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There is a new cat at my house. I really don’t usually like cats very much but this one is different. It’s sort of a 3-legged cat — Catrike, that is — the now-almost-famous three-wheeled recumbent cycle that has replaced the “normal” bike that carried me for 2800 wonderful miles last year. So yes, that’s correct: I am an adult and I ride a tricycle. Mine is the Catrike Expedition.
All about the three-wheeled recumbent cycle
I keep calling it my 3-wheeled BIcycle but, of course, that doesn’t gee-haw. And what the heck is a recumbent bike, anyway? Some folks, before they learn about these things or see one in action, the recumbent is often associated with a physical disability need. They can be ridden by persons who for any reason cannot position upon or balance an upright, but there’s more. In fact, the speed record is 82.82 mph on a recumbent. So what is a three-wheeled recumbent cycle?
Rolling lounge chair? Pedal-powered gocart? Street luge? Yep, it’s all of those. There are two styles, the “tadpole” configuration with two wheels in front and the “delta” with the two wheels in the rear. The “tadpole” moniker refers to the slight wiggle the machine makes while pedaling. The trike is fast and fun and I can explain it no better than does a page at Utah Trikes, a well-known dealer in trikes.
Why ride a recumbent?
Why did I switch? Turns out it was fairly simple. My friend Don Bynum has been on a trike for many years and always chided me for continuing to ride the (his term) prostate crusher. While the upright bike seat is potentially harsh on certain male body parts, my main impetus arose after a 2-level fusion in my cervical spine area. As I learned (thanks, Becky), the human head weighs 11-12 pounds on the average (yeah, I’ve been accused of a larger one), plus helmet, and the upright bike requires constant tension on the neck and through the back to hold it up. That with the upward craning of the neck which bends the neck in exactly the wrong direction sold the deal.
My experience so far on the three-wheeled recumbent cycle
How have I found the new machine? Different, fun and potentially scary come to mind. So far I have 355 miles on it, have burned 20,000 calories, and climbed over 13,000 feet. Top speed so far has been 40.6 mph on August 4, 2012.
There is no way to demonstrate it better than in video. Don and I joined Dave Rhoades’ Saturday morning Mormon Mill Road group for a blast out MM Road/Burnet County 240. This video shows our assault on “The Beast” of Mormon Mill Road. You will hear several clicks as I upshift (it has a triple chain ring and 10 gear rear sprocket) and at the 35-38 second area of the video you will see my pedal speed drop as I shifted twice and took a few seconds to spin back up.
That’s what 40 mph looks like a few inches off the ground. Some comparisons to my first ride on MM Road on the upright bike
in December of 2010 are interesting. Each category shows the upright (Scattante R570) / Catrike:
Weight: 22 / 35 lbs (thus a speed disadvantage while climbing hills)
Avg speed: 13.1 / 12.1 mph
Top speed: 29.0 / 40.6
The most interesting data point (yes, I am a self-confessed data junkie) is that my average heart rate is almost identical between the two cycles while the peak rate is quite lower on the recumbent. The peak rate climbing The Beast on the Scattante was typically 175 bpm and on the Catrike yesterday it was 154. On other routes short of really steep climbs on the upright, my maximum heart rate would often get well into the 160’s but on the Catrike I have not yet hit 160. There is a simple (to me) physiological explanation: my heart doesn’t have to pump blood uphill as much on the recumbent. I was off of cycling for six months so I expect the heart rate figures to come on down as I regain my former conditioning.
I did mention potentially scary. On one ride recently I gleefully descended a moderately steep hill at around 30 mph into a curve which — to my extreme surprise — had a slightly decreasing radius. That means the curve gets tighter as you get into it! I leaned into the turn but, to my momentary but instantaneous surprise, the inside front wheel lifted slightly off the ground and the rear wheel drifted a bit. The “event” did not last long but it convinced me of the benefit of the tadpole design over the delta (single front wheel) design which would have been delta in the ditch!
Initial conclusions about the trike
The verdict? Good move. I can ride this machine for many years and once I get the legs all the way back, I’ll be as fast as I was on the upright. Many excellent cycling posts featuring the Catrike three-wheeled recumbent cycle can be found on Don Bynum’s blog featuring his Catrike Road and the many friends with whom we often ride.
You want one too?
The friendly purveyor of my trusty steed — red ryder — was Mike at Easy Street Recumbents in Austin who now has several of my hard-earned dollars, more than anticipated since while I was checking out red ryder at delivery he was inside showing my wife how to not-necessarily-so-gracefully become ensconced within a Catrike Trail. She now has a Candy Purple Trail that is rapidly becoming her best friend.
Mike is a good guy, in spite of having picked my pocket 🙂
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