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Sheldon Brown's Greenspeed GT3 Recumbent Tricycle
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by Sheldon Brown
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Greenspeed GT3 Folding Tadpole Tricycle

I've been interested in recumbents for a long time, but never found a recumbent bicycle that I felt secure on. I like the riding position, but have not found the handling/balancing to be easy to master with a recumbent bike.

I've lusted after a Greenspeed recumbent trike for a long time, but they have not been generally what I would consider affordable. The GT3 is the first model to break he price barrier, and it also is the first to be foldable, solving the shipping/transporting issue.

Greenspeed in trunkHere's a picture of my GT3 packed in the trunk of my '93 Pontiac. I drove out to 'Bentride 2005 in the Pontiac, rather than take our Chrysler minivan, since the Pontiac gets better gas mileage.

Riding a trike is completely different from riding a bike, as different as driving a sports car is from driving a motorcycle. I mention "sports" car because a low-slung tadpole trike like this is a very sporty-feeling vehicle. Part of this is just the lower viewpoint (as with sports cars vs typical sedans) but a lot of it has to do with the handling of the trike. They are astonishingly maneuverable, due to the short wheelbase and the fact that you don't need to deal with balancing when turning.

Riding the trike is different in other ways as well. The first thing that strikes you is how nice it is to come to a stop and not need to unclip from the pedals, and how easy it is to re-start.

On a longer ride, if you get tired, you can just stop and rest, sitting in your comfy "lawn chair" while you recharge your "batteries."

Climbing hills is quite different from climbing on a bicycle as well. With a bicycle, you need to maintain a certain minimum speed to be able to balance and still ride in a more-or-less straight line. That's not so on a trike. It is true that trikes are often slower uphill than bikes. This is not because they have to go slow, but rather it's because they can go slow. If you want to take it easy, gear down and climb a steep hill at 1 mile/hour or even slower, there's nothing to keep you from doing so.

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Trikes and Traffic

Riding the trike in traffic is kind of a mixed bag. I must admit that I get very nervous riding alongside parked cars. I worry a lot about being "doored" due to my lower position, but of course the "dooring" issue can be avoided by proper lane positioning.

More worrisome is driving by diagonally-parked cars, because a driver backing out of a diagonal space really can't see you down low.

Fortunately, my neighborhood is sort of on the suburb/exurb border, and if I head west from my home, I'm on country-ish roads pretty soon, so I don't need to worry too much about parked cars.

Riding the trike on country roads is an absolute delight. You might think that it would be scarier due to the slightly greater width of the trike, but in practice this is not an issue, for two reasons:

Trikes Offroad

When I got the Greenspeed, I never expected it to be suitable for off-road use. However, I have a long history of going off-road on bikes that you wouldn't expect to be suitable...used to do it on silk tubulars back in the day!

Naturally, then I would have to try the trike out on the trails just to see what would happen.

I was quite surprised to find out how well it managed! Once again, the stability factor came into play. Because there was no balance issue, I can ride the trails as slowly as I need to without worrying about falling over.

I've got the stock Primo Comet tires on it, running at about 45-50 psi (3 bar or so) They don't have any sort of knobby tread, which is a Good Thing on road. It does mean that in off-road circumstances, I occasionally will spin the rear tire. All is not lost, however, because when I get stuck this way, all I need to do is lean forward, grab the front tires "wheelchair style" and suddenly I've got 3-wheel drive! Naturally, this is too tiring for sustained climbing, but for surmounting minor ground irregularities it works great!

One of the first places I tried going off-road was in neighboring Weston, which has a lot of nice hiking trails. These trails are blocked by anti-motor-vehicle gates made of welded pipe...but I found that the Greenspeed is low enough to just ride right under them...except for the flag. That's how I busted my flagpole. Made it through several of the gates with it just flexing, but finally ran into one that was too low, and it snapped off. However I really don't miss it. I don't believe thes flags actually accomplish anything of importance, either on a bicycle or a tricycle.

The Recumbent Grin

Recumbent fans often speak of the "recumbent grin", a reaction often seen on riders who have been bitten by the recumbent bug.

I have found that the Greenspeed works this way on pedestrians as well...I nocice that passers-by tend to break out in big smiles when they see me coming...I guess it is to some extent obvious how much fun this thing is!

Photos made with Kodak V570 camera, Adobe Photoshop CS 9.0

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