Seating layouts in a Trike come in four different forms. Single seat, middle. Tandem seats, middle. Side by side seats and One Front Middle, Two Rear. Other than those configurations, the only thing you can do is to move the position of the seats forward or backward depending on whether the trike is a delta (one wheel forward and two rear) or Tadpole (Two wheels forward and one wheel rear). Is one configuation better than the others? Which one is right for your trike?
The Best Seating Position For A Trike
When we take a look at all the cars in the world, the pinnacle of cars are the pure race cars used in F1 and Indycar. These race cars are doing 300kmh and the driver needs to be "part of the car”. In both cases these cars put the driver in the middle rather than on a left or right side. This gives the driver the best position to view exactly where the car is at all times on both the left and right side of the car. This works exactly the same for trike seating.
The next advantage to middle seating is that the car itself can be more narrow. Narrow means less wind resistance and that means faster with less power.
I also like the narrow style as I will be building my trike to tilt into corners. I will discuss tilting the trike in another blog but suffice to say that a longer, narrow frame is easier to tilt than a fatter, short one.
Single Seat Trike
This is by far the best configuration in my view as it lets you set the car up perfectly for vision and balance. BUT there is no room for a passenger and we all know that every now and then, having that extra seat (even a Plus Seat like the back of the 911 Porsche) is really convenient.
Once you have a family it is going to happen that you need to drop one of the kids off somewhere and it would be annoying if you have to take the family sedan each time and drive back in a boring car when you could be racing (legally and safely) home on your own.
That said though, a single seat is great when you want to blast off on the weekend and roar up over the mountains to have a coffee with some friends and then power back home for that Sunday morning drive. Also, there are a host of Motorcycle Communication Devices that let you talk with up to 15 other drivers/riders at a time. This is fantastic for that weekend jaunt with your friends who own motorcycles or other single seat cars as you can all stay in touch and chat on the way up to coffee.
Tandem Seats Trike
I love this seating layout. One front and one rear so the cabin is not very wide but you still have ample room to be comfortable. This (as with the single seat option) gives you the best dashboard layout and allows you to build a trike with a cockpit similar to an aeroplane. I know with mine it will be a full wraparound dash in a solid curve enclosing me in the instruments and accessories I need, positioning them all at the perfect distance for me to use at will.
This size of cockpit is very nice as well. Everything is at hands reach while not being over crowded. There is plenty of legroom for the driver and for the passenger there are two options. In my Trike I think I will go for the passengers legs to fit either side of my seat, similar to Terracraft's idea. This shortens the length of the car by around one to one and a half feet.
Of course you can just make the car longer as lengthening the car helps provide better stability (as long as you don’t go too long) and that means the passenger can have a full space just for them. It is totally up to you.
The biggest disadvantage for the Tandem setup is that the driver has to talk back over their shoulder to the passenger which can feel a little disconnected. The balance to this is that the cockpit is smaller than a traditional car space and being smaller means that you won’t need to raise your voice much to be heard clearly. Also when I drive, I make a concerted effort NOT to look at my passenger while driving, as my eyes should be on the road at all times.
Side By Side Seating For A Trike
This is the traditional seating that you will be used to in a normal car. Speaking to your passenger is natural and if you need to glance across at them you can easily. What I don’t like about this layout for the trike is that a Tadpole trike (reverse trike) gets more narrow towards the rear single wheel. This means that a lot of the trikes I have seen have the seats very tightly fitted in the narrowing end.
Of course the main advantage to seating outboard (left or right side) depending on your country is that when it comes to overtaking someone you don’t have to take the car very far onto the other side of the road to see what's coming. Where as with a middle seating position you will need to run the car a little further out onto the other side of the road to see what is ahead.
Now I am a larger (fatter) than normal man. I would like to be comfortable when I drive and the thought of being shoehorned into a seat with my wife rubbing arms with me (actually that doesn’t sound too bad at all) but if it was a friend, that would not be nice. Of course this can be overcome by designing the trike to have more width where the seats will be and that is not a particularly hard task to do.
The reverse trike likes her weight up towards the front axle. One way some manufacturers are achieving this is by placing the engine over the axle or even in front of the front axle. This keeps a lot of weight forward and allows your passenger's weight to be further back. Or you can reverse that and put your two seats forward near the axle and place the engine behind the seats. Either way can work and has been done multiple times before.
Personally I want my trike to be as close to a fighter jet as I can make it. I want to scream into a corner and feel the whole trike tilt over so the G-force shoves my bum more firmly into the seat. A lot of the driving I will be doing will be on my own or with friends in their own cars and we will use motorbike communication gear to talk across the vehicles. I do want the ability to take a passenger on short trips so it doesn’t have to be lounge chair quality as I don’t see this car being used for traversing the country. Just short one to two hour coffee shop hops.
So for me, it’s a tandem set up with the passenger comfortable but not luxurious.
What do you think? Tell me in the comments below.