Tadpole, vs delta have different tipping modes. Does the three wheel configuration give a false sense of stability? Are rocks on the road more or less of a risk on a Tadpole vs Delta vs Road/Mountain bike? I'm thinking of "graduating" to a trike for stability reasons. I don't want to experiment if I can avoid it.

  • 2
    One advantage of a tadpole (two wheels in front) is that you have almost double the braking power and less propensity towards fade. It's difficult to say which is safer, though, as it depends on your riding style: you can't make something foolproof as there's always a better fool around the corner.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 19:50
  • 3
    The meaning of the above is: if you feel your recumbent is safer, this might lead you to more risky behavior (going faster around curves, riding on loose gravel), that might increase the risk beyond the safety factor. This has been found to be the case in automotive safety, c.f. ABS systems.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 20:08

1 Answer 1


Safety on descents is more a matter of your state of mind than any objectively measurable phenomenon.

I will say that I have descended pretty damn fast on a road bike, and faster on a tadpole trike. This had less to do with being on three wheels and more to do with having an extremely low center of gravity on the trike. I've also never experienced speed wobbles on my trike--I'm not even sure that's possible.

You do not tip on a trike or bike when you're going in a straight line. If you're going through curves, the fact that you cannot lean into a turn on a trike means that you can flip the trike instead, and at higher speeds, you'll flip the trike on shallower turns.

Typically, tadpoles have two front brakes, and for the most part, this is a benefit. Braking at very high speed will steer the trike into the braked wheel; if you apply both brakes, then the slightest discrepancy in the application of the brakes can cause a dangerous back-and-forth when you're whipping downhill.

From what I've seen, a tadpole can be designed with a lower center of gravity than a delta, which improves stability.

If the road surface is too broken up or littered with debris for me to descend at full speed, then I don't, regardless of what I'm riding. I suppose in the abstract I would feel more endangered hitting a given rock at speed on my road bike than I would on my trike (I also have much fatter tires on my trike). It would also be harder to avoid the rock on my trike (three tracks vs one). But that's a hypothetical I am not eager to test.

  • Thanks for this. It is sort of what I expected and that's what I wanted to hear!!
    – Rcarey
    Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 0:12
  • 2
    I do want to clarify that the statement "...If you're going through curves, the fact that you cannot lean into a turn on a trike..." is not entirely true. Many recumbent trike riders, including myself, lean quite well into corners at higher-than-typical speeds, and those of us with experience and a rear brake even understand the advantages of sliding out the rear wheel to aid in cornering fast. You can lean into corners, but you do need to understand the limits of your trike to make leaning effective and know where the tipping point is, understand the surface you are riding on, etc. Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 20:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.