Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Just click on a subject for a question and answer, or scroll down the page.

BACK PROBLEMS. I have severe back pains due to a back injury, and cannot ride an ordinary bike. Would I be able to ride a Greenspeed recumbent?

Quite likely. On an ordinary bike you are bent over with no support for your back, whereas on a recumbent, you lean back and the seat supports your back. We have had a number of people come to us with back problems who have been unable to ride an ordinary bike for any length of time. Most of these people have found they can ride our recumbents without any pain, and some have even had their trikes funded by their accident insurance company.

BIKE or TRIKE - Which should I buy?

One of the most interesting questions I get asked is "Should I buy a bike or a trike?" Many people coming to recumbents from riding upright bikes automatically think about a recumbent BIKE, and find riding a trike "strange". I started off building Short Wheel Base (SWB) recumbent bikes, but was not really happy with them, as they seemed to require more concentration to balance than an upright, and I worried about hitting something on the road and falling off. Then a cycle shop owner showed me a road test of a recumbent TRICYCLE in a UK magazine. This looked to me like a good idea, and having built 150mph road race side-cars, I was sure I could do better.

When I got my 1st trike on the road, I found it was a delight to be able to just concentrate on pedalling and not have to worry about keeping the thing upright! At 1st I just rode on bike paths, but eventually found them too limiting, and ventured onto the roads.

Here I found an extra bonus! Whereas before the cars had cut me fairly close as I wobbled along on the SWB, now that I could ride as straight as an arrow, they gave me much more room! And the big trucks were the best, always waiting for a full, clear, lane before overtaking - at last I felt safe cycling on the roads!

However as bikes seemed more popular overseas than trikes, I expected to sell more bikes than trikes, when I started building and selling Greenspeeds in 1991. So I offered the SWB bike 1st to people who visited my shop to buy a recumbent. I found that many people were most impressed with the SWB, but usually once they got a ride on the trike, they forgot about the SWB. Thus we have ended up building and selling more than ten times as many trikes as bikes, and now people coming here are often surprised to find there are two wheeled recumbents as well as three wheeled recumbents!

So why are the trikes so popular? What advantages do they have? For me it's mainly the stability. For some it's the FUN - like riding a GO-KART with pedals - no need to bank the machine over like a bike -just move the handle bars and you get an instant change of direction! No more worries about coming down riding over a dropped water bottle, or shoulder on the road - touch one wheel against a kerb and it rides up effortlessly. Want to go touring? No worries - load it up and it's still quite easy to ride. Have a balance problem and can't ride to two wheeler? - just get on a trike and ride straight off. And those traffic lights - no need to unclip, attempt a track stand, or find something to lean against - you are as steady as a rock, comfortable, all clipped in, and ready to GO with both feet! And when you get to the end of your trip, or just want a rest, no need to get off the machine - you already have a stable chair for a rest or meal.

Like to STOP quickly? Well with a Greenspeed trike you get TWO front brakes, and you will find you can stop as quick as a car. Need MORE speed? A trike allows you to use a fairing without worrying about being blown over in a wind.

On the other hand, all things being equal, (which they seldom are - e.g. seat angle, wheel size etc.) the bike will be faster due to lower weight and less aero drag, cost less, be easier to store and transport, and for some, gives that extra feeling of freedom, as it banks for one side to another.

Some people worry that a trike is so low you will be run over by the 1st truck which comes along. As far as I am concerned, low is safe - it means I am LESS likely to go under a truck because the lower the trike, the less likely it is to turn over and dump me on the road, where I could get run over. I believe I am also FAR safer than on a bike, where all you need is a patch of oil or sand/gravel to bring you down and you can go under someone's wheels. I feel MUCH safer on my trike in peak hour traffic than I do on a bike, where IMHO the height merely gives an illusion of safety.

Some say the trikes don't win races. At the 1996 national HPV Challenge in Canberra, Greenspeed trikes came 1st and 2nd overall (GS SWB 3rd) - you can go a bit faster when you are confident of not going down :-)

The only time I ride a SWB now is for demos and road testing - we've just build a new SWB prototype with a lower seat, and are still searching for a bike design that's as easy to ride as a trike - an impossible dream???

FAT - I weigh 300lbs, and have a history of breaking bikes, will your trike take my weight?

No problem. When you order from us you fill in a rider size proforma which includes your weight, and we build the trike to suit your size. We have built trikes for people weighing from 50kg (110lbs) to 200kg (440lbs). We cater for the individual, and do not believe in the "One size fits all" philosophy. Our aim is to get as many people as possible cycling in COMFORT!

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Extra large and standard
Extra Large and Standard Size Trikes
GEARS - 72 gears!! Why so many?

Well, with your legs out in front of you, and your body laid back at a comfortable angle, you present a much smaller frontal area to the wind, so air resistance is less than on a conventional bike. Thus you can go faster and use higher gears. At the other end of the scale, because you have three wheels, you have compete stability, and no minimum balancing speed, so you can gear down as far as you like, and go up a mountain with a load, without having to strain at it! Thus on a recumbent trike, we can use a much wider range of gears than is possible on an ordinary bike.

Let's have a closer look at how this is achieved on a typical Greenspeed trike.

Gear Inches 
One way of measuring gearing is by what are known as "gear inches". This originates for the days of the Penny Farthing bicycle with the cranks on the large front wheel. Because the cranks were directly attached to the driving wheel, the distance the bike moved with each crank revolution, depended solely on the diameter of the wheel.  Thus a bike with a 48 inch wheel would have a lower "gearing" than a bike with a 58 inch wheel. Then the "safety" bike arrived on the scene, with smaller wheels, and the rear wheel was driven by a chain, from the central cranks. To be able to compare the distance the bike moved forward in one crank revolution, it became standard practice to multiply the the rear wheel size by the chain gearing. Thus if it had 28" wheels, a 48 tooth chain ring, and 24 tooth rear sprocket, it would calculate like 48/24x28=56 gear inches.

Mountain Bike Gearing
A typical mountain bike with 24 gears (42/32/22 triple chain ring & 11/30 eight speed rear cluster) and a 26" rear wheel, has a gear range from 19 inches in bottom to 99 in top gear, and about 12 gears without duplication :

Front 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
42 36 46 52 61 68 78 91 99
32 28 35 40 46 52 59 69 76
22 19 24 27 32 36 41 48 52

Greenspeed Trike Gearing
Whereas we provide a SRAM DualDive 3x8 rear hub which has an internal three speed hub (like the 3 speed Sturmey Archer hubs on older bikes) PLUS an eight speed cluster. Then we add a 52/42/30 triple chain ring set, giving a very wide range of gears from 13 inches in bottom to 126 in top (GTO) and about 16 gears without duplication.

How to use GS Gearing
Now just how does this work in practice? Let me explain. There are three levers or shifters. The main one is on top of the right hand handle bar - this is called a "bar end" shifter, and works the rear derailleur, swapping the chain over each of the eight rear cogs or sprockets, to give you your main 8 gears.  These are the gears you will use most of the time. Move this lever backwards, and the trike will be easier to push up hill. Move it forward when the pedalling is too easy, and you will go faster.
The next lever is the left hand "bar end" shifter, which controls the front derailleur. It shifts the chain across the front three chain rings. Depending on your fitness, load, and terrain, you will normally have the chain on the large chain ring, which is the most efficient.  Then if you are going up a hill, and you have moved the right shifter all the way back to give you the easiest gear, and it is still not easy enough, then move the left hand lever forward to move the chain down onto the middle, or even small chain ring to lower the gearing and make the pedalling easier.
The third shifter is a lever or twist grip just below the hand grip on the left hand handle bar, and it controls the hub gears. It is normally kept in the 2nd or middle gear, where the gears are 1:1 or direct. This is the most efficient gear. Then if you are going up a very steep hill and the lowest gear at the back and at the front are not low enough, you can change down to 1 st in the hub.  At the other end of the scale, if you are going down hill, and you are in the top gear at the back, and also the top at the front, and can't pedal fast enough to increase your speed, then you can move the hub shifter into top gear (3) which is like an overdrive.
The other advantage of the hub gears is that they can be shifted while the trike is stationary, unlike the derailleur gears at the back and front. Thus if you have had to stop suddenly in traffic for instance, and have not been able to shift the gears down to low before you stopped, then you can shift the hub down to low (1) so that it is easy to get started again.
To sum up, a change at the front or the hub, is worth about two changes at the rear, so in addition to the main eight gears, we have the equivalent of an extra four lower gears at the front, and then another two still lower with the hub, and then at the top end, and extra two with the hub overdrive. Thus the total gear inch picture looks like this, giving a total number of about 16 gears without duplication :-

GS Gearing Table

Front Hub 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
52 3 43 53 66 77 86 99 115 125
52 2 32 39 48 56 63 72 85 92
52 1 23 28 35 41 46 53 62 67
42 3 35 43 53 62 70 80 93 101
42 2 26 32 39 46 51 59 68 74
42 1 19 23 28 33 37 43 50 54
30 3 25 31 38 44 50 57 66 72
30 2 18 23 28 33 37 42 49 53
30 1 13 16 20 24 27 31 36 39

HILLS - How are they on hills?

There are a number of advantages to hill climbing with a recumbent trike. On a bike there is minium speed which is needed to maintain balance, and if you are not strong enough to maintain this speed on a steep hill, you tend to fall off! On a trike you can use lower gears, and go as slow as you like, with complete stability - even stop and restart on a steep hill without any worries! You also have seat behind your back to push against, so you can generate more power for those short sharp hills.

On the other hand, people coming to recumbents from ordinary bikes find they are initially slower on the hills, although typically, they find they are less puffed at the top. Some people believe because you can’t stand on the pedals of a recumbent it must be slower. This NOT the case. Studies have shown that the most efficient way of climbing a hill on an ordinary bike is by staying in the saddle and "spinning". Furthermore it is possible to exert more power in the recumbent position, because you have a seat back to push against. Never the less, like on ordinary bikes, it is more efficient to use a low gear and "spin" the pedals for hill climbing.

The final advantage of the recumbent trike for hill climbing is if you DO get too tried to continue, just pull over, and you have a nice reclined chair for a snooze.......

Generally speaking, if you do find you are slower on the hills, then you will find that you will more than make up for it on the level, downhill, and into the wind, with the recumbent's superior aerodynamics.

MAILING LIST - Is there a mailing list I can join to learn more about trikes?

Yes, I can recommend the International Human Powered Vehicle (IHPVA)  Trikes Mailing List, which has about 600 participants world wide. There is a fair amount of traffic with approx. 50 messages a day, so most people prefer to receive them in 20 to 30 message "packets" called digests. To subscribe to or unsubscribe, just visit:- http://www.ihpva.org/mailman/listinfo/trikes

TO POST MESSAGES to either the trikes or trikes-digest lists, send mail to: trikes@ihpva.org. Do NOT use the automatic reply option on your email.

This is a "closed" mailing list. If you are not subscribed, or send you mail from an address that is not on the list **, the message will be forwarded to the administrator for manual processing. This will typically result in a delay of up to 2 weeks. (The list owner has a day job.)

(** The listserver is not smart enough to know that you are a subscriber if your mail header says "From: jsmith@mailer.foo.net" and you subscribed as "jsmith@foobar.net". In this case either unsubscribe and resubscribe from the correct address or notify owner-trikes@ihpva.org)

If you send messages to owner-trikes@ihpva.org instead of trikes@ihpva.org, they will be delayed until the owner forwards them. Note: this most frequently happens if you use the REPLY feature on certain mail programs. Certain "magic" words such as 'subscribe' also cause messages to be directed automatically to owner-trikes.
Please note that the system ONLY accepts text - not pictures or
any HTML enriched messages, in the interests of speed and freedom
from viruses. Pictures can be posted on the IHPVA's incoming file.

More information on HPV's and recumbents can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.ihpva.org/ (or via anonymous FTP at ftp.ihpva.org), and complete archives of the mailing lists are at http://www.ihpva.org/mailing_lists/.
Lists supported by this server include:

hpv (hpv-digest) Human Powered Vehicles
hpv-forsale (hpv-forsale-digest) HPV 'For Sale' adverts
trikes (trikes-digest) HPV Trikes

Mark Newell is the IHPVA webmaster and owner of the trikes list. He owns two Greenspeed trikes, and maintains the ihpva.org server.at mark@ihpva.org, or call (USA) +1 907-333-9638.

PEDALS - Do I need to use special pedals?

Many people have a certain preference for a particular style or make of pedal, and there are a large number of different types. Thus we normally fit a cheap but serviceable pedal as standard equipment, which can be discarded when the owner feels need for something better of his or her choice. We recommend clipless pedals, and offer the option of Shimano SPD clipless pedals. Clipless pedals use a locking mechanism like a ski boot fixing, to hold you feet on the pedals, without the need for toe clips. They are released by simply twisting your foot. With your legs out in front of you, there is small force required to hold you feet on the pedals, so clipless pedals will save you a small amount of energy. They also stop your feet from falling of the pedals and hitting the road, when you hit a bump at speed.

On an ordinary bike, when you pull up on the pedal, you need to lift the whole weight of your leg, before you actually do any useful work in pedalling on the up stroke. On a Greenspeed recumbent your legs are straight out in front of you, thus when you pull back with clipless pedals you are doing useful work, giving better acceleration for overtaking and hill climbing.

TRANSPORT - How can I transport my trike when I am not riding it?

While trikes are larger than ordinary bikes, they can be easier to transport!

AIRCRAFT
I have taken my trikes on both domestic and overseas aircraft without paying any extra or being quired to box it! I take off the pedals, mirror, cyclecomputer, flag, and bags, but do NOT wrap it in anyway. This way the handlers can see what it is, and seem to take more care of it. So long as I only have one other piece of checked luggage, the trike is considered my 2nd piece of luggage, and goes through the oversize luggage system as Sporting Equipment, for which there is no charge. We have also travelled with the Tandem Trike on aircraft, again for no charge.

BUS
This will depend on the size of the bus. Larger coaches have under floor lockers, which will accommodate a trike, and if necessary it can be reduced in size by removing the wheels. For greater size reduction, the S&S coupled trike can be used, which packs down into two suit cases, leaving plenty of room for clothes and other stuff.

CARS
Trikes stand up on their own, so you can just put them on the roof of a car and tie them on through the door openings! For a more secure fixing, roof racks or roof bars can be used. Three bike rack wheel channels can also be used - two on the one bar for the front wheels and one on the other for the rear wheel. The easy way to car top a trike is to simply wheel it up the windscreen. To put two trikes on top, just face one forward diagonally, and the other beside it rearward. They can also fit into even small wagons by putting the rear wheel between the front seats. On larger cars they will fit in the boot (trunk) with just the seat and rear wheel hanging out, or in cars where the rear seat folds forward, I have got the whole trike in AND shut the boot lid!

TAXIS
The easiest taxis are the wagons, which will take a trike diagonally in the back. We have also made "Compact" trikes with 16" wheels for disabled people who use taxis a lot.

TRAINS
I have found both in Melbourne and Denmark, that there is plenty of room in the carriage when the trike is parked across the carriage between the doors. With it’s parking brake, it does not need to be tied or held, and can provide an extra seat!

VANS
Vans are one of the easiest ways to transport a trike, and most of the long wheel base vans will even take a tandem trike without any problems!

TANDEM or SOLO - We would like to cycle together. Should we buy a tandem or two solo trikes?

This will depend on your relative fitness, your personalities and your relationship. If one of you always cycles faster than the other then a tandem can be a good idea, as each person can push as much or as little as they want. I found it was hopeless cycling with my wife on separate machines - I could never bring myself to slow down to her pace. Yet when we toured Tasmania on the Tandem Trike, she found it easier than she expected, and I found we were going just as fast, if not faster, than I would have been on my Sports Tourer alone. This is due to the fact the GTT has less air resistance, and is lighter, than two solo trikes.

Of course someone must ride captain (front) and someone stoker (rear). The captain normally does the steering, braking and changes the rear gears, with the stoker changing the triple chain ring gears because they are directly in front, and the stoker can see them. Thus the captain has a more demanding role than the stoker. More or less gear controls can be fitted in the rear position. Some crews have the cycle computer fitted to the rear, so the stoker can do the navigation.

Two solo trikes will enable you to carry more luggage and give more independence, while the tandem trike can also be used solo and to pick up people from train station etc.. A number of couples have bought either a solo or a tandem, and then latter bought the other trike.

TOURER or SPORTS TOURER? Which model should I buy, the GTR 20/20 Tourer or the GTS Sports Tourer?

There are a number of differences between the GTR Tourer and the GTS Sports Tourer.

The Sports Tourer was designed as a fast tourer, suitable for light or supported touring, commuting, and for friendly competition on good roads. It has a thirty degree seat which is only 10" off the road, giving low wind resistance and superb road holding. It normally has a light frame, light wheels, and has the higher specification Sachs and Shimano equipment.

The Tourer is designed to take the heavier loads and rougher roads normally associated with independent touring, and urban commuting. It has more ground clearance, a stronger frame, and more robust wheels. The seat is normally 40 degrees to the horizontal and 12" off the road, giving a better view in traffic, while retaining good road holding.

Comfort.
Some people will find the Sports the most comfortable, as there is less weight on your backside, while others will find the Tourer more comfortable, as they will feel they are not holding their head forward. The thing to do is to either try both, or mock up a seat, to see which seat angle suits YOU the best.

Road holding and speed.
The lower seat height of the Sports gives about 10% better cornering and braking than the tourer, and the lower seat angle gives approx. 3% higher speed compared to the Tourer.

Ground clearance and eye line.
The Tourer has 12cm of ground clearance vs 9cm for the Sports, which is NOT intended for kerb hopping, but will cope with most speed humps. Eye line is approx. 93cms from the ground for Tourer (6' rider) and 81cms for the Sports.

Luggage capacity
The recommended limit for the Sports is 40lbs. Limit for tourer with standard rack is also 40lbs. Limit for Tourer with heavy duty integral rack is 80lbs. Luggage capacity of Sports may be increased to that of Tourer with optional heavy duty frame and integral rack. For greater luggage capacity, the GTE Expedition Trike is recommended, which will take two sets of panniers and 160lbs.

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GTS
GTS

GTR
GTR

GTE
GTE

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TRAFFIC What are they like in traffic?

I must say that I feel much safer in traffic on a trike than a bike. I find that on any bike the cars tend cut me quite close, yet on a trike it is unusual for them to come closer that a metre. Also on a trike I can ride as straight as an arrow , whereas or a bike I need a certain amount of room to maintain my balance. The other thing is I know I am not going to come down if I hit something on the road, like a dropped water bottle or some other rubbish, or skid in the wet, or on an oily patch.

I've deliberately ridden in both the Melbourne and Sydney peak hour traffic, and quite enjoyed being able to zip between the cars! I find the large articulated trucks are the best of all drivers, as they always wait until they have a full, clear lane before overtaking.

A lot of people worry that you are so low you will not be seen. I find if you view a bike from the rear, it's rather slender, and tends to fade out at a distance, whereas the greater width of the trike seems to make it more visible. I use a flag so I can be seen in between the cars.

The other worry people have is that they will be too low to see where they are going. The eye level of a rider on a GTR 20/20 tourer is about the same as the driver of a sports car. So going from riding an upright bike, to riding a recumbent trike is rather like changing from driving a truck, to driving a sports car. At 1st the lowness feels awkward, but a after a couple of weeks the problem disappears, as one automatically adjusts.

WHEELS - Why 20" (47-406) Wheels?

Twenty inch wheels (BMX 20" x 1.75") are used all round, as they are stronger, lighter and stiffer than MTB 26" wheels, especially in side loading! They also allow a lighter, stiffer and stronger frame, as the forces on the frame from the wheels are lower in cornering. Further more they allow a lower seat angle without making the frame too long, give better traction (contract patch closer to seat), and enable the same tyres and tubes to be used all round, giving better handling balance, and the need to carry only one spare.

There is also a excellent selection of 20" tyres available, and we have found, that contrary to popular belief, the 20" tyres have a LOWER rolling resistance than similar 26" tyres! We use the Sachs 3x7 rear hub with three internal gears and a Shimano Hyperglide type seven speed cassette cluster. This hub has a useful 36% step up in top gear, which enables normal sized chain rings (e.g. 48 single, 39/53 double, or 52/42/30 triple) to be used with say a 11/30 cluster. It also allows gear changes while stationary, and a very wide range with double or triple chain rings.

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Early GRT
Early GRT 20/26

First GTS
1st GTS 20/20