There are things in life that we regret doing, but there are also those things that we regret not doing. One of the latter for me the Fourth of July Parade in Carmel, Indiana in 2002. Mike McDowell of Valley Bikes in Carmel had announced it on the web, inviting everyone to stop by his shop and participate as a group.
This seemed like it would be a fun thing to do. And, there would be the bonus of stopping by his store. There are three types of stores that I love to wander around in – computers, books, and bikes. Toss in the fact that this is a bike store with lots of recumbents – and quite possibly more recumbent trikes on display than anywhere else in the country – and, it’s located literally beside a rail-trail that makes it great for test rides. So, it’s hard to believe that I passed up the chance to participate.
So when the word went out about this year’s parade, I made plans to attend. Those plans looked like they were going to be for nothing when I found out that I would be heading north into Michigan to pick up a WizWheelz TerraTrike 3.4 and a late-prototype WW tandem trike for testing. It seemed like it was going to come down to a choice between attending the parade or picking up the test trikes in Michigan.
I was talking to a co-worker about this problem, and he suggested that I drive up to Michigan the day before, the 3rd of July, rather than Friday the 4th. I hadn’t realized that we had both days off for the holiday! So, off I went on Thursday, six hours from my house to the WizWheelz factory, chat with Ike Trikeman about the trikes, current and future, take some pictures – especially of the fenders, just to prove to people that yes, WW is going to be selling front fenders for their trikes – then head southwest for about 4 hours to Carmel, just north of Indianapolis. Lots of driving in one day, but that night when I finally went to sleep in the Red Roof Inn, I was happy: my van contained the new WW TT 3.4, and the even newer tandem trike – and, I was going to be in the parade!
My friend Walt Smith also attended the parade. He’s a lot like me – almost any excuse to go to a bike store is a good excuse, and he was interested in the tandem trike as well. So, he was my stoker. The recumbent group organized by Valley Bikes was huge – there were at least two or three dozen of us out there. Most people brought their own recumbents, but Mike offered his trikes and 2-wheelers for those who wanted to use this opportunity to ride something new. The weather was warm and sunny, the crowd was loud and appreciative, and I had my first chance to ride the WW tandem trike. This was one weekend that I wasn’t going to wind up regretting some things that I hadn’t done.
When I got home I began testing the two WizWheelz trikes in earnest. The 3.4 report is elsewhere in this issue. The tandem proved to be very popular – I know several couples who are interested in recumbent trike tandems, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to compare my observations with those of others. I love it when people agree with me, of course, but it’s often insightful to examine those cases when they don’t.
One of those volunteer couples was David and Karen Martin. They are both strong riders, have ridden tandems before, and an interesting twist was that they are upright riders. Not only was I going to hear what they thought of the tandem as a tandem, but also what their feelings were about recumbents! Incidentally, I had given them one of those single-use cameras so that they could have people take some pictures of them on the tandem, but later I found out that the camera was faulty – the subjects showed up when you used the flash, but were almost completely invisible otherwise. And yes, all of their pictures were in the daytime, without flash.
They made several rides over the following few weeks, with the longest being about 60 miles. I suspect that they would have wanted to keep it longer, but Karen was heading off to France – she was on a tour that included climbing Mt. Ventoux! And I was anxious to get it back and do some more riding myself. So, let’s talk about the tandem.
Two things you notice immediately: this is a long vehicle. (Since this was a pre-production unit, the exact specifications may not be the same as the current, shipping models. Please check with the WizWheelz website for exact weight, measurements, etc.) And, the paint. It is a deep, dark shade of red, and everyone who saw it loved it.
Some people have asked how I manage to transport it. Ignoring the obvious “just ride it”, I found that putting it in the rear of my regular-sized Chevrolet Venture mini-van was not a problem, so long as the rear seats are removed. I discovered that I could leave the boom on, as well as the rear wheel, and all I had to do was remove the bolts holding the rear seat “stays” so that the seat would swivel forward, then roll the trike in so that the rear wheel was between the two front seats in the van. I even had room left over the TT 3.4 and my luggage for the weekend.
The tandem is quite similar in construction to the 3.4. But just lengthening the boom and adding a second seat wouldn’t have made for a very stable mount. So, upon closer inspection you’ll notice where WizWheelz has “beefed up” the tandem. I’ve included two pictures that show in particular the cruciform fronts of both trikes.
You’re probably thinking, yes, they’re similar but different, but how did it ride? To put it simply, great – but not perfect.
The seats are comfortable enough, but I think they either need to have a stiffer bottom or be elevated just a bit more above the boom. On some bumpy stretches of road, you could feel that boom. Of course, a simple solution for those who encounter this relatively minor problem would be to insert a small piece of foam rubber underneath the seat, or just a pad of some sort on the seat itself.
And speaking of seats – right now the tandem is constructed so that small, medium or large people – as measured by their x-seams – can be accommodated in the captain’s position, but the stoker is limited to small and medium. If you’re nearing six feet or above, you may find the rear seat to be a bit cramped. If you’re considering this trike – and from what I’ve heard and read, many people are – check with WizWheelz to make certain that it will fit.
Out on the road you notice one thing that is common to almost all tandems: they’re heavier than a single bike or trike, and that’s noticeable when climbing long or steep hills. On the flats, it’s not really much of a concern. This tandem will move along at a pretty good pace. There is no independent pedaling option, so you’ll have to coordinate your efforts with your partner.
Speed is one thing, but how about stopping? The disc brakes are more than up to the task. There’s nothing quite as reassuring as knowing that the brakes will not only stop you very quickly, but they’re not going to be bothered by rain or heat-induced fade, like rim brakes are.
One of my concerns about the tandem were the idler wheels. The chain passes on the underside of the idlers in both directions, and it seemed like there was a lot of friction. I’ve been told by WW that new idler wheels are on the way and will ease my worries. I would think that independent idler wheels for both directions of the chain would be a good idea.
My first attempt at turning this tandem was in a small parking area behind Valley Bikes. And, let’s just say that while you do not need “40 acres to turn this rig around”, you won’t be doing u-turns on bike paths. On the road the turning circle is quite adequate for 90-degree turns. Let’s face it – this is a long trike! It’s on a par with other recumbent tandem trikes. And, check with WW again on this: word is that they’re working on something that will make the turning radius much sharper.
There are provisions for two water bottles on this tandem. Perhaps I drink more than most people, but I’d like to see at least four. But with two seats you do have the option of adding at least one bladder, so that will help. And for carrying that bunch of stuff that I seemingly can’t live without, I recommend getting a rear rack as well, though WizWheelz does make a nifty bag that will hold your essentials – and maybe a bit more – and it fits on either the back or the underside of the seats.
As I mentioned in my review of the TT 3.4, there are provisions for inserting a flag into the seat frame. One will fit in either the left or the right side – or both. And in this case, you could have four flags mounted! The provided flag is the same, stylish-but-invisible flag that is issued with the single trike.
Everyone who rode the tandem enjoyed it. Like any tandem, it takes some getting used to, what with the increased weight and turning circle as compared to singles, and you need to work on communicating with your partner. But when you’re out on the road, it’s really enjoyable. I can understand why some people prefer the “freedom” of riding on their own, but now I can appreciate just how much fun it is to literally ride with a companion, and not have to worry about either having to slow down or speed up because of that other person. Throw in the tandem-specific benefits of having someone taking care of monitoring the cue sheets, handing the captain things to eat or drink, and so on – I can see where I would enjoy riding a tandem. And a tandem trike – what more could someone want!
Bottom line: I highly recommend this trike. If you’re thinking of getting a recumbent tandem, it might be worth your while to check with WizWheelz about a test ride – you may find that a trike may suit you better than a 2-wheeler. And if you’re already a trike fan, compare the price and features of this tandem trike with others on the market. I suspect that one of the first questions you’ll ask is how soon can you expect delivery!
Highs – Price, Handling, Paint and general appearance
Lows – Turning circle, Seat bottoms, Drivetrain friction, Flag is difficult to see from the rear