Frequently the subject of rear wheel size comes up as people want to know which is better or preferable. I don’t think I have ever addressed this in all my many postings. Since it is asked so frequently I figured it is past time to do so.
Well, like most everything else there are pros and cons involved. I have had both a 26 inch rear wheel as well as a 20 inch rear wheel. Personally I didn’t notice all that much difference. Never the less I will cover the good, the bad and the ugly of the matter. Don’t ask me why I said that. All I can say in response is that it happens to be the movie playing on GRIT TV as I am composing this.
Let’s start out by covering the obvious … or at least what should be obvious. Having three 20 inch wheels on a trike means that you only need to deal with one size when it comes to spare inner tubes and spare tires to carry along with you.
What may not be obvious is in the realm of performance and handling as well as weight carrying capacity. That is something to consider if you plan on touring and loading the trike down with gear.
A smaller diameter tire will accelerate faster than a larger diameter wheel. That being said a larger diameter wheel will result in a higher top speed than a smaller one. Of course, I am talking about having stock gearing and not messing with the gear ratios. Once one starts changing the gear ratios all of this can and does change. One can accomplish the same things with existing wheel diameter by changing the sprockets diameters in use.
A larger diameter wheel will roll over objects easier than a smaller diameter wheel which means that a larger diameter wheel yields a smoother ride than a smaller diameter wheel.
A smaller diameter wheel is stronger than a larger diameter wheel so it will carry more weight and handle better. A larger diameter wheel has more flex to it than a smaller diameter wheel so it is noticeable in cornering.
A smaller diameter wheel is usually less costly than a larger diameter wheel when it comes to tires to install on it. That being said 26 inch is a very common size with lots of tire choices available. So one might very well come across some good prices on tires.
A smaller diameter wheel requires a smaller trike frame. That may or may not make any difference to people. It is just something I wanted to be sure to point out.
When it comes to folding a trike again obviously a smaller diameter rear wheel folds smaller than a larger diameter wheel.
I have mainly been talking about 20 and 26 inch wheels. I only mentioned 700. Another popular size is 24 inch. They have their advantages but know that 24 inch tires are not as common as 26 inch so the selection won’t be as good.
Changing from one size to another may be problematic as the trike is designed for a certain size. The frame may not be built so that a larger diameter wheel and tire will fit. Also making a change in the rear wheel size will effect the trike’s handling and it may not be as safe. Raising the rear of the trike with a larger diameter wheel/tire will result in lowering the front end of the trike. This will bring one’s feet closer to the ground and cause more of a concern in the matter of “leg suck” and injury.
Anyone considering a hub motor a larger diameter wheel provides more room for a motor to be installed. That means there are more choices of hub motors and with more space available a more powerful motor can be installed than what will fit on a smaller diameter wheel.
Personally I prefer a 20 inch wheel over a larger diameter. It comes down to a personal choice. With either choice one can …
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