most velo makers normally ship deraillers, so getting them to leave the front derailleur post in place shouldn't be an issue. With your small rear wheel (most velos are 406/20") the low gear should be fine with the Rohloff 2.1x gearing requirement, it'll be a question of how big a chainring you can fit in.

For touring I'd be tempted to use lower ratios than for commuting. With heavy gear in the bike and more hills in the country I found that I was pushing the velo more often than I would prefer. Partly that's from the heat build - lack of ventilation becomes an issue when you have to work really hard to keep the vehicle moving at all up a hill. Not being able to pedal faster than (say) 60kph wouldn't bother me, but being able to sit back and grind slowly up long hills would be better than pushing.

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    I use a 59-teeth chainring with 12 or 13 teeth sprocket in my Quest (26" rear wheel) and I'm not sure I can spin up to 80kph, whereas my lowest gear will let me pedal comfortably at walking speed. The Rohloff will be enough if you don't want to break speed records.
    – arne
    Aug 21, 2013 at 14:33

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