Building a Better Recumbent Bike with Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber bike frames are nothing new. They have been on the market for years. So no one should be surprised that even recumbent bikes are being built with carbon fiber frames. Carbon fiber gives recumbent bikes greater structural integrity and lighter weight. They look pretty awesome too.

Norway’s KerVelo is one example of a carbon fiber recumbent. When it was first released in 2016, the most revolutionary aspect of the bike was that the traditional chain drive had been eliminated and replaced by a hub transmission built into the front wheel. Riders move the KerVelo the same way they do a tricycle: by moving pedals attached to the front wheel.

This year’s iteration of the KerVelo is even more stunning with its new carbon fiber frame. Known as the Low Racer, this new KerVelo is more aerodynamic and ergonomic. Its manufacturer says that it is easier to ride thanks to the frame geometry and the position of the bracket that holds the transmission.

A More Ergonomic Ride

Recumbent bikes are, by design, more ergonomic to ride. By sitting lower to the ground and with the pedals in front, riders can be in a more reclined position rather than sitting up on the seat and leaning forward to grab handlebars. Riding a recumbent bike is a lot like sitting in a recliner with pedals.

Of course, ergonomics have to be done right if they are to be advantageous. The ergonomics of the KerVelo certainly do. You can see from promotional photographs and videos just how relaxed riders are as they peddle their way down city streets. A typical rider barely has to lean forward to reach handlebars thanks to an adjustable seat that puts him or her in just the right spot on every ride.

The only negative about the KerVelo is the potential for wheel rub on pronounced turns. Just like with a tricycle, the wheel may turn farther than the rider’s leg will accommodate, resulting in wheel rub. However, the manufacturer says it has improved the bike’s turning radius to minimize wheel rub issues.

Lightweight and Strong

Getting back to carbon fiber, it is a material ideally suited for bike frames. According to carbon fiber specialist Rock West Composites, carbon fiber’s strength-to-weight ratio makes the material an excellent replacement of aluminum for bike frames.

Carbon fiber gives bike frames the structural integrity they need at a lower weight. Lighter bikes are easier to control, easier to pedal, and easier to move around when they are not being ridden. The one concern with carbon fiber is that when it does fail, failure is almost always catastrophic.

Carbon fiber tubing can develop microscopic cracks that cannot be seen on the surface of the material. Those cracks can result in catastrophic failure upon impact with a pothole or some other obstruction. This is less of a concern with recumbent bikes because their design makes them inappropriate for competitive cycling, off-road cycling, etc.

Building a Better Bike

Bike manufacturers around the world are building better bikes with newer, space-age materials like carbon fiber. These materials are by no means perfect. However, they are contributing to the process of building a better bike more suitable for more people. The KerVelo is but one example.

Better bikes may become more important as the world attempts to shift away from fossil fuel burning cars. We may reach a point where more people are riding their bikes for daily activities while leaving their cars parked at home. The need for better bikes is there; it is up to manufacturers to build them.

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