When Darrell Holmes started riding bicycles for his health, he never thought he would be a trendsetter. Now, almost a year after he began riding a recumbent bicycle, he’s turning heads all over town.

“It is quite a bit more intimidating,” said Darrell Holmes, Stephenville resident. “The pedals are out in front of you and your balance comes from steering. I’ve fallen more than once, but everyone falls, even on mountain bikes, and with a recumbent at least you’re lower to the ground.”

Recumbent bicycles are the fastest bikes around, with the new record being 80.55 miles per hour. The bike is fast because of the aerodynamics of the frame. With a top downhill speed of 75 miles per hour for a mid-range recumbent, these bikes have even been banned from some races. The top speed on a downhill mountain bike is 56 miles per hour, but a major benefit of the mountain bike’s “body over the pedals” style is going up hill and for straight away acceleration.

According to Holmes, the balance is in the steering rather than the balancing of the body with a recumbent, which makes it more difficult in taking off than with a mountain bike, therefore giving it the advantage in the straight away.

When Holmes made the decision to go from a mountain bike to a recumbent, he got an eight foot “beginner bike” with a long wheel base and the pedals lower than on a regular recumbent. He has since purchased a Becchetta Giro 20, which he says is not the fastest, but is much faster than his beginner bike.

“They also make a ‘trike,’” said Holmes, “It’s a three-wheeler, that’s really low to the ground.”

Recumbent bicycles are different from a regular bicycle because the rider sits back in a body-enveloping seat with legs positioned in horizontal alignment with the body. This puts the rider’s body in a position where there is less wind drag from the legs. The position still maintains the optimal angle to work the legs, but provides a more comfortable position with no weight on the arms, wrists, and hands.

There are two options for handlebars, or steering systems. Holmes’ bike has over the seat steering which is similar to a mountain bike’s steering system. There is also what is known as under the seat steering, which is positioned down by the rider’s legs or even, under the seat, as the name implies.

Holmes said that on his regular bike he could only ride for about an hour and that his hands went numb and his back was sore. The most he rode in a day was 10 miles. But on the recumbent, he has ridden up to four hours because there is no pressure on his hands and back, and he has even ridden 50 miles in one day.

Holmes has participated in several bike races around the area, and said his goal is to make 100 miles in one ride. Right now he is riding about 120 miles per week, and says being able to ride longer has helped him feel better. On Sept. 1, he will have ridden 4,200 miles in one year. Next year, his goal is 5,000.

“I’ve been to some races and seen more and more of them, but there aren’t many in this area, maybe two or three,” Holmes said, “I would love to see more people interested in them. Recumbents are such great bikes.”

For those interested in a recumbent, a beginner bike can be purchased for about $650. Racing recumbents can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $9,500, according to Recumbent Cycling Ontario’s Web site.