When I look at ultra-endurance races, for example, https://www.transcontinental.cc/ I always think two things:

  1. Wow! I want to do this
  2. This is ideal for a recumbent bike!

HP Velotechnik Recumbent

So, I wonder: Would this be allowed? I kind of assume there is no rule forbidding it so: Why is not everyone doing this? Recumbents are a lot more comfortable for long distance and at least in the flat they are a lot faster, too.

Rules for the transcontinental:

  1. Ride from start to finish via controls listed here
  2. No third party support, resupply or lodgings
  3. No drafting (other than with pairs partner)
  4. All forward travel must be self powered
  5. Travel by ferries only by approved routes
  6. All riders must maintain evidence of their ride
  7. Inactive for 2+ days without contact = scratch
  8. No insurance, no helmet, no lights = scratch
  9. Riders must know and obey local traffic laws
  10. Ride in the spirit of self reliance & equal opportunity
  • 2
    Note your picture shows no helmet, by those rules its an insta-scratch.
    – Criggie
    Jul 18, 2018 at 0:30

4 Answers 4


The TCR is a race (strictly speaking a time trial). In that specific case, Wikipedia states that recumbents and tandems are not allowed (no citation is given). I suspect that races will either say that or have a separate category (as is the case for the race across America. I can't find a definitive answer for the Race ACross Europe as the you appear to have to sign up to get the rule book, but I have found implications that they are allowed.

For the more generic events in your title (of which there are many more), the case is likely to be more permissive. The TransOz (certificate error) for example, is run under Audax Australia rules, which state "A rider may ride any type of cycle on a ride provided it is only capable of being propelled solely by human effort and complies with the road rules*." Many such events (1200km and above) are listed by the Randonneurs Mondiaux.

Wikipedia has a note of interest in the article on Ultra-distance cycling (the admittedly vague definition there includes much shorter rides than those in the question, right down to the sort of distances I ride). "There are no longer any true ultra-distance bike races (i.e., that are longer than 300 kilometres (190 mi)) that are affiliated with cycling's main governing body, the UCI" so we can't really blame the UCI directly for the lack of recumbents on such rides. The oldest ultra-distance cycling event (Paris-Brest-Paris definitely allows them. This isn't technically a race any more, but first place finisher is a prestigious position.

* From other context on the site, this seems to be referring to local law for road usage, rather than, e.g., the UCI rules for road bike races (which would forbid recumbents).

  • Does "the road rules" mean "the law, as it pertains to the use of roads" or "the rules for road bike races"? Jul 18, 2018 at 12:22
  • @DavidRicherby I interpret it as the law/rules of the road (e.g. in our case where much of the highway code isn't law but rules). I base that on quotes like "Rider Behaviour (1) A rider must obey the road rules and all regulatory signs, including but not limited to access, speed and rights of way. If a ride is on roads , tracks or paths that are not covered by the road rules, a rider must, as far as reasonably practicable, comply with the road rules as if they did apply on those roads, tracks or paths." and those relating to lights, reflectors, etc. (from the Audax Australia regs again)
    – Chris H
    Jul 18, 2018 at 12:30
  • 1
    Maria Parker won the 2013 Race Across America on a recumbent: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Parker#2013_Race_Across_America
    – kmkaplan
    Jul 30, 2018 at 12:53

I don't see anything in the TCR that expressly forbids the use of recumbents but it would be worth reaching out to the organizers to make sure.

That said I can see a few reasons why recumbents are not favored for ultra-endurance events:

  • Weight - recumbents aren't inherently heavier, but cost more at the same weight range and performance due to their novelty
  • Cargo - nimble, fast recumbents sacrifice cargo capacity and don't benefit from the boom of bikepacking bags
  • Maintenance - 700c wheels, tires, etc are widely available throughout the world while recumbents often use non-standard wheel sizes
  • Position - I've not had the chance to ride a recumbent but I feel like there are less ways to stretch and reposition yourself while still riding. Endurance riders love a variety of positions (on the drops, on the hoods, on the aero bars, out of the saddle, etc) so that their body doesn't get sore and stiff with hours and hours in the saddle
  • 1
    Most recumbents use standard bike components. The unusual parts are the frame and seat , and often the bars, stem, and fork are unique. Trikes could have single-sided hubs in the wheel too. However wheels and drivetrain and completely standard, with wheel sizes of 700c, 26" and sometimes 20" in use. Tyre choices might be for wider/larger volume but there's nothing recumbent specific there.
    – Criggie
    Jul 18, 2018 at 0:24
  • 1
    A bent with a well-designed tailbox would have aerodynamic advantages and 10-30 litres of storage space. On the other hand, a DF bike weighs a lot less than a recumbent - mine's well over 18 kilos.
    – Criggie
    Jul 18, 2018 at 0:27
  • 1
    As a recumbent rider you will have less need to change position as you put less stress on your body parts. But after a while you will move a bit forward or back in your seat, push your behind up in the air for a moment or even stop and get up, mostly when you already have to stop for an other reason. All of those are common but much less needed than in a diamond frame bike.
    – Willeke
    Oct 5, 2020 at 16:57

There are endurance rides specifically for recumbent cycles, sometimes alongside sit-up bikes and sometimes 'bents only.

The recumbent cycles are mostly taking part in different categories.
Fully faired (or enclosed,) tail fairing, no fairing at all.
Some will also have different categories for bikes and trikes, children, seniors, new riders and whatever else they can think up to get more people joining in.

To find the events you will need to search for recumbent races or long distance events or whatever, as long as you include recumbent or the local name for it.

I have never joined in and only read about races in 'special bicycle' magazines and online, so I know they exist but I do not know many details. There are more links, some in Dutch, the ones I picked for here are random ones out of a search Paris-Brest-Paris Recumbent. If you know the name of other endurance events it is likely the best to search on those as well.

As far as I understand recumbents were banned from races because they were too efficient on the flat and downward bits, giving the riders an advantage.
But I also think that mixing bikes of different heights in close run busy groups is not really safe.


#TCRNo4 Race information, Issue 1 and TCRNo5 Race Manual, Issue 2 say:

Tandems and Recumbents and other out of class machines will not be classified on GC (General Classification) unless they allow a rider to compete on par with the efforts of other abled body riders where they would not normally be able to do so. Where registrations for the race exceed capacity riders we will not be able to accept riders who cannot be classified on GC.

My understanding is that the TCR is always full. So Bents and tandems are out.

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