Paris-Brest-Paris 1999

Recumbent cycling is now taking off in a substantial way in the USA. In just the last three years, sales of reclined machines there have gone from 6,000 units/year to 60,000; industry observers are beginning to make comparisons with the mountain bike phenomenon of 20 years ago.

The early adopters of the new technology have tended to be among the cycling cognoscenti, but there is also a substantial new group--among whom I count myself--of ultra-leisure cyclists. We have come to ride reclined, not to set records, but because it's easier. Basically, we're a bit lazy.

I'm currently preparing for the quadriennal Paris-Brest-Paris randonnée this August, which requires riders to complete the 1200km course in 90 hours. This might sound like a tall order for a cyclist of only average fitness: my "training routine" involves cycling 7km to and from work each day, but having completed qualifying rides of 200, 300, and 400km at average speeds of around 20km/hour I can tell you that riding a recumbent is everything it's cracked up to be.

Saddle soreness, wrist, neck and shoulder pain would make such distances a feat of considerable masochism on a regular road bike, but on a recumbent you can just keep on rolling along in comfort all day. (OK, I admit you've still got to pedal). But the best thing is the wider view: instead of staring a tarmac all day, your gaze is to the horizon and the skies. It really is a splendid way to travel.

Bikefix lend me the Street Machine (I sing for my supper)

Audax UK organises the rides.

US oriented FAQ on recumbents

Douglas Carnall

24 May 1999