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Why We Won’t Be Buying The Gekko fx Folding Trike

September 13th, 2011 23 comments


We spent last week testing the Gekko fx, the “nimble foldable touring trike”, if you believe the manufacturer’s hype.

Gekko fx

Why a trike? Because we could rent one for a reasonable price from Maia Ligfietspunt (curiosity is a pretty good reason) and because the idea of having a bike that doubles as a chair in the evening when camping really appealed to us!

Why the Gekko fx? We could have rented any number of other trikes (an IceTrike, for example, or a Kettwiesel) but since we live in a top-floor apartment and we often take trains with our bikes, a trike that folds quickly and can be stored compactly is obviously appealing. Apparently, you can fold the Gekko fx in just 10 seconds (more on that later).

Unfortunately, the Gekko fx didn’t live up to our expectations. If you don’t want to read any further, the short answer is that we won’t be buying one. You can skip ahead to our complaints, or keep reading to find out first what we DID like.

The Good:

1. Very comfortable - We instantly felt at ease in the seat and the positioning was natural. A quick release on the back of the seat makes adjusting the angle quick and painless.

2. No charge on the train (in the Netherlands) - Instead of the usual €6 bike fee, our trike was treated as a normal folding bike, even though it’s twice the folded size of a Brompton.

3. Amazing cornering - This trike handles beautifully. You can accelerate into corners with an ease and speed that we never feel on our normal touring bikes. Fun!

4. Surprisingly visible - Almost the first thing people do when they find out you’re riding a trike is warn you to be careful of cars but we found the Gekko fx was so different that every car driver was looking straight at us. We always easily made eye contact at intersections, and we didn’t feel vulnerable, despite being much lower to the ground than on a normal bike.

5. Adaptable to diversions and construction – We deliberately didn’t avoid things like construction areas and barriers while testing the trike but we were always able to work our way around obstacles without much trouble. We never had to get off the trike, just to go around something.

As you already know, however, not everything about our Gekko fx test was good. Here are the things we were less thrilled with.

The Mediocre:

1. It’s not THAT easy to fold - After some practice, Andrew could fold the Gekko fx in about 30 seconds. However, this required quite a bit of arm strength. Friedel’s time was longer and less elegant (maybe she would have improved with more practice). If you’re a reasonably strong guy, you’ll manage this just fine. If you can’t lift and flip 16kg of bicycle, you’ll struggle a bit more.

2. Awkward going up and down stairs - We hoped that a folded trike would be almost as portable as a folding bicycle but we found the Gekko fx awkward to lug up a set of stairs. Mostly, we did it together, so that neither one of us would throw our back out. It may fold, but it’s no Brompton. Our normal touring bikes weigh about the same as the trike (16kg) but we can carry our touring bikes up the stairs without any problems.

3. Only Small Bags Please – For the price (about €2,300), we ideally wanted this trike to be set up for at least light touring. That is to say that we wanted to put 2 large Ortlieb bags on the rack but even our small Ortlieb panniers were a tight squeeze on the derailleur side of the trike. To really tour with the Gekko fx, we’d have to fit a higher rack or buy special bags designed for recumbents, and that’s an extra expense on top of an already high retail price that we’re not sure we want to pay.

 

P1030329

And finally….

The Bad:

1. Difficult to Roll – When the trike is folded, there are some small wheels that theoretically allow you to roll it a short distance, such as along a train platform. We didn’t find this easy at all. The trike nipped at our heels and was unstable even going over a small bump in the surface. Going from one end of a platform to another is not an experience we want to repeat, and if there’s no lift, you’re going to have to lug it up and down stairs (see our point above).

2. It fell apart! – This was the real clincher for us. Maybe we should put it higher up in the review, but in the tradition of saving the best (or the worst) for last, here’s our story of disaster. While riding down a small side street, the wheel began wobbling erratically and we lost all control of the trike. Mercifully, we were going slowly and no cars were around at the time. When we managed to stop, we spotted the problem immediately.

Gekko fx falls apart

The strut that connects the steering controls to the wheel is held together with a simple bolt, and that little bolt came loose. When it did, we lost control. Thank goodness we weren’t going down a hill or turning into traffic at the time! When we returned the trike, we found out that this had happened before and despite the owner’s best attempt to secure that bolt, it kept on coming loose.

Our personal opinion is that this is probably a design flaw – or at least a ‘feature’ of the design that would keep us from buying this particular trike. We prefer our steering to be put together more solidly, and not reliant on a single bolt. We know all too easily how those bolts can come loose, but on standard touring bikes the damage is normally limited to mudguards and luggage racks – not crucial operating parts.

So, Gekko fx, we’re sorry to say you’re not the trike for us. We’d still like to try more trikes but we’re looking for something more robust.

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23 Responses to “Why We Won’t Be Buying The Gekko fx Folding Trike”

  1. Thanks Friedel/Andrew for this review! Going beyond the hype is the purpose of any good review and you both did an excellent job. Pointing out this potentially fatal flaw with the steering system is eye openning, an evidence that money not always buys the best!

  2. Neil says:

    Something as critical as the steering should have been sorted at the design stage. There are several things that could be done, e.g. locking with a split pin as is done with wheel hubs on cars – and fortunately they very rarely fall off nowadays. This is not something that should really need to be ‘retro-fitted’, and for the price of this bike definately should have been included as standard.

  3. Kaitlyn says:

    if you are still interested in a folding trike, there is a few models from Greenspeed. They have a reputation for being built like a tank :)

  4. Doug says:

    The reviewer is a trike newbie, having first tried trikes a few days previously, and did not realize comparing bikes and trikes is like comparing footballs and baseballs – they are for different reasons and both are good.

    The steering came loose because the bike shop set it up wrong. They probably never heard of Locktite or self-locking nuts and washers. All indirect steering trikes I have seen use lock nuts without cotters and do not fail, including my trike. Amazingly, the front wheel of a bike will also fall off if it is not fastened properly.

    Single bolt? Yes, if you use two bolts it cannot pivot. Reviewer has the mechanical sense of a baboon.

    A bike rack fit for a 20″ wheel holds smaller panniers than for a 700cc wheel. Duh.

    A trike is heavier and costs more? Duh. There is more material, design complexity, and lower production. I have an inexpensive $1500 trike. I can’t wait until you price out a Scorpion fx and faint!

    Folding speed – Mmm, yes, I think the Scorpion site gives a more realistic 60 to 90 seconds.

    I would like to read your reviews of other trikes – they will be heavier than bikes and you will crawl up hills. All will be forgiven the first time you float over rough roads and unpaved trails in a suspended beach chair.

    Try it again. A recumbent trike is for comfort and stability; the trade off is price and portability.

  5. Tony says:

    The self locking nut should have been provided by the manufacturer. Obviously this is not a well thought out design.

  6. Doug says:

    I read “simple bolt” as “single bolt”, then insulted the reviewer. Insults are never correct. My apologies.

    The reviewers will find similar designs on most indirect steering, 2 and 3 wheeled. I think it was a setup flaw, not a design flaw. The mfg. may have shipped wrong parts. Looking forward to reviews of other extra-wheel bikes and longer touring. :)

    • friedel says:

      Hi Doug,

      Being called a ‘baboon’ wasn’t the highlight of my afternoon, but I appreciate the apology. Dissenting opinions are always welcome – just keep it respectful. That’s all we ask.

      Are we mechanical experts? No. That said, we’ve been around bikes a bit more than the average newbie, and although it’s true that our bike wheels could come loose and fall off, normally we don’t have to apply loctite or modify the design in anyway to ensure that this doesn’t happen. If our wheels do, for some reason, start to loosen, the problem is apparent before it becomes critical. At least that’s been our experience so far.

      Was it a setup problem? Possibly. I can’t give you a 100% guarantee that it wasn’t, however the bike shop owner (an experienced recumbent dealer with many years of experience) said he’d been in touch with the manufacturer about this problem but not received a satisfactory answer. We also emailed the manufacturer, to no avail.

      As for your other quibbles about our review (stating obvious points such as the weight and the point about the bags), well I guess to an experienced rider they are obvious. To trike newbies, they weren’t what we expected from a trike marketed as ‘nimble’ and set up for touring. We wanted to share our ‘newbie’ impressions with other potential trike riders, no matter how basic they seem to the experts.

      We did list quite a few good points as well :)

  7. HCardoso says:

    Hi
    Love your report. I own a KMX Cobra trike and made some long distances voyages and never had the problems you mentioned. I use just regular rear panniers and it performed very well.

  8. Trailhound says:

    Hi Guys:

    I really appreciated your thoughtful Gekko FX review. I found it extremely helpful as I grappled with pros and cons of buying a Gekko FX.

    Your “Good” section confirmed what I thought about the Gekko and your “Mediocre” comments did alert me to the fact that it’s not nearly as easy to fold as promo video indicates.

    Since I don’t envision myself carrying a Gekko up two flights of stairs — or even rolling it more than a few feet — those shortcomings didn’t seem all that bad for my situation.

    That leaves the Ortliebs and the steering strut.

    As for the Ortliebs, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to remove the Q1 locking bar and reinstall it couple of inches lower so that there’s ample clearance for the derailleur.

    Yes, you’d have to patch the screw holes left after moving the bar. Or, you could order a second locking bar (they’re about $12 from Ortlieb in the US) and mount it a few inches below the original bar. That’s what I plan to do. It also has the advantage that if any of the locking tabs break on either of your panniers, you have a set of spares ready to go!

    A taller rack, by the way, is not an option. Anything higher than HPV’s custom rack will block the seat from fully reclining.

    The steering strut failure is certainly worrisome. Many trikes struts attached with a single bolt — so I don’t think it’s a design error. However, those bolt are supposed to be secured 1) with a locking nut, and 2) with an application of blue locktight.

    My guess is that the dealer who assembled the Gekko you rented neglected to use locktight — and may even have failed to use the proper locking nut.

    As you may have guessed, I went ahead and bought a Gekko FX. I’ve only had a chance to ride it about 250 miles, but so far it’s been all good.

    I purchased the Gekko in Florida, and after a week of riding rail trails, I hauled it home to Connecticut in my Toyota Rav4. For that trip, I folded the Gekko. Not that it’s really that hard to fold — it takes me about a minute.

    But lifting the folded bike is awkward and puts a lot of strain on the compressed discs in my lower back — and avoiding spinal stress is one of the reason I’m riding a trike in the first place. It’s so much easier to lift the front wheels onto the lip of my cargo area and gently roll the trike into to car.

    As a result, I leave the trike unfolded most of the time — unless I’m doing a very long drive or absolutely need to have my second row of seats available. Still, when I need space, the ability to fold the Gekko into a 20″ x 32″ x 37″ inch package is incredibly convenient.

    Anyway, I thought your review was extremely fair and pointed out some important shortcomings that I needed consider.

    One final thought, if I were going to carry any folded trike up stairs–and I had an accomplice — I think I’d use a couple of Thule straps and suspend it from a broom handle. You’d have to tie the straps off well, so the whole thing doesn’t slide aft once you start up the stairs — but it means the weight could be carried on your shoulders.

    As for something more robust, I’d suggest looking at the Terra Trike Rover. That’s the trike my Gekko FX is replacing. The Rover is cheap, extremely flexible, will carry several hundred pounds of gear (a 400 lb weight limit) and is built like a tank. Unfortunately, it also cycles like a tank.

    Anyway before riding the Gekko in traffic, you can be sure I’ll be double checking those steering nuts.

    Best Regards
    TH

    • friedel says:

      Heaps of good feedback here – thanks for sharing! We hope you enjoy your trike. Since we wrote this review, we ended up buying a Brompton and find that much more ‘portable’ for getting on and off trains, trams etc… but the trike still has its temptations. We’ll have to try one again sometime.

    • Glen Aldridge says:

      TH are you getting rid of your Gekko? I would seriously re-think the Rover. I have owned a Terra trike Path & my experience with Utah Trikes as well as Terra trike were incredibly poor. I am sure some of Terra trikes products might be well made but I would never buy another one of their products due to problems & their dis-interest in solving them. If you really want a low cost, well built Trike I would have a look at Trident Spikes. At least the owner will go out of his way to make sure you are a satisfied customer. I am interested in The Gekko simply for Touring & can usually solve most problems on my own.

  9. Trailhound says:

    Hi Guys:

    Good choice!

    Frankly trikes have a ton of disadvantages for urbanites– heavy, wide, unwieldy, dangerously low for riding in traffic, incredibly difficult to transport, mechanically complex, etc. etc.

    Still, for folks like me with medical conditions that prevent us from riding a bike, the trike is a godsend. Two-wheel recumbents can work also, but there’s always the possibility of falling–which is practically zero on trike.

    As you discovered, the go-kart style handling of a responsive trike such as the gekko fx is also a lot of fun. A trike such as the Rover (which doesn’t fold) will carry a ton — or at least several hundred pounds of gear depending on the rider’s weight. But even the 8 speed model only averages about 7.5 mph — and that’s without expedition gear aboard.

    At the moment, I have my Rover indoors on a magnetic roller device that lets me use it to train on days like today when there’s snow on the trails and the temp is 16F — well below my toe tolerance. The gekko is in the cargo bay of my car awaiting a warmer day.

    Anyway, trike rentals are unheard of in the US. So, if you have a chance to rent other folding models like the ICE in Holland, you should give them a try just for the fun of it.

    Best,
    TH

  10. Glen Aldridge says:

    I was happy to find your experience with the Gekko as I had also seriously considered it last year for touring as well. I decided against it simply on cost as it would have been considerably more than the base price ready for touring. ($300. for fenders?)& other options necessary were also expensive. Instead I bought a Trident Stowaway 11 that I only needed to install better tires & a set of Panniers. While this is a folding trike it too is not exactly portable but the cost was much better than the Gekko & it seems a good quality unit. May I suggest the Azub Tricon as the ideal travelling Trike as it will break down into a manageable size or the forthcoming Evolve Trikes.
    http://www.gizmag.com/evolve-folding-recumbent-bike/20073/

  11. Mark says:

    Good review, as for the steering failure I would suggest that the bike was improperly assembled or being a rental perhaps it was tampered with by a previous renter. Someone may have disconnected the linkage in an attempt to make the folded trike fit somewhere it shouldn’t or some other such nonsence, people do strange things and aren’t always forthcoming when they mess up. I would also question the expertise of the dealer if he rented you a unit that had failed previously without being absolutely certain of its proper repair. All such supposition aside your review was very useful as to real world practicality of this trike… I am hopeful that Hp velo will read your words and make changes as needed, they seem like a fairly responsive company. It is interesting that I have heard of no other failures anywhere on the web.

  12. John (Doc) Warner says:

    The issue of the steering link-rod should never have happened.
    As some have mentioned already, locknuts are a ‘no-brainer’.
    They’re cheap and readily available, so there’s no excuse for not using them everywhere.
    They’re not everlasting however. If they’re used where regular removal is necessary, then they will eventually lose their locking ability.
    If you can do a locknut up by hand beyond the point where the bolt/screw threads protrude through the nut, bin it.

    Also, if possible, a rod-end should be positioned on top of the arm it’s connected to. Then, if the nut does detach, the rod-end won’t immediately detach from the arm, particularly if it’s a ‘snug’ fit in the arm.

    Finally, never underestimate the importance of giving any vehicle a quick ‘once-over’ visual check before use.
    A quick look and physical ‘wiggle’ of all critical parts (wheel axle nuts, brake components, steering linkages, etc) takes less than a minute, but could mean avoiding a bit of ‘gravel-rash’…or MUCH worse.

  13. trailhound says:

    Recently saw the odometer on my Gekko pass 1000 miles. I’ve had to make a few field repairs along the way — the ltension arm on the derailleur was torn off by some trail debris, and Ive had to rebuild the chain tube system — but basically Gekko has been a great ride for my puposes.

  14. John says:

    Come on guys I think you are being unfair. The failure would be the rental service’s fault. They probably forgot to tighten the bolt or replaced the self locking nut with a simple one. This is a great recumbent company with good and safe products. We all know about German engineering. I also do not believe that a few seconds more to fold the trike would make such a big difference. I have your book and read your advice for travelling that has helped a lot. I need all your tests to be true and well thought. Ask hp velotchknik for a test trike and try again. I am switching to trikes and I need good advice. Anyway we don’t you try one of AZUB’s trikes, they are beautiful machines for a fair price.
    And please erase that “why we will not be buying the Gekko trike” section of the site. To one that does not know you it sounds like you are upset because they did not give you a freebie.
    Cheers
    John
    PS No I am not a fan of HP VELOTECHNIK I am a fan of AZUB

    • friedel says:

      We actually did contact the manufacturer to try and clarify the source of the problem and didn’t have any response for a long time. Then they did get in touch some time after the review was published and said they’d look into it for us. We offered to update this review with their comments and thoughts about the problem but never heard back from them again so for us the source of the problem is not yet clear but the rental shop told us they felt it was a manufacturing problem. I guess we’ll never know for sure….

      We won’t be erasing this review. It’s how we honestly felt after trying the trike. If something happens to change our opinion, we’ll certainly update the review. It’s important to be honest on a site. We are not always going to love EVERYTHING we try and this was definitely not the right bike for us.

      • John Houvardas says:

        Dear Friedel
        I am sory I did not mean you should erase the whole test or your opinion about the trike. We expect you to write your honest and well thought of opinion about the bikes you test. The only part of it that I think is not appropriate is the heading. Think about it.

        Cheers

        John

  15. Eduard J. Belser says:

    I have replaced the small transportation wheels inside the seat by 75 mm inlineskater wheels outside the seat. I drive my HP Gekko fx with a Schlumpf HighSpeedDrive in front and a NuVinci N360 in the rear wheel. I was very happy with my HP Gekko fx

  16. Arnie says:

    Thank you so much for the review and those who made comments. I am a newbe and I am at the stage of doing my research. I am interested in a good performing folding trike. I am now on a Rans recumbent with a USA 1 hitch carrier. All comments and recommendations appreciated

  17. G-ekko says:

    Hi.

    I have to assume that the issue with the steering was an isolated case. Normally your dealer should have returned the trike to HPV in case of such critical things. The trike should never have been used after a damage like this. Reading the manual and contacting HPV prevents your experience.

    My own Gekko runs on rough trails and is treatened as a vehicle and not as art and there is nothing that worries me when driving fast downhill on small and bumpy tracks through the woods.

    I live in a small flat at the 3rd floor and i find it easy to carry my gekko up and down the stairs. It took me some practice but it works easy. Same for folding.

    Regards.

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