Bicycle: Crank forward vs hip injury.
December 11, 2016 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Looking for comments about suitability of use of a crank-forward bike for a guy with a hip injury. Thank you.

After surgery to my hip, I can't lift my leg high enough to get on my 15 year old bike, from either side. Coupled with my newfound fear of being unable to stop effectively due to lack of flexibility, (I'm afraid I'll be unable to safely get down; I'm sure I'll fall), I've not been on the bike for two years.

I'd thought of a recumbent bike, and still might, but: I just learned of what a prior post called "crank-forward bicycles, aka pedal-forward, aka flat-foot, aka semi-recumbent" bikes. Intriguing. Before I ask a local small-town bike shop to bring one in for tryout, does anyone here have experience with one of these as a way of biking with a not-completely-flexible hip?

I'm not particularly flexible - male, 67 years old, about 5'10", about 240 pounds.
posted by ceruleanbill to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total)
I'm super flexible with fully functional hips, so not your target audience here (as someone who prefers recumbents, I think crank forwards are pretty great as far as uprights go) but I'm here to tell you about "step-through" frames - it seems like they would be super easy to mount and dismount for someone with low flexibility. Some of the crank forward bikes are sure to be step-throughs.
posted by aniola at 6:41 PM on December 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I ride a Townie crank-forward because of stiff wrists, but it's been very comfy for everything except going up steep hills (or upwind). Nice to re-learn on, though it sounds like you were more of a biker than I ever was.

All my other half's various recumbents scared the gihoolie out of me even in a parking lot, so I would recommend trying before buying.
posted by clew at 10:10 PM on December 11, 2016

My cruiser and commuter bike both started aggravating my carpal tunnel syndrome, so I bought this Giant Revive. They call it a "semi-recumbent." It's very comfortable, has a step through frame, and a big spring shock under the seat (with adjustable tension), but the riding position is not the laid back, low to the ground position of many other recumbents, so there's just about the same visibility as on a traditional bike. It's a big improvement for my wrists and my tailbone. They stopped making these about ten years ago, but they can be found on the used market with a little patience. (I have two, a 3-speed and a 7-speed, and I paid about $250 each for them, both in great shape.)

My Revive is very easy to get on and off, and there is zero feeling of tipping over when stopping, since your feet can easily both be on the ground. The seat and handlebars are greatly adjustable, mostly without tools, so you can find a comfortable riding position. In addition to raising and lowering, the handlebar also tilts forward and back, which was a great help in finding a good neutral riding position for my wrists.

Just be aware, as clew says above, pedal-forward is more work on hills, since you can't stand up on the pedals. Fortunately, the backrest on the Revive is there to push back against when pedaling in moderate hilly areas. It took some retraining, both mentally and physically, to not pull back on my handlebars on hills, but rather to let my legs do the work. Which brings me to a potential issue in your case: I did have some hip pain for the first couple weeks riding the Revive, since I was using different muscles. If your ride is not as hilly as mine, it might not be an issue. Just be aware there is a possibility that it might not be the solution. If you do bike in hilly areas, you might add an electric hub just to give some assist when needed.
posted by The Deej at 5:52 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another thing to consider is a recumbent tricycle. I see lots of those on the big charity rides (and not just the MS ride). Because there's no balancing, obviously falling is no longer a concern.
posted by uberchet at 7:09 AM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

You might want to take this question to the BentRider Online Forums - you could ask in the general section or try the Crank Forward subforum, though it doesn't appear to be especially active.
posted by sibilatorix at 7:49 AM on December 12, 2016

I used to ride a non-step-through Electra Amsterdam, which had a moderately crank-forward layout. I've since switched to a step-through Dutch bike with a more standard layout. Crank-forward bikes will let you stay in the seat at stops - you don't have to dismount and stand over the top tube, or lean to one side (keeping the foot on the ground on tiptoes), or stop by a curb to put your foot down. But from your description, that's not your main problem - getting your leg over the top tube when fully dismounting is. I agree with aniola that a step-through bike of any sort is likely to help significantly more in that regard than a diamond frame crank-forward bike (which may gain you a few extra inches of clearance, but not much more, since you'll still need to get your leg over a close-to-standard-height top tube). In the US, step-throughs get marketed as women's bikes, but they have a bunch of practical advantages for anyone who needs to get on/off their bike a lot (delivery bikes and cargo bikes are not infrequently step-through), and anyone with limited mobility.

I'll also note that I had some sporadic knee-pain with my older crank-forward bike that went away with my newer, more standard one. I'm not sure that this is just due to the different geometry - I've now got a larger range of gears, a different saddle, etc. - and even if it is related, it may not be the case for you. Still, it's worth keeping in mind, because changing geometries will stress your body differently. If you can do a relatively lengthy test ride (or a few days' rental!), I do recommend it.
posted by ubersturm at 11:31 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

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