If you're a cyclist who wants to turn a few heads on the road, you should ride a recumbent tricycle ... people can't help but notice something that appears to be a low-riding lawn chair on wheels. If you want to get noticed by other recumbent trike riders, you might look into getting a Catrike 700. With its 700C wheels and relatively light weight of just 33 pounds (15 kg), it's said to be one of the fastest production trikes that money can buy. However, how do you get noticed by other Catrike riders? Well, you could try equipping your trike with just about every accessory imaginable, all of them in black. That's what Fayetteville, North Carolina native Jim Artis did with his. The result - which he named "Silk" - looks like something designed for dispatching evil-doers by dark of night, before tearing off in a swirl of dry ice vapor.

Artis, a retired infantryman and grandfather of four, got the initial unadorned Catrike 700 in 2007. It was one of many unconventional pedal-powered vehicles that he has purchased or created over the years. Of his various two-, three- and even four-wheelers, however, Silk is probably the one that most causes people to say "Wow!"

"The beauty of riding a recumbent is that you can do things to it," he explained to us. "A roadie who rides a Trek or whatever isn't going to do anything except buy the finest components. Recumbent riders tend to say 'OK, I have a piece of junk here, and I can put mirrors on it, I can put mud flaps, you know - whatever. You have a license to change, so to speak."

While the exact configuration of his "piece of junk" is continually changing, some of its past and/or present added touches include:

  • Custom-made Garrie Hill carbon fiber wheel covers
  • GoblinCricket fiberglass rear fairing, with storage compartment and custom graphics
  • Camelbak hydration system (mounted inside the rear fairing)
  • Transparent aerodynamic Mueller XT front fairing
  • 122-decibel police-spec GaleForce electric horn/siren
  • DiNotte 1200L headlight, dual front and rear amber running lights, dual front and rear turn indicators (which double as brake lights in the rear) and DiNotte rechargeable li-ion batteries
  • Solio Hybrid 1000 solar-powered battery charger
  • iHome mobile sound system, with mount
  • Garmin nuvi navigation unit, with mount
  • iPhone 4S, with mount
  • Fenders and side mirrors
  • Custom-embroidered rear panniers
  • Mast with safety flag
  • Dual converted water bottles with mounts, used to store small items

"It's OK to have a vice," he explained, "as long as you don't have several vices in one year."

Including the initial purchase price of the Catrike itself (around US$3,000), Artis roughly estimates that he has spent at least $6,000 on Silk. In its less-loaded "lite mode," it weighs in at 53 pounds (24 kg). In full "touring mode," it reaches an even 60 (27 kg).

Lest anyone should think that Jim is one of those people who is more into buying gear than using it, however ... well, that's definitely not the case. He has taken Silk on numerous century (100-mile) rides, along with some multi-day road trips. He's also taken it to a couple of Catrike rallies, where many riders have come to know him and his tricked-out tricycle.

Of course, Silk's added pounds do take a toll on its performance. "If we were on a flat, I could probably do OK with an average road biker for a mile or two," said Artis. "[However] I think a road biker would probably pass me and leave me in his dust if we were going, let's say a five-mile distance, because of the weight." He also noted that one of his century rides took about eight hours, as opposed to the five or six that it would usually take on an upright bike.

Nonetheless, Jim immensely enjoys riding Silk, particularly on curvy, rolling terrain, in the company of other trike riders. He also gets a lot of satisfaction from finding creative solutions to the challenges that constantly arise when adding new gizmos, and hopes that other people might take something away from hearing about those solutions.

"It's that integration of ideas," he said. "Meeting a challenge, that some people find inspirational ... maybe they hadn't thought of solving a problem that particular way, and they may not do it my way, but it opens their mind to other ways."

There are tons of other photographs and technical details regarding Silk on Jim's blog, Cycling Experiences. While you're there, be sure to check in on the live video feed of his chickens.

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