If you want to move a couple of kids around on an electric bike then there's a few ways to do that, but not many as interesting as this Butchers & Bicycles trike. It's unlike anything you’ve ever ridden before and it's a high-quality bit of kit, but it's not without its issues and it's a pretty steep learning curve to get the hang of how it handles. If it works for you, though, it's a thrilling ride.
Because you can't lean a trike into a corner, they're usually a lot less stable in a turn at even normal riding speeds. The Butchers & Bicycles approach to rectifiying this is to allow the whole trike to tilt. The bike uses a wishbone linkage system; the tilt is limited so you won't fall off it at slow speed. A second linkage joins up the two front wheels to a standard handlebar setup. You get a Tektro hydraulic disc brake on each wheel.
The ABS box at the front has seating for two kids, and a three-point harness for each. You can also fit an Isofix child seat if you have a young child. There's no clambering in; there's a full-height door (with a child lock) at the front for easy access.
Assist-wise you get a 250W Bosch Performance Line motor and 400Wh battery. The transmission is an oil-free Gates Carbon belt drive, and at the back you get Nuvinci's constantly-variable N360 hub which offers infinite adjustment over a 360% ratio range. The Intuvia display on our bike was linked up not only to the motor but to a Supernova lighting system, which two E3 lights at the front and one at the back. That's an optional extra over the €5,395 (£4,900) base price (excluding delivery). It's not cheap...
You get a city-friendly build, with Schwalbe Big Ben tyres, alloy mudguards and a full-width kickstand. A chainguard would be nice, even with the belt, but that's not specced as standard. You do get a bungee cord phone holder though, and a cup holder.
It's a big machine, this. You'll need level-access storage or somewhere safe to keep it outside. It won't fit in most cars. Although it did fit in mine. Just.
Let’s get one thing straight - this is unlike anything you’ve ever ridden before. The combination of three wheels plus tilting makes for a whole new experience, and it takes some getting used to. Throw in 40kg of children/shopping on even a gentle side slope and things get interesting very quickly. When riding down a street with a significant crown the need to counter-steer and lean simultaneously was very obvious. I was caught out twice on country lanes and ended up in the Cow Parsley (luckily) due to the combination of road slope, child weight, steering and speed catching me unawares.
At low or no speed the tilting mechanism means the trike wants to lean one way or the other, so you must be ready with the stand - fortunately it’s accessible with either foot, but you need to be able to pull the weight back and up to engage it. Starting off requires a firm idea of where you’re going and the ability to react quickly to the trike’s desire to change direction based on its centre of gravity - having just one child sitting on one side or the other affected the steering markedly. The tension of the tilting mechanism can be adjusted via two large locknuts under each side, and fine-tuning this made a marked difference to handling; don’t assume it should feel the way it does on your first ride.
Due to the wide-opening door children were easily able to climb in/out, but you must have the stand down first. The door can’t be locked shut, and during the trial period the small perspex doorstop broke off meaning the door rattled thereafter as it had nothing to brace against when closed. This seems to be a design fault as it’s not replaceable, and I’d like to see Butchers and Bikes come up with a more robust solution.
Speed has a huge impact on the turning circle. More than once I overcooked a corner and found the trike just did not want to change direction, requiring hauling on the brakes to effect a turn. Even with a laden cargo bike you can just lean in more to effect a tighter turn at speed, but that’s not how the trike works, because there's a limit to how far the mechanism will let you lean.
The Tektro hydraulic brakes worked well on the front, but on the rear might as well have not been there, given the amount of stopping force it afforded. This is inherent to the front-heavy design, so you really need to get used to front braking. The balance of the split front brakes felt fine, under cornering or load. They came set up Euro-style (front brake on the left) so UK/US purchasers might want that swapped over. The handlebars can be adjusted up and down with a quick release lever which is handy for riders of different statures.
The Bosch eBike system worked brilliantly, responding pretty much instantly to pedal input and with only a low whirring noise. I got 30 reasonably hilly kilometers out of a charge with some left over; the display was intuitive, and accurate regarding remaining range. The carbon belt drive really could do with a chainguard as I twice managed to get my jeans caught in it; because of the tension it’s under there's no way it’s lifting up to release anything trapped.
The Nuvinci infinitely-variable hub was okay, but I didn’t see any real benefit over a standard multi-gear setup such as a Nexus or Alfine. The twist gear selector was rather stiff and in the wet became pretty hard to get a grip on, but that may have just been this bike’s cables. The rear light was a real disappointment - with such a massive battery onboard I’d have hoped for something if not quite retina-melting, at least as bright as a half-decent small LED one. But no: the provided light is feeble and low-down. You really do want something a bit more powerful fitted.
Other accessory-related let-downs included no built-in AXA-type wheel lock, or even mounting points for one. This meant carrying a separate chain and padlock on every trip, as leaving over four grand’s worth of trike outside the shops unattended doesn’t feel great. Butchers & Bicycles have missed a trick not including a steering or wheel lock. If you are adding a rear rack for panniers or a third child seat there’s only one set of mounting holes, so the mudguard needs to share. On a bike of this cost/quality you’d expect separate mounts.
The zipped rain cover worked well, but did pool quite a few litres of water. There’s a small tab in the centre of the cover for pulling upward to shed this water, and I suppose you could attach a bungee cord to the handlebars to stop pooling in the first place. The cover rolls back and is held open by an elastic cord, and you can access the lockable valuables/battery compartment by popping a couple of buttons open. Speaking of which, on the compartment lid there’s a coffee cup/key holder and more bungys to hold mobiles of other small items. This worked well in practice, and you can get a fair bit of stuff inside too: locks/chains, jackets, drinks, etc.
I ride about 4000 miles a year and have owned a number of large Dutch bikes including my current love, a 30kg Workcycles FR8 with front child seat, so count myself smarter than your average bear regarding bike handling. I’ll say this: You really need to live with the Butchers Trike for a weekend, carting about loads on different slopes/surfaces, to understand if it’s going to work for you. My wife is a very competent daily school-run mum with our son on the FR8, but she was terrified of the trike. On the other hand, once up and moving and with the Bosch power on demand, I found it a pretty thrilling ride.
Overall the concept of a tilting trike is sound, if you try it and understand the handling under load. And Butchers & Bicycles need to work through the highlighted niggles above to deliver a premium product ready for hassle-free day-in-day-out urban use.
- Bosch Performance Line eBike system with 400Wh Battery, Intuvia display and shifter.
- Powder coated, hardened light weight aluminium frame - 7005 T6
- Super tough and durable box (ABS, outer dim. 90 x 60 x 60 cm)
- Easy access transparent front door (PC) with child-safe lock
- Integrated Isofix mount for standard infant car seats with Isofix interface
- Lockable glove box with integrated cup holder
- Quick release height adjustment for saddle and handlebar
- Parking stand, operated from the driver’s position
- NuVinci® N360™ hubgear - Smooth, seamless shifting - 360% ratio range.
- Tektro Hydraulic disc brakes on 3 wheels
- Schwalbe Big Ben (Rear: 26 x 2,15 , front: 20 x 2.15)
- Strong double wall aluminium rims
- Alu-core black mudguards on all wheels
- A4 grade stainless steel nuts and bolts