To see the Florida Trail from a different perspective, our friend Richard drove over from the coast to join Sandy and I for a ride on the Cross Seminole Trail. It marked my third week of returning to trike riding. I’ve only going once a week, and the miles are still less than twenty. But it’s feels good to be back riding after my long absence. I had forgotten how much fun they were to ride.
We carried Sandy’s trike down the three flights of stairs and put it in the back of her Jeep. It fits easily in the Jeep, without being folded. Only the trike seat needs to be removed due to its height. Removal is easy: one quick release, two twists to the knobs, and it’s done.
Neither of our trikes are outfitted with racks yet. The ones designed by the manufacturer are rather pricey, and limit the folding capability. So Sandy took a small Eagle Creek bag so she get to her phone and camera easily. We’ll be looking for a better way to carry things as time goes on, as we ‘re dreaming of one day ‘Bikepacking’ somewhere.
Starting from the Black Hammock Trailhead, we headed north under a canopy of trees. Just before the climb over the SR 434 bridge, we stopped so Richard could make a few adjustments on Sandy’s trike. I’m still learning the trike world, so having Richard along on our ride is a great benefit. As he’s been both a recumbent rider and shop owner for many years, most recently running Riverside Recumbent, his experience is invaluable for us newbies. After each adjustment, he explained to Sandy the what , where, and why of what he had just done.
This was only Sandy’s second trike ride, but she quickly became a natural. Another benefit of trike riding is that it is very user-friendly. Checking on her in my rearview mirror, I saw she had the camera looking straight up, shooting video of the canopy of trees going by. You sure can’t do that safely on a two-wheeler! Another time she was just videoing Richard and I riding along the trail in front of her.
Stopping for a water break under the shade of a tree at Central Winds Park, we enjoyed yet another advantage of trike riding. Not only were we taking a break, but we were comfortably seated, watching everyone else go by.
Here Sandy turned around to head back toward the trailhead, while Richard and I rode just a little further before making our u-turn. I was wondering how Sandy might be doing when I looked up and saw her riding back toward us. After a brief stop at the trailhead, she came back up the trail to meet us.
- A comfortable riding position. Gone are the neck, back, hand, and butt pains.
- Safety. It is nearly impossible to fall off a trike! Even if you quit pedaling, you don’t fall over. No matter how slow you ride, you are always stable.
- Comfortable riding position! Yes, I’m saying it again! Instead of sitting on a small hard seat, you are riding along on a soft and cushy chair, leaning back, in a reclining position, with your legs slightly elevated. And if your trike is nicely equipped, there’s even a headrest.
- They are not what you are used to riding. The riding position is comfortable, but it’s nothing like being on a standard bicycle. Being in a seated position, you can not rely on any help from gravity to propel you along. Each pedal stroke is like pushing on a leg machine at the gym. You can’t let just your weight do the work.
- Going up hills requires much more work, and quickly lowers your speed. Going downhill is another story. Due to your more streamlined position, downhills are fast.
- At high speeds, a trike can be a bit more twichy. With two wheels in the front followed by a single rear wheel, your center of gravity changes.
- U-turns require more room, because of the long wheelbase and the extra front wheel. With practice, three-point turns are easily learned. Backing up only requires you to pull backwards on the front wheels, a skill that is quickly mastered.
- Trikes are wider and lower than the standard bicycle. This is either pro or con, depending on your point of view.
- It’s a Florida state law that a motorist must pass a cyclist with a 3 foot clearance. It’s the same 3 foot requirement, on a bike or trike. A trike sits lower than a motorist’s mirrors, which can stick out more than 3 feet. I avoid roads the best I can when they do not have at least a small amount of curb.
The biggest complaint I hear from most people is “they’re too low to the ground,” and the fear that motorists won’t notice or see them.
It’s been my experience that more people see me now than they did when I was on my two-wheeler. Not only do I have at least one tall neon yellow flag attached to my seat, but I’m also riding ‘something different.’ Motorist have been sharing the roads with bicycles for so long that they often don’t even notice them. Many of the accident reports read “I didn’t see them”.
Ride on something people aren’t use to seeing, with neon flags (and, if you’re smart, some neon clothing), and you’ll get noticed. I’d much rather have them say “what the heck is that?” than “what bicycle, I didn’t see any bicycle.”
Just remember, no matter what you ride, YOU must watch the road better than any driver. They have a steel blanket around them, and you do not!