Saturday, September 12, 2015

Catrike 700!

Well I've taken the plunge and added this Catrike 700 performance trike to my fleet.  I always knew I would end up with a three-wheeler eventually but I figured it would be later in my golden years.  Over the past few years I've noticed the uptick in trike popularity and I have been seeing more and more of them on the trails.

My first experience on three wheels was with a little red one that had a fixed gear.  That was roughly forty years ago.  I probably put more miles on that thing with one foot on the rear platform and kicking off with the other than I did sitting properly on the hard metal seat.  I still remember the tiny crankset spinning madly by itself as I whipped up and down the driveway and neighborhood sidewalks.

That little red trike was the rabbit hole I fell through that landed me in the wonderful world of bikes.  Like most kids I soon felt the pull of two-wheeled freedom and quickly forgot about my trike once I mastered the ability to balance a regular upright bike.

A couple decades later as a young adult still immersed in cycling culture I had my second brush with the trike.  After work I would often hang out at the local Schwinn bike shop and shoot the breeze with my friend Jeff who ran the place.  One day I noticed a low sleek three-wheeler sitting there in the shop. It was a tadpole style; two wheels in the front and one trailing behind, with a boom mounted crank set at the front.  I don't remember what exclamation of wonder I uttered but Jeff noting my enthusiasm said "Take it for a ride." 

What!? really? OK! We wheeled it out the door and I took off on my first ever recumbent ride.  The trike which was in the shop for regular maintenance wasn't a home built but did not have any markings so I have no idea of what brand it was.  The trike had 20" wheels all around shod with narrow high pressure tires and a sporty red paint job.  I still remember the turn like it's on rails-go cart like feel that little scooter had.  The seeds were sown.

Jumping forward another twenty years along my trike timeline brings us to the present and I find myself once again under the spell of three wheels.  So what caused this sudden onset of trike madness?  I was just saying I figured my beard would be long and white by the time the circle of life was complete and I found myself back on a trike.  One word, well two actually: RoadQueen.

Even before we met the RoadQueen was thinking about a bicycle.  She did pick up a nice 700c equipped hybrid but after hooking up with a bike nut such as myself who regularly enjoys a 2, 3 or even 4 hour ride she quickly realized the standard bike seat wouldn't cut the mustard.  She discovered recumbent trikes on her own and said "That's what I want!"  

One day just for fun she spec'ed out her dream trike on the Utah Trikes website and sent me the details in an email.  She had no idea I was going to place the order and it resulted in a great surprise for her.  Initially I had planned to just ride my HP Street Machine while the RoadQueen developed her recumbent legs but who's kidding who I had to get in on the trike action too so I pulled the trigger on the Catrike 700 I've had my eye on.

Eventually a couple huge boxes arrived via truck freight after an excruciating month long wait.  The long lead time was due to waiting on RQ's Ice Sprint to be shipped from England to Utah and then even more time was required for the custom hot pink paint job.

Ultimately it was worth the wait for that sweet paint.  That's the reason we chose Utah Trikes over a dealer closer to home; They offer custom paint.

So lets get to the meat of this post and talk about the trike experience.  There was no question Catrike was my chosen machine.  I love the fact that these three wheelers are completely built in Catrike's state of the art manufacturing shop in Orlando, Florida.

A few well thought out details sold me on the Catrike design.  As with all the models in the lineup the seat frame is actually part of the overall chassis of the trike.  It's a unique feature that makes perfect sense.  No separate seat and attachment hardware to add weight and cause noise.  I cannot stand squeaks and tics coming from the components of my bikes.

The one caveat with the Catrike seat is that there is no adjustment of recline possible. This was not a concern for me because from the very first time I settled back into the mesh seat it felt as if the frame was made just for me.  The angle of recline may be a touch more laid back than the Street Machine I've spent the last seven years on but it feels perfectly fine to me.  

For control Catrike employs what is called direct steering.  Instead of a complicated linkage system the Catrike's steering arms are directly connected to standard bicycle size head tubes with a simple tie rod to hold the front wheels in alignment.

Some point out that this setup causes the steering to be too twitchy but I prefer precise and responsive handling so I like the direct steering.  Just like the Street Machine with its under seat steering the bars are simply a place for the hands to rest.  The trike responds instantly to the slightest inputs to the bars.  Steering is quick and intuitive.

A nice finishing touch and added creature comfort are the wrist rests mounted below the grips.  These oval foam pads are visible in the picture of the trike while still in the box.   

The 700 is Catrike's flagship performance machine.  It has no suspension and no folding capability which seems to be all the rage in the trike world these days.  The 700 name comes from the rear drive wheel size: 700c.  The big wheel not only looks cool but keeps the gear ratios the same as the typical road bike.

Because of the narrow high pressure Schwalbe Durano tires and no suspension I was expecting a harsh ride but it's not that bad.  It really doesn't feel any worse than my road bike.  Acceleration and ease at cruising speed is where the 700 shines.  Of course I'm faster on my road bike but the 700 is no slouch by any means.  On my last ride of 27 miles on the Heart of Ohio Trail I logged 15.8 mph average speed.  Sitting just inches off the ground enhances the perception of speed adding to the fun.

Years ago I purchased my full suspension Street Machine because its main purpose is long distance touring; something I thought I might be interested in pursuing.  While I do love the cushy ride the Street Machine is a heavy bike.  Because most of my rides are only 20-40 miles in length I don't really need a touring bike or the extra weight of suspension for that matter.  Taking on an extra wheel adds to the weight of a trike but overall difference between the 700 versus the Street Machine is only 2.8 pounds.  My body weight fluctuates that much.    

Since I've had the 700 I've put 140 miles on it and the trike has exceeded my expectations.  The thing is just plain fun to ride.  It didn't take long to notice that balancing a two wheeler be it a recumbent or traditional diamond frame takes up a good measure of attention.  The trike requires no sense of balance. This frees up the rider's mind to simply enjoy the ride and scenery along the way.

At cruising speed the trike tracks very straight making two abreast riding especially enjoyable.  I noticed while riding with the RoadQueen our front wheels would be only four inches apart and we easily maintained position while carrying on a conversation.  Eventually I'll get back to riding my two wheelers because they provide their own special kind of magic but for now I can't get enough of this cool laid back ride.

Here's a couple guys I've followed online for a while who I'd like to thank for sharing their knowledge and experience which really influenced my decision making concerning the Catrike 700:

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