SO YOU BOUGHT A RECUMBENT TRIKE … NOW WHAT?

So you bought a recumbent trike … now what? That is a fair question. Do you have any questions? This video addresses some important matters and answers some common questions new trike owners have.

If you still have questions or concerns feel free to address them in comments or you can email me and I will do my best to answer them for you.

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RIDING IN/ON/THRU SNOW

It’s that time of the year again … SNOW, that is. So if you are like me and try to keep riding thru the winter months … and you live in the north where you have winter with snow …  you have a choice. You can stay home or get out there and ride in the snow. I do what I can but I readily admit I am not the winter rider I used to be when I was younger. I learned quickly that there is a difference between riding ON SNOW as compared to riding IN or THRU SNOW. I learned that a standard tadpole trike is about worthless when it comes to riding thru much snow. 2 or 3 inches is about all standard tires will roll thru and that is only if it is a light dry snow. A heavy wet snow is quite a challenge.

Snow is not as slippery as ice but it can be fairly slippery. Traction can be a problem. The resistance of the tires rolling thru the snow determines the traction. Some riders like studded tires for riding on snow. I am fine with them on ice, but to me they are not practical on snow. I don’t think they provide much traction on snow. All these studded tires shown above are knobby tires and it is the knowbby tire tread pattern which provides most of the traction … not the studs. The studs are for riding on ice.

I much prefer an aggressive knobby tire. I have one (pictured above) but haven’t used it for several years now as I have not been riding in snow deep enough to need it. I get by with my normal tires just fine. When I did use it it provided amazing traction.

That is me plowing snow with my trike in the picture above. Now if you believed that I would like to talk to you about some prime property in southern Florida. Actually that v-plow is being pushed along by a diesel powered train locomotive. At least it was until I got ahold of it.

Here where I live and ride the city is suppose to plow the snow off of the trails when there is a minimum of 3 inches depth. That helps immensely, of course. I used to remove leaves off of one of our local trails. I made up an “angled plow” to do it and it worked great. I did it for about 3 years before it broke and I never repaired it so that ended my leaf removal efforts. I thought about making up a snow plow to pull behind my trike but I never did. I don’t really want to get involved in snow removal. BTW, I could never do it or the leaf removal without having a powerful e-motor to use.

I suppose if I was really serious about winter riding I would use tire chains. However most winters anymore we don’t have the kind of weather that requires them. I would no more than install them when I would have to remove them.

I am not a fan of using plastic cable ties as they break and “litter” the earth as they fall off.

Yes, riding in the winter on snow can be fun. There is no reason to wimp out and stay home … not unless you have some really serious winter weather which is just too nasty to get out in..

This was our driveway in 2012. Needless to say, I did not go out riding at that time. I did go out riding when I took the picture below.

And I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was able to ride thru this snow as it was not deep enough to offer too much resistence to where I lost traction. Most people who talk about going out riding in winter with snow on the ground are riding “ON the SNOW” and not “IN IT” or “THRU IT”. There is a lot of difference. It is easy to ride on the snow but it can be hard to ride in it or thru it.

The velomobile video below demonstrates this. Riding on snow was not at all challenging but when he got to virgin snow and was riding in it he had to give up as he could not make any progress. He totally lost traction.

 

Here is a video I made back in 2008 when I had my homemade trike. I apologize for the poor quality of the video. Unfortunately it is a copy of a copy of a copy several times over and with each copy it lost quality and became blurred.

If you can do so I encourage you to make the effort to get out there and ride thru the winter. Even if you have to make it a shorter ride than you usually do. 

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GOAT HEAD? … WHAT’D YOU CALL ME?

In the 3rd chapter of Genesis we read that because of sin (disobedient rebellion against God) the earth was cursed. God did not originally create the earth with all the bad elements man deals with.  Thorns were unheard of prior to this curse. Where I live we don’t have goat heads so I have never had to deal with them. I sure have heard and read others talk about them. They definitely are a real menace. Here is a picture of the plant that these rascals are found on.

We have other kinds of thorns where I live but rarely are they found on a bike trail.

Those who walk where these thorns exist also deal with them.

Unfortunately there are a lot of cyclists who do have to deal with these thorns.

Without proper and adaquate protection the result is lots of flats. That is never a welcome thing. So what is a person to do? It would be nice if this threat were simply removed but I am sure that is not practical. That means that the cyclist must do whatever it takes to prevent getting flats. There are options available. There are tires which are flat resistant. There are tire liners. And there are sealants that can be used. Some claim that flat resistant tires alone suffice for them while others say they still get flats with them and need something more. Since I have never had to deal with goat head thorns I am not in a position to advise anyone.

From what I have seen and heard these goat head thorns not only are a threat to the bottom of a tire but they also are found sticking into the sidewalls. Sidewalls of tires don’t offer hardly any protection in comparison to the bottoms. In the picture above the longest most threatening part of the thorn  is not what is sticking into the tire’s sidewall. Some sidewalls are more vulnerable than others. Some are quite soft and thin making them easy to penetrate.

In all the years and hundreds of posts on this blog I have never done one about goat head thorns. I know I have mentioned them in past articles but that is all. Probably because I don’t have to deal with them I have never written much about them.  It is sort of “out of sight, out of mind”. Here in the United States they are found mostly in the southwest as I understand. I am in northeastern Indiana so I am far away from anyplace they are found … for which I am thankful.

From what I have read this plant was not native to the U.S. but was “unintentionally introduced here”. I am not sure what that means. I wonder how one would unintentionally turn loose this menace.

Reading about this plant is rather interesting. Man has used it for various purposes.

Here is a video illustraing how to get rid of these plants.

There are lots of videos on YouTube about goat head thorns and cycling.

The next time I hear someone call me a goat head I won’t take it as a compliment.

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5 THINGS WE’D WISH WE HAD KNOWN ABOUT RECUMBENT TRIKES

don’t know that I would go along with everything these women say about this. You can make up your own mind as to whether they know what they are talking about or not.

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CAN YOU TURN THIS SHARP?

came across this video showing a trike rider riding his trike down and back up  a trail with sharp 180 degree turns in it.

We have a couple of these on local trails. I am pleased to be able to say that my trike can easily make the turns. In fact, I can do it center to center. I have ridden with other trike riders who can’t make the sharp turns on their trikes. They have to stop and zig zag back and forth to make the turns. My first tadpole trike was homemade. I made it. It would turn very sharp. I made sure of that when I designed it. The first picture up above shows its turning diameter in the snow. It could turn on this ramp inside to center. My Catrike Trail has almost the same turning diameter but center to center is the best it can do.

I might make mention that changing to wider tires will effect the turning radius of a tadpole trike as the tires will make contact with the frame sooner limiting how far the wheels can turn. I have wide tires on my Catrike now and I can no longer turn center to center on these 180 degree turn ramps. Now I am outside to outside, but I can still make the turns.

I would not have a trike that could not make these turns. It is an important thing to me. Oh, I have ran into turns I could not make and have had to stop, back up and zig zag back and forth to make the turn. I don’t think that there are any trikes who could make these particular turns … not even Delta trikes.. Well, I reckon that is all I have to say about this subject. Enjoy your trike … whatever you ride and …

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BIG BEN PLUS TIRES FROM ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

Are you tired of reading my ramblings? Would you enjoy some fresh material written by someone else other than me? Awhile back I “asked for help”. I wanted to see if anyone would be interested in being a contributing editor. I got absolutely no response. Then later I asked again and one person stepped forward.

Please meet and welcome Joe Antonio.

Joe is happily married to Liz and has nothing but praise for her.

 OO LA LA!

DON’T LOOK!

[I concur. STEVE]

… I love this picture! …

Not only is Joe a fellow tadpole trike rider but so is his whole family. Here they are mounted on their Catrikes. Joe is on a Dumont. Liz is is on a Villager and their 8 year old daughter, Scarlett is on a Pocket.

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DISCLAIMER: The views, beliefs, position and opinions expressed by other authors on this website are those of that author and do not necessarily reflect my own personal views, beliefs, position or opinions. 

Steve Newbauer

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Now onto Joe’s contributing article on Big Ben Plus tires …

“To read way too much information about a tire written by an half crazed insomniac keep reading. 

This ramble includes some information about fitment issues that I experienced installing the tires on my older Catrike Dumont. There’s also a bit about folks who report some compatibility on Catrike’s 3×20” models. It’s important to note that the issues I share here are my own experience on my own trike. Many, if not most people including my new boss, Steve Newbauer, report easy installation and a good fit. 

These are my impressions and experience buying, installing and riding the Schwalbe Big Ben Plus performance tire. If you want exact specs and a source to purchase the tires click on the link to Bike24.com. I hope that much of what I have learned and shared is helpful to those considering buying a set. I’ll extend a sincere thank you to Steve for recommending the tire, Bike24 in Germany and most importantly, picking up my review.  

Billled as “the Big Apple’s robust brother”, Schwalbe promises a lot from this tire and in my opinion they have delivered in a big way. [I concur. STEVE] There’s no denying that Big Ben Plus is composed of Schwalbe family DNA. It shares some of the best materials, tech and engineering from the Schwalbe line up. The team at Schwalbe have done a great job of borrowing the very best characteristics and strengths from several tires in the line-up and rolling them all into one great high performance tire.

A common reason so many trikers seek this tire out is its relationship with the ever popular and sometimes maligned, Big Apple and Big Apple Plus. It promises a smooth suspension like ride like little brother but in a more “robust” casing. In my experience thus far I am happy to report that Big Ben Plus rides every bit as nice as the Big Apple Plus. It smooths out things like bridge planks, crusher fine path and dirt roads quite nicely. Mounting a set is not going to give you travel like the latest suspension trikes but it does a wonderful job smoothing out the road. It seems quite capable on varied surfaces. It even provides a bit of protection from those dreaded shots to the kidneys one might really feel without their high volume and forgiving nature. [I concur. STEVE]

So what’s the difference between this big tire and the Big Apple and Big Apple Plus? Big Ben Plus is a real purpose built e-bike tire. Schwalbe’s promise of a more robust tire is evident pretty quickly, especially if you take them out for a ride in town. I enjoyed the fact that they handle sharp imperfections like the edge of a curb, heaving concrete or storm drains so well. I think they are much and less likely to pinch a tube compared to both Big Apple offerings. 

Big Ben Plus also borrows several strengths from the tire so often recommended and positively reviewed the Marathon Plus. It’s shared “Plus” moniker reveals the same high mileage but easy rolling rubber formulation  I would not expect 30,000 miles of service like a Marathon Plus but it should provide good service over many miles if you take care of them.  The Big Ben Plus promises excellent puncture protection complements of a 3 mm Race Guard protective belt and a layer of Snake Skin on the sidewalls. Big Ben Plus is rated 6 out of 7 for puncture resistance, just one point shy of the bullet proof Marathon Plus, two points greater than standard Big Apples and on par with the Big Apple Plus.

Lastly and most important to me and my good experience, is that the tire is branded with the European ECE-rating, (ECE 75 for Ben and ECE-25 for Marathons and Big Apple offerings). It’s an excellent purpose E-bike tire thru and thru. This tire speed rated for speeds up to 50 KPH!  Big brother likes to go fast. It’s stronger casing and reinforced sidewalls ensure that Big Ben handles and holds the road much better than the Big Apple and the Apple Plus. I dare say they handled even better than the smaller sizes of the Marathon Plus. For a balloon tire the Big Ben Plus is an animal at speed. Schwalbe groups this tire with their performance rating and claims that it is excellent for intensive use.  [I concur. STEVE]

So is the Big Ben Plus the very best all-around tire you can buy for your trike? I’d have to say no. In my opinion that distinction still belongs to the Marathon Plus in a 1.75 width. [I concur. STEVE] Most recreational riders will enjoy excellent all around performance and great service from the Marathon Plus for years if you take care of them. Big Ben’s suspension like ride is really nice but for most riders its an awful lot of tire to push around. If you are strictly human powered and not concerned about its e-bike strengths, it’s likely to be more tire than you need.”

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THANK YOU JOE FOR A WELL WRITTEN ARTICLE. I LOOK FORWARD TO MORE FROM YOU. STEVE

DEAR READERS, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO COMMENT AND ENCOURAGE JOE AS HE COMES ABOARD AS A CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR.

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WAYS TO AVOID GETTING FLATS

Utah Trikes produces lots of good videos. Here is one about various available options one can pursue to avoid getting flat tires. I noticed that the very first option mentioned is my choice … Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. It is still the best tire money can buy and most sensible approach to the matter of avoiding flats. You not only get excellent flat protection but you get incredible wear. … 2 to 3 times as much as the Tannus.  It is a lot of tire for the money. I personally am very unimpressed with the Tannus tire.

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COME RIDE THE FORT WAYNE TRAILS … KIDNEY BELTS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 

I have been riding the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Trails for quite a few years now and have racked up over 120,000 miles on them. During that time I have experienced poor trail maintenance and it keeps getting worse. The problem as I see it is that there is no designated maintenance dept. The city of Fort Wayne assigns sections of the trails to the various city departments … Street Dept., Parks Dept., Right of Way Dept. and Allen County Road Dept. They all have their own responsibilities to tend to so the trails are down the list in priority. The city used to hire two men who worked only on trail maintenance and it made a huge difference. But that ended years ago and nothing has been done since to replace them. Most recently we lost our trail maintenance manager who did a lot of trail maintenance all by herself. She was awesome. She quit to take a job in another city up on Michigan. She is really missed. The guy they hired to replace her is next to worthless in comparison. Trying to get the city to do something about this falls on deaf ears. I pretty much believe in … “if you are not going to maintain the trails, don’t build them”. I think it is shameful.

All I have talked about so far is trail maintenance but what I really want to address is trail conditions … the condition of the surface of the trails. I mentioned wearing a kidney belt. I was joking but  it might not be a bad idea. One could lose tooth fillings riding on our trails. They definitely are rough. Even the newest pavement, Becketts Run Trail, is rough. I tried to film a ride on it holding the camera in my hand. I got tossed around so much the video didn’t turn out very good.

I don’t have any suspension on my trike but I do have balloon tires on all 3 wheels and it definitely helps. I don’t have a kidney belt but if the trails get in any worse shape I may have to consider getting one. And I thought they were only for Harley riders. COME RIDE THE FORT WAYNE TRAILS … if you dare.

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BILLY BONKERS …WHERE DO THEY COME UP WITH THESE NAMES?

Notice: This article may contain commentary that reflects the author’s opinion.

BILLY BONKERS … now I ask ya … where do they come up with these names? Schwalbe manufactures a lot of different tires. Have you ever taken a look at the list of tires they offer? And the names … just reading thru the list is good for a laugh or two. Billy Bonkers is made for mainly off road use. I like the tread pattern.

I would like to try these but I thought there is one major problem. At first I thought they only come in one size … 26 by 2.00, but I have since found them in 20 by 2.00. I wonder how they would do in snow.  If you give Billy Bonkers a try I would love to have you leave a comment telling us what you think of this tire.

Tire manufacturing has become quite a science over the last several years. It is nothing at all like it was when I was growing up as a kid.. With several different rubber compounds formulated for specific purposes and built in flat protection which really works for most of us I am sold on what is available nowadays.

Reading thru what this tire is designed for I have to admit it is not a tire that would benefit most of us on our trikes. Their description includes increased air time (the cycle remaining up in the air off of the ground). I don’t really think that is something I have any desire to improve upon. I kind of like staying down on the ground as much as possible. Anyway, if any of you try this tire please let us know what you think. Thanks.

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TIRES FOR LESS

One thing is for sure. Tires are a consumable. They wear out and need to be replaced. I am constantly coming across people who pay “full price” or nearly so for their tires. And some people don’t believe me when I tell them what I pay for my tires … often less than half of what they pay. I am no one special. I don’t get any better deal than what anybody else can get. It just takes a little bit of time and effort to find sources offering great prices. One person recently said that they buy their tires on Amazon as if that ensures they get the lowest prices. Actually I have never seen good prices for tires on Amazon or Ebay. And rarely do I see any good prices for tires on any source here in the United States. I have consistently found them from sources in Europe, especially Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. Right now with the world economy such as it is with high inflation going on the tire prices are not quite as good as they were. However, one can still find some good deals. At this time the best I have found is Bikeinn in Spain. Some other sources I have used in the past are: BikeDiscount in Germany Bike24 in Germany Merlin Cyclery in United Kingdom. One more comes mind although they don’t always have as good of a price as these others. I am referring to BikeTiresDirect.com in the U.S.  Right now their price is $34.99 with free shipping.

Yes, there is oftentimes shipping charges to pay, but even with those charges figured in the price per tire is still a bargain compared to what one usually finds elsewhere. I have had people boast to me about the price they just paid for some tires. It was ten dollars or more higher per tire than what I have been paying right along. As an example … in the past for 20 by 1.75 Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires (47-406) I have typically paid $24 to $28 per tire including shipping. BTW, in the past at least one source offered free shipping on orders over $75. I always buy 3 or 4 tires at a time. Sometimes I order for a friend and save him a lot of money. You can easily see that if a certain tire costs $24 and there is a $22 shipping charge it is cheaper per tire to order 3 or 4 at a time. Otherwise one tire costs $46. Three tires would be $31.33 per tire. Four tires would be $29.50 per tire. I can’t say how many tires you can order for their stated shipping charge. The most I have ever ordered at one time was 4. I am sure if you went over a certain weight the shipping cost would increase. And speaking of shipping charges increasing … like everything else nowadays, yes, they are higher now. And as we know all over the world we are dealing with shortages and delays. Usually the sources I use have had the tires in stock but nowadays sometimes they are out of stock. Of course, at their low prices they sell a lot. Bike24 has a really good price on Marathon Plus tires right now ($22.70), but they are out of stock. That does not include shipping but since they are out of stock I can’t find out what the shipping is. The MSRP on the Marathon Plus tires is about $47, I think. Seems like it used to be about $54. It is hard to believe that they lowered it. Anyway, you can order them from Amazon for $47.54 saving 10% they say … or … you can wise up and stop paying full price or nearly so by doing what I do.

I do ask one thing … please don’t accuse me of lying to people about the prices I pay for tires. That more less happened recently and I didn’t appreciate it.

BTW, anyone who is interested in trying Vee tires Bikeinn has them really cheap … $4 to $8 per tire plus shipping costs. I could not believe my eyes as I looked thru their tires and saw those prices.

Oh yes, one last thing … service as in customer service. I have always been pleased with the service I have received from each of these companies I have dealt with. They usually send out the tires the same day or next day after ordering them. Occasionally they get held up in U.S. Customs longer than should be necessary. And, of course, right now shipping is delayed some all over the world. But hey, that’s life!

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BIG BEN, BIG APPLE’S BIG BROTHER

Did you know that the Schwalbe Big Apple tire has a big brother? That is what is said about the Big Ben tire. Looking at the two of them they look very similar other than the tread pattern.

However there is a difference. The Big Ben has more tread, that is, the tread is a little thicker so it is a little heavier duty than the Big Apple. I have never ran the Big Apple tire. When I made the decision to switch from the best tire money can buy … the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire to a balloon tire I went right to the superior Big Ben tire. It just makes sense to me to get the better tire. And speaking of making sense … I ordered the Big Ben Plus rather than the standard Big Ben. I want all of the flat protection I can get so I didn’t even consider the standard Big Ben. I am on about my 5th set of these balloon tires now. I really like them but they definitely wear out much faster than the Marathon Plus tires. I have to admit, they spoiled me with their extremely high mileage. The balloon tires definitely provide a much better ride though which is why I keep buying them. I have written previously about Big Ben Plus tires.

I am pleased to say that I have not had any flats since I started running the Big Ben Plus even though they offer 40 % less flat protection than the Marathon Plus tires do. And because there is so much room inside of these balloon tires I use the heavy duty thorn resistant innertubes with them as an extra measure of flat resistance. And, of course, I always use baby powder to help prevent “internal flats”.

The air pressure range for Big Ben Plus tires is 30 to 55 psi. I usually run all three of them at 40 psi. At that pressure they ride good doing a pretty good job of absorbing the bumps and they roll good as well as handle good. Yes, I am well pleased with Big Ben Plus tires. So far I have been able to find them in stock and order them in. I always try to keep a set of new tires on hand. I know that there are other tires besides Schwalbe but I have been so pleased and impressed with Schwalbe tires I just keep on buying them and not trying any others. I am afraid I would be disappointed so I haven’t ventured into getting any other brand.

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RIGHT ON TIME … WINTER, THAT IS

It is like somebody flipped a switch. Suddenly winter weather has arrived on the scene. Snow is in the forecast for tomorrow. I am not ready for winter. We have been so blessed with decent riding weather until yesterday. Yes, starting Monday, December 14th,  everything changed. It got cold and windy … well, we have wind quite often but wind along with cold is a bad combination. It is what it is and we are stuck with it. I could not go out yesterday due to an eye doctor appointment and getting another injection in my eyeball. That usually takes me out of the picture for the day. I was hoping to ride today but I don’t feel like dealing with the cold and wind. And with snow coming I may not be getting out at all. All 3 of my tires are worn out so I have no tread left on them. That is not a good thing when riding on snow. I have been procrastinating changing tires trying to get all the mileage I can out of these tires. They are fine for dry or wet pavement but not for snow. Even brand new the Big Ben Plus tires I run don’t have very much tread on them. I may put my knobby tire back on for the winter months ahead. It does great in the snow.

I have not used the knobby tire for a few years now as I haven’t really needed it. Our trails have been in pretty good shape as far as snow removal. I do like the balloon tires in the snow, but then I like them in any condition.

As I have got older I am finding that I don’t care to go out riding when it is cold.  Actually 40 degrees is about as low as I care to venture out. I may and do go out when it is colder than that but I don’t like doing so.

Yep, winter is here and the winter of my life is here as well. I enjoyed winter a lot more when I was younger.  But as they say … IT AIN[T OVER TIL IT’S OVER. Longing for Spring, I am. I want to …

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REAR WHEEL DIAMETER … 20 VS 26/700

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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LOVIN’ OL’ BIG BEN PLUS

For many years I have used Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires and absolutely love them. I assumed that I would always use them. However, they now have some competition. Oh it is still a Schwalbe tire but I decided to try the Big Ben Plus tires. It is a balloon tire so it is lower pressure and a softer ride. What I have discovered about them is that they not only ride nice but they handle and roll superb. I am extremely impressed with them. They have a reinforced sidewall. They are E-bike rated. As stated they are a “Plus” tire but they do not offer the flat protection of the Marathon Plus tires. In fact, they have 40 % less flat protection which is a significant amount of difference. I have not had them long enough to know how they are going to wear but I am quite sure they can’t begin to compare to the Marathon Plus tires which get phenomenal wear. So my guess is as long as I don’t get flats I will stick with my new love (Big Ben Plus) and just sacrifice the difference in tire mileage. I am extremely impressed with them.

I had to raise the front fenders up using spacers and longer bolts as these tires are taller than the Marathon Plus tires. Also the rear fender had to be raised for the same reason. And upon installation of the tire on the rear wheel the tire was rubbing. Upon investigation I discovered that it was rubbing on the braces for the seat back angle adjustment. I had to adjust my seat angle up one position to stop the rubbing. I didn’t like having to do that but the only alternative would have been to saw off the braces making them shorter so they would clear the tire.

Since these are balloon tires there is plenty of room inside of them. So I am using heavy duty thorn resistant inner tubes with them to help prevent flats. And, of course, I continue to use baby powder liberally inside of the tires and on the inner tubes to help eliminate internal flats.

BTW, I previously tried the regular Big Ben tires and they did not impress me like these Big Ben Plus do. I had ordered the Plus tires but they sent the regular Big Ben tires so rather than going thru the mess and expense of sending them back I just installed them. When they had ran their course I switched back to Marathon Plus. Definitely the Big Ben tires did not do all that well in the wear dept. I still wanted to try the Big Ben Plus so the next time it was time to change tires I ordered the Big Ben Plus. I am so glad I did.

BTW, it is my understanding that the main difference between the Big Apple/Big Apple Plus and the  Big Ben/Big Ben Plus is the Big Ben/Big Ben Plus have a deeper tread so they have more wear available out of them.

Did I mention that I really like these Big Ben Plus tires. Oh yes, I did, didn’t I? Hey, at least I have an excuse … I am getting old. 😉

Tis’ time to end this commentary on ol’ BBP. They are helping me to …

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HERE is a web page where you can compare the various Schwalbe tire lineup as to rolling resistance, durability,  flat protection, road grip and off-road grip. I will have to admit I take issue with what they show concerning flat protection. Marathon Plus has a 5 mm layer thickness while the BBP has a 3 mm layer thickness. That is 40 % difference yet they show both at nearly the same flat protection on this web page. That makes no sense to me.

 

GOING HEAVY DUTY IN THE WHEEL DEPT.

bought new front wheels from Catrike in 2018 to replace my original 2009 wheels that had gone the course. They were in bad shape. I was so thrilled to have new wheels on my trike but the thrill was short lived as the new wheels were in worse shape than my old ones in only about a month’s time. In fact, I have been using one of my old wheels for months now as it is in better condition than the newer one. The local streets and trails are in such bad shape that the bumps and holes are destroying my rims. My rear rim that came with my electric hub motor was also destroyed and had to be replaced. I bought a much heavier duty BMX rim to replace the rear rim. I am pleased to report that it has been holding up quite well. So now I am buying two more BMX rims and having my Catrike hubs laced into them. They are the Sun Ringle Envy (rear) rims and are black in color not white as pictured below.

 

They are considerably wider than the Catrike rims which gives them considerably more strength. Truthfully they probably are not what I would have selected as I like the extra structural pieces available in some other rims I have looked at. The picture below illustrates what I am talking about.

My local bike shop suggested these Envy rims to me and I trusted in their expertise. They assure me that they will be quite strong. Still I would be more comfortable with rims like the one I pictured above as I know they would be stronger.

I am also installing Schwalbe Big Ben Plus tires in place of my beloved Marathon Plus tires.

I am going with heavy duty inner tubes in the Big Ben Plus tires hoping that they will help in preventing flats … externally caused as well as internally caused. They are 5 times thicker than a standard inner tube. I used them once before but they are just too big and difficult to install in smaller sized tires, especially Marathon Plus which are more difficult to install than other tires.

I am still using baby powder inside of my tires and on my inner tubes. The Big Ben Plus do offer some flat protection but they are 40 % less effective than the Marathon Plus tires … meaning that I am concerned about getting flats. I am hoping all goes well and these balloon tires provide enough cushioning to ensure the new rims hold up okay.

I know I will miss certain factors about the Marathon Plus tires. Probably the biggest factor is the incredible mileage I get out of them. I know that these Big Ben Plus tires will wear out much quicker. That means that they will be more expensive to use. I understand that they are suppose to provide fairly decent rolling resistance performance so that is good. Of course, having e-assist helps eliminate some of the concern over this. I may only use them until they wear out and go back to Marathon Plus. I will just have to wait and see. Meanwhile I plan on …

ENJOYING THE RIDE.

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UPDATE 10-19-2019 … I installed the new wheels with the Big Ben Plus tires today and went for a long ride. I am quite impressed with the tires thus far. They ride nice, roll very good and handle extremely well. Time will tell as to their flat protection and mileage.

BICYCLE AIR PUMPS & TIRE PRESSURE

Most recumbent tires are high pressure tires … up around 100 psi. If you don’t have an air compressor at home or in your motor vehicle I strongly recommend purchasing a floor type bicycle air pump … one designed to pump high pressure … preferably 140 or 160 psi. That way when you pump up a 100 psi tire you aren’t maxxing out the pump to accomplish it … or maxxing yourself out using it. 🙂

In fact, I suggest getting one of these pumps even if you do have an air compressor available to use as they are quite handy and practical.

Most good quality pumps nowadays have a built in guage making it very handy. I suggest checking the accuracy of the guage initially and from time to time to be sure you are getting the right pressure in the tires.

Here are a couple of examples of pumps available.

Blackburn air tower 3 bike floor pump

Park Tools PFP-4 Professional Mechanic Floor Pump

They can be purchased at your local bike shop. I want to emphasize that it is best to buy a good quality pump and not settle for some inferior pump at a lower cost. I don’t think you would regret paying more for a quality pump. I would also suggest that you talk to a local bike shop mechanic to get their recommedation as to what pump to buy. You could also research them online to get customer feedback.

I am not making any recommendations as to what pump to buy. I am only showing these two as examples of what is available. There are lots of different ones out there. The first pump I have pictured above is a Blackburn Air Tower 3 Bike Floor Pump rated at 160 psi. To the best of my knowledge it is a good quality pump.

The second pump I have pictured above is a ParkTool brand which normally they make pretty good quality stuff. However, the customer reviews of this pump are not all that impressive. That is surprising.

Most pumps nowadays have a dual head on them so that either Presta or Schrader valves are accommodated.

The pump I have is a Pedros Domestique air pump. It is a good pump, but I know that there are better ones available.

In case you didn’t know it an innertube loses air on a continual basis so it is necessary to inflate them from time to time. That’s right … air leaks right thru the rubber so they are constantly losing pressure. The higher the pressure the more they leak down. It is important to keep your tires inflated to the correct pressure. You will get better wear, mileage, handling, and performance out of your tires as well as make it easier to pedal along since low air pressure equates to more rolling resistance.

It is also important that you never over inflate your tires beyond what they are designed for. Doing so can result in destroying the tire and causing a major tire failure which could be disaterous at worst and leave you stranded at best.

I once put about 10 psi more in a knobby tire I used for winter riding. About 10 miles from home I noticed something which wasn’t right in the ride … a pronounced thump of sorts. I stopped and got off to look. My rear tire was literally coming apart … separating from too much pressure in it. Fortunately I was only about a half of a mile or so from a local bike shop so I made it over there and got a new tire. The tire that had just gone bad would have lasted me for several years more if I had not over inflated it.

Yes, proper tire inflation is quite important … especially if we all want to …

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WHEN IS .75 NOT THE SAME AS 3/4?

If we were talking simple mathematics the answer to that would be simple enough. The fraction and the decimal are always the same. But in the world of bicycle tires it is an altogether different ballgame. The answer is no, it is not the same. I know … it sounds crazy and as far as I am concerned it is crazy. It is one very confusing messed up system which has been developed. When I was a kid it wasn’t this way. It was all pretty much straight forward and simple … easy to understand. I have written about this subject before. Click HERE to read about it.

Just take a look at this chart below and you can readily see what I am talking about. It almost gives me a headache.

tire-size-chart-complete

Schwalbe has information on tire sizes HERE.  I like their chart as it seems easier to read than some others I have seen.  HERE is an article by the late Sheldon Brown about tire sizes. He has a section a short ways down the page he has called “Does Point Seven Five Equal Three Quarters?”.  HERE is another article on tire sizes.

Be certain what size wheels you have on your trike before buying new tires or inner tubes. Most tadpole trikes with 20 inch wheels have 406 rims, but a few may have 451 rims. The tires and inner tubes for these two sizes are not interchangeable. This is what happens when you try to install a 451 inner tube in a 406 tire:

451-inner-tube-in-406-tire

As you can see the 451 inner tube is much larger in diameter than the 406 tire. Some of the sales people in bike stores don’t know this and will hand you a 451 inner tube even if you specify you need a 406 inner tube. It has happened to me. I got clear back home before discovering the sales person selected the wrong tube. I had to return to the store to get the right one. Now I look before buying it since I learned you can’t entrust the matter to the store.

For most of us we don’t have to concern ourselves very much about all of this. It is when you go trying to make major changes in wheels and tires that you encounter the complexity and need to “get it right”. If we simply stick with buying pretty much the same tires by the size shown mounted on our rims we should be safe enough. Just remember about the 406 vs 451 matter. Try to avoid getting a headache and simply …

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WILL THESE TIRES FIT MY RIMS?

That is a good question. I wish I had the answer. Information like that would be nice to know. I suppose I could say … “your guess is as good as mine”, but I reckon that wouldn’t be very helpful. I have tried a few different times looking up information about tires and rims and pretty much  concluded that I must be dumber than I thought as I couldn’t make much out of most of what I read. It just seems to get pretty technical and complicated. I find it quite challenging trying to make sense out of all of it. It was pretty simple when I was a kid, but thru the years man has managed to make it quite complicated. You can try your hand at it if you want. Perhaps you will have more success than I have had in the past. My best advice is to go ask someone who works with this and has some understanding of it. That being said, don’t be surprised if they don’t know of a certainty the answer to your question.

But this much I know … more and more it seems as though people are moving toward wider tires on their trikes … trying to remake their trikes into “mini-FAT trikes”. I can understand and appreciate that, but hey, a rim can only handle so much additional width without concern of safety and performance.

HERE is Schwalbe’s article on this.

You can read the late Sheldon Brown’s article HERE.

There are some formulas for calculation HERE.

HERE is another good article on tire width and rim size.

Here are some things I have learned. Some of it is just common sense and logic.
Tires are designed to have a certain shape when they are properly inflated on the rim. If the tire is too narrow traction and stability when cornering will suffer. If the tire bead is too wide where is fits down into the rim the tire will be deformed from the way it was designed and the tread will be effected. Impact absorption will suffer as will control during cornering. Sidewalls can be more easily damaged and cut. A proper fitting tire on a rim will ensure maximum performance in cornering and traction as well as provide the least rolling resistance. Tires are designed to have a certain shape when properly mounted and inflated. When we modify things we can effect our safety in the performance and handling of the tire.
A wider tire has less rolling resistance than a narrower one of the same “build” and air pressure. A wider tire will also help prevent pinch flats.

Yeah, I wish I could give you a quick and accurate response, but the truth is “your guess is as good as mine”. Well, hopefully we can all …

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“SORTA FAT”

Fat tire trikes have most definitely caught on and more and more are coming on the market. Those fat tires are nice, but they sure are expensive. And then there are the special wheels required to mount them … also very expensive. Many of us may think we would like to have a fat trike, but can’t afford to buy one. Maybe we struggle with justifying the expense. And even attempting to convert our existing trike over to a fat trike may be cost prohibitive … even if the frame would accept the wider tires and wheels (and it may not).

Most of us know the terms “full”, “mini” and “micro”. Full is full size, mini is smaler than full and micro is smaller than mini. This can be applied to a lot of things including … (drum roll please) … “ta da!” … FAT tires. Yep, there is full fat, mini fat and micro fat. Full fat is said to be 26 x 4 so a full fat trike has 26 x 4 inch wheels and tires all the way around.  Mini fat is 20 x 4 so a mini fat trike has 20 x 4 inch tires and wheels all the way around. Then there is micro fat which is 20 (or 26) x 3. Yep, I said 3. It definitely is not a full fat of 4 inch tires and rims, but 3 inches is definitely larger than everything else out there I know of commonly found on tadpole trikes. It looks impressive when compared to more conventional/traditional tires normally found on tadpole trikes. Here is one alongside of a Schwalbe 2 inch Big Apple, a tire many of us are familiar with. As you can see there is considerable difference in both width and height.

big-apple-compared-to-kenda-flame-2

So … Want a FAT trike but can’t afford one? There may be hope for you. Converting your standard tadpole trike into a Micro-FAT trike may be as simple and low cost as replacing the tires and inner tubes. Yep, I am talking about using your stock rims to mount these monsters on. At least it is my understanding that this can be done safely and that they will still perform properly. I would strongly advise anyone considering this to first check with a professional mechanic or the bicycle tire manufacturer to be certain this will work and will be safe. I am talking about using these 3 inch tires on your standard stock rims. I am only able to go by what some trike owners report and that is that they are successfully using these 3 inch tires on their stock rims. Warning- Rims are designed to use tires within a certain range. Trying to mount too narrow or too wide of a tire can be a problem and even dangerous. I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting or saying it okay to mount these tires on stock rims. I am only reporting that some have done so and claim they haven’t had any problems doing so.

I want to make it very clear that it is possible that these larger width and height tires may not fit on your trike as far as having the needed clearance in the frame. So before spending money ordering these tires and tubes this needs to be known. I don’t have any way available to tell you whether or not they will work on your trike. You are on your own. Some trikes will handle them okay while others won’t.

rear-tire-clearance-in-frame

The best advice I could give it to look at your current tires taking note how much clearance you have available on the sides of the tires as well as the front side of the rear wheel as these 3 inch wide tires are considerably taller than the tires normally installed on a tadpole trike. That means they will come forward further into the frame as well as be wider. So if you already find you don’t have a lot of room left over between your stock tire and the frame you may not be able to install these larger tires. As you can see in the picture above this trike doesn’t have hardly any additional room available for a larger diameter tire, especially on the bottom most part of the frame.

Also keep in mind that even if they do fit they will change some things from what you are used to. For instance most likely your turning radius will be effected as these tires would rub on the frame sooner not allowing the wheels to turn as sharply.

These Kenda Flame 3 inch tires are available in  20 x 3 (76-406 ISO) diameter and, if needed, 26 x 3 (68-559 ISO) for the rear tire … although you may want a different tire on the rear to provide better traction. (They are also available in 24 inch.) It is my understanding that 20 x 4 inch inner tubes should be used in the 20 inch tire and 26 x 4 inch inner tubes in the 26 inch tire. The tire is listed as 20 or 26 x 3 but it only measures about 2.75 inches according to a picture of it online as well as what I have read about it. I don’t know if using a 4 inch inner tube will cause the 3 inch tire to increase in girth when inflated more so than a smaller inner tube would.

kenda-flame-20-x-3-76-406

Above is a picture of the Kenda Flame 3 inch tire. You can see it doesn’t have much of a tread pattern as far as aggressive traction like a knobby tire has. And it is not available in any other tread pattern. So off road use would be limited in the realm of traction. That is why I mentioned that you may want a different tire on the rear. If you don’t ride in mud or other surfaces or areas require superior traction then this tire may be satisfactory for your rear tire. I am quite sure it would not suffice for me.

The best price I have found  for the 20 x 3 tire is $17.59 with free shipping on purchases over $50 on BikeTiresDirect.com
The best price I found on a 26 x 3 inch tire is $29.57 with free shipping on excelcycle.com . There are also other brands of tires available but I don’t think you can buy them for anywhere near this price. That being said, take a look below.

vee-rubber-26-x-3-inch-tire

I did find a Vee Rubber 26 x 3 inch tire (pictured above) on sale for $26, but it showed currently out of stock. You can, however, submit your email address to be informed when they have them back in stock. It is quite similar to the Kenda Flame tire.

Just one 4 inch FAT tire costs over $100 and the 4 inch tubes cost about $15 each. You can buy three of these 3 inch Kenda Flame tires and three of the 4 inch inner tubes for about $100. So if this will suffice for you you can see it is definitely a very inexpensive way to go. Keep in mind … you are only gonna be “sorta fat” with this set up.

I want to mention here and give credit to a fellow triker for enlightening me to this as he did this with his trike and swears by these tires for winter riding. He says he inflates them from 10 to 40 psi. Here is a picture of his trike with the 20 x 3 inch Kenda Flame tires mounted on all three stock rims. He reports that they do great riding in/on snow.

20-x-3-inch-tires-on-tadpole-trike-2

In installing these large tires there may be a concern of clearance and definitely most fenders that may currently be installed with have to be removed and remain off. HERE is an article entitled “what are the pitfalls of converting to a micro fat trike”.

One thing which just popped into my head concerning going with a wider tire like this on the rear wheel is the clearance of the chain. On my trike even with 1/4 inch wider tires than stock my chain is very close to the sidewall of the tire.

So if you have a hankerin’ for a FAT trike this may be something to consider. If we ride on these larger tires and go places our smaller stock tires can’t cope with we just may be able to …

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WINTER ATTRACTION REQUIRES WINTER TRACTION

If you ride in winter weather where you deal with snow and ice you probably already know that standard tires just don’t cut the mustard. For those of you who are not Americans you probably don’t know what I am talking about when I say cut the mustard. It simply means “to succeed” or “to come up to expectations”. Nope, a standard tire will just spin with no traction. One needs a tire that has good traction and “gets ur done”. Different people come up with different means of obtaining traction. Some continue to use their standard tires, but add some sort of mechanism to it to gain extra traction. One such item is plastic cable ties. I don’t personally think much of this for the simple reason that they break and fall off littering our earth as the rider goes on his merry way usually completely unaware of this. I have never tried them, but I can’t imagine them doing much to gain much traction.

plastic-cable-ties

One can also use tire chains although just like using them on a car or truck they are not very practical for long term use unless one is constantly on snow or ice. They are rough riding, noisy and wear out quickly (prematurely) when riding on dry pavement. The ones I found online are more expensive than those for a car or truck (at least what those cost the last time I bought any). Some people make their own.

tire-chains

Another option is the use of studded tires. Some people swear by them. If you ride on ice I think they would be most practical. However, if you ride on snow then I think there is a better option. Besides riding on dry pavement with studs wears them out prematurely and is costly. And they too are a bit noisy on dry pavement.

Studded tyres

Here is what I use and find them perfect for my winter riding. I have found that not all knobby tires are created equal. Some ride better than others. Some get better traction than others. Some offer the best of both. I really like the current one I use pictured below. It is a Kenda tire and was under $20 at a local bike shop.

kenda-winter-tire

Of course, none of these traction options will last as long as they could and would if they were only ridden on snow and ice. Dry pavement riding will wear any of them out quicker. Lower pressure in tires works better for traction. My knobby tire is only a 40 psi maximum tire. I personally only use a “winter tire” on my rear wheel for traction. My front tires remain standard tires I run year around. Of course, they don’t offer as good of traction on the front as a winter tire would, but I get by just fine. I happen to have two rear wheels for my trike so I just keep the standard tire on one of the wheels and the knobby tire on the other. Then I simply change the wheels back and forth instead of the tires on the wheel. That makes it easier and quicker.

Yep, without the knobby tire I would just sit there and spin my rear wheel often times. Many times I have had to dismount and push or pull my trike to get it advanced forward. With the knobby tire I get great traction and am able to …

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