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Friday, December 14th 2012

6:01

Sinner Comfort - Impressions at 1000 km


by Gordon Koppang

This is how I got into recumbent cycling: 

  • I don’t own a car.  
  • I have Cerebral Palsy.  
  • Public transit in Lethbridge is lousy (and even if it wasn’t lousy, have you ever watched a man with Cerebral Palsy lug groceries on and off a bus?)

When I got my four-wheeler back in 2006 there was one grocery store left in the downtown where I live.  I got that quad (a Rhoades Car 4W1P) because I wanted to get around in winter without fear of slipping and falling.  Now the nearest grocery store is 2.5km from my apartment building.  A 5km round trip is too far for me to walk and carry groceries even in summer.  Now I really need to cycle year round.  

I used to say that the best way to improve a Rhoades Car would be to replace the frame, the wheels, the seat and all the cheap cycle components.  The Rhoades was so poorly made that I came to despise it.  On the other hand, the Rhoades Car allowed me to get out and enjoy the many paved and unpaved recreational trails around Lethbridge.  The Rhoades was a decent grocery getter, kid hauler and even furniture mover.  With two-wheel-drive and compound gearing the 4W1P handled shale and gravel, ice and snow and even spring mud.  The longest ride I ever completed with the Rhoades Car was 42km (25 miles).  At about 90 pounds, the Rhoades Car was definitely not a touring machine.  

By the spring of 2009, I had grown to hate the Rhoades Car, but couldn’t sell it until I had something else to ride.  When I found a Catrike Villager in Bentley Alberta, I snapped it up!  The Villager was a “you’ll do” purchase, but I liked it immediately.  The Villager is a little jewel.  It’s beautifully made and – four years later– all its components and fasteners still glow with quality.  The Catrike introduced me to the joys of the 60-80km “day ride”.  The longest ride I completed with the Villager was 100km.  The Villager and I weren’t perfectly matched, however.  The super-stiff aluminum frame was great on smooth pavement, but brain-jarringly rough every time I ventured off pavement.  The Catrike is definitely not made for unpaved trails and dirt roads.  A 50-degree seat angle, contributes to the Villager’s pronounced forward weight bias.  With so little weight on the rear wheel the Villager will not climb gravel or shale hills.  I rode the Villager through three winters.  It hooked better than I expected on level ground but never could find traction on slippery inclines.  

Having experienced the highs and lows of two quite different recumbent cycles, I developed a wish list.  The ideal trike would enable me to:

  • Carry groceries, and run errands year-round
  • Ride 80-100km/day on day trips or tours
  • Explore unpaved trails and roads
  • Ride through the snow, muck and ice of winter

I’ve been riding the Sinner Comfort trike since July 24, 2012.  A couple of days ago the odometer rolled over 1000 km.  The Comfort is your Dutch grandmother’s shopping trike (which, strictly speaking, makes it a granny trike).  The Comfort is a workhorse; it’s a superb town bike.  The optional mesh back seat with padded base boosts seat height to about 55 cm (21.75 inches) laden.  The seat padding and rear suspension take the pain out of rough back alleys, and getting off the Sinner is a lot easier than pushing up from the Villager’s 12.5-inch seat height.  

The Sinner uses double freewheels instead of a differential.  Power is always delivered to both rear wheels resulting in fulltime two-wheel-drive.  The Sinner gets an A+ on any test of traction.  I have ridden the Sinner up steep gravel hills and through heavy gravel, shale, ice and snow.  On level ground, the Sinner will push forward even on glare ice.  The semi-slick Marathon Plus tires would not hook up on an ice-covered incline, but with studded tires, I might have been able to climb even that.  

The Sinner Comfort weighs 30kg (67 pounds!)  All that weight might help with traction but it’s a liability in a panic stop.  Feedback from the Tektro Aquila brakes and 160mm rotors isn’t great.  On slippery surfaces, it’s difficult to feel the difference between braking and skidding.  

The Catrike Villager was short on carrying capacity, comfort and traction.  The Sinner is more comfortable on-road and off, it carries groceries and recyclables more easily, and the Sinner is a better winter ride.  The Catrike weighs 35 pounds; the Sinner weighs 67.  If I’m out for a 60-80km day ride, it’s the Villager I want, not the Sinner, especially if I’m with riding with friends who are (almost always) stronger and faster than me.  

Here again is the list of things I want a trike to enable me to do:

  • Carry groceries, and run errands year-round
  • Ride 80-100km/day on day trips or tours
  • Explore unpaved trails and roads
  • Ride through the snow, muck and ice of winter

The qualities that make the Sinner great in town make it less than ideal on the road.  There may be a sweet spot between speed and comfort, but when Jan de Vries designed the Sinner Comfort he wasn’t aiming for the middle.  
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