- A highly adjustable, comfort-oriented, electric trike with recumbent body position and 4-inch wide knobby fat tires, only one size and color but the seat boom extends back and the stem telescopes up
- Smaller 20-inch diameter wheels bring the frame closer to the ground for stability and easier mounting, they provide a mechanical advantage to the front hub motor and tend to be very sturdy
- Wide supportive saddle with sturdy adjustable back-rest, basic ergonomic grips, steel fender keeps you dry but can be easily kicked when turning, alloy chain cover pairs with plastic chainring guide to keep pants and skirts clean
- No parking brake system, the battery can be tricky to reach if you purchase the optional basket, mechanical disc brakes require a bit more hand strength than hydraulic (especially since the cables are longer), 24-speed drivetrain might be overkill and just add weight and complexity, heavy build at ~86 pounds
As I understand it, Trivel is a Canadian bicycle company that has been producing trikes and recumbent cicycles for the past 25 years or so. That would put their start date around 1992-1993 based on the time of this review (mid-2018). Their official website is inspiring and heart warming because it talks about how the bikes are “tailored to kids of all ages to bring them joy and happiness” and it says they “always make sure a child has the right special needs tricycle to help improve their physical capabilities so they can reach their social and cognitive potential”. The thing is, the Trivel E-Fat Azteca doesn’t strike me as a kids product, and it doesn’t seem to be customizable beyond the seat and handlebar position (both extend a bit). This electric bike only comes in one frame size and one color, likely to keep the price down, but they do sell a non-fat-tire electric trike called the E-Azteca if you want to spend a little less, get a smaller motor, and maybe sacrifice some comfort and off-road potential. My hypothesis is that the company still makes custom trikes for kids but found success with a few standard adult models that it now offers with electric drive, to make them easier to pedal. The Azteca e-trikes are very unique because they offer a relaxed ergonomic body position. Many other trikes I’ve seen are upright, built around a shorter wheelbase, and very few come with a fat tire option. I interviewed a woman named Karen during the part of the video review above, and she explained that this was one of the only electric assist recumbent fat trikes she had been able to find anywhere. To her delight, it was being sold through a physical shop near her home in Denver Colorado, so she could visit for a test ride, get help with fitting, and actually have it delivered to her home! That’s a big win, but it does raise the price a bit compared to a direct-sales product. What you get from the Trivel E-Fat Azteca is an approachable, stable, and powerful electric bike platform that can take on dirt paths, gravel, grass, and even some softer terrain like sand and snow if you lower the tire pressure to 5 to 7 PSI. People who have limited balance, knee or hip pain, and the desire to carry some supplies around will really appreciate the way this bike is setup. They sell a larger basket that attaches above the battery pack in the rear, and it would be perfect for hardware supplies or groceries. A few of components are what I would consider entry-level, but there are plenty of gears to pedal with, decent mechanical disc brakes to help you stop, and a front fender and chain guard to keep you relatively clean.
Driving this e-bike is a powerful 500 watt nominally rated fat-tire specific hub motor, built into the front wheel. Thicker 12 gauge spokes were used to handle the added weight and forces of such a large motor, but the smaller 20-inch wheel diameter actually provides a lot of strength on it’s own, and it empowers the motor to turn more easily. I found that the front wheel would actually spin when starting in higher levels of assist, even on grass, because most of the frame and passenger weight is positioned over the two rear wheels. This is a common phenomenon with e-trikes and something that happened A LOT with the non-fat tire E-Azteca. You can reduce slipping, and premature tire wear by extension, by starting off in the lower levels of assist or easing into the twist throttle. I found that the twist throttle actually starts off more smoothly than pedal assist, even if you turned it all the way to full power. Perhaps future iterations of this bike will dial back on the pedal assist to match the throttle performance and reduce slipping. The motor itself performed well and I like how its black casing matches the spokes and rims. It bolts onto the steel fork and two little torque arms to spread force into the frame without bending or stressing the dropouts. Steel forks tend to be more sturdy than aluminum alloy, and they can also provide some vibration dampening qualities to the ride. Both the fork and front fender as steel, and that means that they could rust if scratched, so keep an eye out and consider using some automobile touch-up paint if there is some damage. On the left side of the motor, there’s a power cable running out through the axle, and this can be vulnerable to snags and kicks when maneuvering the bike, riding through dense underbrush, or parking at a crowded bike rack. Keep an eye on the cable and be generally aware of how the shifter cables, brake cables, and other power cables are stretched when you turn the bike sharply or fold the handlebar down. Also, be very careful to support the handlebar when unlocking the fold latch because it could easily drop down and punch a finger or slap and chip the top tube of the main frame.
Powering the motor and large backlit display panel is an average sized 48 volt 10.4 amp hour Lithium-ion battery pack. This pack is interchangeable between the E-Fat Azteca and standard E-Azteca, so you could buy a pair of bikes and loan batteries back and forth for longer rides. I love that you get a faster-than-average 3-amp charger with these trikes, and that it isn’t too large or heavy. I would always take this charger along with me on adventure rides, or anytime where my plans might change. The trike weighs ~86 pounds and is possible to pedal, but not nearly as much fun without assist. Unlike many other trikes, you can get excellent leg extension here and reduce thigh chaffing because of the recumbent pedaling position. The 24 gear combinations are great, allowing for easy climbing and comfortable high-speed riding, but I feel that it’s almost overkill. They could have gone with a simpler, lighter, 1×10 speed drivetrain and only used a single derailleur. This would have kept the chain tighter and reduced handlebar clutter. It would make the bike easier to service, and you would get a similar pedal range, just fewer increments between each gear. Very few electric bikes offer 2x or 3x drivetrains these days because you just don’t need the extra steps when you have a motor to help you out. So anyway, the battery combines well with the wider gearing to give you many options, and is acceptable on an off-road trail trike like this… even if you don’t actually ride off road very often ;) I do like the size and design of the battery pack, it’s easy to remove from the frame and can be stored and charged separately, which is a huge deal for such a huge ebike. I’d probably store this trike in a garage or shed, maybe outside if I didn’t have space. However, the battery will last longer if you keep it in a cool, dry location and always maintain at least 20% for long periods of disuse (try to stay well above 20% and below 80% for best results). The battery slides onto the frame, is positioned low for improved balance, and doesn’t take up space in the rear basket like some other designs… but it definitely becomes harder to reach if you add the $50 basket accessory.
Operating the control systems on this electric bike is very intuitive. You charge and mount the battery, then press the little rubberized grey power button on the button pad near the left grip. This button pad is fairly easy to reach, and has a set key to change views, as well as a plus and minus key to raise and lower assist. The LCD display unit boots up very quickly and lists all of the most important stats for riding, such as current speed, level of assist, and battery charge level. I really appreciate that the trike starts in level zero, because neither the pedal assist or twist throttle are active at this point. Given the power on offer, it’s nice to know that you won’t accidentally bump the bike when you’re simply trying to get seated. I do feel that the five-bar battery infographic leaves something to be desired in terms of range estimate. I see a lot of cheaper displays like this with 20% increments, and it can contribute to range anxiety. The display itself is not removable, and could take sun and water damage, as well as scratches at the rack and when folding more easily as a result. It could also be tampered with if you leave the battery on the bike. Someone could walk over, press the power button, click the plus key once to get into assist level 1 and then use the throttle. You can angle the display a bit, to reduce glare, and it is backlit, just tap the power button once on to activate and de-activate the light for nighttime use, but there aren’t any headlights, taillights, or USB charging ports on this electric bike. It’s pretty standard, and basically just gets the job done. I do really like how the throttle can override assist, because this allows for smoother starts and gives you a way to relax your legs on occasion. Always be careful to pick your legs up when throttling the bike and keep them up until you are completely stopped. It’s possible to catch your foot under the pedal and sort of ride over your own leg on tricycles in some situations if you don’t have stronger muscles and are caught off guard. I want to call out that the Trivel electric trikes use sealed 12-magnet cadence sensors that are more responsive than average and that both brake levers have motor inhibitors built in to cut power instantly. This is very important given the size and weight of the product. With 160 mm mechanical disc brakes, you may have to use more hand effort than hydraulic, but they are easier to adjust for most owners. This is one area that would be a wonderful upgrade to see in the future, large 180 mm hydraulic disc brakes would be a dream because the longer brake line to the rear brake wouldn’t suffer from as much friction and the brake levers could be adjusted in for smaller hands or riders with gloves.
At the end of the day, $3.9k is a lot to spend for an electric bike… but this is one of the only products that offers a recumbent seating position, fat tires, and is sold through shops. Remember, it’s coming from Canada and the company usually specializes in custom builds. Hopefully that means you’ll get excellent support and replacement parts will be easy to come by. The basket accessory is very handy, and I appreciate that Trivel went with rubber-coated steel mesh so little items wouldn’t rattle around as much or fall out as easily. The trike feels stable, but does not come with parking brake pins on the brake levers, so it could roll away and probably tip over if you don’t chalk the wheels or put a cable or lock through the front wheel. Most trikes are stable when going straight but can start to tip onto two wheels when turning, even at slower speeds. The longer wheelbase and lower passenger position here keep it pretty stable, but that might make you less visible to cars. Consider adding light and a flag… or a lighted flag ;) you may also want to purchase a lightweight trailer to move the bike, and definitely take off the 7-pound battery before trying to lift it. Wheel maintenance definitely requires tools, there are no quick release systems here, but I love that they managed to add a bottle cabe mounting point along the top of the stem. If you put a folding lock here, it would stay out of the way, and water bottles would be fairly reachable. This is important since the saddle has a back rest and you probably cannot wear a backpack comfortably (unless you wore it facing forward). In conclusion, my friend Karen said she liked this trike because of how adjustable and stable it was, she said that she would use it to visit the local hardware store, go grocery shopping, and ride on paths for recreation. The motor would help her get up hills, deal with wind, and simply go further. When you pedal this thing, the right rear wheel turns, and if you’re using assist, the front wheel also turns, so it’s like a two-wheel drive ebike in that sense. Note however, that only the right rear wheel turns and brakes, the left wheel spins freely at all times so that it can turn easily and have a less complicated drivetrain. I want to thank Best Electric Bikes USA in Denver for letting me interview their customer and ride one of their bikes for this review. Big thanks to Trivel for partnering with me on this post, and I welcome your feedback and questions below as well as in the Trivel Forums, where you can post pictures of your trikes and what accessories work best (or how to best add them, like the flag). Ride safe!
- The fat 20″ x 4″ tires provide some cushion and comfort if you’re riding on bumpy pavement, packed dirt trails, or grass and can even handle a bit of sand and snow if you lower the tire pressure down between 5 to 7 PSI
- The front fender keeps water and mud flecks out of your face and doesn’t bounce around or rattle much as some other simpler designs because it has support struts on the back side
- Adding a bit more water and grease protection is an alloy chain cover and plastic chainring guard, they won’t rust if scratched and should minimize pant and skirt contact with the chain when pedaling
- This is one of the few recumbent fat tire electric trikes that I have ever seen! It’s easy to approach, offers a long adjustable boom for the seat position, telescoping stem for handlebar reach, reduces knee and hip pain for some riders, and is all-terrain capable
- I love that they included bottle cage bosses on the front of the stem (the tube leading up to the handlebar) and that this stem can fold down to make the bike more compact when storing or transporting
- The battery pack is removable, so you can reduce weight when transporting or working on the E-Fat Azteca or simply charge the pack off of the bike since it’s probably more difficult to get it inside close to an outlet given the weight and length
- Minor praise here, the 3×8 28-speed drivetrain offers a wide range of pedal options for climbing or going fast, but it’s almost too much, I think a 1×10 drivetrain would be lighter, simpler, and similarly effective if it had an 11-42 tooth cassette range vs. 14-28 here
- Comfortable oversized saddle with sturdy, adjustable, supporting back rest, this thing is custom welded from the looks of it, backrests are great for people with limited mobility or heavier builds
- Trivel has been around for “25 years” which I’m guessing would mean ~1993 and they produce lots of custom trikes and bicycles for people with special needs, the Azteca platform was one of the most popular so they teamed up with Velec (another Canadian company) to make a more standardized line of e-trikes, I love that they sell through dealers and offer a one-year comprehensive warranty
- Smaller 20-inch wheels tend to be extra sturdy, easier to turn for hub motors, and they bring the bike frame, and optional basket, down towards the ground for stability, easier mounting, and easier loading
- Nice paint job with matching fork, front fender, chain cover, and all-black hubs, spokes, and rims, I feel that the bike is fairly gender neutral and appreciate the extra reflectors to help stay safe
- Great compact and sealed cadence sensor mounted to the left side of the crank spindle, it offers higher resolution for faster starts and stops and you can always override by braking because both brake levers have motor inhibitors built-in
- It looks like the electrical wires up front use metal threaded connector points with rubber washers to be extra durable (compared to press-fit plastic connectors), the wires and cables were pretty well organized considering there are so many extras (motor inhibitors, two shifters up front, brake lines, display, throttle)
- When you turn the trike on, it starts in level zero assist, which means that pedal assist and the throttle are inactive, this is a good safety measure
- The front fork and fender are a bit vulnerable because they are made from steel and could begin to rust if scratched, I noticed that the toes of my shoes could come close to the fender when turning hard and pedaling, if you do get scratches, consider using black automobile touch up paint like this
- The optional wire-mesh basket looks good, doesn’t rattle around much (I tested it on the non-fat Azteca) and has a rubberized paint to minimize scratches and rust, but it covers the battery pack – making it much more difficult to reach and remove
- The front wheel spins out very regularly because the motor ramps up so quickly, the smaller wheel diameter is easier for it to spin, and most of the bike and passenger weight (especially if you fill the cargo basket) is positioned towards the back of the bike, use the throttle gently to ramp up speed and then transition to pedal assist for best results
- It would be nice if the bike came with integrated LED lights or some reflective stickers and paint because it sits lower to the ground and is currently all black, consider adding your own aftermarket rechargeable lights like this for the back and this for the front to stay visible
- Minor consideration here, be careful with the motor power cable that exits the left side of the front axle, this wire sticks out a bit and could get snagged or kicked when riding off-road or parking in tight spaces
- I was a bit surprised to discover that there are not parking brake features on this trike, you wouldn’t want it to accidentally start rolling away! Many competing products have brake levers with locking pins to stay secure when parked… consider running a cable or u-lock through the front wheel to stop the bike whenever you park
- Weighing in at ~86 lbs, this is definitely a heavier electric bike, the extra weight and added drag of the knobby fat tires will probably limit your range, so keep an eye on the battery level indicator and consider taking the charger with you at all times so you don’t have to struggle pedaling it back home
- The Trivel E-Fat Azteca model doesn’t have fenders for the rear tires and the tires don’t have reflective sidewall stripes, it’s a minor complaint and I see why they probably couldn’t fit fenders and realize that the fat tires are mostly designed for off-road use and usually do not come with reflective paint, consider mounting a safety flag to stay more visible
- As is often the case for tricycle style bikes with multi-speed cassettes, the derailleur hangs down a bit and could make contact with rocks and other trail obstacles, the chain is also very long and may bounce around… but appeared to be rust proof, which is nice
- When releasing the stem and folding down the handlebar, be VERY careful not to let it swing down and bang into the top tube or pinch your fingers, it basically just releases and then gravity pulls it down very quickly which surprised me
- Minor complaint, the display is not removable (so be careful when folding the handlebar) and there’s no USB charging port built into the battery or display/control system so you can’t tap into it for lights or your phone or GPS
- Pretty basic rubber grips that aren’t locking and cheap plastic pedals that aren’t as wide or stiff as you might want if you have larger feet or actually ride off-road, consider these grips and these pedals as affordable alternatives
- Official Site: http://trivel.com/tricycles-electriques/?lang=en#Azteca
- More Pictures: https://photos.app.goo.gl/pkVfuYZ7zLsgI2Y82