Touring Cycle Case Study - Why I Tour on a Recumbent Trike

Jay Singer is a very interesting cyclist. In addition to taking great touring pictures and writing a fun filled journal about his trip around Lake Erie, Jay uses a recumbent trike to tour. When he saw that I was missing information on his touring vehicle of choice he quickly offered up this article for inclusion on the site.

 

A picture of Jay's Recumbent Trike.

A picture of Jay's Recumbent Trike.
Click to enlarge.

I started riding long distances on a bicycle in the 70’s during the bike craze. When we married, my wife and I actually tandemed and toured on a beautiful emerald green Schwinn Paramount. When our children came along the bicycling went out the window. Finally, about five years ago when my son was old enough, I trained for months for GOBA, the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure and we rode it successfully. I had already gone through a Blackbent swb recumbent bicycle and was riding a Bikee RX bent. Since I live in a fairly hilly area (on the east side of Cleveland near the Chagrin River Valley) I found that the climbs were sometimes difficult on a two-wheeled bike. The first thing I realized was that a trike would solve that problem: balance at any speed isn’t an issue when one has three wheels! The recumbent tadpole trike I bought, a Greenspeed GTO made in Australia was just the ticket, not only because it has super-low gears for crawling up any hill but also because it has disc brakes on the front two wheels for controlling the descents down those hills. A short, three-day tour down and up the Little Miami Rail-to-Trail in Ohio on the trike helped me realize that it was a viable machine for longer, self-supported touring. With the addition of a headrest, I found that even though I was fatigued after cycling 60-70 miles, I didn’t have any pains, strains or migraines. That is, due to the recumbent design, I was sitting on a seat that evenly distributed my weight over a very large area compared to the standard seats on a “wedgie” bicycle, and my hands didn’t become numb since I wasn’t leaning on them. I also believe that I saved energy by not having to balance with continuous, minute corrections. If anything, I think that the addition of Arkel GT-54 panniers hung on the rear rack actually seemed to improve the handling. I did have some difficulty with loosening spokes on the rear wheel. This may be because I slightly exceeded the rated capacity as published by the manufacturer.

A picture of the recumbent at the Ohio border.

A picture of the recumbent at the Ohio border.
Click to enlarge.

In my humble opinion, cycle touring on a recumbent trike is the way to go. I never (knock wood) felt threatened by being lower to the ground or wider than a two-wheeler. Drivers seemed to give me wide berth as they passed me, probably because of the novel machine I was riding. Nevertheless, I use a pole mounted flag and three flashing red taillights. I also wear shirts in the hi-viz color that is becoming more popular. I never felt that the three-wheeler was a disadvantage though I’m sure I would be faster on two wheels. Since there are three “tracks” one learns to put potholes in the road between a front wheel and the rear wheel. One also learns to quickly forget about the perils of gravel. The trike cannot skid out from under you!

Although, in my opinion, the Greenspeed trikes are still the gold standard for touring there are several American manufacturers making viable choices. Check out the Catrike Road and Organic Engines trikes (from Florida,) the Trimuter (Illinois) and Wizwheelz (Michigan) trikes, and the Hellbent Spitfire for excellent, domestic machines.

I would be pleased to comment further. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

Submitted by Jay Singer.

 

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