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Riding the Pocket
Posted by: Dale Franks on Saturday, August 27, 2005

Last Saturday and today, The Lovely Christine and I took loooong bike rides, which gave me a chance to put my new Catrike Pocket through its paces. Last week, we rode from Carlsbad to Encinitas, and back. This week, we rode on Coronado Island, and down the Silver Strand to Imperial Beach. In both cases, we're talki ng about rides of more than 4 hours. A couple of observations.

The pocket rides really low. Take a look at this pic from last week:

Riding VERY low

This gives you an idea of how low to the ground the Pocket really is. The Scion in the background is close enough so you can see a pretty good perspective of exactly how low.

So, there's a safety factor that comes into play when riding in traffic. When you're so low that you look up to door handles on compact cars, there's a constant worry about whether you are adequately visible to car drivers. I expect the orange safety flag helps some, but it strikes me that putting a bigger, more visible flag on the trike might be a good idea.

Another thing about riding low is the heat. My head is probably less than 30" off the ground. In high summer, that means that you're under the thermocline of heat rising from the pavement. In that kind of sweat. A lot. So having a lot of water readily available during a ride is mandatory. I can go through the contents of my 1 liter water bottle in less than an hour. And, by the end if that hour, even with an insulated water bottle, the water is pretty warm. So you have to take special care of your hydration needs. Because heat stroke—and dying—is a Bad Thing.

Even on Coronado Island, where we were today, the temperature was almost 90°, and down by the pavement, where the heat is re-radiated upwards from the asphalt, it's probably above 100°. Then, of course, you have to add in the heat fro m riding in traffic, where cars are spitting out all the wate heat from their internal combusion engines. At that point, the weather for riding is great—if you're a baked freakin' potato.

Where this becomes a problem with the Pocket is that there's no rack currently available (due to a production snafu on Big Cat HPV's part), so you don't have any place to carry any extra water. Fortunately, The Lovely Christine is riding my old Sun USX trike, which has a big basket behind the seat, so we were carrying an extra 1.5 gallons of water. That allowed me to refill my 1 liter water bottle at need. If I was riding alone, however, water and hydration would be a concern.

So, if you're going to have a tadpole trike like the Pocket, you really need a rack—preferably with saddlebags, so you can carry a water resupply. The greater heat from being so much closer to ground level makes hydration an important safety concern.

Another concern with the Pocket is pedal steer. When you're really pushing hard, you wander left and right with every push on the pedals. Now, I wear Shimano clipless sandals, so my shoes lock into the pedals. This allows me to pull with one leg while I push with the other. Even with this, when I'm really pedaling hard, the Pocket veers off to the left and right with every pedal push. I can only imagine how much pedal steer there is if you don't have clipless pedals. I f you just have standard, flat pedals, where you can only push each pedal in turn, I'd imagine that you'd find pedal steer even more noticeable.

As far as I can tell, this is a function of the aluminum frame of the Pocket. And it's a tradeoff between the smooth ride and pedal steer. Because the aluminum frame is light (the whole trike weighs only 26 lbs) and flexible, the flex in the frame damps out a lot of the bumps in the road, making the ride just about as smooth as glass. In fact, today, I rode over some cobblestoned areas in Coronado, and the frame damped out about 80% of the vibration from the cobblestones. That's nice, but the down side of the frame's flexibility is that really pushing on the pedals is also transmitted through her frame's flexibility. Because the pedals are at the end of a long boom, pushing on them hard warps the frame to the extent that the steering wheels are turned as the frame flexes, which makes the trike wander back and forth when you're really pushing the pedals.

I suspect that a steel-framed tadpole trike like the Sun Tadpole would have significantly less pedal steer, but the rigidity of the frame would make for a lot bumpier ride.

One little problem did crop up, though, and I don;t know what to make of it, other than that stuff happens. I was riding along on a level road, diong nothing unusual, when, all the sudden, my chain jumped off of both the front and rear gear wheels. I had to stop and re-thread the chain through both the front and rear gear wheels. Odd. It only happened once, and the fix took about 30 seconds. It took me by surprise, though, to have the chain jump off the gears in a situation with no odd stress being placed on the trike.

One other thing strikes me. The Pocket doesnt have a brake lock that immobilizes the bike when you try to stand up. Being able to lock th brakes would be helpful, not only to those of us on the high side of 40, but anyone who wants to be able to immobilize the bike when thet want to walk off to do othner stuff.


The "cool factor" of a tadpole trike is hard to describe. People stare, slack-jawed with stupefaction. People have endless questions about the trike. After a while, it begins to get embarrassing. No one, even small children, are immune to the attraction.

This little guy was just enchanted. He had to play with the pedals. He had to move the rear-view mirrors around. There was nothing about the trike that didn't fascinate him. The funny part was that his mom tried to pick him up and move him away and he began to yell and scream. As soon as she let him go, he ran over to my side, grabbed me, and laid his head down on my chest. He was just the cutest little guy, and after I assured his mother that his attentions were OK, she let him hang out with me at the park on the beach at Coronado Island, although she hovered protectively in the vicinity.

It's weird, though. Everyone wants to see the Pocket, and everyone wants to ask questions, and touch it. Which is...kind of burden for me, because I'm not the most sociable guy in the world. But this little guy was so friendly, and so trusting, there was no way that I could even pretend to be not touched by his trusting and friendly nature.


Maybe I'm not the complete thug that everyone thinks I am. Maybe I just have a soft and gooey center.

I hope no one finds that out, because I get such good service at consumer establishments. Everybody acts like I'm about to pound them into the ground—even though I'm just a big softy—but this little guy just came up and hugged me like I was a huge teddy bear.

By the way, now that I think about it, some 2-wheel bikers must think that trike riders are slow and lazy. One of the things about the Pocket is the speed. Both last week, and this week, some 2-wheeler bikers gave me a gimlet eye. That pissed me off. I considered it a matter of honor to pass them—which, by the way, meant leaving The Lovely Christine far behind—so that they could eat their snide little condescensions.

The Pocket is just deceptively fast. Most experienced bikers see recumbent trikes as slow and lethargic. The Pocket, however, even with its small 18" wheels, is surprising. So far, I've never found a 2-wheel bike that I couldn't pass—or at least keep up with—with ease on level ground. I've never seen a trike that can pile on the speed like the Pocket can.

Big Cat HPV actually makes a racer that they call the Catrike Speed. It's a pure racer, with a much larger drive wheel than the Pocket has. If I had one of those, I think I could probably outrun just about anything. In fact, The Lovely Christine was riding the Sun USX trike, and I was able to keep up with her by pedaling once for about every 7 or 8 pedal revolutions she made. God help me, I'm beginning to wish I'd spent the extra $1,000 to buy the Speed instead of the Pocket.

Actually, that kind of pissed her off. It pissed her off even more when I told her that I had decided that my weekday rides alone were for physical fitness, but my rides with her were really just touring and sightseeing. I didn't mean that as an insult—well, not really. It's just that if I ride all out, the speed of the Pocket itself, even assuming everything else was equal, would make it impossible for her to keep up with me, because the trike is just so much superior to anything I've ever ridden.

It's not perfect, but it's good. Damned good.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

No, actually, It’s quite comfortable.
Written By: Dale Franks
The "cool factor" of a tadpole trike is hard to describe.
I don’t know if "cool factor" is the phrase I would use for you there. ;) I’m reminded of a professor I had in college who used to bike to work on a recombinant while towing his briefcase behind him on little trailer. Yes we all respected his, shall we say, excentricity.
Maybe I just have a soft and gooey center.
Hmmm note to self, Dale Franks is full of creamy nougat...

Glad you like it though. Happy biking.
Written By: Jeff the Baptist
You’ll have little or no pedal steer if you have a good cadence.
Written By: Chris
URL: http://
A simple way to immobilize the trike is to use a Velcro tie down. Squeeze the brake lever and wrap the Velcro around it and the handle bar to keep the brake applied.
Written By: Merrill
URL: http://
I am getting one of these. I considered a LWB recumbent two wheeler but this looks like so much fun.
Written By: sunday
URL: http://
Is a pocket any good on grass for short distance?
Written By: sunday
URL: http://
The reviews I have read have conflicting tire size. One states 16",another18" and yet another 20". What’s up?
Written By: sunday
URL: http://
the standard hydration level for really high exertion in hi heat is 1-1.5 liter per hour. pre exertion loading is 1 liter per hour for up to 5 hours. stds are for a 175 lb. male.hydration / is becoming recognised for the part it plays in performance .dehydration problems of course show up in subtile ways.dissorientation and fuzzy thinking ;impared reflex time can really spoil your dont think -drink. fcg
Written By: fc.gavere
URL: http://

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