Catrike Pocket Maiden Voyage / by Erin Wade

Pocket ready to roll

The Maiden Voyage of the Catrike Pocket went well. I chose a route that I was already familiar with, that offers some elevation changes but avoids gravel (we'll try that out later). I was a little slower than my rides on the Cannondale, but this is to be expected, I suppose - the Catrike is about 11 lbs heavier than the Cannondale, there's a higher rolling resistance with the third wheel, and of course I'm still learning the new machine.

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There are several differences from riding an upright bike that became clear on this initial ride:

  • You sit low. This is a given when you look at it, of course, but when riding down the road you quickly realize that you are at eye level with the top of the grass in an unmowed ditch. The value of the bike flag becomes immediately apparent.
  • Because of the height difference, extra care needs to be at intersections to be sure you can see whether a car is there.
  • You cannot see into the cars as they pass you from behind - the angle is too steep. Oncoming traffic, however, is much the same experience as on the upright bike.
  • At first the act of pedaling causes a bit of torque steer. This goes away with some practice (smoother pedaling), but it's a real adjustment (enough so that it's mentioned in the Catrike owners manual).
  • Riding this is noticeably more of a leg workout than with the upright. This seems be due to the differences in positioning. On the upright you can stand up on the pedals, of course, but you can also use more of your upper body to supplement by pulling against the handlebars. It is possible to brace against the seat back, which offers a different but similar benefit, but I didn't fully sort that out until about two-thirds of the way thru the ride. I suspect this also contributed to the slower ride time; it will likelly improve with practice.
  • In relation to the above item, I did a lot more shifting than usual. Some of this, again, will likely pare back with practice. Still, I suspect more shifting is simply a part of the deal.
  • Because the rear wheel is right behind your head, you are much more aware of mechanical activity of the trike.
  • Steering is immediate and awesome - it's like riding a pedal-powered go-kart.
  • Similarly, the brakes are astonishingly quick. I don't know if this is because of the design of the trike itself, or just a feature of the disc brakes - I've never owned a bike with disc brakes. But in either case, it's noticeably different from my Cannondale.
  • This is the first ride of any length I've taken in years in which my hands did not become numb from road vibration. In fact the difference in controls and position was quite a bit more comfortable than on an upright bike.
  • Having a full seat back - even when it's made of mesh - results in your back getting exactly as sweaty as you would think.

Part of my route selection today was intended to minimize the likelihood of encountering much by way of traffic (seemed wise to do for the first trip out). However, I did come across a handful of cars. The first vehicle I encountered - a man in a Ford pickup - slowed way down. The expression of confusion on his face as he sorted out what he was seeing was priceless.

The differences here are just and only that: differences. I enjoyed myself a great deal - I am looking forward to many, many rides on my Catrike.