Pros and Cons

For the completist, here’s my list of trike advantages and disadvantages. Most but not all apply to recumbents in general. Leave a comment if you have more items for this list.

Advantages

  • Comfort – Even after a grueling day on the road, the most comfortable seat is on the trike.
  • View – Instead of looking down at your front tire, your most natural position is looking outward and upward.  If you enjoy clouds and birds, a ‘bent is pretty refreshing.
  • Stability – High speed descents went from a white knuckle cramp-fest to a low stress blurr.
  • Safety – The stability of a trike lets me focus on what’s around me instead of what’s directly in front of me and threatening to trip me up. Cattle grates, pot holes, debris, RR tracks become an annoyance instead of a crisis. On a trike, rear view mirrors actually work and give me excellent situational awareness in traffic. With two brakes in front, nothing stops faster than a tadpole trike and there is little chance of “going over the handlebars.” Motorists generally give me a wider berth, perhaps because I’m slightly wider and look much different from an upright bike. This makes it easier to take the lane when appropriate. A common complaint about tadpole trikes is that they are unsafe because they are too low to be seen by motorists.  This is simply not true in my experience.
  • Commuting – The comfort, stability, and safety advantages mentioned above all add up to a more enjoyable commute. Add to that the fact that starts and stops are super safe and convenient because you don’t have to un-clip and clip back in your pedals at every stop.
  • Touring – Any weight disadvantage is lost when you start loading up the trike with gear. With conventional rear panniers and custom side panniers you can load at least as much gear as an upright bike, all without affecting the trike’s handling in any significant way. Climbs are more enjoyable because you can gear way down and spin up hills, going as slowly as you want (you won’t fall
    over or wobble even if you stop). Descents are more enjoyable because even fully loaded you can bomb down hills with much more stability. And after weeks on the road, when roadies start developing all manner of ailments “down there,” your ass and groin area will feel the same as it did on day one.
  • Winter – The stability of a trike makes slick winter roads a ton of fun instead of a ton of stress.
  • Fun – Riding a trike feels different from riding a bike but is at least as
    much fun.

Disadvantages

  • Climbing speed – addressed in the Triking page.
  • Form factor – harder to maneuver through doorways, won’t fit in a rack on a bus or train, etc. Even the ultra foldable trikes like the Trice series are a challenge to transport as luggage on a plane.
  • The geek factor – Yep, you look different riding a ‘bent. If conformity is your thing, run away. Most people do and I’m becoming convinced this is one of the biggest reasons. That and Lance doesn’t ride one. On the other hand if you like to draw attention to yourself, might I suggest a ‘bent with a Trets, guitar, and little girl attached.
  • Cost – Right again. ‘Bents are expensive, though in a similar tier as high-end road or mountain bikes. But look at what you get. And it’s perhaps never more true than with recumbents; you get what you pay for.
  • Weight – My Trice Q weighs in at about 36 pounds naked.  Some trikes are down in the thirties. Heavy, but not much of an issue for loaded touring considering beefy touring bikes aren’t much lighter, and the weight variance between a good packing day and a bad one is probably greater than the variance between a ‘bent and a sleek upright. And for commuting, who cares?
  • Racing – Unless you’re racing other ‘bents or limit yourself to flat or downhill courses, stick with an upright.
  • Off road – There are trikes designed for use like a mountain bike. Seems to me like an actual mountain bike would be a better bet. I’m talking single track here– trikes do fine on decent dirt and gravel roads. The stability helps here, but the extra wheel and three wheel tracks vs. one starts to become an issue if the gravel/mud/whatever gets deep. You can lose traction going up steep, slick surfaces because on a trike you have less weight on the drive wheel.
  • Stability – How can this be in both lists? Everything has its limits. The trike’s is that if you fly outside the envelope, you can flip it. You have to be trying pretty hard to do this and it’s easily avoidable. But flipping a trike could ruin your day. To put this in perspective, I can bomb down curvy mountain roads at 45 MPH and not reach the limit, with much less trepidation than on an upright bike.
  • Wheel track.  You’ve got three instead of one.  This can be a problem in deep gravel or extremely rough roads.  It also makes it more difficult to keep your tires away from obstacles though the stability afforded by three tracks dramatically reduces the need.
  • Visibility.  The common perception that trikes are too low to be seen is generally not true in my experience.  There is one situation that warrants mention however.   Cars that are parked right up to the edge of an intersection can make it difficult to see oncoming cross traffic.  In these situations I ease out slowly to peer around the obstruction before commiting to crossing the intersection.  With a little extra caution this concern is easily mitigated.

For more information see Triking and Manufacturers.

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12 thoughts on “Pros and Cons

  1. Tony and I will be not only reading your blog, but praying for you as well. What a wonderful adventure to share with your daughter. When we retire in a few years, we hope to ride from our home state of MI to Bellingham WA, where our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren live. We will be riding on a tandem trike. When we ride, I am the captain, Tony, is blind.
    We are looking forward to reading about your adventures.

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  2. Amazing. Someone on bentrideronline.com linked to your journal. I am looking to sometime soon get a Trets for longer rides with our kids. We recently switched to trikes from our upright days. We had been riding a bikefriday tandem with a Piccolo on the back. I’ve been using the Piccolo on the back of the Ice Sprint, but I am unimpressed with the stability of the solution. Trets seems like the ultimate alternative. I will be following your progress with an eye towards both inspiration and equipment recommendations.

    Be well. And have courage throughout your adventure.

    Wade

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    • We have a Piccolo as well and came to the same conclusion re: stability. The Trets completely solves the stability problem and is holding up well on the trip so far. I think the Piccolo is very well made and the Trets is at least as good. Zoe prefers the Trets too, I just asked her. “more comfortable, more fun.” She also may be remembering the time we flipped the trike with the Piccolo. Don’t tell my wife 🙂

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  3. I retire at the end of May 2014. After I move my belongs home to Montana, I will be on the road for my first in the bucket list, a Trans America ride. I had intended on biking it, until I happened across a trike this spring. I bike toured when a pup and enjoyed it. I have tested both my trike with trailer and my bike fully loaded for the tour going up and down a local mountain pass a number of times. I had a number of misgivings about taking the trike, mainly concerns about being squished on roads without much of a shoulder. However, I have decided to take the trike. I notice that vehicles tend to give me much more room, or slow way down when passing. On the bike, the vehicle zoom by without allowing much room as I grind away and wobble up the mountain pass. In addition, the butt comfort, climbing comfort, park and pack, and low wind resistance of the trike have won me over.

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    • Rob,
      Hope your trans am ride went (is going) well!. Having completed my trans am ride by trike, I remain convinced that the trike is by far the best vehicle for any such loaded tour. I haven’t done another big ride yet but continue to commute daily by trike. Commuting is the other mode for which the trike is perfectly suited.

      Thanks for your comments!
      kurt

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  4. I just discovered this page, courtesy of Steve Greene and his Trike Asylum website. I have compiled a list that compares trikes to bikes and sent it to Steve. If I had an e-mail address for you I’d be happy to send it your way too.

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  5. TMI alert …
    Cons: Makes some of us pee. Not sure why and I’m not the only one with this issue. I went back to the DF last year because I’d have to pee 3x on a trike trip where I wouldn’t have to pee at all on the DF. It is not related to pressure on “anything”. If it was one would have to “Pee like a Russian racehorse” after getting off the DF which is not the case. Personally, I think it increases blood flow to the kidneys increasing the output above an equivalent DF ride.

    And that is a bummer because I enjoyed the trike!

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      • It is a bigger problem in the spring and early summer … when the corn is short 🙂 I got to know the location of every porta-potty on my route plus a few places where I could discreetly hide (which is a challenge dressed in bright “see me” colors.

        As I told my doc … if you have someone with trouble peeing, have them ride a trike for a while.

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    • In response to Nick K’s comment about urination…
      I have experienced the same problem, both in Western Washington and in Arizona. I am almost 70 and in good health. Doctor said he thought it might be that a sitting posture, coupled with vigorous pumping of the legs, is forcing fluids from the lower body into the upper body. He wasn’t concerned about it and suggested elevating the legs for an hour before riding, in the hope of producing urination before the ride. I tried that once with limited result. This was not a problem when riding a bike, but that was many moons ago.

      It’s a problem for me day or night, but is MUCH worse on night rides (more sitting beforehand?). Average for a 2.5-hour night ride is five or six episodes. Worst case for one ride: 13 times, three of which were in a ten-minute period. I always have water available to drink but am rarely thirsty. The urge to urinate never starts until I have been riding for about 25 minutes. Urine is always pale or clear. Although the problem is worse at night, dealing with it is easier because of deserted streets (I often ride after 10 p.m.) and the cover of darkness. Trees, bushes, and landscaping berms are assets. In Arizona, other things help: large empty fields, tall cinder-block walls in housing areas, and drainage swales everywhere. So far all my rides have been solo, which avoids having to cope with the problem in a group.

      At times this deters me from riding—it’s a real pisser (pun intended).
      Nick, please define “TMI” and “DF.”

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      • DF = Diamond Frame referring to a 2 wheel upright bike.

        TMI = Too Much Information. Some people may not want to know my (our) troubles on the trike. Mentioning TMI warns them.

        The frequent urination is more of an inconvenience. But is sure can take the fun out of the ride as urgency increases and you spend your time analyzing alternatives.

        I posted this on a forum (which escapes me now). One by one, fellow trikers in the frequent pee club came forward. Seems a bit more of a problem for trikes than 2 wheeled recumbents. Actually, I rode a 2 wheel recumbent a number of times and never had an issue. I gave that bike up because of problems starting on hills.

        Some people have the experience, some (many?) don’t.

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