I must make a big disclaimer here that airlines have no fixed policies on things, they change, they vary between airlines, and you should always check ahead on what you can bring before you fly.
Having said that, we’ve learned two main lessons from experienced trike travelers. First is to declare your trike as an “assistive device,” not a bicycle. This is stretching the truth if you aren’t actually handicapped, but it gets the job done. Another thing is unless you can truly find a rigid container that protects your trike, you are better off putting it in a large clear plastic bag. This offers zero protection, but it makes it obvious to the baggage handlers just what it is. They can see it and feel it and will know not to throw it around.
Our customer Alfredo from San Antonio has traveled extensively with his trike to sporting events for wounded military and to present at clinics on adaptive sports. He sent us a copy of the federal regulations on transporting assistive devices:
Title 14, Chapter II, Subchapter D, Part 382
Subpart I—STOWAGE OF WHEELCHAIRS, OTHER MOBILITY AIDS, AND OTHER ASSISTIVE DEVICES
(ESR Note: This applies to human-powered vehicles only. Electric-assisted stuff is a whole different business. If you have an assisted trike, we advise you to ship your battery ahead. Shipping lithium batteries involves a lot of special procedures so be prepared to pay extra for it.)
382.125 What procedures do carriers follow when wheelchairs, other mobility aids, and other assistive devices must be stowed in the cargo compartment?
(a) As a carrier, you must stow wheelchairs, other mobility aids, or other assistive devices in the baggage compartment if an approved stowage area is not available in the cabin or the items cannot be transported in the cabin consistent with FAA, PHMSA, TSA, or applicable foreign government requirements concerning security, safety, and hazardous materials with respect to the stowage of carry-on items.
(b) You must give wheelchairs, other mobility aids, and other assistive devices priority for stowage in the baggage compartment over other cargo and baggage. Only items that fit into the baggage compartment and can be transported consistent with FAA, PHMSA, TSA, or applicable foreign government requirements concerning security, safety, and hazardous materials with respect to the stowage of items in the baggage compartment need be transported. Where this priority results in other passengers’ baggage being unable to be carried on the flight, you must make your best efforts to ensure that the other baggage reaches the passengers’ destination on the carrier’s next flight to the destination.
(c) You must provide for the checking and timely return of passengers’ wheelchairs, other mobility aids, and other assistive devices as close as possible to the door of the aircraft, so that passengers may use their own equipment to the extent possible, except
(1) Where this practice would be inconsistent with Federal regulations governing transportation security or the transportation of hazardous materials; or
(2) When the passenger requests the return of the items at the baggage claim area instead of at the door of the aircraft.
(d) In order to achieve the timely return of wheelchairs, you must ensure that passengers’ wheelchairs, other mobility aids, and other assistive devices are among the first items retrieved from the baggage compartment.
Our customer Alfredo from San Antonio has done a lot of research into the process of applying for recreational equipment benefits through the Veterans Administration. You can see the full text of his presentation that he’s done at adaptive sports clinics around the country here. Technically, what you’d get from the VA is a “benefit” and not a “grant,” and he’s been called on the distinction. But they just don’t teach you those kinds of details in paratrooper school.
Below is a summary of his presentation:
Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Directive 1172.05, dated February 1, 2017 Recreational and Sports Equipment.
– Adaptive sports equipment may be considered for issuance to any Veteran who exhibits the loss or loss of use of a body part or function for which adaptive equipment is indicated. (My note: This creates eligibility for the veteran See image attached)
– The prescribed equipment must be of a nature that specifically compensates for their loss of use and is designed for individuals with physical disabilities. (My notes: The equipment must compensate the veteran. It will be different for everyone becuase of their disability).
Recreational Sports Equipment may be issued to those Veterans who are seeking to enhance their health and attain higher rehabilitative goals through recreational sports activities.
(My Note: Each veteran seeking adaptive sports equipment grant should have rehabilitation goals through recreational the adaptive sports equipment being requested)
Section IV has 5 paragraphs. I will only discuss paragraph D Recreational Sports Equipment (Non-Motorized/Power).
Devices specifically designed for use by individuals with disabilities that do not entail motorization may be provided. These include sports wheelchairs, sport devices, hand cycles and prosthetic devices. While standard (non-adaptive) products are not provided, modification, adaptation and customization of standard product may be provided to allow the individual to use the equipment. An example is a standard bicycle will not be purchased, but a modified handgrip and gear shifter may be provided to allow a veteran with an upper extremity amputation and prosthetic device to operate the bicycle safely.
My Notes: The VA will only buy adaptive bikes. NO standard bikes but will provide prosethics and adaptation to ride safely on a standard bike.
** Electric assist is not an option for requesting through paragraph D Recreational Sports Equipment (Non-Motorized/Power). It is a electric motor, it can be possible but will explain over the phone or in person.
Each veteran can follow page 9-11 and check off the requirements to request adaptive recreational sports equipment grant before they see their Primary care and submit their VA firm 10-2641 with supporting documents from the required checklist.
If you are curious about a particular brand of recumbent and want to talk specifically with owners of that brand, here are the forums maintained by the manufacturers and by users. If you know of one that isn’t here, please let us know.
AZUB Owners Group on Facebook
Bacchetta users’ forum, hosted by Bacchetta
Bacchetta Bikes public group, on Facebook
Catrike users forum, hosted by Catrike
Catrike owners group, on Facebook
ICE Trikes Owners, on Facebook
ICE Strava Challenge, social media in a sweaty sort of way
Lightning Riders Forum, hosted by Lightning’s fan club
TerraTrike — These folks have cranked up their social media mill…
TT Forum, hosted by TerraTrike
TerraTrike Owners, on Facebook
@TerraTrike, on Twitter
The most significant book published on recumbent bicycles is the aptly named The Recumbent Bicycle by Gunnar Fehlau. It was originally published in German, but was translated for the US market by Out Your Backdoor Press. OYB isn’t in the book publishing business any more, but you can find used copies of it around the ‘net.
As you might guess by the title, this book says nothing about recumbent trikes, which is what most people are interested in nowadays. I don’t know of a historical and technical treatise on trikes in the style of Fehlau’s book.
There are any number of travelogues written about touring on recumbents, some by our customers, though many of these are privately published and hard to find. One author who has written prolifically about tricycle touring of all sorts is adventure writer Steve Greene. I can’t claim to have read any of his books. Once I get off work I usually want to stop thinking about tricycles. But customers of ours have mentioned these and at some point I’ll probably read his book on off-road triking.
A couple of other books worth mentioning, though they aren’t truly recumbent specific… One is Bicycling Science, by the eminent bicycle scientist David Gordon Wilson, one of the instigators of the human-powered vehicle movement of the 1970’s that launched the modern recumbent bicycle industry. Wilson, an MIT professor, led a design seminar aimed at creating a really safe bicycle, and that resulted in the prototype of the Avatar long-wheelbase recumbent. Bicycling Science covers recumbents as a part of the overall design spectrum of bicycles. It is a fairly technical book, but there is enough going on between the differential equations to keep non-technical sorts entertained. You can find out what an URB is.
Another book I’ll mention, even though it has practically no mention of recumbents, is A Social History of the Bicycle: It’s Early Life and Times in America. I mention this only because of my experience trying to interest the public in recumbents, a novel form of bicycle. See, it’s like this: if you read this book you’d get a good sense of just how odd people thought bicycles looked, and in particular how ridiculous a person riding a bicycle looked, sailing onto the scene with their feet spinning around in a goofy sort of parody of walking. Men would shout curses, children would chase them, ladies would look away. It was just wrong. Then a few generations went by and everyone got used to them. Everyone rides them. Presidents of the United States ride them. They are the greatest invention of all times in terms of what you can do with so little. And now someone sails onto the scene doing exactly the same thing only rotated back 90 degrees into a recumbent position and OH MY GOD THAT IS THE MOST RIDICULOUS THING IN THE WORLD YOU’D NEVER CATCH ME ON ONE OF THOSE YADA YADA YADA. Some things never change.
If you want the best Facebook resource for recumbents in Texas (besides our own page, that is) you should get a membership in the closed group the Texas Recumbent Riders. It is run by Jane Knight, an enthusiastic organizer and, amusingly enough, a disgruntled former Easy Street events coordinator, who will encourage you to shop anywhere but here. I’m amazed I’m still allowed in this group, but my current events coordinator, who handles all ESR’s Facebook stuff, still has her membership requests ignored. Sour grapes? Sure, but Jane does a good job at building enthusiasm, and when she puts on an event it gets a good turnout. She was the genius behind the H.O.T. Rally that we still put on. It is worth your time to check out her stuff. But keep shopping with us, please.
Another Facebook group Jane manages is Texas Bike and Trike Ride Reviews, a public group but it gets less traffic. The original idea was for people to report on rides they went on, but it has drifted from that. A more compelling use this group has found is for recumbent riders who are going on rides… either on a big organized ride or else just heading to a trail somewhere, to post in advance and scare up company. We like this idea and hope to see it flourish.
You see this approach popping up on the local level now, organized people who’ve been in Jane’s orbit for a while…
We’ll add to this list as we learn more…
The main source for industry news on recumbents is BentRider, or BentRider Online (“BROL”). This is both a blog about new products, developments, and events in the recumbent industry, reviews of new products, as well as a large, lively forum of recumbent riders. In fact it is several forums, covering all sort of topics.
We don’t need to say very much about it having given you the link. Check it out, get a membership login and join in the conversation. While Easy Street is a good place to get your questions answered, if you want to speak with your peers about where you put the cleats on your cycling shoes then there is no better place to get feedback. It is a huge rabbit hole of info and opinions.
Another significant national-level resource is Recumbent Cycle-Con, an annual trade and consumer show. An expo like this probably doesn’t belong in the “media” section, since this is real people, real bikes, and a test track you can ride on, but it is a product of Coyne Publications, who produce a print rag called Recumbent and Tandem Rider Magazine. RCC takes place in the fall. It moves from place to place.
At the risk of impugning someone’s honor, I will make a point about publications that focus on reviewing products. If they are supported primarily by their advertisers then you need to take what they say with a grain of salt. I’ve known a couple of manufacturers who felt their lukewarm reviews in some publications came, in part at least, from their unwillingness to let the editor keep and sell the vehicle used in the test. Sometimes this bias is glaringly obvious, where the review is so full of superlatives that you wonder if the writer isn’t being paid to write ad copy. I got started into recumbents from a European magazine called Bike Culture Quarterly (this Dutch website is the best link I could find to this defunct magazine, and more of it is in English than first appears). BCQ had a strict no ads policy and a steep cover price, but it was unfettered in its honesty and objectivity. Doomed from the start, to be sure, but they cranked out a few years of amazingly diverse coverage.
Adult Cycling Education around the state, as of Sept 2017
If you plan to use your recumbent on the public roadway then cyclist education is worth the time. There is a lot of non-intuitive knowledge about what works getting the space you need and keep you from doing things that confuse other drivers. Modern Bike Ed isn’t about telling you how to balance, it is about how to assert yourself safely and influence the flow of traffic around you.
A full course has three components… a classroom discussion section where you cover the principles, a parking lot section where you practice handling drills, and an on-road section where you apply what you learned in the real world. The last part is important, as the stresses of being around motor traffic can cause novice cyclists to panic enough to not apply the principles they’ve learn and go back to more erratic behavior.
It can be frustrating looking for classes because they might be offered but often none are scheduled. The truth is that it is not easy to get people to give up the time necessary to cover all the material, so often times classes don’t make, or they have so few students that the instructors make nothing for their time. It is easier to find classroom only classes, which is OK but lacks the application of the principles under real-traffic stress. Easiest to find are online classes, which you don’t need to schedule. This can be pretty sophisticated, but you are still talking to a robot.
In Austin, see https://bikeaustin.org/learn/classes/
Bike education is a big part of Bike Austin. Some of their volunteers have worked on the national level to develop the current standard curriculum.
Bike Houston offers a beginners’ skills class for adults who don’t know how to ride. They don’t have a permanent page for the class, but it is all over their calendar, so just see that: https://bikehouston.org/calendar/#!calendar
If you received a traffic citation on your bike in Houston, Bike Houston, the municipal court, and the Center for Cycling Education put together an online class for ticket dismissal: https://thecce.org/tx-houston/
In the Dallas — Fort Worth urban megapolis,
BikeDFW offers a wide array of classes, but they are disturbingly coy about when they go on. See their course schedule at http://www.bikedfw.org/bike-education-courses.html. You can contact BikeDFW from that page and get the straight dope
Cycling Savvy is a national group focused on cycling education, with a growing network of teachers across the country. They have an emphasis on empowerment and on riding comfortably and safety in all conditions. They are worth investigating, but they are currently kinda slow in getting classes up to speed in Texas. They have an instructor in Dallas and are working on one in Houston. http://cyclingsavvy.org/category/south-central-region/dallas/
In San Antonio,
The San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization offers a one-hour classroom only bike safety seminar: http://www.alamoareampo.org/streetskills/
Online, in Cyberspace, and in Marfa,
The Center For Cycling Education is a US/Canadian company that used to be based in Austin. They developed an online course that you can take at any time. https://thecce.org/
As you might know, recumbents were booted out of professional bicycle racing in the 1930’s after a 2nd-tier racer started shattering records on a Mochet Velocar recumbent. Sadly, this kept recumbents from mainstream attention for a long time. To be fair, racing organizations want racing to be a competition between athletes, not engineers, so some measure of uniformity in racing bike design should be expected.
Also, to be truly the fastest, a bicycle needs an aerodynamic shell to best use the limited power the rider has. When so much of the appeal of bicycle racing is in watching the athletes suffer (see exhibit A) it would take all the fun out it just watching enclosed streamliners hum around a race course (see exhibit B).
But still, there are a few cycling events where competitive recumbent riders can kick the butts of lesser mortals. Here are few that we know of.
Ultra-marathon racing: Recumbents have been welcome for some time in endurance racing events, and with their good aerodynamics and rider comfort they would seem well suited for it. Many of these events are qualifiers for the Race Across America (RAAM), and its more modest component the Race Across the West (RAW) While the RAAM and the RAW belong on this list, they require a lot of work to qualify for. Some of these events are requirements for racers wishing to participate. Ultra marathon is done by a racer or team of racers supported by a crew of some sort, so it isn’t a drop-in, informal kind of thing.
Like Triathlon, ultra-marathon is kind of a culture to itself because training for it takes a lot of the athlete’s time. How much riding will you need to do to get in a 1000 mile bike race?
Randonneuring: This is a long-distance cycling competition where participants must complete a course within a specified time. Any participant who finishes before the cut-off is considered a winner. Personally, I like the idea of an event where everyone can win. Recumbent bikes and trikes are welcome, and considering their ergonomic and comfort benefits they seem like the ideal bikes for this sort of thing. Basically, these are like 600 mile fun rides.
There are several randonneuring clubs in Texas, probably organized to support riders in the lonely business of training for ultra-marathon events like this:
There are a few randonneuring events around Texas, but I’ll let you find out from your local randonneuring organizations. I’m all randonnoodled out from thinking about all this.
Senior Games: The Dallas Senior Games and the Brazos Valley Senior Games (College Station) allow recumbent bikes and trikes in their cycling competitions. No aerodynamic fairings are allowed. Other local senior games may start allowing recumbents, and there is a push to allow them in the state championships.
Valor Games Southwest: The Valor Games series is a set of national olympiads organized around the country. In Texas, San Antonio Sports hosts these games in late September. The Valor Games series are organized by the Veterans Administration.
Abilene hosts two bike races that allow recumbents:
- The Steam-N-Wheels is hosted by Abilene Parks and Recreation. It takes place around March and might not be visible on their website until closer to that time. I haven’t found a permanent web page for the event. This is a “fun race.” Entrants are timed and those with the best times in their age group get a prize, but it prizes aren’t so huge that people will be shooting up steroids. Aerodynamic enhancements, such as fairings and tailboxes are not allowed.
- Tour de Gap. Another ride in Abilene, in July. They have rides/races of length varying from 11 to 100 miles. Racers use chips to track their time, so it doesn’t matter who crosses the finish line first.
IHPVA Events – The International Human Powered Vehicle Association races bikes with no design restrictions whatsoever. Indeed, they have competitions for land, water and aircraft, so long as it is human powered. It is, to some degree, a competition between engineers, but since the aerodynamic and materials engineering involved only progresses sporadically it has become more of a competition between athletes seeing who can break their bicycle first. The current speed record in HPVA events is a little over 80 mph on human power alone. There aren’t any of these events held in Texas, so I’ve left it out. Still HPV racing is the classic recumbent racing event, so it gets a brief mention here.
TerraTrike Military Discount Program – If you are active military or a veteran with a valid military ID, bring your ID to Easy Street for a 10% discount on a TerraTrike trike. It’s so easy, even Marine Corp infantry can figure it out! We stuck this on the “wounded military” page, but you don’t have to be wounded to qualify.
Operation Comfort is a non-profit organization based in San Antonio that helps wounded military who want to participate in sports. They also have an auto mechanics program. If you are a wounded warrior in the SA area and you want to check out recumbent triking (or handcycling), contact them. They have lots of equipment, much of which we provided.
Here is the good news… if you are a wounded warrior then the VA can, and will, fork up for a recumbent trike for you. The bad news is they want proof that you are a dedicated trike rider before they’ll do so. But then how can you demonstrate your zeal for triking when you don’t actually have one? I’m sure service members are used to such Catch-22’s as this.
This is where organizations like Operation Comfort are especially useful, as you can join in their cycling events to document your determined interest in cycling. Start by talking with your VA doctor, and talk with Operation Comfort. If you aren’t near San Antonio they can probably point you to someone else who can assist like they can.
Come by Easy Street and check out some trikes to see what you like. As usual, we’ll ask you about what sort of triking you want to do. If you have special needs that must be met, like having all the controls on one hand, or extra foot retention, or the like, we’ll get that figured out. We’ll come up with a sales order describing what you are after. You can expect us to charge to the VA the trike itself and any gear that addresses special needs. We won’t bill them for other accessories like lights, bags, tire upgrades, and the like. Best if the price doesn’t run past $3500, as there is a cut-off point at which requests need to be submitted to someone in Washington DC and the whole process bogs down. We’ve seen applications take over a year, and we’ve seen applications complete in a few week.
You will also need a VA form 10-2641, and be ready to take some time over it. Filling out forms is what public education is all about, so we hope you were paying attention in school. You can get this form from your doctor. On this form you’ll outline all the devoted tricycle riding you have been doing along with lots of other info about yourself. If you’d like to see a copy of the 10-2641, along with tips on completing it, contact Mike.
Update: A customer of ours, Alfredo Lopez from San Antonio, has compiled a detailed presentation for wounded warriors on getting adaptive recreational equipment through the VA. Read it here.
Valor Games Southwest – This is a multi-event Olympiad for wounded military, usually held in San Antonio in September. Register on their website. You don’t actually have to own a trike to compete, as contributing organizations like Operations Comfort supply some extras, but it is first come first served. There is a fitting and technical session the evening before the cycling events, and you can usually find us there, getting people sized on borrowed trikes and doing spot tuning on trikes athletes bring. Competing in this event on a borrowed trike is the kind of thing that looks real good on VA form 10-2641.
This info is valid as of September of 2017. We will do our best to keep this up to date.
There are two recumbent groups that we know of in Texas. It seems like there should be more, and there may be. You can find more rides going on through The Texas Recumbent Riders and their associated lists, and our shop calendar. But if you want a local group in the traditional sense, here is what we know.
R-BENT, the Recumbent Bicycle Enthusiasts of North Texas – Based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Best accessed through their online forum. They have a few recurring rides, and other stuff as it comes up. While riders abilities vary you can often count on finding some stronger and faster riders in these groups. R-BENT also has a painfully antiquated and mostly neglected website which you’d do best to avoid since the info is so out of date.
The Eiffel Benders Lamar County Recumbent Club – Based in Paris, TX. They post their upcoming rides on their Facebook page. This is a casual, slow speed group that anyone can ride with. This group is currently led by Susan Barackman, and she can be contacted at 903-785-5247, or by email
We’d love to see more here. We’ve tried a couple of times to organize a riding group in the Austin area, but there are a few standard problems that we hit.
One is that there is such a wide range of abilities in recumbent riders. You can find strong, fast riders in any kind of bike club, but you get many more older and slower riders in the recumbent culture, and it can be hard to organize events that appeal to everyone. This also suggests a difficulty finding venues. Not everyone likes riding on roads, and groups riding in traffic have challenges. Austin doesn’t have a lot of trails, though there are a few. If you like to ride 20 miles there aren’t any trails to accommodate.
Then there is just the matter of getting people to show up. While many people are excited about the idea of someone scheduling rides, that doesn’t mean they actually show up. Ride leaders tend to lose heart if nobody shows. It isn’t that nobody is interested, but they have to actually attend in order to keep energy in the group. San Antonio had an active group for several years, The River City ‘Bent Riders, with a website and weekly rides. We were quite envious. The founder of the group compiled a huge list of contacts from people who attended over the years, but in the end it was just the same few riders turning up, if that. When the founder started to lose steam there was no one to take it up. Such a bummer.
So what makes a recumbent group successful? R-BENT has a lively forum, with a reliable corps of riders who chatter about their rides and give new members a chance to interact without having to take the initiative. They have at least one reliable, monthly ride and a few places to hold it that will accommodate a variety of riders. They seem to have enough people will to turn out to lead rides, and enough people willing to join in. Why ride with company? Why not ride alone? There is some intangible in the camaraderie that makes people want to go back. Then everyone goes home and chatters online. I’m not saying this is the formula, but it keeps working for them.
While I can’t say for sure, I suspect that it takes more than a monthly “e-mail blast” to spur ridership. People need more interaction outside of the ride. You can’t just make an online forum like R-BENT has happen without some other ingredient, but I suspect that regular interaction between members lends to the success of their rides.
Personally, we’d like to see a stable recumbent riding club in every county in Texas. As a shop with statewide reach we’d be thrilled to have places where interested prospective customers can meet with their peers, not just salesmen, and meet somewhere reasonably close by (by Texas standards). We’d commit resources to helping, to publicizing rides, and working them in to our own events schedule. But in the end it takes someone (not us) to lead it who really likes riding with others, and at least a few others who share that vision, and want to check out each other’s badass wheels.