Monday, July 18, 2011

Is Riding a Trike Harder?

I got that question at least 20x during the ride and I didn't really have a straight answer since I'd never attempting anything at this caliber on an upright bicycle before. The most I've ever ridden on a DF bike at one time was just in college years ago riding to and from class. I road around the neighborhood to explore but even those rides didn't stretch out for more than 1 hour.

So the differences btw riding a trike and bike?

1. The trike is slower:
Lots slower up hill. Slow = 2.5-3.5mph. As I mentioned, riding with DF riders on a team would be tough. You'd never get to ride together except for that split second as they pass by you yelling, "On your left" on the uphills and when you pass them on the downhills,

"Brian on your left please! Brian on your left please!"

If you don't mind being passed by people every few seconds and hearing, "On your left" throughout the day, then triking is for you. Keeping up on a trike is a game of "leap frog" as one rider put it. Trikers can keep up by taking shorter rest stop breaks, getting on the route early, riding longer and coming from a stop much more quickly since we don't have to clip in and out of our pedals.

The ability to ride slow on a trike can be an advantage on super steep hills. While some DF riders are forced to walk their bikes on these 15 degree plus hills, trikers can continue at their super slow speeds b/c we don't need to balance.

2. No balancing required:
This also means we can go down hills fearlessly. Yes, I think I hit 50mph on that hill after the "Half way to LA" point. That was the most fun hill I've ever descended. Amazing experience! If your equipment gives you more guts to go faster, then you will. The trike has that advantage and in that sense, it's easier than a DF bike.

3. No clipping in and out of pedals:
Although it seems like very little time saved, it adds up. From a stop sign or traffic light, trikers can accelerate much more quickly than upright bikes. The advantage is pretty surprising. I never realized this until my first (and only) formal ALC training ride. Trikers can also stop on a dime b/c we don't have to worry about falling over.

4. No butt sore:
The trike is easier in that there's no sores to complain about or to treat on the rest stops. The only thing I needed to give a rest at night was my eyes and body. I never visited Medical other than for sunscreen and moleskin for my foot. I can imagine it's tough for DF riders to continue riding at the same pace when they're uncomfortable in their groin area. That's a non-issue for trike riders.

5. Better gearing:
Although DF bikes can have custom gearing just as easily as trikes (if not even more easily due to the simplicity of how the components are put together), trikes tend to be customized by their owners much more often than DF bikes. For the most part, DF riders ride their bikes as they are straight from the factory. Bent riders are peculiar in that trikes are awkward to begin with as are their owners. We are attracted to weirdness and embrace it by tweaking. We tend to mess with parts more often than DF riders.

The gearing on the KMX Tornado has been replaced completely over the past year and as I mentioned in previous posts, it can pretty much climb a tree. With gear inches down to 8.9, there's no hill I can't climb on the trike that a DF rider can.

The weight of trikes already tend to be fairly heavy, so any addition of weight from an internal gear hub is not as big of a deal. If you asked a carbon fiber 17lb DF bike rider to add 3lbs to their rear end by installing an IGH, they would gasp. That's almost 20% additional weight! Trike riders with 35+ lb rides tend to be more willing to add this weight for the advantage of being able to climb hills more easily.

6. Mirrors
I swear fewer than 10 people had mirrors on their bikes. Yes, that's 10 out of 2,300 riders! I'm not comfortable riding anything w/o mirrors, so in this sense, riding a trike was much easier. Mirrors can easily be attached to regular bicycles since they attach the same way on the handlebars, but this shows how much more trikers tend to modify and accessorize their rides than DF riders do.

7. Less neck sore:
Since the default recumbent position of the trike is looking forward and toward the sky, there's much less strain on the neck. DF rider's default position is looking down in their aero position and have to strain to look forward. This can easily lead to fatigue that trikers know nothing about.

8. Durability:
Most DF riders use a road bike. Road bikes are light and fast, but are also quite delicate. Most trikes are like mountain bikes on three wheels. The durability was tested on a couple stretches of rough roads on the ALC ride and it shined! No repairs had to be made and the need to inflate tires was minimal. This saves a bunch of time on the route since there are fewer needs for repair. I did meet one DF rider however that didn't have a single flat tire on the entire 500+ mile route. So DF bikes can definitely withstand less than ideal conditions but they just need to be equipped with the proper tires and tubes. I'm sure a bit of luck is involved too. The fewer times you have to pull over and repair something, the better off you are. This is another advantage of the trike and definitely makes riding easier in this sense.

I would never ride a DF bike on the ALC. There are too many advantages of a trike that I would be neglecting if I chose the alternative. A recumbent is as fun and as cool as you imagine it to be. The only drawback is the speed up hills. Most of this can be offset by higher speeds down hill. I would see the same people throughout each leg of route b/c we'd be taking turns passing each other.

My major concern apart from possibly having to replace a rear drive wheel tube, is taking up too much space on the bike lanes. The last thing I want to do as a stand out I-chose-to-ride-a-weirdo-recumbent-trike is to annoy and bother other DF riders. I didn't want to feel like I was messing up the experience for DF riders with my wider-than-a-bicycle trike. This luckily was never an issue. I pulled over closer to the shoulder than the other trikers and I think the DF riders appreciate my consideration for them. I also acknowledged their presence and looked out for cars as they attempted to pass. This helped me gain a level or respect enough that I felt like less of an annoyance and more of a team player improving riders' experience (and safety) on the ALC.


  1. "Bent riders are peculiar" indeed we are. ;-)
    BTW thanks for the chain ring it's been a perfect fit. Heading down to the Outer Banks in NC this weekend and I'm looking forward to getting out on their totally flat roads.

    Mike (Rong) Kenney

  2. @Michael

    Awesome! Always good to help out a fellow bentrider. Glad it worked out for you!