Why recumbent?  Why a trike?

In a word: Comfort. It’s like a rolling lawn chair. But not just any lawn chair– a really, really comfortable lawn chair. Not to be confused with a flying lawn chair– that was a different sport, in a different life. And the floating lawn chair was someone else’s life.  But I digress.

Not all ‘bents are equal in the comfort department, but in general that’s the big thing a  recumbent buys you. Neck pain, back pain, wrist pain, butt pain–  all gone. And you get this benefit in the most aerodynamic configuration possible. Ever tried to go really fast on an upright bike? Take all the normal aches and pains and multiply them many fold as you contort your body into some god-awful approximation of a bullet. And I’ll still pass you on my trike, lounging in the most comfortable and relaxed position possible.  Add a fairing and it’s not even close.

But all is not sunshine and gravy with recumbents. The one universal disadvantage of all recumbents, no matter the number of wheels, drive train configuration, or anything else, is climbing speed. Race me up a hill and you’ll beat me by a few minutes. If you’re good or the hill is long, it may be more than a few minutes. I’ll get there, and I’ll be feeling pretty good when I do, but you may already be on the way back down. If I turn around right away and the difference isn’t too great, I may catch you on the downhill. But in a race you spend much more time going up than down. So if racing is your thing, a recumbent might not be for you. That is, unless your goal is to be the fastest self-powered human on the planet— that distinction is still the exclusive domain of recumbents.  Currently you’ll have to reach about 83 MPH to nab that one.

Maybe that explains the recumbent bit. But why a trike? Well, the big trade-off for all that comfort is often crappy handling. Short wheel base (SWB) recumbents are responsive but inherently unstable, making starting and stopping pretty challenging. Long wheel base (LWB) recumbents are stable but not very responsive and have a crazy wide turning radius. I’m sure you get used to it. Perhaps some even prefer it. But you needn’t compromise here. A well designed trike gives you all the same comfort and performance along with responsive handling, relatively tight turning radius, and a high degree of stability. All at about the same weight as a LWB ‘bent. For me, the choice is obvious. For commuting, trikes have the advantage that you can stop and start without unclipping. For touring, trikes can hold a lot of gear without any noticeable influence on handling. A trike is an excellent vehicle for both.

For more information see Manufacturers and Pros & Cons.


1 thought on “Triking

  1. I’ve been riding and touring on bent trikes for years. My current ride, a Challenge Alize is the most perfect machine I’ve owned: 406’s all around, with rear suspension and uss steering. it even folds for easier transport. My wife and I also ride a Trident Chameleon tandem trike. One thing you didn’t mention is there’s no balancing issue. You can crawl up any hill in your granny at 2 mph if you need to. Although my daughter rides a wedgie Rivendell, we’re planning on riding the TransAm in 2013, hopefully with Hazon!


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