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get 'bent

I've been seeing a whole lot more "non-traditional" cycles out there on the roads lately. More tandems, more single-speeds, and especially more recumbents. So much so that the other morning at work I was sufficiently curious to google "why a recumbent"—in quote marks, of course, because I wanted to hear how people answered that question in particular. You know the world will ask!

Apparently, the answers are comfort, fun, safety, and speed (source). Critically, looking cool—or even not looking a little ridiculous— is nowhere to be found in the propaganda, but cylists who favor recumbents are clearly above such peripheral concerns as outward appearance. And the other points are debatable, at least. For my part, I don't find an upright bike at all uncomfortable (though I never tried to ride 300 miles in 24 hours neither), my kind of fun riding wouldn't be possible on a recumbent, and I have never reached a speed where I "worry about flying over the handlebars" if I try to stop, something that is apparently a concern of many recumbent fans. As for safety, the pro-recumbent articles are mostly pointing out that recumbents aren't as dangerous as you think in traffic; but I was a little concerned to read that while recumbents may be low to the ground, you shouldn't worry because their freak factor keeps you safe:

Most drivers are blind to ordinary bikes, but that WTF reaction to them works in your favour - most drivers slow down far more, and give me much more room, than on a conventional bike. (source)

If that's all it takes to be safe, I'll just wear a gorilla mask when I'm cycling in traffic and I'll be as safe as can be!

In all seriousness, I don't think the height issue is actually a problem. If a driver can't see something as big as a bike that's three or four feet tall, they're probably not going to notice a five-foot tall upright rider either. Bike defensively! Plus, there are always those awesome orange flags like the one we rock on Harvey's trailer. And I recognize that the aerodynamic efficiency of recumbents can make a huge difference in headwinds or at speed. And, as I realized when talking about all this with Leah, the only reason I think recumbent cyclists look funny is because they depart from the norm; impartially considered, all cyclists are probably a little silly-looking.

Nevertheless, you will never see me on one of those awkward machines: I'm too cool for anything but my REI mountain bike with commuter tires, fender, and dork rack. At least until I turn fifty and grow a beard.


And yes, I know that single-speeds are technically more traditional than geared bikes, but it's been so long that they count as new now. It's certainly a novelty to see so many way out in the suburbs; as Luke tweets, it's "Hipster-sprawl!"

the hardest part of that becoming-uncool future will be the 'grow a beard' requirement

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