Bike Trailer

Cat(trike) Fight - Expedition vs. Pocket by Erin Wade

Facing Off

Ok - not really a fight, but I’ve been riding the Expedition now for three weeks, covering a little over 200 miles, which seems long enough on the new machine, and away from the Pocket, to be able to make a reasonable comparison. And I thought some of this information might be useful first for anyone who also has a Pocket who might be considering moving to an Expedition, and secondarily to folks thinking about moving from a trike with a 20" rear wheel to one with a 26" wheel.

There are differences in equipment between the two machines. I detailed that a couple of weeks ago, and you can look back if you are curious. But for now, let the Cat(trike) fight begin!

Size

The Expedition feels bigger than the Pocket and, given that it is bigger, it should. But when I say "bigger", I would say that it gives the impression of being more substantial as opposed to feeling heavier. I don’t really get the impression that I’m hauling more machine around in terms of it being more work. It’s just more substantial.

What this does translate to, tho, is comparatively less of the "go-kart" feel you get with the Pocket. This is not suggest that the Expedition is not a lot of fun to ride, but the sensation is different. To make an automotive comparison, the Pocket handles reminiscent of, say, a Triumph Spitfire or Mini Cooper S, while the Expedition is closer to a late 70’s Camaro (these may be somewhat idiosyncratic examples)...

Triumphant

(Yes - that boy is painfully young, and even I can see the teenage attitude)

All of which is to say that it handles well, but it’s not quite as immediate a handling experience as with the Pocket. This may change with additional experience, but I suspect not much - I think this is a factor of additional length.


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That additional size does also translate into additional carrying capacity, and I am finding that the new pannier bags work quite nicely. I can easily see carrying back a growler from a brewpub in them. It’s also pretty clear that I’m going to have an easier time hooking up my trailer when I finally get around to finishing it.

The size does have an impact on transportation as well - at least potentially so. The Expedition does fit in my Honda Fit (it fits in the Fit). The primary difference between the two machines is that, with the Pocket I can also bring along a passenger. To accommodate the extra length of the Expedition I have to move the passenger seat all the way forward on its track, lean it forward, and remove the headrest (because it blocks the right side rear view mirror).

No passengers

I should say that this scenario involves me making no changes to the trike - I could put in the boom and would likely gain several inches. However, I did try this once and found it very difficult to slide in (by design, I believe). I’ve received several suggestions regarding this, including carrying along a rubber mallet to assist with moving it and putting talcum on the boom to make it slide more easily. I think these are good ideas, and I may try them in future, but the overwhelming majority of the time I don’t really need to accommodate a passenger, so the motivation is fairly low. And I could either strap it to the roof or set up a trailer with the car if I really need to (I do have one). As such, this is more of a difference than an inconvenience. And realistically, over the past couple of years my car has essentially become a rolling trike garage anyway. Passengers may just have to find their own way home.

Speed

One of the more common questions asked by people new to recumbent trikes is whether they are faster than Diamond Frame (DF) bikes, and/or how fast a given trike will go. Answers to this often fall into the accurate but unsatisfying range of either "it depends" or "it’s up to the motor (you)". Setting aside the fact that there is almost certainly a technical, gear-limited top speed for each machine, it’s generally a frustrating example of the real world failing to provide simple answers.

For my part, I had hoped that the Expedition would be faster than the Pocket, but based upon other people’s descriptions and experiences, I didn’t necessarily expect that to be the case. Yes, the Expedition has a larger rear wheel with the same (well - similar - 10 Speed vs. 9 speed cassette) gearing, and so technically a higher top speed capability. But I cannot say that I was routinely pedaling past the gear limits in top gear on the Pocket, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

And - before we get to what I’ve found thus far - there is an introspective part of the middle-aged me that wonders at why I’d want to go faster. While I’d love to ride more for actual transportation, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of the time I ride for pleasure and exercise. What exactly is the upside to making that go by more quickly?

But the truth is that there’s still a fair amount of that kid with the Triumph in there. He’s not necessarily rational, and might have purchased a series of other poorly conceived sporty cars over the years to meet that need (but I digress...).

So what is the deal with speed? Well:

Overall Average Speed

Yeah - The Expedition is faster.

That’s right, hands down, full stop - it’s just faster. What you see in the graph is a comparison between the lifetime average of the Pocket, the Expedition, and (for fun) my Cannondale SR400, which was my primary machine before getting the Pocket. And as can be seen, the Expedition is faster than both of them.

Now, there are some qualifications needed here to understand what this is showing:

  • The Cannondale referred to is a 1987 Cannondale SR400. It is a 12-speed aluminum road bike from the era of Madonna and Duran Duran and Mötley Crüe - it is not a modern machine. However, it was my regular ride for years, it is all of 22 lbs, and tho I prefer to ride the trikes now, I still think it’s a very elegant design. More details on it can be seen in the Cannondale catalog from 1987, and the bike itself is pictured below.
  • The averages for both the Cannondale and the Pocket reflect far more miles over much more varied conditions - including winter riding (which is always slower). The distance on the Expedition thus far is only 204.89 miles vs 2901.35 for the Pocket and 2462.47 for the Cannondale

Cannondale SR400

In order to compensate for the difference in number of rides I thought it would make sense to compare on specific routes. I compared overall speeds on the routes, and then also went thru and, where possible, did a comparison on the last three rides on each of the routes on the Pocket - all of which were in the last couple of months - in order to remove any effect of winter riding on speed (except the Inlet route - I’d only ridden that once on the Pocket, and that was this spring). That is shown in the table and graph below:

Routes comparo

The outcome: The Expedition is faster.

Removing the effect of winter riding for the Pocket definitely makes it faster (snow is fun, but it slows you down), but the Expedition is still faster. It’s faster than the Pocket, and actually faster, on average, than the Cannondale.

I say "on average" here, because the LP route presented is the one that I ride most often. This is a function of convenience - it’s a bike path right by one of my worksites. It involves a hill climb up from the Rock River of about a half-mile or so. My fastest time on that route is still held by the Cannondale - 31:51 for the 8.44 mile loop at an average of 15.90 mph. But I beat my PR on the Pocket with the Expedition on my first ride on the route. And this despite the potential disadvantage of the larger rear wheel on climbing.

So yeah - faster.

Shifters

The Pocket is a 2012 model, and it came with grip shifters.

Grip Shifters

The Expedition has bar end shifters, as does every Catrike model currently on the site, including the Pocket, with the single exception of the Eola. My impression from participation from online groups is that people generally prefer the bar end shifters.

I am finding that I miss the grip shifters a bit.

I like the indexed nature of the grip shifters - each click is a gear. The bar end shifters aren’t really indexed - you can feel them drop into gear, of course, but shifting with them is much more reminiscent of the downtube shifters on the Cannondale. Usually it’s fine, but sometimes I have to adjust a bit to get right into the spot.

The other difference here is location - which is to say that I have to move my hand up to the top of the hand grip in order to shift, instead of just making a quick twist of the wrist. I’ll grant that this is a small thing, and I’m quickly adjusting to the bar ends, but it’s not (yet) as automatic as the grip shifters.

While I’m in this area, I’ll note that that the handgrips on the Expedition are a foam material that gives the impression of less durability than the rubber (or rubberized plastic) of the grip shifters. I have had no difficulty with them thus far, and I’ve never seen anyone complaining about these, so I’m not expecting that impression to be true, but that was my initial impression nevertheless.

The Expedition comes with the wrist rests on the handlebars, which is not a feature I have on the Pocket. This is nice, and I’ve found myself with my hands relaxed on top of them over long stretches. This sort of replaces my habit of on the Pocket of resting my wrists on top of the grips where the mirrors mount (and maybe will result in a longer lifespan for the mirrors). And speaking of those...

Mirror Mounts

The Pocket (or at least my Pocket, anyway) puts the mirrors on the end of the handle grips. This option goes away because thats where the shifters are on the Expedition, and instead there are separate stalks for the mirrors. The stalks are, quite simply, excellent! Not only does it get the mirrors out away from you a bit, but it also provides additional space to mount other things. Right now I’ve put my phone mount on there, which places it much closer in reach than its previous location on the boom.

Rokform Mount

And there’s room on it for other things - I’m considering a bell for trail riding (I’m often surprised by the number of people who are still startled by me after I’ve called out "on your left" - apparently they didn’t think I meant their left...).

Neck Rest

The Pocket didn’t come with a neck rest (and doesn’t from the factory), so there’s no direct comparison here. In fact, given the angle of the seat, it doesn’t really need one. I installed a Power-On Cycling neck rest myself, but this was more to get A) a higher mounting point for a taillight; and 2) give myself a handle for walking the trike. On rare occasion, on longer rides, I would lean my head back and rest it against the pad, but I really didn’t even have it in a position to work as a neck rest.

Just looks more comfy, doesn’t it?

The Expedition has a greater degree of recline: 37° vs 41° for the Pocket. A difference of 4 degrees doesn’t seem like a lot on paper, but it’s enough to make you want to use the neck rest. I had sort of planned to order another neck rest from Power-On when I got the Expedition - again, mostly because of the elevated mounting point for the taillight - but I figured I’d hold off until I had a little experience with the stock model (and save a little coin if I could).

I was able to sort out how to get a taillight mounted on the stock headset.

Taillight on headrest

And the Expedition is tall enough that, between the neck rest and the handle on the pannier bags it’s easy enough to walk it as it sits. The stock neck rest that it comes with works fine in terms of getting into position to lean against while riding. This would all be great, and represent a cost saving, but I am finding that it makes my neck a bit sore over rough terrain. I’ve ordered the Power-On rest.

Clipless Pedals and Shoes

As I mentioned in my initial comparison, I’d never used clipless pedals before. They weren’t a thing when I was a kid (I think versions of them existed, but farm kids riding around the countryside were not a target market). My Cannondale had toe clips (the cages or stirrups) when I got it, and I found those worked quite nicely. On the Pocket I’d installed the heel slings from TerraTrike, and supplemented them with Velcro cross straps to better secure and facilitate a full power stroke (pulling on return in addition to pushing). So, despite the fact that this technology has been around for a while, it was new to my use.

They are... ok.

To be clear, they absolutely work as designed and advertised - you snap in, and your foot is solidly restrained on the pedal. They are also easier to get in and out of than the combination I have on the Pocket. There I have to lean forward to my feet to put them on or off (the cross straps specifically - you can just rest your feet in the slings). The clipless literally just snap in and out. And thus far, that’s the primary advantage.

Right now I have one pair of shoes - the Shimano Sandals I ordered about the same time I ordered the Expedition. The sandals, again, work as advertised, and I can walk around in them - the cleats are recessed enough that you can hear them click on gravel or pavement, but they don’t appear to affect walking. But the design of the sandal itself is visually more like something you’d get out of a bin at Wally World, something you’d keep around for going to the beach, than a sandal you’d want to wear all the time (can you tell I’m still bitter that Keen doesn’t make the Commuter Sandal anymore?).

And, of course, they are expensive, which will still leave me needing to make decisions come winter. Do I seek out specific winter cycling boots (these do exist) or get myself into a pattern of installing and removing the heel slings for cold weather months (since I already have the sandals)?

A part of this also bumps into my personal bias - which I absolutely want to acknowledge here - against cycling specific clothing and gear. While I realize that cycling is primarily a recreational activity here in the US, I’d love to see it move towards more regular use for actual transportation. I do believe that the tendency towards cycling specific gear - especially clothing and shoes - takes away from that. It can give non-cyclists who might be interested the impression that you have to get all of this extra stuff just to get started. That presents an additional, artificial barrier to entry that might discourage folks who would otherwise come on board. Cycling to work becomes all the more effort if one thinks one has to purchase an extra set of clothing, carry the change of clothes that you’ll wear while at work, and change both once you arrive and again when you leave.

And, to be clear, this is a personal bias. I know people enjoy their bespoke cycling gear, and I have no problem with that (I even have a cycling jersey myself, despite all of this). But I don’t want to see the cycling world move towards designing daily use machines that require additional specialized gear.

And maybe part of my problem here is that I am actually considering winter cycling shoes rather than just getting another set of heel slings...

Ok - off the soapbox...

To Sum Up

Overall, I’m really enjoying the Expedition. It is a faster machine and feels like it - I can tell when I’m riding that I’m moving along faster than before. As much as I try to tell myself that shouldn't matter, it just does.

Everything else is just niggles, and a lot of it will go away with additional familiarity and adaptation. Most of the size differences are already fading - it felt much bigger than the Pocket originally, but now when I look at the two machines together the impression I get is that the Pocket seems smaller - the Expedition now - already - feels like the right size.

Time to ride...

Trailer Project Part 2 - Cutting to the Bone by Erin Wade

I had a little time last weekend to move forward on my cycling trailer project. My goal is to take a dilapidated 2000 Schwinn Joyrider bike trailer and repurpose it as a utility trailer.

This second phase of the project essentially involved getting the old, mouse-infested canvas shell off of the frame, and deciding which portion of that frame to keep.

As discussed in the first post on this project, this old trailer had been sitting in the rafters of the garage waiting for the past decade or so for me to get around to it. In that time our rodent friends had chosen to take up residence within the confines of its shell. Folded down as it was to get it to fit in upper portion of the garage I suspect it seemed a pretty nifty space for the mice, keeping them all comfy and cozy.

For the record, you do not want mice to feel either comfy or cozy... they have not yet embraced plumbing or sewage systems, and it shows when dealing with their nesting areas.


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This meant that the old shell had to come off. Last Sunday presented with a nice opportunity for this. The day provided with a persistent wind that was strong enough to provide some olfactory relief during the task without being so vigorous that it discouraged outdoor activity. And believe me this: unlike assembling models with modeling glue as a kid, this was not a task to be undertaken in a poorly ventilated area.

I gathered up my tool box and took it out to the garage, and moved the trailer out into the breeze. When I’d first approached it I had thought about finding some way to neatly detach the canvas shell as one piece (I was one of those kids who also carefully removed wrapping paper from presents. ...okay, I’m still one of those kids...). There was no immediately obvious way to do this, however, and I quickly came around to the realization that I was just going to throw away the damn shell as soon as I took it off anyway. So the first tool I pulled out of the box was my utility knife.

The right tool for this job

This allowed me to take the bottom panel completely off. Honestly, it appears that, for the most part, either the shell is only partially completed and then sewn up around the frame, or perhaps the frame is inserted, partially assembled, into the shell.

Bottoms up!

There is one portion of the frame that attaches thru the shell, where the inner wheel mounts attach. I initially cut around those in order to get the bottom portion off and see what else needed to be accomplished.

cut around

I left the bits of fabric there at that moment in favor of working towards getting the bulk of the rest of the very stinky canvas material removed.

Leftovers

Leftovers

I later took them off by removing the wheel mount.

With the bottom off, mostly it looked as if the canvas shell would lift off of the frame. However, there were a couple of impediments to this. First is a lightweight aluminum 3/4 hoop that runs through the shell to provide some structure. That needed to be removed, and once the Velcro straps around it were opened up, it slid right out.

Hoop in place

Hoop removed

The second was a set of Phillips head bolts - one on each side - that attached the "seat" to the frame.

Seat screws

Both of these were rusted at the top - most likely due to mouse exposure, since they were on the inside of the shell (none of the other bolts were rusted). Once those were removed, the shell came off pretty quickly.

This left me with the frame:

Base and handle

The collapsible upper frame is there to provide structure to the canvas shell, and also offered a handle - this had been a convertible trailer that could also become a stroller of sorts. I also have in the garage the struts and front wheel that get attached for that purpose.

I looked at the trailer with this part of the frame attached from multiple angles. I could see benefit to considering keeping it on the bottom frame. The handle could come in to use both in terms of its original purpose (a handle), and potentially as a mounting point for other things. But what I think I’m mostly wanting here is a flatbed trailer to allow for versatility, which keeping the frame would make much more complicated.

That’s amplified by the fact that the folding upper frame is attached on the inside of the bottom portion.

Attached on the inside

This would mean that any flatbed added would have to have holes cut in it to accommodate the upper frame.

So I took the upper frame off.

Upper and lower frame separated

However, I’ve mentally compromised a little bit by putting it aside in the garage in case I want to use it in future. To be honest, mostly what this probably means is that it will occupy space in the garage for the next several years, making me periodically wonder why I kept it, but for the moment I’m still hedging my bets.

I washed the frame to remove any remaining rodentius residue, as well as the general detritus of long-term storage. It’s clear the center section should provide a pretty decent support for a flatbed of some sort, and the existing bolt holes - perhaps with slightly longer bolts - would suffice to hold quite nicely.

View of frame alone

So now the next step is to determine what I want to make the flatbed out of. The simplest choice might be 1/4" plywood, but I’d like to explore other options as well to address weight and similar concerns.

New Project - Trailer Part 1 by Erin Wade

I’ve had this bike trailer for well over a decade. If memory serves, it was a garage sale find, and it served for several missions of child hauling during LB’s younger years. With sufficient preparation - books to look at and drinks and snacks and such - LB would remain content to allow for an hour or more of riding time, and it added a different dimension (mostly additional weight) to my regular riding routine.

I’d hoped that this experience would also spur in my child a love of cycling the way that riding with my father had in me. Unfortunately my parental failure is complete - my child prefers running to cycling. The horror!

When LB got too big for the trailer we continued to use it to carry things - a cooler for refreshments or a picnic during a break, groceries on the occasional trip to the store. But when we moved from the city out to our homestead it got stored in the rafters of the garage, with the intention of getting it back down to ply into service again as a cargo hauler. Someday.

That was nearly 10 years ago.

I’ve been thinking about it more regularly lately, tho, with the particular idea of using it with my Catrike Pocket when I am on functional rides - e.g. trips where I’m using the trike as transportation and not just recreation. But the decade in the garage rafters has not been kind to the trailer...

She’s a dirty girl...

There’s the general dust and debris from sitting unattended in an outbuilding for an extended period of time. But I had a chance to look at it a while back when I was up on a ladder, and I knew there was going to be another, larger (or, if you like, smaller) issue - the mice had found it.

There’s a lot to like about living out in an intensely rural setting. The privacy, the open air, the prairie wildlife.

But not all the prairie wildlife is enjoyable. If you are someone who is now thinking "but mice are cute", I would submit that you are someone who has never actually lived with mice. When you live out in farm country you quickly realize that they are everywhere and that a field mouse, given the choice between living in the actual field for which it is named, and living in your home or another, similar structure, will opt for the latter every time. And it is surprising just how unpleasant and damaging such a tiny creature can be. They will get into cabinets, drawers, vehicles (that’s a fun surprise going down the road, let me tell you); they will urinate and defacate everywhere, and tear up whatever is around them for nesting material. I don’t love the mice.

But I digress. I’d noticed, back when I was up on the ladder last, that mice had nested in the trailer, and this meant that I was not going to have the option of just getting it down, hooking it up, and going. The body of the trailer is mostly canvas, and that material was going to have been soaked with rodent effluent. It was going to have to go. Which is part of why it’s taken me a while to get to this - it was going to be a project.

I don’t like mice

my kid used to sit in there

Using one of these old trailers as a base for a different design is not a new idea, not original to me, to be sure. I have a well documented dislike of Facebook, but the recumbent trike groups within Facebook are an exception to that rule, and lots of people more capable and creative than I have gone through and modified these items to good effect. In the hopes that folks will understand that mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery, I’m going to copy from some of what I’ve seen and see what I can put together with this.

One of the questions I had to begin with is how to hook it up to the trike. It’s meant to attach to the lower rear bar at the back of a diamond frame bike. That bar is bigger on the Pocket, and not easily accessible with the frame bags in the way (and I don’t intend to use the trailer all the time, so it won’t replace the bags - they are staying). For the moment, at least, I’m thinking that it can connect to the rear cargo rack:

I think this may work

view from above

I think that may work, though it does put the trailer at a bit of an angle. I’ll have to think it thru a bit.

New Project

Any project that I start competes somewhat with my actual riding time, so I don’t anticipate this will get done in a hurry. But I’ve gotten the thing down out of the rafters in part so that it’s in my way, and thus has to be contended with. That should help ensure that I deal with it sooner rather than later - you know, not another ten years...