Monday, March 15, 2010

My first recumbent bike purchase


Think of it as a tricycle for grown ups. Although the owner of the company initially built it as a fun thing for his son to ride, he has built a few models since then that include ones for adults.

Apparently "recumbent" means, "to lie down." Trikes come in two varieties: tadpole and delta. Tadpole is the one I have here with two wheels in the front. Some people also call it a reverse trike since it's backwards from the typical single-wheel-in-front setup known as the delta style.

Recumbent trikes have been around for at least 25 years, but the the slow following from the US market still makes them feel new. During my first few rides in the city, I get a few stares mostly by curious kids who shout,

"Daddy, daddy what is that?"
"Daddy, I want one of those!"

The adults had some funny comments too,

"That's a recipe for suicide."
"Wow, cool. Be careful."

Last Sunday, the trike actually stopped traffic. A guy stopped his car in the middle of the road as I pulled out of my drive way (looking both ways of course) and with a big smile rolled his window down and popped his head out to get a better look. He was so shocked at the funny gizmo that he really didn't say much. I slowed down, smiled and waved.

I think I saw my first recumbent bike over a decade ago and only recently did I learn about recumbent trikes! I've probably only seen about 6 or 7 of them my whole life running around town. They're a fairly rare sight and only recently did I find out why.

Most recumbent trikes start at $1,200.00. There was no way I was going to spend over a grand on something without a motor. After some research, I came across the KMX brand. The owner of the company was a helicopter engineer who decided to build something fun for his son. Years later after getting neighborhood requests for these funny contraptions, he branded a company called KMX.

KMX is also a fairly new company. KMX came onto the scene less than 10 years ago - about 15 years behind the first introduction of these modified bicycle-like personal transportation devices. KMX managed to hit the top in two categories. Not forgetting his roots, he kept a line of kids recumbent trikes. No other company manufacters recumbent trikes for people under 14 yrs of age. The entire line of KMX trikes for both children and adults are designed to be used offroad. They're basically 3-wheeled BMX bikes. They're very durable and have much beefier tires than other brands. If you do enough research online, you'll find videos of crazy people going airborn off a ramp on this KMX Torando.

The Tornado is the entry level adult recumbent trike. Even at $200-300 dollars cheaper than other entry level trikes, the price was still high. I didn't really see any other way of getting into the scene other than to look for a used one. I loved the brilliant white of the KMX Tornado set against the black accents and fell in love at first sight.

One craiglist search later and a trip to the South Bay, I bought it from a guy who had been asking $850 for this Tornado that typically costs $958. He lowered his price to $750 on the web before I contacted him. By the time I left with the trike, I was $700 poorer. That's almost a 30% discount. Not too bad considering I didn't have to pay shipping and tax. Although it would've been fun to build out of the box, it was very convenient that it was already built and ready to go.


1) Cool factor was probably number one. I just like gadgets and weird unusual things in general. Coming from a design background I just happen to appreciate stuff like this no matter how awkward.

2) The second reason I wanted one was for the exercise. When I'm not sick or too lazy to hit the gym where I only do weight lifting, I'm definitely not getting any cardio workouts. The trike has changed this entirely. I've been triking almost everyday since I got the trike on 3/5/10.

3) Spend time with Angela. We need more stuff to do together than watch TV and sleep. This gives us a chance to get outdoors, enjoy the weather and the area in our neighborhood. Our first trip with her on the bike and me on the trike covered 100 blocks! Not bad for a first trip.

One reason why the Tornado is half the price of the closest entry level trike is b/c it only has 7 gears instead of the typical 24 of the higher end ones. This translates to a lot more sweating and workout than those fancier trikes.

The braking function is different. The Tornado's right side brake handle controls the front two wheels while the left side grip handle controls the rear brake. The higher end trikes have brakes than handle each front wheel independently. The left side will brake the left wheel and the right side will brake the right wheel. The rear can usually only be engaged if it has the emergency brake option.

The Tornado shares many of the same components as the higher end models. The Tornado has disk brakes which is more than I can say for 95% of bikes out there. I've been in touch with guys who have modded this exact model trike to go 55mph with a motor and they are confident the stock brakes do just fine and don't plan to upgrade them at all.

The seat on the 2009 and up Tornado's are very soft with a nice cushion that keeps me comfy for miles on end without any fatigue. So far I've tested it across 100 city blocks.

The Tornado is the only adult trike being manufactered that has the black mag wheels stock. I suppose you can also change them out, but that would just mean spending more money. I like the modern look of the black rims compared to the typical old school thin metal spokes you see on regular bikes.


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