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Thread for newbies looking for speed

Old 09-20-21, 10:05 AM
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pm124
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Thread for newbies looking for speed

A lot of newbies come here looking for a recumbent so that they can go faster. Many of them used to race and are looking to get that old speed back. I thought I would create a transparent and honest thread on this specific topic.

Not all recumbents are faster than modern road bikes, and only a handful are faster than modern TT bikes.

These are my main observations.

CdA. You want a bike with a low CdA. Stick bikes with reclined seats are barely lower than TT bikes. European high racers can be significantly lower, and these include M5 carbon and the Optima Baron. The budget option is a Performer High Racer, which is only going to be slower on climbs due to flex and weight. Cruzbike V20 is right in between for CdA, but is nevertheless pretty darn fast.

Wheel size. 700c with fast tires like Conti 5000s are obligatory. Some of the most CdA optimized bikes that are not even practical for on street use have proven slower than dual 700c high racers until you hit 30MPH as a cruising speed. That takes 240-250 watts of energy, and only a minority of serious bikers can sustain that.

Please share your experiences with fast bikes, including those I didn't mention here.
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Old 09-20-21, 12:29 PM
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The vast majority of riders who switch to recumbents don't do it because they are obsessed with speed but are older and looking for something they can ride without hurting. Yes there are a small percentage such as those who ride lowracers and highracers but those are more difficult to adjust to for someone coming from the DF world. If you look at previous posts you will see that we quickly disabuse them of switching to recumbents for speed instead of comfort. Yes, the fastest bikes with speed records are usually recumbents but they are some very special examples of a recumbent. I'm just as happy being slow while still being able to ride much further than most my age,
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Old 09-23-21, 05:46 PM
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I don't hear it a lot, but there's a constant background hum saying, "I was told recumbents were faster, but I got one and I was slower..." I'd say that for most people, switching for speed won't work unless they get the right 'bent and they're willing to put in a lot of work. Generally you have to be going 16+ mph to realize any speed gains due to aero; so under that you shouldn't expect any improvement at all. And getting over that point will require some work, even for someone who is used to going faster on an upright. Below 16 mph, a bent is just a heavy but comfy bike that doesn't allow you to stand .

To find a fast bike, you need to look at:
1. minimizing weight
2. minimizing frontal area
3. maximizing stiffness
Often, all a fairing does is increase frontal area.

I have all of my fast bents set up with about a 22 degree recline to keep frontal area at a minimum. Lower would be faster, but that's as low as I'm comfortable with. If I raced I might lower it some, but for the club rides I do they're already fast enough. At 22 degrees, it's like lying in a chaise lounge chair. I tell people the pedaling keeps me from falling asleep. Yeah, the fast ones can still be extremely comfortable.
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Old 10-10-21, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
I don't hear it a lot, but there's a constant background hum saying, "I was told recumbents were faster, but I got one and I was slower..." I'd say that for most people, switching for speed won't work unless they get the right 'bent and they're willing to put in a lot of work. Generally you have to be going 16+ mph to realize any speed gains due to aero; so under that you shouldn't expect any improvement at all. And getting over that point will require some work, even for someone who is used to going faster on an upright. Below 16 mph, a bent is just a heavy but comfy bike that doesn't allow you to stand .

To find a fast bike, you need to look at:
1. minimizing weight
2. minimizing frontal area
3. maximizing stiffness
Often, all a fairing does is increase frontal area.

I have all of my fast bents set up with about a 22 degree recline to keep frontal area at a minimum. Lower would be faster, but that's as low as I'm comfortable with. If I raced I might lower it some, but for the club rides I do they're already fast enough. At 22 degrees, it's like lying in a chaise lounge chair. I tell people the pedaling keeps me from falling asleep. Yeah, the fast ones can still be extremely comfortable.
Agree, though the few really really fast bents out there will already be light enough that it doesn't make any difference. Power output is the main variable. The more you put out the faster you will go relative to a regular road bike. People say that bents are slower on hills. That is only true if you are going <15-17MPH. If you can put out the power you will be going much faster up most hills than someone on a road bike. (Most of the time you fly by a road bike as if it is standing still is when you have started a climb after a descent; you are more efficient because you are not pushing wind and you also have a lot more raw speed from the descent.)

Curious to hear what everyone's perception of which other bikes fall into the really fast category.
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Old 10-10-21, 12:52 PM
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There are some rare, limited "production" bents that are fast but they are not really available, such as Morciglio, Troytec, and Zockra.

On my recumbent, my 230 pound bike and body can climb a 10% hill with 340 watts at 7 mph whereas 227 pound upright and body total system weight can climb the same hill at closer to 8 mph at a higher wattage. 17 mph on a 10% grade (this is not steep where I live) ain't happening from these old legs. On the flats, there is no contest. On a hot humid day, I need around 155 watts for 24 mph and 275 watts for 30 mph......this requires total attention to the rider, too.....like skinsuit, helmet, and everything perfect; otherwise, it takes me more around 190 watts and 340 watts for those speeds.

The V20 and M5 CHR are the two fastests in my opinion. I did a long ride with a Pelosi recumbent, the rider could slightly outclimb me but I was faster on the flats but pretty close although such comparisions are pretty meaningless.
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Old 04-26-22, 02:12 AM
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I used to ride recumbents peaking with a raptobike lowracer but I now ride steel roadbikes for a few reasons.

I never got the full potential out of the raptobike because I didn't know anything about bike tech and ran heavy schwalbe marathons on it
I was never faster on any of mine but that's because they weren't equipped for speed. A roadbike equipped for speed would have them beat.

I did love the endurance and comfort. Only the legs felt tired after a long ride unlike on on a roadbike where my whole body gets strained.
I also loved the safety aspect, potentially crashing felt safer on a recumbent.

I hated the attention, the impracticality in busy areas of my lowracer, just not being as nimble, the lack of oversight over obstacles, the large turning radius. And riding in the bright low hanging sun!!
I swapped back to more of a Jan Heine philosophy and this type of cycling fits me betterId still like to see more bents but don't like the majority of designs. I may build myself 1 one day.
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Old 05-03-22, 08:39 PM
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It's not just seat angle. The BB height above the seat bottom also matters greatly for aero. It's about putting the body in-line as much as possible.

Many of the fast lowracers (NoCom, Morciglio) don't go far enough in either area, in my opinion.

My midracer had a 15degree seat angle with the BB 8.5" above the seat bottom. CdA (calculated by MyWindSock) was 0.18 at best. Not bad for a steel tube frame. And, no I don't have a problem with blood flow to my feet or making power in this position. I train in this position, so I'm fully adapted.

The new low racer is 12deg with the BB 10" above the seat bottom. First race is next Tuesday. We'll see how it goes.
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Old 05-04-22, 08:59 AM
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Nocom has a pretty LOW bottom bracket. It's still above the seat, but my heels are pretty close to the ground with 170mm cranks. It could be a little more laid-back, but then it would need a longer wheelbase. The biggest problem I see with it is that Kamil used a lot of kevlar for safety instead of more carbon; so the bike isn't nearly as stiff as a Morciglio. The cushy frame soaks up a bit of power. My M5CHR is actually faster than my Nocom because of the frame stiffness.
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Old 05-24-22, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by shelgame View Post
The new low racer is 12deg with the BB 10" above the seat bottom. First race is next Tuesday. We'll see how it goes.
So, how did it go???
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Old 05-24-22, 12:39 PM
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The May Blue Streak TT was OK. Bike was good, I was a little off. I should be faster next month (June 14th). I as 28th out of 99; 24:28 time @ 24.5mph. Actually, slightly slower than the previous race on my midracer (25.2mph). But, my average power was lower, too.

Me on the left:


Finished with paint:

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Old 06-01-22, 01:59 PM
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I have a modified performer highracer. I am not faster than I am on my roadbike overall. Yes, I can achieve higher speeds and maintain them better on the flats, esp. with wind. But I just cannot put out the same type of power when climbing. Dropping to the lowest gear to spin up a hill just isn't as fast as an aggressive stand up an dance on an upright. And trying to push that kind of gear on a recumbent kills your knees. I also have a problem in that if I drop my recline far enough back to make significant aero gains, those gains are then lost in dropped power output, as I don't cycle oxygen as fast and have a hell of a time with my legs above my chest.

That said, I can descend on my recumbent close to 48 mph, which is quite fun (and scary).

All that said, I do have better overall times on longer rides (65 plus miles) on the recumbent simply due to the comfort factor and that my low back or hip flexors don't start to go out on me. I also can recover from rides better for the same reason.
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Old 06-01-22, 02:18 PM
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I did a flat 200K recently on my upwrong bike, I did 6:57. My best time on that route on my recumbent wss 7:10 and 7:26.

I have a hilly 300K coming up that I did in 13:56 on my recumbent and I was light and in good shape. I am curious to see what my time will be on the upwrong because I am 25 pounds heavier than when I did that route on the bent.

After something like 40,000 miles, I could climb as fast on the bent as an upright up to a certain gradient (7-8%). Where I was really slow was out of the hole on the bent. It took me forever to get back to speed. But on a road with no stops or better yet on a slightly rolling course, the bent is fast as stink. On my normal roads around here with stop signs and 50-60 feet of elevation gain per mile.

In terms of improvements, I was able to lower my bent cdA down from 0.200-210 to under 0.150 with body position, cleaning up the airflow in the bike, helmet, skinsuit, rear wheel cover, lower the seat, box, etc. It takes work to figure it out.
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Old 06-02-22, 10:48 AM
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I overdid things on Sunday - not just biking - and my legs are still recovering. I was trying to take last night's club ride as a recovery ride, and I was doing OK for awhile. But there was this new kid on the ride, college-age and skinny. On every hill, he sprinted off the front while the rest of us tried to just hold pace. I'm sure it was a dominance display of some sort. Finally, I guess we'd had enough. On a longer uphill with a city limits sign at the top, he started sprinting away again, and the guy beside me started after him. So I did, too. I blew by both of them. Over about a half-mile, I ended up 300-400 yards in front of them both. He didn't sprint any more hills after that. Probably had a story to tell his buddies too.
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