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  1. #1
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    Riding Trikes on the Road

    Hi, all -

    Been looking at the various trikes. In principal I like the trike idea a lot - the stability, not falling over at low speeds, the low stance, less wind resistence, etc., etc.

    But, I'm concerned about riding something like this on the road. They have a much wider stance than a regular bike, yes? It seems like you'd have to drop a wheel off the road to avoid intruding into the traffic. And they're significanly lower which suggests visibility problems, both for the rider and the surrounding traffic.

    Is anyone out there doing any serious road riding/commuting on a trike? In an urban area? Please share your thoughts and experiences.

    Much appreciated,
    rickb

  2. #2
    Recumbent Ninja
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    If you're riding that close to the curb/dropoff, you're going to have an accident on any bike, IMO. Take the lane - you'll be safer no matter the bike. Cars WILL see you towards the middle of the lane - they're not looking along the edges. Too busy talking on their cellphones.

  3. #3
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Point number one, vehicle width, isn't a big issue since the total package isn't much wider than the rider anyway. You shouldn't be riding a 2-wheeler closer than that to the edge of the pavement anyway, for maneuverability and safety reasons, and cars are supposed to give you 3 feet of clearance, for maneuverability in that direction. (Unlike trikes, bikes must be steered back and forth in order to balance.)

    Point number two gets discussed ad nauseum every time someone wants to buy a trike. Suffice it to say that height does not equal visibility, nor does shortness equal invisibility. If you ride in heavy stop-and-go traffic or where there are wall-to-wall parked cars, the more pressing issue would be seeing over the cars' hoods.

  4. #4
    Senior Member geebee's Avatar
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    I ride a trike in traffic all the time (small capital city), no worries as cars will give you much more clearance than a bike and you can track dead straight even at low speeds, also you can out brake any normal bike by a huge margin which adds to the saftey.
    If you do have to drop a wheel in the rough it will be a non event unlike a 2 wheeler where there is a chance of loosing it.
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  5. #5
    Tossed some weight Redrom's Avatar
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    I love riding my Tandem Trike, but your concerns are valid. One thing you find with riding a trike vs 2 wheels is that you actually have three times the ability to hit divots and road debris. With the two wheels "in-line", you are continually navigating a specific path to minimize what you ride over. With a trike you have three tire paths to be conscious of, and as a result you end up running over lots of items you wouldn't have otherwise. This relates to your concern about getting over to the side of the road, because on two wheels, you can have almost half of your width actually off road; not the same on a trike. I agree that one wouldn't spend all their time right on the edge, but who hasn't gotten over as far as they could when they heard a threatening engine coming up behind them?

    Being low is a concern. Especially in a parking lot where cars will be backing up by looking in their rear view mirrors. I realize you're asking about road riding, but in my experience road trips always involve a parking lot for some reason or another. Get the biggest most outrageous flag you can get, or expect to not be seen. I've recently moved, and found that location actually plays a large role in being seen. If your location is one where lots of people ride bikes, then motorists are more prepared for you to be there, and are more able to "see" you. Hey, my trike is 10.5' long but not being more than 30" off the road keeps me from being seen in certain situations.

    Personally, I try to keep my trike on the bike path as much as possible, and carefully choose the roads I have to ride on.

  6. #6
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    I ride 60km/h roads every day on my way to and from work. I've been commuting for over a year by bike, and never skipped a day. Rain or shine or snow, I've never had a problem with cars. I force my position in the lane, and don't let cars squeeze by if it's unsafe. If I'm toodling along at 15km/h, I stay to the right. However, if I'm going 50 km/h I often just move straight into the middle - it makes me more visible and cars are less likely to pass or quick make a turn before I reach an intersection.

    Visibility is a concern, but it's not nearly as bad as you think. I don't ride with a flag, but when it's dark I'm lit up like an emergency vehicle (or so I've been told). I've had car drivers tell me that they didn't see me - in broad daylight - but I suspect they wouldn't have seen a gorilla charging down the road either. That's why it's important to keep your eyes on driveways and intersections. I always try to make sure I can see a driver's eyes as they slowly inch onto the road from a driveway. If I can see them, they can see me. If I don't see their eyes, my hands move to the brakes and prepare for an emergency dodge (never happened yet!) In intersections, having cars cross at the same time as you can make things a lot safer, but try to avoid crossing directly behind a vehicle - especially trucks. Cars will try to make their turn right after the truck has passed - directly into you.

    The benefit of having three wheels is that if you do come upon a road imperfection that you can't dodge, it's usually safe to just take the hit and roll over it. I do it all the time, usually because it's not safe to scoot around. You can't do that on a bike.

    In short, don't let yourself get pushed around, ride as if they can't see you, respect the laws of the road (NO filtering or red light running!) and you'll be fine.
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  7. #7
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    Thanks for replies.

    A lot of it depends, I suspect, on the culture of the community. I spent the last nine months in Houston on contract - about the most bike-unfriendly town I've ever been in. No shoulders on the roads, lots of rough patches, grates that line in the direction of travel. I got more pinch flats on my two-wheeler than I knew what to do with. I finally resorted to an oversized MTB type tire and just over-inflated it so it didn't slow me down, too much.

    Oh - and honked at, gesticulated at on a regular basis.

    So, a town like that is bad enough on a two-wheeler - I don't think I'd try it on a three-wheeler (and definitely never tried it on a recumbent - no margin for error. A slow speed 'wobbly' would have pretty dire consequences, I think.)

    I suspect Kitchener, Ontario would be an entirely different culture - a bit more polite on the road, for one thing.

    Thanx,
    rickb
    Last edited by rickbsgu; 05-15-07 at 10:11 PM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by aikigreg
    If you're riding that close to the curb/dropoff, you're going to have an accident on any bike, IMO. Take the lane - you'll be safer no matter the bike. Cars WILL see you towards the middle of the lane - they're not looking along the edges. Too busy talking on their cellphones.
    Yes, but that's kind of the crux of my question: on a two-wheeler, I don't have to ride that close to the edge because I've got a very narrow width - just the width of my shoulders and pedals. It seems on a three-wheeler, you would have to stay closer to the edge to maintain the same clearance on the traffic side.

    Taking the lane is a fantasy, IMO, unless you can traffic flow (which it's your responsibility to do, as the operator of the vehicle.) It works in Europe or even in major US cities during rush hour, because the traffic is at a stand-still or moving slowly, anyway. But if it's zipping along pell-mell at 50 mph (not unusual for major roads in a town), taking the lane is a recipe for suicide or, at the very least, adding fuel to the argument of drivers who don't think you should be on the road in the first place.

    Thanx,
    rickb
    Last edited by rickbsgu; 05-15-07 at 10:14 PM.

  9. #9
    Recumbent Evangelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by rickbsgu
    I suspect Kitchener, Ontario would be an entirely different culture - a bit more polite on the road, for one thing.

    Thanx,
    rickb
    A city of about 200,000, so not very big. And yeah, most people here are pretty friendly.

    Also, I said 50kph, not mph! There are no 50mph (about 80km/h, I guess?) inside the city, only country roads. And there, cars have plenty of room to pass safely.
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  10. #10
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    I have the visibility concern as well. I practice a laxed version of "VC" but it does work and I'm comfortable with it. Especially since I'm eye-to-eye with SUV soccer moms. So if they're too close to me, I can turn my head and look at her right in the eyes while she's yapping away on the cellphone. That usually gets her attention. "The stare" is often intimidating.

    That would be hard to do with a trike.

    I was wondering about Jeff-o's "lit up like a christmas tree" idea. Would it help in the daytime as well? I have a feeling blinking lights all over an orange flagpole is going to grab a huge amount of attention. Even if the drivers get a chuckle out of it and think it's stupid, at least that means they saw me.

    I would tend to think that practicing "VC" (Vehicular Cycling) is even more relevant with trikes than bicycles.

    Any experienced Trike users want to chime in on that?

  11. #11
    Recumbent Evangelist
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    Nah, I don't think blinking lights would help in daytime - just picture a fire truck and how little the lights stand out during the day. Sure you can see them blinking away, but they don't grab your attention like they do at night.

    And yes, I think that VC is definitely more relevant for trikers.
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  12. #12
    e-Biker
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    Hmmm.... fire trucks... hmmm.... strobes.... hmmm... "strobe on a pole".
    If they're right behind me and have a strobe right at their eye level... I'm sure they'll see it just fine... even in daytime.

  13. #13
    Recumbent Evangelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zeuser
    Hmmm.... fire trucks... hmmm.... strobes.... hmmm... "strobe on a pole".
    If they're right behind me and have a strobe right at their eye level... I'm sure they'll see it just fine... even in daytime.
    Well, there are some trikers who have mounted a radio shack a xenon strobe light to their trike...
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeff-o
    Well, there are some trikers who have mounted a radio shack a xenon strobe light to their trike...
    Hmm. Seems like you'd run into legal issues, there.

    The red flashers are certainly great at night - drivers are attuned to any red or yellow flashing lights siince it usually denotes something to be aware of (barrier, constuction, etc.)

    I noted the flasher companies used to make orange flashers for the front, but have discontinued them - wonder if they ran into legality issues there? Seemed like a good idea.

    rickb
    Last edited by rickbsgu; 05-15-07 at 10:17 PM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Technically, flashers are illegal in most places, reserved for emergency vehicles, don'cha know!??? In spite of that, I've never heard of someone getting a ticket for it. What I *have* heard as a reason for getting a ticket: riding without a rear reflector, even when you have a taillight. But the rules don't require a light, they require a reflector!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazingPedals
    Technically, flashers are illegal in most places, reserved for emergency vehicles, don'cha know!??? In spite of that, I've never heard of someone getting a ticket for it. What I *have* heard as a reason for getting a ticket: riding without a rear reflector, even when you have a taillight. But the rules don't require a light, they require a reflector!
    Wait a minute... don't most taillights have reflectors as well? I know mine does. If I point my car's headlights at my bike's taillight, and it's off, it is reflecting.

  17. #17
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    Hmmmm, my wife rides a delta recumbent trike (Sun EZ-2 SX) in traffic daily and gets more space from the cars than I do. She often gets a full lane! The drivers that pass and honk even wave with ALL their fingers!

    She rides with a Blaze Orange hunters vest over the seatback and a flag, by the way for enhanced visibility.




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  18. #18
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zeuser
    Wait a minute... don't most taillights have reflectors as well? I know mine does. If I point my car's headlights at my bike's taillight, and it's off, it is reflecting.
    Nope, most rear blinkies do not meet CPSC reflector standards, and as such are not deemed legal to use in place of a reflector. Cateye I think has one model that does, the 'Reflex.' There's probably a few others, too.

  19. #19
    Senior Member geebee's Avatar
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    Regarding the difference in width being a benefit to a bike it may be true that if you never wobble or deviate from exact line you would need less room but other than down hill I almost never see a 2 wheeler keeping an accurate line also on some of our dodgy roads they tend to ride well out from the curb to get a stable/safe riding surface, this is not required on a trike.
    On a trike you can sit your wheel on a painted line and keep it dead on the line at any speed from zero upward including corners, in reality it is not required to do so as cars will give you alot more room, I occasionally ride a folder or MTB on the road to remind myself of why I love recumbent trikes, especially with the MTB cars will almost scrape the handle bars as they go past, same route on the trike a close shave is if they get closer than 2'.
    But each to his own, some can never enjoy/adjust to being so low in traffic, personally the lower the better as it means even higher speed cornering and less air/wind drag. I have worked out a viable design with a 2" seat height my last build had a 5" seat height and my GT3 about 10".
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazingPedals
    Technically, flashers are illegal in most places, reserved for emergency vehicles, don'cha know!??? In spite of that, I've never heard of someone getting a ticket for it. What I *have* heard as a reason for getting a ticket: riding without a rear reflector, even when you have a taillight. But the rules don't require a light, they require a reflector!
    Well, the radio shack ones are amber. Red and white strobes would certainly be illegal. I've never heard of anyone getting a ticket for having a strobe on their bike, though. The cops would probably be glad that you're making yourself visiblle; one less Ninja Cyclist to worry about!
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  21. #21
    Be the Bike BikeZen.org's Avatar
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    GeeBee,

    I'm glad you brought up the topic of seat height. What height works best in terms of safety? Low height seems safer in terms of stability at speed and around turns, but more dangerous in terms of going over obstacles.

    I'm considering moving to a trike after my recent accident with my high-racer. I really enjoy biking to work (50 miles round trip) and plan to resume doing so as soon as I am able -- perhaps with a new trike!

    Thanks in advance for input.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Lt.Gustl's Avatar
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    lotta places have blinking light exceptions thanks to motorcycle lobbying, called "modulators" rather than blinkies they have them for the brake lights and the headlights in some instances, seen some exemptions for bikes and pedestrians too, color requirements are sometimes different, don't know the specifics either for a bike in transit across state lines that conflicts with the origin states vehicle and traffic law.

  23. #23
    eternalvoyage
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    There are all kinds of inattentive, irresponsible, impaired and drunk drivers on the road. Be very careful when you are out in traffic. It's probably best to find the quietest routes and times you can.

  24. #24
    Senior Member geebee's Avatar
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    The commercial touring type trikes seem to be around 7" 10" height, and they are probally a good comprimise especially if the seat is 35~40 degrees as it allows a very good veiw of whats going on around you, with appropriate body english a 10" seat height will allow VERY high cornering speeds, enough to make cars think twice at following at the same speed around a corner.
    Having said that and ridden my GT3 for a few years I don't have any problems with the lower trike but it could be a bit off putting to a newbie triker and the more reclined seat makes turning to see over your shoulder a bit more difficult, mirrors are essential on a trike and properly setup will give better input of the traffic behind than on a df bike.
    If you are into speed a full fairing is a better investment than a lower trike but I like tinkering.
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  25. #25
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    Safety/seat height

    Quote Originally Posted by BikeZen.org
    GeeBee,

    I'm glad you brought up the topic of seat height. What height works best in terms of safety? Low height seems safer in terms of stability at speed and around turns, but more dangerous in terms of going over obstacles.

    I'm considering moving to a trike after my recent accident with my high-racer. I really enjoy biking to work (50 miles round trip) and plan to resume doing so as soon as I am able -- perhaps with a new trike!

    Thanks in advance for input.
    Mostly the seat height doesn't matter. While I have ridden a Big Apple equipped Trice T off a full height curb and back up just to see if I could, a curb wouldn't normally qualify as an obstacle. My wife's QNT and my LoGo have no more than 3 to 3 1/2 inches of clearance and neither has ever touched bottom including riding on rutted dirt roads--you just have to pick your way more carefully.

    A recent sale to an early mountain bike pioneer was a T because he wants to be able to run the back roads (perhaps literally off-road as well) without thinking about it--the T would have 8 inches of clearance with fat tires. Trike commuters have chosen both Qs and Ts depending on how they felt on the trike rather than the clearance per se.

    One rider came in after a wreck on his two-wheeled recumbent. He ended up with a serious divet in the top of his foot and, being self-employed, determined that he could no longer afford the risk. He chose the lower trike, perhaps looking for the opposite of his recent calamity.

    You would likely be fine with any reasonable clearance. Of course the high clearance of a T would give you options--even curb jumping options--that you wouldn't have with a standard height trike, but you will have a safer ride either way. One extra benefit of a trike commute, by the way, is that when you don't have to watch the little patch of pavement right in front of you for wreck-inducing irregularities, you can spend much more time watching the cars for bizzare things they might do.

    Chip
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