bicycle racing

3 trike race

What determines speed capability … how fast you can go? Well, certainly there are various factors to take into consideration. The most obvious factor I would think is the rider … what they are capable of physically.

Another factor is weight … both the weight of the machine one is riding as well as the rider’s weight and any extra weight one might carry along.

Yet another factor is gearing. For higher speeds one needs taller gearing as a rider can only pedal so fast.

Of course, there are other things such as air resistance (even with zero wind), head wind, and terrain (level vs. uphill, paved vs. unpaved, etc.). These are all contributing and limiting factors. But lets say that one is riding on level ground which is smoothly paved and there is no wind whatsoever … meaning that there are no factors in that last group which effect the outcome of the speed obtained.

What else effects the speed? What has been left out? What about the tires? Do they make a difference? Of course they do! They can make a considerable difference. As is the case with many things tires are a science in and of themselves. The engineering and design of tires matters a great deal if one is out to get the most speed possible. TESTING has been done to determine which tires perform best. This testing was conducted with bicycle tires such as those which are used on a diamond frame road bike. That being said, understand that when we are talking about tadpole trikes the exact same tire isn’t likely available for our recumbent trikes. Very few tires listed in the TEST RESULTS are tires we can run on our trikes. In fact, I think there is only one although I am not certain about that. That being said, much of the test results doesn’t apply. And that being said, still we can glean some useful facts and understanding about this subject. It is about “where the rubber meets the road”. 🙂 The two main things I noted in this are: 1) air resistance (mainly the rider’s body going thru the air) is the number one factor followed by 2) the rolling resistance of the tire. And they report that “narrower is not necessarily faster”.

tire selection 2

As to air resistance we have a definite edge over the “roadie” and the more “recumbent” (reclined) we are the more advantage we have as air flows over us much more so and easier than the roadie. So that leaves rolling resistance to deal with. This is something which has been discussed a fair amount in the past. Tires do vary in the realm of their rolling resistance.

Can recumbent tires compete with those tires listed for the road bikes when it comes to rolling resistance? I can’t answer that, but my guess is probably not … not when we are talking about the really high scoring tires.  Most of us on tadpole trikes are running Schwalbe tires. In this test the only Schwalbe tire listed which is available for our trikes is the Durano and it scored dead last in the test results.

I would further guess that somewhere testing has been done and the results are available for tires used on recumbent bikes and trikes. Perhaps if one could find such results they could be compared and we could know where we stand as far as the tires we have to select from for our trikes. I think it is a no brainer when it comes to which machine is faster on a level smooth surface with no wind … the road bike will easily win over a tadpole trike. And why shouldn’t it? It has nearly everything going for it … much less weight and less rolling resistance with only two wheels. A bicycle (not the rider’s body) with two wheels in line (one behind the other) has less air resistance than a trike with three wheels … none of which are in line with the other. Each wheel has it’s own rolling resistance added to the equation so 3 wheels have more rolling resistance than two.

Those who are interested in obtaining the fastest speed they can out of their trike seriously look at tire choices, ways to reduce the weight, etc. And then there are those like myself who could care less about all this. We are just out to enjoy the ride and hopefully …


Author: Steve Newbauer

I have a few current blogs (tadpolerider1, navysight, truthtoponder and stevesmixedbag) so I am keeping busy. I hope you the reader will find these blogs interesting and enjoy your time here. Feel free to email me at tadpolerider2 at gmail dot com (@gmail.com)


  1. Thanks Dave for answering me, and I can now understand the music , and background noise as well… Still very cool…! I need to someday to get me one of those Quests as the ride is totally beautiful, and I’m sure very dramatic as it is whizzing by you at such high speeds.. Thanks Again…!

  2. I just want to say this as well..! Everyone knows that I ride the massive Catrike Fat Cat Quad 4 created for me by Utah trikes, and as well know that I ride it with, 26″ X 4.8″ Surly Lou Tires so I don’t achieve the great speeds that others do, and have been told and asked, about time, and time again as to why, how, and where…? And I have been meaning to change them, and will also do so before my trek to the Florida, Keys. But originally I had anticipated riding more on dirt, and sand rather than paved roadways as many recumbents do..! It is only that I have not been able to direct any flow of extra cash to this as I am still working, and building the Armadillo Sleep Pod Trailer for my trek to the Keys and have not been able to afford at this time to make the change…! So whenever you read a post on Facebook, or here, and see that I am talking about my treks, and events happening on my day with the Q-4, as I go everywhere with it, That I am riding with the Surly Tires on my ride, and not regular street tires, or tires in which are more recommended for the street, or paved surfaces.. So if you are a reader saying to your self that wait a minute he rides with those big knobby tires on, now you know why…! And yes on paved roadways I do not achieve the high speeds as others do… And now you know why, or why I am doing it…!

    Thanks Steve, As I know you don’t care for many posts from the same person, in the same post content regularly, But I was sitting here, and did not want to feel like a hypocrite, when speaking to others about speed, and tires knowing that I ride on those big monster tires…!
    So thanks again…!

  3. I would say that aerodynamics are a huge aspect in the speeds achieved. I run Kojaks on my Velomobile Quest. 1.35″ x 20″ on the front and 26″ x 2.00″ on the back. Presently I’m running a snow tire on the back.

    This is a short video of me being chased by another Velonaut. We were tapping 40 + through the rollers at the beginning.

    1. Wow…! This just re enforces my wanting of a velomobile, as I really liked the amount of speed you have achieved during your ride along with the other velomobile…! Now behind the music that I hear playing within the velo’s cabin, ah there is sort of a low whine which is most distinguishable as an electric motor, and I am hard of hearing as of my accident due to some head trauma I received, but I can hear it, and maybe would not have heard it so clearly as I am wearing headphones this morning, and not to having my speakers up so loud to wake my neighbors, which then I would not have heard it.. But what, wait, what type velo was yours, and what type of velo was your friend operating, and tell us about it’s electric motor in which you two are using to achieve those speeds that your velo’s are traveling.. As this leaves more than just tires to achieve those speeds…? And now I have this great curiosity brewing uncontrollably within me, wanting more…! It’s very exciting..! I love it..! And thanks David for answering as well as leaving the video link..! To tell you the truth it almost has me wanting to go hang a for sale sign on my Q-4, and start looking into buying a velo…!

      1. There is no electric assists on either the white Velomobile or my orange Velomobile. They are purely pedal powered. Heart lungs and legs.

        I run 55/42/30 chain rings and an 11/34, 9 speed cassette. My top gear is a 55t big chain ring to an 11t smallest cog on the cassette. A 130 inch gear. At a cadence of 90 strokes of the pedal a minute, that is just under 39 mph.

        Both are Carbon Quest’s. The white one is from Bluevelo up in Toronto. His is the 40th Quest to come out of Bluevelo. Mine is the 105th Quest to come out of Bluevelo. My first Quest was the 9th one out of Bluevelo. It had the same body shape but was fiberglass instead of carbon fiber. Iy was also 15 pounds heavier. I put over 32,000 miles on it in less than 4.5 years.

        The owner of the white Quest has basically turned his Quest into a speaker.

        The whining in a pulsing manner that you hear is the drive train as he is pedaling it. The loud clicking is the shifting of gears.

  4. As always Steve you are a treasure trove of knowledge, and an asset to us all…! I don’t mean to be so bushwa, but it is true you are most certainly a wealth of knowledge…! And your posts are an asset to all recumbent riders who read them… Now that being said, I would like to pose a question for you as you seem to know more than I about these things, but how is it that we read all the time, and even have seen several specials and documentaries in which we see these concept velo’s in which grad students are employing the most intellectual, and most extreme measures, as well as top of the line equipment in order to break records in speed on paved roadways as a majority of recumbent riders do.. Are these wheels different as well, and not the same as our recumbents…? Are they not available to the open public, or is it just a matter of financial compensation for the tires to there manufacturers in which develop these tires especially, and exclusively for the educational institutions in which employ these tires for these record breaking feats…? I would truly like to know how it is that they can achieve these high speeds in which break records, and is it possible to obtain these tires to be used by regular recumbent riders, if in fact they are different than those we choose now to employ…?

    Thank you as always your faithful reader, and subscriber… Armadillozack

    1. Zach, I am not worthy of your “big toots”. My knowledge is quite limited and to prove it I can’t answer your question about the tires used by those who set speed records. I have no idea what tires they use. My guess is that they use the same tires that are readily available to everybody.

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