Most of us are familiar with the term “drafting” where one vehicle follows close behind another and experiences a noticeable reduction in air resistance because the vehicle in front blocks the air the second vehicle would normally be dealing with. It takes less energy for those following the lead bike. Road riders often take turns leading breaking the air flow for those following. This is used in racing all the time and semi-trucks often practice it with each other. Bicycle world speed records have been recorded while riding on special railroad track bed behind a train equipped with a special shield blocking the wind for the cyclist. It is also done on land.
But what about just regular riding. Is there a noticeable difference when following behind another trike? This video deals with this.
Are tadpole trikes really slow compared to road bikes? Hmmm, it stands to reason that a bicycle has more going for it as far as less weight and less rolling resistance, so I would think that the answer is yes, tadpole trikes are slower than bicycles. But the truth is it is all about the “engine”. Watch this video as this tadpole rider zooms by all the bicycles he encounters.
How fast will that thing go? I don’t know how many times I have been asked that. I usually simply answer “as fast as the person riding it can pedal it”. That is a totally accurate and honest answer but, of course, it is not the answer most people want. BTW, I am only talking about riding on a flat level surface … not downhill.
Certainly any trike operating under human power has limitations regardless of the ability of the person riding it. One can only pedal so fast and “spin out” occurs. Although it is true than spin out for one person may be different from another there is a limit for us as humans. I know my fastest pedaling cadence has been about 120 rpm. I think the fastest cadence recorded is 254 rpm. Most fast riders are far lower … 140 to 165 tops. Keep in mind that we humans can not keep up a fast cadence very long. So regardless of the cadence the gearing of the trike is a limiting factor. Change the gearing to a higher ratio and that same rider can go faster before they reach spin out again. However, if the gearing gets too high then the rider can not over power the resistance encountered. That means that there has to be a “happy medium” if you will. Again it comes down to a limitation factor.
Another limiting factor is weight. The more weight the trike is carrying the slower it will go unless one is going downhill. The weight factor involves the weight of the rider, the weight of the trike as it is equipped (any extras added) and any extra cargo being hauled around. Obviously the less total weight involved contributes significantly to being able to achieve faster speed.
This rider doesn’t weigh much at all. Of course, he doesn’t look very muscular.
This Spandex is pretty much fully expanded.
The model of the trike involved comes into play. I already mentioned gearing and weight. Some trikes have higher gearing than others and some trikes weigh much less than others. Aerodynamics makes a difference as well. Air resistance is indeed a factor so a trike with a seat back angle reclined far more than others means that the rider is not experiencing nearly as much air resistance. So trikes such as the Catrike 700, the ICE VTX and the Greenspeed Aero will by design be faster than trikes which weigh more, have lower gearing and more upright seating. I know that there are those who prefer more upright seating and some say they need more upright seating because of physical problems. There are tradeoffs when one goes with upright seating. Safety suffers because handling suffers. The more reclined the seatback is the better the trike will handle. And the better it handles the more speed it can safely handle.
So how fast will that thing go? I DUNNO! And that’s the truth. Perhaps it would be better to ask … how fast have you ridden on that? Now that I can answer. Speed is a relative thing. What is fast for some is rather slow for others. The fastest I have ever been able to get my trike up to is 30 mph and that is downhill. Others speak of speeds in the 40s and 50s when going downhill. Of course, they have greater downhills to ride than what I have available around where I live. On a flat level surface I spin out at around 23 mph. There are riders who claim they have pedaled in the low 30s.
Maybe the most accurate and honest way to answer the question as asked is to say … “I don’t know. I have never had it to it’s limit so I really can’t say.”
Anyone up for a race? Just 35 miles west of where I live is a small town where they have recumbent races. Here is a video highlighting some of the racing. I found it interesting that the tandems and the velomobile were not competitive at all. They got passed like they were sitting still. I thought the velomobile would be leading the pack followed by the tandems.
If I were younger I might participate in something like this. But, alas, I am now an old man and age has caught up with me. I am sure that this was a fun event for those who raced.