||Ian Sims lives in Victoria, Australia and is an expert builder of high performance and touring recumbent trikes. You might ask how can this be? He is about as far away from the centers of recumbent activity as he can be. Surprisingly, this is the key. He has not had the outside influences of past recumbent trikes-nor does his trike suffer from Windcheetah-itis, a bug that seems to be prevalent in the U.K. trike scene. Ian's trike prowess comes from his unmatched passion-as he and his family build, ride, race and sell their specialty Greenspeed trikes.
The GTR 20/20 is the model we tested. This trike has more than its share of innovative design features. It is a very low machine that has a welded CroMoly steel frame, three 20-inch wheels, drum brakes (or optional disks), 63-gears and a sling mesh seat. Every aspect of this trike is worthy of it's design intention-circumnavigating Australia. This is a world class hpv.
A Tough Trike
Some trikes twist, flex or just feel very light duty. I was once warned by a smooth talking trike salesman NOT to steer the trike while parked so I wouldn't snap the spherical bearings. A light trike can be a bad thing if it is light duty. The Greenspeeds may not be the lightest, but they are certainly the toughest. The GTR was originally designed for a 15,000 kilometer circumnavigation of Australia while carrying a 40 kg load! The current production GTR has evolved from these two original touring trikes and until the GTO came out (ships cheaper due to S & S coupler), the GTR was the most popular Greenspeed model.
The Greenspeed frame is a masterpiece in the art of simplicity and function. It is light, stiff and strong-three important aspects of recumbent trikes. The frame is made of welded aircraft grade CroMoly. The seat is an integral part of the frame-which adds to the stiff triangulation of this trike. Several of the tubes are hand-ovalized where mated to smaller diameter tubes. The frame tubes are MIG welded. MIG beads are not as fine as TIG, though the craftsmanship of the Greenspeed is exceptional. We don't see many MIG welded recumbents, so we asked Ian about it, "We find that MIG welding puts less heat into the tubing than TIG, and a lot less than brazing, leading to less of the metal around the joint losing its strength. We have also had superior performance from the MIG joints over brazed joints. In addition, we find that the MIG is quicker than TIG, and much faster than brazing, thus is is much better suited for production work".
Another highlight of the Greenspeed is the boom tube arrangement. Ian starts with the powdercoated main frame tube. Then there is a boom slider that is powdercoated, and then an aluminum sleeve that fits in between the two, and a special paper gasket liner. This makes for an exceptionally nice sliding boom.
My first impression of the Greenspeed seat was not one of great excitement. However, one sit changed my mind. The CroMoly seat frame is very stiff. You won't experience any of the side-to-side twisting or flex common on most other trikes. The downside of this feature is that the seat has a fixed recline angle (varies by models, options). The seat mesh comes in several colors. It is laced to the frame with bungy cords-making for a built in seat suspension.
The GTR has a 35-degree seat recline angle. This takes the pressure off of your rear end and places it on your back. Recumbent butt is very unlikely on any Greenspeed. However, there is a possibility for neck fatigue (natural line of site is up into the trees for this very reclined seat). Also some riders experience toe or foot numbness from high bottom brackets. For some riders, this is just a learning curve. A few may not adapt to this rather extreme position. Ian is a devout fan of the laid back recumbent. With the success of his trikes, he can probably answer any question you may have about the ergonomics-and how they relate to various rider sizes. There are also models with more upright seat backs.
Our SRAM/Sachs 3x7 drivetrain is shifted by bar-con bar-end shifters. The components all integrate well and our test trike shifted flawlessly. The 63-speeds come from a 7-speed cassette x 3 speed triple crank x a 3 speed internal hub (SRAM 3x7). The 3x7 has a 27% reduction in low gear, a 1:1 in 2nd gear and a 36% increase in 3rd gear. This makes it ideal for any recumbent with a 20-inch drivewheel. The only downside is the bolt-on rear axle. The super wide gear range will have you climbing the largest hills with ease. The fact that you are on a trike will low-speed balance concerns a non issue. So, do you need 63-gears. At this price, why not.
The GTR has one cartridge sealed bearing idler placed under the seat for the upper chain. The lower chain is directed without an idler through a long chain tube that protects the chain, as well as your leg from grease. The chain tubes are made from 1/2-inch high density polyethylene tubing similar to that used for underground yard sprinkler systems. Chain tubes may cause some minor drag, but they are an effective chain management tool and can be adapted to nearly any recumbent bike or trike.
Wheels & Tires
The wheels & tires are excellent. We had no wheel problems and all three held true throughout our ownership of this trike. The tires are the rare and wonderful Mitsuboshi Tioga Comp Pool 1.75 inch 90 psi bald slicks. These tires were designed for BMX pool riders and have been used on solar cars. If you like fat bald slicks-this is the ultimate tire. Ian had this to say about the Comp Pools, "The Comp Pool tires have a lower rolling resistance than the IRC Roadlites. The faster you go or move air drag from the wider tire. At 30 kph and 30 kg drag on a roller, I found 27 watts of resistance with the IRC at 100 psi, and 20 watts at 100 psi with Comp Pools."
As drum brakes go, the Greenspeed has the best stopping of any drum-brake equipped trike. The reason is the steering geometry (centre-point steering). The steering rods criss-cross (USS handlebars to spindles), as do the brake cables (handle to drum). The right brake stops the left front wheel and visa versa.
The optimized steering geometry makes one-brake stopping possible. I haven't tried the optional disk brakes, but am told they are worth the upgrade costs and offer a dramatic braking power upgrade.
Trikes are different than two-wheelers. They are lower, wider and heavier. Even though the GTR's design intention is touring, it is a great performer as well. The overall performance of a trike such as this would be in the same range as similar sport touring USS SWB or LWB. Some riders will find them faster, some slower.
Life on a Trike
There is nothing quite like having your rear end 12-inches off of the ground, and your head less than 40-inches off the ground. This baby is low and laid back. The best benefits to a recumbent trikes is that you never have to pull your feet out of the clips/pedals at stops.
The actual on the road experience may be more hectic at first (until you get accustomed to your trike). Trikes take up more space on the road, and sometimes more energy to maintain your average speed. Smart trike riders plan their routes, and stay out of heavily trafficked roads especially during busy commuting times. I found riding in traffic to be more stressful on a low trike than on a taller SWB or LWB. Many trike riders feel just as safe or safer on their trikes. How safe you will be will depend solely on you and how
you adapt to the low life.
Historically, Greenspeed is the highest rated trike manufacturer in RCN by both writers and readers. Ian Sims and Greenspeed is certainly the most respected name in recumbent trikes today. This is the same in 2002 as I am re-editing this article, as it was in 1995 when this article was first printed in RCN#30.
RCN has just published our Greenspeed GTO test. It is in RCN69 and is
available for purchase from Recumbent Cyclist News. Later this year we will
be publishing our long awaited Greenspeed tandem review.
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