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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Adult Tricycle or Recumbent Trike: Find the Best Three Wheel Bike

Advantages of Three Wheel Bikes over Bicycles

All types of adult tricycles have a big advantage over bicycles- you don’t need to worry about balancing.  Since tricycles have 3 wheels, they are stable even when you are moving very slowly up a hill, or even when you come to a complete stop.  You can stay comfortably seated on your three wheel bike, even at a complete stop.

Recumbent trikes are much lower to the ground than bicycles.  This is a disadvantage in terms of visibility when riding- both for seeing traffic and being seen by drivers on the road.  However since recumbent bikes are so low to the ground, falling off is not much of a safety concern.

If you want to use a human-powered cycle for hauling, an adult tricycle can be a good option, especially for hauling bulky or large items that may affect your balance on a bicycle.  Adult trikes can be outfitted with a toolbox or cargo bed for hauling.  Adult bikes and recumbent bikes can pull trailers or carts to increase hauling capacity.

Comfort is another advantage for tricycles over bicycles.  On an adult tricycle, you can ride in an upright posture.  On a recumbent trike, you can sit comfortably in a supine position which reduces back and neck strain.  Many people find three wheel bikes more comfortable to ride.

Types of Three Wheel Bikes for Adults

Appropriately enough, there are three main types of three wheel bikes for adults:

Adult Tricycle

Adult Tricycle with Basket
Image courtesy of Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons

Adult tricycles look much like tricycles for children, only they are sized for adults.  Adult tricycles are ridden in an upright seated position and are easy to get on and get off of.  Many have a step-through frame design so you don’t need to raise your leg very high when getting on or off.  Adult tricycles are good for older riders to ride on bike trails.  This can be a good way for someone who can no longer ride a bike to be able to continue to participate in family bike rides.

Recumbent Trikes

Recumbent trikes are low to the ground and are ridden in a seated supine position.  It may be more challenging for older riders to get on and off a recumbent trike.
You can find models that have over seat steering (OSS) and under seat steering (USS).  Over seat steering is said to be easier to get the hang of quickly, while under seat steering may be more comfortable for long rides.

There are two types of recumbent trikes:
Delta Recumbent Trike
A delta recumbent trike has one drive wheel in the front and two other wheels in back.  The peddles are between the front wheels and back wheels, inside the frame of the trike.  Delta trikes are relatively long from front to back.

Delta Recumbent Trikes (left) and Tadpole Recumbent Trikes (right)
Image courtesy of  Cacou via Wikimedia Commons

Tadpole Recumbent Trike
A tadpole recumbent trike has one drive wheel in the back and two other wheels in front that are used for steering.   The peddles for a tadpole recumbent trike are out in front of the cycle.  I suppose the name tadpole comes from the idea that like a tadpole, a tadpole recumbent trike has the one tail in back that is driving it and 2 legs in front for steering.

Tadpole Recumbent Trike- Drive Wheel in Back, Peddles in Front
Image courtesy of Chonk via Wikimedia Commons

Which Type of Three Wheel Bike is Best?

Choosing the best style of three wheel bike depends on how you plan to ride as well as your riding preferences and abilities.  If you plan to ride on the street, a recumbent trike might be the best choice.  Recumbent trikes typically have gears for hill climbing and can reach much higher speeds than adult tricycles.

If you plan to ride mostly on bike trails and would have trouble getting on and off of a recumbent trike that is only a few inches off of the ground, an adult trike may be the best choice.

Accessories for your Three Wheel Bike

Three wheel bikes can be outfitted with all sorts of accessories to improve their utility.  Here are some of my favorites:

Fairing: You can equip recumbent trikes with a fairing.  A fairing is a covering that goes over a recumbent bike.  This makes cold weather riding more comfortable and also decreases wind resistance.  You can get fairing that is sort of like a windshield that goes in front of the trike, or you can get a full fairing that covers most of the surface of the trike- this makes it look sort of like a very small car.

Trailers and Carts: You can build or buy a trailer or cart for either adult tricycles or recumbent trikes to haul gear such as tents and camping equipment.  Some trailers are water resistant, which keeps your gear dry when riding through the rain.

Cargo Bags: Trikes can be equipped with cargo bags for hauling books, clothes, and other small items on your trip.  I once saw a recumbent bike with a pouch underneath for hauling a small dog along on rides.  Both the rider and the dog seemed to like this accessory!

Riding three wheel bikes on a bicycle trail
Image courtesy of Chonk via Wikimedia Commons

Where can you find a used three wheel bike for sale?

It is easy to find used three wheel bikes for sale.  I have seen adult tricycles for sale at garage sales for under $150.  I have looked for a couple years, but have not yet seen a recumbent trike for sale at a garage sale.  You will likely need to check a bike shop, craigslist, or eBay to find a used recumbent trike for sale.  Used recumbent trikes seem to start at nearly $1000 depending on the brand, condition, and what accessories are included.

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