If I could only use two words to describe the trikes made by Big Cat HPV I would say "elegant simplicity". The clean flowing bends in the lightweight heat-treated aircraft grade aluminum tubing, top-notch TIG welds and colorful palette of powder coated paint jobs just make the Catrikes look fast! All Catrikes are made in the USA using state-of-the-art production processes. No matter which model you are looking at, the Catrike frame is a marvelous piece of engineering. The frame itself looks more like a modern art sculpture than a form of transportation. At the same time, the lack of bolts is the almost subliminal attribute that makes this trike feel "simple".
With no bolts holding the frame together, and with the integrated seat, you very quickly realize that this is one solid trike. There is nothing that can come loose or twist.
Some may find it difficult to appreciate the complex bends of tubing that make up the Catrike frame. The seat frame tubing itself can have 4-6 bends on each side along 3 axis and must be precisely mirrored to the other side of the frame. Big Cat has invested a lot in their own CNC benders that precisely create the shapes needed for each model. Big Cat's Owner, Paulo, has spent many hours and days training with SolidWorks engineering software to master the engineering software they now use to design and refine their trikes.
One of the most striking features about the Catrike is the quality and colors of the paint jobs. While each model has two stock colors there are at least 14 colors that you can choose from for an extra cost. Catrike logos, model name, and the Catrike "Made in the USA" stickers are all applied on top of the paint. We'd like to see a clear coat on top of those decals to prevent them from wearing, but I don't think most people will mind.
The engineering of the Catrike is probably most evident in the boom now found on all models. I think it is safe to say that the Catrike boom design and implementation is second to none in the trike industry. Because the seat is part of the frame all adjustments for rider leg length are made by adjusting the boom. The advantage to this is that there is no cross bar to get in the way for shorter legs, but it also means that the boom can get pretty long when fully extended. A long piece of tubing can flex which robs pedaling power. Big Cat engineering came up with a novel approach to eliminate boom flex, and it's all hidden inside the boom. To keep the boom strong while maintaining a low weight, Catrike creates their boom with a custom extruded tubing with an inner webbing whose cross section resembles the Mercedes logo. This inner bracing eliminates any flexing in the vertical plane (minimizing power losses), while also having a dramatic effect on removing pedal steer effect.
The Catrike boom is extremely easy to adjust and yet always stays in alignment. Most other trikes that have adjustable booms need to have two bolts to secure the boom position so that it will not rotate as the trike is being pedaled. The Catrike boom is indexed with a groove along the top which align with their proprietary boom clamp system. Because the boom cannot rotate quick release clamps with less pressure can be used to hold the boom in place without worrying the boom will twist. This makes adjusting the boom length on the fly very easy.
To finish the boom off, Catrike has taken the extra step of including an integrated accessory mount on the front derailleur post an all models excluding the Villager. Amazingly simple, but in the end will save you $20-40 when you decide to mount a computer or headlight to the front of your trike. Speaking of mounts, every Cat also comes with a computer sensor mount on the left wheel. It makes installing a wired, or wireless computer very easy.
Being an integral part of the frame, the seat and seat angle are specific to each model. In fact, the different seat angles available are one of the defining characteristics of each model. You'll find that with the exception of the newest Catrike, The Villager, most of the Catrike models are fairly reclined. The laidback position combined with the rigid aluminum space frame construction can be a rough ride in some cases, so choose your tires accordingly (they act as the suspension).
The seat angle on most of the Catrike models is considered by some to be very laid back. Depending on the style of riding you want to do the angle may be a determining factor in deciding which model is right for you. Generally, the faster models will have a steeper seat angle.
The Catrike seat is comprised of a mesh that buckles around the frame in the rear. The buckles make removing the mesh about a one minute job if you need to remove it for washing. The 700 uses straps instead of buckles. All the Catrike mesh seats have two pockets and a pump strap on the back side.
Neckrest are included with many models and optional for the others. The neckrest is adjustable for both height and position.
At only 14 inches wide, the Catrike seat is not for everybody. If you are a larger person you may find the seat is just not for you without some modification. An easy fix is putting some foam around the seat bars before you put the mesh on.
All the Catrikes have direct steering. This means that the handlebars are connected directly to the wheel turning axis. The handle bars are fully adjustable both for arm length, handle angle, and width. The wheels are joined together by means of a single tierod which maintains alignment and controls the Ackerman angle during turns. The tierod that connects the two wheels together is comprised of two right-hand threaded Heim joints. The result is that actually getting the trike aligned requires some trial and error, since one joint must be disconnected to adjust the tierod's length. The advantage though is that once adjusted, the alignment cannot wander since rotating the tierod will not alter the length.
Precise and fluid movement of the steering mechanism is assured with a modified Cane Creek Headset. Catrike uses the standard sealed bearing in the bottom cup, but now uses a newly engineered Teflon bearing/bushing in the top cup. Paulo at Big Cat told me that much engineering and testing went into their custom bearing to get the correct material and shape. The result is the elimination of any bearing slop, and the speed shimmy that was known to some owners with the previous bearings.
Much design and trial and error has obviously gone into the camber and caster angles of each Catrike model. Practically all brake steer has been eliminated from the Catrike steering geometry. This means that even if you only use one brake the trike will still stop straight. I personally like to have some brake steer, but eliminating it does make stopping behavior more intuitive for inexperienced riders.
The straight-line tendency of the Catrike is fairly strong. If you let go of the handlebars the trike is going to go straight. This also makes the steering a little heavy, meaning that the steering will fight you somewhat at high speeds. Again, this is very intuitive and many riders prefer this.
The extreme angles and low ground clearance of the Catrike allow the chainline to have only a single idler on the power side of the chain. The Catrike power idler can be swapped with the TerraCycle Idler without any needed modification to the chainline or idler setup. Two of their models, the Expedition and 700, even come with the TerraCycle Power Idler as standard equipment. While we are typically against the use of chain tubing whenever possible, the Catrike use of tubing is kept to a minimum on the power side and only used in straight runs. We doubt that this incurs any measurable drag on the chain and is merely there to protect the rider's leg and the trike's frame. The return side of the chain is guided by a chain tube to protect the bottom of the frame. It is nearly a straight run of chain on the return side depending on the gear combination used. Depending on the model, a return idler modification could be used to eliminate the chain tubing altogether.
The Expedition and the 700 both have larger rear wheels with a 26-inch and 700c wheel, respectively. All the other models have 20-inch rear wheels. The Pocket, Speed, and 700 all have 16-inch front wheels which gives those models a slick racing look.
All the stock Catrike wheels are black lightweight aluminum.
Avid mechanical brakes are standard on all Catrikes, with the BB5s or BB7s being standard the different models. The BB5s are a great brake with outside pad adjustment by hand and inside adjustment with the cable. The BB7s have a larger pad surface area and both inside and outside pad adjustment at the caliper. We also have brake upgrade options that include the Avid Juicy Hydraulic brakes. As is the case with most tadpole trikes, none of the Catrike models come stock with a rear brake. Depending on which model you're choosing, and the type of rear wheel gearing, we have different rear brake options you can choose from.
Shifters and derailleurs
All of the Catrike models come standard with derailleur gearing and 9-speed cassettes in the rear. The Villager, Trail, and Pocket models come with the SRAM SX5 grip shifters and X5 rear derailleurs. The Road, Speed, Expedition, and 700 come with Shimano bar end shifters and the Deore LX rear derailleur. All models have Shimano Tiagra front deraillers with the exception of the Villager which does not come stock with a front derailleur.
With the exception of the Villager, all of the Catrike models have a 27-gear combination drivetrain. All models use the same PG-950 9-speed rear cluster but your actual gear range will vary depending on the size of the rear wheel. The Expedition and 700 with their larger rear wheels have the highest gearing. We also offer several internally-geared hub transmissions and the Schlumpf High Speed Drive for those of you looking for even higher gearing.
All the Catrike models come stock with SPD/Platform combo pedals. Since you will inevitably want to upgrade to clipless shoes eventually, your Cat will be ready to go.
You'll find that Schwalbe tires are now standard on all 2009 Catrike models. We've long felt that Schwalbe has the best selection of fast recumbent-sized tires. Depending on which model Cat you get you'll have some nice fast tires.
One of the main concerns that trike riders generally have is that of safety. With that in mind every Catrike comes stock with a flag and mirror. The flag mount is simple and keeps the flag in a vertical position mounted at the rear axle position.
The Catrike trikes are generally regarded as fast and high-performance models. The space frame engineering and lightweight aluminum makes for a very fast and rigid trike.
The chainline is very efficient and transmits power from the cranks to the rear wheel smoothly.
Warranty and Support
All the Catrike models are covered by a limited lifetime warranty that covers the frame and steering components. When you get a Catrike, you get access to a very dedicated user group with the Catrike forum. The Catrike owners are very enthusiastic about the models and their comments are a source of inspiration for further developments.
Choosing your Cat
There are seven different Catrike models to choose from, and they are all different. Choosing the right model may depend on the type of riding you want to do, the terrain you'll be riding, and other factors. Are you looking for comfort? Raw speed? Touring? Commuting? Is ground clearance important?
The best way to choose the right trike is to come in, sit in all of them and take a lot of test rides!
Here are some of the basic specs showing some of the main differences of the different Catrike models. To compare full specs see our Catrike comparison page.