Getting onto something a little more comfortable: bents versus standard frames

I’m no fan of the silly debate about which bike is better: a bent or a diamond frame (“DF”) “standard” bike.  As far as I’m concerned, people should sit on whatever they like, as long as it’s not a car seat.

Still, from time to time, I find myself lured into an annoying conversation where I feel compelled to defend the performance of bents, usually to male standard frame riders of a certain age.  They don’t buy the comfort angle; they want to know how fast they are on the hills.

The results from the 2010 Race Across America, in which bents are permitted to race alongside diamond frames (over mountains and hills), illustrate how bents perform against DFs.  All things being equal — and they never are — they’re pretty much equal.  However, in RAAM 2010, there were very few bent riders overall, so it’s noteworthy that bents placed in the top of several categories.

Meanwhile, sadly, I find no mention of drug testing on the race’s website (maybe it’s there, but not anywhere obvious).  Doping can decide a race and, without drug testing, ultimately, race results are meaningless.  If there is no drug testing at RAAM, then I personally would assume that some athletes are doping.


The under-50 solo women’s category winner, Barbara Buatois, was on a recumbent. Out of the five starters, 2nd and 3rd place were on standard frames.  Among the DNFs (did not finish) were one standard frame and one bent.  (This result is particularly interesting to me because women are a minority among bent riders, but the few I’ve worked with are among my most enthusiastic customers.)
Times, from 1st to 3rd were:
1:  11 days  19 hours  48 minutes  Avg. speed: 10.59  (Barbara Buatois)
2:  12d  16h  36m  Avg. speed: 9.87  (Sabrina Bianchi)
3:  12d  18h  31m  Avg. speed: 9.8  (Michele Santilhano)
The age 50-59 solo male category was won by Timothy M. Woudenberg, a recumbent rider, who was the only finisher out of six starters.  (This is additionally interesting to me because the “over 50 market” is a demographic I commonly see for bent riders.)
10 days  23 hours  14 min.  Avg. speed: 11.42  (T. M. Woudenberg)

In the four-person male under-50 (years old) category, a bent team holds their own in a field of 11 teams, taking 3rd place, with standard frames taking 1st and 2nd place.
Times, from 1st to 3rd were:
1:  6 days 2 hours 39 minutes   Avg. speed: 20.49 mph  (Team: Inc.)
2:  6d  6h  59m   Avg. speed: 19.9 mph  (Team: Team doc2doc)
3:  6d  9h  35m.  Avg. speed: 19.57 mph  (Team: Bent Up Cycles)

Does that tell us anything meaningful?  Maybe the idea that bents aren’t inherently slower (or faster) will help convince a few pain-ridden standard frame riders to get onto something a little more comfortable.

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2010 Robert Matson

Leave a Reply