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Can a 16-inch Greenspeed be used for touring?

Okay everyone with an opinion (probably most of us, I suppose), now is the time to comment to this post and help out a fellow triker in Queensland Australia. I have received the following question from Jen Fleming, with grand plans to ride her Greenspeed quite a long distance. Her trike has 16-inch wheels, and this is where the controversy begins. Let’s help her figure this out. Below is her query:

I have a 16″ wheel Greenspeed GT5 series 2. Trike. I am planning to ride it from one end of Queensland Australia to the other. A distance of approx 2000 km this winter. My husband and others are very skeptical about its capabilities due to its small wheels. Any experience with this please?”

Let’s all see what our combined brainpower can bring to bear on Jen’s question. I have already sent her an email with my thoughts, so now it’s your turn to sound off in the comments to this post. The comments are open for seven days, starting now, so don’t hesitate to be heard. Thanks!

By the way, if you wish to see Jen and some additional photos, and also read some of what she thinks about trike riding, under the Rider Stories menu item on this website you’ll now find her story. Click HERE to visit that page.

Jen Fleming’s Greenspeed GT-5 series recumbent trike – click HERE to see more.


17 responses


    Hello,I have a new greenspeed aero which I use

    March 11, 2017 at 5:17 am

  2. I wouldn’t know why not. A smaller diameter wheel is stronger than a larger diameter wheel. I would be far more concerned about the tire I am using than I would the size of the wheel. As long as the trike has the gearing needed to climb hills and be able to ride sufficiently fast without spinning out the wheel size shouldn’t matter.

    March 11, 2017 at 5:33 am

  3. The only other factor that comes to mind is the size of panniers one could use. With smaller diameter wheels there isn’t as much ground clearance so a large size pannier might not usable as it might be too low and either drag on the ground or catch on things due to lack of ground clearance.

    March 11, 2017 at 5:36 am

  4. One more thing which just popped into my head is that I would think that a smaller diameter tire would probably wear out a little faster than a larger diameter tire. My reasoning for this is that a smaller diameter tire is making more contact more frequently so to speak. The 16 inch will be making ground contact about 40 % more than a 26 inch if my calculations are correct. Does that make sense to anyone or am I all wet? That’s all the more reason to use Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires which get such excellent mileage in the wear dept.

    March 11, 2017 at 7:49 am

  5. I agree with SteveN, I don’t see why the wheel size would disqualify a trike for touring. It is even more difficult to get a “standard” gear range with a 16″ rear wheel than a 20″ wheel, but it’s only the upper end of the gear range that might be missing, which matters less for touring. Hard to tell from just a picture, but it looks like the rear rack is mounted high enough above the axle that it should accommodate normal panniers. In general I think a successful tour is more about the attitude and resourcefulness of the rider than the particulars of their ride.

    March 11, 2017 at 8:00 am

  6. daytriker

    Quote from 2 riders that rode around Australia on their Greenspeeds.
    “What a marvellous other life it was! Fourteen months, 206 riding days, 15,035 km. That was our ride around Australia. The Greenspeeds did not let let us down once. In fact the trikes, now sitting in the garage, look at us as though to say: ‘Come on, we can do it again!'”

    Useful Information from other tours around Australia –

    For your assurance, Bromptons have 16 inch wheels & have probably been on more tours around the world than any other bike

    March 11, 2017 at 8:09 am

  7. Dwight

    I have done some touring with small wheels. Generally, it’s not a problem. If the bike is designed for touring, it will have the right gearing. That said, there are some pros and cons. Larger wheels are a bit better if you are going off the pavement. Smaller tires wear faster because there are more revolutions to go the same distance. Spares are smaller and easier to pack. In the worst case, you can find low-quality replacements in any small town hardware store if your bike uses the same size as a children’s bike. (I learned that in Meeteetse Wyoming…) The smaller rims don’t dissipate as much heat and can cause premature wear to break pads if they get hot when going down a big mountain.

    March 11, 2017 at 8:35 am

  8. Nipper Nips

    You’ll need to bring plenty of spare tubes and a spare tire or two, but 16″ diameter wheels will get you where you plan to go…….provided you’ll be patient. There are lots of variables in this equation! ;)

    March 11, 2017 at 9:36 am

  9. armadillozack

    I would think it to be a short tour at best….!
    Armadillo Zack

    March 11, 2017 at 10:28 am

  10. Alonzo Savage

    Jen just remember that lots of folks ride 16″ wheeled bicycles around the world on tour so why not do your ride in the comfort of your trike. Maybe follow Steve’s ‘fast, light, fun’ policy so you don’t need to drag a trailer. Also perhaps grab a copy of one of his books on his many tours especially his first trip when he pulled a trailer and almost didn’t live to tell about it. Whatever you do have fun and good luck.

    March 11, 2017 at 1:07 pm

  11. Rodger

    Hola Jen

    I am part of the “go have fun” group.

    When you use the tyre that has the best Balloon/ lots of Volume — you win.

    Do a little checking on “actual speed used while touring” and you will find out that a lot of 15-20 K.P.H. speeds are preferred and used. As already said — this is not your upper speeds or gearing

    March 11, 2017 at 3:11 pm

  12. Hello Jen!

    The suggestion about pannier sizing is definitely something to consider. I used Arkel GT54 bags on my 20-inch wheeled ICE Q trike, and they nearly were dragging the ground, because they are made for standard bicycles. I now use Arkel RT60 panniers, which are made specifically for recumbent cycles. They might be a nice fit for your Greenspeed. Other companies also make panniers specifically for recumbents, so check around. You won’t want tall panniers made for bicycles.

    Regarding tires, my recommendation would definitely be Schwalbe Marathon PLUS, the best for flat-free touring. They have a special thick compound built into the rolling tread layers, which I have found to be impervious to goathead thorns (the nightmare thorns of all cyclists – also called devil’s thorn). I would also choose the widest Marathon PLUS tire that will fit on your 16-inch wheels, as it will be the most comfortable by far. On my ICE Q, I ran 20×1.75 Schwalbe Marathon PLUS, and never had a flat in over six years of overland touring. These tires will cost more money, but the peace of mind when out on the road cannot be overstated.

    I think you’ll be just fine on your Greenspeed!

    March 11, 2017 at 3:39 pm

  13. The main concern would be finding spares on the route. Schwalbe Marathons are universally known for their puncture resistance and harsh ride, so install the widest ones available for a more comfortable ride. And have the wheels trued by a professional when mounting the new tires.

    Ah, and use stainless steel spokes instead of plain steel ones.

    March 12, 2017 at 5:25 am

  14. trike hobo

    I would add to my comment by saying there is the Schwalbe Marathon tire, and then there is the Schwalbe Marathon PLUS tire. Opt for the “PLUS” version of this tire. While others fix flats, you’ll keep on riding!

    Here is the link to the company page for this tire:

    Marathon PLUS and tacks

    Marathon Plus cutaway

    For over six years, I always carried one spare Marathon PLUS tire, but never had to use it. I always carried two spare Kenda “thornproof” Q-Tubes, but never had to use one. Fantastic tire!

    March 12, 2017 at 8:41 am

  15. Jen Fleming

    Hello fellow trikes and thank you for your great comments. Will just bring you up to date with some more set up info for my trike. I already have Schwalbe marathon plus tires thanks to my thoughtful previous owner.I always carry a thorn proof tube as well. I figured if my tyres are still in good condition when it’s time to set out,I will carry 1 spare marathon plus strapped onto a pannier. I have Ortlieb panniers from other touring I have done in England on a 2 wheeler, and the other day I packed up all my gear,excluding food and water. Took my bike for a little spin and it rode well, no touching of the ground with panniers. Would like to post a photo but not sure how to do it. Another bit of good news is……drum roll…….my husband has ordered a Greenspeed Magnum XL so he can ride with me! How good is that! We are driving to Brisbane soon and we will pick it up and bring it home. Love those trikes!

    March 13, 2017 at 2:19 am

  16. trike hobo

    Excellent news all around Jen! This is going very well. You can’t beat a great touring partner on another trike, and the fact it’s your husband is all the better (families who trike together, stay together). If you have more photos you’d like to see posted Jen, send them to me as you did the prior pictures, and I’ll get them up on your “Triker Jen” page. The Magnum XL is a great trike. You two will do just fine!

    March 13, 2017 at 10:18 am

  17. trike hobo

    To read all about the “wheel size” debate, you might enjoy what appears here:

    That link links to an in-depth article about wheel sizes.

    March 14, 2017 at 12:53 pm