In my quest for getting as much information as I can before configuring my recumbent trike, I was thinking if my legs would be get more tired as they are in a horizontal position?

In an upright bike, my legs would be "resting" on the pedals as they are on top of them.

In the recumbent trike, my legs would be in a horizontal position and my thighs would have to keep them up as well as providing the power to do the pedalling.

Are my assumptions correct?

  • Keep in mind that on an upright your legs are helping support your torso, relieving pressure on your hands and, to a degree, your butt. On most bent designs most of that is unnecessary. Sep 7, 2011 at 0:12
  • This is one reason why a clipless pedal system is strongly recommended for recumbents. Jan 17, 2015 at 21:34

3 Answers 3


I'm not a pro rider and have never used clips on any bike. Even on your upright bike you train your legs and feet to stay where they're supposed to... if they just relaxed they'd fall off the pedals no matter which bike you're on. I've been riding my recumbent for almost 3 years now and have little interest in riding anything else, though it did take a week or two to get the "new muscle groups" factored in.

Once your legs get used to the new position, as Adam mentions, I doubt you'll get any more fatigue or whatever than you did previously. I find it less fatiguing for my legs since it takes less effort to go the same distance or speed on the 'bent (less wind resistance etc.)

The worst thing I had to get used to was the lack of ability to "stand up on the pedals" for quick jack-rabbit starts or climbing hills. That took a bit of getting used to, including getting very intimate with my derailleur shifting. The first few times you stop without gearing down for the next takeoff teach you quickly to avoid stopping without downshifting at all costs. Climbing hills, you just go through the gears more instead of standing up and pumping to get "over the top". I'm not a fast rider by any means but I find I can keep up with and occasionally pass upright riders who pass me on straight and level but run out of steam as they climb hills closely in front of me. I haven't ridden for extremely long distances (I normally drive the first part of my 32 mile commute and park the car and ride the last 7 miles to and from work) but I have ridden the entire 32 miles several times without problems of any sort keeping the feet on the pedals.

When coasting down long hills (I cannot keep up with the pedals over ~26 MPH) I have no trouble keeping the legs and feet in proper position as I rip down the hills.

  • 1
    What kind of bike is this on? How high are your feet relative to your hips?
    – Adam Rice
    Sep 6, 2011 at 22:27

On a upright bicycle you have a part of your weight on your legs part or even most of the time. On a recumbent bike you do not have any part of your weight on your legs. I would say that makes for less tired legs.

I have noticed that at the end of a day long ride I keep sitting on my 'bent trike with my feet on the pedals when waiting for our local ferry, while when on an upright bike I walk around a bit to relax my legs, no matter how short or long the ride has been. Whether I keep sitting on my 'bent bike depend on how easy it is to hold on to something to keep balance, but when it is easy I stay on the bike more often than not.


Not really. I would not ride a recumbent for much distance without my feet being clipped in. The obvious way to do this would be with cleats, but there are also special pedal design for recumbents that includes a sling that runs under the heel. Nice thing about a trike is that you never need to clip out.

There's the bigger issue that it takes a while to get your "recumbent legs"—you use your leg muscles differently on a 'bent—so in that sense, yes, your legs would get tired faster, until they adapted.

  • recumbent legs can take a while to develop, but essentially, if you have your gearing right, you're using your higher cadence and less force per stroke, which certainly trains you towards more endurance. Many recumbent riders choose shorter cranks for this purpose, it is easier to keep a higher cadence with shorter cranks. Sep 9, 2011 at 3:34
  • 2
    It's much more important to clip in on a recumbent, since if your legs fall off they can slide under the bike/trike and you wind up with a very nastily broken leg. Sep 22, 2014 at 15:48
  • It depends on the design of the bike whether or not you need to clip in to avoid your legs going under you, on my bikes/trikes you do not need to have them clipped in and in having them clipped in would result in more falls.
    – Willeke
    Jul 18, 2018 at 6:00

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