Hill Climbing Recumbent Bicycle Review: Taming the Blue Ridge Parkway

What is the best recumbent road bike for long fast rides with lots of hill climbing? Larry Oslund put the new Cruzbike S40 to the test over hundreds of miles and thousands of feet of climbing and descending on Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway and shares his experience in the guest post below.

Hill Climbing Recumbent Bicycle Review - The Cruzbike S40 Tackles the Blue Ridge Parkway

The new S40 Tames the Blue Ridge Parkway

On May 21-27, 2021 I had the honor of riding Crubike’s newest S40 recumbent road bike on a week long bicycle tour across the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway. This was from Front Royal, VA to Cherokee, NC. In those 7 days I rode the new Cruzbike S40 over 700 miles and 70,000 feet of hill climbing and descending. Here are my comments and thoughts on the new S40.

First, the 2021 Cruzbike S40 setup:

  • Weight: S40 Complete 2021: 27.2 lbs
  • Cruzbike's patented FWD-MBB technology (called Dynamic Boom Front Wheel Drive): This drive system is found on Cruzbike's Q45, S40 and V20 recumbent road bikes.
  • Cane Creek ViscoSet® Headset
  • Thru Axles: For the new thru-axle on the S40 uses a leverless style that even houses its own internal removal tool for the axle itself and brake rotors.
  • Wheels and tires: 32 spoke 3 cross black aluminum rims, aero profile, tubeless compatible, 25 mm wide rim, approx 28 mm depth non-machined sidewalls, Maxxis Re-Fuse 700x32c tires
  • 160mm MCX-2(PM) Mechanical Disc Brakes front and rear
  • Carbon Fiber Seat (includes small adjustable front edge seat extender)
  • Basic curved headrest
  • Thick foam seat pad
  • Standard Cruzbike flared handlebar set
  • SRAM 1x11 drivetrain utilizing 42 front ring and PowerGlide 11-42T 11-Speed Cassette
  • Truvativ/SRAM Team GXP Bottom Bracket
  • SRAM Apex 1 GXP Crankset 165mm with 42T 110mm Asymmetric BCD X-Sync Chainring
  • SRAM Apex 1 DoubleTap Right 11-Speed shifting Lever for Cable Actuated Brakes

Recumbent Road Bike - Cruzbike S40

What does the new S40 version give you over past models:

  • Thru-axle wheel sets
  • 1x11 Drive System (this was first rolled out with the 2019 S40)
  • Cane Creek ViscoSet® Headset

Jim and Maria Parker were generous enough to loan one of these beauties to Ken Holzhausen and me to test ride on our seven day ride.

I was initially quite excited and then a little apprehensive to ride something new on such a long and challenging ride. My biggest fear was to change from what I was so used to so drastically. I normally ride a Cruzbike V20 with a Ventisit seat pad, 150mm cranks and mid sole cleats. I first grabbed a new pair of shoes and installed the cleats at the toe again to hopefully give me a little more reach for the 165mm cranks. Jim did give me the option of a Ventisit pad, but since everyone else had chosen the stock seat pad and it looked comfy I decided to go with pure stock setup.

After about an hour of setting the S40 up to fit me in the parking lot the night before, I thought I was ready to embark on my third crossing of this great tour.

I have to admit the first 60 miles of the Skyline Drive were not enjoyable at all. My legs hurt, my arms hurt, my knees hurt, my neck hurt and I was getting hot-foot already. Gosh, I was almost dreading the next 640 miles! But after stopping a few times and re-adjusting the boom, the handlebars, and the headrest to fit me better all my problems suddenly vanished. We adjusted the boom so the Bottom Bracket was farther out so my knees were not bending too much, moved the handlebars a little farther away so my arms were comfortable, and adjusted the headrest some so my neck and head were in a better position. It is amazing what a correctly fit bike will do for your ride, body, and your attitude. Even better than that, I felt re-energized and felt I could make power better. That is usually the case when there is no pain!

I am telling you all this as proof that bike fit is so important. Just a few inches one way or the other in several key areas can make a great bike feel like it is not for you. If you feel like this with your current Cruzbike, then I urge you to ask someone for help. Post your pics on the Cruzbike forum and someone will help you. If you can make it down to Hilton Head Island - I will personally assist you with your fit and have you riding and loving your Cruzbike like never before.

Hill Climbing Recumbent Road Bike Review - Cruzbike S40

Okay, back to the Cruzbike S40 recumbent road bike review:

In my opinion, this is by far the greatest iteration of the Cruzbike S40 design.

While my bike of choice for pure speed is the Cruzbike V20, the Cruzbike S40 shines in a 7-day tour like this.

The higher seat back angle on the S40 (40 degrees on the S40 vs 20 degrees on the V20) allows you to see all the beautiful sights better and actually helps control your speed on some of the scarier descents. It is also a well known fact that a higher seat back angle allows better power making capability which is sometimes a blessing on those 2 hour climbs.

Thru-axle design:

The new thru-axle design gives the front end a more solid-tight feel and you feel like every watt of power applied to the pedals is going straight to the front wheel! This is probably the greatest improvement in this iteration of the S40.

Cane Creek ViscoSet® Headset

Another great improvement that is basically a dampener for the front end
The front end never feels like it wants to flop one way or the other and I never noticed any shaking or awkwardness when going downhill at 40+ mph, or uphill at 4!

1x11 Drive System:

This is the improvement or change in the S40 setup I was most skeptical about. This was partly because of the heart attack and stent I had placed in my chest 3 months earlier and the doctors orders that I should not exceed 120 bpm while riding. I just did not think the 42 tooth front ring and the max 42 tooth large ring on the cassette was going to be good enough for the long, long, long 6-7-8% grades that we were going to be asked to ride on this tour. And not just for a few minutes or miles, but at times nearly 2 hours non-stop.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the 42x42 was perfect for those extended grades and even with my lower required power output of 2 W/kg. I found I could go up a 6% grade at about 4-5mph on those 2 W/Kg and still keep my balance and also keep my heart under the 120 bpm. Hallelujah!

In my opinion Cruzbike hit a home run on this newly designed S40! And I was so lucky to be given a chance to buy one of these first ones at the end of the tour - Thanks to Jim and Maria for that opportunity!

Hill Climbing Recumbent Road Bike Review - Cruzbike S40

I understand that Cruzbike is pre-selling these new Cruzbike S40s right now and they should be shipping by the end of June. From what I understand there are limited numbers of these babies to be had, so if you want one, I would put your order in now. Who knows when the next set will be available?

-Larry Oslund (@LarryOz on the Cruzbike Forum)

Hill Climbing Recumbent Bicycle Review: Taming the Blue Ridge Parkway - by Larry Oslund

Learn more about recumbent road bicycles, adventure and the Cruzbike S40:


  • Klaus

    Hello Larry,

    Thanks for the Information and the help. I didn‘t know if I have to focus on the S40 or the V20, now I think I know.

    Greetings from the Black Forest in Germany


  • William Wightman

    Great review from a great person. I just moved my V20 seat back to 20 degrees after riding it for about two years at 10 degrees. Actually going faster with the higher torque than in the almost flat position. Easier to see up ahead also. Your climbing heartrate of 120 bpm just goes to show that you have a big heart, metaphorically speaking.

  • Bob Thornton

    Larry, I enjoyed the review. If I could afford a new bike, I would buy one in a heartbeat.

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