Using All the Gears... / by Erin Wade

I got my Catrike Pocket in early June of this year. With a handful of exceptions - primarily days in which the Pocket was in need of some sort of minor repair - it has replaced my 1987 Cannondale SR400. I don’t have the prodigious mileage numbers of some, but when I have been riding this year it’s almost always on the trike, and my personal mileage is up considerably from the last couple of years because I’m early enjoying it.

In my eagerness to get and start riding it, I simply started out with the setup that it had when I bought it. As I understand it, the trike had been owned by a woman who didn’t ride it, and then given to my seller, who took it for his wife who also didn’t ride it (the tires still had all the little nubbins on it when I got it). He’d adjusted the boom on it - the telescoping shaft that has the pedals on the end - for himself, and we seemed to be of similar size, and since I wanted to get out there and start riding, I went forward with that setup.

I fairly quickly realized that I was having trouble getting into the lowest gear on the big ring, and top gear seemed a dubious endeavor as well. Still, I was having a lot of fun, and with 25 of the 27 gears to choose from there was still a lot to work with.

But over the past month I noticed - with the increased riding - that I was starting to get some pain in my knees. This was relatively mild, and resolved easily with ice and a bit of ibuprofen, but this was also new to me. A bit of homework suggested that my pedals were in too close. I went online to find some positioning guides and got things set out to where it looked like they should be. In order to test it out I went out for a ride. I planned on 13-14 miles, figuring that was long enough to see if my knees were managing things better, but no so long that it would occupy the time I’d need to make further adjustments.

What I found was two things:

A -My knees felt just fine (yay!), and; 2 - I now had access to about 12 of my gears, with an unpleasant grinding if I tried to get to others.

I spent a little time at the side of the road trying to make derailleur adjustments, to no avail, and tried more focused work on this when I got back to the garage. As is too often the case for me, after struggling with it for about an hour or so, I decided to look things up. I fairly quickly came across this video from the folks at Utah Trikes. I realized the error of my ways right at the point where they start talking about how to find the master link in the chain...

Being new to trikes, and given my tendency to dive in and ask questions later, I was not aware that an adjustment in the boom position would require an adjustment in the chain length as well. I don’t know where I thought the extra length of chain was going to come from - perhaps the Catrike comes with a mystical bag of holding that hides away the extra chain until it’s needed?

Perhaps not.

And once we’re at tasks like adjusting chain length, my course of action is clear: I’m headed to the bike shop. I have neither the tools, skills, nor extra length of chain that would be needed to undertake this task. Also, as I periodically have to remind myself, it’s often much easier, and certainly less frustrating, to let a pro handle things for you.

So - I popped the trike into the back of the car and headed off to Meads Bike Shop in Sterling, which is the localest bike shop that handles recumbents, and specifically Catrikes. The folks at Meads were great! An overnight stay - and one ride out on the Cannondale in the trike’s absence - and we were back in business, now with access to all of the gears.

I’m finding, with things set up properly, that the knee pain is no longer an issue. I’m also finding that I can stay on the big ring without mashing quite a bit more of the time on Northern Illinois’ relatively level roads. I suspect I was missing more of the smaller cassette gears than I thought.

Time will tell whether this makes a change in actual riding performance - if anything, I suspect it will make me a little faster on average. In any case, it turns out that life is better when you get to use all of your gears