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I've just bought a project recumbent. It has no seat yet. There are many different types - why would I choose a mesh one over a solid one?

https://images-nitrosell-com.akamaized.net/product_images/16/3992/large-la_13hpv_ergomesh_seat.jpg

Mesh style - a HPVelotechnik "ergomesh"

https://images-nitrosell-com.akamaized.net/product_images/16/3992/large-la_08hpv_hardshell_seat.jpg

"Bench" style - a HPVelotechnik "bodylink seat"

This same shape comes in metal or wood as well as carbon fibre.

https://d2t1xqejof9utc.cloudfront.net/screenshots/pics/f3395b2498ba82bf695816d9ebff5981/large.JPG

an AAZZAA brand seat

https://texasrecumbents.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/the-mistresses-seat/

A homemade carbon fibre seat

google image search lost the link

A homemade steamed and laminated plywood seat.

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    I am capable of the cloth over frame seat or the laminated wooden seat. However the carbon fibre or metal seats are probably beyond my skillset and would require commercial fabrication, which means larger expense. – Criggie Mar 31 '18 at 11:16
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    The carbon seat must be incredibly uncomfortable on warm days. – gschenk Mar 31 '18 at 20:11
  • @gschenk sweaty and slippery, but later pics on the same page show a thin mat in place. Its mostly CF for the weight saving, I think. – Criggie Mar 31 '18 at 21:30
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    I don't know a huge amount about the technicalities of recumberants, but my assumption would be that you would go for a seat that would hold you in place - i.e. no sliding about and getting blisters. I'm also guessing the solid ones are for super-lightweight speed. The only recumberant I've ever ridden on had the most DIY seat imaginable - a piece of hardwood for the back and another piece for the base with a hole cut for the rider's butt and foam padding glued onto it. And it was really comfortable. Not really an answer, but maybe it gives some help. – WyD1234 Mar 31 '18 at 21:59
  • @WyD1234 good point - I've never seen a seatbelt on a recumbent, so the seat shape must have a lot to do with it. – Criggie Apr 1 '18 at 1:42
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In short: There is no definite answer and there are better places to ask.

Having used two different mesh seats (both with a cushioned sit upon part and a mesh back) and one kind of hard seat, I feel I can give some advice. But as most is a case of availability and preference, I will not be able to give a definite answer.

When cycling you sweat and with your back on or against your seat (depending on how much upright you are) you want ventilation.
So your wooden seat is out unless you can introduce a ventilation layer or system.

Next your position on the bike is such that you have much less options to take your weight (as you would do on any bike where your pedals are below you) so your seat will have to work with whatever springs and shock absorbers you have on the bike.
The more absorbers you have, the less flex or cushioning you need in your seat.
On a bike with no spring or shock absorbing you need a seat that takes up all shocks, not a hard one. Cushions can work but are hardly anytime enough.

On all 'bents I have never needed anything to keep me in place. On the other hand, I prefer to be able to change position a bit so I can use different muscles or skin spots to avoid problems on longer rides, just like you may want to shift around on a horses saddle or an upright bike.

The ventilation and cushioning can be aided by the cushion you select. Ventisit pads are one kind which I have often seen in use, but as far as I know they are not the only kind around.

While I love the stack exchange sites, I feel a question as important as this should be asked where a lot of recumbent riders come together, exchange information and are willing to help out others. Like the Bentridersonline forum.
Again, there are others, but this is one I know that works.

Added: If your bike is more or less standard or you plan to repair it to standard, why not go for a seat that is standard for the bike or as near to it as you can get it?
The designers have experience with bikes and the design is proven.

  • Thank you - That's a decent resource and has come up in multiple search results. The only downside is that its a chatty web forum, which shows how much nicer the SE format is by comparison. Here things are much more focused - theres no "whoo my trike was shipped today" posts and we're reasonably good at identifying duplicates. So I'll still be posting questions here. – Criggie Apr 1 '18 at 22:07
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One other thought: A seat with a frame (mesh) accepts a tailbox easier. One can build a lightweight tailbox and connect it to the aluminum seat frame with just zip ties and such.

  • Good thought - I'm going to start with a cheap homemade solution of each and see how they compare. Thinking of a folding beach chair welded or locked open for one, and a couple pieces of scrap plywood for the other style. When I know what feels better, I'll build something properly. – Criggie Apr 4 '18 at 4:29
  • I disagree. The tailboxes I've looked at so far have all needed hard shell seats because they were mounted using screws through the seat. – Nobody Aug 1 '18 at 9:56
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Interim differences summarised:

Cloth seat is more comfortable than a rigid seat even with padding. Pressure points (your sit bones) will compress padding to a rigid seat, where a cloth seat would be more forgiving.

Cloth seat has better ventilation, assuming an open fabric is used. This allows airflow through and sweat to come out.

Rigid seat provides more elbow room, where the rails of a cloth seat could interfere.

Rigid seat is more aerodynamic because it is completely behind the rider's torso.

Cloth seat is slightly safer because it does poke out further than the rider. This would protect the rider from the ground if sliding, or slightly from intruding objects.

Cloth seat frame could be built taller to form a roll-bar to add supports for a roof/rain deflector/sunshade

Cloth seat is safer because your bum and back are slightly cupped, where a rigid seat is less cuppy so you could slide sideways easier. Probably more of an issue on a trike where there is no leaning into corners.

Cloth seat frame might be engineered to fold, making the seat pan adjustable separately to the seat back. A rigid seat would only be able to tilt on its mount points.

Rigid seat presents more power because the rider's back is firmly supported, where a cloth seat has more give and will flex on every power stroke.

Cloth seat is easier to build (this is debatable)

Both seat styles support a headrest of some sort.

Both can be under a kilogram total, or as heavy as you want.

Both can have their cloth/padding parts removable for washing.

I'll come back with more information in a couple months.

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    This answer works, as long as you have flex in your cloth seat, build the frame wider than the body and only use cloth and not a hard seat (as is often used in more upright sitting positions,) and on the other hand, have a flat (side to side) hard seat which is narrower than your body. But the cloth seats I have used and tested (on bike shows) have the cloth (man made fiber weaves mostly) as tight as possible so there is very little give in them. Hard seats can be wider and some are shaped so they have a bit of a cup shape. Hard seats can be made of very open metal sheet to allow ventilation. – Willeke Jun 29 '18 at 15:34
  • I agree with Willeke. I have a mesh seat too and it's extremely taut. No annoying flex when going up the steepest hill I can just about manage in first gear. Some localized flex, but just the bare necessity to keep it comfortable. – Nobody Aug 1 '18 at 10:08

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