Random Wheelbase Thoughts

I was recently fantasizing about my next trike (bought my used Rover in mid June with the idea of adding a tandem section and riding with the wife... then she decided she wanted her own trike, so current thinking is convert Rover to electric assist for her, and get another trike (probably foldable) for me) when I noticed a 10" variance between Catrike models (36" for the Villager and 46" for the 700), and half that (5") between TerraTrike models (40" for the Rover and 45" for the Rambler). This got me wondering about advantages and disadvantages for shorter and longer wheelbases.

The advantages that jump out at me for shorter wheelbase include: lighter, tighter turning, easier to transport & store, and maybe faster.

The only advantage that jumps out at for having a longer wheelbase - and it's a big one - a smoother more comfortable ride.

Can anyone add advantages for a short wheelbase (swb) or longer wheelbases (lwb) to this discussion? 

Which is more aerodynamic? Which more stable? Would a shorter wheelbase make hill climbing any easier? any other thoughts?


  • It's hard to say because are a bunch of other factors aside from wheelbase contributing to aerodynamics, stability, and comfort. The wheelbase won't have an affect on hill climbing because that's down to gearing, weight, and engine power.

    The big difference you see in the Catrike models are down to two things. A larger rear wheel will touch the ground farther back than a smaller one, and the 700 in particular has a very extreme recline. I suspect the Rover/Rambler difference is sue to the new crossmember design on the Rambler.

    As for stability, the track width is far more important. Technically a longer wheelbase would decrease stability, but the difference needed to be noticeable is pretty big.

    Turn radius is mostly affected by the steering design. In theory a shorter wheelbase on an otherwise identical trike might allow a smaller turning radius. But only to a point, and only if the steering wheel angle was already somewhat limited.

    A shorter wheelbase trike is likely to be shorter overall, and thus possibly easier to store. You should still verify overall length however, especially if comparing different brands.

    - PaulNM

  • I'm going to say a short wheelbase is more reactivate leading to handling one would call sorta sensitive.
    My Zoomer has a 36" wheelbase and it will turn extremely quick. it has a 26" rear.
  • I think with a shorter wheel base you would have a better chance of doing a "stoppie". I've done it on my Rover when I split the tandem to ride alone a couple times. Kinda freaks ya out when the rear wheel comes off the ground.
  • Would adding a disk brake to the rear wheel prevent the rear wheel lifting? And does anyone know why trikes don't come with brakes front & rear? Any of you have experience with adding a rear brake? 
  • The higher the seat is and how far forward it's positioned will create a C.G. that contributes to rear wheel lift during hard braking.
  • I guess I don't ride fast enough and my weight is high enough that I have never had the back wheel come off the ground.  I have 24" wheels.

    That's a great argument for holding your speed down on trikes.  Personally, I don't think high speeds are safe on 2-wheeler either.  If you want to go above 20 mph, buy a motorcycle!
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