Windcheetah FAQ

Windcheetah (25k)

This page has been put together from personal experience, comments from others, and information from the manufacturers, The Seat of the Pants Company. I have no links with The Seat of the Pants company other than owning one of their Windcheetah recumbent trikes.

Note: some of this information is only correct for the older Windcheetah models with 17-inch Moulton-tyred front wheels. Newer 'cheetahs have 20-inch front wheels and some other small differences.

Visit the official Windcheetah website for the lastest information, pictures, press reviews, and an on-line order form!!


Contents of this page:


What does it look like?

Technical Details?

These details were taken from the Windcheetah brochure:

  • Overall dimensions: 1900mm length, 710mm width, 900mm height.
  • Other dimensions: 1000mm wheelbase, 635mm track, 200mm seat cushion height.
  • Weight: 15.8 kg (basic machine)
  • Frame: 6000 series aluminium, bonded into sandcast and heat-treated LM25 aluminium lugs with Loctite 638.
  • Seat: Carbon-kevlar bucket seat with removable foam seat cushion and head rest.
  • Front wheels: 17inch Moulton 36 hole alloy rims, stainless spokes, custom Sturmey-Archer drum-braked hubs. (Newer Wincheetahs have slightly larger front wheels)
  • Rear wheel: 26inch 36 hole alloy rim, stainless spokes, custom hub (zero offset).
  • Transmission: 8 speed rear block, triple chainring (Shimano/Middleburn).
  • Brakes: Twin Sturmey Archer drum brakes in the front wheels, "spoon" brake onto rear tyre as a parking brake. Single brake lever for both front brakes, gear lever on joystick (early models) or under the seat (later models) for the parking brake.
  • Colours: Yellow lugs with silver tubing, or British Racing Green lugs and bronze tubing.

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How fast is it?

Andy Wilkinson (a UK super-cyclist) has had his fully-faired Windcheetah up to 72 mph downhill! He plans to set a new world record of more than 50 miles in an hour for faired recumbents sometime in 1998...

My Speedy rides in a similar way to my tandem. It is faster on the flat and downhill, but slightly slower uphill. The Windcheetah also has incredible acceleration from a standing start, as you can push back hard on the seat.

I use my Windcheetah for commuting to work (4 miles each way, semi-urban), shopping, and touring at weekends. My average speed over all these rides used to hover around 13 mph on my touring bike. The 'cheetah has increased this to 15 mph.

Being a trike, the 'cheetah can also be ridden down to 0 mph. This is great at traffic lights, junctions, and for looking at the view on long climbs! I have also used mine as a deckchair while eating a picnic lunch.

I rode my Windcheetah with rear box fairing in the World Human Powered Vehicle Championships when they were held in Brighton in 2001. With a flying start I was timed officially at 31mph for the 200 metre sprint. That was without any particular preparation, and only moderate fitness.

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How does it steer?

The Windcheetah has relatively unusual joystick steering. The stick is twisted to steer, and is free to move to the left/right and front/rear without affecting the steering.

Once the trike is rolling the steering is very light. It is quite possible to steer with one hand, and even with just two fingers on smooth roads.

The steering is very quick, which makes it easy to manouvre in tight spaces. Unlike two-wheeled bikes you don't need to lean to start a turn, so an instant steer is possible. At speeds less than 20 mph the result is great fun, at higher speeds it gets positively exciting.

The steering geometry isn't fully optimised, and suffers from bump-steer to a certain extent. It does self-centre well however, and if you ignore the small sideways twitches you can ride quite fast downhill on rough roads. The small amount of bump-steer gives good feedback from the road surface, trikes like the Greenspeed and Trice which have no bump-steer have much less steering "feel".

I have lifted the inside wheel once or twice when cornering fast. This has only only happened at high speeds (> 20mph) around street-corner type bends, and never on the open road. It is surprising the first time it happens, but braking or steering slightly straighter quickly brings the wheel back down.

The turning circle of my Windcheetah (17 inch front wheels) is about 5m diameter on the ground, plus half a metre of pedal overhang. The maximum lock is restricted by the wheel rubbing against the side of the seat, so you could possibly turn a little tighter by moving or modifying the seat. Note that this is with the 17 inch wheels as supplied on older models. I understand current Windcheetahs have slightly larger wheels, which may reduce the maximum lock by a small amount.

I've never found the turning circle to be a problem. In confined spaces it is very easy to shunt backwards and forwards in the classic three-point-turn manoeuvre used by cars. You can move and steer simultaneously simply by grabbing the tops of the front wheels.

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What's it like on rough roads?

When riding on roughly surfaced roads you will feel the bumps. Your body can get thrown around a bit, but the seat mounting rubbers and the flexibility of the seat itself insulate you from most of the high-frequency vibration so you don't suffer from chattering teeth. The extra rolling resistance is noticeable on rough roads, and you need to steer three wheel tracks around any potholes. Because of these factors, two-wheeled bikes generally do better on very rough and potholed surfaces.

Speed humps can be fun, as it is quite easy to get all three wheels off the road. The combined effect of the fast steering and the offset rear wheel sometimes twitches the bike slightly sideways on take-off, but so far I have landed safely! You can minimise the effect by leaning a little to the left, to center your bodyweight over the rear wheel.

I managed to get a snake-bite puncture on the rear wheel by riding at 20 mph into a 1 inch deep 2 foot wide pothole. I guess most bikes with narrow tyres would have punctured. One advantage of the Windcheetah is that you can remove the tyres and inner tubes from all three wheels without having to remove the wheel first. If you've got a spare inner tube a puncture doesn't need to hold you up for long at all.

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Occasional odd handling

Once or twice I find myself thinking "what's happening?" as the 'cheetah departs from its usual running-along-rails handling. Some examples of causes are:

  • Wet cattle grids: The offset rear wheel seems to have a tendency to move towards a central track as you ride over a slippery wet cattlegrid. No problem at all, it just feels a bit odd the first time!
  • Back tyre puncture: As the back tyre goes flat the steering gets unstable at high speed. This happened to me with fully laden panniers on the back on a fast downhill. It sort of feels like the steering has developed a lot of slack suddenly, or if you're towing a caravan that's snaking. The problem is easily solved by slowing down and fixing the puncture.
  • Front tyre puncture: As one front tyre goes flat the steering gradually starts pulling towards the flat side. When the tyre is completely flat it needs quite a force to go in a straight line, not that you should go far like this. Because it happens gradually (usually) the effect is most wierd! Again the solution is to fix the puncture.
  • Snow and ice: Excellent fun, and guaranteed to bring a manic grin to your face, at the very least!

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What's it like in the wet?

Plus points:

  • Your back stays dry and warm in the bucket seat.
  • You are less affected by wind-chill as the wind hits most of your body surfaces at a shallow angle.
  • It's fun to get the wheels sliding on slippery roads!

Minus points:

  • Without mudguards all three wheels shower you with dirty water from wet roads, even if it's not raining. (Mudguards are now available as optional accessories).
  • You are at just the correct height to make the most of spray from motorised vehicle wheels.

Cycling glasses can be necessary to keep the spray out of your eyes in very windy weather, and a peaked cap is well worth having.

It's well worth drilling a few holes in the bottom of the seat if you anticipate riding or leaving the trike in the wet. Otherwise you end up with a shallow, but still effective, puddle!

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Clothing?

I wear close-fitting cycling kit to commute to work. There is a little space either side of the seat cushion for the bulging side pockets of my cycling jersey (keys, cash, wallet, handkerchief). Front pockets would tend to get in the way of my arms on the joystick. Any sweatiness is cured by a shower and change at each end of the journey.

Padded cycling shorts and gloves are not needed at all. I wear Gore Windstopper fleece gloves in the cold (less than 8 degrees centigrade), otherwise bare hands are fine.

It is very comfortable wearing ordinary clothes on the Windcheetah, but you will need trouser clips and you may find chain oil on your right trouser leg. Also the tyres can rub against your legs when turning on full lock. Beware that items such as keys, money and wallets will fall out of ordinary trouser pockets as you ride along...

I don't wear a helmet as it's difficult to fall off the trike and I'm going feet first into any danger anyway. Quite apart from the fact that, having examined the evidence in detail, I don't personally believe in bicycle helmets anyway (see my links page for more information!).

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Is it safe in traffic?

I have commuted to work and toured on the Windcheetah since September 1997. I have had fewer "near misses" during that time than I used to have on my upright bike. Others who ride recumbent trikes have exactly the same experience.

Traffic gives me noticeably more room when passing than when I am on my conventional touring bike. Initially I put this down to my unusual appearance, but the traffic on my regular commute still gives me lots of room. The bike looks very vulnerable, and I think this is why people treat me better - and this actually makes me safer!

Being low, the Windcheetah is less visible when very close to cars, but, believe me, it is very noticeable. Overtaking traffic can see me easily (so long as they are not driving dangerously close to the car in front), I just have to be careful when riding past stationary traffic. The number of people who have said "That bike of yours is very difficult to see!" after they have spotted me from some distance away is amazing. They never noticed me on my upright bike!

The acceleration from rest and the higher speeds of the Windcheetah probably also make it safer in traffic than my touring bike. Buffeting from side-winds and passing trucks is not a problem on the trike as I don't have to balance.

I don't use a flag because (a) a flag that is visible from behind would slow me down and (b) cars currently give me more room just so that they can keep me in sight.

In a year of commuting and other trips I have had about four worrying moments, compared with more than twenty in a year on my upright bike. The main differences are that on the upright I have to balance, and traffic comes past so much closer.

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What's it like to park?

The Wincheetah is designed to fit through a standard doorway, so mine is parked indoors at home.

You don't need to lean it against anything to park, and it has a hand brake to stop it rolling off down the hill! It does take up a little more ground area when parked than an upright bike, but I haven't had any major problems with this.

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How do I transport it around?

I ride mine everywhere! It's longer than a standard bike but shorter than a tandem. I haven't taken it on any UK trains yet and haven't tried any airlines. The wheels detach quite easily (one nylock nut each) as does the seat, but the basic frame is all one piece and quite long.

More recently I've carried the Windcheetah on the roof of a car with a pair of roofbars, with the wheels tied to the bars. That works quite well but the trike is exposed to the elements and with the seat fitted probably causes quite a lot of drag. Bob Dixon has been known to transport a couple of trikes on his car roof, nose to tail, without the seats.

George Winspur kindly sent in details of how he has made a custom mount to hold a Windcheetah inside his Peugeot Partner MPV. He removes the seat and rear wheel, and the trike goes in tail end first with the rear sprokets and back axle in between the front passenger seats. The frame is held between the rear seat mount and the back axle with a slighly-modified 1½-inch plastic pipe clip, mounted on the top edge of the folded-up rear passenger seats:

If anyone has any more experience of transporting a Windcheetah other than by riding it please could they e-mail me?

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How much does one cost?

The Windcheetah does seem to be very expensive, but there are plenty of other bikes around at similar prices. It's also a great deal cheaper than running a car!

Mine cost £2,820 for the basic machine in 1997. I also spent another £130 for Middleburn cranks, £95 for a rear pannier rack (essential for touring/commuting/shopping), £63 for a custom top-box, and £63 for brackets to take four water bottle cages.

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What about spare parts?

The Windcheetah uses Moulton 17 inch front wheels. My tyres are getting quite worn after 2,500 miles on the road. There are two different tyres available for these rims, both made by Wolber specifically for Moulton. The usual tyre costs £16 each, but if you like you can spend £69 each on the higher spec ones! Apparently they both wear out at the same rate, and the more expensive tyre is only sensible for track racing and record attempts. Because of the offset rear wheel the Windcheetah can take right-turn corners faster than left-turn corners. If you take all corners fast (without leaning out) you'll find the left tyre wears much quicker than the right! This effect can be eliminated by taking right-turns slower or by leaning out to take left-turns faster...

The sturmey archer drum brake shoes last for a very long time before they need replacing, and should be available from good bike shops. Water can find its way into the brake cables, so these should be oiled regularly to prevent rusting (or icing!) leading to reduced brake performance. Alternatively fit the hydraulic brake option for minimal maintenance.

The chainset and derailleurs are standard MTB equipment, obtainable from ordinary bike shops. The chain is very long, but should last well because the wear is low. Each link travels round less often per mile travelled than on a short chain, and the chain is reasonably out of the way of road dirt from the wheels.

Both the frame and seat seem very strong, and hopefully will never need replacing!

In daily use in all weathers the steering ball joints will eventually corrode and become loose. Luckily they are relatively cheap and easy to replace, just check the front wheel alignment afterwards.

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How does it compare with...?

I'm often asked how the Windcheetah compares with other trikes such as the Greenspeed trikes and the Trice. The simple answer is that most other trikes have much more stable handling, and feel less frisky. For the ultimate feel of speed the Windcheetah is the best I've ridden, but for many riders the more relaxed handling of other trikes is preferable. At a Trike Test weekend in the UK around 40 people rode a whole range of different trikes, and most agreed that the Windcheetah was the fastest up hills.

If you're looking for a sports/fast tourer the Windcheetah is the one to save up for. If you're looking for a very stable tourer think about a different trike. The Windcheetah requires more concentration and skill to fly well, but rewards a good pilot well. Having said that, I have toured with heavy panniers up to 80 miles per day with the Windcheetah with no problem - if anything, putting more weight on board makes it less frisky.

Where can I get more information?

If you'd like to ask me anything not covered above, you can e-mail me as AJCartmell@fonant.co.uk.

There is also a wealth of information on the official Wincheetah site maintained by the manufacturers Advanced Vehicle Design (previously known as The Seat of the Pants Company).

The International Human Powered Vehicle Association web site can be found at http://www.ihpva.org. The IHPVA also run several e-mail lists, the most relevant for Windcheetah owners is trikes@ihpva.org.

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