First rides on a ‘bent

Over the last two weeks I’ve been riding a short wheel-base recumbent bicycle, lent to us from the Bicycle Man while we wait for our new bikes to arrive. I’ve discovered that riding a ‘bent provides a different perspective than riding a regular bike.

On my initial outings, I rode mostly on bicycle paths. I was not yet comfortable riding on the roads with traffic. The path was shared with pedestrians. The bike did not have a bell, so I found myself often speaking “I’ll be passing on your left”. When I did this, one of two things happened. The person either: turned around to look at me and said hello while getting out of the way; or they completely ignored me. I found myself torn between enjoying the interactions associated with not having a bell and concern that I’d run into someone because they ignored my warning.

After the first week, I gave into the concern and installed a bell. I now find that when I ring the bell people turn around and look at me. They usually smile and some even say hello. People coming the other direction almost always stare, say hello, or say “nice bike”.

When people stare, I’ve gotten into the habit of saying “good morning” or “good afternoon”. They are a little bit surprised, but often they return the greeting with a smile.

Today, I was riding on much busier streets. I found that I was often making eye contact with the drivers. That didn’t happen nearly as frequently or as easily on my road bike. I find that occasionally a driver will give me the right of way (when I don’t have it). I suspect that is because they want to see how one rides a recumbent. I don’t recall this ever happening on a regular bike. I’m a little worried that this may pose a safety problem, as I was taught that it was dangerous not to take the right of way when you had it.

So far, my initial impressions of ‘bent riding is that it is more social. You are in a position that makes it easy for you to look people in the eye, which often results in a hello or good morning/afternoon. The greeting may be brief, but it is much friendlier than the silent passing that usually occurs when you speed past on a regular bike.

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