Steve’s Catrike 700
Light, fast, and the ultimate adrenaline rush on three wheels!
To learn about my acquisition of this 2014 Catrike 700, and other background thoughts, click HERE (the page has many photos of assembly and trike portraiture to view or share).
The sleek lines of the Catrike 700 beg to be ridden fast and far!
This page is in chronological order, with older photos and discussion at the top, and newer photos and discussion at the bottom. Images are free to share or use as you please – spread the Catrike word.
Naming Note: The Wild Child name is all about spirit – how it moves me. The trike has a wild spirit, and like a child, it will transport me into all manner of bizarre adventures never known to normal people called adults. I may be an adult, but when I go out to play with Wild Child, that portion of me becomes something else, something wild and crazy! We enter new realms of inner reality. Catch us, if you can!
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Well, there is going to end up being quite a considerable bit of material accruing on this page over time, especially since I have the bizarre habit of saying in 16 paragraphs what could have been relayed in just one (according to my cycling buddy Matt). Okay, sure enough, he is correct, and I have no problem with it because I love to do this stuff. It’s genetic I think. My old man was a professional journalist, and for whatever unknown biological reason, that gene was passed down to me. You see – even this simple introductory paragraph has gone on way too long – argh. Believe it or not, some folks actually say they enjoy my weirdness with writing (must be retired to have all that time to read it).
As long time readers also realize by now, I prefer to let things flow from my head just as the come into that empty space between my ears, in other words, with complete randomness. Order things according to some predetermined socially accepted norm? No way! Why start now? I did all that during the years in colleges and universities, and I don’t intend to work myself up into an organizational frenzy just to please a few discriminating professors out there (I can say that because I used to be a professional educator myself). A trike hobo, who resides in a trike asylum, no less, doesn’t have to ponder living by the expected rules. Trikes, as you well know, bring more than just physical freedom – they liberate those stuck-up minds of ours to go off on their own merry ways!
So, what follows is how it comes, when it comes, and regardless of the consequences! Okay, I just had an idea from looking at Wild Child (again), so I’ll begin with it:
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Unlike most trike pilots out there, being a trike hobo (gypsy, nomad, or whatever terminology you wish to substitute for a wanderer riding a tricycle), I sometimes find myself without a convenient place to bed down at night. The last time this happened was at the northern entrance to San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge on the Pacific Coast. I couldn’t pitch a tent without being evicted by the local constable, because the establishment calls such a notorious act camping, so, I just simply “rested” all night, right in the seat of the trike. Can’t be hassled for that!
The ICE Q trike I was riding had a seat reclination angle of 37 degrees, so sleeping is possible in a pinch (but it’s usually very cold and miserable by two in the morning). As I admired my new mount today, it became clear that sleeping on the Catrike 700 will be an utter joy to experience! The angle is a sleepy 25 degrees, and the mesh seat is so comfortable compared to my last one that snoozing should be a breeze. This new Catrike seat also has wonderful padding built into the sides where the mesh stretches over the frame rails, further highlighting the sleep capabilities of the trike. Riding this trike is so much fun, why would I want to set up a tent at night and get off?
The night at the Golden Gate bridge was windy, cold, and miserable. I slept under that silver “space blanket” in a futile attempt to preserve my body heat, but the benefit was marginal at best.
Bottom line here? Simple. If you are a trike hobo too, buy a Catrike 700, because sooner or later, you’re going to need to sleep in it! Might as well be comfy! A VTX might be even better for sleep.
Ahh, home sweet home, away from home – I’m getting sleepy already! Is this enough toe-in? ha ha
The front 20 inch 406 wheels on the 700 have 32 spokes. The rear 700c wheel has 28 spokes. The rear Aerospoke wheel I’ll be mounting eventually has 5 spokes, and never needs truing. There are advantages and disadvantages to everything. The Aerospoke is slightly over a pound heavier than the stock Velocity A23 setup, but the reported aerodynamic gain is notable, especially once up to speed, where that extra weight is more than offset by the aero advantage and flywheel effect. If I mount the Durano race tire on the Aerospoke that would be probably the fastest combination. Right now, I have the Marathon Plus mounted, simply because I am a guy who prefers not to be bugged by things like flat tires, broken spokes, or flexing wheels. I suspect that the MP on the Aerospoke may be mitigated by the Aerospoke aerodynamic advantage, and while it may not accelerate as quickly, once booking along, it should be pure high speed joy (without the worry of flats).
The Catrike 700 comes with a nifty mirror and computer mount on the left handlebar. One can also be ordered as an extra for the right handlebar, which is important to trike tourers when passing the on-ramps on the freeways. This mount puts the mirror high and easily usable for the pilot, however, my design background and personal ideas on aesthetics really did not find this new mounting arm pleasing to view. Coming from an era where “chopped” cars and hot rods were king, I love the low, lean, and mean look of speed on a vehicle when it is just sitting still. That mirror sticking way up there was not part of this look, so I told Mark at BRC to give it to someone else. I have now mounted a Mirrycle mirror on each side, right onto the handlebar ends, which retains the low and aero appearance that I feel a Catrike 700 should have.
The mirror mounts right next to the wrist rest. I love that wrist rest! What a fantastic idea it is.
The low aero look is not compromised by having the mirrors low. I have full rearward view in them.
The wrist rest pads mounted behind each handlebar grip are a stroke of genius. On my former ICE Q, when pedaling for hours overland, I would often times place the bottoms of my wrists on top of the mirror mounts for a rest when not needing to shift. I could only do this because that trike had twist grip shifters, and the mirrors were mounted where the bar-end shifters are mounted on this trike. These mirrors on Wild Child are actually lower than they were on the Q. Initially when I saw the padded wrist rests on the Catrike website, I thought those could be removed, and the handlebars shortened by a couple of inches, saving weight in the process. Well, all it took was a three hour ride around town and I was hooked! I love the wrist rests, and other gypsies, nomads, and hobos will love them too. Long-haul comfort is something to be valued.
The Catrike seat has really come a long way in its evolution beyond pure utilitarianism. Mesh seats used to perform one purpose: to allow a place to sit, and not always the most comfortable place either, with mesh being course and hard, which would rub against the spine on overland journeys days on end. There was always an area on my back after my trips, near one of the vertebra, that was somewhat raw from flexing against the mesh during pedal strokes. This modern Catrike mesh seat takes comfort and function to a whole new level.
For one thing, the material is not just one tough layer of course mesh, but rather some intricate melding of softer materials that ends up feeling superb against the back. Combine this with the lumbar curve of the seat frame, and you have a seat the beckons one to sit in it. This seat is also very functional, with storage areas that I never had before on my former mesh seat. Under the seat back, there are three areas to conveniently store a multitude of items. There is a large zippered pouch on the left where a rider can store tools or other items. There is also a small pouch on the right that will hold a small tire pump, such as the Lezyne (which I am getting), with a strap that holds it firmly in place. The popular Road Morph pump will NOT fit here, so I got rid of mine. Also on the right, under the thigh, is a smaller zippered pouch, which is perfect for things like keys, cell phone, or money. Clearly, this is not your ordinary mesh seat cover!
As with most trikes, the gearing that comes standard on the 700 is not designed with the overland triker in mind. Trikes are manufactured for the largest percentage of end-users, and that is people who do things other than taking long journeys cross country over mountain ranges loaded with cargo. Common front-end chainring sizes used to be 30-42-52, but more recently, trike makers have switched to 30-39-52, as the 39 middle ring is that “sweet spot” that will get you up many hills that are not really steep or really long. Well, the issue with overland trikes however is with the small 30 ring, which is not nearly low enough for a loaded touring trike.
Of course, who would use a 700 to tour anyway? Practically no one, so the stock gearing is fully understandable. But I’m a tad bit off the mainstream, wanting a fun speed trike, but also wanting to ride it on trips when needed, so I made a little change, dropping two teeth by installing a new small ring of 28, which makes a big difference. With the rear cassette of 11-36, I am hopeful the new low range abilities of Wild Child will work for my next trek, especially since I am going ultra light now on cargo bags and packing ideas. I’ve learned some tough lessons about riding heavy on my trips, and for me, it has only been through this school of hard knocks that this idea has finally set in to my brain.
On my former ICE Q, with its 20 inch rear wheel, a 26 small ring on the crankset, and a 34 large cog on the cassette, I was able to get up anything, albeit at a snail’s pace at times. Wild Child has a 700c rear wheel, which works against hill climbing at slow speeds, but the gearing may do the trick with lighter rolling weight (rolling weight is everything you’re pedaling down the road, including yourself). On my first trike trip in 2009, my rolling weight was 370 pounds. Now, my rolling weight on a trip will come in at about 230 to 250 pounds, which makes a significant difference as you might imagine! The biggest single factor in rolling weight is the pilot, and a triker who weighs 160 has it much better off than one who weighs 230. A 160 pound trike pilot can carry 70 pounds of cargo before he matches just the bodyweight of the 230 pound trike pilot.
You may have noticed that there are virtually no ads on this Catrike. It has nothing to do with brand loyalty, love, or anything like that. I have been removing advertisements from my vehicles since 1975, starting with my CJ-5 Jeep. Nothing at all new for me. Having attended countless custom auto and hot rod shows during my youth with my dad, I learned that those custom painted beauties, at least the most cool of the batch, rarely had manufacturer ads all over them, as it would have distracted heavily from the custom look of the car. These rod fanatics removed all advertisements, filled in the holes, and then repainted the entire vehicle some awesome color like candy apple red.
And so that look and idea has since stuck in my head as something that sets my rig, whatever it may have been, just a little bit apart from the norm. The last car I owned was a Nissan Xterra in 2005, and all Nissan ads came off it soon after it was delivered from Tennessee. I took it once into a Nissan dealer for two broken shocks (I used it off road), and a couple of dealer guys came out, and one asked me: “What’s the matter? Are you ashamed of owning an Xterra? Why did you remove all the Nissan branding?” His thoughts were far from accurate, but those with an agenda to sell Nissans might erroneously believe so. Who knows what Catrike will think, but I love the custom look, and for me at least, the new appearance really sets it off as a notch above the ordinary.
The sleek racy lines of Wild Child shine through with the absence of advertisements, text, and pictures.
The way I saw it with cars is that I just paid the manufacturer, such as Nissan or Jeep, many thousands of dollars, so why should I continue to advertise for them at no cost to them? With cars, it was pretty impersonal of course, but with trikes, I don’t mind tooting the Catrike horn at all! In fact, I’m going to toot their horn in the next paragraph or two. I love my Catrike, and see it as way more custom as it stands, even if only in the aesthetics department. Design lines are more readily appreciated when no distractions are present simply to let everyone else know what brand you chose.
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I have watched several television shows when visiting my mom in southern California over the years (I don’t do television at home anymore). One that is really off the normal meter is called Myth Busters, where two guys challenge traditionally held beliefs to see if they are accurate or just bunk. It is on the Science Channel, and if you visit that link, you’ll get a kick out of their video. Anyway, these guys debunk all kinds of really bizarre stuff on every show.
You may have noticed that yours truly enjoys bucking the system now and then, and debunking myths is great fun. It usually involves ruffling someone’s feathers, or a lot of someones’ feathers. In my last book, I debunked a bunch of mythology commonly believed as factual, and I am at it again. Last year, I thoroughly debunked the long standing touring cyclist myth that crossing the Coos Bay bridge on the Oregon Coast was a life threatening affair, and it helped many pedal pushers who were formerly scared to death of the mythology surrounding the crossing (like you can’t ride across it legally, you have to cross it whether you want to or not, and it’s not wide enough for a loaded touring trike). So, here is the latest debunking to arrive from the head of trike hobo:
Despite what we have all been saturated with over the years, Catrike does NOT take a back seat or play second fiddle to any other manufacturer of trikes. The Catrike brand continues to rapidly set new sales records, and most riders swear by their mounts with absolute steadfastness. There may be different material construction techniques amongst brands, and there are certainly different quality levels with some of them out there, but Catrike is top notch when it comes to meeting its main competitors head on. I am, of course, speaking in the present moment (the only moment we ever really have), and not looking back into some nether realm that no longer exists. The trike now sitting in my garage is every bit the fine quality of the VTX I studied for three days and rode at the 2013 RCC show.
So, the next time I hear someone relate how Catrike is a good trike, but in some indescribable way it simply is not up to par with ICE quality, for example, I will meet the statement with what I have been learning first-hand. There is no better way to learn than to get involved directly rather than just accepting the mythology that still lingers out there. Is ICE better? Not in my head. Is Catrike holding the same high standards that ICE holds? Yes, my head has gone behind the rumors, and I’m here to tell you that either one you purchase will be a top quality triple you’ll be proud to own!
What are the pros and cons of each of these frame designs? Is one stronger or softer riding? Compare these two trikes HERE, on the TA Speed Trike Comps page.
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High speed thrills and day rides are not the only use this Catrike 700 will see. I will also be riding it on any trike trips I take from here on out, thus I must have a method of cargo containment on what there is available on the trike. A Catrike 700 is a speed trike, and as such, does not have an abundance of space on which to mount things. Below are two photos, the first showing each of the bag sets, and the second showing how compact and lightweight it all is.
Left to right: Radical Design side seat pods (25 liters) / Arkel Dry-Lites waterproof side rack bags (32 liters) / Arkel TailRider top rack trunk bag (11 liters) / Arkel Catrike 700 frame bags (5 liters). This totals about 73 liters of storage volume for trips, which rises to 74 liters if the mesh seat bag (standard on Catrikes) is included.
This is how compact all those bags are when folded. They weigh very little compared to other choices.
The Radical Design bags simply drape over the seat. The Arkel Dry-Lites attach to the sides of the rear rack, which is an Old Man Mountain Sherpa rack. The TailRider trunk sits atop the OMM rack, and the frame bags fit snug inside the rear frame of the trike.
I have made these choices in panniers because I wish to preserve the integrity of lightness and speed that is inherent in the Catrike 700. Yes, this will add weight, but my rolling weight for tours will now be considerably less than what it was in the past. For example, those Arkel Dry-Lites by themselves weight only 14 ounces, compared to 6.6 pounds of the Arkel GT-54 panniers I used to use. My entire overland journey packing paradigm has shifted to one of staying very light, which translates into easier trips with more of a fun factor.
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Back in November 2013, I rode the first ICE VTX to make an appearance on US shores. I was very impressed, as you well know if you’ve read my account. The FIRST thing that immediately stood out in my mind about this high performance speed trike was its lightning fast acceleration! There was no comparison between its acceleration abilities and my former ICE Qnt trike – day and night difference! Well, the same adrenaline pumping feeling holds true on the new Catrike 700 – I could be on either trike, and feel this awesome joy.
A question has come my way that addresses this observation, so I wish to provide my thoughts here. The question: How can a 700c rear wheel trike accelerate faster than a 406 20 inch rear wheel, as everyone says smaller wheels accelerate quicker? With this theory, a 16 inch rear wheel should be the fastest accelerating wheel available on a trike. So, I pondered this, and my brain offered up the following electrical surges in my head:
The 700 and VTX weigh about 33 pounds, and both have super skinny, high pressure, tires, which provide as close to no rolling resistance as possible (the Durano tires have little tread, and probably only the Kojaks are quicker). The rear ends of the trikes are hardtails, in other words, no suspension. Compare this to the average 20 inch wheel on most trikes (such as my former ICE Q), which had a 1.75 tire with 65 pounds of air and lots of treaded surface area. The Q also had rear suspension. So what does all this mean?
Well, here’s how I see it: When I put the power to the pedals in a serious way on the 700 or VTX, those thin and rock hard tires provide nearly no resistance, and since the rear end is a hardtail, no power is lost in the suspension. This is describing an all-out acceleration situation where I am trying to get up to a high speed as quickly as possible. All I put in is immediately realized in what comes out: fast, more fast, and a big speed triker’s smile! Nothing is wasted in the effort, whereas with my former ICE Q, a lot was lost in the thick treaded, relatively low-pressure softer tires and suspension elastomer. On these speed trikes, there is just enough tire to provide resistance to get you moving (no resistance, of course, would result in no movement, as in a frictionless surface), but not so much as to impede acceleration. It’s the perfect blend.
For five years, all I rode was the Q, and at the time, I thought it was rippin’ quick to accelerate. Well, that was before I had much to which I could compare it! On hindsight, that trusty ICE Q was very slow to accelerate compared to the Catrike 700 or ICE VTX. The good news continues because since less effort is needed to get the 700 up to speed quickly, more human energy is in reserve to achieve a high speed and sustain it for longer (not lost in getting up to speed).
What does all this conjecture mean to me? Simply that all those physics discussions and arguments aside, there is some reason why I can get this machine up to speed so quickly compared to the other trike, and those are the reasons that make sense to me. After five years on the 20 inch Q, it only took one ride on the VTX in November to realize I was on a monster! The test track at the RCC was short, so I HAD to accelerate rapidly to get an idea about the trike overall. There was no doubt in my mind then on the VTX – and now with the Catrike 700 in my garage, there is no doubt in my head now. This trike is not only fast on the high end, but it gets there so much quicker to boot!
Folks may choose to counter these ideas, but that’s okay. All I know for sure is that Wild Child is imbued with the power of the gods – unstoppable (as long as the organic engine doesn’t give out).
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MARCH 30, 2014: I changed the tires on Wild Child, from the Schwalbe Durano to the Schwalbe Marathon Plus. The rear tire is a 700x35c MP, and the front tires are 406 (20 inch) x1.35 size. This has provided marginally more ground clearance, which is fine, as touring sometimes places me in situations where rocks and brush can scrape the frame underside if not careful.
The rear wheel is now the Aerospoke built inside a Velocity rim, a carbon fiber hybrid wheel with no traditional metal spokes to break or loosen. This wheel is slightly heavier than the Velocity A23 that comes stock, but I will take the extra weight here for peace of mind. Besides, I simply like the appearance of this new wheel, and what I may loose due to weight, I will likely pick back up with performance. This wheel reportedly has a fly-wheel effect, in that once it gets up to speed, it tends to allow for less effort to sustain that speed. The aero benefits are also well documented over traditional spoked wheels. Aerospoke: $367, Velocity A23: $325. (Update note: As you will read below, the Aerospoke wheel was removed later, and I do NOT recommend it for trike use. Stick to the stock Velocity wheel.)
The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires are also heavier than the Durano tires, and will likely give me a performance hit, but while I love to accelerate and ride fast, a little less performance in exchange for a softer ride and peace of mind (from flats) is worth it to me. The Catrike 700 is such an awesome speed machine that even with these changes, it remains a top contender. Here are some images:
I have heard that a 700x35c tire will not clear the Catrike 700 frame. As you can see, there is plenty of clearance here. I have also heard that the neckrest will interfere. As you can also see, by rotating the neckrest frame upwards from stock, that too is a non-issue.
These tires have never let me down! No flats in the five years I’ve used them on my former trike, a 2007 ICE Qnt from England.
The Schwalbe Marathon Plus 20×1.35 (406 mm) looks fantastic on the 700.
A tiny handful of forum pundits talk about the Marathon Plus tires on a Catrike 700 as being like heavy “shackles”, claiming that these tires really slow you down a lot – terms such as “dogs” and “slugs” are bantered about. Well, here is my actual on-the-road experience:
If your organic engine is lean and powerful, tires make no difference! ‘Nuff said.
I have color matched the water bottle and its frame to the trike.
There are two types of neckrests with which I am familiar on recumbent trikes. I call them neckrests rather than headrests because for those who wear helmets, the rest needs to contact below the rear helmet line. There are compression neckrests (typical on nearly all trikes) and suspension neckrests (a rare breed on only one brand that I know of). My former ICE had a suspension neckrest, whereas this Catrike has a compression neckrest.
Compression neckrests have a piece of foam-like material that either is adhered to a metal back-plate, or a foam-like material that slides over a metal tube. In both cases, the more weight or force against the neckrest causes the material to compress, with the potential for feeling the hardness of the metal that underlies the material. On my former ICE trike, use of the neckrest was optional, as the reclination angle of the seat had a maximum tilt of 37 degrees, not so far that one could not easily hold the head up for long periods unaided by a rest device. On the new Catrike, use of the neckrest is necessary due to the extreme reclination angle of the seat at 25 degrees.
Suspension neckrests have a stretchy soft material that is suspended between two metal rods on either side. Regardless of the weight or force brought to bear against it, the user’s spinal vertebrae only contacts air behind the neckrest material, with no metal to be felt. My experience with the ICE and Catrike has shown suspension neckrests to provide a superior level of comfort over compression neckrests.
Since the 700 pretty much requires the rider to use the neckrest, and since the trike itself has no active suspension, and since the greater the recline of one’s head, the greater the pressure to bear on the neckrest, much uncomfortable vibration transmits from the neckrest directly into the spinal vertebrae of the neck whenever on roughly paved roads. One ride I take regularly is a 30 mile flat stretch along a newly repaved road that is glass smooth, so this is no big deal at all, but once on chip sealed roads or old pavement, it’s another story! Time for tooth fillings to rattle loose.
I am about to run an experiment on Wild Child. I have set the neckrest farther forward, thereby placing my head in a more upright position, which translates into less pressure on the neckrest material. If this provides adequate comfort, then all is solved. If not, then I am contemplating the acquisition of an ICE neckrest, which uses the superior suspension concept. This trike will also be my touring trike, thus, as with the tires, I am modifying it to be the ultimate overland journey triple. If an ICE neckrest provides significant benefits, and if it fits, I will use one if the Catrike neckrest still proves incapable of stopping the transmitted vibrations. Comfort is an overland triker’s friend!
Comfort on long overland trike journeys MUST be the primary focus out on the road!
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APRIL 01, 2014: Well, today was a fun day, full of tinkering and riding, more tinkering and more riding. It was the perfect day in the life of a trike hobo who lives in a trike asylum! In the morning, I worked on getting the other two water bottles installed on Wild Child. These were attached using Minoura mounts, available at any bike shop. The two Specialized 26 ounce water bottles were mounted on the rear frame, right behind the pilot’s seat, reachable by placing one’s hand over the shoulder. What I plan on doing though is once my main frame bottle is empty, simply swap it out for one of the two behind me. Interestingly, these newly mounted bottles will not interfere with the rack and pannier system due to the 700’s long frame structure.
Today’s portraiture session: Aerospoke rear wheel and two water bottles mounted
The Specialized bottles, on Minoura brackets, come in right behind and over my shoulders.
From the front of the seat looking rearward, these mounts are clean and cool looking.
Getting the two Minoura bottle bracket mounts on is not the most user friendly procedure. These are well made in Japan, and their installation is clear to see, but the way they were engineered makes it so you have to fish around to find the threads of the inside nut – I know that doesn’t make any sense, but if you go look at these mounts, you’ll get the picture. Once installed however, they are rock solid, and their reputation is high amongst users. I wrapped electrician’s tape around the frame, and then used the included soft plastic shim to keep the stainless steel band from marring the awesome Catrike paint job.
Shortly after noon, whilst I was still admiring and tinkering in the garage, my good and long-time cycling buddy Matt Jensen arrived. He loves to ride, and since today was perfect riding weather, he was ready to hit the road for some miles. I needed to scarf down some berries, nuts, and wheat bran mixed in yogurt, along with a Clif Builder’s Bar, brush my teeth, take a pee, and then we were off. Oh, before we left, he helped me dial in the rear dérailleur shifting, which was slightly off due to the installation of the Aerospoke wheel, and a little cable expansion as expected in the first 50 miles of riding. The shifting is better now than before! Matt’s mechanical ability is awesome.
Today’s ride was the first one with the new Aerospoke wheel, 700x35c Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire, and the two Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires on the front of the trike (20×1.35, 406 mm). It was going to be a perfect day to compare these tires to the former Schwalbe Durano race tires that came standard on the 700. Everybody says you’ll take a speed hit with the Marathon Plus, and it’s the wrong tire to put on a high performance speed trike. I was about to find out at long last!
It did not take long to form some solid thoughts about the differences. Of course, after the 10 miles or so we put on, over all kinds of pavement and even the boardwalk in Old Towne on the river, it was pretty obvious to me what had occurred. The comfort differential was huge! These Marathon Plus tires all around took the formerly “jitter your teeth out” sensation on poor pavement and made it noticeably smoother, not by just a little bit either, but by a very large and obvious margin. Yes, I can now say with absolute assuredness that tires make all the difference in the world when comfort is a critical aspect of one’s consideration. Since I will be riding Wild Child on overland journeys, in addition to my regional rides, comfort is critical.
And what about the acceleration and top-end speed question? Well, I have answered that also, at least in my own head, for whatever it’s worth. The acceleration feels a little softer, as if there is a tad more give in the rubber, but make no mistake, when I put the hammer down (Thor’s hammer), man, I was NOT disappointed one bit! This 700 still smoked away like lightning, leaving that huge speed addict’s grin sweeping across my happy triker’s face! Did I loose a wee bit of acceleration? Perhaps. But, when you reach a certain level of performance in top-end trikes, it’s all so marginal as to be a non-issue. What I lost is not detectable to me at all. It’s still a wicked fast accelerator when I want it to be, but now it’s also a much more comfortable ride, which is just the way I like it!
Top speed is supposedly affected (they say) by placing Marathon Plus tires on a trike. Again, if this is so, it has to be such a minuscule amount that only through some engineered time trials of high precision could one even quantify it. Did I lose one mile per hour on the top end? If I did, it’s worth every bit of compromise because now this trike is more fun to ride on lesser quality roadbeds, which, unlike acceleration and speed factors, is highly noticeable. Lose a tiny bit of speed and acceleration, but gain a massive amount of comfort in the bargain. I have absolutely NO reservations about changing the tires on this trike! And yes, I did take it up to max on one stretch of road, and it left no doubt about its ability to reach high speeds. Still! The Catrike 700 is damn fast regardless of the tire installed!
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I have mounted three water bottles on this trike. They are 26 ounce Specialized “Purist” bottles (BPA free, and all that good stuff). In past years, I felt I needed much more water on board for my overland journeys, so this is a switch for me. On my 2013 Pacific Coast ride, I had only three bottles, being advised by my friend Matt that was all I would need. He, as often is the case, was correct. I never had to access the third bottle. Of course, the success in this model depends on refilling the bottles at every opportunity.
In past times on the ICE Q, I had two water bottles on the mainframe, along with two 100 ounce Camelbak water bladders behind the seat, for a total on board volume of 248 ounces. Of course, water is one of the heaviest single components carried on a trike trek, so the less of it one has, the lighter and easier one can travel. I came to learn that the Camelbak bladders, held in place behind the seat on each side by FastBak bladder bags, were a real burden to fill along the way, Just accessing them, pulling them out, filling them, and getting them slid back in there was such time consuming work that I dreaded the chore. I no longer recommend the Camelbak bladders for overland trikers. I prefer light and easy now! Pedaling over mountains is more fun when light!
Run three bottles on your rig, or at the max four, and you should be fine if they are kept topped off at every opportunity along the road. With this setup on Wild Child, the three bottles are immediately and easily accessible, can be filled quickly, and weigh far less than how I used to do the water on the Q. If you wish to learn more about these incredible bottles, click HERE. They have a special tip that does not leak when the bottle is at an angle, unlike many bicycle bottles that dribble if not upright.
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APRIL 03, 2014 (was going to ride long and hard today, but rain changed my plans, so here I sit, talking to people I don’t even know, in an electronic twilight zone – boo hoo).
Okay, some quick thoughts rumbling through my empty head: I’ve been asked how this 700 could accelerate more rapidly than my ICE Q (622 mm vs 406 mm), and I think I tossed out some thought on that already, but perhaps a little more might be fun. In reality, none of this stuff makes any difference to me other than fodder for amusing intellectual stimulation for an academic who has time to burn, yet I love challenges, so I speculate. Keep in mind that my speculation has no meaning beyond my own limited mind, which I think I may have actually lost a while back (riding too fast on Wild Child).
So, okay, I then got to thinking about the specific tire. The 700 came with a Schwalbe Durano on the drive wheel, and after riding it for a while that way, I placed a Schwalbe Marathon Plus on the drive wheel. Here is my latest speculation: I can accelerate even QUICKER with the Marathon Plus than I could with the Durano, as counter to accepted wisdom as that may run. When I earlier mentioned I may have suffered an acceleration loss, I was conceding as an apologist might so that the cycling world would not think me nuts, but then, this afternoon, it hit me like a bolt of lighting (perhaps Thor’s hammer is involved once more).
I had forgotten a lesson learned while growing up with my dad, when we attended all the drag races like the NHRA Winternationals (he was covering the events for Hot Rod Magazine in the sixties). I recalled those AA fuel dragsters that were edging up towards the 200 MPH barrier in the quarter mile. These long fire breathing monsters had little skinny tires on the front, and gigantic slicks on the rear. And what did they do just before the race? They would pour chlorine bleach onto the asphalt in the staging area and “burn out” to get the slicks real hot and mushy, so that when the light turned green a few seconds later, they would have tons of traction between tires and pavement.
Why did they not use skinny tires on the rear? Well, clearly, this would have greatly reduced the ability for traction, and traction (lots of it) is necessary for them to surpass 200 MPH in only 1,320 feet. The more rubber on the strip, and the stickier it was, the faster they accelerated. Not only that, but they ran really low air pressure in these monster sized tires, where you could see them bulging, and then when they put the throttle to the engine at the green light, you could see the tires deform into tall monoliths since there wasn’t much air in them. So, where am I going with this?
Well, here’s my brainstorm for tonight, fellow trike-aholics and analytical geniuses out there: Not only did I not lose an acceleration capability with the Marathon Plus tire, I actually gained substantial traction in the conversion, so when I do put the hammer down on Wild Child, there is more to push against on the ground (this is even magnified further due to the stiffer Aerospoke carbon wheel)! I mentioned the softer feel a few paragraphs earlier the other day, and yes, it does feel softer, and that is a good thing because instead of a hard skinny tire jittering against the irregularities in the pavement to get me going, the Marathon Plus grabs the ground like a hot slick on a dragster, and propels me into never-never land.
Of course, then the naysayers toss out that little concern called rolling resistance, which seems to counter all this. So where does that fine line between rolling resistance (more on the MP tire) versus traction (also more on the MP tire) reside? By golly, I think I’ve got it! Assuming the engine of the trike is a powerful one, a Lamborghini V12 instead of a 1942 Jeep 4 cylinder, that line moves immediately towards the position that favors traction. Traction, which is of course resistance itself, trumps rolling resistance. It is a battle of the two resistances (okay, new word).
Yep, sure enough, I knew there had to be a reason for this! So, now I simply walk away from all the forum bantering about wheel size, tire type, air pressure, rolling resistance, gear inches, and so on and so forth (all that stuff that riders are always arguing about on BentRider), and go slide into the cockpit of this lightning bolt once again to experience yet another thrill ride on the ethereal testosterone dragon! Think I’m crazy? That’s okay, because I readily admit to it. It’s why Wild Child and I are having so darn much fun out there, despite the lessons of physics! All that really counts is out there on the road anyway – so, catch us if you can! Yee Haa …
Power from the pedal moves this Wild Child. Click for larger view. Share photos if you wish.
Prior to fender, rear rack, and pannier installations. The black bulge under the seat is my road tool kit, which fits perfectly in the Catrike seat zippered pouch (standard on Catrike seats – a real handy idea).
Ready to fly on the world’s fastest production trike, the Catrike 700! Comfy and fast – can’t beat that.
The Catrike 700 weighs slightly less than one of my 35 pound dumbbells, which I can easily hoist overhead numerous times while exercising. However, hoisting Wild Child overhead with one arm is a tad more of a challenge due to the unwieldy weight distribution of a tadpole tricycle. It is easy enough to balance with two hands on the frame, but remove one, and watch out! With my elbow on my hip, I could steadily hold it with a one-hand balance, but when moved overhead, it begins to sway gently, and could easily be dropped onto the concrete (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!).
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APRIL 08, 2014: I have been queried by a fellow trike rider about my decision to acquire this Catrike 700 rather than a soft riding suspended trike such as the HP Velotechnik Scorpion, as the perception may be that my decision is not the wisest. Here is my response to this question:
Yes, for a while, my direction even surprised me, because I never thought I’d go for an unsuspended trike. True enough, the Scorpion offers unparalleled softness in the ride, of that there is no doubt, yet it is also quite heavy when one is desirous of a super light touring rig. Whether the pounds come in on the trike, in one’s cargo, or on the body of the pilot himself, the bottom line is that weight makes one’s journey that much more difficult from the perspective of enjoyment, bodily wear and tear, and ease of covering the terrain during any given day. Overland trike journeys are most definitely not a walk in the park! They will push you to your limits … and way beyond. Watch these movies for a clue:
Miles of uphill in very hot sun (2011: eastern Sierras, northern California):
More uphill on a day that reached 107 degrees Fahrenheit (2013: Hwy 101, California):
Essentially, I have been on a path of lightening my load ever since my 2009 trek to Death Valley from Oregon. Rolling weight then (everything, including my body) was 375 pounds. Each trip has seen major reductions in that number. Rolling weight this August when I ride Wild Child up to the recumbent retreat will be in the neighborhood of 225 pounds – imagine pedaling 150 fewer pounds up every mountain pass! My bodyweight has remained constant during these years (at 160), so these changes have been created through the trike and my cargo paradigm.
Yes, my former ICE trike had rear suspension, and it worked exceptionally well on larger irregularities, such as rolling bumps or slight drop-offs, yet on surfaces such as chip seal or rough paved roads, the effect of the suspension was marginal. It was better than the Catrike, but still that vibration over the small stuff came through, and since the 2007 ICE mesh seat was very basic, it did not soak up as much vibration as the new Catrike mesh seat does (much softer seat fabric and motion dynamic).
The Schwalbe Durano tires that came stock with the 700 only worked well on glass smooth pavement, and then when the rough pavement came along, they were the worst tire I could imagine. The Marathon Plus tires have indeed made a day and night difference in the ride on this Catrike 700. Do these tires make up for the rear suspension on my former ICE? No, because I had even larger and softer riding Marathon Plus tires on it, but when combined with Catrike’s new superior seat mesh, this 700 does an admirable job on the broken surfaces. It’s no Scorpion in the smoothness category, but it weighs significantly less, which for me, has become worth the trade-off.
No longer do I wish to labor endlessly up mountains as I push an overloaded trike to the summit. The fun just goes away after many miles of what becomes agony on hot sunny days with no shade. Hills are hills, and everyone must endure their own personal battles getting up them, but for me, I prefer to make them as much of a non-issue as possible. Of course, in my situation, where health, fitness, and longevity are prime considerations on my life path, I do realize that the effort to pedal up mountains is the very thing that extends my life and fitness. Downhills are a blast, but they do not make us stronger!
Is this new direction for me an experiment? Sure! How do I know up front what will happen? I don’t. But, life is an adventure, and I shall find out this summer for certain whether my solutions are viable over the long haul. My plan is this: If the 700 proves unsatisfactory for touring, then I will keep it for my speed trike on shorter rides, and acquire another suspended trike for trips. However, based on what I am experiencing thus far, I suspect this new rig will be my ultimate touring trike: super comfortable in most situations, quick easy acceleration, and incredible top-end speeds for long stretches of the journeys (the Aerospoke rear wheel helps sustain that speed). Stay light, have fun, ride far!
I can say this in response to your acceleration query: There is no doubt in my mind at this point that the Catrike 700 accelerates far more quickly than the ICE Q did, and no, it is not through psychological misdirection that the sensation arises. It is indeed real, and very impressive. Both the 700 and the ICE VTX are wildly quick from the start, and until one rides either of these trikes (or the Carbontrike for that matter), one will not really understand the dynamic. Yes, there certainly is subjectivity in all our little thoughts about all things in life, how our little puppet show in our heads manipulates our perceptions, but subjective conclusion regarding the acceleration factor is not an aspect of what I am experiencing.
Essentially what we have here is a compromise of sorts. After five years of touring on the rear suspension ICE (not as soft as a Scorpion), I have learned repeatedly, and very clearly, that weight is not a triker’s friend! The more you have of it, the less enjoyable your trek will be. Reduce weight and the fun factor multiplies rapidly. This I have learned well over these years. So, rather than getting the smoothest riding trike with the best full suspension (which I might have done years ago), I have opted to get the lightest and fastest trike to make my pedaling as easy and effortless as possible. One trick I have learned so far on the 700 is that when encountering really jittery pavement, I simply move my head forward a half inch, which takes my neck off the neckrest. The neckrest is the component that transfers the most objectionable vibration into the spine and body. No objectionable vibration is felt through the new Catrike mesh seat.
I have always lived by the saying: That which does not kill you makes you stronger. Sure enough, triking with a high rolling weight makes me stronger, of that there is no doubt. However, I also seek a modicum of fun and ease on these treks. Many trikers seem to think that long trike trips are simply a few day rides linked back to back, and no big deal. Well, I have learned that these journeys test every aspect of one’s determination and ability. They are definitely not easy, and work the pilot to the max on many occasions daily. Every morning you get up from your sleeping bag and repeat what you did the day and week before. The body is pushed to new limits (ask any seasoned trike gypsy).
My goal, and experiment with Wild Child, is to maintain a super light rolling weight, which, in the end, I believe will more than repay what I lose in suspension on rough jittery pavement. Most sections of highway I have ridden on over the years are smooth, so I believe that the small percentage of jittery pavement on my overland treks will be a worthwhile trade-off for the lack of rear suspension. Do I know for sure yet? No, but I will be able to report the results later this August, after about ten days and over 400 miles riding in coastal Oregon on Highway 101 and other roads. That should be long enough to reveal either the brilliance or delusion of my direction.
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APRIL 09, 2014: Yesterday, I accompanied legendary cyclist Matt Jensen on a 32 mile jaunt inland to the tiny town of Mapleton, and then back to the Florence Old Towne harbor. This ride is virtually flat the entire distance, riding along the Siuslaw River in the Coast Range mountains. There was a slight tailwind the first half of the ride, followed by a headwind as we pedaled back to the Pacific Coast. Road shoulders are super wide, recently repaved, and very clean – a cyclist’s dream ride.
Florence to Mapleton, through the Siuslaw River valley, on State Highway 126 – a beautiful ride!
This has been the longest ride to date on the new trike. I have readjusted the neckrest several times prior to this ride, and have finally found the sweet spot that works for the Catrike 700 seat angle of 25 degrees. When I reported earlier on this page that I may need another neckrest, I still had this one farther back, which placed a greater weight against it. Currently, it is relatively upright, and sits about a half inch behind where my neck is when I sit naturally without using the rest, which brings the least weight to bear upon it while riding. If jittery or poorly paved roads come up now and then, it’s a simple matter of slightly moving my head to the upright position, and no vibration hits the vertebrae. It works!
Many, if not all, trikers at some time, or often, experience Seated Gluteal Discomfort (SGD), commonly known on the streets as Recumbent Butt (RB). I experienced it often when I first got my ICE Q in 2009, and it was a common sensation on many rides, especially longer ones. On every trip I’ve taken during the past five years, RB has reared its numb head somewhere along the line, usually after several hours of riding. I realized yesterday that SGD was absolutely non-existent during the 32 miles – I mean absolutely! When I exited the cockpit back at home, there was no numbness or any discomfort typically associated with recumbent riding! Why is this? Well, I figured it out after dedicating sufficient mental effort to this dreaded numbness of the posterior region.
The reclination angle of the Catrike 700 is extreme, at a whopping 25 degrees off the horizontal. This effectively puts the pilot in a position where there is no significant weight or pressure coming to bear upon the gluteus maximus area, or what the masses call the rear end or butt. On this seat, you are as close to lying down as you could get, while still being able to see where you are going. Thus, pressure is distributed more or less equally across the entire body compared to most trikes, where a much more upright position is common. Even on my former ICE Q, with its 37 degree angle, the gluteal pressure was significantly greater than on the 700. The acid test will be this August after I ride over 400 miles along Oregon’s northern coast. My prediction is that SGD will not manifest itself at all, even towards the end of each day in the cockpit. I will confirm or counter this later in August after the results are in (based on how my rear feels). Also, the mesh seat of the 700 is awesomely comfy in its own right!
Buy a Catrike 700, an ICE VTX, or a Carbontrike if you are tired of Recumbent Butt! The 700 and Carbontrike are set at an unchangeable 25 degrees, but the VTX allows a steeper seat angle of up to 32 degrees. The padded hardshell seat of the VTX may prevent SGD even at 32, but for sure at 25 you can ride in comfort for the long haul (still somewhat speculative at this point, but a good bet).
It has always seemed to me, having observed photos of the 700, that the bottom bracket is very high, which could aggravate Nerve Compression Syndrome (NCS), commonly referred to as hot spots. The higher bottom bracket serves to give the rider more power to the crankset due to the body’s angle, however it has the effect of making it more difficult for blood to flow to the feet. Having ridden both the VTX and the700, for example, my heels are noticeably higher off the pavement at the lowest arc of each revolution on the 700, as the VTX has a lower bottom bracket. How did yesterday’s ride play out?
Well, after nearly 33 miles of constant riding, both fast going inland, and into a headwind coming back (a situation that will bring on NCS in many trike riders), just as with SGD, there were absolutely no symptoms whatsoever of hot spots or numbness in my feet! Today as I type this, my feet feel fantastic, whereas with my former trike, my feet would have that slight tingle for several days afterwards. In all fairness, I do not attribute this to the trike however, but more accurately to my riding style and shoes. Hot spots used to be my ultimate nemesis, negatively affecting most of my serious rides and journeys, but now, it no longer even exists, just like the recumbent butt – they are all gone … for good. Numbness of the feet or rear end are indeed preventable (took me five years to figure out).
Regarding the Catrike 700 bottom bracket height, many photos on websites show the boom fully extended, and yes, the farther out the boom is extended (for really tall people) the higher it gets very quickly. I am six feet tall, and the boom is not extended very far, thus it seems to me to be the same height relative to my heart as it was on my ICE Q trike – the key here is bottom bracket height relative to heart height, not ground height! As long as your heart is higher than the bottom bracket, the numbing consequences of long and/or hard riding are greatly minimized. See photos of me seated on Wild Child. To learn more about Nerve Compression Syndrome, and my successful countermeasures that stop it, click HERE. The solution is found in wise shoe choice and modified pedaling style!
Regarding the new pedals, these I like even better than my former dual-sided SPD pedals. They are actually easier to get into because it is easy to rotate it with the foot to the proper entrance angle, due to the aluminum platform surrounding it. Currently, these pedals are still new, so are still kind of stiff. Once these pedals are broken in however, they automatically rotate to the perfect position for clicking into them, as learned by looking at Matt’s Ti-Rush recumbent.
The Shimano PD-A520 single sided SPD pedal, same as the ICE VTX team uses, is a perfect match.
So how does the Catrike 700 compare to the ICE Q on this ride, which I have also ridden on the Q several times? There is no doubt in my head that the 700 wins the day. It is much faster, accelerates easier and quicker, is noticeably more comfortable, and simply a trike that does not have me thinking about any kind of bodily issues or pain. Of course, keep in mind that I am comparing here one trike that is seven years newer than the other trike, and I would have to ride a 2014 ICE Sprint over these same smooth 32 miles to compare apples to apples. But, as this comparison of what I know goes, Wild Child is awesome in all categories (subjective perhaps, but at least those happy thoughts are sustaining my perceptions today). I have no regrets in my acquisition of this Catrike 700.
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Ever the crazy guy who loves to customize my wheels, here is the latest and greatest new addition to this white Catrike 700, otherwise known as Wild Child. Rather than placing the “Free on Three – Trike” patch on this seat as I had done on the ICE Q, I decided to make it a wee bit more personal. There is an outfit, formerly based in Australia, but now working from Colorado, called Heygid Day that sells quality patches through Amazon, and I found one that matched perfectly! How lucky was that? Cool! Of course, I ordered one, and as you can see, it now sends a message from my seat mesh.
The new seat patch now adorns Wild Child, a wild high-performance triple that transforms one’s mind.
Heygid Day sells specific TRIKER patches HERE.
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On April 16, 2014, I rode my 2014 Catrike 700 on a 50 mile journey with my good buddy Matt Jensen. This route, which you can read about HERE, offers up every type of road condition and terrain profile you can possibly imagine (or at least pretty darn close). From glass smooth flat riding for 15 miles straight, to curvy chip sealed roadbeds, to potholed pavement with downed brush and trees, to insane uphill grades, this little six hour delight will quickly tell a trike pilot if his rig is ready for anything.
The 28 tooth small chainring on Wild Child sits at the margins with regards to touring on this trike. It is doable, yet a 26 ring might well make a few crazy uphill ascents a bit more enjoyable (and keep in mind: a 30 tooth ring came stock!). With the 28, truly one must be running with a minimal and very lightweight load in the panniers, lest the joy abandon the ride. For my upcoming ten day, 400+ mile ride north to Fort Stevens State Park for the 2014 Recumbent Retreat, I am still debating whether to give the 28 a go, or drop down two teeth to the 26, which would configure my crankset as 26-39-52. That configuration was what I had on the ICE Q, but on the 700, I have a 36 tooth large cog in the rear, versus the 34 tooth cog on the Q, and of course, this trike has a 700c rear wheel.
Riding east on Highway 126 is fast and fun, as the pavement is sooth and flat. This trike is FAST.
At this point, there is absolutely NO doubt in my mind that replacing the Schwalbe Durano tires with the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires was the best path for me to travel. Going top speed is not my only goal on a trike – I want to be VERY comfortable in the process. Riding a trike on an overland journey is no easy feat; it is a time of trial and challenge for any long haul cyclist. If I am going to spend 8-10 hours in the cockpit every day for two or three weeks, I clearly want as smooth a ride as possible regardless of which trike I am on.
The Sweet Creek 50 mile loop throws it all at you, so making comfort assessments is easy to do. From the time spent on Wild Child when it was shod in Durano tires, I can tell you that had those tires been on this trike for this ride, I would have been absolutely miserable for about half of it. On the very steep downhills, where the road surface was lousy, the Durano rubber would have likely jittered me sideways, but the Marathon Plus rubber conforms more readily to significant irregularities, providing stability in addition to comfort. Yes, a Catrike 700 can indeed be a comfortable trike with the right tires.
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DIRECT or INDIRECT Steering?
On my former ICE Q, the steering was referred to as indirect, whereas with the Catrike 700, the steering is direct. There is always endless debate on the forums of the pros and cons of each one. From the moment I first rode Wild Child, the steering was absolutely intuitive and easy, even though I’ve spent the past five years riding a trike with indirect steering. I am fully at home with either type, and would definitely not base my choice of a trike acquisition on this. If properly designed, both paradigms work very well. If improperly designed, as one trike manufacturer currently produces, then the wheels want to remain at full lock with direct steering. Such is happily not the case with Catrike however – they know what they are doing! The 700 steers flawlessly.
Back to myth busting again, the old saw that direct steering turns sharper (smaller turning circle) depends on the manufacturer, and if you look at the number comparisons HERE, you’ll see that the ICE VTX and Carbontrike (both indirect steering) have a tighter turning circle than the Catrike 700. For me, it is a total non-issue because they all turn sharply enough – even my old ICE Q could turn on a dime into a driveway. Besides, no one ever just rides in circles to prove a point anyway, unless they are seriously askew upstairs and wish to be the latest tech hero on BentRider. Elsewhere I have written about the dynamics of steering (The Overland Triker), and probably here on TA somewhere.
On the 2014 Catrike 700, which has wrist rests (awesome idea, BTW), the hand grip is moved farther forward on the steering arm, which makes the steering more stable. On older 700s, many riders ran the grips all the way rearward, which makes the steering twitchy and overly responsive. The farther forward the grips are, the more rock steady the steering becomes. To prove this idea to your thoughts if necessary, imagine steering arms five feet long, where even the tiniest movement of the hands would translate into significant steering stability issues. With Catrike’s indirect steering, the rider controls all this with hand grip positioning. Find your personal sweet spot!
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APRIL 17, 2014: Plans to ride today have flown south because heavy cloud cover, steady rains, and high winds have predominated the weather scene most of this day. Oh well … but hey, that’s okay because you know what? Yep! Sure enough, I’ve been tinkering in the garage on Wild Child, little things like making sure the handlebars and grips were symmetrically placed on either side (slightly off – bugs me – I’m weird), making sure all the steering bolts were tight (slightly loose – dangerous), and reinstalling my Minoura water bottle mounts on the rear frame.
The Minoura mounts have multiple configuration options, and after the Sweet Creek loop ride recently, I decided mounting the main attachment closer to the bottle’s center would be better, and at the same time, moving the mounts forward on the frame would be necessary as a result. This move will also allow me a little more room behind the bottles for when I mount my Arkel Dry-Lites waterproof panniers. Until you fiddle with these water bottle mounts, my discussion makes little to no sense. I am going to include three photos to show the final location and configuration, as I know at least one triker of Earth who is about to do this very thing to his own 700. By the way, when adjusting the interior of each mount, use the MIDDLE hole! Okay, here are the photos you’ve been waiting for:
My fingers reveal the distance back from the rear frame cross-member. I place electrician’s tape on the frame first, then the Minoura soft plastic cushion to keep the paint pristine (Cut the plastic cushion material so it butts the other end when wrapped around the frame, and then use a small piece of electrician’s tape to securely hold it in place. Do not overlap the plastic.). The main stainless steel mount has its long arm to the rear now, with the short arm forward.
A close-up to further illustrate the main arm placement, and show the soft plastic buffer.
Job complete. The Arkel frame bags do not interfere with the Minoura bottle mounts. If I did not use the Arkel bags, I would have mounted my bottles vertically on the cross frame that supports the neckrest and top of seat (very good option), but I really like these two 2.5 liter bags – very convenient!
NOTE: The Minoura water bottle mounts were permanently removed on May 06, 2014, as the main bolt works its way loose on every ride, and the cage/bottle combination is consequently askew, requiring a daily retightening. There are much better solutions available. I will be reporting on my new system below, once installed. I do NOT recommend these!
Once I receive the rear fender from Catrike (no longer included in 2014 – you have to buy it separately – $57 US including shipping and all Catrike-specific hardware so it will actually fit), I’ll install it, along with the Old Man Mountain Sherpa rear rack. It is fun seeing this all come together! By the way, the stretchy material on this neckrest is very fragile (and I’m gentle with things)! With only over 100 miles on the trike, it is already noticeably frayed! Need to have a custom cover crafted by my REI seamstress. Okay, still raining, but I’m going to bid you adieu for a while. See ya’ …
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Originally, I wondered if this stock Catrike neckrest would work for me, being a compression style design, but that worry has vanished now. In my case, the only issue turned out to be where I had the neckrest placed. Originally, I had it rather reclined, in line with the seat, which looked great, but with my head that far back, the weight that came to bear against the rest was significant. After fiddling with it during rides and many days, I now have it at a more vertical place, where I only need move my head forward a half inch to be in an unaided riding position, which I do if rough road comes along. Now, with the neckrest much more forward and vertical, my head does not put hardly any pressure against it, thus the padding and rest as it comes from Catrike works for me. Patience paid off.
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APRIL 28, 2014: Little tiny reflectors make a BIG difference, even though they seem insignificant! Stick-on reflectors, though small in size, appear as super bright lighting at night and in low light conditions when headlights shine on them, or the daylight angle is just right. So, after lunch today, I placed a few on Wild Child in order to better show up from the rear:
Cut to size, this flexible reflector material takes advantage of the rear drop-out area. Taillights!
Sure enough, the power of dual taillights without a power source, makes Wild Child ‘pop’ from the back.
Even this little area on the neckrest serves a purpose now! Without panniers, this shows up very well.
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COMMENTARY ON A FEW MODIFICATIONS:
PART ONE (Part Two farther down page)
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REAR FENDER and PANNIER RACK:
MAY 06, 2014: The past few days have been spent attempting to mount the rear fender on Wild Child, along with the rear cargo rack. All is not quick and easy by any means, far from it. My good cycling buddy Matt Jensen has been enlightening me on how to accomplish all this, as the aftermarket third-party accessories are designed for bicycles, not Catrike 700s, and thus must be creatively installed – in other words, you have to figure out all sorts of jury-rigged solutions to reach the end result! You definitely cannot simply slap this stuff on in an hour.
SPECIAL NOTE: On a Catrike 700, a 700x35c rear tire fits fine, with ample room to spare, and the fender ALSO fits just fine, also with ample room to spare! This is contrary to the commonly held idea that none of this will fit on a Catrike 700. Observe the photos below to see the proof.
The rear fender is manufactured by Planet Bike, and is what Catrike sent me. They used to include this fender with the trike, although now it must be purchased separately ($57 US including shipping). The Catrike schematic for mounting the front of this fender to the rear mainframe of the trike is faulty, and should not be consulted (it shows the fender attaching to the frame parallel to the frame, however, in real life, there is about a 30 degree angle, thus I had to custom make a special bracket interface).
This is the Catrike diagram for attaching the rear fender to the mainframe on a Catrike 700. Notice how the fender is depicted as roughly parallel, thus allowing a spacer and bolt to attach the fender. In reality, this angle is far too extreme to bolt the fender to the frame, about 30 degrees. As a result a jury-rigged bracket must be fashioned from a piece of aluminum, as you will notice in the photos below. If one would attempt to bolt the fender as shown above, the fender would soon crack due to the extreme bend and pressure placed on the polycarbonate material of the fender.
The rear rack I chose for this trike is the Old Man Mountain Sherpa, which is a basic single tier rack. A better choice would be the Old Man Mountain Pioneer, which is a dual tier rack. This Sherpa model will be fine for my needs IF the Arkel Dry-Lites panniers work well for me during my August tour to the recumbent retreat. This is because the Dry-Lites attach using velcro to the same bar (single tier) where the Arkel TailRider attaches (they share an attachment bar). If I decide after the journey I need a conventional pannier, this rack will come up short, as standard panniers need their own attachment bar (dual tier). I recommend the Pioneer dual tier to cover all bases! My choice was not the wisest.
The Sherpa rack is nicely finished, yet the attachment brackets and struts are not up to the same aesthetic level of excellence as the rack, and for this refined 700, look rather out of place. As you shall see in the photos below, I substituted new custom made struts (made by Matt) for the bulky ones provided. Also, the 12 inch long standard struts were too short to allow the rack to sit level (canted forward), so the custom struts were made with a length of 13 inches, which levels the rack perfectly.
Okay, on to the photos and captions:
This shows the back of the mainframe, which, according to the official Catrike schematic, should be roughly parallel to the fender. As you can see, it certainly is not so, thus required this custom cut and bent piece of aluminum onto which the fender was mounted. You can see that the clearance here is rather snug, thus necessitating the above designed bracket.
As you can clearly see here, the fender is NOT touching the frame cross member nor the neckrest brace, as is typically asserted on forums and within the trike community. This is a 700x35c Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire, with the Planet Bike fender supplied by Catrike. Yes, it DOES indeed fit just fine! Notice the custom fabricated rear rack strut that Matt designed, just to the right of the fender – slim and unobtrusive compared with the supplied strut.
From above, the custom made rack struts parallel the rear fender, mounting on either side of the neckrest. I love the symmetry of this photograph – black lines in contrast to white lines.
The Old Man Mountain Sherpa bracket mounts at the rear hole of the drop-outs. It does not seat well if located in the front set of holes. The two fender struts are attached to the rack bracket, not on the drop-out bolt as some prefer to do this job. This makes the drop-out attachment of the rack more secure and solid. Yes, the fender strut bolt does clear the cassette cogs. NOTE: the struts must be trimmed with bolt cutters for this 700 application to keep the flexible fender conforming to the tire.
Using a bolt cutter tool, the fender struts are trimmed at the ends that enter into the fender brackets. Trimming should be done carefully so that you don’t trim off too much! Better long than too short!
This shows the rack and fender finally mounted. Remember, this rack is designed for bicycles, thus the curved bracket at the drop-outs. If this sits back too far for anyone, custom brackets could be fashioned without the curve. I seriously thought about doing this, but opted to try it as is first. Even though the rack struts that attach to the neckrest frame area appear bowed downwards in this photograph, they are indeed straight. It is merely an optical illusion formed with the curved wheel behind. Fascinating how easily the eye is deceived!
Here is another image of the fender mounting to the custom made mainframe bracket, shown from underneath the trike, looking up. Notice how the fender mounts lower, thus providing even more protection from the elements in inclement weather.
A close-up at the rear of the mainframe again shows the bracket size and needed angle to accommodate this fender installation. Catrike would be well advised to send a bracket like this to customers, along with a proper schematic, to avoid figuring all this out later, as I had to do. Fortunately, I had the expert assistance of my cycling partner Matt Jensen, and we got it done (Update note: This bracket was modified February 2015 – see below).
Oh yeah, almost forgot! I also installed the front fenders, but, unlike the rear, went on just fine with hardware from Catrike that works like a charm! They do sit a tad bit high, but will probably do the job. And yes, they were mounted in all instances of keeping it low, as suggested on the forums.
A bubble level placed on the Old Man Mountain rack shows the desired finished result.
A rear view looks very cool, especially with the Aerospoke carbon wheel and Cateye taillight.
Here is the simple piece of fabricated aluminum used for mounting the taillight on the rack.
This is a 10 inch length of brass tubing, which I will paint black, and then mount to the rear-most upright on the rack. This will allow a flag pole to be placed inside quickly and easily for overland journeys.
This is where the brass tube will be located once painted black. A little crimp of the metal at the bottom opening (as suggested by Jon in the comments below) will prevent the flag pole from falling on through, and a little electrician’s tape around the pole at the top of the tube will prevent rain from entering the tube. This solution for the pole will prevent interference with the mounted panniers.
I am holding the original large piece of aluminum that was supplied by Old Man Mountain as the strut to secure the rack to the Catrike frame. This is much wider than what was custom fabricated by Matt to replace it. You can see the new one is much narrower. The new strut is also 13 inches long, which is necessary for the rack to be level. The large original supplied strut was only 12 inches long, which was too short for a level rack. This entire fender and rack project required a considerable amount of assessment, time, and work (as well as trips to the local True Value hardware store for many needed supplies), but in the end, it was well worth the payoff. Thanks Matt! Thanks Steve! Thanks Trike Gods!
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Trike Hobo on Wild Child, South Jetty Road, Florence, Oregon. Photo by Ave Bernard
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MAY 20, 2014: Well, since the new trike book has now been published, I am back in the garage to tinker with Wild Child once again. Having wiped off the accumulated dust of the past two weeks, I set about some detail work on little projects to finish up this fire breathing monster of a trike! Yep, I still am madly in love with Wild Child, a thing of beauty even sitting still.
Today, I remounted the water bottle cages in the same location as before, but this time without the Minoura cage mounting hardware I used before. This now keeps my 26 ounce Specialized Purist water bottles lower, thereby lowering my overall center of gravity – important on high speed mountain pass descents. The cages are now held firmly in place by standard hose clamps, painted flat black, and tightened over rubber to keep the Catrike paint pristine. Even though they are common hose clamps, they do not appear to be any kind of industrial solution as one might initially believe. The job is very clean and more aero than with the Minoura mounts.
I also installed the Aarvark rear safety triangle (available at Hostel Shoppe) in the same manner I used on my former ICE Qnt trike, using velcro attachment. Since the Cateye taillight was in the way, I simply placed a tiny slit in the triangle’s orange mesh so the taillight bracket could go through it. This combines the visibility benefits of both devices into one really great solution.
Since the stock Catrike flag pole bracket doesn’t play well with the Old Man Mountain pannier rack, I removed it, and placed the brass tubing I mentioned earlier on this page on the rack. This provides a superior place to slide a flag pole for overland journeys. I painted the brass tubing black (Krylon flat black spray paint), and then secured it to the left side of the rear rack tube with two small plastic zip ties. It makes for a really slick and low cost solution where the pole and flag will not fly out. TA reader Jon recommended that I crimp the bottom edge of the brass tube so that water can drain out, but the pole will stay in – thanks Jon!
Last, and most certainly least, I lettered my name on the left side of my Specialized Vice helmet, just like the big boys do who race cars. Hey, if you’re gonna’ pilot a supersonic trike, ya’ gotta’ have a proper helmet, after all. Oh yeah, time to ride …
The black hose clamps are inconspicuous, and by allowing the cage to mount directly onto the frame member, instead of sitting up high like the Minoura mounts had it, also give this trike a lower center of gravity for cornering on mountain descents, while imparting the ultra sleek and retro aero look of a classic 1952 Hudson Hornet sedan.I much prefer this mounting paradigm over the former Minoura mounts. It is significantly more stable and solid, and will never loosen up no matter how rough the roadway. It is difficult to see here, but the thick rubber circling the frame really hides the more industrial styled hose clamps.On my former ICE Qnt trike, I had no taillight on the rear like this, but on the Catrike, I had to cut a little slit in the orange mesh of the Aardvark safety triangle to allow for this application. The reason I run my reflective triangle what most people would consider up-side down is because the velcro attachment points dictate it: A long piece of velcro secures the top along the back of the pannier rack, and a single smaller piece of velcro attaches the point of the lower triangle securely to the fender.From the rear, this new setup really gets motorists’ attention. Once the panniers are on, this trike will be even more visible than shown here. I’ll post photos soon of the touring bags installed.The vertical fluorescent strip on the fender is from the Nathan company, and is found on a sheet of such reflective material called “Nathan Dots”, available through Hostel Shoppe. This reflective material is 3M Scotchlite, and has more visibility potential than even the brightest taillights.There ya’ go – race ready, or also overland journey ready. This is the Specialized Vice MTB helmet.The new brass tube, painted flat black, holds the flag pole along the rear rack tube. It is held in place with two plastic zip ties, and is simply crimped at the bottom to keep the pole from sliding on through, and also to allow rainwater to drain out during storms (if I use electrician’s tape to tape the pole at the top of the tube, rainwater won’t enter in the first place). JULY 2014 UPDATE: The plastic zip ties were not sufficient to securely hold the flag tube (it rotated – was not stable). I now use two small hose clamps instead, with two short pieces of round plastic inserted in each connection point (these prevent the tube from rotating once the clamps are tightened).Here is the supplied Catrike flag in the new tube. It will not interfere with the panniers. The pole Catrike supplies is a two-piece, which is considerably longer. This is only the top half.
A 15 SECOND MOVIE SHOWING THE TAIL SECTION VISIBILITY MEASURES:
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PANNIERS LOADED – READY TO TAKE OVERLAND JOURNEY
Here is Wild child complete and ready for the road. Radical Design side seat pods (25 liters total capacity) drape over the seat (sleeping bag in one side, tent in the other). Arkel TailRider tops the rear rack (11 liters total capacity – expandable – rain gear in here). Arkel Dry-Lites rainproof panniers are on the side of the rack (32 liters total capacity – food in one side, clothing in the other). Arkel frame insert bags sit slightly under and inside of the Radical Design bags ( 5 liters total capacity – smaller items).
From the rear, this is the profile observed by motorists and trikers behind. I have placed an Aardvark safety triangle on each Arkel Dry-Lites pannier, because they are a dark color and do not show up well. These safety triangles (available through Hostel Shoppe) are held on to the Arkel Dry-Lites with velcro I added, and since the triangles are totally flexible, they take on the shape of my pannier contents without issue. These safety triangles are more visible than the taillight when car headlights strike them.
Another view of the full pannier setup – 74 liters total volume, including the seat pouches.
As viewed from the front – a slim profile compared to my former ICE Qnt setup. Regarding the Radical Design bags, the top strap that secures the bags over the neckrest must be protected with inner tube material, because the Catrike design neckrest supports will otherwise wear the nylon strap ragged. On my former ICE Qnt, the neckrest supports were cylindrical aluminum, and did not damage the Radical Design upper strap.
Fast and light are my prime directive these days. I have learned a hard lesson these past five years!
Another rear view, this time showing the yellow rain cover pulled over the Arkel TailRider trunk, which definitely adds visibility benefits for dark curvy roads or tunnels.
Another view with yellow rain cover on Tailrider. This is called minimalistic essential touring.
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MAY 27, 2014: Today I spent my hours in the garage with Wild Child. There were a few unfinished issues I wished to modify, and this was the day. Okay, where do I start? Well, perhaps with the front crankset. The factory offering had chainrings 30-39-52. Clearly, 30 is too high, even for hilly day rides, so I changed it out when I first acquired the 700 to a 28 ring. A 30 may work fine for someone who lives in flat Florida, but not for those who have things called mountains in their way. I have been riding the 28 small ring since March, and it is indeed working for day rides (28-39-52). However, I use my trike for travel beyond the simple pleasures of tootling around my home base, so I pondered if my 28 would be small enough for a loaded touring trike.
I originally considered a 26 small ring, and was even advised to give the stock 30 a try for a while, but figured I would see what a 28 was like with a 700c rear drive wheel. Would a 28 work around the region here? Would it work on an overland journey? Only experimentation tells the tale for sure. Indeed, the 28 did work in the mountains on day rides, yet it was somewhat tough on the really killer uphills (doable, but you knew you were really working at it). I pondered a loaded trike on a tour, even with the ultra light paradigm of touring I now embrace, and figured it would be prudent to ditch the 28 in favor of a 26 (26-39-52), which is the configuration I used to run on my ICE Qnt trike, although it had a 20 inch rear wheel, so it is not the same.
Today, I walked on over to my local bike shop (Bicycles 101), and finally purchased my new small ring. What did I choose? Well, having learned too many hard lessons during the past 5.5 triking years, I went with what I knew would get Wild Child and Trike Hobo up any hill – yep, I went with a 24, just like the small ring I had in 2009 for my Death Valley trek. Now, my crankset is a wonderful 24-39-52. Looks like triker Gary is going to have to figure a new “gear inches” chart for this one, haha.
Left to right: my new low – my former low – the Catrike factory “low”
Just got the new 24 installed. This new crankset is a breeze to get off and on – no crank puller needed!
There it is finshed: 24-39-52, all ready to take an overland journey!
Okay, so that went well, and only set me back $20 at Tim’s bike shop (even if I could get it cheaper online, I prefer to keep my dollars local and support my local business friends – Tim is weird, but I like him anyway)! Next, I tackled that rear fender that has been bugging me lately. My last ride up the North Fork of the Siuslaw River revealed some things were making some noise, and I like my Catrike to purr along silently, just as a cat should. Planet Bike fenders are good products, but not what a dedicated factory offering would be (unfortunately, Catrike has not seen a need for designing a rear fender for 700s – at least they designed some great front fenders though).
This would be akin to Harley-Davidson selling motorcycles with no rear fender. If a rider wanted a rear fender on their Harley, the manufacturer would tell them: “We do not make rear fenders, however there is a company that makes rear fenders for other motorcycles, and we recommend you use one of theirs. It may work if you fabricate some things, and we hope you like what you get.” Of course, this would be absurd. A world class motorcycle manufacturer would not do business like that, nor would its customers tolerate it. There is a paradigm transference here with Catrike.
The fender struts on the Planet Bike fender are really heavy, being made of steel, and they allow a fair amount of lateral play on rough roads. Also, the little plastic retainer caps vibrate loose and slide down the struts if you don’t put some goo on the threads. I don’t like goo solutions, nor do I like heavy solutions, so, I built a better mousetrap (for me at least, and that’s all that matters on this trike because I’ll be riding it). I decided to end these strut, vibration, and flimsiness issues once and for all:
Happy day! I got rid of those struts altogether! Yep, they are history! Whoa, you say, Planet Bike fenders don’t work without struts holding them up off the tire. Well, this Planet Bike fender now works just fine without ANY struts, saving me probably close to a pound of weight, and saving me any chance that rattles will be emitting from behind my head on chip sealed roadways. Here are some photos – compare these to the strut photos earlier up on this page:
Struts be GONE! No sorrow here. Good riddance to this unnecessary and flimsy weight burden!
Here is the new look. I bobbed the fender six inches, moved the little mudguard up to the new end, and bolted Planet Bike’s shorty directly to my Old Man Mountain pannier rack. So now, the fender is mounted at the rear of the frame and to the rack, two locations, and it is solid without struts. I considered a spacer between the fender and the rack so that the fender would follow the tire line, but chose this more sporty raised look, similar to my former ICE Q trike. I placed some foam where the fender touches the rack, which totally makes this a silent solution – just like a Cat should be!
Here is the fender on my ICE Qnt trike. Notice the distance from the tire, and notice the much shorter fender length. This plastic SKS fender did not have struts – it attached directly to the pannier rack, and was rock solid. And even with this distance from the tire, and the shortness of the fender, water diversion in rain storms worked just fine – my panniers and seat were never soaked.
I drilled one hole in my rack and fender, put in a hex bolt, rubber washers, and a nylon lined locking nut, and the job is complete. I like simplicity, and lightweight simplicity at that!
Oh, by the way, I took this opportunity to paint everything a flat black, so there is no bare aluminum showing any more, as Old Man Mountain supplies. Ahh, the struts are gone at last. I’m not cryin’.
With the bob-job I did on the fender, my nifty safety triangle no longer works in this location, so I added a Nathan’s dash there instead. Life is a compromise, win some, the others don’t matter.
Here’s something that is worth sharing. To touch up Wild Child if needed, this is a simple and very easy solution compared to regular spray paint or brush paint. It’s the real deal, and dabs on like white-out. It dries to a gloss finish, hard as nails. These paint sticks come in many color choices, so you may find one to match your 700 if it isn’t white (chances are it’s not).
This shows that the chain still has plenty of room in the dérailleur cage, even with this new little 24 chainring. Installing the 24 did not require any adjustments of anything. The dérailleur did not have to be moved down the post, nor did the limit screw need to be turned. It was all a simple matter of putting the chainring on and job done! In the garage, it shifts just fine, and I’ll report back after some road time.
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MAY 29, 2014: This afternoon was enjoyed with my cycling partner Matt on a leisurely jaunt up the North Fork of the Siuslaw River. We rode to a county park called Bender’s Landing, where fishermen can put boats into the river, or fish right from the picnic area. The afternoon breeze blew gently, with ripples marching south on the river. This is where we sometimes go to just talk about life, and the perceptions each of us carry along in our heads. I sometimes refer to our relative realities as our puppet shows in our heads. It’s a great locale to solve all the perceived issues our brains toss out at us.
Anyway, back to trikes, and the reason for this little post. As you know, I just installed a small chainring of 24 teeth, replacing the 28 I had, which itself had replaced the way-too-high 30 that comes from the factory (only good if you live on the flat plains or Florida – a poor solution for those things I call hills). With the 24, there is a 15 tooth jump up to, and down from, the middle ring of 39 teeth, a number that borders on too large a transition for smooth shifting. This was a good little afternoon shakedown ride to see if it would all work. It was road time!
Bottom Line: It works just fine, with a little thinking when shifting, being what I call mindfully aware. Careless shifting is another story. By shifting in a controlled and deliberate manner, watching the chain, the transition works well. The key when shifting down from the middle ring is to go a little slowly, and not pushing the friction bar-end lever too far, which would move the dérailleur to the inside enough to send the chain onto the frame. I experienced no issue with this downshift.
Upshifting also requires a mindfully aware state, as it is important to have the rear dérailleur moved to a place where the chain is towards the smaller cogs, which relieves pressure on it so that the front dérailleur can move the chain up onto the middle ring with the least amount of resistance. If there is too much resistance on the chain, it can fall back onto the inside frame when it’s midway between rings. It is also critical to not be riding uphill – do this upshift AFTER you reach the top of a hill, and are easily pedaling along on flat ground so there is no significant pressure on the turning pedals.
I derailed once on this ride, and it was when upshifting from the 24 to the 39, which occurred because the chain was in the middle of the rear cassette – I needed to upshift the rear to a smaller cog, as if I wanted to go faster, to relieve chain tension. Once I did that, all was smooth. Having a 24-39-52 is simply a matter of training your mind to think about these little points until they become second nature (which they quickly do because you get tired of having to put the chain back on the small ring). I had placed a small strip of electrician’s tape on the frame that contains the bottom bracket, just in case I would derail it, so the black anodized frame finish would not get scratched or chipped. Since the frame is black, the tape does not even show.
Matt and I did one mega-test of insane steepness on this ride. We didn’t have to do it, but we just wanted to see what this 700 speed trike would do under the most adverse of adverse uphill climbs! There is a subdivision just outside of town, on a super steep cliff side mountain, with ocean views. The road up to the houses is steeper than anything you are ever likely to see in real life triking – WAY STEEPER by a large order of magnitude. In fact, I seriously doubted I would be able to get to the top, even with the 24, without stopping repeatedly on the way up, every few yards! Okay, but inquiring minds had to know, had to perform the ultimate in-your-face absurd test, so we turned up the dreaded road we knew was certain death by cycling.
To make a steep story short, I made it all the way to the top with no stopping needed! It blew me away to realize that a Catrike 700, my ultimate high speed freedom machine, could easily climb this long monster even with its 700c rear wheel. Yes, if I could make this, which I indeed did quite admirably, I could climb anything that any of my trips during the past five years could throw at me. Yee Haa … Not only can I speed along on flat ground for an adrenaline pumping rush of ultimate thrill, I could also confidently climb the steepest of long steep hills too. I AM VERY HAPPY TO HAVE REPLACED THE 28 WITH THIS 24 – A 26 WOULD HAVE DEFINITELY BEEN TOO LARGE!
Wild Child now climbs more efficiently than my former ICE Q with 26-39-52 rings.
Oh, and the rear fender setup is fantastic – I love it! This 700 now makes the same sounds it did prior to installing the rear fender and rack, which is silence! Beautiful and serene silence, even while pedaling on chip sealed roadway, as the North Fork road is. It’s all blacked out in back, which looks awesome, with no chrome fender struts to spoil the Batman look of stealth. I am not even able to tell that the fender and rack are back there – that’s how quiet it all is – just like when Wild Child had no fenders at all. It’s so quiet that Matt could hear the zipper handles tinkling on the Arkel insert bags.
So, if you have a Catrike 700, and want to ride really steep hills for touring, a 24-39-52 will indeed work if you are mindfully aware during your learning curve. It does not take long to master. You could also get a Volae Granny Guard from Hostel Shoppe, at 74 mm BCD, and put in there just to alleviate any worry altogether. Click HERE to see the item.
Scroll down a little bit to read more about my Granny Guard from Hostel Shoppe. You’ll probably want one of these if you run similar chainring differentials.
No more worry of throwing the chain off to the inside!
Here is what Rolf at Hostel Shoppe has to say about this device: “Prevents ‘dang my chain came off‘ when down shifting to the Granny ring. Install the Granny Guard and loosen the front dérailleur inner stop screw until it permits shifting under pressure. Now, go ahead – shift right in the middle of that climb. You won’t over shift. Gone are the days of struggling up a hill in the middle ring because you underestimated how steep it was and are afraid to downshift in the middle of the climb. The Granny Guard has worked flawlessly on our tandem all summer long. I have down-shifted many times in the middle of climbs without warning my stoker and have never over-shifted.”
Once I install this granny guard, I’ll report back on its effectiveness. It comes with the little spacers and five longer bolts. Cost is $35, well worth it if it works. Had I kept the 28 small ring, I would not have even considered this device, but since the 24 is a 15 tooth jump up to and down from the 39, things can get a little dicey at times. I want to “idiot proof” my shifts so I don’t have to stop on an uphill road full of auto traffic to reposition the chain onto the little ring. I enjoy peace of mind while on my freedom machine!
24-39-52 GEAR INCH CHART – 18.7 to 132.4
(prepared by Triker Gary Bunting)
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JUNE 03, 2014: Today Matt and I left town at 1 PM and rode up the gorgeous North Fork of the Siuslaw River once again. It’s hard to beat this ride for solitude, beauty, and peace of mind. We even saw a herd of elk run along side us in a big pasture, and then cross the river at full stride. My camera I did not bring, thus the event now only exists in my thoughts. Total mileage for me on Wild Child was about 27 – Matt lives farther from our origination point, so he likely logged in about 31.
I’m getting the hang of shifting with the 24 small ring. I am learning that in an effort to make the shift, I am actually shifting too slowly, leaving the chain in that precarious state of not being fully on the small or middle ring. I tried an upshift from the small to the middle ring at a normal crisp pace, and guess what! Yep, sure enough, it made the shift without any issue whatsoever. The problem is my understanding of how to do it. I think it is able to be solved. Just stop thinking about it, and actually just shift like normal.
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A while back, my cycling partner Matt Jensen dropped by, riding, of all things, a tricycle. He used to have a 2007 Catrike 700, but today was riding his mom’s ICE T vintage trike. This T is a hardtail, meaning no rear suspension. Here are a couple photos showing Wild Child and the T, highlighting the vast variety of tricycles available today:
GRANNY GUARD by HOSTEL SHOPPE! GET ONE!
Read all about it here … and then get one of your own!
JUNE 10, 2014: Early this morning, while there was no wind, I headed on down to the garage for some work time. Reason? Well, my Volae Granny Guard from Hostel Shoppe showed up on my doorstep last night, courtesy FedEx (the ring ‘n run guys). I opened the garage door so I could enjoy the gorgeous coastal morning while I tinkered around on Wild Child. In the afternoons, the wind really howls on sunny days (ocean/inland temperature differential), sending pollen and all sorts of biological matter swirling around in the air, quickly filling up the garage if open. Of course, sweeping it all out again keeps me fit.
Rolf (Hostel Shoppe owner) and Scott (Hostel Shoppe head mechanic) designed this wonderful little device that allows all us overland trikers to use little chainrings for climbing up steep mountain ranges, without fear of the chain falling off to the inside, which can readily occur when you have a 15 tooth jump between the small and middle ring (happens shifting up or down). I have learned to do the big shifts without the chain flipping off, but I wanted to dummy-proof my setup, because out on the road of reality, not every shift is done with complete mental concentration, depending upon traffic conditions, hills, and other circumstances. Catrike has a large chain guard that comes with the crankset, but not a small one – now, I am covered on both sides of the crankset!
From Hostel Shoppe, you get the Volae Granny Guard, five longer bolts to replace the shorter stock bolts, and five spacers (the reason for the necessity of the longer bolts). The spacers hold the guard a short distance from the 24 chainring.
The five spacers sit under the granny guard. I place the crankset on a small box while working on it, thereby keeping it level, otherwise the spacers fall out mid-job. Scott, at Hostel Shoppe, and Matt both advise using grease, because it allows for a more secure tightening (metal against metal will not tighten up as efficiently), so grease it up! Oh, I wore latex surgeon’s gloves, and my hands remained free of goo the entire job this morning.
Looking from above, you can see how the spacers fit between the guard and ring.
Here is the guard installed – doesn’t hardly show up at all. That chain is not going to jump the track ever again! Oh, the joy! Dummy proof shifting has arrived. I considered the n-stop dérailleur arm device that accomplishes this task, but opted for this solution, as it looks more professional, as if it came from the factory. This granny guard matches the large outside guard in appearance, so it looks great. Notice the white reflective “headlight” I have placed on the frame – this material shows up better than a headlight under the right conditions.
Here is another shot, with the crank back on the trike, showing how the chain sits in relation to the Volae Granny Guard. If you are going to be riding your 700, or any trike for that matter, up steep hills on long day rides or overland journeys, I now recommend a 24 tooth small ring instead of the 26 I used to have, and with this new guard, there is no issue with the overshifting. I shall report back once I actually ride this new setup, but I suspect it will work as claimed. People who run these things swear by them.
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JUNE 11, 2014: Okay fellow trikesters out there who hate having their chains fall off the small chainring while enjoying a ride, I have GOOD NEWS to report this morning! All yesterday afternoon, I pedaled and pedaled, and pedaled some more, searching out hills of all description, and shifting like a madman. I had to know if this Volae Granny Guard was all it’s cracked up to be. Shift – shift – shift was my mantra!
Well, is most certainly is! I most definitely recommend it! If you have a large tooth differential between your small and middle chainrings, which is necessary if you wish to tour over steep mountains, then this is your final solution to the chain jumping off onto the frame. If you have a jump greater than 12 teeth (mine is 15), this is a worthy compliment to your crankset. Why worry about overshifts? Shift with utter abandon, and NEVER miss!
Yesterday I purposely shifted between the middle and small rings repeatedly, so many times I have no idea the number, and never once did I experience an issue with chain derailment. This Volae Granny Guard gets the job done in style. It looks fantastic, blending in totally with the trike’s crankset, as if it came from the original factory, and it can’t move or come loose. Your confidence level in shifting will soar because there are never any more mistakes. And, if you have an outer ring guard, as the Catrikes do, then you are covered on both sides of your crank, and overshifts are a thing of the past!
There are those who believe that learning to shift the tough high-differential shifts without aids is the purist cyclist thing to do, that having aids like chain overshift guards is kind of a wimpy way out. Well, let them think so! Their mental puppet shows do not matter to me, as I seek utilitarian solutions that work, and make my trike riding pleasurable and hassle free. Can I learn to make this extreme shift without aids? Yes, and I did learn it. But out on the open road, where shifting circumstances are often less than favorable while on an overland journey, who needs to even ponder the potential of an overshift? Not me, that much is certain. Call it a Dork Disk or whatever the popular term is for challenged trikers like me who resort to this stuff, but I am a happy triker – that’s all that matters in my head.
About an hour’s time of peaceful trike tinkering, and $44 cost ($35 plus $9 shipping from Hostel Shoppe) was well worth the time and financial investment. This item is manufactured by Hostel Shoppe, so that is where you to to get your own. Call Jessie, Lynn, or Ann at 1-800-233-4340 and be on your way to shifting freedom forever!
THE HOSTEL SHOPPE GRANNY GUARD WORKS FLAWLESSLY EVERY TIME!
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The $367 Aerospoke wheel, now retired, hangs aimlessly from above.
JUNE 19, 2014: This morning, after trimming some branches from three Austrian pine trees (a lot of ‘grunt’ work, but great activity for preparing for a trike journey), I turned my attention to Wild Child to perform a transplant. I pulled the Aerospoke wheel out of the trike, unmounted the Schwalbe Marathon Plus 700x35c tire, tube, and EarthGuard, and hung that carbon fiber hybrid up on the garage hook that formerly held the stock Velocity 28 spoke wheel that came installed from Catrike.
That hook was empty because I had just unmounted the original Durano tire that came from the factory, a lightweight single-purpose speed tire, so that I could place all the rubber from the Aerospoke onto it. Having watched the English chap in the video guide show how to expertly work with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires (HERE), this Thursday morning’s work went without a hitch, and was performed, as in the video, without tire levers. Yipee, I have the notoriously stubborn Marathon Plus tires finally figured out! Easy mount! By the way, I love how the English folks spell tire: tyre.
So now, the trike is already to go once again, with the bomb-proof and ultra comfy Marathon Plus tyre, only now on the original wheel. It was a match made in heaven, by the Trike Gods of course. Wild Child looks slick and racy, and somewhat more robust than the weaker and rock-hard Durano tire (I surely don’t miss those tyres one tiny bit). A technical concern prompted this wheel transplant today, an issue that, over time, could result in prematurely worn chain, cogs, and rings. My intuition, based on what I know, along with information I am learning elsewhere, prompted me to play it safe with the stock Velocity wheel. I like the Aerospoke, always have, but my practical side departed ways from my aesthetic side. Don’t want problems down the line! Better safe than sorry.
Elaboration of this concern is a challenge, as it is still somewhat nebulous, and I am not an engineer or technical guru, so I’ll simply and very briefly tell a bit (but keep in mind, there is yet knowledge unknown, thus the brevity). On rare occasion, while riding the 700 around town at slow speeds, there would be an audible crack sound, somewhat like a moderately sized tree branch being snapped, that would come from the wheel assembly. I did not know what the cause was, but did know that it came from the Aerospoke (never occurred with the stock wheel prior to the Aerospoke).
This bizarre, yet concerning, noise was fully unpredictable, and sometimes would not happen at all on rides, but then on another ride, could occur two or three times, sometimes in a slow corner on neighborhood streets, or sometimes when pedaling straight. It was rare enough that I kind of ignored it, thinking that perhaps the wheel was just settling in, but it kept occurring at odd intervals unexpectedly, and when another Aerospoke owner shared the same story of his trike, I knew something more was amiss. He is pursuing a technical knowledge, something I have no interest in doing, so I may learn more later, but I simply chose to eliminate the problem all together by eliminating the wheel all together. No more mysterious cracking tree branch noises!
If I receive any future verified information that can specify this issue with precision, I will share it here, otherwise, consider this mystery now put to bed. I have solved it, at least from the perspective of eliminating it, but of course, the “why” of it all is beyond my brain at this time. That’s okay, because I just want to ride fast! Yee Haa.
Mid-operation, the patient rests quietly, vital signs still strong!
The trusted Schwalbe Marathon Plus and cassette mounted on the Velocity wheel.
Ready to rumble, MP tyre and Velocity wheel = wicked fast combination!
Transplant complete, the spokes are now unobtrusive compared to the Aerospoke.
A beautiful coastal June day makes for a gorgeous portrait of my triangular love!
Everything about a Catrike 700 exudes luxury and aesthetic design.
Wild Child, one wild and fast thrill ride, never disappoints. Click image for huge view.
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SEPTEMBER 03, 2014 PRESENTATION:
PART TWO (Part One farther up the page)
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SEPTEMBER 05, 2014: Today I loaded Wild Child with the full compliment of overland journey supplies. As viewed in the two photographs below, Wild Child is fully loaded with all the cargo for its maiden voyage on a genuine long haul trek. This trike and all the overland journey cargo is significantly lighter in weight than my former ICE Qnt with the GT-54 Arkel side panniers. I can readily pick up the 700, as shown below with its gear, something that I was not able to do with the Q and its cargo. Downsizing has paid colossal dividends, and it is very clear to me that this coming trip will be considerably easier than any prior!
Here it is, ready for the road as photographed here! Only the pilot is missing! Now, this is what I call Fast ‘n Light trike travel, my latest iteration of enjoying the ride!
This trike and cargo is much lighter and far faster than what I had before.
Here are the basic components of what is contained in the Arkel Dry-Lites waterproof pannier system, all in individual stuff sacks for easy organization when on the road. The tent and sleeping bag are in the yellow Radical Design side seat pods, and my food supply is atop the rear rack in the Arkel TailRider trunk.
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SEPTEMBER 06, 2014: The rear reflector system has been updated. The third Aardvark Safety Triangle (from Hostel Shoppe) has been reintroduced into the system, and the pannier triangles have been repositioned to carry the theme all the way across the rear.
This is what a driver will see approaching from behind Wild Child as the trike and I are on the road. Get your Aarkvark Safety Triangles HERE if you like the looks of them. These things REALLY show up VERY well from far away. I highly recommend them!
I can easily lift this lightweight road trike! Redesigning my packing model has paid colossal dividends that will be reaped once out on the road, especially in the mountains. My rolling weight, which includes everything that rolls down the road with my pedal power (including me), is about 225 pounds (160 for me, 65 for the trike as pictured). Now that will make a notable difference from my former touring!
Trike hobo and his magnificent new road machine (the Speed God, otherwise known as Wild Child) are poised to light up the pavement on new overland journey adventures!
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SEPTEMBER 10, 2014: With the pending overland journey only days away, I have put the final touches on this wild new touring platform I call Wild Child. Well, that’s not precisely accurate. What I mean to say is that I have sped up my face to match the trike’s appearance and speed. No longer content with those cheap $26 lumber yard specials I’ve been triking with since 2009, I upgraded this morning to the Oakley Flak Jacket speed glasses, with fire iridium lens. Now, I finally might look like I actually belong on this fire breathing triple! I feel much faster already …
Get ’em for yourself – go faster! How can this be slow? Beard wind resistance!
ACQUIRE: Oakley Flak Jacket XLJ thermonuclear protection.
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?? TOURING ON A CATRIKE 700 ??
TO SEE WILD CHILD ON AN ACTUAL OVERLAND JOURNEY, CLICK HERE.
Yep, sure enough, Wild Child delivers the goods for ultimate trike touring!
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“An all-out speed Catrike. Its aerodynamic seating position, fast rolling 700c wheel and high gears, give it top performance.” – The Catrike Company
The following opinions and observations are those of a itinerant trike hobo, and may not reflect ideas popularly held by more respectable members of society.
Ride light – Ride fast – Ride safe
Touring on a Catrike 700
by Trike Hobo
The iconic Catrike 700 was specifically designed with a single purpose in mind. From the ground up, this trike was not meant to perform any tasks other than one very focused objective. That goal was met successfully, and as a result, this trike has remained a clear leader in its area of application. All trike enthusiasts know what a Catrike 700 is designed to do, and for newcomers in the tricycle realm, just its appearance alone relays the message quite clearly. There can be no doubt. This ultra high performance trike was built for speed, all-out mind blowing speed, and it delivers in spades!
The triking world also realizes something else about the Catrike 700. You just don’t do anything with it that falls outside of its well defined niche. Breaking this unwritten rule is sacrilege, an affront to the original intention of this sleek thoroughbred, the ultimate disrespect of an undisputed monarch. To move in opposition to this powerful energy places the audacious violator into a world of verbal fallout, as onlookers surely think him mad. There is a price to be paid for stepping out of line. The world of humans prefers absolutes, and the Catrike 700 is about as absolute as things come.
If you wish to do anything other than speed around on day rides, while leaving the competition in the proverbial dust, then you simply get another trike in the first place. Get a workhorse, a trike that is suited for multiple utilitarian purposes, one that is as easy to get on as sitting on an office chair. A Catrike 700 is a vehicle one gets in, not on, similar to settling into a Lamborghini race car for the ultimate thrill ride. This trike was not designed to run shopping errands. It was also clearly not designed for cross country touring. For overland journeys, you want a multi-purpose machine that can handle whatever you throw at it, an indestructible triple suitable for pedaling around Planet Earth.
Yet, this article is about touring on a Catrike 700, despite that dogmatic introduction just spewed forth. I am going to discuss here a maverick’s viewpoint, having used this trike for the very thing we all know it’s never to be used for, unless we have some loose parts in the head. My intent is to provide the thought processes of my mind that led to this decision, and offer my reflection on the result of this bizarre departure from accepted behavior. I tour on a Catrike 700. It works. But not without major caveats. This is most definitely not for everyone. In fact, it is only for a very select few who meet certain strict requirements, and are also willing to adapt the trike as necessary.
This is not about some elitist attitude, although I can see how it might be viewed as such by some. This is about real world riding, and using a lightweight single purpose speed trike for something outside of its original design parameters. Catrike never meant this trike for touring. They have other models for that application. This must be understood up front. This article is about a deviant behavior not sanctioned by the company, or the triking community at large. If you choose to tour on a Catrike 700, you must adapt accordingly, or risk putting your trike in jeopardy of failure. Can it be done? Yes. Is it fun? Sure is! Is it for me? Let’s explore the potential.
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For a little over five years, I toured on a workhorse trike, a jack of all trades machine that was relatively fast, fairly lightweight, and tough as nails. It was a nearly indestructible triple that could handle immense cargo loads, pull a heavy trailer, and always be counted on to get me to my destination. I was happy, not personally knowing from experience any other way. Sure, I was aware of other trikes specifically designed for other uses, but this trike could do it all, or so I once thought. Where did it fall short? Why did I abandon something I knew was working well? What did I seek that I finally knew I was missing?
Remember as you read this, that these are simply thoughts from the little irrelevant puppet show that continually plays in my tiny head during my sentient time here. I’m just sharing my weird ways of thinking. Nothing more or less. Perhaps the topic of this article may be helpful to you. If so, great. If not, no big deal. If you find yourself with similar goals to what I am about to share here, my thoughts may well help you on a road I have been traveling now since March 2014, when I bought a Catrike 700 speed trike … with one extra little goal beyond simply going very fast.
My first five years of trike riding and touring taught me many lessons, perhaps the most significant of which is that pedaling a tricycle over long distances and tall mountains for many days or several weeks is tough work, no matter how physically fit one happens to be. There is nothing easy about it, either physically or mentally. Ask those who have attempted it, but did not reach their intended goals for this reason or that. If you are going to tour on a human powered recumbent tadpole trike, you best make sure you are prepared for it ahead of time, and know exactly what to expect – well, you never will really know until you go, but at least certain understandings are in order for those who wish to avoid the school of hard knocks. I graduated from that school. I’m glad it’s over!
The school taught me several things: 1) Carry only the cargo aboard my trike that is absolutely necessary. 2) Weight is my adversary. 3) Avoid aspects of trike touring that cause injury to my body. 4) Enjoy the ride. There are more lessons learned, of course, but these four are pretty high up on the list of those necessary for graduation.
With each passing year and overland journey, I lessened my cargo volume, a slow process that I figured out just by continuing to ride out in the middle of nowhere. Each ride taught me that I really did not need this or that item, most of which are available on the road in towns. Each ride taught me that, because of the extra weight I was carrying, I was contributing notably to hurting my physical body, and that next time I had to lighten my load even more. Each ride taught me that I wanted to eek out all the physical and mental enjoyment of the journey that I possibly could, and part of that was to lay down some serious mileage now and then, especially if going across a broad expanse of relatively flat desert.
Overland journeys are not my only use of a trike however. Around home, I enjoy local day rides into the surrounding mountains, along the Pacific Ocean shoreline, and inland beside a beautiful river flowing to the sea. My trike needed to be more than just a single purpose vehicle that could do only one thing well. At times, for example, I truly enjoy moving my body and mind down the road as fast as I possibly can, both for maintaining and improving my physical fitness level (which I highly value), and for providing incredible adrenalin surges that leave me feeling exhilarated. I could opt to acquire two trikes, one for overland journeys and one for speed runs when my mind needs it, yet, my thoughts speculated that maybe I could fashion a solution to kill two birds with one stone, using common brutal verbiage understood by almost everyone.
Oh yes, one more thing! Regarding the fourth need mentioned above, to enjoy the ride, a trike pilot must necessarily be exceptionally comfortable, so I sought a trike that would provide maximum comfort while doing all the wide range of activities I demanded from it. Was my goal achievable?
I did not wish to prioritize one need over another. I wanted it all. In one trike! I could have purchased a multi-purpose trike that could do all things fairly well, but one thing I wanted to do really well would have suffered as a result. That thing is going fast, very fast, now and then when I get the itch. This need for speed is not an all-consuming quirk in my head, but when I want it, I must have it – simple. I was not prepared to compromise this aspect of my triangular enjoyment. Sure, I take road trips, but I also ride unencumbered in between those trips, and so I desired a wicked fast speed demon to satiate my addiction. I was brought up in childhood around really fast cars. But I don’t own a car anymore. The trike has filled that gap, in a way that I find far more rewarding, while improving my longevity.
So, my decision was to start with a high performance speed trike as my base, and do whatever was necessary to also use it as a touring machine – a touring machine that would be a real thoroughbred, a white lightning bolt that would deliver to me overland sensations never before possible. I wanted a super comfortable, easy riding trike that would take me over the highest mountains, while also transporting me at light speed across the open flats. I wanted to ride injury free, which meant my cargo model must be highly modified. Weight was now at the forefront of my thinking.
Enter the Catrike 700! This is a very well designed trike without compromise. It is lightweight, fast, and structurally robust. The seat is integral to the frame, which is what originally attracted me to Catrike back in 2008, rather than a clamped-on affair as seen on virtually every other trike available today. I can actually lift this trike, fully loaded for tour, by the seat, something that if attempted with many trikes might result in the seat breaking free of its clamping devices. Keep in mind however that this new Fast ‘n Light packing strategy I am using keeps the trike’s touring weight to roughly 65 pounds, including cargo, so lifting by a frame integrated seat is no big deal.
This Catrike 700 is the ultimate touring trike for my needs. My radical experimentation has presented me with superb comfort and speed out on the open road, making overland journeys much easier. Which would I rather drive across the United States: a Corvette or a truck? I’ve owned two Corvettes during my former automotive life, and there is no doubt which I prefer for the long haul – might as well have fun and remain comfy out there! Life is too short to relinquish simple pleasures!
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The way I am using this trike may be seen as an unacceptable compromise in the minds of many trikers, who believe I have ruined a perfectly incredible speed trike, taking away its perceived dignity by hanging bags on it, and running tires that actually provide riding comfort. I have encountered much resistance to my incursion into the unthinkable. Well, so be it, but my experience has allowed me to see the adventure of the open road in ways not understood before! Not only does the Catrike 700 tour, it does so very well – IF the rider adapts to the idiosyncrasies presented by the trike. Only a tiny handful of riders will be willing to do what is necessary. Adapt or perish. I have adapted, and am loving it!
On to the caveats, those things that need attending to if you are even remotely considering a Catrike 700 to serve both as a thrilling day ride speed machine and an overland journey transport platform. We may as well begin this discussion with the trike’s engine, for without the proper power plant, the rest of the experiment is doomed from the start. You can modify the trike all you wish, but if the engine is cast iron instead of aluminum or titanium, the vehicle will suffer, and not deliver what you expect. This is sensitive ground for many, but to ignore it is to ignore the most critical aspect of touring on this trike!
I am speaking here of the pilot’s fitness level, which often corresponds with the pilot’s bodyweight. Specifically, I am speaking of riders who are obese or otherwise carrying an observable amount of unhealthy bodyfat about their bones. My bodyweight is 160 pounds (72 kilograms), and I maintain a muscular and fit body. Even at this bodyweight, a rider who rode behind my Catrike 700 on a recent trip informed me of a very slight lateral motion of the trike in the rear, and wondered if my rear wheel might be loose (it wasn’t). Of course, the rider’s bodyweight is not the only weight consideration here, as the cargo definitely comes into the picture, especially since it sits higher on the 700c rear wheel structure, but the human body is the first facet that we are examining.
This trike functions best, and will last the longest, when it is not overloaded. Catrike recommends a total load limit for the Catrike 700 of 275 pounds (125 kilograms), above which it is assumed that things like cracked frames and other ills will be experienced. So, the company itself is saying that this limit is fine in their opinion. Since nearly everyone out there who purchases a 700 uses it only for riding other than overland journeys, it can also be speculated (probably accurately) that this number will reflect the bodyweight of the rider, and since few, if any, Catrike 700 riders are 275 pound muscular bodybuilders who could win the Mr. Olympia contest, the most likely scenario is that Catrike expects obese folks up to 275 pounds might be riding their speed trike.
Can it be done? Sure. But keep in mind that even an obese Catrike 700 rider is sitting very low to the ground, and in front of the rear wheel. Does this affect the lateral movement of the trike’s frame as each foot pushes the pedal each revolution? Yes, it does, and this deflection will be absorbed by the rear wheel in some form, perhaps the spokes, which, common sense tells us, will be far more pronounced the heavier the load. A Catrike 700 will receive less wear and tear, or abuse, by a 140 pound rider than a 275 pound rider. Of this there is no doubt.
Okay, so I have some thoughts gleaned thus far about this weight thing. My current rolling weight is about 225 pounds (102 kilograms). By rolling weight, I mean everything that I am pedaling down the road, which includes the trike, all its accessories, the rider, the bags, and the cargo. Everything! My current rolling weight is 50 pounds (18 kilograms) below Catrike’s recommended maximum weight load for the trike. In other words, they are saying that a 275 pound man can ride this trike. For such a man, with no touring gear attached, and the trike stripped of all accessories, his rolling weight would be about 309 pounds (140 kilograms). Could this theoretical man tour on a 700? Absolutely not, because even if he had only 35 pounds of cargo, he would be 35 pounds over the Catrike recommendation, and his rolling weight would be roughly 344 pounds, placing an incredible amount of stress on a trike not designed for it.
On my former trike, with its 20 inch rear wheel, my panniers and trunk were much lower to the ground, and the wheel was more stout. It had 36 spokes, whereas my 700c wheel only has 28 spokes. With the 20 inch rear wheel, the center of gravity of the rear cargo is considerably lower than on this Catrike 700, where the cargo sits much higher in the air. The higher the load, the more lateral sway will occur with the wheel. Imagine placing your panniers 10 feet in the air above the wheel, to put this in perspective – in such a case, the trike would be swaying wildly with each thrust of the leg against the pedals, and the trike could end up tipping over. Yes, this is highly exaggerated for clarity, but that’s the idea as I see it.
So, we are looking at weight as a prime consideration for anyone contemplating a 700 for a tour. It’s a combination of rider and cargo, both important factors in the viability of this trike for touring. This can be examined from many angles. Here is one way of seeing it: Using the 275 pound weight limit imposed by the company, and assuming the rider has adapted to packing only the absolute essentials in his cargo to remain light, we can figure he has no more than 35 pounds of gear on board. This would mean that he could theoretically weigh in as much as 240 pounds (108 kilograms) bodyweight. But even this is not entirely accurate, as the trike’s accessories (fenders, racks, bags, mirrors, GPS units, etc.) do add weight themselves, which could come in somewhere between 6-10 pounds (2.72-4.5 kilograms), so the heaviest a rider could safely be in this example is 230 pounds (104 kilograms).
If we use upper limits as the measuring rod for what is possible, we are examining the upper reaches of what the trike will endure during a trip. That is to say, we are stressing this trike to its absolute maximum limits, which, of course, will prematurely wear it out while placing huge stresses upon it. Personally, I would rather not be rocketing down a steep mountain at 50 miles per hour in curves, realizing the lateral loads coming to bear on the rear wheel mechanisms and spokes. I prefer to exist far below these maximums, extending my trike’s useful life considerably in the process, and widening the window of my own personal safety. If this trike is experiencing lateral flexure with my current weight statistics, imagine what it does with riders carrying much observable bodyfat and heavier cargo loads.
I have witnessed heavier riders, and the lateral movement is much more pronounced, as is the sideways force when cornering at speed, such as in a downhill run. I have followed a fellow Catrike 700 touring rider on flat pavement, for example, and each time he exerted force against a pedal to move the trike forward, the rear reacted accordingly. He weighed about 220 pounds (99 kilos), and his cargo probably came in near 50 pounds (22 kilos), for a total load weight of 270 pounds (122 kilos), so he was 5 pounds below Catrike’s recommended upper limit, but Catrike’s calculations do not assume a rider loaded for a tour, with cargo placed up high around the rear wheel, which adds more stress to the situation. I recommend certain limits be considered if you wish to tour on one of these trikes.
Let’s look at another scenario. If a rider weighs 175 pounds (79 kilos), this theoretically means that he can carry 100 pounds of cargo (45 kilos) in his panniers and trunk, and still be within Catrike’s upper weight limit for this Catrike 700. We may all see this differently, but the thoughts bouncing around inside my head are throwing up red flags like crazy here. This is dangerous and will destroy the trike long before it would otherwise wear out. What we can supposedly do is often far afield from what we should do for common sense.
My recommendation, perhaps totally subjective because I have not conducted any scientific laboratory type experimentations under controlled conditions with sensitive measuring equipment, is that a rider should be no heavier than 175 pounds bodyweight and carry no more than 35 pounds of cargo weight if he is planning on riding a 700 on an overland journey of any duration. That is a total rolling weight of about 245 pounds (111 kilos). By contrast, consider a 140 pound (63 kilos) rider with 30 pounds (13 kilos) of cargo. S(he) will have a rolling weight of roughly 205 pounds (93 kilos), about 70 pounds less than the company’s load limit. Again, this is just my brain talking, so take it for what it’s worth to you. I could be way off the mark here. We all make our own personal decisions in life, and are willing to take our own personal chances with them.
This is an incredible touring trike for me, and when I get home from a tour, I simply strip it down (removing fenders, bags, rack), and I have that original high speed fire breathing dragon I loved at the beginning. Actually, by having a rolling weight of about 225 pounds, this is as close as I have yet come to riding unencumbered on a trip. My goal is to travel with as little stress on my body as possible, at a high level of enjoyment, and this comes about by triking with the lightest weight possible. I am achieving this goal, and on the Catrike 700, I am closing in on what I see as touring perfection.
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Well, that was certainly a long winded examination of rider bodyweight, but there is more to adapting to this trike as a touring platform. So, assuming that you are a physically fit rider with an acceptable and healthy bodyweight, what other modifications need be accomplished on this trike?
For starters, use only Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. Not only do they provide you a significantly smoother riding experience than the stock Schwalbe Durano tires, they will keep you flat free 99.99% of the time. I have never had a flat on a tricycle, and I have always used these tires, right from the start. Spend the extra money to do the tires right – don’t cheap out here. Normal cheap tires go flat all the time, and not always do you have plenty of road space to safely change them. And, believe it or not, flats also happen in driving rainstorms when the wind freezes your hands before you can even dismount the tire. Keep your journeys safe and fun! Get the best tire for touring.
Catrike sends the 700 out the door with a front crankset of 30-39-52, assuming that all their riders will be using this trike for its intended purpose (speed) on essentially flat ground. For touring, two of these chainrings work just fine, but the third is far removed from what reality on the road demands! Even for folks living in moderately hilly locales, taking only fast day rides with no baggage, the small 30 tooth ring is too high, and will eventually cause knee or joint injures from the repetitive stress of having to mash the pedals to make it up the inclines. I tried a 28 tooth small ring in place of the 30, and while I was successful at making fairly steep mountain inclines unloaded, it was more stress than it should have been. Had I been loaded with cargo, it would have been out of the question.
Prior to my first overland journey on the 700, I replaced the 28 with a 24 tooth ring, and installed a Granny Guard from Hostel Shoppe to keep the chain from overshifting onto the inside. I now run a 24-39-52 combination, which works just perfectly for my abilities and rolling weight. The jump up from the 24 to the 39 is 15 teeth, on the outer limits of clean shifting, so the Granny Guard was an essential addition for road trips. One 700 rider who has also tried touring has found that the 24 was not low enough for his abilities and weight, and would have been helped with a 22 tooth small ring instead. Of course, when you go that small, it means a 17 tooth jump up to the 39, which is definitely not recommended. If a rider opts for super tall or short gearing at either extreme, all the rings must be taken into consideration if one wishes to avoid faulty shifts that damage the chain and rings.
In the rear I am running the stock Catrike cassette, with 11-36 cogs, and coupled with the 24-39-52 front crankset, I have no complaints whatsoever. The new Catrike 700s are 30 speeds. I have climbed long and steep grades and have been perfectly comfortable in the process. I recommend this combination if all else is within limits discussed in this article, which includes your bodyweight. I have no additional need for internal hubs to increase my gearing range. Besides, internally geared hubs would be a heavy component.
If you are bordering on the heavy side of things, either with your bodyweight, or your cargo, or both, you have a relatively inexpensive option of a custom wheel build. You can replace the stock 28 spoke rear 700c wheel with a 40 or 48 spoke wheel, which, in my mind, would strengthen the rear end of things, perhaps reducing the lateral movement of the trike. Even lighter riders could do this upgrade if desired. I have opted to try the stock 28 spoke Velocity wheel to see how it goes. If the first trip is any indication, I would say that for my weight considerations, this wheel works just fine. Remember, my total rolling weight is about 225 pounds (102 kilos), which includes the trike.
Touring trikers need fenders on a trike if they prefer to remain drier in rain storms. And make no mistake about it. If you are going to tour, you WILL be riding in the rain at one point or another! Fenders add weight, albeit not much, but a lot of little “not much” adds up to quite a bit. Fenders keep the rooster tails, all three of them, down to a manageable level, and keep the panniers and trunk from getting sprayed under pressure. When your tour is over, simply remove them for fast day rides intended on impressing normal mortal cyclists.
You are going to need a headlight, taillight, and rear rack to hold the panniers and trunk. Headlights and taillights are relatively lightweight. Choose what works for you. Rear racks vary all over the map regarding design, material, and construction. You can have a single tier rack or a double tier rack. On a single tier rack, your top trunk and your side panniers must all use the same bar for mounting, which means that depending on what trunk/pannier combo you choose, you could have yourself a problem of fitting them together. Not all trunks and panniers play well together on a single tier rack – best if you can figure this out prior to laying out the cash.
I opted for a simple single tier rack on this Catrike 700, and it works for my simple trunk/pannier combination. I recommend a double tier rack (more costly) because you can mount any trunk and panniers together because they each use a different bar on which they mount, so there is no conflict with the mounting hardware or mounting mode. Regardless of which rack you choose, it is imperative that you opt for ultra light panniers and trunk to adorn it.
My top trunk is an Arkel TailRider, one that I have been using since I began overland journeys, and one that I highly recommend to any trike pilot, even for day rides. This trunk has 11 liters of volume, and is one of the lowest and most streamlined available. It sits much lower than many standard rack trunks, such as the Lone Peak or other boxy and high trunks. The TailRider expands out horizontally when really filled with a lot of gear, thus not raising the center of gravity like traditional trunks do, where the weight goes up, not out. Arkel is a Canadian company.
The side rack panniers are Arkel Dry-Lites waterproof panniers, weighing in at an amazing 14 ounces (397 grams), and they roll up into a small space when not in use. There is no heavy hardware to slow you down either. These mount saddlebag style, over the top of the rack, with Velcro enclosures. This mounting makes it problematic to then mount the TailRider, as you have to feed the TailRider’s four straps around a tight pathway to get a satisfactory grip, but once on, neither bag comes off. I leave my bags on the trike at night for two reasons: 1) my small NEMO Obi one person tent is not large enough to hold them while I am sleeping, and 2) it’s simply a hassle to reattach these every morning. Since all my food supplies are contained within OPSAK odor proof bags, my trike and bags are neutral to nocturnal invaders like raccoons.
This rear trunk/pannier combination is truly feather light. The bags on my former trike, which were Arkel GT-54s, weighed over 6 pounds for the pair (2.72 kilos), which is roughly five pounds more than what I have back there now on this 700. As you can see, simply by your choice of bags, you are making sound decisions on keeping your 700 lightweight. It ALL adds up, and ALL makes a difference, regardless of what any seemingly insignificant little item may weigh by itself. How many of us actually consider the cargo bags into our weight equation? Well, it does matter!
The Arkel Dry-Lites waterproof top loading panniers have a total volume of 28 liters (1708 cubic inches). These bags are the roll down top variety of dry bag, so some volume is lost depending on how far they are rolled down.
On the sides of my pilot’s seat are Radical Design side seat pods, at 25 liters volume (1525 cubic inches). On one side I place my sleeping bag, and on the other, I place my tent and sleeping mattress. This gets the weight of those items down very low to the ground, helping to keep the center of gravity lower, as opposed to many cyclists you see who strap their tents and bags up high off the rear rack somehow. Strapping things to the bags on the rear rack is most definitely not recommended for anyone who wishes to tour on a Catrike 700!
In my former slow and heavy packing strategy, I carried two 100 ounce Camelbak water bladders behind the trike’s seat, two 24 ounce water bottles on the trike’s mainframe, and five more water bottles in the trailer. Water weighs more than 8 pounds per gallon (3.78 kilos), so you can see that I was crazy back then. Well, I may still be a bit off my rocker, but at least I’m making some progress (at least in my mind, anyway). Nowadays, I carry only three 26 ounce Specialized Purist water bottles, and have found that as long as I refill them whenever the opportunity to do so arises, I am fine. Three bottles are usually more than I need if I am diligent about refilling. Water makes a huge difference for touring on a 700 – keep it minimal!
By now, you get the point of where my head is regarding touring fast and light on a Catrike 700. If you are going to ride one of these speed trikes on tour, it is absolutely essential that these guidelines be followed or simulated closely using other countermeasures to offset the weight nemesis.
SUMMARY: Your mantra must be Fast ‘n Light for touring on a Catrike 700. Do not overload this trike, either with your cargo or an overweight body. This trike is not designed for touring. You are exploring realms outside of the parameters set by Catrike, and you do so at your own risk. If this wheel flexure issue finds you worried, it should. Overloading this trike, either with cargo, yourself, or both, will lead to a premature demise of the rear wheel, and failure of the wheel at speed coming down a mountain is not what you want to happen!
If you weigh more than 175 pounds bodyweight (79 kilograms), do not attempt to use the Catrike 700 for touring. In that case, opt for a trike that does not have a 700c rear wheel. Even a 26 inch rear wheel will not flex as much. A 24 inch is better yet, and as your weight increases, the 20 inch rear wheel is the best option. Gearing this trike appropriately for climbing hills and mountains is essential if you wish to maintain the integrity of your knees and joints. With its 700c rear wheel, getting the gearing right is absolutely critical. The 700c wheel, which seems to be the main issue with this as a touring trike, also allows you to fly along on your tour like you’ve never done before, covering ground at lightning fast speeds, so this is indeed one fun machine!
Modify your front crankset to 24-39-52, and use a Granny Guard from Hostel Shoppe to prevent overshifting. Retain the rear cluster of 11-36 as comes stock on new Catrike 700s. Keep your rolling weight no higher than 250 pounds (113 kilos). This includes the trike, the pilot (you), all accessories, the cargo bags, and all the cargo. If your body is overweight with visible fat, get that big issue squared away long before you attempt a Catrike 700 touring experience. If you are heavy, but it is a fit and muscular weight (you are a bodybuilder), adjust your cargo weight so as not to exceed a rolling weight of 250 pounds. Also, opt for a custom rear wheel build with either 40 spokes or 48 spokes, depending on your body’s weight. Only lightweight riders (160 pounds or lower) should stick with the original 28 spoke Velocity wheel from the factory (remember, this is for touring – around town riding excepted).
Only physically fit people should ever consider this trike if they wish to tour on it. Riding around town and on day rides is one thing, but touring overland on a Catrike 700 is another. Weight must be minimized for this speed trike, and this begins in earnest with the body of the pilot. Adding cargo changes the entire picture! And riding down mountains at high speed overloaded with rider and cargo can be very dangerous if the lateral loads finally exceed the structural ability of all the components designed to keep you safe. I suspect that few overweight riders will even contemplate this trike for touring.
Use only Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. Not only do they provide you a significantly smoother riding experience than the stock Schwalbe Durano tires, they will keep you flat free 99.99% of the time. I have never had a flat on a tricycle, and I have always used these tires, right from the start. Spend the extra money to do the tires right – don’t cheap out here. Normal cheap tires go flat all the time, and not always do you have plenty of road space to safely change them. And, believe it or not, flats also happen in driving rainstorms when the wind freezes your hands before you can even dismount the tire. Keep your journeys safe and fun! Get the best tire for touring.
If you cannot lift your Catrike 700 comfortably off the ground, and stand holding it at waist level, while fully loaded for your tour, then you are overloaded and need to rethink what you are doing. You should be able to lift it up and set it on a picnic table, and then take it back down to the ground under total control. If this is not possible, your 700 is simply too heavy, and you are not ready to use it for touring.
Be safe. Don’t push the margins of weight maximums. Enjoy the ride. Stay ultra light. And most of all, remember, when you want to kick this puppy into high gear to blow off those diamond framers, this trike will allow it if you have the engine to maintain it! It’s all up to you …
Explore your planet before the sun goes red giant and destroys it.
STILL IN LOVE – JANUARY 2015
Catrike 700 – a solid decision with NO regrets! I love this trike! Oh yeah …
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February/March 2015: I have modified the way the rear fender attaches to the Catrike frame behind the pilot’s seat. I have shortened the fender by another 5 inches since it rides higher in front. It remains attached to the rear rack, alleviating the need for heavy struts.
With this new mounting position, there is much more clearance between tire and fender. Compare this new arrangement to the previous mounting:
This old way worked, but limited the tire/fender clearance.
Here I have used small bungee cords to temporarily hold the fender up while I was aligning it for drilling the small hole necessary for attachment to the rack. No heavy struts!
This is what I love about the Catrike 700 frame when compared to all the other speed trikes out there (or trikes in general for that matter). This is rugged simplicity at its best! The seat is part of the overall frame, making for the strongest of designs. You can actually lift this trike by the seat without the seat coming unclamped from the frame – the seat IS the frame! This frame is all one piece aluminum, with no mating of different metals at key stress points.
This is the aluminum spacer between the top of the rear fender and the bottom of the Old Man Mountain rack. By attaching the fender to the rack like this, there is no need for the heavy steel struts to hold the fender in place, and the spacer keeps the fender closer to the tire for a more aesthetic appearance.
The newly reshaped bracket allows the fender to not be so close to the tire, as it had been with the prior shape. This also allows small sticks and road debris to clear out easier.
Job complete, notice how the fender now follows the tire’s shape more closely than it did without the aluminum spacer under the rack. No struts = cleaner look! This Planet Bike fender has been shortened twice, and is now 10 inches shorter than stock, but it still delivers more than enough coverage to keep my bags (and me) dry and clean.
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ENYA – WILD CHILD:
(notice the white cat, symbolic stealth of the white Cat I call Wild Child)
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