Not a Good Day Posted by: Dale Franks
on Wednesday, August 17, 2005
(UPDATE (15 Nov 06): After the design problem referred to in this post was fixed a few days later, I wrote a formal—and very positive—review of the Catrike Pocket, which can be read here. So, please be aware that the post below is not the final word on the Catrike. Big Cat responded quickly to my complaint, and changed the design of the trike. In addition to my positive review, further notes on the riding experience can be found here. The post below merely expresses my frustration about the initial delivery of the trike. Having owned it for over two years now, and ridden hundreds of miles on the Pocket, I am exceptionally satisfied with the trike. As far as I know, the design flaw this post concerns was a one-off error that has not been repeated by Big Cat.)
I am NOT a happy camper. Not happy with Catrike in general or the Pocket in particular.
I ordered my new Catrike Pocket Recumbent Trike back in May. Finally, several weeks ago, I got a firm ship date of August 3. Unfortunately, that firm ship date wasn't actually, you know, firm. That date slipped to the 11th of August.
Now, perhaps its less than charitable of me to say it, but if you have to wait for three months for a product that costs more than $1,500, and the manufacturer, can't even keep a firm shipping schedule after 3 months, it may be a sign that the manufacturer has...other problems. But, no, I thought, everyone says the Catrike is so neat. Surely this is just some understandable production glitch.
The more fool I. But, we'll get to that.
Not that the dealer was any better. The guys at Holland's Bicycles called me at about 12:30, to tell me my bike would be ready at 2:00. So, I took half a day off from work, and started on the drive to the dealer, which is about 70 miles from my house. When I got there at 2:00, they told me that they had made a mistake, and the bike would take...longer. So, I had to hang around—and pay for parking—until about 6:30, when the bike was finally finished.
So, I put on my new clipless sandals, and started my first test drive.
That lasted for about 30 seconds, until I shifted down to the middle chain ring on the pedal gears, only to be rewarded by a loud skrrriiiiiich! That was caused by the arm of the derailleur digging a trench in the asphalt of the street.
It seems that on the Pocket, any time you're geared to the middle pedal gear ring and the largest 3 or 4 gear rings on the axle, the trailing arm swings down and scrapes the pavement. Eventually, I had 4 separate mechanics looking at the bike, all of whom were of the opinion that the travel arm of the rear derailleur was longer than the radius of the wheel. Their only suggestion was to go with a larger wheel in the back, or to replace the SRAM derailleurs with Shimanos, since the Shimano derailleur's travel arm pivots in the middle of the derailleur, so, even at full extension, it doesn't exceed the radius of the rear wheel. Se the diagram below, for what I mean.
As far as I can tell, they are right. There is only one way I can see to mount the rear derailleur, and I can't see how the SRAM derailleur can possibly work with the Pocket's rear wheel. It looks like a basic design flaw on Big Cat's part. Sure, there's always the possibility that all of the mechanics at Hollad's Bicycles, one of San Diego's most respected Bike Shops are all slack-jawed incompetents. But, somehow, I doubt it. Still, I gotta keep that possibility open. Maybe they are hell on wheels when it come to regular bikes, but out of their depth when it comes to recumbents. But, it still looks like a design flaw to me, not a problem with Holland's assembly.
And, speaking of design flaws, what's the deal with the plastic sleeve on the boom? There's nothing that keeps it from sliding inside the outer boom arm sleeve and getting stuck inside when you adjust the boom. So what's the deal with that? Nobody at Big Cat could figure out how to put a flange on the plastic sleeve that keeps it from sliding down into the boom arm?
I mean, did anybody at Big Cat actually build a Pocket and ride it around for a few minutes to see if it actually worked? If so, you can't prove it by the product I saw this afternoon.
So, after paying $1600, waiting for months, spending half a day at the bike shop, expending 4 hours of vacation time, and a couple of hours on the road in freeway traffic...I got nothin'. I finally left the dealer 40 minutes after closing, with the assurance that they'd call Catrike, try to figure out was wrong, and if it could be fixed, they'd deliver the trike to me.
That was nice of the dealer, but frankly, I'm not sure if I still want the Catrike. After thinking about it on the drive home, I'm seriously considering just canceling the whole order, and buying a Greenspeed. Because, from where I stand, it's seems like you do, indeed, get what you pay for, which, with the Catrike Pocket, apparently ain't much.
So far, absolutely nothing about my dealings with Catrike have been satisfactory. And, you know, for some of us, $1500 is a massive about of money. When we spend that kind of money, we expect to get a product that works perfectly out of the box. When you have to save for MONTHS to buy something nice, you expect it to BE nice.
Oh, and by the way, I run one of the top 100 blogs in the world, http://www.qando.net. I'll be cross-posting this entry to my 20,000 daily readers, too. I'm letting them know that, either the guys at Holland's Bicycles in Coronado California are incompetent buffoons, or the guys at Big Cat are. I'm not entirely sure which. All I know is that I am massively PO'd.
Yeah, I'm seriously thinking about dumping the whole Catrike order, and buying a completely new recumbent. It's becoming increasingly clear that it's the Guys at Big Cat who are the incompetent buffoons. I am, at this point, recommending that you do not buy a Catrike Pocket from Big Cat HPV.
I'd say that Catrike's product testing leaves something to be desired. Especially after reading this from Paolo Camasmie, Catrike's owner, at one of the threads posted above:
The derraileur is close, and with the proper chain lenght it will seat at 1/4" from the ground, which should not be a problem in theory but too litlle for someone riding on grass or dirty roads. Herbie called me saying that his touched the ground going through speed bumps, which is also a consideration. That might be avoided however, by changing to different gears.
Uh, no. When I spend $1500 on a bike, I damn well expect every gear in the drivetrain to work. Telling me, "Oh, well, don't use those 4 gears," isn't gonna cut it.
That notional 1/4 inch is simply unacceptable. That's clearly a bad design. Unless you posit that city streets and bike paths are perfectly flat and that all tires are perfectly pressurized. And of course, that you will never, ever ride the pocket off road anywhere, even on a grassy lawn.
I would've been much better off buying the Sun Tadpole, which despite being much heavier, costs 1/3 less.
Oh. And works.
UPDATE III: Paolo Camasmie, the owner of Catrike, just posted this message on the Catrike Message Board:
[W]ithin 4 weeks we will be shipping the Pocket with the same components we use todat but with a new SRAM SX5 mid cage derraileur, which will provide a better ground clearance.
If there is any customer unhappy with the current ground clearance, please, contact your dealer and we will provide with the new SRAM SX5 derraileur as soon as it becomes available. We apologize for the inconvenience.
I'm wondering if my blistering posts here and at Carike had anything to do with the speed of this decision, which was apparently made at about 9:00 am this morning in Florida.
Hopefully, Holland's will change out the SRAM derailleur with a midcage derailleur from Shimano today, which should solve the problem, and will deliver the bike to me when the work is done.
UPDATE IV: The problem has been fixed, and I've been able to ride the bike a bit. So far, I'm very impressed, as you can see by reading my review.
Dale, I’ve read the comments and replies on the Catrike Board and had to let you know I agree with you on all accounts. I’m not posting this message on that board because it will just keep up the negative posts and I really don’t think that will help anything. I did put a rather negative post there right after DH bought a new 2005 Speed. And I got about the same reaction as you. I do not/can not understand the loyalty many (most?)of the Cartike owners have to the company. It’s my opinion most of the fanatics have never ridden a good trike and have nothing to compare to the Catrike. It’s my opinion, based on our Speed and other unhappy owners, the Catrike is not worth the money. Sure it may be less expensive in initial cash outlay, but that isn’t all there is involved in the price of an article. The old adage, "you get what you pay for," certainly fits in the situation. I have ridden at least four other brands of trikes and all of them were of superior quality to the Catrike. Certainly each of them cost more than the Cat, but they WORKED! Imagine that! Good luck with whatever final decision you make on a trike. They are a lot of fun and I dont intend to ever ride on two wheels again. So don’t give up on your quest for a trike, but instead find one of good quality that meets your needs.