I picked up a Catrike 700 recumbent. My primary goal is just to change up my training, and work a different set of muscles. But I’m having a little fun with it.

The Catrike 700 is one of the leading racing trikes, and provides a completely different experience from what I’m used to on the bike. So I decided to test the results of my Surly vs. the Catrike on identical rides.

The rides were the same in every way possible. Same route, same time of day (back to back rides), same shoes, same clothes, and a single bottle of water. The results were a little surprising.

The Catrike was clearly slower going uphill, and faster going down. It seems to require pure leg to go up hills, since you aren’t standing over the pedals. And it flies going downhill. Plus sitting close to the ground increases the sensation of the speed.

But, overall, I was slightly faster on the bike with an average speed of 12.6 mph, compared to 11.9 mph on the recumbent. I was surprised the recumbent wasn’t faster. This is probably due to the fact that this was only the second time I had ever ridden a recumbent, and my muscles are more tuned to the bike.

Having said that, my heart rate was lower on the recumbent, in a range of 91 to 140, with an average of 122 bpm. This was compared to a range of 107 to 152, with an average of 134 bpm, on the bike. The recumbent ride was the first of the two, but I did take a short break between them to move the pedals between the cycles.

The ride order might explain the higher heart rates observed on the bike ride compared to the recumbent. But I don’t think so. I think the recumbent provides a seating position that supports all of your weight in a way that your legs don’t have to. This allows your legs to be used exclusively to pedal, rather than also supporting your body. In this regard it seems to provide a more efficient form of exercise, and therefore requires less energy to move forward. It also has thinner tires, and distributes the weight across three tire contact surfaces rather than the bicycle’s two. And finally the lowness and rider position is more aerodynamic than a bike.

I will test the two cycles head to head again in a few weeks after my muscles tune a little to the recumbent. My goal is efficient riding with as little potential damage to my body as possible. The recumbent may very well provide that. But I’m not getting rid of my bikes just yet. Stay tuned for round two of the test.

Next time I’ll use Strava as the Apple Watch isn’t completely consistent on elevation gain even though they were identical routes.