This file contains two reviews:
* The Rhoades Car
* The Sun Bicycle Company's EZ-3 recumbent tricycle
Rhoades National Corp
125 Rhoades Lane
Hendersonville TN 37075
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The Rhoades Car is a four-wheel pedal-cycle that drives like a car.
From their website you can submit a request for a very nice info package
which has good photos and prices for all models. 1, 2 and 4 seat models are
available with prices (in late 1998) from about $1000 to about $2000
I bought the one-seat model in September of 1998. Delivery was in 7
Rhoades Car is run by a libertarian (David Rhoades). When you are
deciding where to do business, remember that every dollar traded among
libertarians is a dollar denied a statist.
I have only one little complaint about the Rhoades Car: The brakes are
not the usual caliper-style bicycle brakes that pinch the wheel rim. They
are 5-inch diameter drums encircled by a one-inch wide compression band.
These brakes are EXTREMELY good at retarding forward motion, but because of
the way their leverage is applied they don't work well (hardly at all,
actually) at retarding backward motion. However, this deficiency can be
easily overcome if you order dual brakes and then reverse one brake band.
This is a very quick and simple operation and the result is exactly what I
expected: the reversed brake works just as well backward as the other one
works forward. Each brake is separately controlled by standard bicycle-type
grip levers on the handlebar, and each is so effective that one brake alone
will stop the car very well. It takes surprisingly little finger effort to
lock up the wheels. No matter how weak your hands may be, you will be able
to stop the Rhoades Car quite easily.
During the first few months that I was using my Rhoades Car two of the
freewheel bearings failed. Not until then did I realize that these come from
the factory with only a thin coat of light oil. I got a quart of 85 weight
gear oil and every couple months I tilt the car over on its sides and put a
few drops of this heavy oil into everything that rotates. I have had no
further troubles, in spite of the fact that I (a serious weightlifter for
many years) put some really heavy strains on the drive train from time to
time. (I would add that the Rhoades Car Company immediately replaced both
bearings at no charge to me. They DO honor their warranty.)
Aside from these little grumbles, I am delighted with my Rhoades Car!
This thing is a VERY well-constructed machine! The main frame is 2-inch
square tube. I stood on the middle of the frame and jumped up and down
(we're talking 195 lbs of meat here folks) while watching the wheels, axles
and the frame arms. The car did not complain at all. I drove one front wheel
up onto the curb and rocked it back and forth with no problems at all. This
thing is really rigid. The cargo rack is a one-inch square-tube framework
projecting out from the rear of the main frame. I found that putting 90 lbs
on the cargo rack will raise the front wheels off the ground, but it is
clear that 90 lbs is nowhere near the maximum load this rack will support.
With a simple box mounted on that rack, I can now carry several times the
weight and volume of cargo that my bicycle could hold.
By early 2008, after almost ten years of rather rough treatment up on the
wilderness pathways of the Wind River Mountains, I have not been able to
cause my RhoadesCar any significant damage. The thing seems to be
The bicycle I will compare my Rhoades Car with is an off-the-shelf, 18-
speed Schwinn mountain bike.
The first thing I experienced when I drove my Rhoades Car was the
complete elimination of three sources of discomfort that had always bothered
me on my bicycle: 1) I don't get a kink in my neck from having to hold my
head at an acute backwards angle. 2) The weight of my torso is no longer
resting on the palms of my hands (a real discomfort for me as a
weightlifter--a LOT of that 195 lbs of meat is around my shoulders). 3) My
pelvis is no longer being pummeled by a miniscule triangle of hard plastic.
Sitting on the Rhoades Car is just like sitting in an automobile. I paid
a bit extra to get the deluxe padded seat rather than the plain bare
plastic, and I'm really glad I did. It's just like a small-sized car seat
and is VERY comfortable.
Cranking the pedals from this seated position uses some different
muscles, but it sure provides an enormous increase in bodily comfort. And if
you do get a bit tuckered out, you can add some power to the pedals by
pushing on your knees with your hands.
When seated on the Rhoades Car, your fanny will be about 21 inches off
the ground. For me, this results in my eyes being 16 inches closer to the
ground than when I rode my bicycle. But although seated lower, I find that I
actually perceive MUCH more of what is around me while on the Rhoades Car.
Partly because my head is upright and I can rotate it easier, partly because
with four wheels under me instead of merely two I have no concern whatsoever
with having to maintain my balance. The only thing I lose is several inches
of altitude. What I gain is the ability to perceive between five and ten
times more of my surroundings.
I opted for the dual traction, whereby the drive power is transmitted
equally to both rear wheels. I expected to use this thing in the winter and
foresaw a need for that extra traction. Sure enough, I learned when winter
began that my Rhoades Car will go through 5 inches of heavy snow. It's a bit
of work to push two sets of 2-inch wide tires through that snow, but it does
go. I went out again the next day when the snow had partly melted, been
trafficked somewhat, and then partly re-frozen. I was faced with deep ruts
in the mushy snow, chunks of ice, slush, and puddles of half-frozen mud--
about the worst possible conditions for a bicycle--but the Rhoades Car went
right thru all this mess easier and faster than walking and MUCH moreso than
a bicycle. It has EXCELLENT traction. If you keep the speed to less than 5
miles per hour you will have no trouble with slosh being thrown off the 20-
inch front wheels.
On a bare and level highway the Rhoades Car requires somewhat more work
to go at the same speed as a bicycle (I find it to be about 20% slower), but
this is to be expected given that at 96 lbs it is three times the weight of
my bicycle. My Rhoades Car is VERY much easier than my bicycle at going up
hills! Not only is it geared lower, its sideways stability permits me to
move at as slow a speed as I wish without toppling over. The stability of
the Rhoades Car enables me to trade speed for leverage, making it quite
comfortable to go up steep mountain roads.
Another big difference from a bicycle is that the car's turning diameter
is 24 1/2 feet. (Gimme 40 acres and I'll turn this rig around!) But it takes
only a 30 lb lift to pick up the front end and swivel the car around
Here are the travel distances, in lowest and highest gear, per rotation
of the pedals:
18-speed Mountain bike 6'3" 23'7"
36-speed RhoadesCar 5' 19'4" (46-tooth front sprocket)
6-speed RhoadesCar 8'5" 17' (46-tooth front sprocket)
Nimble (see below) 5' 25'
Bicycling uses 5 times less energy than walking, and I would estimate
that the Rhoades Car uses several times less energy than bicycling. You
gotta keep a bike moving fast enough so as not to topple over, but this
necessity completely disappears with the four-wheel Rhoades Car. You can
move this thing forward literally inch by inch. Driving the RhoadsCar is not
exercise unless you make it so. It can be a VERY relaxing experience.
A bicycle also requires you to focus your attention on balancing. The
Rhoades Car frees your eyes and mind to focus on your environment. I can
study nature from my Rhoades Car in a detailed and comprehensive way that
was never possible to me on a bicycle.
This machine was a very good buy. It is well worth what I paid for it. I
just love it! The more I use it the more I like it. For general highway use,
for trundling around town on my weekly shopping trips, and for traveling up
into the mountain wilderness, it is just perfect! I find it to be better
than a bicycle because it is MUCH more comfortable to drive and it can carry
much more cargo much easier. The ease and comfort of the recumbent seating
are such that I have resolved never to return to an upright style bicycle.
As a result of the Rhoades Car's outstanding performance, even during the
Wyoming wintertime, I have completely retired my motorcar.
I would also mention that although I have been observed by many police
during this time, I have never been hassled.
* The Sun Bicycle Company's EZ-3 recumbent tricycle
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Sun, a distributor of bicycles and tricycles in Miami Florida, does not
sell retail - you must order from your local bike shop. I was astonished
when I placed an order Wednesday midday and then drove my trike out of the
shop on Friday afternoon. I guess they've got a helluva good distribution
system. Even out here in the boondocks of central Wyoming. The price was
$1300 in May, 2005.
I am delighted with this trike! It has the speed and agility of my
recumbent bicycle and also the stability of my RhoadesCar. I have named it
"Nimble" which suits it exactly! I had hoped to get a compromise between a
bicycle and a 4-wheeler, and I really got more than I expected.
Nimble has 3x9=27 gear shifts. The lowest and highest Travel Distances
are 5 feet and 25 feet. The inboard two inches of each handgrip is a
rotating cylinder. To shift gears, you twist this cylinder with your thumb
and forefinger from one ratchet-setting to another. This is MUCH easier and
more reliable than a "push-pull" lever shifter. And you don't have to take
your hands off the handlebar to shift.
The rear wheels are canted. This weird-looking design must work, because
I found it almost impossible to tip this thing over! Before it would tip I
had to ride on a sideslope so steep that I was sliding off the seat. I also
tried by making some swift, hard turns on a level surface. I couldn't tip it
there either, without driving in a manner that is WAY outside any sensible
The seat is infinitely adjustable along the top frame bar. My legs are
three feet long (or should I say "one leg long"?) but to my surprise, after
I got the seat adjusted properly there remained several inches of frame bar
to accomodate legs even longer than mine! (I am 6'2" tall)
One thing I have experienced about Nimble is that is hard to get off! I
don't mean that it is physically difficult to step over the frame and walk
away from the trike, I mean that it is psychologically difficult to halt,
even temporarily, the delightful enjoyment I feel while riding on it!
After a summer spent rambling all around the byways of my neighborhood
(including some off-road mountain trails) I am pleased to report that this
nifty machine performs just splendidly! I was a bit apprehensive that since
the pedal power is delivered to only one wheel (left rear), I might have
some difficulty in climbing hills. To my surprise, this did not happen at
all; I found the one-wheel traction to be quite adequate, even on rough,
gravely and hilly roads. Anyway, the trike weighs only 50lbs and it is very
easy to pick up the front wheel and haul the trike across any extremely
rough ground you may encounter.
December, 2005: The one-wheel traction does not work so well in the
wintertime. On roads covered with hard-packed snow I find it frequently
necessary to nudge the trike forward from a slippery spot by pushing with my
feet. The Rhoades Car's dual traction is MUCH better for going through snow
A List of Links to Recumbent Bicycles
Bikes, Trikes, and Velocars:
Battery-powered bicycles and scooters:
Online Shopping for bike parts and accessories:
The four major causes of urban car/bike collisions:
1) Left-turning car cutting off an oncoming bike.
2) Failure of motorist to stop at stop sign.
3) Failure of cyclist to stop at stop sign.
4) Cyclist riding against direction of traffic.
A cyclist is 8 times more likely to have a fatal accident at night than
Bicycling has become safer over the years: the death rate for bicycle
accidents has dropped by a factor of ten since the second world war.
At twenty miles an hour, 90% of bicycling effort goes to overcoming wind
resistance. A windshield can make a big difference.
Cars are stolen four times more often than are bicycles.
As of 2002, the average American car-owner spent $6000 per year on his
automobile, but he drove that car less than 25 miles per day.
I could remark on the price of gasoline, but you already know about that!
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