Renie Rates Rover vs Rambler
TerraTrike describes the Rambler as the “love child” of the Rover and the Cruiser. Since I’ve been fortunate enough to ride all three, I have to agree. I am brand new to recumbent triking, and I was fortunate enough to be able to ride a loaner Rover while I was waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the release of the Rambler. I took a few days to compare the two of them, and the following is my assessment of the two trikes.
While the Rambler definitely looks like a deluxe model of the Rover with its crossbow design, high seat, and horizontal handlebars, the Cruiser DNA isn’t readily apparent … that is, until you get it on the road.
First, the initial differences between the Rambler and the Rover are subtle. While the handlebars are horizontal (which my wrists love), the Rambler has a locking brake and the Rover has Velcro. Both work. The new padding on the handlebars is much better than the plastic that was on the 1st Gen Rover.
The Rambler is slightly lower than the Rover, but even side by side, this difference is not readily apparent. The Rambler is about four inches shorter in length, which is more apparent when viewing casually. Although the Rambler is a tiny bit narrower, it has an appearance of a wider stance, but I’m sure that’s due its overall smaller dimensions.
The mesh seat on the Rover has a tighter weave than that on the Rambler; however, the seat on the Rambler has the look and feel of higher quality. Its material seems to be more “breathable”, but at the time of this writing, I couldn’t readily tell the difference while riding in moderate weather.
According to the specifications on the TerraTrike site, both 8-speed trikes have 32 tooth chainrings. However, at 42T the Rover’s chainring on this particular trike is larger than that of the Rambler which gives it a higher low gear than the 32T which comes stock with the IGH (Internal Geared Hub).
The bottom bracket on the Rover is 13 inches, and it’s 12.25 inches on the Rambler, which at first glance, gives the Rover a higher bottom bracket. However, just eyeballing them side by side, the bottom bracket seems equal in proportion on the Rambler, and I’m sure that’s because of its lower height. They both sport straight booms, which restricts the ability to recline, but fits perfectly with the lower bottom brackets of both trikes.
Both trikes I’m comparing have 8-speed Sturmey-Archer IGHs. I have both outfitted with Crank Brothers pedals. The Rambler has Big Apple tires, and the Rover has the stock tires installed.
I rode both trikes primarily on residential streets, but because some of the areas in my extended neighborhood are somewhat rural, I also rode them in dirt and on packed pea gravel.
Due to the 42T chainring, I never use higher than 3rd gear when I start off from home in the Rover. I usually use 4 on the flats, and crank down to 2 or even 1 on the upward sloping grades that make up my extended neighborhood. Even with the extra required effort, the ride is like sitting in an office chair and pedaling.
The Rover was never designed to be a “performance” trike. I’ve gotten left in many a bike’s dust, and have been ecstatically happy to keep up with joggers. My weekend rides are long, not in distance, but in time because the Rover just isn’t a speedy trike. It is an SUV and rides that way. I wish that it had Big Apples installed, because then the only thing that would be missing is a cup holder and a remote.
The difficulty comes when there are hills to climb. I try very hard not to mash, but even then it’s slow and physically taxing, especially when the rider’s “engine” (body) is out of shape. It can be done, but you can’t be in a hurry. “Hurry” and the Rover climbing hills just don’t go together! Anyone who can lower the GI on a Rover will be rewarded with a good, dependable trike that he can take anywhere. Fortunately, my neighborhood is made up mostly of sloping grades, which has made learning how to pedal uphill a relatively easy task. “Real” hills (or overpasses) will throw in more difficulty, but a fitter body on a properly geared Rover could do it, I’m sure.
Downhills are no problem, of course. It’s that whole gravity thing. Crank up to 8th gear if you really want to pedal or just let ‘er roll!
In spite of having about 90% of the same features as the Rover, on the road the Rambler is a completely different animal. This is where the Cruiser DNA really shines.
Although I adjusted the seat at the same recline angle as the seat on the Rover, it “felt” more reclined. This is where you can feel that the Rambler is lower in height than the Rover. While pedaling on the Rover feels like an office chair, pedaling on the Rambler feels closer to a chaise lounge.
I started off at 4th gear and only shifted down to 3rd on a slope. Not only was climbing easier, but I noticed that my cadence was faster. Maybe it was the new Big Apples, but there was no “drag” when pedaling. Of course the road bikes still passed me, but it took them longer to do it.
Handling is very similar to the Rover, and I’m sure that’s due to the direct steer. However, I found that the Rambler has a “sportier” feel while riding. It’s not something that I can really describe, but it feels a little more like a sports car and less like a “regular” car.
While I’m talking about steering, I can say that both trikes – especially when going downhill on a smooth road – ride like they’re on rails. The direct steer is absolutely rock solid at speed, even if it requires a little more effort when going slowly. For someone who’s a new trike rider, this gives me extra confidence that the wheels won’t suddenly take off in another direction without any feedback from me.
I have never felt any tippy feelings when turning corners with the Rover. With the shorter body and lower height of the Rambler, I didn’t feel any concern about rolling over, even though I turned corners at a slightly higher speed. Understand that “higher speed” is relative since I’m very careful while out in traffic.
The one thing that I notice with the Rambler that I really like is a faster takeoff from a standstill. Maybe that’s due to the lighter weight, but I felt far more comfortable in traffic knowing that I could make a faster start and have a little more maneuverability than with the Rover.
When doing my usual ten-mile loop, I notice that I’m able to complete it in a lot less time than I have when riding the Rover. Lighter weight, faster cadence, and smaller chainring all contribute to a faster ride, I’m sure.
By the way, I found that the ride was very similar in many aspects to the Catrike Villager. While the Villager is a lighter trike and a little lower to the ground, the Rambler’s direct steer characteristics reminded me of my test ride on it.
While I’m not a weight wienie, I can appreciate the lighter weight of the Rambler. This lighter weight, along with the lower height and shorter length, translates into a trike that’s easier and more fun to handle on the road.
At first glance the Rambler’s overall looks are indeed similar to the Rover. It doesn’t give the appearance of a performance trike, but the Cruiser influence is felt in the actual riding, even if not in the looks. The lower stance, the ability to power up hills in spite of the 24GI limitation, its maneuverability, and its relatively low price justifies the Rambler’s position as an above-entry-level trike. There’s even more power in the 24- and 27-speed models for those who prefer derailleurs.
Its weight limit is 100 pounds lower than the Rover, so it won’t fit the big guys who are trying to get into shape. However, it’s ideal for someone who’s looking for something that will last, has a sporty look, and whose upgrade possibilities are limited only by imagination and budget. The fact that it has a lifetime warranty on the frame is a real incentive to own one.
As someone who is trying to get into shape and who is a former jockette, I find that the Rambler is absolutely ideal for my needs. I love the look, the price of the 8-speed was within my budget, and the fact that it came with many features that I would have paid for as options on another model (locking brake, IGH, etc.), made it a smokin’ deal for me.
At the risk of incurring the wrath and ire of Catrike fans, I will say this: For those who are looking for a lightweight trike with an adjustable seat and can’t afford the Villager, please test ride the Rambler. At hundreds less, I think you will find that it will stand up in overall quality and features, and you will be out riding that much sooner.