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100 rides on a TerraTrike Rambler

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100 rides on a TerraTrike Rambler

Old 07-24-19, 03:20 PM
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Darth Lefty 
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100 rides on a TerraTrike Rambler

I bought a tadpole trike to recover from a heart surgery. The surgeon ordered no bicycle for 6 months due to fall risk. So this is the compromise I didn't tell him - I got a bike off which I couldn't fall. I commuted on it for about 3 months, about 50 round trips. These were my impressions.

My overall conclusion about trikes is, it's a good vehicle but only if you need its features. (Recumbent posture, doesn't fall over, or you want to be along on a ride with someone else who needs it...) If you don't need one, keep your regular bike or explore 2-wheel recumbents. It's not as good as a regular bike, because it's slow and the small wheels make the ride harsh. If I were buying one to own indefinitely, I'd get one with rear suspension and/or a 26" or 700c rear.

The trike was a TerraTrike Rambler GT 27-speed, a 2014 model that was since replaced in the line-up by the folding Gran Turismo. The trike was made, painted and assembled to a good quality level. I negotiated hard to buy it for $900, then sold it for $1200, so that was nice. The only money I put into it was to replace the chain. It had been sitting outdoors under a cover for five years and I thought I'd need to replace the cables and repack the hubs which was a bullet point to my asking price, but it turned out not to need it.

Seating
The seat is comfortable, just the right shape. The bench part of the seat is really short to let the legs move. The angle is adjustable. I started with the seat as upright as it would go anticipating I'd have problems getting in. As I healed up and got used to the trike I lowered it several times until I started feeling like I was having to work to hold up my head. It could go a lot lower with a headrest, but it seems like a headrest would be jarring.

The boom requires adjustment at the same time as the seat, because when the seat pitches back the hip joint goes with it. When I first started with the seat upright I had the boom at the L mark and it still felt too short. Adjusted now, it's still above the M, and I'm 5-8, which makes me think I maybe ideally would still be back a bit further. But I feel neutral on it now and don't want to change any further. It would be nice to have an alignment mark on the boom and the frame. I've eyeballed it in the field while making adjustments and then lined it up better with a framing square on the bash guard when I got home.

I adjusted the steerers quite far back from the original angle to get a neutral wrist angle. This put them far enough back they'd run into me when I put the steering hard over. The arms are comfortable for a short ride but for a long ride I can see why some manufacturers sell elbow rests. But they'd be a mixed bag due to the harshness.

I had steady knee pain with this trike at first. This got a lot better when I changed my pedaling technique to keep my toes pointed rather than letting my heels dangle. But it never went completely away because I didn't always remember to do that. I think it must have something to do with how the weight of the leg is supported. I'm not an osteopath so I can't offer you a better explanation. Maybe it would be better with the arch on the spindle, which would also imply a need for shorter cranks. Back on DF bikes now the trouble seems to have gone away instantly.

Now here's something you might not read in other reviews... the seat does not support the nuts. Going over bumps they get jostled enough to notice. I've seen other trikes have a nose on their seats, which would help... and that brings me to the ride.

Ride
This is by far the harshest riding vehicle that I've ever owned. I can't recall any other that's rattled me so hard. This is easily blamed on the lower seat mount, which sits right on the axle, and the seat stays, which transmit impacts from the road directly into my shoulder blades and shake my neck, and the small wheels at medium high pressure. On a regular bike you get several cantilevered booms (fork, seat post) insulating you from these hits. So while yes I got the load off my arms, my chest was jarred by the ride. Nuts too. Switching to a Big Apple tire on the rear was an enormous improvement for the rear, and as my recovery continued it became more tolerable, but it's still pretty harsh. Harsher than a road bike with 23's. I can't imagine the trikes that have the seat built into the frame are any better, and I absolutely think rear suspension is a good idea. The front is not so big a problem. The hands are lightly resting on the very flexy tillers... which brings me to the handling.

Handling
The handling of the trike is really stable and neutral. I've had no tendency at all in the mileage I've done for the rear to slide, and that's a safe situation. I've had a couple of times where the inside front wheel came up, usually when changing direction too quickly, but it was easy enough to countersteer out of it or grap the brake to slide the down wheel. More common has been the front tires scrubbing. I have not been able to corner as hard as on a regular diamond frame bike. I can see why a lower seating position would be a big improvement for the handling.

The steering had some hysteresis. I don't know if this is normal. It seems free when the trike is off the ground. I tried adjusting the headsets (they look like threadless headsets but have bushings), and checking the alignment - though the alignment was done by the dealership when it was new and I've got no grounds to think it could go out of adjustment. Because the steering is stiff I've had cause to learn that the steerers are very flexible.

I guess here is where I should mention that this thing is slow. I get about the same speed on pavement as my trail MTB on mixed terrain. This is ok, I never expected it to be fast. I'm not sure of the specific cause. I'm sure that having three wheels doesn't help, neither does cantilevered axles or the chain tube or the idler. The aerodynamics don't seem like they would be any worse than a MTB and I'm not going fast enough for a lot of drag to be happening anyhow. It would be interesting to have a power meter going but I don't have one nor do I have anything to compare it to.

Components
Brakes - the brakes are Avid BB7 and Promax levers with a parking brake. The levers don't feel premium but they work fine and the parking brake feature is nice. I had a steady problem with a warped rotor on the left but never got around to fixing it before selling it. The only difference between this on a trike vs a regular bike is that the scuffing of the warped rotor was less when turning one way than the other because of how the spindle flexes.

Shifters - The shifters were SRAM grip shift. I hate these things, the downshift is muddy and the upshift feels like you're breaking something, but they worked as normal. The RD was an SLX 9-speed Shadow style. The FD was not memorable.

Cranks - Triple front FSA crank 53-42-30 with square taper BB. Servicable. Had only one chain drop. I still hate triples, but the trike really needs the widest possible range. Nice bash guard added by the shop.

Wheels - BMX size 36 spoke, no issues.

Tires - The trike came to me with Marathons all around. One of them had a hop. I switched the rear to the front and put a Big Apple Plus on the rear, what an improvement in the ride. In four hundred miles I had a LOT of front tire wear - like replace well before 1000 amount. I did not determine if this was due to misalignment or understeer. I admit I did a lot of understeer. It didn't take much turning force to get the tires to complain.

The trike came with some accessories. Good ones were a seat back bag, a Topeak MTX rack and top bag with fold out panniers, and an accessory mount on the front for a light. It also had a wireless computer that would have been better wired, a good looking frame pump I never had cause to use and fitted cover I used once. It also had wing mirrors, which were ok to look in but added width and got banged around. Some mirrors that come up from inside the grips like any motorcycle or scooter would have been better.

Apologies for changes in tense through this document, I wrote some before and some after the sale.
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Old 07-24-19, 03:35 PM
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The trike
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Old 07-24-19, 03:35 PM
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Tire wear
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Old 07-24-19, 05:05 PM
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Good review, Darth. I think that much tire wear means an alignment issue, which almost certainly affected speed. The thing with trikes is, they flex just under the rider's weight and alignment must be done with someone of similar weight on it at the time. I'm pretty sure that at least one other factor in the slowness is that the boom flexes during pedaling. That's a shortcoming in most tadpole trikes.
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Old 07-25-19, 11:40 AM
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My Bike Friday Pocket Rocket (20" high-pressure tires) is considerably more "buzzy" on chipseal than other bikes I've ridden, I assume that's largely wheel size responsible.
A friend of mine had off-and-on knee pain on a Bachetta recumbent, and finally solved it by putting additional cushion material on the seat- basically a minor tweak to geometry, but in a direction that the seat doesn't allow adjustment. Don't know if that works for anyone else.
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Old 07-25-19, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
My Bike Friday Pocket Rocket (20" high-pressure tires) is considerably more "buzzy" on chipseal than other bikes I've ridden, I assume that's largely wheel size responsible.
Yeah, but you'd be amazed how much your seat post flexes if you could see it. On the trike the seat stays go straight from the rear hub to the shoulder blades. Check out this wooden bridge:
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