The Mountain Trike is a front wheel drive bucketed hand trike. Using levers and chain drive, the Mountain Trike is designed to cover rough terrain with gearing aimed at walking pace and gradient climbs. Dominic took a look to learn more.
What is the Mountain Trike?
Simply put, it’s a front wheel drive trike. It’s chain driven by two handles, acting much like bike pedals. They are push-to-move and automatically disengage to be pulled back for another push. There isn’t a version in reverse that is pull to move, as pulling the handles would instead pull you out of the seat without some significant seat harnesses.
The seat is bucketed at 20 degrees to keep the user in the seat, especially when going downhill. It’s complemented by a lap belt under the seat and to finish the “user safety” theme off, it’s fitted with disc brakes on each wheel. Wheels are fixed, which is obvious given it’s driven by chain, so to transfer you need to be able to either transfer from the front or over two large wheels. To help a front transfer, the front footrest lifts up – a nice little feature.
Comfort is not sacrified either, with Rock Shox monarch R Air shock absorbers on each wheel, pneumatic tyres (including on the anti-tip) and the seat is a moulded cushion to give a cradled support. Optional are arm rests (especially helpful for front transfer and side guards – essential if you like to carry stuff in your pockets.
Steering is done by tilting a drive handle in the direction you want to turn – it is really simple. It’s on the same handle as the brake and can be specified on either left or right. The bolts to disengage can be specified with hoops to pull up and disengage, too, so easier if you lack the dexterity in your hands.
On the road
A silly question to ask at first glance – then we realised that some people like to go out on cycle tracks. Good news for those people, as the Mountain Trike makes light work of the terrain that can often be challenging, such as loose surfaces and soft ground.
It’s not the fastest wheelchair in the world – the gearing meant our top speed was around 2.5-3mph under own power although I’ve been assured by Mountain Trike that others can reach 5-6mph. There isn’t anywhere for power assist either, so you’ll be powering yourself or adding the optional push handle for use by a human behind you.
Talking of behind you, going backwards is something to do on careful consideration because you’ll need to disengage the drive handles first and roll backwards pulling on the spokes. Before you ask if I’m serious – it’s in the “how to drive” guide. The brakes also take some learning as, because they are disc brakes, the braking can be sensitive and sudden application can lead to use of the front anti-tip wheels (and a cardiac arrest).
You can wheel this one handed though – so if you like walking the dog or need to hold a child on a lead, you can do this whilst maintaining direction. I really liked this fact and was upset I couldn’t find a child on a lead to test it on.
Off the road
I tried to take the Mountain Trike up gentle slopes and being brutally honest found it harder work than I anticipated. This isn’t surprising considering I have a neuro-muscular condition. You need to be reasonably fit to use this off road though – the gearing on this particular version is set at a middle ground of on-road and up hills. The disc brakes were essential when trying to “climb” a slope, as not applying the brakes will mean that you’ll start to roll backwards due to the chain drive.
Because of my condition, I did ask someone with upper body strength to give the Mountain Trike a try uphill – they struggled too, so its certainly something that takes practise. Mountain Trike also assure me that they can change the gearing to get the right balance for the user, which is great.
Anything too steep will need a helping hand from behind – because it’ll be a challenge. Coming downhill, you’ll need to take it carefully, applying the brakes sensitively to ensure you move without losing control.
Transporting the Mountain Trike
Lets start with weight – there’s a lot of it, the mountain trike weighs 20kg. It’s less than a Boma but more than a Triride and Helium, for example.
The rear wheel can be folded under the Mountain Trike to enable it to fit into a smaller boot, although we kept the whole thing assembled when we transported it in the boot of the Alhambra. One neat thing is that there is a Velcro strap underneath to hold the rear wheel up and out the way. Although its big, its dimensions offer good lifting points, as well as brakes that work well if picking it up by the wheels.
The backrest does fold down to allow the whole wheelchair to fit into a space. Because the seat bucket is 20 degrees, that fold impact is quite limited and as a result, you’d still need a large-ish car to transport it.
It might sound like the Mountain Trike didn’t impress. This is partly because, you must acknowledge, I have a neuro-muscular condition. If you have great upper body strength, you might actually love this. It was just me. I’ve taken that into account for the score.
The bits I didn’t love was the lack of reverse without having to disengage everything, the fact that the gearing was not able to either go faster than walking pace nor manage to get up the side of anything other than a mild hill. The brakes took a lot of practise – the anti-tips saved my face from becoming one with the ground on several occasions. The brakes on our review mountain trike needed some maintenance evidently, because they were rubbing on the discs all weekend and wailed like a banshee.
The biggest positive about considering the Mountain Trike is that Mountain Trike will let you hire before you buy and then remove the hire charge from the price of £4,495. A 5 day hire is £175 plus £80 transport costs. The fact that they encourage you to try it before you commit to it shows their recognition that the Trike isn’t for everyone – a great piece of business ethics. I’d stress that the 5 day trial is a must – you’ll know if its for you then and I recognise that for some people, the mountain trike is perfect.
(Hire transport is carried out by DPD Local who were brilliant at helping get the large box in and out – Mountain Trike have chosen their delivery partners well.)
I’m sure there are people out there that love their mountain trike. I truly am sad that I’m not going to be one of them. But for me, the small details that needed to add up, didn’t. You need that upper body core strength to use it as it is and then you’ll still have to get used to reversing as well as making sure you have the right gearing.
That’s why it’s got 5 out of 10.
You can buy or hire the Mountain Trike from their website.