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  1. #1
    pedal junkie
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    trike or swb, I can't decide!

    I'm looking to switch to a recumbent of one type or another due to hand/wrist/elbow pain caused by RSI/carpal tunnel.

    My goals for this yet un-purchased bike are commuting, 40-100 mile rides, and occasional weekend touring. Eventually I want to brevets and my hope is that with the comfort of a recumbent I'll be able to start doing that. I need to be able to mount a rear rack as well as fenders. I will keep one of my two DF bikes to use mostly for commuting (always good to have a 2nd commuter!). My commute is only 4.5 miles one-way.

    I've gone test-riding a few times. I like the Bacchetta Giro 26 pretty well (except sadly the terrible color removes it from the running) and also the Bacchetta Cafe though it's a bit long. Also, I have the opportunity to buy a used Rans Rocket 2007 for about $850. It's in very good shape and has been maintained by the owner who is a mechanic at the one local recumbent shop.

    After test riding some LWB and SWB 'bents, all with OSS (though I'm dying to try USS on a SWB) I had some time to waste so I took a few trikes out for a ride. Wow! I figured trikes would be fun but I didn't realize how fun. Just riding up and down one street I was thoroughly enjoying myself. The USS on the trike was the perfectly neutral hand/arm position I've been dreaming of, the seat very comfy, and I preferred the friction-shift barcons over the standard gripshifters of the other bents I rode. I tested one cattrike and one terratrike. The TerraTrike was definitely my favorite of the two. I liked the steering better as well as the smoother ride.

    What advice can you all give me on this decision? I never even considered doing this kind of riding on a trike, but after test-riding and talking to a co-worker who commuted & toured by trike for 4 years I find myself wanting to be convinced that a trike is the way to go. What are the down sides? Part of my reason for considering the trike is the USS. Sadly I'm unable to find any USS two-wheel 'bents to try out and am unwilling to buy a bike on ebay when I've never ridden that style.

  2. #2
    recumbent bike advocate Tractortom's Avatar
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    I've owned recumbents on and off since about 1985 or so. The first was a long wheel base, with under seat steering and a big sling seat. The bike as soft and easy to ride, the handlebar position was as you describe it, natural and easy. My next recumbent was a short wheel base with above seat steering. It was compact and fast, and a bit stiffer. But it had one of the hard shell seats, and was 'twichy' and I crashed it several times in the two years I rode it, leaving skin and blood on more than one corner. Then I made the decision to go to a Trike. I my case, I went with the Catrike, as I don't like the way that the Terra Trikes are put together. I went with a "Trail" model for the more upright seating, and then had the bike shop install the bar end friction shifters, and an upgraded bottom bracket and crank set. I LOVE IT. The seat is big and comfy like my first recumbent. I can't seem to tip it over, so no more blood and flesh on the pavement. I have rear rack on the bike with a top bag, and a plan for panniers soon. I'm really interested in a two wheel trailer too, so I can do some touring this winter here in South Florida.

    I'll not go back to a two wheeler any time soon. I'm SOLD on my Catrike....

    Tractor Tom in Okeechobee, FL

  3. #3
    low and laid back atom bomb's Avatar
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    Challenge Mistral, Hurricane and Seiran all can be fitted with USS. Also HPVelotechnik Grasshopper and Streetmachine. All great USS bikes suitable for your kind of riding. Too bad you can't test ride one of those. I ride an SWB and a trike and believe the trike can do all the things you are asking unless you are interested in fairly high average speeds. Actually on my regular 25 mile fast workout ride, I am quicker on the trike than my lightweight road bike. I think I would trust your reaction to your trike test ride. If I could only have one recumbent... I think it might be the trike.
    Atom Bomb

  4. #4
    pedal junkie
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    Quote Originally Posted by atom bomb View Post
    Challenge Mistral, Hurricane and Seiran all can be fitted with USS. Also HPVelotechnik Grasshopper and Streetmachine. All great USS bikes suitable for your kind of riding. Too bad you can't test ride one of those. I ride an SWB and a trike and believe the trike can do all the things you are asking unless you are interested in fairly high average speeds. Actually on my regular 25 mile fast workout ride, I am quicker on the trike than my lightweight road bike. I think I would trust your reaction to your trike test ride. If I could only have one recumbent... I think it might be the trike.
    I really like the Velotechnik streetmachine, at least on paper... Haven't seen one in real life yet. It is very encouraging to hear that you're faster on your trike than on your road bike! Also, my girlfriend agrees with your assessment that I should trust my reaction to the trike test ride.

  5. #5
    Senior Member juggleaddict's Avatar
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    i don't have my recumbent yet, but i'm going with oss just because you can mount things to the handlebars, including a windscreen. but unless you have a computer or want a bag up front for touring, this isn't a consideration. i hear USS is a little harder to get used to, especially on a short wheel base, but have no first hand experience

  6. #6
    Approaching Nirvana megaman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by atom bomb View Post
    I ride an SWB and a trike and believe the trike can do all the things you are asking unless you are interested in fairly high average speeds.
    Yeah, in general that pretty much sums it up. I am slightly faster on my EZ Sport than my Catrike. But I enjoy my trike so much that I haven't ridden my EZ Sport for almost 3 years. At this point I don't ever and I mean ever, see myself going back to any two wheeled bent.
    "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."
    -- Albert Einstein

  7. #7
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Just about any recumbent should greatly lessen your arm, hand, elbow issues.

    One point not much discussed is that riding a bicycle can help maintain or improve a person's ability to balance, while riding a tricycle does not.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Pockets's Avatar
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    Did TrailorTom say winter & South Flordia in the same breath??. Besides that I currently have 2 LWB bents Rans Stratus & V2, looking for a Trike too. Just keep like you are doing and test ride. The bike will find you.

  9. #9
    Senior Member bobbycorno's Avatar
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    According to Atom Bomb, "the trike can do all the things you are asking unless you are interested in fairly high average speeds. "

    Sounds to me like a deal-breaker if you're potentially interested in randonneuring, what with time limits and all. I've been rando'ing for three years now, the first two on various df's and this year on a highracer. I'm still very firmly middle of the pack, so it hasn't slowed me down any.

    Did my first 1200k this year, and the only part of me that was sore at the finish was my legs. Couldn'ta said that on any of my df's for sure. Of the 102 starters on the 1200, there were 4 bents: 1 SWB (a Barcroft), 2 highracers and a lowracer. There were 86 finishers, including all 4 'bents. But I digress...

    From what I've heard, trikes just have too much of a speed penalty to be a viable rando platform. Unless of course you're fast enough to be at the front of the pack on a 2-wheeler, and don't mind ending up in the middle or back of the pack instead.

    My $.02, adjusted for inflation.
    YMMV, of course.

    Scott P
    Bend, OR

  10. #10
    Approaching Nirvana megaman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JanMM View Post
    One point not much discussed is that riding a bicycle can help maintain or improve a person's ability to balance, while riding a tricycle does not.
    And how much energy one expends balancing a two wheeler.
    "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."
    -- Albert Einstein

  11. #11
    Senior Member scarabeoguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobbycorno View Post
    According to Atom Bomb, "the trike can do all the things you are asking unless you are interested in fairly high average speeds. "...............................................................

    ......................From what I've heard, trikes just have too much of a speed penalty to be a viable rando platform. Unless of course you're fast enough to be at the front of the pack on a 2-wheeler, and don't mind ending up in the middle or back of the pack instead.

    My $.02, adjusted for inflation.
    YMMV, of course.

    Scott P
    Bend, OR
    Not really accurate. Just like other forms of cycling it really depends on the trike. A performance trike like the Catrike 700 can be quite fast. My experience is that I am faster on mine then my 2 wheeler. However, I will say that there is a learning curve to riding a trike. It generally takes about 6 months to a year to develop your triking legs. I have ridden and owned SWB an other 2 wheeled "Bents" and for me the choice is the trike.

  12. #12
    pedal junkie
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    Rock!

    Thanks to you all I'm ready for some serious trike action. Found a 2 year old terratrike tour on craigslist and am anxiously waiting to hear if anyone else got to it before me.

  13. #13
    Senior Member gcottay's Avatar
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    The N+1 rule is especially important for recumbent riders.
    George
    Laissez les bon temps rouler

  14. #14
    Bikepath
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    I ride a LWB and enjoy it very much. I test rode a trike in heavy traffic. I just did not like looking down the tail pipe of the car ahead of me or riding in the shadow of the truck in back of me. I did not like my visiblity to others even on the bike trails. Intersections scared me.

  15. #15
    Approaching Nirvana megaman's Avatar
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    Many people don't care for riding in heavy traffic on a trike. At first I didn't venture to any more traveled street. Now it doesn't really make any difference to me. It's interesting that I find myself given much more room by vehicles on my trike than any other two wheeler.
    "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."
    -- Albert Einstein

  16. #16
    Bikepath
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    Quote Originally Posted by megaman View Post
    Many people don't care for riding in heavy traffic on a trike. At first I didn't venture to any more traveled street. Now it doesn't really make any difference to me. It's interesting that I find myself given much more room by vehicles on my trike than any other two wheeler.
    Are you able to see any scenery or traffic from sitting so low even on the bike trails?

  17. #17
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by atom bomb View Post
    I ride an SWB and a trike and believe the trike can do all the things you are asking unless you are interested in fairly high average speeds.

    Quote Originally Posted by scarabeoguy View Post
    Not really accurate. Just like other forms of cycling it really depends on the trike.
    I think the 'trikes are slower' isn't always true, but it's true often enough to make for a good rule of thumb. To tell the truth, I've never heard of "Terratrike" and "fast" being used in the same sentence, though. There's a reason why most trikes have a top gear of less than 100". Those low gears make it feel snappy on a parking lot test ride, but they're low because they're harder to get up to a decent cruising speed than a 2-wheeler. That doesn't make them bad, but IMHO it makes them a bad choice if speed and/or distance are priorities.

  18. #18
    Approaching Nirvana megaman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shortboat View Post
    Are you able to see any scenery or traffic from sitting so low even on the bike trails?
    Scenery isn't much of a problem unless the weeds next to the trail are pretty tall. Seeing other cyclists on a trail is no problem at all. At intersections though it may mean having to stop and look. But I never have to unclip. It really doesn't slow me down much cause I'm not usually in any big hurry, unless I promised my wife I'd be home by a certain time and I spaced it out. But sometimes riding a trike will do that to me.
    "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."
    -- Albert Einstein

  19. #19
    Member
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    Hey Particleman42!
    I was in the same situation as you but living in FNQ there were no bents to see, let alone test ride. I did a lot of research on the net and then decided upon a bent bike because I was planning to get into touring and my numb hands and sore bum were an issue. Trikes were a little too low slung for my liking as I was planning to do rough roads. I ended up with an Optima Lynxx from Holland. The basic models are $2200 new. They are well designed and recommended for touring. I wanted a heap of extras including USS, disc brakes, Front shocks, dyno hub & lights with standlights and a heavy duty set of rear paniers which made the bike compatible for my needs but bumped the price up to $4500. I'm happy with what I have got and have already done 3000k on it. The extras allow me to do the things I want with the bike. My visibility is enhanced because the lights are on all the time and now I can ride at night which is most excellennt. It is more streamlined than my MTB and the body length seat is very comfortable. I don't have the sore hands after 20k but the pressure points in the buttox do get sore after a time. Initially, balance was a bit of an issue especially in turns but I realised I was tracking the turn at my feet out in front of me rather than at the wheel which is under my bum. It is deadly in sand and like any touring bike turns into a push bike on steep or sustained hills. When you stop, you don't have to dismount. You pull on your brakes and drop your feet to the ground. On hills, as long as you are in granny gear, you can take off again as soon as your leg muscles have revived. I've never ridden a trike and I'm sure they have their pros and cons. I made my decision on my personal set of circumstances and you'll have to do the same. I hope I have been of some help.

  20. #20
    Member
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    When considering buying a recumbent, I thought of two issues. 1. How far I could comfortably "get off the road" when the traffic got a bit hectic. With a trike, I imagined I would still like to have both steering wheels on the road to be safe hence my lateral footprint wold be the wheelbase measurement of the trike. With a bent bike, I figured I could train myself to ride as close to the edge of the bitumen as possible in traffic and thus only half my body and my rear vision mirror need be over the bitumen, so the bike won out here. 2. When riding along trails or paths, the trike to me seemed to be wider than a bike so the bike won here too. I saw a dill the other day riding with a high vis flag mounted sideways on his right side demanding more road space. I thought it would encourage some yobbo in a vehicle to have a go and clip it. dangerous! My own visibility was an issue of concern too so I opted to have a dyno hub with head and tail lights that are on constantly. Being above the wheels on the bike makes me more visible and I also have an aussie flag mounted behind and above my headrest. After 3000k riding in FNQ away from urban areas, I'm still alive and have found other road users courteous and obliging. The hardest thing to handle are the stupid questions you get from tourists..."where's the engine?" ..."why do you ride a bike?"... "Is it hard to ride? etc.

  21. #21
    Senior Member gcottay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shortboat View Post
    Are you able to see any scenery or traffic from sitting so low even on the bike trails?
    For me, a Trice Q is the scenery watching ride of choice and a RANS Rocket the go (sorta) fast machine. The view from the trike can be obscured, but only rarely enough to miss good views. In traffic, the trike gets noticed by drivers but the low position does, at times, create blind spots for the rider. I've not found that a problem because those spots are easy to see and adjust for.
    George
    Laissez les bon temps rouler

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