Recumbent Trike Tips For Inaugural Rides and Rookie Riders

My wife and I ride delta recumbent trikes, hence the name, “delta-duo.”  Riding is something that we do together and we have been fortunate enough to find a few riding buddies who help make it even more fun.  

Making a listquote_18_december_2012_desmond_lao_tzu_630x440

I have compiled the following list of basic .  These are very basic tips and are best suited for people just getting started in riding an .  I hope that these tips will help the new rider get more enjoyment from their rides.  All of my experience is based on the delta style adult tricycle and for that reason I will limit my tips to that style.  

The other trike types have tips and recommendations that are specific to them.   I will put a link to some resources that are very helpful and include tips for various trike styles.

Recumbent trike tips – biased towards delta style

    • RELAX 
      • I think one of the most important and maybe one of the most difficult things to learn is to just relax.  It may be hard to believe, bu you are going to be able to get a great workout  while in a relaxed position.  Ride with your upper body relaxed.  Keep your  shoulders loose and make sure to have relaxed pressure on the handlebars.  I actually remember the moment that I “got it” in this respect.  I was riding on one of the paved greenways in our area with my wife and a friend.  As a matter of fact it was my first ride on a paved greenway.  I noticed that I was riding in a tensed up posture.  I intentionally relaxed my posture and it felt like a burden had been lifted off of me.  Do yourself a favor and relax!
      • Riding a recumbent is inherently comfortable.   You can find an an adult tricycle model to accommodate almost all body types and sizes.  In order to ride in the safest and most comfortable manner your will have some adjustments that you can make for it to be more tailored to your needs and preferences.
        • Handlebars- Handlebars can be adjusted to your desired comfort.  Once you have your handlebars in the desired location you should make sure that the handlebars will not interfere with the movement of your knees and legs.  In the case of an understeer be sure that your adjustment will give adequate clearance between your hands and the rear wheels.
        • Backrest – The backrest on a recumbent trike is one of the great benefits.  The fact that the backrest is adjustable adds even more to that benefit. The backrest on the delta trike that I ride has at least some amount of lumbar adjustment.  The angle of the backrest can be set to meet your personal preferences and opinions are all over the map as to what is a good angle.  I ride for fun and exercise and I set my seat angle for comfort.  There are some really good articles with a lot of discussion about seat backs, angles, physics, and leg power.  It’s all good stuff and something to be considered.  I will admit, however, at the end of the day my seatback is set for my personal “sweet spot.”  This is what my experience riding my trike has taught that I need for comfort and efficient pedaling.  It may take a few rides and some adjustments, but you will find your “sweet spot” too.
        • Seat and distance to the pedals – Talking about a “sweet spot”, recumbent bicycles in general have comfortable seats and the trikes are no exception.  I will admit that the nice, big, padded seat may have been the first thing that caught my eye in regards to a recumbent trike.  Once I rode enough (about a week) to condition some muscles in my bum, I have not had a seconds worth of discomfort.  The seat can typically be adjusted forward or back (fore and aft if you prefer.)  The important thing is to not hyperextend your knee as this can cause joint damage and pain.  I am going to say it one more way.  Do not let your legs fully extend as to lock your knee.   As I understand, you should have  5-10 degrees of bend at your knee when the pedal is at its farthest distance out.  A general guideline is to place the heel of your foot on the pedal.  Your leg should be fully extended at the farthest pedal position.  When you then put the ball of your foot over the pedal’s pivot arm to actually pedal,  you should be close to the appropriate angle for your knee. You may need to tweak this adjustment for maximum power and comfort,  but remember not to fully extend the leg.  I mean it!
      • Tires – Be sure and check tires and tire pressure before you ride as bike tires lose air.  Your tires should have the recommended PSI range marked on the sidewall.  From personal experience I can tell you that having  properly inflated tires gives you a better ride.  On the lower end of the tire’s rated pressure range you will get a smoother ride.  On the high end of the range you get less rolling resistance.  I personally like having the better roll.  Again, you can decide based on your preferences.
      • Nuts and bolts – Be sure and confirm that all nuts and bolts are securely tightened.  Some trikes are equipped with latches and pins as well.   Be sure and check these if this applies to your model.  Any latches, pins, or other fastening devices that may have been loosened during adjustments should be double-checked
      • Brakes- You can and should check your brakes before you ride.  You can apply the brakes and then move your bike to and fro (perhaps back and forth) to make sure they are properly functioning.  
    • RIDING
      • Pace yourself- If you haven’t ridden a bike in a while or otherwise not use to exercise in the recumbent position, your body may require some adjustment to the workout.  A stretch and a warm-up would be a good idea.  I would recommend planning some shorter rides on smooth level surfaces free from difficult slopes. As your conditioning improves and riding experiences increase you can venture into more challenging rides.
      • Curves-When taking curves learn to lean forward a few inches and lean into the curve.  This movement may feel exaggerated at first as you need to lean about a foot or so into the direction of the curve.  Be sure and practice this tip and use it when you are taking curves at higher speeds.  By higher speeds I mean anything over 8 miles an hour. Learning to lean into curves will help you keep all three wheels on the ground.  Not keeping all three wheels on the ground can be a real drag!
      • Gears-Most trikes are equipped with gears.  Learn to use them!  You should start your ride in a low gear and gear up as you increase speed .  Be sure and shift down to a lower gear when you are climbing hills.  I have learned that you should be in a lower gear before you ascend.  Being in the appropriate gear range will make hill climbing easier and your knees will thank you as well.  It will take some time to get comfortable with how to shift and when but you will get it.
      • Be Seen- I have heard it said that safety is first.  I guess it’s not in this list.  It may be last on the list, but it’s not last in importance.  I recommend using a bike flag on your trike.  A flag will get above obstructions and help you to be seen by cars. Bright colored or high-visibility clothing is another good practice.  You can buy almost any article of clothing in high-visibility colors including shoes.  You should make sure you have reflectors and you can add lights to the front and rear of your trike.  

Again, this list has some basic tips for getting out and enjoying the first rides on your new recumbent trike.  I hope that I can encourage someone who feels that their cycling days are behind them or that exercise has to be loathsome to try something new.  Finally be safe and have fun while riding!!



  • Connie (#)
    June 10th, 2016

    The tip on putting heel on top of pedal was VERY helpful.

  • […] Basic tips to make inaugural and beginning rides go more smoothly. These tips can have cross-over to other styles but are biased to recumbent trikes.  […]

Leave a Reply