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Getting the most out of an electric tricycle

With such a wide range of electric trike styles on the market today, how do you know which one is right for you? The last thing anyone wants is to end up with an etrike that does not work for them and ends up sitting idle. Many times we have seen customers come into the showroom with a particular model electric tricycle in mind, and end up with a different one after taking each model for a test ride. 

Mid Drive or Front Hub Drive

The two most common electric pedal assist motors used in today’s electric trikes, and ebikes, are mid-drive motors and hub motors. It is important to choose which motor will best suit your needs and environment.

Mid Drive Motors

Mid-drive motors are housed within the centre of the etrike, between the pedals and connect directly to the front gears (chainring), driving the chain directly. Mid drive motors are great for more hilly terrain, offering more traction than a front hub motor with the drive power centred below the rider. 


Mid-drive motors are known for delivering greater torque and performance when compared to a front hub motor of the same specification. The main reason for this is because the mid-drive motor drives the crank, instead of the front wheel, therefore increasing its power and enabling it to take advantage of the bike’s existing gears more efficiently. 


A disadvantage of a mid drive motor is that the etrike or ebike’s chain may be more prone to breaking due to shifting under power. When you are riding and the motor is engaged this puts extra stress on the drive train and chain. If you shift gears while also applying power to the mid drive motor, you can damage the chain and gears. This can easily be avoided by disengaging the motor before shifting gears by stopping pedalling or disengaging the throttle.


The biggest advantage of a mid drive motor over a front hub motor is their gear ratio. Mid drive motors allow the rider to power the rear wheels of their electric tricycle via the same gears and chain as the pedals, which  means they can easily select a low gear for starting from a full stop or powering up steep hills with huge amounts of torque. A mid drive motor, when using lower gears, can climb steeper hills, and for longer, than a front hub motor of the same power which could possibly overheat on long steep climbs.

Front Hub Motors

A front hub motor is an electric motor that sits inside the etrike's front wheel. It powers the trike wheel directly. Front hub motors are fully contained and require little maintenance. Front hub motors do not use the existing drive train on an electric trike which means that you will not be placing any additional stress on your chain or gears. Less stress causes less wear and tear over time on your drivetrain. Combined with using normal pedal power with the electric assist from the front hub motor reduces stress even further.


A big advantage of a front hub motor is that they require little to no maintenance to operate. They are an independent pedal assist drive system that have all of their components housed within the motor casing. 


Brushless hub motors have no moving parts aside from their bearings, so there is basically nothing to wear out. Since front hub motors do not connect directly to the etrike drivetrain they don’t add any additional stress to your chain or gears so they won’t cause any of those parts to wear out more quickly.


Front hub motors also add redundancy to your electric trike. Since the pedals and front motor are fully independent, one can fail while you are out for a ride and the other can still get you home. Motor fails on you? Jump on those etrike pedals and hope you don’t have too many hills, but you can make it home. Chain breaks? Throw it in your etrike cargo bag and use the throttle to ride home on electric power.


Front hub motors are also cheaper than mid drive motors and do not require a custom frame like mid drive motors, so an electric tricycle for adults with a front hub motor will be a cheaper alternative to an etrike with a mid drive motor.


One of the downsides to a front hub motor is that they are not as good at climbing hills as a mid drive motor. With the rider's weight not over the motor you can experience loss of traction as the motor tries to spin harder.

Choosing The Right Tires

When choosing the right tire for your electric tricycle, the first thing to consider is the type of terrain you’ll be riding on, is it mainly urban riding on smooth pavement and bike paths, or is it a bit more country with some gravel roads and rougher terrain in the mix.


While not as important in some aspects as traditional two wheel electric bikes, the choice of tires can have an impact on how your electric tricycle rides and handles. Things like range, speed and to some extent maneuverability are all impacted by the different types of tire.


Many people ride their etrikes on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt. A smoother tread and narrower tire designed for those hard, flat surfaces will give you a faster, smoother ride. A commuter style tire like those found on the eTc City etrike have all-weather tread to allow for safe riding in wet conditions.


For those who are riding on more varied and perhaps rougher terrain like grass, gravel or sand, or even carrying more cargo on their electric trike, a fat knobby tire with a larger tread will be more suitable.


If you plan on riding throughout the year, not just in summer, then fat tires are definitely the way to go.


Another thing to consider is the tire size. Wider tires will provide additional cushion, acting like extra suspension for your etrike and will be a lot more forgiving when you hit rough terrain. The downside to wider tires is that they can reduce the overall range and speed of your electric trike.


You can still increase the range with fat tires by keeping the tire pressure higher which will reduce the contact surface of the tire and increase efficiency.

Sizing Up Your Electric Trike

To ensure you get the most benefit out of an electric trike for adults, and at the same time enjoy your rides, it is important to choose an etrike that is the best fit for you. Not just the measurements that suit your height and weight, but also having the right style of electric tricycle to suit the environment you will be riding in.


Comfort, performance, enjoyment – all will depend on a good fit.

Step Through Height

While step through height on an electric trike is not as important as a regular two wheeled ebike, it still is an important measurement to consider. For people with limited mobility, balance issues, or are unable to lift their knee very high, a lower step through is a good choice.

Seat Height

As with standard electric bicycles, having the correct seat height is very important when riding your e-trike . Setting your seat height properly can take a few tries, but finding the best height is key to performance, injury prevention and comfort of your electric trike


When it comes to the ideal seat height, the general rule of thumb is to have a nearly complete extension of your leg at the bottom of the pedal stroke. A little bit of bend in the knee is ok, you do not want to be fully extended..

Width

Not all cycling infrastructure is the same for everyone, dedicated cycle pathways, wide paved shoulders and streets often vary everywhere you go. 


For more urban/city riding where you have to share space with a large number of other riders, pedestrians and traffic, a narrower rear wheelbase would be more suited.


More country, dirt road, grass, gravel kind of riding? A wider stance won’t necessarily be an issue, so the added stability of a wider wheelbase for your e-trike in these cases would be a better choice.

Length

While the lengths of most electric tricycles do not vary that much, they can play a part when it comes to choosing the right fit for you. Tight on storage space? Lots of city electric trike riding? A shorter length will give you that extra wiggle room.

Ready to Roll?

Wherever you intend to ride, your height, weight and build should all be taken into account when choosing the right trike for you. Wherever possible we recommend you check your electric trike options out in person to get a better feel for how they will ride for you.


With that in mind, we are currently expanding our partnerships with select retail bike shops across the country, making it easier for people to take a test ride before they buy. Be sure to check out our retail partners page regularly as we continue to grow our network. (This is early days so be sure to keep an eye on that page, we will update it as we expand)
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