What is Cross Chaining and how does it affect my riding?

In order to achieve the wide gear range that our customers like, we have set our externally geared trikes up with drivetrains that have a wonderfully useful band of gearing. The one element that results from this set up is the fact that the trike ( any bike actually ) does not like to be used in the large front chainring/large rear cog combination – this is called “cross chaining”. We are now adding one chain link to each trike to solve this issue but keep in mind that this is bad technique and can lead to problems because there is barely enough chain to accommodate the two large circumferences of those rings. That gear that you’re trying to reach is a redundant gear and can be achieved in the middle chainring.

Similar to this scenario is the small chainring/small cog combination. Trying to run the chain around these two small circumferences creates slack in the chain that overloads the rear derailleur and has the potential to do harm to your drivetrain. This is also bad technique and should be avoided. That gear can be achieved in the middle chainring as well.

While getting accustomed to your TerraTrike, we encourage you to use the middle chainring from which you can access all the cogs on the rear cassette. When you need to go faster, use that big ring up front with the smaller cogs in the rear. If hills loom on the horizon, drop down into the smallest chainring and use the larger cogs in the rear. You should spend most of your time in the middle chainring.

Cross chaining is not exclusive to the just the TerraTrike. It should be avoided on any bike or trike. Never cross chain your gears!

How durable are the chain idler wheels?

The chain idler wheels, or simply “idlers” for short, spin on sealed bearings and are attached to the frame with an idler axle bolt. Their job is to guide the chain along its journey from the front chainring(s) to the rear cog(s) with as little resistance and noise as possible. There are also idler L brackets which help keep the chain from bouncing off of the idler. The chain routing through the idlers and the proper alignment of the L brackets is very important so that you don’t damage your frame or other parts of the trike. The idlers are considered wear items like tires, chain or brake pads and will need to be replaced when they wear out. When the trike is properly maintained, the front idlers can average about 2500 – 3000 miles. This, of course, is dependent on many factors such as riding style, environmental conditions, etc. Rear idlers should last much longer than front idlers. If you are not getting this type of performance from your idlers here are some tips:

  1. Double check the alignment of your front boom tube making sure the bottom bracket spindle is parallel to the ground and aligned properly with the drivetrain. A slightly skewed boom can lead to a twisted chain that can cut into the idler and shorten its life.
  2. Keep your chain clean and free of abrasive contaminants. Regular maintenance of your chain will keep your machine running better and your idler wheels lasting much longer.
  3. Periodically check the idlers to make sure they are spinning freely and not binding on anything. Also check to make sure the chain is not contacting the idler L brackets. This can cause excess wear and noise.
  4. Remember to downshift when approaching stop signs and intersections, making it easier to pedal when you start up again. Likewise, remember to downshift when approaching an uphill climb so you don’t get caught in a “big” gear (a gear the is too high to easily pedal up the hill). Nothing wears down idler wheels faster than mashing your trike in big gears on an uphill climb or upon starting from a dead stop in a very high gear. Big, strong riders who can easily handle these high gears are more likely to cause premature wear on idler wheels until they learn the disciplined technique of downshifting.
  5. You can also swap the right and left front idlers periodically, which effectively doubles the idler life because the drive side is taking much more stress than the return chain side. If you follow these directions, your idlers will last a very long time. If you do need replacements, contact your Authorized TerraTrike Dealer. Also, we keep them in stock and you can order them directly from us if necessary.
  6. We are now using a stronger idler wheel made of delrin instead of urethane. The delrin idlers are much more durable and will last a very long time, yet they are surprisingly quiet. We are using them on every trike currently in production that uses an idler chain management system. We are also selling them as replacement idlers for older model trikes. If you have a WizWheelz or TerraTrike model 3.5 or older you will want to be sure to specify the “10 tooth idler” because we also make a 13 tooth idler but it is not compatible with some of the older model trikes.

How is the stability at high speeds?

High speed handling dynamics of trikes are dependent on many variables; tire pressure, road surface, seat position, size of the rider, riding style, alignment of the front wheels, etc. If you want to make sure you are getting the best possible performance from your TerraTrike check the following to make sure they are correct:

  1. Make sure you are running proper and consistent tire pressure. We recommend inflating the tires to the pressure indicated on the sidewall of the tires and checking air pressure before every ride. It is imperative that your front tires have uniform air pressure. Failure to do this can lead to your trike pulling to one side, especially upon braking. This can lead to loss of control and, potentially, a crash.
  2. Front end alignment – measure the distance between the leading edge of the two front tires and then measure the distance between the trailing edge of the two front tires. We generally measure to the center of the tire tread and make sure that the tires are properly inflated before measuring. Start at “neutral” (neutral: leading and trailing measurements are equal) and add up to 1 mm of toe-in per tire to change handling dynamics. Small changes can affect handling significantly. Important: have someone else measure while the rider is seated on the trike to increase accuracy; a loaded trike can slightly change the wheel alignment. Too much toe-in or toe-out will result in premature tire wear which will not be covered under warranty. When in doubt take your trike to an Authorized TerraTrike Dealer for proper adjustment, maintenance and repair.
  3. On linkage steering trikes, make sure the nut at the base of the steering brace is not over tightened as this will increase the resistance in the steering and may cause the trike to feel sluggish when going around corners.
  4. On the TerraTrike 3.6/Tour Series of trikes make sure the top king pin bolt is not over-tightened – tighten both bolts firmly, then back off the top bolt slightly until the wheel pivots freely.
  5. Don’t oversteer. New riders have a tendency to induce steering instability by gripping the handlebar too tightly, especially on descents. Relax your hands and let the trike’s built-in caster keep you tracking in a straight line. This is especially true for the direct-steer systems. Of course, steering is still a full time job so always pay attention to your surroundings and watch for and avoid obstacles. Try to anticipate turns and avoid sudden movements of the handlebar(s) to retain optimal control of the trike.
  6. Learn to keep your upper body “quiet” (quiet: don’t rock side to side while pedaling). It takes some practice, especially on downhills, but over time you will learn to keep your upper body from moving side-to-side and this will help your high speed stability as well as your flatland and climbing efficiency.
  7. If you are taking any turns at high speed remember to lean your body INTO the turn. The trike cannot lean with you as a two wheeler does so you have to shift some of your weight to get the best results. One word of caution, avoid high-speed downhills with sharp turns. You can flip a trike just as you can flip a car if you travel too fast for a given condition. Use your common sense and be safe out there.
  8. Customers who have followed these instructions RAVE about the rock-solid stability of our trikes at high speeds as well as low speeds. Those exceedingly few who have had issues have either not taken the time to get to know their machine or have ignored the laws of physics. Or both.

What are the load limits of the trikes?

Please refer to our specifications chart for the load limits of our different models. The load limit is the combined weight of the rider plus the added weight of any cargo or gear (tools, water, food, etc.).

If your body weight is at or near the high end of the load limit and you like to carry additional cargo, we recommend using a trailer to haul it without over-stressing the trike frame.

How can I transport a TerraTrike?

The best way to transport your TerraTrike is to ride it, of course. But if you must use a gas powered vehicle it is easier than you may think. You can use a roof rack with three wheel trays. The TerraTrike can fit on some common trunk or hitch racks if you rotate the trike 90 degrees (wheels parallel to the ground) and rest the main frame tube in the cradles of the rack. Check out our accessories page to see our own UTC (Universal Trike Carrier) system which is an inexpensive version of a roof rack using foam pads and straps similar to some kayak carriers. A fully assembled TerraTrike will also easily fit in a minivan, many SUVs, small station wagons, and even a vehicle as small as a two door hatchback (with the rear wheel nested between the front seats). We even have a customer who transports his fully assembled TerraTrike in his Camaro (I don’t believe it, show me). With his rear (car) seat folded down, he simply loads the trike backwards through the rear hatch and rolls the rear wheel of the trike between the front seats. Two people and a TerraTrike can comfortably ride in a Camaro!

Is balance an issue with a TerraTrike?

You may find that balance can be a problem on 2-wheeled recumbents. This is primarily due to the low center of gravity of recumbents, as well as the generally smaller diameter wheels. The trike behaves differently than a regular bike or recumbent, due to its three wheels. It handles more like a car than a bike, and does not lean when cornering. You, the rider, must do the leaning. But, balancing is not really a factor, especially when climbing hills regardless of how slow you are moving. You can also pull up to a stop sign and never remove your feet from the pedals. In addition, otherwise hazardous obstacles such as sand and gravel, water, and uneven terrain don’t upset it. You can brake while cornering (remember to use both levers with uniform pressure) without worrying about a spill.

Will I ride faster on the Trike?

A TerraTrike with the seat reclined will undoubtedly have less wind resistance at speed than an upright bike. Many TerraTrikers, once accustomed to their trike, report faster speeds on their trike as compared to their upright bicycle. You will need to keep in mind that, like any new exercise, it will take time to develop the different muscle groups that riding a trike in a recumbent position requires. While ascending hills you cannot “stand” on the pedals as you can on an upright bike so you may not experience the same speed as a traditional bike while climbing hills; although you can push your back into the seatback for added leverage while climbing. The up side of this is that you have three wheels on the ground so, no matter how slow you are moving, you don’t have to worry about falling over. Your speed will also depend on which trike and which accessories you order (For example: high pressure tires on a lightweight trike with a reclined seat will make you faster than a trike with lower pressure tires and a higher more upright seat).

How does the braking feel?

The front disc brakes are rock solid and easy to control and stop the trike very efficiently. Most people are surprised on their first ride because the brakes are so responsive. Keep in mind that you control the braking on each front wheel with a separate brake lever and you will need to coordinate the braking effort with both hands. This is very easy to do, and feels quite natural. Side Note: Both brakes can be controlled by a single dual brake lever for riders who only have use of one hand. Both shifters can be put on one side as well.

Is a rear brake needed?

There is no rear brake on the TerraTrike. The significant forward weight transfer under braking causes the rear end to lift enough to make the rear brake nearly useless. We have experimented with rear brakes and generally what happens is that the rear wheel locks up and can allow the trike to go into a skid which actually gives you LESS control that the two front brakes provide. The front disc brakes are more than adequate for stopping the vehicle. If you slam on the brakes, you can literally lift the rear wheel off of the ground. In extreme situations, the front chainring or a crankarm can even contact the ground, after which, the rear wheel will return to the ground rapidly.

What are ‘center point steering’ and ‘Ackerman compensation’ and why are they important?

All TerraTrikes, whether they are linkage steer or direct steer, feature center point steering and full Ackerman compensation.

Center point steering is in place when the axis of the kingpin (the pivot through which the wheel turns side-to-side) intersects the contact point of the tire with the ground. Center point steering adds stability, limits tire scrub and bump steer.

Ackerman compensation is desirable in a turn so that your inside wheel turns sharper than your outside wheel. With proper frame and hubmount design (caster and camber), the difference is compensated for as the tightness of the turn changes. Picture the turning radius of the centerline of the trike; the inside front wheel has a smaller radius to track than the outside front wheel. This means the inside wheel has to make a sharper turn to track uniformly on the same curve when compared to the outside wheel. Proper compensation reduces the “tire scrub” (which lengthens tire life) and helps you keep control of the trike as you turn.

What is the difference between linkage steer and direct steer trikes?

Some TerraTrikes have linkage steering while others feature direct steering. The specifications chart lists which trikes have which type of steering.

On Linkage Steering trikes there is a single handlebar which is connected to a pivot point which, in turn, is connected to the wheels via two tie rods. The amount of movement of the wheels is less than the input from the rider at the handlebar. This steering arrangement provides a very steady, smooth and comfortable feeling that is great for touring, going very fast in a straight line, or just cruising around in comfort.

On Direct Steering trikes there are two handlebars that are attached directly to the tops of the hubmounts and the hubmounts are linked together with a single tie rod which connects the front wheels to one another so that they turn in unison. The amount of movement of the front wheels is equal to the input from the rider at the handlebar. This arrangement provides a fast, sporty feel that is great for carving corners, taking sharp fast turns, and for those that just love that sports car/go-cart feeling.

All TerraTrikes, whether they are linkage steer or direct steer, feature center point steering and full Ackerman adjustment.

How much frame flex is there on a trike?

TerraTrikes have just the right amount of frame flex to make the ride comfortably compliant while maintaining sufficient rigidity to maximize pedaling efficiency. Over the years, we have found the sweet spot between minimal frame flex and a compliant ride.

Are frame sets or kits available?

No. We have engineered our trikes as complete units and do not recommend altering them from stock in any way.

Can you explain gear-inches?

“Gear-inch” is an archaic measurement that dates back to the days of when geared bikes were introduced. It was used as a way to compare a geared bicycle to a high wheeler or pennyfarthing bicycle of the time. Based on the front chainring and rear cog tooth counts as well as the rear wheel diameter, it was a calculation that yielded a number that would be the equivalent of the diameter of the front wheel on a high wheeler bicycle. So if you had a gear ratio that resulted in 80 gear inches it would be as if you had a high wheeler that had an 80″ front wheel. Which is pretty big! Gear-inch calculations are an inefficient tool of measure for today’s multiple gear bikes because it falls short of giving you a useful number; but it is a standard that is still used for comparison’s sake. The equation is as follows: Chainring tooth count divided by rear cog tooth count times tire’s outside diameter of the driven wheel (CRt/Ct*D). To give you a rough point of reference, a typical mountain bike might have a gear-inch range of 18 – 103 while a typical road bike offers a 43 – 127 gear-inch range. Of course, actual specs can vary widely depending upon chainring and cassette cog tooth counts as well as rear wheel size. A good range for all around riding is 22-62 (some people want a wider range and some people require less) depending upon the terrain in which you ride, your level of fitness and your end goal. For example: you will need a wider gear range if you are riding across the country than you will if you are riding rail trails. That is why we offer so many different models of trikes. Keep in mind that gear-inches do not give you the distance traveled per full pedal revolution of a bike or trike. In order to determine distance traveled per pedal revolution you simply multiply gear-inches times Pi (3.141592654…I could go on all day…).

Click here to view the gear inch ranges of our products.

Why do some trikes have fewer gears than other trikes?

First, remember that the number of gears is never as important as the range of gearing. The bike industry has done a great job convincing the consumer that more gears are better. This is not necessarily true. More gears only result in more complexity (and potential mechanical problems), and more weight to carry around. We believe that we could race or tour on any bike with 5 gears if we could pick our gear ratios. The old 10 speeds we had (way back when) actually had very close to the same gear range as today’s 27 speed drivetrains. The new ones just have more overlapping or redundant gears.

Some companies try to dazzle the consumer with a big number of gears. This is superfluous, and a waste of your money. The number you want to compare is the Gear Inch Range, not the number of gears.

Click here to view the gear inch ranges of our products.

What is the difference between external and internal drivetrains?

Externally geared trikes have a more traditional drivetrain with a rear (and sometimes front) derailleur that moves the chain from one gear to another on the rear gear cluster and/or front chainrings. Internally geared hubs have a mechanism inside that change the gear ratios with only one rear cog that you can see. This gives the trike a clean and elegant look. Internally geared hubs are quite reliable and are very low maintenance but are generally heavier and more expensive (all other things being equal). They are easy to operate and can be shifted when the trike is at rest, unlike derailleur systems which require you to be pedaling in order to shift. Generally, external drivetrains have a wider gear range so your choice between internal and external gearing depends upon the terrain in which you are riding, your riding style and your riding goals.

Is the trike’s height a problem?

Low height really only becomes a problem in tight, heavy traffic where drivers can’t see a trike behind, or in front of, other cars. Adding a flag is helpful in these situations and we highly recommend one or more for all conditions just to be on the safe side. The use of lighting to be seen is also helpful to approaching motorists. The unique look of the Trike attracts a lot of attention, whereas regular upright bicycles are so common on the roads, they tend to be ignored. A comment that we hear from many customers is that they receive much more respect from motorists when they are riding their trike as compared to their two wheeled bikes. Upon approaching a trike, many drivers tend to slow down to look at the trike out of sheer curiosity, wait for a safe opportunity to pass, then give the trike a wide berth when they do pass. Many customers tell us they feel much safer on their trike than they do on their upright bikes. If you use your own common sense, choose your ride routes carefully, and, of course, wear a helmet, you will be safe on a TerraTrike. The best advice is to ride defensively and assume you are invisible to motor vehicle operators; never assume that they see you.

Where can I buy a TerraTrike, what is the ordering procedure and return policy?

We strongly recommend that you purchase a TerraTrike from any of our Authorized TerraTrike Dealers. Our dealers can do better hands-on fitting, adjustment and can perform service after the sale as necessary. If one of our Authorized Dealers is not conveniently located near you, you can place an order directly through us by phone, email, fax, letter or by using our secure online ordering system (just follow the links from the Products page). All we need is your credit card number, expiration date, your contact information bill to and ship to addresses, your x-seam measurement, trike model and component spec’ and the accessories desired. We bill your credit card just prior to shipping your trike. Cashier’s checks are welcomed. Personal checks are OK too, but can take 14 days or more to clear and must clear before shipment. If you purchase a trike directly from TerraTrike Headquarters and were unable to test ride it, we do have a 30 day return policy. If you order a trike, and are unsatisfied with it for any reason, we will buy it back from you at your original purchase price minus damage and any custom work or paint color that has changed it from stock. The returned trike must reach us within 30 days of our original ship date. Please see our return page for more details.

Where can I test ride a TerraTrike?

We have an ever-expanding dealer network. Many of them are in the USA but you will find several worldwide. Click here to find a dealer near you.

What are the load limits of the trikes?

Please refer to our specifications chart for the load limits of our different models. The load limit is the combined weight of the rider plus the added weight of any cargo or gear (tools, water, food, etc.).

If your body weight is at or near the high end of the load limit and you like to carry additional cargo, we recommend using a trailer to haul it without over-stressing the trike frame.

How do I measure my size (x-seam measurement)?

How is the shipping done?

We only ship fully assembled single trikes within the contiguous United States. You will only need to put air in the tires and adjust the seat and handlebars to your liking before it is ready to ride. If you are receiving a Tandem, you will also need to attach the two halves of the frame together with the coupler wrench (supplied), connect the ends of one of the chains with a masterlink (no chain tool required), and connect the cable at the cable splitter (no tool required). The Tandem is 95% pre-assembled.

For all international shipments (including Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and Canada) please call us for a quote. Check the shipping page for shipping and handling prices.

How much assembly is required?

If you purchase your trike from one of our Authorized Dealers, your trike will be build and appropriately sized to you by the dealer. Trikes from our Headquarters are shipped fully assembled and only require the tires to be pumped up and the seat and handlebars to be adjusted to your liking. If you are receiving a Tandem, you will also need to attach the two halves of the frame with the coupler wrench (supplied), connect the end of one of the chains with a masterlink (no chain tool required), and connect the cable at the cable splitter (no tool required). This takes only about 10-15 minutes. The Tandem is 95% pre-assembled.

How are the Trikes Treated on the Road?

It has been our personal experience that our trikes get a lot more attention and respect while riding on the road than traditional upright bikes. The trike is such a unique looking vehicle that people tend to pay a lot more attention to it and respect it a lot more. We get asked about the width a lot too. “Is the width a problem?” No, if you think about it, the width of a trike isn’t a lot wider than your shoulders. So, it isn’t really that much more obtrusive on the side of the road. Again, choose your riding route(s) carefully; you don’t want to be on heavily traveled roads without a good shoulder on which to ride.

What about accessories for touring, hauling gear, night riding, etc.?

We offer more trike specific accessories than any other trike manufacturer in the world and you can find them on our accessory page. From cargo carrying solutions to lighting to hydration and fenders, we have what you need for your ride.

As for night riding, we highly recommend the use of a helmet mounted head light as well as a bright tail light. The additional height from a helmet mounted light is VERY advantageous for better visibility. Also, the beam shines wherever you look so it improves your ability to see and to be seen.

Do you have any special pricing, programs or promotions that can help a disabled person or veteran obtain one of these awesome trikes?

While we can’t afford to give away any trikes for free and we don’t offer any type of special deals or disability programs, with a prescription from a doctor, Medicare or your health insurance MIGHT cover the cost of the trike. We have done this in the past, and we’re happy to work with your provider. Please check with your health care provider first because they have to say, “yes” first.

Will TerraTrike help me manufacture the world’s next greatest product?

We might. You’d be surprised how often we are approached by small inventors and garage mechanics that believe they have the world’s next greatest product. Most of these proposals don’t fit with our business model, but every once in a while one does. If you have a concept that you believe is worth manufacturing, here is what you need to do: Submit a proposal IN WRITING (no phone calls or email please). Include all information such as concept, demographic studies, marketing plan, predicted sales volume, drawings, renderings, photos of prototypes, contact information, etc. Our committee will review your proposal, and you will be notified of our decision. If you are worried about your intellectual property remaining confidential, simply have your lawyer send us a non-discloser agreement prior to submitting your proposal.

How do I find my serial number?

Serial numbers are located in different areas for each model. Click here to view descriptions as well as photos showing you where to look.