Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vehicle of the Future - TRIKES!

This I believe - the bike of the future is a TRIKE!

The other day I came across this image of a “vehicle of the future” that was pretty cool:

I thought it was interesting, as it looks a lot like a recumbent trike! Cool I already own a vehicle of the future - it’s just a human powered version! There is no denying that recumbent bikes are here to stay, and that trikes are gaining in popularity. I would make the argument that trikes will become a large force to be reckoned with in cycling - more even than two-wheeled recumbents - and that demographics will be a driving reason for the surge in trike popularity.

First, to be fair - I will disclose that I am a two-wheeled recumbent cyclist who also rides a trike. I am pre-disposed to trikes as I have been “smitten” by them. I am “only” 37 years old yet I will not “go back” to “regular bikes” even though this often perplexes cyclists my age. I have a hard time determining if I like three or two recumbent wheels better now after owning a trike. If you don’t know what it is like to experience the relaxed comfort on a climb or the exhilaration of G-forces in a downhill corner that comes with riding a recumbent - especially a trike - then you are really missing out on pure awesome.

It is true that when you pull up to an organized ride on a trike you get all sorts of weird reactions. Lots of funny smiles and glances. Sometimes some head-shakes. I admit that my first organized ride where I took my trike I felt like the guy walking through the store who suddenly realizes he did not have any pants or underwear on. Yes it’s a weird feeling to be different. BUT - all it took was one organized ride on the trike and the weirdness of “everyone seems to be looking at me” went away. My next organized ride where I showed up trike in tow I was proud to be swingin’ three wheels.

Now, I mentioned before that demographics and the trends of aging will be key to the surge of trikedom, and I believe it. Demographics are real and the numbers cannot be refuted. The Baby Boomer generation is about four times as large as the generation that preceded it, and it is a lot larger than Gen-X. Boomers are also hitting retirement age right about now and will be over the next decade or so. One can assume that ratio of Boomers in the general population to the ratio of Boomer cyclists to younger cyclists is similar. Boomers are the largest group of cyclists, and also the group with the time for cycling.

Interestingly, when on group rides where people see I am on a recumbent, I get asked lots of questions - as recumbent riders typically do. I have found that the questions can be broken into categories based on the age of the person asking, and pretty much lumped as such:

Younger cyclists roughly my generation: “Why are you riding that thing?” This question assumes I must ride a recumbent and not a typical road bike due to some physical or mental deformity on my part. Sigh.

Baby Boomer cyclists: “You really like that recumbent? This question is often followed by an admittance to just not being comfortable on their road bike anymore or over long distances usually with an admission like, “Well, I have been thinking about trying one of those someday...”

It’s often the Baby Boomer cyclists who seem like they are starting the process of “looking over the fence” to the “dark side” (really the light side) of recumbents. When I am on my trike the interest of the Boomer cyclists is even greater. On several occasions I have had these folks take a seat on the trike and give it a pedal around. They always return with the “trike grin” like they had just been transported from the magic land of childhood. It is true: if you really do not want a trike in your stable then you should never test ride one - list trikes as one of the most addictive items known to man. Trike riders offering a test ride are like crack pushers. Heh heh...

With so many Boomer cyclists hitting the golden age so rapidly over the coming decade is a surge of recumbent converts just hitting the precipice? If so, will trikes be the human powered vehicle of choice in the future? Certainly they come with advantages:

No balance required
Relaxed on the uphills
Killer awesome on the downhills
Can be geared to climb a wall
Awesome handling
You can’t wait for the concept trike vehicle at the top of the post

Faced with being uncomfortable on their bikes (tolerable for the young, unbearable otherwise) will many Baby Boomer cyclists refuse to taste the recumbent bike or trike kool-aid and give up more and more on cycling? Given the options and the experience they deliver, trikes may be a wise investment moving forward. Come on over, its comfortable here.


  1. You are rite that is pritty cool. do you think I could rig one to use as a trailer for my bike? then I could go for rides on the recumbent all over the country, it would get me doing other things other than just rideing to a place camping and then riding to another place. I think I am going to look into this.

  2. Yeh I made the switch only due to a friend who took me to test ride one I was addicted. I am 38 with a disc fusion at l4/l5 with screws and plates so this is perfect for me. Oh Yeh I ordered a catrike expedition. With a alfine 8 and a high speed schlumpf up front I can not wait for it to get here.

  3. I also think it's the older cyclists who ride a trike. However I'm 27 and have a trike for almost 2 years know that I love. So it's not like you need to be a baby boomer to enjoy the pleasure of riding a recumbent trike! I think the main problem is that most people of my age aren't as open to being different from what most consider "normal". I on the other hand test drove one when I was 22 and loved it right away! I always have to laugh now when I see a "normal cyclist" complain about pain after we done a trip while I'm pain free and less tired.