Autonomous Motion

Greenspeed Trike

Lightweight tri-wheel bent

Although I’ve known about recumbents for years, until recently I had a prejudice against them. Whenever I observed middle-aged riders of two-wheeled recumbents (like the previously-reviewed Cruzbike) obviously just getting started on regular daily exercise, they seemed unstable when starting to pedal from a dead stop. That led me to trying out a three-wheel tadpole trike, which allows you to remain in a stable, ready-to-ride position. After just two minutes riding a trike, I was addicted.

The Greenspeed sits closer to the ground and is much lighter than most delta trikes — my GT3 weighs 37.5 lbs compared to the 65 lbs. of the previously-reviewed Sun USX. Unlike deltas, the tadpole provides a greater sense of the same freedom, speed and agility that people are used to on good upright bikes. My GT3 is much faster and infinitely more sporty and maneuverable than a delta. If deltas are sedans; tadpoles are the sport coupes. Sitting with one’s head upright enables you to enjoy your surroundings much more than on regular cycles. This is true of all recumbents, but for me, there’s something especially thrilling about a tadpole. Though all tadpoles whip around like human-powered go-carts, the Greenspeed has 16-inch wheels rather than 20-inch ones on most tadpoles. Thus, it has a much tighter turning radius and even more responsive steering. It’s also really fun to move along at a good clip that close to the ground.

It’s worth noting that if you’re older and/or fairly overweight, the Greenspeed can be harder to get in and out of than other tadpoles (again, it’s lower to the ground). However, I started riding my Greenspeed after four months of moderate walking and stretching and did fine with the GT3 even though I had real back problems and was overweight. Still, if you’re concerned, Catrike has a lower-price entry-level tadpole that is higher off the ground with 20 inch wheels and a more upright seat angle. Other than the entry/exit difference, though, tadpole trikes are extremely comfortable — my GT3 is actually more comfortable than my Ergohuman office chair.

Greenspeeds aren’t the cheapest tadpoles. Sun now makes fairly inexpensive tadpoles and that entry-level Catrike is a real deal. The new Greenspeed GT1 is more affordable than the GT3, but obviously the higher price brings with it better components and a noticeable difference in performance that I value.Since I bought mine used from a guy who was buying a more advanced custom model, I paid a very reasonable $1500. (note: the late great Sheldon Brown’s review of his GT3, details of off-roading, and description of the “recumbent grin” are quite compelling).

Throughout my 20’s and early 30’s I was an avid distance cyclist; indeed, one of the most life-affirming events in my life was touring cross country in 1978. That said, I always had discomfort in my neck, crotch and butt and developed some knee problems. Finally, in my late 30’s I started to have back problems that became stenosis and sciatica. I had to quit cycling.

Until I discovered bent rides and the GT3, I thought I’d never ride again. Like many people my age (I’m 54), I have battled my weight. Having a significant gut makes riding traditional bikes that are meant to be quick, not feasible. Since starting to ride my GT3, I’ve lost 30 lbs and have been able to make good progress on a new routine of sensible eating that suits my body and age better. The machine motivates me greatly. During the summer, I rode nearly every day, ten to thirty miles. I’ve joined a gym to continue conditioning through the Minnesota winter before I begin bike touring again next year.

-- Curtis Wenzel 10/21/08

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