Rolf Garthus is owner of the Hostel Shoppe in Plover, the largest recumbent bike and trike shop in the nation. Recumbent bikes are becoming more popular as people discover the comfort and ease of riding them. / By Chris Jones/Stevens Point Journal Media
Many people can remember the first time they road a bike, but they also can remember the first time they got off their bike because they couldn’t possibly ride any farther. The solution for discomfort on regular bikes has emerged as recumbent biking.
In Stevens Point, recumbent bikes are a familiar sight, whether it be a two-wheel bike or three-wheel trike. The need for such a bike is to get off of a small seat cushion and instead lying back in a seat, making a long or short ride much more comfortable and enjoyable. It often leads to longer rides and a healthier lifestyle.
Rolf Garthus, owner of the Hostel Shoppe in Plover, the nation’s largest recumbent bike and trike carrier, has noticed a huge increase in recumbent sales during the last 10 years. He is an expert in all things bikes and specializes in recumbent bikes.
Garthus started riding a recumbent bike almost 30 years ago mostly to relieve pain in his neck and back. He said since he made the switch from a normal bike to a recumbent bike, it has opened new doors.
Back in my late 30s, I had given up 100-mile days,” he said. “I was down to going out and riding about 25 to 30 miles really hard, getting off the bike and just hurting.”
Since switching to a recumbent bike, Garthus is back to going on 100-mile rides. He even made a trip from Stevens Point to Minnesota on a recumbent bike.
What kind of equipment do you need?
“A helmet’s a really good idea, just like it is on an upright (bike),” Garthus said. “You can ride recumbents in street clothes.”
Recumbent trikes require no skill of balance because there are three points of contact, a front wheel and two back wheels. Both the recumbent bike and trike reduce the need for gear like padded shorts, gel seats and padded gloves for discomfort because the seating on a recumbent relieves most pressure from any one point of the rider’s body.
“If they want to do any kind of distance at all and they want to have a decent bike, they’re going to start in the $1,500 to $2,000 range,” Garthus said.
What types of skills or training are required to get started?
“Getting started is radically different (on a recumbent trike vs. a recumbent bike) and it’s radically different because on the recumbent trikes, there’s no learning curve, you just get on and go,” he said. “On the recumbent bike, there’s some concerns about tipping over.”
Riding a recumbent bike is tricky at first because it’s like sitting in a chair balanced on one leg while also pedaling with your legs. Like an upright bike, it takes practice at first.
“There’s the physical comfort in which the bike supports you. There’s also the emotional comfort and becoming comfortable with the handling,” he said. “The biggest hurdle with a recumbent bike is getting people past the comfort issue with the balance.”
Are there local clubs or groups you can join?
This year will mark the 20th annual Midwest Recumbent Rally, running Aug. 9 to 11. The event is hosted by the Hostel Shoppe and activities include a variety of tours. For more information and a schedule of events, go to www.hostelshoppe.com/recumbent_rally.php.
Bikers also can join the Poky Pedaling of Stevens Point group to get out on their bikes and enjoy the company of other bikers. Poky Pedaling offers a variety of rides to different places in the community. For upcoming rides, go to www.pokypedalingstevenspoint.org.
Why would you encourage others to give recumbent biking a try?
Garthus believes recumbent bikes are the perfect way to get back into biking if you haven’t biked for a long time or have gotten out of biking for medical reasons.
“Most people who are riding recumbent are a little more recreational,” he said. “They’re not looking at having something that’s a super-fast racing bike.”
Garthus said most people will get out on a recumbent bike or trike and go farther than their anticipated goal because of the ease and comfort of the ride.
“Everybody has a number in their head of how many miles in a day they want to bike,” he said. “Almost in every case when I ask what stops you, what makes you want to quit, most cases, it’s because something on your body starts to hurt.”
Many of the people who have switched to recumbent bikes have the same reaction that Garthus did when he made the change.
“All of a sudden, none of the pain was there,” he said. “It gave me back all of these long rides.”
Chris Jones can be reached at 715-345-2257. Follow him on Twitter @SPJChrisJones.