I am a speed demon. I love to go fast -- The faster the better. When I tell other riders that I have gone over 50mph on my trike, and that I go over 40mph almost every day on my commute, I usually get a response like "no way, you are joking" (especially when they find out Iím riding a Cruiser). Well, I promise you that I am not (having the Edge 305 computer to prove it!), and welcome you to join me for a ride sometime. I often get these responses from other trikers who feel their trike is too unstable at high speed. Below are some pointers that I offer from my own personal experience.
I have found high-speed stability to be greatly improved by moving the seat as close to the front cross member as possible. Doing so moves the center of gravity between the front two wheels. For this reason, I recommend getting the longest boom that will still fit you if you get a fixed boom trike (like the Cruiser, Tour, or Edge). If you have an Access, Sport, or Race your boom is adjustable, so you can typically move the seat all the way forward and slide the boom. The Zoomer and Zoomer Elite have the bottom of the seat integrated into the frame, and sliding the boom makes nearly all the adjustment. The Zoomer trikes already have the base of the seat as close to the front wheels as possible though.
If you want to go faster you'll also want to play around with a seat recline that works best for you. I personally like to have the seat reclined back as far as possible as this tends to provide some aerodynamic benefits at high speed. Some riders find they can't push as hard on the pedals with a reclined seat, so you'll want to play around with it and find the best position for you.
Once you have your seat position set, you'll want to make sure your wheels and steering are set up to minimize any road resistance. The best way to do this is to make all three wheels parallel. Any misalignment will cause the tires to scrub on the road and will increase friction. The best way to do this is to measure the distance between the fronts and rears of the front wheels while the steering bar is centered. You can use a ruler, but I prefer to use a trammel bar so I donít have to eyeball it as much. I recommend against setting any toe-in when adjusting the alignment. You only need toe-in if you have slop in your linkages. If you have slop in your linkages you need to fix that first!
I've also found that, for me, having linkage steering at high speeds helps me keep the trike as stable as possible. While direct steering is very responsive at low speeds, this can turn into a dangerous situation when youíre going so fast that a shaky hand turns into a lane change. This is also why I've chosen WizWheelz trikes with linkage steering as my main racing trikes.
With your steering aligned, the next step to minimize road friction is your tires. Most of the WizWheelz TerraTrikes come stock with the 40psi CST tires. These are not made for speed. A faster tire will usually have a harder/smoother surface and run at a much higher pressure rating.
There are a lot of faster tires available. I recommend the Schwalbe Marathon tires as good all-around tires. They are very fast and also have a very high puncture resistance. If you are looking for the fastest tires check out the Schwalbe Kojaks or Schwalbe Stelvios.
Despite the lower profile of our recumbent trikes, air becomes the greatest force working against me when I reach about 18mph. At 25mph the air really pushes against me, making that about my top speed on level ground, under most circumstances. Once I hit a 20mph average I knew I needed some help, so I turned to the Mueller Windwrap Fairing. Besides making the trike look super cool, the fairing adds a true speed advantage. To obtain the best advantage you'll want the fairing to come as close to you as possible as well as the front being as low as possible. My experience with the fairing was fairly dramatic. On level ground I picked up about a 2-3mph-speed boost. On downhill runs I found the results to be even more dramatic with even a 4-5mph boost at max speed.
Beyond the front fairing, there is still more that you can do to better your aerodynamic profile. The next thing I tried was the Terracycle Tailsok. The Tailsok is comprised of a frame that attaches to the back of the trike and is covered with fabric. The idea is that the pointed shape reduces air turbulence. In combining the Tailsok with the front fairing I found an improvement of about 1-2mph. So compared to the completely unfaired trike I get about a 3-7mph-speed increase with both the fairing and Tailsok working together.
The next step would be to tie the front fairing and Tailsok together. I am currently working on this project with a whole new design, so I'll tell you how it goes later.
Once we've improved our ability to move through the air as much as possible, we need to make sure we can actually pedal as fast as we want to go. I am a big believer in fast cadences. If you want to go fast you have to pedal fast. Hammering on the pedals when your moving at 40mph can result in "pedal steer", where your pedaling motions can actually cause the trike to weave back and forth. Faster spinning with a lower force on the pedal will eliminate this. To check your cadence, I highly recommend the use of a cadence sensor on your bike computer. For me a good, maintainable, fast cadence is about 120rpm with a peak of 135rpm. So, if you can spin 120-135rpm and you want to hit 50mph you'll need a top end with about 130-134 gear inches. I won't cover that again, since I already wrote about it in my Ultimate Gearing Modifications article, but you will need to modify your gears.
Efficiency Once you have the gearing and your already pretty fast you'll want to go through every part of your trike to squeak out extra performance. Make sure your brakes don't rub and your wheels all turn freely. If you really want to get efficient then consider modifying your chainline with our High Performance Idler Kit. This is something that we've spent months working on and testing with the folks at TerraCycle. Our custom kit eliminates the power-robbing sideways chain bending and promotes better shifting.
Utimately how fast you go is going to be up to your own personal strength. The best way to get stronger and faster is to train. The best speed training excersizes for me are those that increase my cadence. Try this one: ride for a half hour at a time and go as fast as you can, but stay in your lowest gear. Each day go up one gear ratio. To build strength in your legs incorporate hills into your daily ride. Going up hills in a low gear forces you to combine strength with a higher cadence.
Find a hill
Most of us are not going to be able to propel themselves up to 50mph without some help from gravity. So, find a hill, relax, spin fast, ride trikes! Oh yeah, make sure your brakes are adjusted properly so you can stop when you need to.