2012 HP Velotechnik Gekko fx Review
Picture a bicycle in your mind. What do you see? A road racer with low, hooked handle bars? An upright Dutch-style bike? A full suspension, knobby tired mountain bike? A brightly painted beach cruiser?
Now picture a folding bicycle. What does it look like? Tiny wheels? Long seat post? Someone on it looks like a circus bear riding a bike?
Picture a tricycle in your mind. Is it small? Painted in a primary color? Streamers on the handlebars?
Let’s take these preconceived notions and throw them out the window and see something fresh. That is exactly what HP Velotechnik’s Gekko fx does. What is it? It is a recumbent tricycle (affectionately known as a “trike”) that folds!
Well, there are several reasons for a folding recumbent trike. Recumbent human powered vehicles (HPVs) offer several advantages over their upright (known as diamond frame or DF) counterparts. Many recumbent riders I have spoken to cite making the move from diamond frame to recumbent bikes due to injury, discomfort and something “new.” Recumbents allow their operators to sit on a full seat as opposed to a traditional bicycle saddle. This positioning allows for less neck, shoulder, wrist, back and pelvic strain. Trikes offer the advantage of a third wheel for stability when stopped or on loose/low traction surfaces. I myself made the switch from a diamond frame to a recumbent due to a shoulder injury which rendered my road bike unusable despite a custom stem. I also chose a trike over a two wheeled recumbent due to year-round use, regardless of what nature throws my way.
Hp Velotechnik is a German company that prizes engineering solutions that address human ergonomics as well as mechanical excellence with superb fit and finish. HP Velotechnik has experience in the recumbent two wheeled market and made their foray into the recumbent trike market a few years ago and has created trikes that set the standard on many fronts.
I had been looking at several different models of recumbent trikes and took a few test rides. I knew I wanted something with a wide gear range, the same size tires all around to minimize logistics with spares, aluminum frame for all weather use and it had to fold for airline travel. After evaluating several different models that fold and after some test riding, I chose the Gekko fx due to the features it offered as well as the ability to upgrade later on. The Gekko fx review that follows shows some of the pluses and minuses of this particular model; you can custom configure a Gekko fx directly from HP Velotechnik, but the Gekko fx review that follows is the bone-stock, off-the-shelf trim.
Sitting on the Gekko fx is akin to riding it: like a beach chair. The seat back is adjustable for recline (32 degrees to 42 degrees) and the entire seat is made of a black mesh adjustable for tension/firmness as well as depth. These are all adjusted by tightening or loosening locked straps, similar to compression straps on a rucksack or pannier. Adjustment for leg length (knows as “X seam”) is accomplished by loosening two bolts, sliding the boom tube towards or away from the rider and tightening the two bolts. The Gekko fx rides on three 20” wheels with presta valves. I make this note because a standard 20” BMX/trailer tube typically has a Schrader valve which will not work with the Gekko’s rims.
Stopping duties are performed by Avid BB5/7 disc brakes (depending on trim level). The perches used for the brakes on the Gekko fx feature a “parking brake” feature. Squeeze the brake lever, push a spring loaded pin through the perch and the brakes are locked. In order to unlock the brakes, a quick squeeze of the lever releases the tension on the pin and the brakes unlock. The Gekko fx comes standard with a triple crank set up front and 8 cogs in the rear with SRAM components including the SRAM Grip Shifters. Due to the shoulder injury I sustained, I had the Grip Shifters swapped out for Dura Ace bar end shifters and a Shimano Deore rear derailleur. Future upgrades may include a SRAM DualDrive to gain an additional three gearing ranges.
What’s it like to ride? Well, one word: Fun! Riding a recumbent trike is incredibly different than a diamond frame bike, yet very intuitive. Pedaling uses some different muscles than a diamond frame bike, notably anterior hip muscles. It took me a few rides to acclimate to this but it was not hard by any stretch of the imagination. Since each brake lever activates a brake on that side’s corresponding wheel, braking requires a little learning. Squeeze the right brake only, the trike steers towards the right. Same for the left. Coordination is key, but this comes in useful for avoiding obstacles in the road. Here too is something to think about. Since the trike is not a single-track vehicle, you now have three separate contact patches to protect. Like a car, you can straddle an obstacle but you now have your third wheel in the middle. Hills require patience, as recumbent trikes are not known for their climbing prowess, but proper gearing selection, consistent cadence, and patience make the effort worth it. Downhills are what I imagine a bobsled operator to feel like. It’s nice to sit and look around you while you ride rather than just focus on the pavement in front of you. I have found cars give me an extremely wide berth since it is incredibly unique looking and it makes it easier to “take a lane” than on a two wheeled bike. Expect a lot of questions when you are stopped and people convinced it is some sort of wheelchair. Note: The Gekko fx has a flag pole holder on the seat frame accessible by the grommet on the top of the seat back. However, European safety flag pole diameters are smaller than the American standard; you’ll have to grind down any US spec pole from companies such as Terra Trike, etc).
I have found the Gekko fx has afforded me a lot of utility. I added the Gekko fx rear rack for carrying capacity and use it as my daily ride to and from work (12.5-20.2 miles depending on route). Eventually I may add a Streamer fairing for the cold and wet months ahead.
There has to be a downside, right? Well, despite the fact it folds (HP Velotechnik claim 10 seconds, with practice I have it down to about 50 seconds) it still takes up a lot of room due to width. The folding mechanism allows the rear swingarm to fold under the front half of the trike, but the width remains the same. It is also un-nerving at first to have your head level with a car’s fender, but it hasn’t bothered me so much since cars give me ample space when they pass me. The Gekko fx is also heavy. Claimed weight is around 36lbs, and wide (just under 33”), so you have to pick it up and carry it sideways when going through doorways.
The downsides are worth it to me. I am able to ride year-round (I am looking forward to the snow this year!) and I am still able to ride despite a condition that precluded a lot of bikes for me, all the while taking in more of the scenery around me.
For further information and a dealer list, please visit www.hpvelotechnik.com
– Alex (Dos)
I appreciate the review
Thanks for an honest review. More info on the riding characteristics would have been a nice touch.