Press room – Recumbent & Tandem Rider Magazine #48
HP Velotechnik in the news: the following text is an excerpt from the magazine Recumbent & Tandem Rider Magazine #48. We recommend to order the complete magazine from the publishing house to read the whole story.
HP Velotechnik Gekko fx 26
By Brian Zupke
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing HP Velotechnik’s Gekko tadpole trike. I had a lot of fun. It’s a great all-around touring trike. So, it didn’t take much arm twisting to get me to agree to give the Gekko fx 26 a twirl. Similar to the Gekko, the Gekko fx 26 is an entry-level, folding tadpole trike designed for touring. The big difference between the two is the size of the rear wheel, and the fx 26 folds (the Gekko doesn’t fold, but can be disassembled). Velotechnik increased the rear wheel from 20” to 26”, with the intent of reducing rolling and roll-over resistances, and increasing the gearing for speed. It worked; the Gekko fx 26 delivers a nice smooth ride.
The wheels on the front end of the Gekko fx 26 are 20”. While using two different sized wheels means you have to carry two sizes of tubes, and that you may need two spare tires instead of one, the 20” and 26” wheel sizes are so common that unless you are out in the boonies, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding them.The benefits of having the larger rear wheel make the minor inconvenience of packing double worthwhile.
The Gekko fx 26’s aluminum 7005 T6 frame is well made. It comes with an impressive 10-year warranty and is available in two stock colors: Magma Red or Deep Blue. If neither is to your liking and you don’t mind spending a few more bucks, you can get the frame powder-coated one of over 180 different RAL colors (the HP Velotechnik website shows them all).
The trike can weigh as little as 35 lbs, depending on which components you choose. It was light enough that I had no trouble lifting it in or out of the back of my mini-vanor carrying it through the front door of my house. However, the trike’s front wheels are spaced too widely to let it to pass upright through my standard-sized doorway, and due to the rear wheel/seat configuration, the backend was too tall for the trike to fit through on its side. I had to pick the Gekko up, turn it 90° so I could bring the front end through, then turn it back upright so I could get the rest of the trike in. I could have carried the trike in on its side if I had taken the time to fold the seat down (which only requires unlatching two quick-releases) but the trike was light enough that it was just as easy to twist the trike on the way through the doorway.
The base model of the Gekko fx 26 comes with Schwalbe Tryker, Marathon Plus, or Big Apple tires. All are good choices and will let you run with either a higher tire pressure for a lower rolling resistance or a lower pressure for more comfort.
Having recently test-ridden several trikes that had full suspension, I’ve become a bit spoiled. It’s nice having a cushy tushy. (Then again, when I checked the price tags on these trikes, I decided that “being one with the road” is much harder to do with suspension.) Since the Gekko fx 26 has no suspension, if you run with high tire pressure, the bumps in the road do get transmitted to the rider. But HP Velotechnik’s combo of a bigger rear wheel and a large, comfy mesh seat means the impact of bumps in the road is greatly diminished. If you want more comfort, drop your tire pressure a bit. It will cost you some speed, but it will also soften your ride.
The Gekko fx 26 is equipped with mechanical disk brakes. It took me a little firmer grip to engage the brakes than it does on some of the other recumbent trikes I’ve ridden. I was able to apply the brakes using only my pinkies but it wasn’t easy. Despite the fact that it took a little more effort to brake, I was still able to modulate the force applied to each wheel. When I applied the brake to only one wheel, the trike drifted in that direction, but not as much as tadpoles typically do. In fact, when I braked at higher speeds, I didn’t have to concentrate as much on applying the same braking force to each front wheel. I suspect this is because the extra pressure required to engage the brakes makes it a bit more difficult to over-brake on one side. When I intentionally hard braked just one wheel, that wheel locked up fairly easily. Very hard braking with both brakes might cause the rear wheel to come off the ground, but that is easily avoided.
HP Velotechnik also offers several other brake configurations, including hydraulic disk brakes, V-brake (for the rear wheel), front mechanical and hydraulic disk brakes that are coupled (can be controlled with one lever), and a separate parking V-brake for the rear. As tested, the parking brake built into the Avid mechanical disk brakes worked great.
The Gekko fx 26’s bottom bracket is about 4 inches higher than the seat bottom, putting the pedal position in a very comfortable spot – especially if your feet are secured to the pedals using clipless pedals or straps. The bottom bracket is at the end of a telescoping boom that can be lengthened or shortened to accommodate different-sized riders (ranging from about 5’ 3” to 6’ 6”) by loosening and then tightening two bolts with an Allen wrench. However, if there is a large size difference between your riders, you may want to add the “quick frame adjustment, quick release, chain length compensation” kit which replaces the boom bolts with quick releases and adds a couple of pulleys to take up the extra chain when shortening the boom. This will allow you to quickly change the trike without needing tools or having to lengthen or shorten the chain.
For those of you who want the lightest trike possible, you can also spend more money to replace the front boom with one made of carbon fiber. However, if your physique is anything like mine, you can probably shave grams much more cheaply by just skipping the burger joint conveniently located at your favorite ride’s turn around point. Of course, your twenty-mile ride home should about take care of the thousand or so calories in a burger, fries, and one of those awesome salted caramel shakes they’re serving up now, right? Sure it does.
The Gekko fx 26 has an idler pulley underneath the seat that keeps the top portion of the drive chain from hitting the seat bottom. When I was pedaling and the chain was under strain (steep climbs or hard acceleration), I could hear and feel the links in the chain rubbing up against that idler pulley. That means there is some power loss there, but I really couldn’t tell from the trike’s performance. I found it a good audio-indicator of when I need to shift to a lower gear and spin more. The upper chain is protected by plastic tubing that runs from the front chain rings to that idler pulley, and from the idler pulley to the rear cassette. The lower chain is covered by a single plastic tubing that runs the trike’s entire length, going from the front chain ring all the way back to a few inches from the idler pulley on the derailleur. The plastic tubing does a good job of keeping the chain from bouncing around and reduces chain noise. It also helps the chain stay tidy when the trike is being folded and keeps grease from getting everywhere.
The test trike was equipped with a standard drivetrain; SRAM X4 24-speed derailleur, 30-42-52/11–32, giving it a wide range of gears. However, as I do a lot of climbing, the 26-inch rear wheel made the gearing a tad high for my use. I was still able to hit 45 miles per hour while pedaling down my favorite hill. I didn’t try to go faster, as there’s a stop sign and cross traffic at the bottom. I’m guessing the pedals would have spun out above 50, but most people won’t be pedaling at that speed anyway. I managed steep climbs okay, but would have liked to have been able to spin just a little more, especially if I were going to use the trike to haul heavy panniers or a loaded trailer. (Just wait – your knees will get old and creaky, too, someday.) If you anticipate doing a lot of climbing with loads, or prefer to spin up hills, you might want to opt for lower gearing or even to go with the Gekko fx 20 instead. That being said, the Gekko fx 26’s gearing was ample for most of the riding I did.
If you don’t like traditional gears, HP Velotechnik offers just about every popular drive system, including internal hubs and electrical assist motors. Money may be a limiting factor (one of the electrical assist solutions costs more than the trike itself).
The grip shifters on the Gekko fx 26 worked really well and did a great job of controlling the triple chainring and 8-speed cassette. Shifting was quick and clean. The trike comes with a crash guard that surrounds the front chainrings. I appreciated this feature every time I bumped into the front of the trike and the gears did not dig into my shin. However, the guard did make it more difficult to reseat a thrown chain while in motion. I shifted from the small chainring to the big one too quickly once and the chain shot over the big ring. When I’ve done this while riding other trikes, all I had to do to fix the problem was shift back down to the middle or small chainring while pedaling slowly, and the chain would remount the ring without me having to touch it. The Gekko fx 26’s chain guard makes that process a bit more difficult. The chain keep hitting the guard and it took me several tries to get the chain back on the ring. After that I was a little less aggressive with my up-shifts and I didn’t throw the chain again.
The handlebars are attached to the frame below the seat. The handlebars can be adjusted forward or backward by loosening the headset and rotating the bars in the desired direction, though this also changes the angle of the grips. I found a slightly forward angle to be very comfortable and it provided plenty of clearance between the seat and wheels. The width of the handlebars (i.e., the distance from the center of the trike to the hand grips) cannot be changed, but I don’t think this would be a problem for most riders.
The trike’s turning angle is pretty sharp. I could almost do a U-turn on the local bike path without having to drop off into the dirt. The Gekko fx 26 has dual drag link (indirect) steering vs. direct knuckle steering, which provides a mechanical advantage and makes steering the trike pretty easy. The trike generally wants to go straight, but on a slanted surface (such as a road with a high crown), the trike tends to drift toward the downward slope. Also, pedaling at high RPMs causes the steering to oscillate a bit, and this increases the drift. The oscillations are minor and aren’t a big deal unless you decide to take both hands off the handlebars. To compensate, you could reduce the oscillation by shifting into a higher gear, or make a conscious effort to pedal more smoothly, or you could coast. My personal choice is to coast, because if both my hands are off the grips it’s probably because I don’t want to use my teeth to open the candybar I’m getting ready to eat. Coasting reduces the risk of me dropping my chocolate and ruining my ride.
The steering on the Gekko fx 26 was very responsive. It was in no way twitchy and was quite able to perform evasive maneuvers at speed. It was easy to avoid obstacles such as road debris, potholes, glass, etc. As is the case with many tadpole trikes, turning the Gekko fx 26 too sharply without leaning into the turn caused the inside wheel to pop up off the ground.
The trike’s seat is mesh fabric wrapped around a tubular frame. The seat bottom is permanently attached to the trike’s frame in a fixed position.This means it cannot be adjusted forward or backward nor up or down. (The distance between the seat and the pedals are adjusted by lengthening or shortening the front boom.) The mesh fabric is secured with a bunch of straps that also control the tension in the seat, allowing you to tailor the support to your specific spinal needs. I like to have lumbar support, which the Gekko fx 26’s seat easily accommodated. The seatback has adjustable tilt, but the amount of tilt is minimal – about 1 ½” to 2” travel, for an angle range of about 8 degrees. While the range isn’t that large, the seat was fairly comfortable, even on long rides of more than 50 miles.
The seat does not need to be removed in order to fold the trike. Instead, the seat backfolds over and on top of the seat bottom. A nice feature is that when you unfold the seat, an adjustable stop on each quick-release makes it easy to return the seat back to your preferred tilt position. Simply pull the seat back up until it hits the stops – you don’t have to search for the perfect tilt each time you fold the seat down. The stops are secured with an Allen wrench.
The trike’s front cross member is the section of frame that crosses the boom perpendicularly right in front of the seat. It supports the front wheels. When I sat on the Gekko fx 26 with my feet on the pedals, there was plenty of clearance between the front cross member and my legs – enough that the cross member can be used for storage or for mounting accessories without fear of the rider’s legs knocking stuff around during the ride. However, when the rider gets on or off the trike, there’s a good chance his or her calves will hit the front of the cross member, so I would plan accordingly when deciding what to mount there and perhaps choose something soft that won’t leave a bruise or be damaged.
There is a small zippered pouch on the back of the top of the seatback. This pouch is large enough to hold the trike’s rain cover or a windbreaker, arm warmers and gloves, or the typical tools and spares cyclists should carry. However, if you use the optional headrest and position its bracket close to the seatback, bulky items placed in this pouch might poke you in the back.
There is a grommeted hole on the top left edge of the seat frame that sits above a mounting slot for a safety flag. Attaching the flag to the seatback positions the flag as high as possible and keeps the area around the rear wheel free for panniers and/or a trunk. The slot was a little snug for the flag pole I had available – had to sand the end of the pole a bit to get it to fit. Once it was in, the flag worked great.
Two parallel tubular bars run across the back of the seatback, below the pouch. They curve outward so they won’t dig into your back while you ride. They are very useful for mounting gear, such as the headrest, water bottle cages, gear bags, etc. I like my water bottles positioned lower than the tubes allowed, so I just used zip ties to secure bottle cage mounts to the seat’s tensioning straps.
The Gekko fx 26’s front derailleur post carries a water bottle cage mount. While a water bottle fits nicely between the cranks and doesn’t get in the way, it’s not within easy reach while pedaling – you’d have to lean way forward to get it. So I used the mount to hold my bicycle pump (it has a bracket that attaches to a water bottle cage mount).
The front derailleur post would also be a great place to put a lighting system. HP Velotechnik offers several dynamo-based lighting systems, as well as one that runs on batteries. I like the dynamo hub systems because they don’t add a lot of drag and you always have light – there is no need to replace batteries or to remember to recharge them between rides.
Several different mirrors are available that attach to the Gekko fx 26’s handlebars or to the frame, and there is also an optional computer mount that attaches to the main boom.
HP Velotechnik offers a rear rack for carrying panniers and/or a trunk. There should be enough room to carry the necessary gear for self-supported touring. But if you have a lot of gear or it is too bulky to put on the rear rack, you can pull any one or two-wheeled trailer that attaches to the rear axle.
One accessory that I highly recommend for most trikes is fenders (mud guards). They make a big difference when you ride in wet conditions. Without them you tend to get doused with dirty water by all three wheels.
Trike manufacturers are offering more and more accessories and options to accommodate riders with physical disabilities. HP Velotechnik is no exception. A stand-up support can be added to give the rider something to hang on to when mounting or dismounting the trike. The gear shifters and brakes can be set up so you can operate them all with a single hand. A hand rest support can be added, including a retaining strap, if the rider is not able to hold onto the handlebar grip. HP Velotechnik also offers several different types of pedals to which the rider’s foot can be secured.
The one of the key features of the Gekko fx 26 is its ability to fold for easier transport or storage. The seat folds forward and down. If the headrest is mounted, you may need to slide it to the side so it clears the front derailleur post, but you may not need to if the trike is set up for taller riders. The headrest is held in place by a quick-release. There is a Velcro strap on the back of the seat that is used to secure the seat to the frame once it is folded.
To fold the rest of the Gekko fx 26, pickup one front wheel to tilt the bike over, unlatch the quick-release on the folding hinge on the frame, and slide the locking pin to the unlocked position. Then turn the rear end of the trike 90° as you fold it under the frame to rest between the two front wheels. This is easier than it sounds. The handlebars are secured in a fixed position when the trike is folded. There is also a spring clamp which locks the rear section of the frame to the front section so the trike will not unfold unexpectedly. The Velcro strap on the seatback and the spring clamp make sure the folded trike stays in a tight package that is easily carried or lifted, with no parts flopping around.
The Gekko fx 26 also has two small wheels attached to the bottom of the seat. This is a great feature. When the seatback and trike are folded, these wheels allow you to pull the trike like a luggage cart rather than having to carry it. The folded trike is too wide to pull through a standard-sized door when pulling it like a cart, but it is light enough that most people can turn it sideways and carry it through with no problems. You can stand the folded trike upright, but it’s not super stable. I wouldn’t want to leave it unsupported in the middle of a room, as it would be too easy to knock over.
When the Gekko fx 26 is folded, its footprint is pretty small. I was able to place the folded trike into my Honda Odyssey’s cargo area without having to lower the car’s rear seat to make more room. In fact, the trike only took up about half the available space. I only had the one Gekko available to test at the time, but I think I could have put two in there at once. That would be great, as it would leave plenty of space in the car’s back seat area to pack gear if, for instance, you wanted to take your spouse out for a nice weekend camping/bicycling trip. (Anybody who wants to take a shot at convincing my wife that we should pony up the money to buy the trikes so we can try this, you have my permission.)
I could have removed the trike’s wheels to reduce the footprint even further. The trike’s rear wheel is removed by opening one quick release; the front wheels by using an Allen wrench to remove the axle bolts, then pulling the wheels, allowing the brake disks to slide out of their calipers.
With the wheels attached, the folded trike was not small enough to fit it into the trunk or back seat of my Honda Civic. If I had removed the front wheels, I may have been able to get it into my back seat. If I had removed the back wheel, too, I might have been able to fit into my trunk.
The smaller footprint can also be helpful when it comes to storing the Gekko, especially if your garage is as crowded as mine, or if you store bikes in the house as I have recently resorted to. (My wife isn’t crazy about the idea, but has given me temporary dispensation until I finish reviewing them. I kind of forgot to mention that I’ve got a dozen or more bikes lined up to review after these. Maybe if I throw a table cloth over them and put a vase off lowers on top, she wont notice.)
Overall, I’d have to say that I really like the Gekko fx 26. It is a fun trike. It’s comfortable, fast, stable, and handles well. I’m especially impressed at how easy it is to fold, transport and store. The Gekko fx 26 is a great choice, especially considering its entry-level price tag. This trike delivers a lot for the money and I’d be delighted to own one.