Hints and Tips for buying a second-hand Tomcat
(Fizz, Tiger, Roadhog or Tamara models)
With the advent of Covid-19, we noticed an increased demand for second- hand Tomcat Trikes. Typical offerings are trikes built up to ten years ago (for an average price of £1300 to £1400) that are now on offer for a typical £300 to £600 and occasionally far more – a great compliment to our much-loved invention that no other trike can command – but it would be a very costly mistake if you get it wrong. The second-hand market is very definitely a case of buyer beware!
That said, we are very aware of the second-hand market because new owners frequently ask us for help with repairs, service, upgrade or a change of specification. Unfortunately, though we are very happy to help with all those requirements, we often have the difficult job of telling a new owner that the trike they have purchased is not suitable for the rider because of its specification or physical size, with all the cost that implies.
Unfortunately, we cannot assist you in the purchase process itself, because of the confidentiality of our customers, however, we can give you the following guidance, hints and tips that will help you make the right choice and hopefully bag a bargain.
Tip No 1 – General Condition
• A well cared for Tomcat will often look and perform as good as new after many years of service, but a trike that has been left out in all winds and weathers may have hidden problems such as corroded cables seized clamp screws, locked wheels and worn transmission components, however, they are easy to spot. Avoid trikes where the universal, chrome-plated cycle components such as the bell, handlebars, stems, etc, (the standard cycle components), show any rust. Though these common components can be easily and cheaply replaced, rust does indicate that the trike has been neglected and may be hiding other problems. After many years of use, you can expect a few paint scratches and the deeper ones may even show signs of rust and this is not a problem, but avoid any paintwork that is blistered as this is usually a sign of long term neglect.
• Establish that the seller is the true owner because they may be just the beneficiary and not have actual title to the goods. The true owner is often a charity and the seller may sometimes, though not always, need their permission to sell.
• Spin the right rear wheel with the left wheel on the ground and check it spins freely. Repeat this process for the left wheel but allow some slight additional friction for the chain drive. Heavy resistance indicates seized bearings or neglected chain drive.
• Check the Carer steering if fitted. It should turn smoothly and silently and have little or no slack – even after five years.
• Check ALL brakes function correctly, including the park brake.
• Push the trike as fast as you can without the rider seated and listen!
Clicking and snatching indicate a chain drive misalignment problem.
• Check that all accessories are of Tomcat manufacture. If there is a problem with a third-party addition, we will not be able to repair it.
• Check the Two-Piece Frame Quick Release™ system functions smoothly and the interlock functions correctly.
• If a Swivel Saddle is fitted, check to see that it turns freely, locks automatically in both directions without wobble.
• Check the forks are straight and spin all wheels to check they are not buckled, particularly the front wheel. Check the paint is not cracked in the weld region where the oval main frame tube meets the steering down tube. Cracked paint or a bent down tube in this area indicates heavy impact with a solid object such as a wall.
• Check the tyres are not worn or perished.
Tip No 2 – Size
• Have a trial ride if you can. If the saddle adjustment is at or near its lowest setting and your rider’s legs are almost straight when cycling – well done – you’ve got a good match.
• If you cannot try it out, don’t give the seller any clues whatsoever regarding your rider’s age, height, build or disability. Don’t take too much notice of quoted age or height ranges either. Such information is always very subjective; instead, ask the seller to fully lower the saddle and measure from the saddle crown to the pedal when the pedal is at its lowest position. Now measure your rider’s inside leg from high in the groin to the sole of their shoe (not foot) when they are comfortably stretched or standing erect. If their inside leg is the same or no more than 5cm more, it is a good match. If it is less, or over 10cm more; it is a poor match.
Tip No 3 – Transmission Ratio
Look at the sprockets.
• If the front sprocket is bigger than the back sprocket, your rider should be walking or have strong legs.
• If the front sprocket is smaller than the back sprocket it was designed for a rider with VERY low leg strength or stamina and will not be suitable for a strong or walking rider.
• For everything in between, the same size sprocket front and rear will usually serve you well.
IMPORTANT NOTE. Count the number of teeth on the rear sprocket. It will normally be 28 or 36 teeth but if it is less than 28 then the trike is likely to be a “freewheeling hybrid” and you are strongly advised to try before you buy as it may be too highly geared. In the vast majority of cases, a rider with severe learning difficulties will not be able to pedal a trike with a free-wheel.
Tip No 4 – Buy the right drive.
• Generally speaking, only riders with very mild learning difficulties or none at all, will manage a multi-geared drive (Roadhog) or free-wheeling drive, (some Fizz and Tamara models).
• If they have greater than mild learning difficulties, a fixed drive, or a Tomcat Dual Drive™ (a switchable fixed and free drive), will almost certainly be needed. Dual drives are always provided with trailer trikes.
If in doubt, check that the rider can smoothly and fluidly pedal the tricycle on offer, and do not convince yourself that they will “get used to it”! Usually, they won’t and the only solution is a drive of the correct type and correct ratio that is appropriate for their skills.
Tip No 5 – Footshoes
Measure the internal length of the footshoe. If your rider’s shoe is between 1 and 4 centimetres LESS than the footsore length, well done, you have a good match. Outside those parameters, you might need a different footshoe size. All Tomcat footshoe’s are adjustable to slide front to back, sideways and toe-in and toe-out.
Tip No 6 – Leg Support (Callipers)
If your rider truly needs leg supports (Callipers) think carefully before you buy second hand. Leg Support issues can be a very complex bio-engineering area.
In general, try to avoid the use of callipers if you can. They are often fitted to heavier special needs trikes to avoid sideways shift of the knees (adduction or abduction) and pelvis, caused by the greater effort required to pedal but the Tomcat is very easy to pedal because of its lighter weight, ideal geometry and quality engineering so callipers are most often not needed! Callipers on any other trike does not necessarily mean callipers on a Tomcat!
Think of it this way!
If a calliper is used, the calliper will transfer all the pedalling effort to the pedal and the ankle joint will transfer none; however, our guess is that if your rider has weak ankles you are considering a trike to strengthen their ankles up a bit. If so, callipers will be self-defeating!!!
And with that in mind – don’t get hung up on the cosmetic perfection of parallel legs either! If pedalling is not impaired; they have no clinical hip, knee or ankle issues and they are not uncomfortable nor suffer chaffing or soreness – let them enjoy the freedom and let the body do what nature intended – no-one is perfect.
Now that has been said – here are the genuine reasons why you may need Leg Supports.
• If your rider’s legs adduct or abduct excessively when pedalling, (scissor or are wide open) through very high or very low tone, then you will probably require leg supports to regulate and control their pedalling effort and geometry.
• If your rider’s ankles are subject to plantarflexion or dorsiflexion (excessive tilting/tipping of the toes and heels respectively), they may benefit from Leg Supports (callipers). However rigid splints (AFO’s)- if they have them – will correct this issue every bit as well.
• If your rider has diagnosed joint issues such as shallow hip sockets (hip dysplasia) where adduction or abduction is undesirable, you may need leg supports. In these instances, seek the advice of a healthcare professional such as your paediatrician or physiotherapist. You should also consider a new Tomcat, customised for your rider’s needs. By doing so you will avoid the potential for harm.
Tip No 7 – Pelvic Support
We use two types of Pelvic Support with a Tomcat – a pommel or a lap strap. The former is more expensive than the latter. Lap straps are sometimes favoured by physiotherapists to reduce tilt of the pelvis that leads to curving of the spine and thus slumping of the shoulders. They work well in the passive environment of a wheelchair but a lap strap is usually challenged in the active environment of a tricycle and for that reason, we prefer to fit a pommel because a pommel is “belt and braces” technology that almost-never fails to resolve the problem. As a removable accessory it can be fitted to a trike, a trailer, or both, but do you really need a pommel? To decide, consider the following issues. If a pommel is necessary but not available, we can retro-fit suitable pelvic support but this will add to your cost.
• On a trailer the pommel is essential to prevent forward sliding during heavy braking. If you are buying a Trailer Trike™ make sure the pommel is included and has not been lost.
• A pommel is indicated for riders with behaviour problems to prevent them from wriggling off the front of the saddle.
• A pommel is usually indicated for riders who are prone to seizures, particularly unpredictable ones.
• A pommel is often used for reassurance, where a rider might feel vulnerable or anxious without it.
• A pommel is often used to control pelvic posture and to break down extension patterns and ataxic/distonic movement that is commonplace with Cerebral Palsy for example.
Tip No 8 – Simple Trunk Support
Generally speaking, buying second hand from a rider with good sitting balance for a rider with good sitting balance is safe enough, as in most cases it will have our simple “Security Backrest™” fitted. As its name suggests, it is there to contain tantrums or prevent a rider from jumping off unexpectedly but it also provides basic support and reassurance.
To check suitability, measure the minimum gap of the arms. How well does the rider fit that gap? All arms can be adjusted wider by 4cm (8cm total), but if what is on offer is too tight or too loose, you may need to purchase new arms. Even with a simple backrest, a good fit is important. Riders with hemiplegia, for example, feel vulnerable with an overly large arms gap and will invariably lean against the arm (or pad) on their weak side resulting in very poor posture. A new set of arms is not expensive but lateral pads are more costly.
Tip No 9 – More Complex Trunk Support
If your rider needs more complex trunk or head support, you are getting into the highly specialised clinical requirement for which people seek our customised expertise. If you are looking for significant trunk support from a second-hand purchase, you are very strongly advised to take your physiotherapist along with you and have them adjust the tricycle for you. More complex issues of this nature are very definitely a case of buyer beware.
Tip No 10 – Don’t believe all you read on the web!
We have authorised assessors and distributors throughout the UK, Ireland and the world from whom you will be assured of excellent service, however, there are some unscrupulous web traders who uplift Tomcat product photos to their own website adding a very generous margin for themselves, hoping we will sell to them when a customer comes along – unfortunately, we won’t.
For example, we found a Belgian website that was offering a Tomcat Trailer Trike at nearly four times its true value!
If the seller of a second-hand Tomcat points you to an online price for a company that is not an authorised Tomcat distributor, be very sceptical. Give us a call and ask if the web dealer is approved – usually, it is not. You can also take the opportunity to find out from us, what a customised Tomcat will really cost, and get expert guidance on funding possibilities into the bargain. Who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised!
Good Luck and we hope this article help’s you avoid a disappointing outcome!