Friday, May 1, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

“It’s an unusual trike,” the guy on the phone said. “You may not like it. But you’re welcome to come test ride it.” It was a used custom Greenspeed GTR recumbent trike, fully equipped, for sale locally for $1,500. It was clearly very good value, and I was prepared to consider it despite it being somewhat different from what I would buy new. It doesn’t fold, for one thing. The owner also had several other trikes (not for sale) that I could compare with it. He was encouraging and willing to share his knowledge and enthusiasm for trikes with me. He had gotten his first trike as the result of an injury that rendered him unable to ride a bicycle—a common enough story, I have found. But even after recovering fully, he had not gone back to a bicycle because he liked trikes better. Now he was selling the Greenspeed because he had a newer trike to ride and no longer needed it. I made my way to his home through rush-hour traffic, glad that I do not make such a drive every day. The day was overcast and it was nearly dark by the time I got there. We had to adjust the trike for my leg length, and then I set off. The adjustments—shortening the front boom—allowed me the use of only the middle chainring, though I had enough gears to work with. I still had to extend my leg beyond where I normally would in riding a bicycle, but I could pedal it. My immediate sensation was whee! This is fun! –the same as I had experienced on my first trike ride in March. I rode around a small local trail which gave me some hills to try, and on some suburban streets, perhaps an hour all told. I got lost in the trails and it was quite dark when I returned. This was a pretty serious performance trike with lots of titanium parts, custom wheels, and a specially reclined seat angle. It was not your average trike. I really liked it. This sucker is fast, too. I was easily able to maintain in excess of 20 mph on the level, and 10-11 mph on moderate hills. Long hills wear you down after a while, but you can always climb them. I also learned to shift down before going up--it's harder to downshift while climbing than it is on a bike, because you can't get ahead of it--but then, I've had times on a bike when I got stuck because I left it too late. I noticed some brake steer early on—meaning if you stop with only one front brake it pulls to that side—though not extreme. Although the seat was very reclined at 35 degrees, it was comfortable. It was narrow enough for a single track trail or sidewalk, and when I went onto the grass to get by some pedestrians, it was no problem. I spent some of the time just pulling donuts in a parking lot, seeing how tight it would turn. I am more than ever sure I want one. I would have bought this one, if we had been able to make it fit me. But even with the boom all the way in, I still had my knees locked and feet turned down at the farthest point. It might fit me with shorter cranks—these were 175mm—but even that would be marginal, with no room for further adjustment. Given that a new trike like this would cost upward of $4,000, I would have liked to make it work—but I had to admit that it didn’t. However, thanks again to the generosity of the seller who, knowing I might not buy it, with his time in sharing his knowledge with me and in letting me have an extensive road test on it.

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