An alternative form of tricycle which can prove very useful is a recumbent machine, on these the rider lies back in a semi-reclined position with the feet in front. The seat is usually 10 – 20 cm above the ground making them very stable. The usual configuration is with two wheels at the front which effectively eliminates the tendancy to veer off line. These recumbents are somewhat difficult to dismount (i.e. climb out of) and they do have quite a large turning circle. Because of the relatively long wheelbase it can be quite difficult to negotiate gated paths. The majority of machines available have 20 inch (406mm) wheels but some designs have a larger rear wheel.
Recumbents are aerodynamically very efficient and can usually be fitted with carriers to carry bags etc. Since these machines are not primarily designed for the 'disabled' market they do not have huge cost escalation associated with this.
The riding position on a recumbent utilises a different muscle set to that used for 'upright' cycling. The lower back muscles are used more and the pelvic floor muscles a little less and there is far less strain on the upper arms and shoulders.
If a recumbent machine actually 'suits' you then they can be exceptionally good and are often perceived by the general public as 'really cool'.
There are two very important safety issues of which to be aware. Firstly, because of their low profile it is advisable to fit a warning flag and possibly a very bright LED rearlight when using public roads. Secondly, because of the proximity of the ground it is essential that some form of shoe retention system is used because trapping a foot or leg under the trike can be very painful and damaging. Either SPD cleats or 'old fashioned' toeclips and straps work really well – getting feet out of pedals quickly is not an issue because when you stop you do not fall off. Dual pedals with SPD clips on one side only allowing them to be fitted with toeclips are very useful (e.g Shimano M324 model), espicially for mixed usage.
The configuration of recumbents generally make then quite difficult to fit with the electric motors which are becoming more readily available. The BionX motor (See: http://www.bionxinternational.com/en/) can often be fitted although this is an expensive item.
This is normally done with either hub or disc brakes fitted to the front wheels. If hydraulic brakes are used then both brakes can easily be operated from a single lever which can be very helpful in some circumstances. Recumbents usually have self centring 'Ackerman' style steering alignment system which is quite tolerant to asymmetric (uneven) braking.
When horses are encountered they sometimes find the recumbent a rather 'different' experience and the sight of pedals and feet rotating in front of them can seem threatening to them. I find that pausing to let oncoming horses pass is a wise, safe option because, so close to the ground, one can seem too close to hooves for comfort. Equally when overtaking give them as wide a berth as possible.
For people who have very limited capability in one leg, these devices can prove to be really helpful. The crank replaces the normal crank and permits the other (good) leg to drive the machine forward. They can be fitted for either leg although the mechanism is simpler if the side away from the chainring swings free. Although the crank does not rotate it is very helpful in maintaining balance and posture. The system works best with low gearing which gives a faster rotation of the pedals for a given speed to aid getting over 'top dead centre'. Toeclips or cleats are essential to enable the good leg to pull up as well as push down.
A derivative of these are crank shortening devices which can be fitted to either or both cranks to limit the range of leg movement. This excellent for bad knees.
These are available via the Net and I think Longstaffe cycles can supply them.
There are plenty of suppliers of recumbents if one does an Internet search. Second hand and new machines can be had from D-Tek cycles, Tel: 01353 648177 Epmail: email@example.com. This business has no website, but is worth a visit being an aladin's cave of recumbents.
Three recumbents owned/used by PB
Full details of these machines can be found via the Internet but here are a few extra personal notes. All the machines are very well engineered. Two were purchased new and the other, Greenspeed, is a used machine purchased and kept in Australia
All are fitted with luggage racks which take panniers, side pod bags do not fit the Windcheetah.
Windcheetah (http://www.windcheetah.co.uk/) [2018 Edit - This firm may no longer be trading. Details not clear as at 30 March]
A lightweight, narrow track recumbent, excellent road machine but less good on very rough tracks.
Large turning circle as wheel turning range tends to be limited by the seat.
Good luggage capability.
Joystick steering is excellent and particularly useful if one hand or arm has restricted capability.
Comfortable seat but mount/dismount is a bit tricky with the joystick to negotiate.
Lowest gear available is about 20” fixed by large 26” rear wheel and largest sprocket limited by the gear hanger.
24 gears (3 x 8) – excellent changing even at low speed
Only small adjustment of leg length possible as front boom does not retract.
Carbon/Titanium versions available but these are not as rugged as the original Aluminium tubes
Available in wide track, very stable but more problematical going through gates, stiles, etc.
Narrow track version about 10cm wider than Windcheetah
Fitted with BionX motor, which comes as a hub motor built into a replacement wheel, battery with rackmount (fitted onto rear carrier) and a (handlebar) control unit with wires to the battery and motor. The entire kit fitted the machine perfectly although the rear wheel spindle and track nuts only just pass the dropouts and needs lots of TLC and persuasion – so I fitted a Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyre!
Shell seat fitted, takes a bit of getting used to but gives excellent back support
Lowest gear fitted is about 17”, chain unships regularly. I have never really fathomed why as all adjustments are theoretically perfect. Supplier confused as well – new rings supplied. 27 gears (3 x 9), handlebar twist grip changer a bit hard to operate.
Large turning circle as wheels restricted by seat and bars.
Good leg length adjustment with retracting boom.
Fits into small MPV (Renault Scenic) without dismantling.
Can be taken apart and fitted inside large cycle carry case.
Wide track, very stable.
Fitted with 3 x 8 gears plus a 3 speed shimano hub gear giving a low gear of about 5”, excellent worm drive for long steep hills. The hub gear can be changed when stopped although the 72 ratios are a bit overkill.
Smallish turning circle as wheels not restricted.
Seat less than comfortable.
Wide track means it can be easily fitted to a car roof with the front wheels lashed to the siderails
There are numerous other UK makes available, all with plus and minus points.
The German company Hase (See: http://hasebikes.com) makes several machines targeted at the 'disabled' market, some have excellent supportive seats and a single front wheel which gives a very small turning circle.
A well targeted Internet surf will yield an absolute treasure trove of kit that is largely hidden, also Ebay can be a good source of kit, provided you know what you want to buy and fix your budget. These machines tend to be well engineered but a personal pickup is preferable.
Over recent years attitudes about accessing suitable venues on board a recumbent have changed significantly and I find they are now readily accepted in virtually all Gardens and Parks. There used to be problems with some NT properties but now access is usually welcomed, I have found that access to large churches and cathedrals is usually straightforward and welcomed. When sharing pedestrian space consideration of pedestrians should be high and proceed at pedestrian speed.
Any hesitancy is usually dispelled by the observation that the recumbent serves as my wheelchair,
(The phase 'C'est Mon Chaise en Roues' opened the gates of Versailles past the somewhat disapproving Gendamerie!)
When travelling by car there is usually no problem. Some ferries charge for rear mounted racks and the position regarding the legality of rear mounted racks in Spain is somewhat vague.
They are accepted without problem on the Deutche Bahn (German Railways) but booking a slot is recommended.
Lake and River ferries in Europe are very accessible.
The European Bike Express is an excellent way of ensuring your machine arrives in one piece if you have a touring holiday in mind.
I carried the Trice to Australia and New Zealand as flight luggage in a large cycle case. The only problem was having the facilities to store and/or transport the case at the destination
On my first visit to Australia I contacted the Western Australia HPV (Human Powered Vehicle) group (using the Internet) for info about renting one locally and I was generously offered free use of a recumbent for the duration of my trip.
Long distance trails in Europe
There are many excellent long distance trails/routes in mainland Europe which are really good for long holidays or just to dip into. They benefit from good signposting, tarmac surfaces and no gates or stiles.
The routes or Radweg along the main rivers in Germany, the Elbe, Main and Rhine are particularly good as are the Austrian Salzgammargut (Lakje District) Radweg, Inn Radweg and the Bodensee (circuit of Lake Constance) Radweg are superb.
French routes have lagged behind but the Altantic coast route has been established in the last few years and the Loire route is improving.
The French canal system has cycle tracks alongside them but they are often rather rough and stoney and can be a bit like riding along a long tree lined trench with very limited views of the surrounding countryside. The Burgundy canal is better than most but still largely rough.
Spain has some excellent 'Via Verde' all around the country, some are a bit roughly surfaced but others are superb.
Search them out on the Internet and the range of 'Bikeline' books provide excellent detailed maps and information.
The number of UK trails has increased over the the last few years but they often suffer from poor gravel and/or muddy surfaces and restricted access in the form or gates and stiles which make independent travel for a disabled cyclist virtually impossible, however they are usually accessible with an assistant and mudguards!
There are now plenty of books available giving comprehensive information but they tend not to give took much detail about access. (gates/stiles etc). More are appearing on this site too!
Good ones (we have done) worth investigation are, in no particular order:
The Mawdach trail between Barmouth and Dolgellau
Carnavon to Portmadoc Railway path
The Consett trail on the eastern end of the C2C route has great views but choose a good calm, dry day.
The old railway track east of Keswick.
The coastal trail from Rhyl to Colwyn Bay.
The Lune Valley trail.
The Glasgow to Edinburgh route.
The circuit of Lake Vyrnwy
The Salt trail in Cheshire
The Middlewood Way
The Wirral coastal trails
The Elan Valley routes
The Derwent Valley routes (Derbyshire)
The Tissington Trail
The High Peak Trail
The Monsal Trail
Old railway track near Melbourne, south of Derby
Various routes around Delamere Forest
The old railway track from Callender to Killin is quite tough but is a fantastic route
The Great Glen route alongside the Caledonian Canal, but this is quite rough and some bits are only suitable for mountain bikes so a through trip is a problem.
The route alongside Loch Katrine.
The routes along both east and west banks of Loch Lomond.
The 'back' roads alongside many Scottish lochs and quieter glens such as Glen Lyon and Glen Cannich make good day trips.