Catrike Pocket Recumbent is a High Performance Ride
For smaller size riders in the market for a ‘custom’, high-performance ride at ‘off-the-rack’ pricing, look no further than Catrike’s Pocket. There are unique considerations that must be made for this style of trike, and the Pocket fits them all.
In previous reviews of different recumbent trikes, I bemoaned the fact that finding dealers for test rides is a challenge for many potential recumbent buyers – both in terms of inventory and knowledge of the category. The other component (no pun intended) of making an intelligent purchase decision, when you finally do find that ‘perfect’ trike, is being confident that the brand you’re dealing with will be around in the years ahead when you need replacement parts or warranty help.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of recumbent trike companies with a solid track history when it comes to longevity, quality designs and innovations. One company that is in the trike business for the long haul is Catrike. At the annual Las Vegas “Interbike” (one of the largest cycling trade shows in the world), Catrike was the only trike recumbent company to have any kind of significant presence. Their large booth space displayed their full line of trikes to independent bicycle dealers (IBDs) not just from the U.S. but from around the world. This speaks highly to their commitment for the category.
You need to look no further than where production of their bikes takes place to appreciate the complete Catrike philosophy. Their in-house production facilities are located in Florida and use a production system process unique to Catrike. You don’t get any more ‘Made in America’ than that. With U.S.-based production, they have greater control over the end product’s quality, and innovative product design that can only come from the experience of making trikes here in the U.S.
Catrike developed the double-bend frame design that is executed in aluminium and finished in a gorgeous, deep coat of pearlescent electric-lime that serves to look good and be seen. The trike received the most praise and attention from non-cyclists, go figure. Cars offer a much wider berth for the trike, a strange phenomenon we’ve also found while pulling gear-trailers.
Catrike was created in 2000 by Paulo Camasmie, a Brazilian Mechanical Engineer. His early vision of building a line of high-performance recumbent trikes for the newcomers to the sport as well as the serious enthusiast, became reality over the next 18 years. Over this time, Catrike has earned a number of awards from the bike industry for their trike designs. Six times, Catrike has garnered Trike of the Year accolades by the readers of Bent Rider Online, including in 2005 the Catrike Pocket we review here – now upgraded with a new look for 2018. They have also gained respect and recognition for their manufacturing prowess: including Manufacturer of the Year under 125 employees by the Manufacturers Association of Florida in 2009, and in 2017 Catrike again made the Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest growing private companies.
Catrike’s mission statement is to focus on product development, engineering and process design. The company is proud to tell the cycling public their goal is to produce “great products that look fantastic, work beautifully and flawlessly, require very low maintenance; are user friendly, and sure to provide many years of fun and pleasure at an affordable price”. They must be doing something right as this approach has resulted in rapid growth and over 3000 trikes and bikes being turned out every year.
In the Pocket
As noted earlier, the Pocket model has been around for a number of years. But constant tweaking of an already established winner in the marketplace -cycling or otherwise- is a healthy sign that a company wants to hold on to its customer base. The most obvious change to the 2018 Pocket upon first look is the use of a 20” (406mm) front wheel, but there are plenty of other refinements that enhance the ride of the Pocket for this year (the pocket has always had a 20-inch rear wheel).
Before I get into the reasons I was excited to spend a few months testing the latest configuration of the Pocket, I’ll provide a little background. As I’ve mentioned in earlier ‘parts’ of my “Introduction to Trike Recumbents 101”, some issues ago, I broke my neck in a nasty cycling accident and had my C1-3 fused during a 8 hour surgery; leaving me with less neck mobility and stability. It was a fast, somewhat unintentional, welcome to the world of recumbent trikes- especially if I wanted to keep enjoying my cycling passion of the last 45-plus years.
When I was a partner of Eugene, Oregon’s Burley Design Cooperative, I always traveled with a high-quality folding single that fit in a standard Samsonite suitcase. Called the ‘Pocket Rocket’, it was manufactured by Bike Friday (also based out of Eugene). I couldn’t think of a better description for a travel bike that was easy to transport, compact (as ‘fit in your pocket’), and was a fast, ‘real’ road bike even though it used 20” wheels. In the same way, Catrike’s ‘Pocket’ name is a perfect match for the intended market: a smaller, more compact trike that still maintains that ‘performance’ label. And, heck, it even travels well when needed (unlike most non-folding recumbent trikes).
All my previous trike review models have been on recumbents that required a bit of compromise to accommodate my smaller 5’8” frame. They all performed as intended but it was ‘sorta like when you were a kid and your parents would buy you a bike too large so you could grow into it, usually resulting in a seat way too low and a frame you could just barely straddle. You won’t have this issue with the Pocket. This is a trike with a frame sized more appropriately for smaller riders, and it shows. You don’t have to compromise here to make the Pocket ‘fit’. It’ll feel as close to a custom build as you can get with an ‘off-the-rack’ price. If you’re under 5’9”, I honestly don’t think you’ll find a better value for a premium trike than the Pocket.
Smaller Riders – Rejoice!
Bigger isn’t always better. Nowhere could that statement be truer than when it comes to bike fitting. My first couple of test rides on the Pocket were a blast. The indexed boom and clamp system adjusts easily before you hit the road for the first time; it stays put and enhances efficiency. I found the compact aluminum frame, with self-centering technology, ‘sporty’ and nimble from day one.
While ‘sporty’ is a somewhat vague description, I compare this to a high-end carbon fiber road frame and a touring bike – both can be quality offerings but each has its own intended market. You’re not going to race on a touring bike or tour on a racing bike – no matter how good the build and design. Part of the reason for this ‘sporty’ feel of the Pocket is the superb weight distribution of the double-bend frame that increases ground clearance. All of which makes the learning curve a very short process.
Like my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket that was a travel specific road bike, the Pocket trike is fun and easy to ride. It can maneuver easily through tight spaces with its narrower track and even if you don’t ‘need’ a light ride we think you won’t mind this extra bonus when climbing your local hills.
Microshift Front Dérailleur Triple – it might not have the same cachet of the ‘S” brand but it’s a solid component that works, and is reliable for many miles of ‘play’ (I still felt the same way after several months of hard usage).
SRAM GX 10 Rear Dérailleur – provides smooth, snappy action that can handle a wide cassette range; comes with a special ‘doohickey’ (for a lack of a better term) that makes rear wheel removal easier.
Mirrycle, left side – with my limited head movement from the fusion surgery, a mirror is essential (I also use a secondary mirror on my sunglasses for extra safety).
Locking Brake Levers – the parking brake system is elegant and simple, my two favorite words for any bike component.
Clipless Pedals – a nice spec. touch given that most companies don’t provide any kind of pedal with their bikes. I promise, you’ll want clipless pedals for your recumbent trike.
No-Brake Steering – one aspect I found a bit unnerving in earlier trikes I have tested and reviewed, was the occasional fishtail from hard braking with one of the front wheels. You still need to be careful with power stops with the Pocket but this is the best design I’ve tried so far to minimize a somewhat common characteristic of many trikes.
Ackermann Steering Compensation – enhances handling.
Self-Centering Technology – similar to the ‘no brake steering’, this feature assists with not drifting or driving off the road – giving you one less concern while navigating roads shared with motorized metal boxes weighing close to two tons.
SRAM 500 Bar-End Shifters – they work – what more can you say? SThey are simple, uncomplicated, and ‘bullet-proof’ for many years of maintenance free service.
FSA Gossamer Pro Triple – the 165mm crank arms are a bit shorter than some are used to, but they work well with this package; they’re light and stiff.
Chain-rings 52-39-30 – provides wide range gearing – this configuration pretty much handled all my riding needs, no matter the terrain.
QR Indexing Boom Clamp – makes leg length adjustment easier and quicker.
Aluminum Rod Ends – not a huge deal but shows attention to detail when trying to save some weight.
Low-friction PTFE Flared Chain-tube – protects clothing and the frame while being ‘slick’ to resist friction.
Structural Front Boom – aids to resist flex with added internal structure – one of those design features easy to miss or overlook.
SRAM 11-36 10-Speed Wide Range Rear Cog Set – see comments about the chain-rings.
TerraCycle Sport Power Idler 15 T – another nod to the attention to detail like the aluminum rod ends.
Just the Facts
A huge thank you, and shout-out, to Richard’s Cyclery in Garden Grove. Not only did they do a great job assembling the Pocket but they also went through the various features and adjustments unique to the trike. The staff at Richard’s has no problem speaking the language of trike recumbents with ease when you’re ready to explore the market. Visit them online at richardscyclery.com.
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