The recumbent bicycle has always been regarded as an oddity. Although it is low to the ground, and many are ridden with fluorescent flags waving high in the breeze to signify their presence to other road-users, most recmbent bicycle riders will tell you they are as safe as houses - partly because they are so different that they immediately register in a car drivers psyche. The fact is that human powered vehicles (HPVs) as they are known, are both faster and more efficient and the traditional bicycle and if the idea hadn't been dealt such a poor hand by history earlier this century we could well be watching Lance Armstrong wearing the yellow jersey on a recumbent bicycle in this years' Tour de France.
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The odd profile make it easy to overlook the inherent advantages in the recumbent design - not the least of which is its superior aerodynamics and speed. The first recumbent bike appeared in the early 1930s when Charles Mochet took his invention of a two-seater, four-wheeled pedal-car for called "Velocar" and divided it in half. Initially he had difficulty convincing a rider to get onboard for fear that they would be told to "sit-up and pedal like a man", but when cyclist Francis Faure agreed he proceeded to defeat every first-class track cyclist and rode 45.055 km years before a close vote at the 58th Congress of the Union Cycliste International in 1934 saw the "Velocar" banned from racing - a decision that kept stalled development of recumbent bicycle design for the next fifty years. George Mochet continued to build Velocars, including moped versions, which continued to be sold well into the 60's and Francis Faure moved to Australia, where he died in 1948.
The modern renaissance of the HPV is bringing the latest bicycling technology to the recembent design to produce vehicles of exceptional speed and comfort such as the Hotmover. Not technically a bicycle given that it has three wheels, the Hotmover has two wheels at the front with the pedals and main gears out in front of the rider as they travel feet first achieving speeds of up to 80 kmh down hill and 60kmh on flat. The option of electric-assist also means that you can travel at 20kmh without pedalling or combine your efforts with the power from the battery under the seat to reach a higher cruising speed. Disc brakes and front suspension can also be added and steering and braking are controlled via the vertical handlebars. On a standard bicycle the average rider expends around 85% of their energy in pushing against 1000 pounds of air a minute, a figure reduced by 30% by the low to the ground design and having a minimal frontal area of the Hotmover. This reduction in drag and a riding configuration that utilises maximum pedalling power and makes it easier to breathe because you are not forced to do a "push-up" as in the conventional riding position means that the Hotmover is around 50% more efficient that an ordinary bicycle according to the manufacturers. The three wheels also mean that no energy is expended in keeping your balance and significantly increase stability in all road and weather conditions. These aerodynamic advantages do not necessarily mean that the vehicle is more dangerous to ride on the roads - users have reported that the unusual shape and riding position mean that it's actually easier to be seen than on a standard bike -. The Hotmover weighs a little more than the average adult bicycle at 19kg (without electric assist) and can be folded for travel (or used as a handy trolley at the airport) and will accommodate riders between 152 and 190.50cmin height and up to 110 kg. Featuring 24 gears - 8 at back three at front - and full Shimano components, Hotmover is available with a range of accessories including pannier bags, cycle computer, headlight, taillight and just in case, a flag with a flashing light incorporated.
The Hotmover is constructed in Christchurch New Zealand with each one taking 110 hours to assemble by hand, test and package. Visit www.hotmover.com for further reading.View gallery - 2 images