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AS part of my investigation on my bike replacement, I'm starting to look at a trike. I like the idea of a trike as it looks to be much more comfortable, much faster, but also much more expensive (in general).

My purpose for the bike is for my commute to work (~30 km per day). This may not sound much, but I also want to ride in the winter time (snow and ice). A trike looks to provide better stability and safer as well.

Looking at the net, there look to be two competing styles: either two wheels at the rear like the Kettwiesel Allround, or two wheels at the front like the Greenspeed GT1.

For those who have ridden these trikes, what is your advice?

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Just be sure to get an Arte Johnson yellow raincoat. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 29 '11 at 11:38
    
Related or possible duplicates here: bicycles.stackexchange.com/search?q=recumbent? –  zenbike Jul 29 '11 at 12:07
    
I never thought about it, but a winter trike is an interesting approach. Less concern about falling on the ice. Good thought! –  geoffc Jul 29 '11 at 13:15
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Our resident recumbent expert has recently left the stackexchange network, probably because he realised how much time he was spending putting quality answers up here. Anyway, do email him, his contact details can be found here: moz.geek.nz/mozbike –  ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Jul 29 '11 at 15:58
    
@mathew, thanks for the tip. –  tehnyit Jul 31 '11 at 21:02

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted
+50

I've commuted in the pacific northwest for two winters, and have equiped my bicycles with snow tires, mudflap extensions, and sewn bright yellow waterproof blankets to cover up my Xtracycle deck. A lot of my inspiration has come from the Winter Riding forum on bikeforums.net. I cannot provide model information, but possibly these some areas to consider:

  • are you considering a recumbent orientation because of chronic back or neck problems?

  • A recumbent position might actually reduce core strength, or it might place stress on the wrong part of your back

  • storage and transfer at home and destination: do you want your trike stored curbside in all weather? Trikes are slow to fold, unwieldly to carry, probably more difficult to maneuver up stairways or elevators, and...like cargo bikes, not intended to be put on a bus...or maybe even trains

  • orient your budget towards all the gear you will want to outfit your trike with for wet weather commuting, plus ice plus snow. Studs are important for ice, studs don't help with snow, fenders don't help with snow, but you want them for anything wetter than slush

  • visibility: flags, extra blinkers

  • commuting plus cargo? Consider aluminum "Pelican" cases for secure alternatives to panniers

  • recumbent seats in wet weather often need to be covered with trash bags because the ones with foam pads become sponges

  • snow and trikes is much higher friction than snow and bikes. General wisdom for up to 7" of powder is thinner tires (19-23mm) cuts thru powder with the least friction

  • clearance: if you have mobiliy issues, a higher trike will be easier to mount and dismount; if you do trails or want to clear snow mounds, clearance will help. This might dictate your tire size.

  • maintenance and support: some trikes come with rear suspension (springs or shocks) and those, like on MTBs, wear out and can be degreased in the rain; many bike shops do not want to support recumbents because its a fringe market and their suppliers don't stock parts for Catrike, Rans or Sun, you might need to be your own mechanic

  • try before you buy: I own a used Rans Tailwind and I commute on it, but it's a hassle to make normal bike parts, like pannier racks, fit on them. I didn't know how many options there were for recumbents and I ended up with an ill-suited commuter: it turns out I wanted a short wheel-base recumbent and possibly a non-foam seat plus a windshield so I wouldn't be so bothered by the rain. If you have a local 'bent dealer that can help you setup different models with a wet weather loadout, you'll likely find a quality model that suits you

  • attachment points: can you attach extra battery pack and lamps for an extended lighting system, computer/iphone/gps unit

  • electric boost opion: Lightfoot cycles is an example of a 'bent manufacturer that does recumbent e-assist bikes, there are others. If you have significant hills to climb and you're used to standing on your bike pedals, that's something a 'bent takes away from you

Best of luck in your adventure finding your future commuter!

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Answered! - Great content with some excellent information! –  tehnyit Aug 5 '11 at 5:49

I know this is an old question, but I'm in a very similar situation to the OP's. I have bikes, an ElliptiGO, and a Catrike. I have done some winter biking, but I think the recumbent is much better suited for this, for a few reasons:

  1. You can go as slow as you have to, or even stop, without having to disengage your feet from the pedals. If necessary, put it in a very low gear and just spin.
  2. It's possible to tip the trike cornering at high speed, but it's very difficult. It's not going to slide out from under you on ice.
  3. If you put a studded snow tire in the back (this is the "tadpole" (one drive wheel in back, two steerable wheels in front), you can just lean back for more traction.

As I mentioned, "tadpole" is one drive wheel in back, two wheels in front. The other style (two in back) is called "delta." Deltas are usually higher off the ground, but to have two drive wheels, you need a differential, which increases the price substantially.)

Just to comment on what others have said, you certainly can get front fenders and mud flaps for most trikes. You can even get fabric tops (e.g., Veltop) or velomobile shells for them.

If you're riding on roads, the width may be an issue, since trikes are wider than bikes. I'm mostly on bike paths, so it's not a problem. Of course, you can always just ride down the middle of the lane. That's legal and often preferred in the U.S.

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One thing that comes to mind is control and traction.

I have never seen an off-road recumbent. I am not sure why this is. I have found riding in the winter is a lot like riding off-road. I suspect that there is a reason for this although I am not sure what it is. Just the fact that there are no off road recumbents makes me suspicious of using them as winter machines.


Another issue would be width. In the winter roads are already significantly narrower. Often I take the lane but I like to have the option not to. On a recumbent, narrower winter roads may make passing difficult.

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I think the reason you don't see recumbents on offroad trails is that it's really hard to shift your weight around on them. When going over an obstacle, you want to pull up on the front wheel as your front wheel goes over the object and then shift your weight forward as the back wheel goes over the object. This lets the bike go over the obstacle much easier. –  Kibbee Jan 15 '13 at 17:45
    
@Kibbee, Excellent point. Do you think this is an important ability for winter cycling? Personally, I do. On artery roads it isn't critical but on unplowed and rutted streets I often throw my weight around on the bike to keep traction. –  sixtyfootersdude Jan 16 '13 at 21:56
    
I don't bike in winter, so I really can't say. Not because I don't think the bike would be a problem with the proper tires and other equipment, but because the cars are much more likely to lose control, or to not even be watching for you. Plus all the snow on the side of the roads makes them a lot narrower. I've thought about it a lot, and think a BMX (with disc brakes) would be ideal if I were to ride in winter. I got a short and flat commute so gearing isn't important, and the extra maneuverability would help a lot. I guess it depends on the conditions in your area and how you define winter. –  Kibbee Jan 17 '13 at 14:48
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Off-road recumbents certainly exist, at least now... –  Michael Hampton May 14 at 16:31

I commuted in all weathers for about a year on a recumbent trike in the early '90s. From what I remember:

  • It was a 2 front wheel model with underseat steering. It was very stable, but the only time I did manage to come out of it was in the winter, trying to avoid a van downhill on packed snow. Being only a few inches off the ground it wasn't much of a crash.
  • It was a blast in the snow, being rear-wheel drive you could effectively power-slide it. I don't remember ever running anything but 700x27 rear and whatever the stock front tyres were.
  • In the wet the spray from the front tyres could get my arms wet - there was no way to mount front guards.
  • My commute was down country lanes. I put up a flag and a strobe light to give some warning - the strobe meant that I had less trouble in the dark than the light.
  • I seemed to get lots of punctures, and eventually realised that I had three tracks rather than one, and that in narrow dirty roads I was just more likely to run over glass or stones.
  • That said changing a front tube was easy as I didn't have to take the wheel off.
  • I took great pains to let car drivers know that I was wide - mounting a light and day-glo stuff on a pole out at the width of my front track.
  • Despite this I was once actually hit by a car on a main road - she collided with my front wheel. Apart from writing off the frame I was unharmed and stayed in the seat.
  • I eventually changed my job, and my commute then took me on more major roads. The trike just didn't feel safe in 2 lanes of fast moving traffic, so I swapped it out for a SWB bike. This was dynamically a lot less relaxing, but played better with cars.

Overall it was a hoot, and I heartily recommend it, but you do have some major cons as well as pros compared to a normal bike.

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*+1 for power sliding in the snow! –  tehnyit Aug 8 '11 at 19:11
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+1 for the 3x tracks note. –  r00fus Aug 24 '11 at 21:23

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