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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Best Bike Is a Trike

First some history.  I've been hiking since I first put on shoes.

I did my first solo long-distance hike of 13 miles when I was 12 years old.  I started distance running in my teens. When drafted into the Army I was informed that my flat feet would eventually cause nerve compression.  I got special boots.

I built up to marathons in my 20s and 30s.  In the last couple of decades I've returned to mountain hiking, but longer distances and rougher ground.  I've hike across the Grand Canyon in nine hours.  I've ran and hiked across California from Reno to the ocean at Santa Cruz in multiple sections at different times, the longest of which was 51 miles in 16 hours. I've done parts of it twice.  I've hiked most of the 175 mile Tahoe Rim Trail at over 3 MPH pace.  Most of my life I've ran or hiked 40 to 50 miles a week.

But that all changed last January.

Yep.  On a hiking vacation to Las Vegas when I logged well over 100 miles in less than a week, that nerve finally compressed. I've had the condition diagnosed and treated, but it's now down to surgery of unpredictable outcome, or I back off the miles.  So we get to the topic at hand - bikes and trikes.

I'm not good at backing off exercise, so since February I've been riding my mountain bike.  These rides remind me of why I never liked bikes.  I hate spending all my time looking at the ground. My hands get numb from the vibration of the handle-bars, and those seats didn't deserve the title.  They are literally a pain in the ass.

Over the last few weeks I set out to find an alternative to my mountain bike.  It's not that I have a bad bike. It's an aluminum alloy Specialize with full suspension. I think it cost me over $2k new, and has lots of gears and cool features. It's the riding position I dislike.  Bikes are uncomfortable.

My Schwinn Stingray in 5th grade was the exception. Thinking back, it was almost a recumbent. It had a nice wide seat which you sat ON, instead of it having it inserted. And with high-risers there was not much weight on the handle-bars. Again, that wide seat took the load off the hands. Plus the visibility was excellent. It wasn't very fast, but it was agile and fun.

Last week I rode a tadpole style recumbent tricycle for the first time.  I found this guy in Alameda, California who is an expert with recumbents.  His name is Zach Kaplan.  He is a wealth of information.  If you have any interest at all and live in the area, spend some time with him.  He let me try out a couple of his trikes, and I fell in love with the experience immediately.

I now own the Catrike pictured above.  It's light, fast and agile.  I realize I'm too early in this honeymoon to be objective, but three wheels is SO much more fun than two.  Yes, I know I'm now harder to see on the road, but we live in the age of LED strobes.  I leave mine on.  And it's true that trikes don't climb hills as well as bikes, but those are the ONLY two drawbacks.

Trikes yield a more pleasant visceral experience.

Trikes are FAR more comfortable.

Trikes are FAR more stable.

Trikes can stop faster.

Trikes can go faster.

Trikes are more fun.

You can see the world around you better.

If you get the chance, give a trike a try.

You'll see what I mean.