All About Adult Three Wheel Bicycles

A brief but informative look at tricycles; three-wheeled adult bicycles. They're not just for kids anymore!

The word 'tricycle' often draws to mind images of childhood, but the tricycle (or trike, as it is commonly called), is a popular form of recreation and exercise throughout the world. In fact, some countries employ special tricycles as a means of commercial transportation, even more popular than the taxi cab! While tricycles are a relatively new item, for American adults, they have a long and rich history that few know about.

The first tricycle was built in Germany, as far back as the year 1680. Designed for a paraplegic by the name of Stephan Farffler, this special trike was operated by gears and hand cranks, granting the gentleman a new form of mobility and freedom. Another form of tricycle was invented by two Frenchman, Blanchard and Maguire; the vehicle gaining enough popularity amongst the people, that the "Journal de Paris" created the terms "˜bicycle' and "˜tricycle' in order to differentiate between the two and three-wheeled varieties.

By 1876, the tricycle craze began to sweep through England. Not the tricycle we are familiar with today, James Starley's Coventry Lever tricycle had two small wheels on one side and a large wheel on the opposite side. While somewhat awkward to control, Starley's trike was very popular amongst the ladies, allowing them to easily get on and off the tricycles without the dreadful risk of showing off their legs in public. The tricycle was also more convenient for people of shorter stature; the bicycles of the time raised high up into the air, with almost comically large wheels. For this reason, there would be more than 100 different models of tricycles, produced by 20 different manufacturers in England, by the year 1884.

For the next 5 years, tricycles would maintain their popularity lead over bicycles, but times were changing. Bicycle styles altered, becoming easier to ride and more pleasing to the eye, slowly taking over the lead in sales. While the tricycle remained a popular mode of transportation amongst the working class, the more expensive and flashier-looking bicycles seemed created for the gentry; those who could afford to purchase frivolities for simple, recreational use. Through the years, tricycle popularity would slowly decline throughout Europe and, by the 1990's, very few tricycle manufacturers would remain in England.

In more recent years, the tricycle has made a comeback, especially in the United States. Originally gaining popularity amongst the elderly, where trikes offered a new form of mobility, the popularity of tricycles has spread into many households. Modern trikes, equipped with a small basket in the front and a large basket behind the seat, provide an ideal means of transporting laundry and groceries, when one is energy-conscious or for those who don't own an automobile.

Tricycles also come in a wide variety of styles. Most people imagine the standard shopping tricycle when adult trikes are brought to mind, but newer recumbent varieties allow one to recline back and pedal, while riding in a comfortable canvas chair. Specially designed tricycles, known as "˜pedicabs' remain a popular form of public transportation throughout Africa and Asia, with some western states even employing them as a more environmentally-conscious mode of travel.

One might think that tricycles would have made some drastic changes throughout the years but, save for being made of more modern materials, the basic form of the tricycle has pretty much remained the same, since its original design. Naturally, there have been a few exceptions to the rule. During the 1900's, a version of the tricycle was created and designed to run on dog power. Set up with room for two dogs to run within the trike's wheels, this was possibly one of the more amusing predecessors to the modern electric tricycles that are available today!

Lover's trikes? Some have even created tricycles with couples in mind! Tandem trikes offer the old "˜bicycle built for two' idea, with one person pedaling in back of the other, and social trikes allow couples to sit side by side as they travel along. Modern day rickshaws, used in Asia and Africa, are designed for 2-6 people to travel together for the fare. The largest pedicab could actually hold 24 passengers. Imagine having to pedal that fare around.

Tricycles offer a wonderful form of transportation to a wide variety of people throughout the world. One should always remember, however, that safety still applies! While the tricycle tends to be heavier and feel far more stable than its two-wheeled cousin, this is no excuse for not wearing a helmet. A great many injuries could be prevented, each year, if people would only wear the proper safety equipment.

Also important is remembering that tricycles must obey the same safety rules as bicycles. Anyone riding a trike should always obey traffic laws, use hand signals and, if you are riding after dark, ensure that your trike is well marked with reflectors and a headlight. Wearing light colors, while riding a bike at night, is also essential; just as it is a motorist's job to look out for cyclists, so it is the cyclist's job to ensure that they make themselves as visible as possible to motorists.

Tricycles are an excellent form of exercise. Anyone that has ever ridden one, can attest that it takes about 10% more physical work to make a tricycle move, as it does a bicycle. While they are built for stability, they do not take sharp turns well and can tip over, if they are ridden in a reckless manner. It is also imperative that, no matter how safe the trike seems, or how safe your neighborhood is, never ever let a child ride a tricycle unattended (or a bike, for that matter). While all of these are common sense safety rules, they are often overlooked.

The tricycle has a rich history and seems determined to stick around as a preferred method of exercise, transportation and recreation. Whether it's time-trial trike races or a relaxing pedal down to the local flea-market that you prefer, there is a tricycle for everyone. Once you hop aboard, you'll quickly discover what has endeared it within the hearts of people for centuries.

© High Speed Ventures 2011