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Tooling Around Town On Three Wheels

Published: Silent Sports, July 2002

Author: Greg Marr, Editor

Tooling Around Town on Three Wheels

Some Days, I have to stop and say to myself: I get paid for this? Not every day, naturally, not every week or every month. Melded to a computer, sifting through the detritus of silent sports material overflowing my desk to come up with a magazine you'll want to read, my job has many, many hours of just plain tedium to it. I'm not complaining - no job is without its downside, and I know I am fortunate that mine has more up than down. Take the past couple of weeks, for instance.

Seems that every few days, Rolf Garthus of the Hostel Shoppe shows up with another recumbent bicycle for me to try out. He delivers them to my door, for cryin' out loud, then comes and picks them up. Life is good, indeed.

Garthus is the reigning king of recumbent bike sales in the Midwest. Garthus has written numerous articles for us, explaining various recumbent makes and models. While he supplies you with the nuts and bolts info, I get to tag along and ride some of the bikes and, from a novice point of view, give you my impressions of what these laid-back two-wheelers feel like.

Lately, I've been fascinated by three-wheelers, trikes that are definately not the three-wheelers of our childhood. These are serious, honkin' machines built with precision from the finest materials, utilizing the latest in componentry and technology.

"So, Rolf," I say. "Maybe we should do a piece on those three-wheelers." Notice how I handled that - "we should do a piece" - knowing full well that Rolf would love to explain these rolling recliners while I would get to have the fun of riding them. (And I get paid for this?)

Regardless of two or three wheels, one thing is the same: riding recumbents still requires that you not be self-conscious. It's not as bad as it once was, as recumbents are becoming more popular, but if your personality isn't comfortable with you being the center of attention, stick to an upright, my friend.

"You're so low to the ground. I'd be worried about not being seen," someone told me, checking out the Greenspeed recumbent trike sitting in my garage.

"Don't worry about that," I said. "Believe me - you're seen out there."

Oh yes - you are definately seen, particularly on a trike. In fact, my fear is not being run over; rather, I'm afraid a motorized gawker is going to run into another car or a light pole. My little town just isn't ready for three-wheel recumbents. I test rode these bikes on the residential streets and town roads, not any major street where the gawker might do damage to himself or someone else.

OK - I exaggerate, but only a bit. The most unusual - and attention-getting - trike I had to play with was the Greenspeed tandem. That's right; a three-wheel, recumbent tandem. From the looks we were getting riding that, I half expected to see a TV truck videoing us for the next slow news day. My wife, stepson and stepdaughter were my cycling companions as we wheeled this sleek, fast and fun machine around town.

First, I should say that all three trikes I played with were an absolute blast. I couldn't wipe the grin off my face as I tooled around. But the tandem... now that's something special. I took the captain's seat (the front) and had the steering, rear derilleur and brakes. My various partners had pedals and the front derailleur. The only problem was that there isn't independent pedalling. I controlled the shifting but had to be told - or sense - when we had to go into an easier gear for my partner(s), or when to ease off on pedalling. The stokers all reported a sense of helplessness and a feeling like the rear end might whip out on turns, although that never happened. Overall, it was easy to operate, fast, extremely comfortable and just plain fun.

I also rode a Greenspeed GTO - a tadpole (two wheels in front), the same design as the tandem - and have to echo the above about easy to operate, comfortable, surprisingly nimble, and, again, a real hoot. The only problem I had with it was when I cranked on the pedals, I had a tendency to turn the handlebar a bit, giving it a slight side-to-side rock. I also managed to lift it a bit on two wheels taking a fast turn. Learning to lean corrected that problem. I could honestly see touring with the thing and would love to have it as a commuting bike.

The other bike I tried was a Hase Kett Weisel, a "delta" design with two wheels in back. I'd say the Greenspeed might be compared to an upright touring or cross bike, while the Kett Weisel seemed more of a racing bike. It was extremely stable, responsive and quick. This would be the trike, I thought, for a fast-paced club ride.

My brief experience was enough to get me wondering what it would be like to ride a trike every day - and that, for me, would be critical before plunking down three large for a bike. It seems, from this limited experience, the drawback to trikes, as I see it, is only one: the price. These remarkable, fun three-wheelers carry a price tag (for the higher-end trikes) of $2,500 and up (way up - think five large for the tandem). I'd love to have one back in the bike remuda but, well, as I said, I do get paid for this - just not enough for my wife to allow me such a toy.

- Greg Marr, Silent Sports