Ellen and I came up with the DateTrike concept after our experience with our Burning Man quadricycle demonstrated the pleasure of side-by-side tandem traveling. What was missing from the quad, cobbled together from a pair of mountain bikes, was performance. The quad was a lot of fun, but it was hokey even before we put the Hokey Spoke lights on the wheels. We had a nice bench seat which provided comfort, as long as you weren’t pedaling. However, despite the performance shortcomings, the quad provided for relaxed conversation with your traveling companion, and gave you a comfortable place to sit when you arrived at your destination.
For pedaling comfort, we have found nothing much nicer than Ellen’s Sun EZ3-USX dog-running trike. Several years ago when Sammy, our friendly and energetic dog, joined our family, Ellen got the trike so that she could give Sammy a good workout. The added stability of the trike reduces the risk of running a dog with a bicycle in the event that an errant squirrel sends dog and cyclist into the ditch.
So after several arduous trips on the bike paths around here on the quad, it became clear that a better sociable vehicle was needed. The DateTrike concept gradually developed, and over the last couple of years the idea acquired tangible form.
Some projects proceed at their own pace, and you wonder if they will ever see the light of day. Such was the DateTrike. However, we have now taken the trike on its maiden voyage, so the project has reached the point it’s no longer an embarrassing incompleteness.
My goal was not to make another Burning Man festival machine, but rather to create the absolute preferred transportation vehicle for an evening out with my sweetheart and for sociable trips in comfort along the bike paths around Eugene. With any project, you have to go with what you know, so the frame for the DateTrike is made of wood. I wanted a comfortable recumbent riding position for two with side-by-side seating, and to the extent possible, either person should be able to take control of piloting the craft. I’ll discuss more details of the design and construction in future posts.
With construction basically complete, the question that needed answering was “does this thing really work?” The only way to find out was to take a few test excursions. I made several short test runs up and down the street in front of the house for rudimentary tests of steering and brakes, and to discover what rubs where it shouldn’t. However, our first real run was down to Saturday market last weekend. It goes, it stops, it steers and it’s stable! The six speed gearing seems about right, with the low gear low enough to climb hills and move the loaded trike off-road, while the high gear is high enough that you have to work pretty hard to keep your pedal pace on the flat. The dual rear disk brakes can stop the loaded trike quite quickly. The cable under-seat steering system has proven to be responsive and easily controlled by either passenger with one hand. Despite the long wheel base, the trike can turn quite sharply.
We have used the DateTrike to give Sammy his exercise runs. Sammy gives us plenty of opportunity to test the gears and the brakes. He insists on stopping frequently to leave his mark on trees and poles, requiring a quick stop. Sometimes he wants to go at a gallop, and we both have to pedal hard in high gear to keep up. By the end of his 6 to 10 mile run he is dog-tired, and we poke along in lower gears.
On Friday we hauled a picnic on the back of the DateTrike and rode with Sammy to a Shakespeare play in the park. On Saturday it carried our musical instruments and potluck contributions with us to a neighbor friend’s party and music night. Today we rode the DateTrike to the neighborhood park, where it provided seating for the band concert that was going on. All and all, it is a total success as the ultimate in sociable vehicles!
There are still a few improvements and additions that need to be finished, but like the rest of the project, they will happen in due course. In the meantime, we are looking forward to a lot of together biking pleasure this summer.