My go-to choice for winter riding and commuting
It’s been over a year since I bought this trike now, and I’m finally getting round to writing up my thoughts on it. The main reason for this was that the trike was so far off the beaten track for me as a means of transport when I bought it that I had no reference points at all, and didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I knew from day one that I definitely loved riding the trike, but didn’t feel remotely qualified to write about it. Well, a year later and I now feel like I sort of know what I’m talking about! 🙂
The original plan was to get a trike for my wife, but on a test tour at Laid Back Bikes she discovered that she preferred being higher and on two wheels, and being so light a person they were just too heavy for her to push up the hills. I had no intention of buying one myself at that point, but I came away from several hours spent on an ICE Adventure thinking, ‘hmmm, I quite fancy one of those myself!’
My very first recumbent ride experience was on an ICE Sprint, pedaling through busy Edinburgh city centre traffic with David Gardiner (properietor of Laid Back Bikes) to get to a quiet path where I could try out the bike I was actually interested in, which was the Nazca Fuego. I remember careering down the steep hill to Cramond promenade on the trike, thinking what a blast it was, and how easy it had been to ride in busy traffic with no recumbent experience at all.
Why I bought it
I don’t have balance or mobility issues, and I already have a great all round bike in the Fuego so buying a trike could be seen as overkill for my needs. However, the roads I ride typically become pretty messed up in the winter, with a lot of farm traffic spreading large quantities of mud around. Potholes are constantly appearing and often they are temporarily filled in with gravel before being fixed properly in the spring. In January and February we often get a fair amount of snow and ice, and I have had a couple of falls hitting both mud patches and ice in the past couple of years. The main roads are kept clear throughout the winter with large quantities of salt but I really don’ t enjoy riding them due to the heavy traffic and corrosion to the bike components. I also don’t like getting mouthfuls of dirty salty water as cars throw a lot of spray up when they pass. So I like to stick to the back roads which are generally in quite poor condition with a lot of debris and slippy stuff lying around. I thought a trike would be ideal for cycling through these conditions.
I decided I needed a winter machine that I could ride when my other bikes were confined to the garage. I talked to David about the options and we agreed that a rigid frame with no suspension was the way to go, so I ordered an ICE Sprint 26. Although this exact model is not available any more, the ICE Sprint X 26 Tour offers the same frame with a 10 speed gearing option. It arrived a few weeks later, just after new year. So it was a perfect time to put it to the test!
The ICE configurator allows you to play around with your configuration and spec up your perfect trike, getting instant feedback on how much it’s going to cost. I kept things fairly sensible, as you can easily spend a lot more than you intended to if you’re not careful. My spec is towards the lower end of the price range.
I went with the Sprint 26 frame with no suspension. I chose the mesh seat having tried the large hard shell seat in the shop and feeling it was just a little too small for my liking. I went with mechanical disc brakes – the ubiquitous Avid BB7s, and added a V-Brake parking brake to the rear wheel.
Drivetrain wise, I went 9 speed Shimano Deore with a triple up front and 11-34 cassette at the rear. The Shimano 9 speed shifters have excellent ergonomics and have functioned flawlessly from day 1. I have recently read reports online of these failing, but so far so good for me.
Accessories wise, I added the bottle cage and cage riser mount, the front boom light mount, a VTX neck rest and a Mirrycle mirror. I added the heavy duty ICE front mudguards and a standard rear SKS mudguard. I chose Kojaks for tyres, but have since moved to a Marathon Racer on the back and Trykers on the front which gives more puncture protection and confidence to ride through all the junk I find on the roads. The trike is primarily for winter riding and so I’m not trying to optimise speed.
The ICE frame really is a beautiful piece of work. More so than any other recumbent brand I have seen, the attention to detail is just superb. Everything about the frame just shouts quality, from the beautiful deep red paint right down to the little details such as tabs to attach cable ties through to guide the rear cables.
Complete with bold ICE logo on the cruciform, the overall impression is of a structure that has been extremely well thought out.
Having ridden the trike through a lot of junk over the winter, the frame is still looking basically brand new – the paintwork is clearly high quality.
There are nice touches all over the place. The boom, for example, has a nice numerical scale and alignment line on it with a matching mark on the frame, so that you can get your pedals straight without any messing around whenever you move the boom in or out.
The frame does have a lot of flex in it when you pedal – you can easily deflect the boom a couple of inches by pedaling hard.
The only thing I’m not so keen on is the jumble of cables that are present under the frame – quite a lot of potential to catch on stuff as you ride. I broke the housing on one cable hitting a tree branch at speed in the dark. OK, I shouldn’t be doing that in the first place, but it’s definitely a vulnerability of the design.
The drivetrain is a mix of components: Shimano Deore 9 speed derailleur with an 11-34 Shimano cassette, Sram X5 front derailleur and Shimano MTB triple up front. The chainline uses chain tubes to keep the chain clean. I think on a trike, chain tubes make even more sense than on a two wheeler, given the proximity of the chain to the ground.
The drivetrain works very smoothly. The 9 speed Shimano bar ends are very nice and tactile with a satisfying clunk between gear changes. I was persuaded to try these over the 10 speed Sram offerings and I was very happy with their operation. You can also flip the bar ends into friction shift mode if your indexing jumps out on a ride for any reason. Very handy. The trike came with the front shifter in friction mode and I’ve left it like that, nice and easy to trim.
Sometimes when changing gear, you feel a gentle ‘bump to the rump’ as the chain tube rises and hits off the bottom of the seat with the change in tension. Something you get used to and eliminate with smoother changing.
The only time I have ever folded the trike was to get it in the car to bring it home from the shop. Since then, it has stayed in the garage fully assembled. It’s easy enough to do and only takes a couple of minutes. For those with limited storage space or regularly wish to travel with the trike this will be a great feature, but I don’t really use it. For storage, I put the rear brake on and then stand the trike up on its rear wheel with the front wheels leaning against the wall. Nice and easy!
In any case, this is the trike folded. First, undo the 3 seat attachment levers, take the seat off and lower the left hand handle bar via the QR on the bar. Now undo the QR on the main frame that couples the front and back together.
The bike now hinges in the middle and can be folded:
It’s still a reasonably chunky piece of luggage but will fit into the boot of any decent estate car fairly easily.
The ICE mesh seat is very comfortable indeed. When I first got the trike, the seat felt a bit weird and I felt like my pedaling style was all wrong. It felt like I was losing lots of energy moving side to side and did wonder whether I should have gone with the hard shell version. After a while though, it started to mesh in my brain, and now it feels completely natural. I think it does encourage a slightly different pedaling action, although I can’t quite put my finger on the difference.
As a trike newbie it took me a while to dial into the required motion. In some ways, I think a mesh seat is better than a hard shell – you are able to easily slide forward and backward on the seat which I find useful for spinning vs mashing. I tend to keep more of a knee bend when spinning and move back a little bit when I’m putting out higher power at a low cadence. On a hard shell you can still do this, but you are slightly more constrained as the ‘bucket’ of the seat encourages you to be in the same place all the time. The mesh seat allows a freedom of movement that I find very convenient and comfortable. I also have a twist in my back which means I never quite feel straight on a hard shell seat. Either my back is straight and my legs feel slightly off, or my legs are good but my back feels slightly rotated. On the mesh seat, that is much less noticeable as you can sit wherever you want.
I was initially concerned that I would lose power through the softness of the seat, but riding with the Garmin Vectors has shown that this is not the case. I don’t know how much is absorbed by the frame, but the seat isn’t causing loss to the pedals at any rate.
The seat is easy to take on and off. There’s two QR clamps under the seat that attach to the frame. One of the nice little details that make this trike so great – the little retracting buttons on the attachment tube that ensure the seat is completely centred on the base.
Behind your back, the seat can be adjusted to one of three recline angles using a laddered fitting that attaches to the frame with another QR skewer.
The recline doesn’t go back too far, it’s fairly upright. Initially I wondered whether I should have gone for a VTX – I still have that thought from time to time. I prefer a more laid back position. However I chose this trike for its all round versatility and winter riding potential, so I think I’m just suffering from N+1 syndrome again. If a VTX ever appears in my stable, it will have to be at the expense of something else leaving it first!
There is a zipped pocket in the seat which you can use to store smallish items in such as phones, keys or wallets.
It is straightforward to remove the mesh cover from the frame. You might want to do this regularly in order to wash it depending on how much you use it. It’s a simple enough job – take out the foam base, loosen off the tension straps and then slide the cover off the frame.
There is some adjustment available via the tensioning straps that run all the way up the seat back. You can change the curve of the seat back to your liking using these. I haven’t really felt the need to mess with them, and when I took the cover off, I wasn’t really that fussy about how I had them set when I put it back on. It feels just fine and comfy regardless of how they are set to me!
Being able to detach the seat easily is very useful. For example, if you want to work on the trike, if you take the seat off first then the frame is easily clamped using a standard bike stand. It also makes cleaning the trike a lot easier after a ride on the filthy Borders farm roads.
The bars can be adjusted for width and also for rotational angle, using a QR skewer on each side. A handy scale is printed on the bars so you can match them up nicely. You can dial in a good fit easily.
Because this trike does not have suspension, you can buy a standard type rack from ICE that doesn’t cost the earth. You can then use a standard rack top bag and / or standard panniers. The other option you have is to use Radical side bags, and this is the option I chose. You could do both for a fully equipped touring trike of course.
ICE offer a set of Radical side pods that are specifically made for their trikes. They have hooks that attach to the seat supports behind the seat to hold them in place. You just place them over the seat, attach the hooks and off you go.
I think these side pod bags are really good – much better than the standard medium sized banana bags I bought for the Fuego. The reason they are so good is that they are perfectly matched to this particular trike and seat, and tuck almost completely behind the mesh seat and are therefore not sticking out into the wind at all. The zips are easily accessible from the seat, so it’s quite easy to cycle one handed while fishing about in the bags for something without stopping. Again, I find this really good in winter. The bags are pretty big and you can get a lot in there. I carry a spare jersey, sometimes a spare jacket, my ultra warm winter gloves, food , water bladder, tools etc. I still have loads of spare space. You could do a reasonable smallish shopping trip using just these bags. I just put all my food in a plastic box and it’s quite easy to grab and eat as you ride. Because you don’t have to worry about balance, it’s no problem to cycle one or no handed for a few seconds to get lids off boxes and so forth.
One thing to be aware of – the bags hang pretty close to the ground. I have learned the hard way that cycling through 6 inch deep water isn’t a good idea unless you do it no handed and lift the bags up with your hands as you go through the water. Otherwise your bags end up soaking wet.
Recently ICE have started offering a bracket for the hard shell seat that keeps the bags off the frame. This is included if you buy the hard shell seat. I haven’t yet noticed any problems with the bags touching the frame on mine, and I ride with them on pretty much all the time. Unlike my Specialized Crosstrail, where the paint falls off if you just breathe on it, the paint on the Sprint seems pretty durable.
Wheels and Brakes
Wheels are robust 36 spoked affairs. All three wheels have 6 bolt disc mounting hardware, but obviously only the front wheels actually use these.
Braking is provided via discs on the front wheels and BB7 mechanical calipers. This is such an ubiquitous set up on so many bikes these days, there’s not much more to be said. They work well and stop the bike quickly.
Interestingly, I was a little concerned about the possibility of doing an ‘endo’ with all the braking power on the front of the trike. I have done a few tests and so far have not managed to lift the back wheel despite jamming on the brakes pretty hard at speed. I haven’t taken this test to its logical conclusion but have reassured myself that an endo will not happen under normal braking circumstances, and if I do have to destroy the front chainrings in an emergency stop it will be under the kind of conditions that either the bike takes a beating or my body does, in which case I won’t be too upset about a bit of bike damage 🙂
I am very impressed at how quickly the trike stops – for some reason it seems to have stronger braking power than the Fuego with similar discs and hydraulic Shimano calipers. Apparently, having 2 front brakes is more powerful!
If you put one brake on, the trike does tend to turn to that side a little bit. It’s something you get used to pretty quick and can be used to your advantage to help turn corners at speed – applying more brake on the inside wheel helps you turn the corner faster. It’s important to make sure you keep both brakes adjusted well, otherwise you end up with one side braking more than the other for the same amount of lever pull.
I have a rear parking V Brake fitted too. This is to stop the trike rolling away when sitting at a stop or when left unattended. I use it quite a lot at traffic lights and so forth – it’s nice to be able to put on the brake and then relax the legs and hands for a minute. It also means you can put the trike up against the wall without any hangers – just put the rear brake on and then it will happily stand on the rear wheel against the wall.
The ICE front mudguards are really nice. Like all parts of this trike, the build quality is extremely high. The mudguards are plastic but the frame that bolts them to the trike is metal, and they are bombproof. They are easily added or removed using just one Allen bolt and are adjustable for both height and tilt via two further bolts on the mudguard frame. Two slots on the frame provide an adjustment range that you can slide through to get the correct height and tilt for your specific tyres. This means you can use anything from small skinnies up to quite wide tyres and get a nice fitting mudguard very easily.
In use, I have discovered that you still get a fair amount of crud thrown onto your hands and arms even with the mudguards on. I suppose it’s inevitable, given the proximity of the wheels to your arms. I’ve had a few rides in the winter muck where I’ve come back pretty brown, so don’t expect to stay as clean as you would on a two wheeler with mudguards.
The rear mudguard is a standard SKS one, and does exactly what you would expect it to do.
There is a big range of accessories available both through ICE and also via third parties like TerraCycle (handled by Icletta in the EU). You can browse the ICE site to see what’s available. Many of the accessories are built just for these trikes.
The bottle cage riser on the front boom allows you to angle a drinks bottle up and towards you. This means it is more secure and less likely to drip. The Elite bottle cage is lightweight and works perfectly well. I use this on shorter rides – for longer ones I put a bladder in one of the Radical side pods and use that instead.
The front light mount gives you space to put a couple of accessories on, such as lights or cameras. I have run with a Drift Stealth 2 camera and a Cateye Volt 1200 which both fit on fine.
The VTX neck rest is used on all my bikes – nicely adjustable for both height and forward position, and is again an excellent piece of metal engineering that you can rely on to stay functioning for a long time. This particular one is specially designed for the ICE mesh seat with a clamp around the seat frame tubing.
When I first started riding the trike, it did feel a bit strange. I felt like I was swerving about all over the place. There is a bit of pedal steer but mostly it was in my imagination due to sitting on an open mesh seat. I find my body movement is slightly different on the trike and it took a while to get used to. Now that I’m dialed in, it feels completely normal, and I can happily switch from hardshell to mesh seat and am adapted within a couple of minutes of getting going. This seems to be a common experience – your first ride on a trike feels quite odd and the fact the trike doesn’t lean in the corners is a bit disconcerting at first. You soon get used to it though.
In poor road conditions, nothing comes close to the trike for ride security. You can happily blast it through mud, frost, leaves, puddles and anything else that gets in your way. I accidentally hit a big branch once on a high speed night descent which would probably have thrown me off on a two wheeler – It caused a bit of damage to a brake cable and got wedged under the seat, but otherwise I emerged unscathed.
Potholes are much more cumbersome on a trike – with three distinct wheel tracks it becomes much harder to avoid them. Without suspension you get clattered a bit when you hit them, and you can’t weave through them in the same way you can on 2 wheels. I have found that it takes a while to develop the skills to spot a line through things without having to continuously think hard about where the wheels are, but you get there eventually. You will definitely hit more obstacles on 3 wheels though. The upside is that hitting obstacles results in a bump but nothing more – you won’t lose balance and pretty much every situation is handled without fuss by the trike.
I have ridden the trike (on Kojaks of all things!) on a winter ride where there were long patches of ice on the road. Now I don’t recommend this, given how poor Kojaks are on slippy surfaces – there’s a danger of the back wheel losing traction and skidding, followed by a flip when you regain traction but at the wrong angle for continued forward motion – but I found that you could quite happily ride with one or both front wheels on ice as long as you kept the back wheel on decent tarmac. Lots of long frozen puddles on single track roads are easily navigated. I had to ‘sledge’ the trike down a long sheet of ice covering the whole road which I had to take really slowly and was a little hair raising – but again, I emerged unscathed on a surface that would have been unthinkable on a 2 wheeler.
Riding in busy traffic, the Sprint is fantastic. It’s low enough that you should pay attention to how visible you are (i.e. filtering can be dangerous just like on a low racer, as you are generally lower than the bottom of a car’s windows), but otherwise it is confidence inspiring in all circumstances. No more unclipping frequently in tailbacks and at traffic lights, just sit tight and relax. Cars tend to give you a pretty wide berth, and if you’re a strong rider you can quite easily take the lane and hold your own in busy downtown traffic.
It can be difficult filtering due to the width of the trike, but I tend not to do this much on any recumbent due to the visibility problem unless I know it’s going to be 100% safe. The trike is however narrow enough to fit on the rubbish painted ‘bike lanes’ ubiquitous in the UK (i.e. a line on the main road to leave the gutter for bikes, complete with badly maintained drains, bumps and potholes) so you can quite easily use these where they exist.
A lot of my roads I ride are single track back roads, which are cycling heaven on any platform. However the trike’s width can again be an issue when there’s traffic coming from behind, as even if you pull right over as far as you can, many cars will be hesitant to pass you if you’re moving, and you often need to stop completely to let drivers past. This is good news from a safety point of view (and it’s always good to wave thanks to considerate drivers) but can be a little frustrating if you’re trying to keep a good intensity up.
The most direct (and quietest) route of my main commute to work utilises several miles of MUP (Multi Use Path) along the Union canal. I have decided that the trike is just not going to work on that route – it’s wide enough that although you might leave a foot or so in space for pedestrians and other cyclists, it would be quite rude to take the trike on there, and in some places the path is narrow enough that there would effectively be no space for anybody else. I therefore avoid narrow MUPs and stick to the roads.
One of the great things about 3 wheels is that you can do lots of on-board messing around as you pedal, for example fishing around in the side pods to find food, taking things out of plastic boxes and riding no hands for periods to allow you to sort your luggage out all without stopping. This is great on long rides and more relaxed days. On the M5 I try to keep everything I need to hand in a little bag that hangs below the tiller, but there’s still some balancing required to unzip it one handed and retrieve food out of it whilst still pedaling. The trike makes all this a lot easier.
One thing that is also worth noting – if you have large feet, it is possible to hit them off the ground if you go over a bump and your pedal is at the lowest part of the circle. You get used to it pretty quick and move the cranks to horizontal position when a bump is coming up. I caught my heel a couple of times in the early days (size 48 feet).
This trike rides reasonably nippy, but not fast. Sort of like my hybrid upright Specialized Crosstrail. It is quite heavy to pull up hills, and there is a lot of flex in the frame. I don’t know exactly how much effect having two small front wheels contributes to higher rolling resistance. Certainly it feels to me that whenever the road surface gets rough, you bleed off some speed due to the small wheels. I also don’t have the trike set up for going as fast as possible with my tyre selection which favours durability and comfort over speed.
On my local hilly 40 mile loop, If I go hard on the trike and put out a really hard effort I can average about 15.5 mph. On the Fuego, the same effort would get me about 18 mph, and on the M5 it’s about 19.5 mph. This loop is hilly enough that it more or less negates the recumbent advantage (I’m just under 20 mph for the same effort on the Specialized Tarmac). It is hard work, and the absolute fastest I’ve ever done it on the M5 is about 19.7 mph, for a normalized power of around 235W which for me is about as high as I can currently sustain for 2 hours. It’s quite tough terrain to ride in. If I put faster tyres on, let’s say I could do the loop at 16 mph on the trike which means about 2 mph slower than the Fuego. This seems about right.
On the flat, you can get up to higher speeds quite easily. When the road is smooth the trike picks up a bit more speed too. It seems like quite a speedy machine on the flat, but hills are definitely a bit slower. If you haven’t ridden a trike before, it’s good to understand that you will not be as fast on this machine as you would on any reasonably performance oriented 2 wheel recumbent. A VTX would be faster of course, although I think it’s still going to be slower than a 2 wheeler due to the higher weight and bigger frontal area.
The trike feels a lot faster than it is because you are so close to the ground – it is immense fun coming down steep hills, to the point that sometimes I want to start cackling like a madman 🙂 It definitely induces grins and in terms of the enjoyment factor, it’s hard to beat. One of my favourite cycling moments of recent times is coming down Paddy Slacks at 40 mph on the trike, throwing it round corners and wondering if the tyres were going to hold or if I was going to lift a wheel…. from a fun point of view it’s pure magic and takes you back to being a kid flying down the hill on a home made go kart.
I can imagine on a long tour, a trike would be absolutely the best platform to take, just for the security, balance and comfort. In fact, as soon as you take pure speed out of the equation, a trike is an attractive option in most circumstances.
I don’t know a whole lot about triking. I haven’t ridden any other models other than a brief ride on an ICE Adventure, so I have no comparison points either. All I can say is that I love the trike and in the winter it is my go-to ride that keeps me out on the roads regardless of the weather or temperature.
It is extremely well made and very confidence inspiring. If I want to go along narrow paths, or generally get somewhere in a reasonable hurry then the Fuego is my default choice. For long training days, scratching the speed itch and events the M5 is the go-to bike. Otherwise, the Sprint is always there, ready to go, reliable, fuss free and lots of fun to ride. The more I ride it, the more I like it, and I can potentially see a day when I rationalize the herd and perhaps replace the Sprint and Fuego with a faster trike. Time will tell.
Of all my bikes, the Sprint has needed the least maintenance and fettling. It just works. In 18 months all I have had to do is clean the drivetrain and tweak the gears. Partly this may be because I don’t use it so much during the summer and also the 9 speed drivetrain is a lot less finnicky than the 11 speed Sram stuff on the M5, but it feels solid and well put together. ICE definitely make high quality products, so if you haven’t tried one and are in the market for a trike, I recommend trying one of these beauties out.