Will a trike change my life?
I haven't ridden my bike significantly in almost 5 years. With my vision loss, and the troubles I have been having with balance while riding, I had just about given up on ever experiencing the joy of riding again. And then, just this week, I decided to explore more seriously an idea I had some time ago: I decided to try riding a recumbent trike. Over the course of this week I visited Bikes and Beyond (the only place in Winnipeg I could find that dealt in trikes) three times and rode two different types of trike (an ICE Sprint FSX and a TerraTrike Tour II). Having done some research in advance I had thought I would be looking at getting a TerraTrike. After all, they seemed to be popular and they were reasonably priced (relative to other trikes).
The first day I rode the ICE Sprint (as they didn't have a Terra on the floor). I didn't have anything to compare it to at that point, but I enjoyed the ride. It was an incredible feeling, riding seated like that, feeling so stable. And it didn't hurt that the ICE was decked out with suspension at all three corners. But the ICE was way (way) beyond what I thought I wanted to spend. Katherine, their resident trike guru, was going to try to contact one of their customers who had a Terra, in hopes of arranging a ride for me. I left, anticipating my next ride.
The next day (Tuesday), I got a call to say that the customer who owned a TerraTrike Tour II was going to be in the store on Wednesday afternoon if I wanted to come by for a ride. It was apparent the universe was intent on my buying a trike, because it just so happened I had an appointment about a ten minute walk north of the store on Wednesday afternoon. So Wednesday came, and I walked down to the store. While I was waiting for the Terra to arrive I took the ICE out for another spin. As I rode down the street and around the block, it felt like the bike and I were one. The steering was responsive, but not twitchy. The seat hugged me like it was my best friend. And the suspension took the edge off all the cracks and crevices so prevalent on Winnipeg streets. The brakes were strong and smooth. And, well, it didn't hurt that it looked awesome.
When the Tour II arrived I had a brief chat with its owner (who is a remarkable trike-riding story, perhaps for another time) while they looked the trike over to make sure it was set to go. The ICE was almost miraculously set up perfectly for me (the universe at work again?) but the Terra wasn't quite set perfectly for me, but it wasn't too bad. So off I went, and the very first thing I noticed was every little crack and crevice rattling through the trike (I had been spoiled by the ICE's suspension). I also found the steering, while responsive, seemed twitchier than on the ICE. I'm not sure what it was about it – they were both linkage steering setups – but it just didn't feel quite the same. Its seating position was a bit higher, which I thought I would like, but I found it didn't make much of a difference to me and, in fact, the lower position of the ICE almost felt more stable and reassuring. In the end, it was a nice trike, and I didn't mind it at all. In fact, when I left the store, I was still thinking I might buy one.
When I got home I started thinking about the options. It wasn't long before I started thinking about the ICE again. One of its killer features for me that I haven't mentioned is that it folds. And, living in an apartment, what I was going to do with the trike when I was not riding it was a major consideration. I was considering leaving it locked up outside, but I wasn't fond of that idea, both from the perspective of security, but also in terms of weathering of the trike and its components. However, the idea of lugging a six foot long, three foot wide and almost forty pound trike up two flights of stairs didn't appeal to me either.
I knew the manager at the store was anxious to move the ICE, as it had been sitting in the showroom for some time, so I emailed the store to find out what kind of price they would be willing to do on it. It turned out they were interested in moving it, and this gave me more to think about as I drifted off to sleep on Wednesday night.
By the time Thursday arrived I had all but decided that, despite my initial reluctance about the price, the ICE Sprint was the trike for me. There were lots of little things (and some big things) that swayed it for me:
- Speaking generally, it just looked and felt awesome. Of course, it was a higher-end trike so, to a certain extent, this is to be expected, but it just seemed so solid, with a lot of attention to detail (some of it pointed out to me even after I had made my decision). It seems like the kind of trike I could live with for a long time.
- It had bar-end shifters, which I really like. I had expected to like the twist-shifters on the Tour, because I had twist shifters on my old bike which I liked, but mounted vertically, as on the Tour, I did not like them, at least not compared to the (admittedly high-end) bar-end shifters on the ICE.
- The suspension is wonderful to have, as it takes out the constant vibration that comes from riding on cracked paths and sidewalks, or on a gravel trail. Of course on an unsuspended trike I could run lower pressure in the tires for some of the same effect, but this way I get the best of both worlds: Low rolling resistance by keeping the tire pressure high, and bump absorption and vibration damping from the suspension.
- At the end of the day, the fact that it folded sealed the deal. I really never did figure out a good solution for what I would do with a solid, six foot long trike. As it is, the ICE folds into a four foot-ish, by three foot-ish by two foot-ish package (upon which I lay the seat), and fits into both my hall closet and my front door closet (although not perfectly there...see below).
It was a lot of money, but I figured it made sense, because I planned on riding it every chance I got. You see, because of my vision, I don't drive. And, as I've mentioned, I don't ride my bike anymore. So this, I was hoping, would be a bit of an everything vehicle for me: Great for a fun ride on the paths and trails, and handy to take out to the store or ride places instead of taking the bus. And, after some measurements, I determined the folded trike would fit in my hall closet. Done and done. I called the store to give them I heads up that I was coming to buy it so they could get it all ready to roll.
My dad came with me to the store so I wouldn't have to ride halfway across the city on my very first (substantial) ride. We got all set up, loaded the trike into the van, and headed off to my parents' place for a test ride and some supper. When we got there I was anxious to get going. I hauled the bike out, folded it out, and tried to close the quick-release lever that locks the folding mechanism in place, but I couldn't get it to close. I gave it one last effort and, either I have herculean strength, or there was something wrong with the bolt, because my last effort managed to shear the bolt right through the middle. My heart sank as all the anticipation of my first ride drifted off down the street. I took out my iPhone and called the store.
I had sent a picture of the broken part by email, and when we got back to the store there was a crew of four huddled over a bench trying to figure out how to fabricate a replacement. While that was going on, I picked myself up some shoes and clipless pedals (having realized my old ones had been disappeared). Before long they had the trike set up better than new. I tried (practiced) the folding mechanism multiple times under Katherine's close supervision, to make sure I was comfortable with how it worked. By now I had mastered it.
That evening I took a quick ride around the park behind my parents' house. By then it was dark, so I got to try out the headlight I bought. The next day I went on a thirty four kilometre ride through Assiniboine Park, The Assiniboine Forest, down the Harte Trail and back. It was incredible. I had forgotten the feeling of the wind, and the sight of the trees flying past. Tonight I did a bit of a shorter ride along the same route, and on the way home a deer ran across the path, about ten feet in front of me. By the time I got home I was giddy. I haven't felt like this in years!