- One of the most affordable recumbent tadpole trikes I've tested, you do have to pay an additional $350 for shipping but it comes "ready to ride" so you can hop right on
- The 48 volt battery supports increased power and higher speeds for the 500 watt internally geared hub motor, this thing can reach ~26 mph or you can set the speed much lower using the display
- Solid rack with pannier blockers and two bottle cage bosses on the seat frame for fluids, locks or a mini-pump, independent mechanical disc brakes from Tektro with electronic sensors and a parking brake
- The trike is rear heavy with both the battery and motor positioned at the back but the battery is removable for charging or lightening the load, it's also not a proprietary battery so you can upgrade or replace it more easily
In my experience there are two main kinds of three wheeled bicycles. The ones with a single wheel up front called a tricycle or delta trike and the ones with two wheels up front called a tadpole or tad for short. The Sun Seeker Eco Tad SX is the latter type which tends to steer tighter and position riders closer to the ground. As a recumbent trike, it offers a lower seating position which improves aerodynamic efficiency and for some a more relaxing ride. Getting on and off involves a bit of maneuvering, I usually back up towards the seat and reach down to either side using the front wheels as hand positions for stabilization… but once you’re seated, the bike is very stable. It’s a bicycle that only comes in one frame size but offers lots of adjustability for your leg length and seating (the canvas chair slides forward and back with adjustable struts for a more upright or reclined body position). Perhaps this is all known to you but as the most affordable entry-level electric trike I’ve covered I thought it would be nice to do a quick refresh and overview. What you get with the Sun Seeker Eco-Tad is a purpose built recumbent tadpole trike professionally converted to be electric by Electric Bike Technologies, sold through ElectricTrike.com. It’s a complete offering, shipping fully assembled and ready to ride. They will even customize some of it for you by request but the service doesn’t come free at $350 (for the contiguous USA). You get a trigger throttle, pedal assist, seven gears and a solid warranty here. If you’ve considered other trikes like the Eco Delta but want a sportier feel, higher top speed and more powerful motor without breaking the bank… this would be a good option to consider.
The motor offered with this trike is a 500 watt nominal internally geared hub mounted in the rear wheel. This is really the best place to put a motor because weight is shifted towards the rear as you’re propelled forward. Also, in this case the battery pack is mounted above and much of the rider’s body weight is also positioned towards the rear. You get excellent traction and the simplicity of a geared hub which tends to offer great torque while minimizing weight and no cogging drag. The motor freewheels meaning you’ll coast further and have a slightly easier time pedaling without any power assistance (in case you run out of battery or just want the exercise). One thing you don’t get is a quick release wheel or absolute silence when riding. Perhaps you can hear the motor whining a bit in the video review above. In my experience it’s more apparent to the rider than surrounding pedestrians… I commented several times on how quiet the bike was given its size and power. You can hit 26 miles per hour with this thing and that’s unique. Technically the bike is a speed pedelec but you can manually adjust the top speed using the feature rich display panel. This is a neat feature for riders who want to take it easy and maximize range. I had a blast with the trigger throttle but noticed that it didn’t work in level zero and seemed limited by the power level chosen. That means there’s a bit of extra screwing around pressing buttons sometimes and the button pad itself isn’t super easy to reach (being positioned behind the trigger throttle and right brake lever clamp).
Powering the motor and big bright display panel is a 48 volt 10 amp hour battery pack. This thing is well protected in an Aluminum shell, easy to access but fairly secure in the rear rack and convenient to slide on and off (for reduced weight or independent charging). I was told by the Electric Bike Technologies folks that the battery pack is not proprietary and I noticed that their connectors looked more standard, similar to a computer power plug. This means you can upgrade or get a replacement without spending as much money later on and without worrying about whether the company stays in business. I like that and was impressed to hear that they also spent extra time and energy programming custom battery curves into their controller to match each battery pack on offer. You get a much more accurate power indicator as a result of this and shouldn’t have that “oh crap” moment out on the trail when the battery goes from half to nearly empty on the display. This used to be a big deal with some kits, especially those with just a few LED lights indicating charge level. The whole setup here is professional and easy to work with… but it’s not perfect. The battery pack requires that you leave the key inserted and turned to “on” in order to operate the bike. That may not sound like an issue, and it’s really not so bad, but it can become annoying if you’ve got the key connected to a keychain rattling along the way. Consider a small carabiner clip or carry the key on its own. The other slight inconvenience is that the key must be completely removed in order to slide the pack off the back of the bike rack mount. If you don’t take the key out it will collide with the left side of the rack and could even get bent. I show this in the video and again… not a huge deal but it does represent one more opportunity to misplace the key. At the back of the pack is a flip out handle and underneath is the charging port. I wish it had a built-in LED light for safety, and I’d love to see a similar integrated light up front because recumbents just aren’t as visible as upright bicycles, especially at night. Perhaps an LED tail-whip flag pole add-on could be worth considering as an after market purchase? I like the 3 Amp charger, which is made from a similar Aluminum box design, because it’s durable and faster than average. This is the kind of thing you could toss into a trunk bag or panniers and always take along to extend the ride. Again, the rear rack is very solid with extra support arms and nice pannier blockers on either side. It’s not as capable as it could be if the battery were mounted separately but it’s good for what it is.
Operating the bike is a two step process with the battery charging, mounting and key insertion covered earlier followed by a control pad button press. The M button activates the display and from there you’ve got several power options and supporting stat readouts. The display itself is a monochrome LCD with lots of space to show battery level, power, odometer etc. and it’s right up in your face… at least if you look slightly to the left. Electric Bike Technologies did their best to mount this thing in a convenient spot. It’s a really beautiful display and holding the up button on the button pad will activate backlighting. I love that you can turn this completely off to avoid distraction during night rides. Following from before, you can enter the display settings to adjust top speed, current, units and several other options. This is the kind of customization that is often foregone on mainstream ebikes. Given the more sporty nature of this e-trike, I like that you get more control over how it works… The display can be swiveled to reduce glare but is otherwise not removable and that’s my one big complaint. I guess I’d be okay with a slightly smaller display if it could be removed and I’d love some sort of USB charging port for my phone but that’s just not part of the deal here. Overall, the battery works well with the display and the motor and you get a mostly durable setup. I can’t comment on how strong the display actually is and being a recumbent, it probably stays out of the way and won’t be left at bike racks all crammed together but I might carry an opaque bag or sock just to avoid unwanted attention and weather damage. It just looks so good :)
At the end of the day, this is still a converted trike. It’s not as polished or perfectly executed as the $5,000+ models I’ve ridden but in some ways it gives you more… More speed, a more open battery interface and even more options for how the bike works. This is one of the few recumbent electric trikes that lets you purposefully limit speed and power. It’s definitely one of the cheapest options but that doesn’t mean it’s not sturdy or lacking on the support side. Yes, you pay extra for shipping… you have to unless you live near Pennsylvania and can drive to their headquarters. But this is an electric bike that’s designed and assembled in America by a team with a long track record of selling kits then doing a few custom ebike projects. I admire them and love that they actually sell the electric drive system separately so you can convert your own SunSeeker trike (if you already have one). I’m more of a delta trike kind of guy because my neck has some injuries and the way-back seating position just isn’t comfortable. But it’s hard to deny the quick steering and sports-car feel of this and other tadpole trikes. There’s not fancy suspension but the canvas seat takes the edge off. The tires are average (not especially high quality or thick) but they’re all the same size so you can upgrade all at once. I like the mechanical disc brakes and thought the independent braking was cool since it can help you turn or even slide a bit and drift. It’s a neat product that would work well as a stable utility hauler during the week and a sporty racer on the weekends. Big thanks to Electric Bike Technologies for partnering with me for this review.
- You get power on demand with a trigger throttle but the trike can also be setup for pedal assist, Electric Bike Technologies uses 12 magnet sensors which tend to be more responsive, it’s not a torque sensor so there’s a feeling of on/off but you don’t have to push hard in order to activate it
- I was surprised to find out that the trike can be set at higher than 20 mph and used as a speed pedelec… it can also be set to lower than 20 mph for those who want to conserve power or ride in areas where high speed is not allowed
- You can turn on backlighting for the display panel for use at night by holding the up arrow… or turn it off to reduce distraction, I like that it’s not just automatic based on the surrounding light
- This is one of the more affordable electric recumbent trikes I’ve seen and tested, it is more of a conversion rather than purpose built but it works well and offers a lot of flexibility and options (in terms of speed and how you activate power)
- This trike can fit a range of body trikes thanks to its adjustable boom (which the pedals connect to) and the sliding and tilting seat
- As a tadpole trike, your body is positioned lower and steering feels very quick and nimble, it’s a bit sportier than the delta style trikes but can be trickier to mount
- I absolutely love the cargo rack and two bottle cage mounting points on the seat frame, this gives you options for bringing along the battery charger, some extra water, a lock, mini pump and other cargo like groceries or supplies
- The rack has pannier blockers on both sides and a mount at the back for adding a little license plate or light, I’d probably add some after market rechargeable LED lights on the front and back
- The Promax mechanical disc brakes offer solid stopping power and work independently so you can actually brake in such a way that it helps you turn more sharply, the Promax calipers can be adjusted by hand without tools on the go using a little red plastic finger circle adjust thing
- The rear wheel uses heavy duty 12 gauge spokes with brass eyelets to reduce rim issues like cracking, there’s also a sturdy torque arm attached to the axle which spreads force through the frame and not just the dropout
- Both brake levers have motor inhibitor switches so you won’t be trying to stop while the motor is still running… I also like the built in parking brake on the left brake lever
- Unless you live on the East Coast of the US and are willing to drive and pick this thing up, shipping will add another $350 to the price… though it does come fully assembled and ready to ride which is nice
- I love how large the display is, it’s easy to see and understand, but I wish it was removable… you can swivel it to reduce glare but I’d be careful leaving it at a bike rack and maybe even cover it with a sock or something to reduce scratches
- Being a converted ebike, there are more wires tacked on and the cadence sensor is a bit more exposed. I also felt that the drivetrain was lower quality because SunRace is an in house brand vs. Shimano or SRAM that I’ve heard of and used frequently, it all still worked well enough
- Tadpole trikes like this are flippable, you can roll it if you’re turning on uneven terrain but overall it’s very stable when mounting and at rest
- At ~72 lbs this isn’t the lightest ebike but it’s not terrible for a recumbent (given the extra wheel and larger frame), this trike is very rear heavy and while the battery is removable for transport or charging you still might need a little trailer to carry the bike around with your car (Harbor Freight sells affordable trailers like this)
- In order to operate this e-trike you have to leave the key in the battery slot (which could jingle and snag if you’ve got it on a keychain, consider using little carabiners to make this key easy to separate from your main set), you also have to remove the key in order to slide the pack off because otherwise it will collide with the rack arms
- At least for the test unit I reviewed, the trigger throttle and button pad were both on the same side (near the right grip) this made it a bit of a reach to get to the buttons and change power levels but I liked how easy the throttle was to use
- The 48 volt battery and 500 nominal wattage motor are designed to be quick and powerful, you can still dial it down if you want but the bike is capable of sportier riding, because it’s a geared motor there’s no drag from cogging