Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Addiction Begins

Trike owners, whether homebuilt or commercial, never stop at just one. Not content to just mod one trike forever, soon trike enthusiasts have entire "stables" of trikes. Now it is true of me as well. While I still get a thrill whenever I sit on the giant 60 pound homebuilt Cadillac of trikes, I felt a need to try a commercial trike with a few less pounds on it.

In large part due to monetary constraints, I went for a relatively inexpensive aluminum trike from RecumbentUSA, being sure to get it via eBay. I paid $672 dollars plus shipping. The trike, a budget one, normally sells for about $1400. There are better $1400 trikes, but no better $672 dollar trike (except possibly a homebuilt made by someone with TIG welding skills ;p). I can always upgrade components, and could do a fair bit of that before reaching $1400.

I won't bore you with the common endless debate of cost versus quality. Suffice it to say that "You get what you pay for" works both ways- $3000 plus dollars will get you quality, but how much more? At some point you're keeping up with the Joneses. Somewhere inbetween is what we call a bargain.

So did I get a bargain? Let's take a look.

So I won an eBay auction for a "Trike II" non-suspended trike from
In about a week it arrived via UPS. Let's unpack the box and assemble it:

The trike came semi-assembled and was really quite easy to put the few large sections together. Ah but it is in the adjustments that time is consumed. There were some nice inclusions I didn't expect for a budget trike, like touch-up paint and SPD compatible pedals which also had toeclips and straps. The tyres are nylon Kenda tyres I'm sure I'll replace. The disc brakes are Tektro, not the most respected name in brakes. As such upgrading the brakes to Avids is going to be my first real (actual money) upgrade.

I like that the tie rod ends have grease nipples. I'm not sure the somewhat small ball joints have the full range of motion I like though, so a simple and cheap mod in the future may be to replace the tie rod and ball joints with bigger ones.

Here we have the mostly assembled trike.

The rear derailleur and cluster. Bargain but not no-name (Shimano and SRAM). 11- 34 tooth. I'm quite happy with the performance so far. The derailleur has a very nice range of motion and shifting once the drive train was adjusted is easy and flawless.

The adjustable boom with 30-42-52 tooth rings and three piece crankset.

Now here we have a wee bit of a problem. Where the cross beam attaches to the main boom with 4 large bolts, the main boom and cross beam don't quite seat flush against one another. It's still rock solid attached, but if nothing else it is a cosmetic scar I'd rather do without, and a symptom of less than ideal craftsmanship. Six hundred and seventy two dollars. So long as it stays rock solid I'll take it. Maybe add a rubber shim. Am I worrying too much about that? Do other trikes not have the cross beam and main boom absolutely flush against each other?

The sturdy mesh for the lightweight seat is strapped on with large zip ties. Clearly a budget choice over the sort of webbing straps and fasteners other trikes have, but have you ever tried to break a zip tie? Also moddable for a few bucks.

Here we see how the mesh slips over the adjustable joints of the seat frame.

The assembled trike next to it's bigger and older (and more stylish) cousin.

The trike is so much more lightweight compared to the 60 pound homebuilt trike. It is more nimble too (perhaps to a fault), and I can ride alot further before running out of steam. Uphill is certainly more easy. I can actually coast uphill on very small grades. That would never happen with the big guy. The turning radius is worse though. The big home-perfected trike's steering is impeccable for it's size- it parks like a tourbus, huge but can almost go sideways. Further adjustments will hopefully improve the turn radius. There's significant brake steer as well which I hope to correct with more tweaking.

As of now I'm very happy with my purchase.

I'll update my satisfaction with the trike over time, and maybe upload a video or two.

More importantly, how am I going to adorn my new trike? I can hardly leave it budget-boring and modern. Not a fan. Besides I just have to be different. When Alan and I were first going to make the Brass Lion the other idea we had besides decorating it in a Neo-Victorian style was to go with Art Deco. As you might imagine all things cycle and Art Deco go quite well together. Some bicycles and accessories are Art Deco by default. Why every trike most be decorated in the same colour schemes and with logos I don't know. But you don't see a fourth the variety in appearance of trikes as you do in the larger bicycle world. So I'm thinking a wee bit of Art Deco. Bullet headlight (the guts can be any budget) and appropriate tailight, probably mounted on a very sweet shiney fender. The Honjo French-inspired aluminum fenders are very easy on the eyes. Check them out at Velo Orange. But we're talking chrome instead of brass, nice rounded aerodynamic shapes, appropriate colours (the already flat black trike is a good start). Maybe a pin stripe.


hmw46 said...

Nice trike! If you're happy, that's all that counts. Have fun!

from BROL

Simple Nature Spirit said...

Heck of a deal you got on the trike. I am well familiar with the model. The size of the ball joint [rod ends] is not the problem, it is the range of motion. A common mod is to use axle cones under the ball. Personally, I prefer the studded rod ends as they provide 50 degrees of motion. Also, when you want to upgrade the idler, let me know. I've developed one specifically for this trike.