Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Triking the right chord

It was in a Vientiane hotel, Laos way back in 2008 that I had my first encounter with a recumbent trike while on a 400km adventure from Luang Prabuang to the capital city. Michel, an elegant French senior cyclist in his 60s, was on his world tour and his human powered vehicle was a rather strange contraption. We shared breakfast together and enjoyed a lovely chat about his trike.

One wheel in front, and two behind. Equipped with a Rolfoff hub and a trailer which carried his camping equipment plus water purifier, this was one serious touring machine. In the cockpit, there is even a book stand. Michel later told me that when he goes for his 150km rides and it gets boring, he pulls out a book to read on the go! The last I check in his blog, the Frenchman is touring the USA.

While I was fascinated, I was not captivated as a trike is not cheap and not easy to store. It takes a huge amount of space and is the exact opposite of a folding bike when it comes to transporting it. Even if the trike can fold, it is still quite a package and is no Brompton.

So my recent purchase of a 6 month old trike was not one that I pursued but rather, a blessing that landed on my lap. A friend who is well and truly trike poisoned needed to upgrade the trike urgently. He offered it to me at a price I could not refuse, so the rest is history. I hereby entered a brave new Bent world, with so much to learn from the experts.

This is by no means a flashy trike but a very basic one. The frame is made in China but the parts are very respectable. What caught my eye is the Shimano Alfine 8 IGH gearing system which has a generous range and shifts like butter. This is something some of my friends have installed in their touring Bike Fridays and I have always wanted to try one out on 2 wheels, but I guess 3 will do fine too.

As trikes can achieve pretty high speeds, it is re-assuring to know that this baby comes with 2 disc brakes and wear none other than my favorite German Schwalbe Big Apple tires. They provide automatic suspension-ing due to its balloon design and grip very well.

Chris and I went to collect it yesterday and I was very pleased it fitted into my MPV without any dismantling. We took it out for a spin around Bishan Park and it took getting used to seeing the world whizz by from such a low position.

My first impression is that it takes a different set of muscles to power this thing but it was ah, so comfortable. I can do this all day and as Chris remarked, be careful after a big meal as you may very well fall asleep on this moving recliner. The back rest is very adjustable and its a piece of cake to find an ideal position.

One of the key advantage in having this trike is that it enables people who cannot cycle due to health issues or have not yet learn to still enjoy the thrill of cycling, without the spill. I intend to use this to take my parents, my senior citizen relatives and friends on rides along the beautiful Marina Bay in Singapore and other delightful parks. Now doesn't that strike a right chord?

Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

Photo credit - Matt Chia


There seems to be a myth that only old people ride trikes and that they are very slow. This video is hilarious and worth watching.

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