I have written about Trike Tip Over before. It can happen easier than you might think and very quickly so that all too often there is nothing a rider can do to prevent it once it starts. One of the things that can occur in everyday riding is going down over a curb at an intersection. I am talking about riding on the sidewalk or a trail where it crosses a street or road where there is a curb to deal with. It is getting more and more common to have ADA compliant sidewalks which, of course, are a very big help to anyone transitioning using a wheeled vehicle. Going over curbs with a tadpole trike is not a good thing to do. First of all it is dangerous. Secondly it can damage the trike.
Whether you are dealing with a standard curb, rounded curb (by rounded I mean a curb that curves around a corner like in the picture above) or an ADA Compliant Curb Ramp (like in the picture below) there are concerns. I think I have been the victim of a tip over 3 times when going over curbs in the past. One time it spilled me right out in front of motor vehicular traffic. Fortunately the driver of the car was paying attention and stopped rather than run over me. Well, actually the traffic light had just changed and he hadn’t really taken off much yet. He was the lead vehicle so he had a “front row seat”. I was quite embarrassed by the incident. I got up and out of the street as quickly as I could. It happened because where I was attempting to ride was uneven. By that I mean that I was not over where I should have been … where the ADA Compliant ramp was at. Instead I was part way in the ramp and part way where there was still a curb. There was someone over there where I needed to be so I was simply going to take off and pass them as I crossed the street. Looking at the picture of this location the curb is not very high. So you can see that it doesn’t take much of an uneven surface to cause major problems. Obviously the ADA Compliant ramp they have here isn’t very practical in its design. It is what I would call “minimal effort”. Anyway, in the picture below I have drawn lines showing where a person was standing blocking off the ramp. I have also drawn lines to show where my wheels were at as I attempted to ride around the person. One wheel was on the ramp on level ground and the other wheel went down over the curb area.
There is something I am leaving out in my story which greatly effected the outcome of this. I had my dog with and he was riding in the basket. That was 25 extra pounds of weight located up high making the trike tip over all the easier.
If you find yourself riding down over a curb (which I advice against) be sure to tackle it on a 90 degree perpendicular angle so that both front wheels go down over it at the same time. If you don’t you are asking for problems … a tip over. In the picture below I have drawn two sets of lines … one set is blue and the other set is red. The blue represents going off of the curb with the front wheels going over at different times. The red represents going off of the curb with the front wheels going over at the same time at a 90 degree angle to the curb.
I suppose one could get involved in some controversy here as to the matter of how fast or how slow one should go over a curb if they choose to do so. I will say this … one should either go over a curb extremely slow and carefully to avoid damage or go flying off of it so fast that there is not any opportunity for things to go wrong. 🙂 But even going over slowly is no guarantee that the trike won’t receive damage. Most trikes are built low to the ground with very little ground clearance so things can scrape, get struck, etc. when going over a curb. The paint can get all messed up and the idler pulley(s) underneath can get messed up also. One common thing that happens on my Catrike Trail if I go over a curb is the metal piece which goes down and under the idler pulley to keep the chain from coming out of the pulley can be pivoted backwards and up into the chain so that the chain rubs on it making noise and destroying the metal piece.
Definitely it is much easier and safer to deal with curbs on a bicycle than it is a trike. With a bike you can hop curbs easily without concern of damage to the bike (if you know how and do it right) as the tires just barely touch … actually they don’t touch the curb itself. It is possible that the rear wheel might, but ever so lightly that it is no concern. You just can’t do that on a trike. You can’t do wheelies on a trike either. That’s ok. They are still a lot of fun to ride. Just try to avoid tipping over. It is not fun.