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I am in my late 40s and yes I have a sore lower back. Most likely from too many bicycle rides on incorrectly sized / fitted bicycles. I am thinking of getting a recumbent for my daily commute to work. Are they generally good for your back, or is it worse as you're bending your neck forward more to see ahead? I've never ridden one. Thanks

  • How far is your commute? Can you break down the types of road? I'd be leery of a low recumbent in a lot of traffic, because you're very hard to see. – Criggie Apr 24 '17 at 11:58
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Yes, recumbents are good for your back, and backside. They provide support for the length of your back, which may be as little as a tailbone paddle, or right up to your shoulders.

The longer seats generally have the option of incorporating a headrest/neckrest too. Getting the angle of seat and neck right is significantly important in your comfort. Getting the length of the seat back right for your spine is critical for comfort.

Storage at work becomes a problem too - depending on your workplace, it might not fit in any bike racks or sheds. My bike storage is on the first floor (the second floor) so all riders carry their bikes up a flight of steps. Can't imaging a recumbent making it up the stairs. Update: I carry it up the stairwell fine. Have to be careful going around the corners, and opening doors is a bit of a balancing act, but it works fine.

So if you end up parking it outside, there is the risk of theft and damage.

I've tried one SWB 2-wheel recumbent, and it was horrible to start with. Took a good 30 minutes to acclimatise to the seat and the steering, and having to balance differently to a DF bike. Getting started was a mission, so I started trying to time the lights rather than stopping for reds.

If you don't know what you want, you really need to try both a trike (either a delta or a tadpole) and a 2 wheel design.

The differences between "normal" steering, tiller steering, under-seat steering and steering wheels also need to be experienced to see which one you like the most.

Try and find a local HPV (Human Powered Vehicle) group and pop along to any event. Recumbent riders are often happy to talk, and might give you a test ride. Don't jut buy one sight-unseen, there are too many variables.

Finally, you probably want something with rear suspension and a padded or string seat. There is no way for a recumbent to unweight the bike, so you will go hard into any lump or pothole that your tyres find. This would be bad news on a sore back. This is totally true - its hard enough on chipseal, but any kind of broken ground would be a nightmare. That said I'm using 1.25" 26" commuting tyres at 60 PSI. Big Gooshy balloon tyres would be beneficial.

  • Update - I now own one, and everything I said above is still correct. Minor improvements in italics. – Criggie Jun 22 '18 at 8:36
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    I have used 'had tail' and suspended recumbents by now and it is not my back that would complain on the bumps, it is my head from the bumps that transfer through the bike and body. But I go with @Criggie, try a few before you decide. – Willeke Jun 22 '18 at 18:22
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Yes..recumbents are easy on your back. I own a HP Velotechnik (double suspension, crank forward, under seat steering) for a number of years and it was so comfortable to ride. The downsides: 1) First driver could see me, the driver following the first could not so safety was a major concern; 2) going up hills sucks. I could take most folks on the flats but I couldn't maintain speed up any hill; 3) Transporting a recumbent is difficult; and 4) finding a place to park a recumbent while you go into a store or the office will be a challenge.

My suggestion - try a regular bicycle that puts you in a very upright position. That means do not try a bike with drop handlebars and a long top tube. Look at cruiser style bikes or even mountain bikes that will allow you to sit upright.

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    For road use, I'd consider a hybrid rather than a mountain bike. The fat tyres and low gearing of mountain bikes are a big hindrance on the road. – David Richerby Apr 26 '17 at 7:14
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    When on my upright I do not feel seen by the second and further drivers either. So I do not feel less safe on my recumbents. – Willeke Jun 22 '18 at 18:23
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Yes! I have a serious spinal cord injury and am unable to ride a bicycle or standard tricycle. I found a good buy on a Sun EZ3SX and it has helped. I am able to get exercise for my legs and hips that I cannot otherwise accomplish. It has helped me build strength and endurance AND gives me a freedom I did not have. My pain is significantly reduced after riding 30 minutes or more. I put between 3-5000 miles a year on the trike. I hope that you are able to obtain the benefits that I have.

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