by Larry Varney
Last year at the Recumbent Cycle-Con (http://www.recumbentcyclecon.com/), I got my first chance to ride one of ICE Trikes full-suspension Sprints. Actually, I had ridden (and reviewed) one previously, but it had the 20″ rear wheel. This one had the 26″ rear wheel. After a few laps around the test circuit, I asked the representatives of ICE at their booth: when can I get one to review? The newest version wasn’t going to be ready for a few months, so that gave me time to peruse the information on their web site. That got me to thinking … why not “something different” this time?
You might say, hey, the rear wheel is a different size. But really, is that enough? Would I be satisfied to get essentially the same components as before? Granted, I can see where a returning customer would do just that, as the previous Sprint was very impressive. But the more I looked at the options, the more I thought: I can order what might be the ultimate touring/commuting recumbent trike! I’ll explain just what I did.
In my mind, a commuter and tourer want two things above all: simplicity and reliability. They go hand-in-hand. The first option on the “Build Your Trike” page that I felt fell in ilne with those two criteria was the lighting. Well, let’s call it the basis of a simple and reliable lighting system: the SON dynamo hub (http://www.rohloff.de/en/products/speedhub/). For many people, a light is not a necessity, and a battery-powered lighting system is sufficient. But a serious tourist or commuter, they want to know that their lights will never surprise them with a dead battery. Hence, the first thing I added to my configuration was that SON dynamo.
A little further down on the list, I spotted my second option: a Rohloff 14-speed rear hub. Just think about it: 14 speeds, with evenly-spaced jumps between each. No more having to shift through several cogs on the rear, then make a change on the front, more changes on the rear, etc. What usually happens is that we accept the fact that some of the gear combinations will be essentially dupilcated, and we’ll wind up using far less than the 30 that we seem to have. An internally-geared hub not only gives us 14 honestly-different gears to choose from, they also give us a system with no derailleurs. No fiddling, no swearing, as we can get some of the gears to shift just right, but then there are always a few that the derailleur is off by just a bit, enough to make a noise at best, or at worst render that gear combination not usable. The Rohloff hub eliminates that. This trike has one shifter, not two, and you can simply twist it and go up or down one gear, or more than one, as you wish. Oh, and if you forget to shift down at a stop, no worries: just shift it while you are stopped. One more thing: without a rear derailleur, the trike is minus one thing that might be damaged if you ride off-road. Granted, it’s not perfect for really rough stuff, but it’s great on gravel and dirt roads, as well as grass. Perfect! Well, there is one drawback, and I’ll get to that later. Let’s finish building this trike
Many options on that prior Sprint would find their way onto this one. Folding is something I love. I like the mesh seat for its breathability. The extra padding is a nice touch, too. Commuters and tourers don’t want to endure sweat, just for the supposed benefit of a hard-shell seat. So, same seat. The parking brake is a good idea, too. It’s too easy for a trike to grab a little gust of wind, and behind your back start rolling away. And as you might expect, this touring/commuting trike needs to carry stuff, sometimes lots of it. So, I chose the Radical sidepods – it has neat little plastic clips to attach the rear of it to the back of the seat! – as well as the handy side bag, It’s nice to have some things close at hand, such as a cell phone or camera. If they’re locked away in a bag you have to dig through, chances are you won’t bother. I’ve had these accessories before, and I like them But, I then encountered a bit of a disapointment.
I’m not satisfiied with just those two bag options – as a tourer, I like the idea of a rear rack, too, for panniers and rack bags. I was a bit disappointed to find that this new rear rack, that would accomodate the larger rear wheel with its suspension, would not have a “top” portion – just two sides! Yes, I can carry panniers, but no rack bag! My beloved Arkel Tailrider (http://www.arkel-od.com/en/bike-trunk-bags.html)was not pleased. I exchanged emails with a couple of people from ICE about this topless rear rack, and it was their conclusion that, because of the combination of suspension and large rear wheel, the rack would have to be mounted very high, and put any bag up in the wind – not to mention just looking goofy. I agreed with their conclusions, reluctantly.
Some have asked me why I think that getting a trike with suspension is necessary. It’s not! But if there’s a chance that you’ll be riding long distances, and/or encountering rough pavement, you will be very pleased with your decision to opt for the suspension. Granted, just getting rear suspension might be more than “good enough”, but I wanted this trike to reflect what a serious commuter/tourist would like. So, full suspension it is! And while other manufacturers have included suspension as an option on some of their units, it’s going to be hard to beat ICE’s implementation for simplicity and reliability. You may have heard those two words used already 🙂
At this point, the rest of the options I chose were easy. The rider I was imagining would want fenders, of course, as well as light and computer mounts, And since it was listed as an option, and I had bought one of these myself before, I chose the bottle cage riser (makes it easier to get at the bottle). I clicked off a computer, a pump, neck rest,
and thought: it’s done. The perfect commuter/touring trike is headed my way.
Well, not immediately. I mentioned before that this trike wasn’t quite ready for production, so I had to wait a couple of months. But, I got the order in early enough that if I wasn’t the first American to get this trike, I was pretty close! Since getting it, I’ve put a couple of hundred miles on it. And what are my thoughts? I’ll tell you all about that, but first let’s look at some of the specifications – there are always people who want to know its length, width, weight,etc., and I don’t dare disappoint them!
Overall width 31.5″ (800mm)
Overall height 25.2″ – 27″ (640 – 685mm)
Overall length 77 – 86.5″ (1955 – 2197mm)
Folded width 31.5″ (800mm)
Folded length 41″ – 50.5″ (1041 – 1282mm)
Folded height 24″ (610mm)
Seat height 8″ (200mm)
Seat angle adjust 42 – 49 degrees
Bottom bracket height 12.6″ – 15.6″
Turning circle 19′ (5.8m)
Rider weight limit 275 lbs
Max tyre width 2″ (50mm)
Overall weight 38.9lb (17.6kg) – NOT QUITE! More about that downstream.
Rider size range 35″-50″ (889mm-1207mm)
Track width 29.5″ (750mm)
Wheel base 47″ (1193mm)
Ground clearance (ride height adjusted) 3.2″ (82 mm)
About that weight listed above: sure, that’s about right, if you order the trike with the usual gearing setup and no options. But that Rohloff rear hub – well, let’s just say it may add convenience and great shifting, but at the expense of adding weight, too. And, I suspect that the weight given doesn’t include the accessories I added, either. So, this trike with the sidepods and side bag (empty), the SON dynamo hub, and the Rohloff all found their way into my garage, where I had brought my bathroom scale. I held the trike up, stepped onto the scale, and found that this trike weights just a few ounces more than 50 pounds. And, I expect the rear rack – it should be here in a week or so – might add another pound or two. Is this a fatal flaw? Should you pass on this trike with these options, because of the weight?
Maybe – but I don’t think so. If you agree with me, that the resulting trike is ideal for touring and commuting, then the weight isn’t going to stop you. And, along those lines, let me mention just how that Rohloff does anything but stop you on steep inclines!
The front (and only) chainring on this trike is 34 teeth. You can go larger, but this is the smallest that Rohloff recommends. The internal gear is 16 teeth. The increments when shifting are 13.6%, resulting in evenly-spaced gears, with no two alike, and in this case, a high gear of 81.1 gear-inches,and a granny of 15.4! I’ve got some pretty steep hills where I live, and this trike, even with its weight, was a champ at climbing. Granted, that top gear isn’t going to give you a very high figue if you’re not pedaing much more than 60 rpm – about 15 mph. But you’re a tourist and commuter, not a racer! And you’ll remember how easy it was to get up that steep hill, and smile. Still, if you want, you can opt for a larger chainring, and while losing a bit of that wonderful granny, you’ll get more top speed, if you want.
OK, I’ve told you what I picked out for this ultimate touring/commuting trike, and how it does what I hoped it would,and does it well. At this point you are probably thinking: yeah, but all those options, especially the Rohloff and the SON, they aren’t cheap. Just how big a bite out of my wallet is this thing gong to take? Sit down, OK? If you’re holding a glass, sit it down, too – you don’t want to make a mess. This trike, with almost every option that ICE made available (no ilghts, darn it),and with shipping included, came out to $7,355.45. Yes, you read that right: this trike cost over seven thousand dollars!
Close your mouth and breathe. Look at it this way: the good things in life are seldom cheap. And seriously, I have a couple of friends who have spent even more than that, on a diamond-frame bike! If you want what I consider the ultimate touring/commuting trike, you’ll agree that this price, albeit high, is reasonable. But many of us,even if we agree, just can’t afford to pay that much. For some, money is no object. If that’s the case with you, call me – I want to be your BFF. But for others, perhaps most of us, you might think: what can I knock off that list of options, and still have a trike I can be proud of?
Many things, actually. Will you be needing lights often? No? Then drop that SON and stick with battery head and tail lights. Are you reasonably happy and competent with modern shifting setups, three chainrings and 10 cogs? Then you don’t absolutely need the Rohloff. There are other things you could remove,if money is a problem, such as the fenders and the side bag. You might consider swapping out the Radical sidepods for something smaller but similar from Smoky Mountain Bags http://smokymtnsaddlebags.com/. While the trike would then be out of the “ultimate” category, it would still be an awfully good trike. It’s your decision. I know what mine is.
ICE Sprint 26fs Ultimate Tourer/Commuter
Pros: wonderful granny, simplicity, reliability
Cons: Price and weight
For More Information: http://www.icetrikes.co/explore-our-trikes/sprint#