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Before buying, check out which cycle sits best

June 16, 2008|Janet Cromley | Times Staff Writer

Itching to buy a recumbent? Here are some pointers:

Do your research: "The Recumbent Bicycle" by Gunnar Fehlau, from Out Your Backdoor Press, third edition, 2006, provides a comprehensive overview of recumbents.

Look and learn: Go to a bike shop that has several models and try them out. Give yourself several hours, possibly over several weekends, to test them. Some local stores:

* Bent Up Cycles, Van Nuys, (818) 994-4171,

* The Bicycle Work Shop, Santa Monica, (310) 450-3180,

* Richard's Cyclery, Garden Grove, (714) 379-2717,

* People Movers, Orange, (714) 633-3663,

Consider your needs: Do you dream of touring across the country, riding with a local cycling club or poking around the neighborhood with your kids? This will help determine the type of recumbent that will work best for you.

* Long wheelbase recumbents are stretched out, with the front wheel positioned in front of the pedals. These bikes are generally known for stability and comfort. They make excellent touring bikes and provide a good view of the road, but tend to weigh a little more than other styles and have a larger turning radius.

* The compact long (a.k.a. medium) wheelbase recumbents are shorter than the long wheelbase recumbents and have smaller wheels, but the front wheel is still out in front of the cranks. With this style, riders get some of the advantages of the long wheelbase without feeling as if they're riding a boat. These bikes are more maneuverable but less stable than the long wheelbase bike and look more like a regular bike.

* Short wheelbase recumbents have the pedals in front of the front wheel and because of the shorter length, are generally very sporty and nimble. They are easier to store and transport and tend to be lighter. But they are less stable at high speed and harder to ride. The feet are up high, which can take time to get used to.

Check out the materials: Most recumbents are made of chromoly steel, aluminum or -- at the high end -- titanium and carbon fiber. Chromoly or aluminum will work fine for most riders. Chromoly provides a softer ride and is very strong; aluminum is lighter.

Get the proper fit: This will determine how comfortable the bike is to ride. Make sure your arms and legs are comfortable when you're in pedaling position. As a rule, your knees should have a little bend when you're seated, even when your legs are at maximum extension. Spend time sitting on the bike. Seats vary, and aren't interchangeable.

Weigh the cost and quality: Bikes purchased from local dealers generally start at $600 but can go over $10,000 for a high-end tandem, says Dana Lieberman, owner of Bent Up Cycles in Van Nuys. Higher prices buy better-quality materials, better parts and finish, superior workmanship and lighter weight, he says.

When choosing, "you've got to make sure you get the bike that's going to do what you want it to do, that's comfortable when you sit on it, and that's in the right price range," adds Jim Wronski, owner of People Movers in Orange.

Check out the trikes: These sporty three-wheelers are selling briskly at local dealers. The extra wheel, which is placed either in the front ("tadpole" style) or the back ("delta" style), provides extra stability. And they're a lot of fun.

Want to ride the river?

* For a map of L.A. County's 1,252 miles of bikeways, including the L.A. River and San Gabriel River bike paths, go to /metro_074.htm or call (800) COMMUTE.

* View all four parts of Jonathan Dietch's north river loop ride at channels/LARIO-Loop-1.

* Watch a video of Dietch and Janet Cromley on a tandem trike, doing the L.A. River ride described in the story, at

* A photo gallery of recumbent bikes and Dietch riding L.A. area river paths is at


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