Bike Review: Catrike ECat Trail
Like a tadpole out of water
CATRIKE ECAT TRAIL
For 21 years, Paolo Camasmie, a Brazilian mechanical engineer, has been fulfilling his dream of designing, engineering and manufacturing his three-wheeled Catrike. The American-made frames are built and assembled at his factory in Florida, and it was two years ago that Paolo had the idea to add a pedal-assist version.
A trike is quite a different animal than a two-wheeled bicycle, and it isn’t just an extra wheel but the entire experience itself that differs greatly. From the rider position to the controls and everything in between, get ready for a ride like you’ve never had before.
The eCat Trail falls under Catrike’s category of “tadpoles” (a trike with two wheels in the front and one in the back) and has an adjustable aluminum frame to which they’ve added a Bosch motor. What’s remarkable about the Trail is that it has a telescoping boom that easily moves the motor/pedals forward and back to fit almost anyone’s leg length. The mechanism is fascinating, and it involves two quick-release skewers that hold it in place and a cantilevering chain tensioner that keeps slack out of the chain rather brilliantly, so you don’t have to alter the chain length.
The boom itself is labeled with an index, so if you have to adjust it for different people or different tasks, or fold it up, you can repeatedly get it to the same length.
The frame also folds down to make it compact enough to fit into the back of a vehicle, because it might be hard to find a bike rack to fit the less common wheel setup of a trike. The way it folds is a miracle of engineering, especially with the unusually long chain that this kind of trike has.
The front wheels just barely fit through a standard commercial building door, which is 34 inches wide. The frame is available in a pretty massive array of colors, and their paint job is as clean as we’ve seen on any bike.
The seat is nicely padded, especially good for longer rides, and the back is adjustable via a quick-release adjuster on the back. The seat back folds down when you fold up the bike.
The SRAM GX 1×10 drivetrain is operated from a single thumb lever atop the right grip. The motor control is on the left grip, as is the rear-view mirror. When you’re sitting really low, it’s nice to see if there’s a car or roadie bearing down on you. Grips are spongy foam and very comfortable, and there are also padded wrist rests for added comfort.
“Not dissimilar from riding a go-kart, everything feels like it’s coming at you at a faster speed when you’re so low to the ground.”
The brakes are Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes with locking levers. The locking levers are great when you’re parked on any surface that isn’t 100 percent level. You need good modulation to slow down quickly and not overdo it as to not bring the back wheel up. You won’t likely go over the bars on hard braking, as the motor and boom would stop you. Hard braking on just one side will slightly steer you to that direction, but Catrike has done well with the steering and front-end design to keep that to a minimum.
Catrike went with a Bosch Active Line Plus motor, so it will get you up to 20 mph (Class 1). It provides up to 50 N/m of torque, which means 40 percent more support in Eco, 100 percent in Tour, 180 percent in Sport and up to 270 percent in Turbo. The internal gearing is nylon, so it’s very quiet.
The battery is a 400-Wh Bosch Powerpack, the same kind mounted on the top of the downtube on most Bosch-powered bikes with external batteries. It’s mounted behind the seat on the drive side of the bike. Bosch does make a 500-Wh battery in the same size and form factor, and if you put in a lot of miles, you might consider upgrading to that or buying one as a spare. You’ll be taking the battery off to charge it. We were disappointed to find that there’s no way to charge the battery on the bike.
The Bosch Purion display is an all-in-one that shows your battery life, speed, power mode, trip meter, total distance and approximate range on the monochrome LCD, and the mode change buttons and on/off switch are included on the display. It’s on the top of the left grip for easy access.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
An e-tadpole trike is a good choice for those who either have trouble riding a two-wheeled bike due to physical limitations or simply those who want to see the world go by from a different view—a thrilling and fun view!
Talk about a lowrider, the Catrike sits just about 9 inches off the ground at the lowest point. The controls are very well-placed, but when climbing aboard, you have to be mindful of the reflector mounted atop the motor at the front of the boom. This reflector will certainly help you be seen as you ride, but it seems like it might be an easy thing to break off. Mounting a front-facing headlight/DRL on this bike would likely be possible within that mount for the reflector, as it’s the metal part of the boom that the Bosch motor is mounted to.
The long chain is so well-handled that it makes very little noise. Kudos to the engineer that made this system work so well with both boom-length adjustments and the folding aspect of the bike, all keeping the chain well-tensioned and protected.
The bike does take off easily, and gear changes are made using the one single lever mounted atop the right grip. It’s very intuitive; you click forward for higher gears and backward for lower gears.
As you would assume, the low position imparts a completely different feeling of speed. Not dissimilar from riding a G-kart, everything feels like it’s coming at you at a faster speed when you’re so low to the ground. It glides around; it’s more direct, so you don’t counter-steer to go into a corner. It also responds to the most subtle inputs, which makes it a really lively ride. Hard cornering (at speed) can make the inside wheel come off the ground somewhat easily.
The included flag definitely helps on visibility, but we’ve seen tadpole riders with bigger (not necessarily taller) and brighter flags that increase visibility even more. That would definitely be an investment we’d make if we had one of these.
The eCat Trail is truly a well-built, fun trike to ride. It’s easy to get going, highly adjustable, foldable and riotously fun to ride. We like that there are a variety of beautiful colors available. If you need a way to get out and pedal and you can’t ride a two-wheeled bike, or you like a lower riding position, or you just want a different type of ride, this one is definitely worth a test ride.
CATRIKE ECAT TRAIL
Motor: Bosch Active Line Plus
Battery: Bosch PowerPack 400Wh
Controls: Bosch Purion
Charge time: 3–5 hours
Top speed: 20 mph
Range: 20-35 miles
Rear derailleur: SRAM GX 10-speed
Brakes: Avid BB7 hydraulic disc brakes with locking levers
Tires: 406 Schwalbe Marathon Racer
Weight: 55.8 lbs
Color choices: Liquid Black, Lava Red, Atomic Orange, Firefly Yellow, Eon Green, Electric Blue, Candy Purple or Moon Rock Silver
Sizes: One size (adjustable to fit)