Recumbent training

Due to a medical procedure, I will have to use an indoor recumbent bike for eight weeks starting in December. I am training for Lake Placid Ironman in July and want to lose as little as possible over the 8 weeks. Any advice on modifying workouts and avoiding injury due to the fact I have never been on one before?

I’ve been in a similar situation over the past several weeks. Seems like this is a question that would regularly come up among TR users so I wanted to respond to this post & share some info/experiences. There seems to be a paucity of info on the forum regarding recumbent training so maybe this thread can serve as a repository for folks who have some experience or are just looking for some info.

First thing I found out is research supports the notion that you are unlikely to achieve your upright FTP on a recumbent. Time to exhaustion in graded and constant power cycling tests is significantly less in a supine position vs an upright position. I don’t like time to exhaustion as a metric but there it is. Based on the data it seems like a the decrement in power for a supine cycling position is more pronounced for constant power efforts vs graded efforts.

So don’t let it crush your ego if you get on a recumbent and can’t do your upright FTP. But just the same don’t let yourself accept mediocre results on a recumbent because you’re ‘supposed to be slower’. Also note that no stationary recumbent that I’ve ever seen puts the rider in a completely supine position. Most of them put you in a 30 degree to 60 degree position & the closer rider angle is to upright the less deleterious the impact vs an upright position. On a 60 degree recumbent you might be able to get very, very close to your upright performance.

VO2 max efforts, to me, seemed to be negatively impacted by a recumbent riding position to a greater degree than sweet spot or threshold efforts.

Anecdotally, seems like bent riders expect ~20W decrement in threshold power as you get closer to a 20 to 15 degree recumbent position.

So, I think this goes a long way to explaining why stationary recumbents are so unpopular among traditional upright cyclists! :smile: Also, I suspect that it will lead to a lot of colloquially held beliefs that power readings on gym recumbents are ‘wildly inaccurate’! Ha!

But, anyhow, you can adjust and do reasonable workouts on a recumbent. It might take a few training sessions to dial in your ‘bent ftp’ vs your ‘upright ftp’ but, whatever. It’s better than nothing.

Anybody else out there got some recumbent experiences to share?

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We race and train on recumbents. Have for years. The 50+ team that set the RAAM relay record had 3 of 4 training on Trainer road so good company and a bunch of success.

Here’s the basics you need to know if you are just doing it for a recovery period.

  1. Stick to traditional base plan to get acclimated to the bike position. Matches well with the ironman goals, no beginner should attempt sweet spot unless you are going recumbent full time.
  2. Make sure you have your leg reach set short enough that you don’t have to throw you hips during the pedaling action.
  3. Since you plan to return to upright; point toes forward while pedaling to engage quads more. (A recumbent racer is going to try and lead with heal normally to engage more hammy/glut)
  4. Get ready to to have to stop for nature breaks as you won’t be use to the pressure on your kidneys from your back; This goes away after about 4 weeks. Do not let this lead you to drink less.
  5. Retest you FTP for the position and believe it; and use it for training; you can have a different upright FTP that’s normal. Takes 2-3 years to get them trained with in 20-25 watts of each other.
  6. Since training to go back to upright; consider adding a pillow behind your back or other modification if the recumbent doesn’t keep you reclined less than 30% (Oxygen uptake is harder laying down and you neck will be in a less optimal bend. and will impact your work outs and you aren’t retraining for that)

Start there and ask more if you hit struggles.


@ratz thanks for the feedback. I’m planning to purchase a recumbent to do long (low intensity) aerobic endurance rides while working at a computer (email and conference calls) during the day. All low intensity stuff, think LSD base miles at work.

Any recumbent recommendations for use as a “cycling work desk” - I’m perfectly happy using HR as guide. From my initial research the Schwinn 270 appears to offer very good price/performance - its quiet, can fit under a desk (I have dual LCD monitors), and many used ones on local Craigslist. They are $550 new on Amazon and a lot used at $300ish.

No worse than any other “gym bike” compatibility with Clip Pedals would be top of my list. Cost wise that’s probably your best bet.

A used functional bike to put on the turbo is going to run $900-1200 only upside of going that route is that they are usually easier to resell as everyone has a used exercise bike for sale. but at $300 you could throw it out and now car. If it was more than 8 weeks I’d encourage you to get a true bike just from a “feel” stand point of turning the pedals with a chain etc.

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thanks for the feedback, for this first experiment at assembling a cycling work desk its looking like:

  • used DeskCycle around $100 (uggh, doesn’t look good)
  • used Schwinn 270 from $175 but usually more in $300 range
  • used recumbent around $1000

I’m tempted to Venmo $175 to the guy an hour from here, but kids are coming home this weekend and I still don’t have enough room in the garage (yet). Not letting go of this idea, its just taking longer to play out.

How did this work out for you? I have been having similar thoughts about using a Deskcycle or similar at work to increase the hours of aerobic endurance rides over the course of the week. My main worries would be not being able to concentrate properly on more mentally challenging tasks at work when working in Z2, as well as potentially overheating a bit (my co-workers would probably like me to keep my shirt on… :slight_smile: )

Tried a DeskCycle and it was too awkward to use at my desk. And I don’t have enough space in guest bedroom / home office for the Schwinn or recumbent. If I eventually do it, will target working in zone1 at a low enough heart rate to avoid issues with concentration, breathing, overheating, etc.

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