One recumbent trike manufacturer that has seen much success in recent years is TerraTrike. Part of the reason is price: the Rover opened up an entirely new entry level trike pricepoint. And yet, some people wanted a little bit more – and then they unveiled the Rambler. Both of these trikes offered features that many buyers wanted, especially a comfortable ride on a trike that did not force them to squat very low. Yes, both trikes have been big hits, and while many of the more vociferous owners rebelled against any talk of “performance” – after all, they were riding them for far better reasons than “speed” – there were some out there who were thinking, how nice it would be to have the no-squat attribute with not just a bit more speed, but considerably more. In fact, these buyers would be willing to pay more, too. The result? Come join me in a ride on the new TerraTrike Sportster.
The Sportster is undeniably a TerraTrike. It caters to those riders whose primary concerns are ease of entry and exit, coupled with a low bottom bracket and a seat that doesn’t have them straining to hold their head up. When you sit down on this trike, you aren’t looking at the road ahead between your knees. The variable recline angle of the seat ranges from the modestly laid-back angle of 40 degrees, to a nearly upright 70. And you may be forgiven if you think: this is just another TerraTrike – what’s the big deal? Start pedaling and shifting, and you’ll find out!
Let me be clear about one thing: this is not the fastest trike I have ever ridden. The hands on the grips are off to our sides, and combined with the recline angle, we present a pretty big target for the wind. But even with that, this is a very quick trike. I was impressed! Shifting up through the gears (8 cogs and 3 chainrings; this is the basic model, there are others with more), the acceleration was noticeable. Toss in indiscernible brake steer (Bengal disc), and a turning circle that is among the best I’ve encountered, and you’ve got an enjoyable, fast ride. Not the fastest, but hardly slow. The direct-steer was precise, it tracked well, and while I prefer to have my hands and arms in closer to my body, the position on the Sportster was comfortable. I would not have a problem taking this trike out to do a century.
I’ve mentioned comfort and speed, two pluses for the Sportster. Another is ground clearance. At 7 inches, this is the trike I would pick for traversing grassy fields, loose sand, and crushed limestone trails. Combine this with a seat height of 14.5 inches (bottom bracket, too), and you have a very lofty perch, There are some potential drawbacks to such a “tall” trike: stability in tight, fast turns. I have mentioned the turning circle (12 feet in diameter). A trike this tall, with a track of just 34.25 inches, can result in a lifting of an inside wheel. I do want to point out that this lifting is not abrupt, and you really do have to be either very tall, or almost deliberately turning so fast and abruptly, that you want to raise that wheel – which I did, of course. In anything approaching normal riding, this didn’t happen. And when it did, it was very mild and easily controlled.
The attention to detail on the Sportster is good, as are the components. As mentioned, there are other models that cost more, and the components are a bit higher in grade, as you would expect – but this lowest-cost model is nothing to turn away from.
I wondered at various times just what was making this trike faster than other, similar TerraTrikes. The weight is in the mid-30′s, which is good but not the complete explanation. I won’t claim to know completely just how they made such an improvement, but part of it may be due to the angle of the chain to the first idler. In prior TerraTrikes, that angle is quite extreme, with the result that power is being lost while pedaling. On the Sportster, that angle is much less severe. Toss in the larger rear wheel, and the result is a fast trike.
My bottom line opinion of the TerraTrike Sportster? Aerodynamics of the seating position keep it from being even faster, but only the real performance nuts will have a problem with just how fast this trike is, and it’s definitely a spirited trike. With a granny of 25 inches, you won’t have trouble with most hills, unless you are weighed down with a touring load that is probably twice what you need. A top gear of 118 inches is quite good – if you find yourself “spinning out” on flat ground, you maybe want to look at some of the other variations of this model. Regardless, give this newest TerraTrike a good look. It may just be the TerraTrike you’ve been hoping for.
Pros: Comfort, speed, ground clearance and price
Cons: It is possible get an inside wheel off the ground, in “spirited” riding