Is a Recumbent Bike Faster Than An Upright?

By: Alex Bristol

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Speed is an important factor in every type of bike – even a recumbent one

In around 1930, Charles Mochet made a bike with recumbent seating. A cyclist named Francis Faure began using it and he won races and broke records with it.

However, in the early twentieth century, recumbent bikes were banned from racing with normal bikes because they were too fast.

In all honesty, as far as the speed of a recumbent bike is concerned, it is determined by your own level of fitness.

Is a recumbent bike faster than an upright?

The answer is yes.

An ordinary biker will still feel it going faster than a traditional bike.

As a matter of fact, recumbent bikes have broken records of speed by almost every human-alone powered machines.

Unfortunately, we do not hear about it often because no official international cycling organization acknowledges records broken by a bike that has a non-traditional, non-diamond shaped frame.

Speed differences between a recumbent bike and an upright bike:

These differences are based on the following.

  • Recumbent bike design:

It is not only the positioning of the rider’s seat that adds on to the speed of the recumbent bike, but the entire frame and design of the bike lead to its increase in speed.

The pedals are placed in front of the rider and the handlebars are situated near the rider’s hips, where they can be comfortably gripped.

All of this works towards the reclined position of the rider. This means that air can easily pass over the biker, thus increasing the overall speed.

  • Faster on flat ground:

Although there are various opinions on this, many users have stated that recumbent bikes are faster on flat grounds as compared to an upright bike.

The reason behind this can be the position of the pedals. You can exert more power on a pedal that is placed in front of you, rather than one underneath you.

  • Continuous power:

Along with its aero efficiency, it is also easy to supply a recumbent bike with continuous power which is why they have excellent land speed records.

However, this continuous power can only be supplied on a long, flat road where the rider has the liberty to switch between 60 different gears (30-speed chain and a 3-speed internal hub).

Few Important features necessary to boost recumbent bike speed:

  • Rear suspension
  • Larger rear wheel
  • Seat lower to the ground
  • Fenders
  • High ground clearance


The major reason why a recumbent bike is faster than an upright bike is because of aerodynamics.

The seat is positioned lower to the ground where wind speed is less. Due to this position, the rider’s body also becomes a smaller target for wind resistance and aerodynamic drag which automatically results in a greater speed.

However, one needs to weigh the downsides of this too.

The rider needs to realize that the recumbent will be faster if being used only during flat cruising.

On the other hand, when hills, corners and stops are involved, that is a different case because they will work as the greatest equalizer of a recumbent bike speed.

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