After Adventure Cyclist published an issue about recumbents and trikes, I thought I should look into them a little more. I haven’t found a recumbent to ride yet; I’d sure like to find one of the high speed titanium models. But a good friend has a neighbor who owns a Catrike recumbent. He was very willing to let me take a 30 minute familiarization ride. Good thing, because it took me that long to feel somewhat comfortable riding it.
Catrikes are ingenious and very clever machines. With two smaller wheels in front and a larger wheel in back, you sit in a comfortable semi-reclining position and steer with your hands in a low position at about the level of your knees. This takes some getting used to. The Catrike had bar end shifters, which I haven’t used in years, but they work well. There are disc brakes on both front wheels, which are spectacular. Your feet are way out in front of you, and if your feet are as large as mine (size 14) they tend to slightly reduce your view of the road.
Trikes are very comfortable and stable. Because of the three wheel configuration they simply don’t tip over. At a stop you can just sit there if you want with both feet up. In fact, they’re just as safe as an upright. They’re also fast, but regardless of that you should always be careful when riding one, and use hand signals and other elements of bike safety.
While the handling is not as sharp as on a regular upright road bike, it is certainly adequate for most any situation. I’m sure that over time I would get used to the reclining position. I don’t have back problems, so I can’t attest to that recumbent benefit, but after 30 minutes I was as comfortable as when I first started out.
On the negative side, I found the reclining position awkward; I kept trying to lift my head to see farther down the road. I also felt very vulnerable being so low to the ground and not being as visible to drivers as on a regular upright bike.
I only rode up one fairly steep hill and really slowed down as my reclining body got no assist from gravity. Going down hill I felt a little unsteady with the two front wheels instead of the carving feeling achieved on a regular bike.
Overall, I can see the attraction for folks with back problems or who just want to ride gently. But I missed the feeling I get on an upright bike and the greater visibility. I also could feel the weight, the trike weighed just about twice as much as my 14 year old Litespeed. So while I’m not about to switch to a ‘bent’ I can certainly understand why someone who is uncomfortable on an upright would consider a trike.
I’d like to try a high speed recumbent if I can find someone around Greensboro, NC who will let me borrow their bike for a few miles.