Saturday, July 24, 2010

You Are Too Wide On That Thing!!!

Many times when stopped for coffee, etc. or on an organized ride on the trike I get the "that is so wide on the road it would freak me out" comment. This has always struck me as odd - I have never thought I was SO wide - I figure maybe I just LOOK wider. When I am following other riders I am not typically hanging out radically further than they are.

This comment is especially hilarious to me when it comes from some roadies as they pass me and then continue riding two abreast completely oblivious to their own road hoggishness while I yell out "car back" at the top of my lungs.

Am I really wider? Are trikes road hogs? Too dangerous for the road? I decided to conduct a bit of a non-scientific experiment. I will contend that trikes are indeed NOT really much wider than two wheel bents in real riding situations. Certainly not much wider than most people would believe upon first glance.

First, a few brief statements of which I strongly believe:

1. Trikes can easily ride the right tire on "the edge" of the road. Most times this can be done with little fear of "catching the edge" and being tossed into or off of the ditch/gully/trees/cliff face, etc.

2. Riding along "the edge" of the road on two wheels is a tenuous at best option and can easily cause a wreck should you weave just a bit and go off the road surface.

3. Where no steep slope or curbing exists off of "the edge" a trike rider can ride the right wheel off of the road if needed. This is especially true if equipped with the right meats on the rims.

4. One can be far more stable on a trike when the going gets tough - such as on a steep climb. This allows for more attention to the road behind and less weaving off of your line (if any weaving at all).

5. On long or steep climbs keeping a dead-eye straight line on two wheels is very difficult at best so some weave is a given. This impacts a riders ability to pay attention to the rear.

6. Having to ditch a two wheel bike off into the roadside could easily cause a wreck. Having to ditch a trike off the same may cause a wreck, but it is less likely.

OK given the above - on to the pictures. 

I set my QNT on the road, right tire a few inches from "the edge" in this case. To the left of the left wheel you see a chalk line that represents an approximation of my "total road space" I might use. This is around 34" wide.

Next, I sat on the Corsa SS with the tires on the centerline where the QNT rear tire track would be. This distance from the road surface edge is close to where I ride and I imagine most do. The chalk line is less visible in this pic, but I will say that the width is NO different in total if a line were drawn straight up from it. The "width" is just in a different place. All the road width here is up at my shoulders. On the trike the width is all on the road footprint. 

Next I decided to take a picture of what IMHO is the most unsafe riding situation for a two wheeler - being literally a few inches from "the edge" of the road surface. This picture places the Corsa SS track on the right wheel track of where the QNT sat. When I ride, this is a hairy place for me. If the "off edge" surface is full of rocks, is a steep slope, is soft material, etc. I do not like to be so close to the edge. Riding this fine line is hard enough when you are alone and significantly cuts into your ability to pay attention to the rearview mirror. It is also near impossible to do on a steep climb, even for the best of riders. Add some traffic coming and you have a lot of stress and you are in a really bad location on the road. But for the sake of argument lets say you can be in complete Zen mode and stay 1" from the edge.

I had my assistant drop a straight line from the widest point in that picture to the ground. It was about 12" to the inside of the original line.


Under static conditions like this - at MOST I am around 1 foot wider on the trike than when on the Corsa. Given that I rarely ride 1-2" from the edge of the road on the two wheeler, that difference in width under real riding conditions is even less. If there is no shoulder but I can take the right wheel off the road surface, I am perhaps LESS wide than when on the Corsa (See #2,3,4,5 above) Typically I try to stay around a foot from the edge of the road under nearly all situations when on two wheels to account for a bit of weave if climbing and to just stay clear from accidentally going into a ditch. If this is the case for many riders, that makes the effective width the SAME on either the trike or a bike. It is the perception of width that throws people. I also believe this perception is why on the trike cars go way around me while when on the Corsa I get people squeezing me and passing too close at times.

Hypothesis accepted.

Additional notes and thoughts: 

A. Riding very close to the edge of the road on two wheels is a special invite for people to "squeeze" past you possibly brushing you off the road. This can be a very stress inducing situation. 

B. Sometimes when on two wheels I have become nervous about a driver behind me on a climb so I decide to "hug the edge" of the lane. These are the times when I get brushed or feel that oh-so-close whoosh of air from a mirror or car side. I have learned to not put myself in this "on edge" situation. I feel that doing so makes a rider appear to concede to a weaker position where the motorist can easily "check mate" you and then make that attempt to squeeze and blow past.

So, for me at least, the reality is that my effective width is not much different on the trike. Sometimes maybe more, most of the time the same, and sometimes less. Easily less than a foot difference MOST of the time.

I'll also add that any road I have been on so far where the trike was uncomfortable I would be equally or even more uncomfortable on two wheels and I avoid those anyway. 

YOUR thoughts?

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