My Trice QNT with my house in the background

Saturday, March 28, 2009

5: The Ride, it's all about the ride (aka The Review)

I've now got about 95 miles on my trike and I seriously could not be happier.

The steering is easy yet tight. It takes very little effort to turn. At first it felt a little squirely but I quickly learned to relax my grip and things got much better. ICE employs Ackerman steering geometry in all of their trikes. Basically what this means is that when turning, the inner wheel follows a tighter radius than the outer one. Not all trikes do this and if they don't the inner wheel is dragged through the turn rather than following it naturally. My Q turns very smoothly and with great control. The turn radius sounds big, around 11', but in practice it's just fine. I can turn it around on a 2-lane road with room to spare. The only place it might be an issue would be when maneuvering around a garage where you'd probably just be lifting one end and pivoting it from a standing position.
I've never used the twist style shifters that come standard on a Q but I liked the idea of bar end shifters, especially as they include an upgraded rear derailleur (XT). They are fantastic. They give a nice place to hook a finger so I hold less tightly on the grip. They are very intuitive to use, I've only ever had quick fire shifters before. I like these much more. One thing I hadn't thought about was that with the crank set being right in line with your view of the road it is very easy to see how the front derailleur is lined up to the chain rings. After the first 10 miles or so the shifting cables stretch. The way the cables exit the grips makes adjusting a breeze. You can do it as you ride.
The gearing that comes standard is working out well for the time being. I live in a somewhat hilly area. Recumbents use muscles a bit differently and mine are slowly adapting to the new angles. In time I imagine I'll need more chain travel as I'm currently in the higher gears most of the time. Then again, as I get more fit I'll probably be taking on steeper hills so maybe the low end is just right and I'll need a higher ratio at the top end for the downhills. All in all I guess it's just too early to tell.

The crank set is a little different, and better, than shown on the website. It now comes with a built in plastic ring that is just a bit bigger than the largest chain ring. This protects the chain ring and helps keep your shoelace or pant leg out of the chain.

I've adjusted the front boom twice now, each time to give a longer reach to the crank set. An inch really makes a difference. The thing to know is that if you need to adjust it much, the chain will need a few extra links added. Keep a couple quick links on hand to do this. You don't want a chain too long, but too short is bad as well. Also, when assembling the trike, you will need a chain breaking tool. This isn't something everyone will have in their home tool set but it is a good idea to have one on the road so if you're getting one, make it a compact model. Most good combo bike tools have one included.


The rear suspension is very good. I've never ridden a hard tail trike so I can't really say how big of a difference this makes. All I know is I'm very comfortable with the ride.
I don't feel jolts or much vibration. The local roads are pretty well maintained but still there is gravel at the shoulder and the occasional crack or pot hole. I do feel these but not to an uncomfortable degree. You can adjust it in two ways. One, you can use different density pucks. Two, you can move the puck to one of three different positions, each with a harder or softer feel. I haven't done this as I like it just the way it is. Additionally, the suspension is really a work of art. If you're into technical beauty, you won't be disappointed.

The standard brakes are very good. They just work well. Light pressure on the level will slow you on a steep decent (but why?). More pressure, more effect. Best of all, they're drum brakes so they're sealed from elements and so won't lose grip when it's wet out. As advertised, there is virtually no brake steer. Slam on one break only and you will still stop in a relatively straight line.

The headrest needed a bit of extra work. it's basic position can only be adjusted up or down, not forwards or backwards. I found it way too far back to be useful. I fixed this by rotating it forward and then held it in position by driving a self-tapping screw through the mounting bracket into the cross member where it attaches. Although this works, it is a rather permanent measure and you had better get it right on the first attempt or two or your bracket will be full of holes. Once screwed in, the headrest rods can be bent forward a bit for final adjustment. I'd like to see a better solution here.

The standard mesh seat is quite comfortable. There is an option to get a hard shell seat with the advantage of less give which will help transfer more of your leg power to the pedals. I've always had very strong legs and I really like the idea of an open mesh for cooling when the weather gets warm. So far I'm very happy with my choice. The mesh mounts to the seat frame using 14 adjustable straps. By making minor adjustments to these straps you can give more or less support to various areas of the seat. If you want more lumbar support, loosen the straps above and below then tighten the ones in the lumbar area and feel the difference. There are 3 seat angles with the mesh seat, 6 with the hard shell I think. Changing angle is very easy and requires no tools. I started at the middle setting and quickly moved to the lowest for even better aerodynamics. Both are comfortable and offer an excellent view of the road ahead.
Rider position is very comfortable. I thought it might be odd sitting so close to the ground but it's actually a very nice view from there. Seeing the world from this lower angle is a fresh perspective. Your legs are a bit elevated so it's possible to get tingling toes after a long ride. A few minutes sitting still with your feet on the ground and it's all gone. The body angle has eliminated all my discomfort associated with upright biking. The handlebars are adjustable enough that you can find the right elbow bend. No pressure on my wrists is nice as that was my chief complaint. My neck is in a natural position. It's nice to relax back into the headrest on a long incline but by no means do I need it for comfort. Best of all I'm not straining to look up at the road as I did on my upright. It's odd to get to a natural stopping point for a break and find yourslef not wanting to go sit on a park bench or the grass. It's doubtful the area would provide a more comfortable place to sit than right there on your trike.

The trike comes with a Mirrycle rear view mirror. When you order the optional bar end shifters you cannot mount the mirror in the normal place as the shifters take up that spot. The work around is great. ICE will send you a small stub that attaches to the handle bar just below the brake lever. Properly positioned, the mirror sits in a very good spot and the stub is a great place to mount your computer. The mirror itself is great. It takes an allen wrench to adjust but once it's pointing the right way there isn't any reason to change it. I think this is the perfect choice as far as I'm concerned.


I'd like to make point of a few things that are different and need to be remembered on a trike.

First, you really must have clipless petals of some sort. You're feet are not on top of the pedals and you'll find yourself relaxing from time to time. Dropping a foot onto the roadway would be bad. One very nice thing is that you clip in at the beginning of the ride and really don't need to unclip until you're done.

Second, you're very close to the ground. I'm so used to stretching my arms while riding that it's a good idea to remember how easy it is to reach out and touch the ground. Keep it in mind and you'll save a scratched knuckle or two.

Third, trikes don't lean. Three wheels are a big confidence builder but it is possible to get up on two wheels and it takes a bit of time to learn how the handling works. I take corners very quickly but I'm still adjusting to the differences. It's so comfortable I could easily see myself overdoing it and taking a spill.

Fourth, air flows past your body in a different way than on an upright. While we do cut through the air more efficiently it comes from below and that can pose some problems. Your eyewear may draft the air up between the lens and your eye which is quite drying so larger lenses are better. Also, air tends to billow my windbreaker if the waist isn't cinched.

Finally, dogs and other animals don't know what you are at first. I ride in an area with dogs, horses, goats, pigs, cattle, water fowl and the occasional human being. None of these creatures, especially the humans, seem know what to make of a trike. I've found that dogs start off pretty aggressive but as soon as you call out to them and wave an arm they start to understand that you are a person and the aggression drops off. Still, a dog can probably run faster than you are riding and could be a hazard. I'm going to add an AirZound to my Q in case a dog gets to close. Horses really need a bit of respect. I've yet to encounter one on the road but when I do I'll be sure to approach very slowly and be ready to dismount if needed.

I'm very pleased with my purchase. I highly recommend the Trice QNT to anyone considering a recumbent trike. The components are high quality and go together well. The experience of riding this trike is wonderful. ICE is easy to deal with and can be counted on to handle your order effiecently. For the price, you get more features than any other trike I am aware of.
I have no buyers remorse and am looking forward to years and years of recumbent triking.

4: Delivery and Assembly

In the reviews I read, people were surprised by the small size of the box. Still, when the UPS driver didn't open the back of the truck but pulled the box out of the side door I was a bit taken aback. Alright, I was actually worried. Did they forget something? Did they forget most everything? This box is small. I mean small. But everything was in it, well packed, wrapped and bagged for safety.

When I first placed my order the gentleman at ICE offered to set up a viewing with an Oregon shop that sells this trike. I could also have them make the sale and handle the assembly. I opted to take home delivery without seeing it as the closest shop was in Portland and I'm near Medford, several hours away. Also I had a lot of confidence as some of the reviews suggested that the assembly wasn't difficult even if you had no bike building experience, which I don't.

The printed manual is quite good though it's a bit out of date on a couple of items. I'll cover these in the event you buy a Q prior to them updating it.

Assembly took about 5 1/2 hours as I took my time.

First impression of the trike pieces, great. Everything looks very high quality. The welds are clean, smooth and strong. The powder coat finish on the main part of the frame is flawless. The color is deep and rich. Everything goes together well, no forcing needed.

Things to keep in mind.

First, if you opt for the bar end shifters, the manual suggests the cable to the rear derailleur has different routing which is mentioned in other documentation. This is no longer the case. Use the standard routing.

Second, there is the ability to adjust the alignment of the front wheels. It is not documented but is quite self evident. Most of the things you adjust on the trike are "eyeball" adjustments. This alignment is not. I eyeballed it and on my test ride was very unhappy with the ease at which the trike moved. It seemed to take a lot of effort the climb the slightest hill and the free rolling wasn't, well it wasn't free at all. Finally, I found the problem was the wheel alignment. A careful measurement showed my eyeball adjustment to be very far off. Once corrected the problem disappeared completely.

Finally, there is no longer a rear "finger" mud guard shipped with the trike. They told me that it really didn't perform any function and so they now have a very nice full wrap fender that matches the front fenders available as an option.

If you are new to building up a bike I'd like to suggest a few things. Most importantly, don't rush. Take the time to do each step exactly as outlined. Stop to verify your work as you go. It's worth the time to get it right. Also, don't be afraid to do it. It's a learning experience that will pay off down the road. I now have complete confidence that I can make basic roadside adjustments and repairs. You'll also know what tools you'll need to take with you on the road.
It's a nice bit of piece of mind.

3: Making a Decision, Placing an Order

I looked at almost every page on the ICE website. I read the reviews. I checked out the options and accessories. Everything I found was to my liking, some things were surprising. First of all, the QNT (Q standing for quick and NT for Narrow Track) had all of the things on my list as standard. Second, it was at a price that, although not cheap, after all it is a recumbent trike, was very competitive. Every review I read praised this trike and the company as a whole. The only real issue I had was that ICE is in Cornwall, UK. I assumed that shipping was going to kill me. Alas, my fears were groundless. The price listed included shipping, import taxes, everything!

Alright, it had taken me less than a week to find the trike of my dreams but my birthday was still a few months off. Waiting... not my strong point.

My wife's a doll. She saw the excitement in me. She recognized that we were just coming into perfect riding weather. She suggested we put in an order right away. "Why wait 'til your birthday, right?"


So I traded a few emails back and forth with the excellent ICE staff. Got my final questions answered and chose a custom color along with a couple options.

Here's what I ordered:
  • ICE QNT in a deep royal blue (my mom always loved blue and so do I)
  • Optional bar end shifters with XT rear derailleur
  • Optional head rest
Here's the best part, even with the custom color, the estimated time to ship was only 2 weeks. Remember, each of these trikes is basically custom built. This was fast. Then, as if by magic, they did something that so very rarely happens today. They stuck to the schedule, shipped on time and UPS delivered on the exact day that was estimated. My trike came half way around the world in 6 days. Nice.

2: Research - What's Important to Me

I was excited and couldn't wait to learn more about trikes. Looking around I found several excellent resources. The recumbent community, though not large when compared to the bicycle community, is quite vocal. A few things that struck a chord with me were steering style, adjustable seat angle, rear suspension and brake steer. These are things I hadn't even thought about when looking at the Cat.

Steering style is either direct or indirect. Direct has the handle bars coming right up off the steer tubes while indirect has them mounted, and swiveling, on the frame and tie rods connecting and directing the wheels. Most opinions agree that indirect feels more natural and a bit less "squirely".

Adjustable seat angle is just that, not fixed in one position. Though I had thoroughly enjoyed the position of the seat on the CatTrike, having the ability to adjust it for different conditions did sound like a good idea. Not just that, if it was adjustable it needed to be easy. I don't want to have a 15 minute tool-in-hand job each time I wanted a change.

Rear suspension would be nice. I knew that. Some suggest that a 26" rear tire eliminates the need for this but then you have the added issue of 2 different tubes to carry. Not a huge deal but if suspension wasn't too much more I'd probably want to go in that direction.

Brake Steer was a new concept for me. As the front wheels are typically the braking wheels on a trike and they are independently operated, some braking systems allow you to steer the trike by applying different pressures on each wheel. Sounds cool huh? Well on further reading it is actually a problem. If you break harder on the left wheel than the right you tend to steer to the left. As this occurs, inertia causes your weight to shift to the right, which is the less braking wheel. Basically, it mean a loss of control and this can happen even if you don't try to brake more on one side than the other, a wet brake shoe or a poorly adjusted/failing brake could cause you to take a turn into traffic. Minimal/no brake steer means you maintain control. Sounds like a really good idea to me.

Alright, I've got a list of things I want but I've got a budget too. Can I get them all? You bet I can.

Enter Inspired Cycle Engineering.

1: Introduction - A New Way to See The Sights

I love being out in the world riding bikes, hiking or touring on my motorcycle. However, over the years I've been doing a lot less biking due to numbness in my hands and soreness in my back and neck. It was time to make a change but I didn't know just what.

One day, while driving, a sign caught my eye for a bike store that specializes in recumbent bikes. I've seen these on the road more and more, even considered what it might be like to ride one, but never took any real steps towards researching them. I decided to stop in and take a look.

It was a rainy day so a test ride wasn't on the menu. I did get a chance to look at and sit on several different types of recumbents but the one that really caught my eye was a Cat Trike. The things I really liked about it was the balance of 3 wheels, angle of seating and, basically, the cool factor. Some may disagree with me but I think a trike can be the sportiest looking recumbent there is. I also liked the idea that your hands are relaxed at your sides and the seating is basically a lawn chair on wheels.

Well recumbents in general, and recumbent trikes in specific, do not hold a huge share of the bike market. This makes the price a fair amount more than a comparabily equiped upright bike. This, and the fact that I couldn't even test ride the trike, made me think that a little more research and time was in order before I made up my mind that this was the right choice for me.

I did, however, announce to my wife that I knew what I wanted for my upcoming birthday.