There are two main types of recumbents: two wheel and three wheel. Within these two types there are several variations.
Two wheel recumbents:
- Short Wheel Base (SWB): This refers to the front wheel being located up under the main frame of the bicycle. On the SWB model the pedals are forward of and above the front wheel, and the rider can sit in a more reclined position. This type of recumbent has very quick steering. Since the pedals are located forward of the front wheel the space taken up when turning can be deceiving.
- Long Wheel Base (LWB): This refers to the front wheel being located out in front of the main frame of the bicycle. On the LWB model the pedals are behind the front wheel. In most cases the pedals are lower to the ground than on the SWB types. This type of recumbent is longer than the SWB model and can be more difficult to transport. Also, the bike is longer and the steering is not as responsive, making it more difficult to make sharp turns.
Three wheel recumbents:
- These are often called trikes. The main advantage of a trike is that you can stop the bike without putting a foot down for support. The main disadvantage is transporting them.
- Delta Trike: This refers to a recumbent with one wheel in the front and two in the back. Generally you sit up a little higher on this type of trike and the pedals are lower to the ground and behind the front wheel. This type of trike can be a little unstable when taking corners at a high rate of speed. Deltas can carry more ‘gear’ behind the driver since there is a large open space behind the seat and between the two rear wheels. The bike is longer and the steering is not as responsive, making it more difficult to make sharp turns.
- Tadpole Trike: This refers to a recumbent with two wheels in front and one in back. The pedals are located in front of and above the front wheels. The rider sits from low to the ground to almost on the ground and in a more reclined position. This type of recumbent has very quick steering. Since the pedals are located forward of the front wheels the space taken up when turning can be deceiving.
- Over Seat Steering (OSS): OSS utilizes handlebars that are normally located about chest high and operate very similar to an upright bicycle. Frequently the handlebars will tilt forward to assist the driver getting on or off the bicycle. This type of steering is used on two wheel and Delta recumbents .
- Under Seat Steering (USS): USS utilizes two handles located on either side of the seat which are pushed forward or backward to turn. Sometimes the handles stick straight up and sometimes they curve out to a horizontal position. The handles can connect to the front wheel(s) either directly or through a linkage system. This steering system is found on both types of recumbents.