I was recently diagnosed with mild arthritis in my ankles. I can walk fine, but I can’t walk as far as I used to. Which fucking SUCKS: for years, walking has been my main form of both exercise and transportation. I needed something to replace both. Hence, Louise.
I’ve been riding Louise about a month. I am super excited about her, and am going to evangelize shamelessly. I like to evangelize honestly, though. Compared to a regular two-wheeled bicycle, there are some downsides to a trike. So I’ll fill you in on those as well.
Why did I get a trike instead of a bike? And why do I like it so much?
1. It’s safer and more stable. This is the big one. I’m 61 years old. My balance isn’t as good as it was, and the consequences if I fall are more serious. The trike is much more stable than a bike.
2. Big cargo basket in the back. Perfect for errands and grocery shopping.
3. It was easier to get started with. I haven’t cycled in many years, and when I tried to ride a bicycle again it turned out that it’s NOT like riding a bicycle. I couldn’t even get started. I don’t know if it’s that I’m heavier now, or that I was trying to ride a bulky ride-share e-bike that couldn’t be sized right. But I could not get going at all. With the trike, that wasn’t a problem. (Mostly. See below for downsides.)
4. I can go as slow as I want. I was anxious about starting to ride again, and I like that I don’t have to go any particular speed to stay upright.
5. It feels right for my body. I’m fat. No arguments, I’m fine with being fat and with the word, I just don’t like it being treated like an insult. But I think this is part of why I had a hard time getting going on a bicycle. I felt top-heavy. For the size of my body, being suspended in the middle of three wheels feels better than balancing on top of two.
Finally, 6. I like that it’s kind of dorky. This may sound like a weird selling point. But bike culture can be competitive, acquisitive, consumerist, and super focused on speed. That’s fine if you’re actually riding for speed or distance. But if you just want to get around town, this aspect of bike culture can be annoying at best and gatekeepy at worst. With a trike, there’s no way to go that route. It’s very liberating.
I was talking with my friend Neha the other day about how, when you’re a smart person who usually learns things fast, it’s easy to give up on things you don’t excel at. And I realized that for me, Louise is an exception. There is no way to “excel” at riding an adult tricycle. I can just have fun with her.
I freaking love Louise, and will gas on about her for as long as you’ll let me. But there are some downsides to a trike. Here are the ones I’ve run into.
1. It’s heavy. Louise weighs about 55 pounds. That means that while I’m rebuilding my strength, I can’t go as far as I’d like to — definitely not as far as I could on a bike. And even gentle slopes are still a challenge. My quads just give out.
To be fair, an e-trike would solve this problem. I do have a little bit of buyer’s remorse about not getting an e-trike — especially since I live in the famously hilly San Francisco. I think I made the right decision: an e-trike is out of my price range right now, and even if it hadn’t been, I didn’t want to spend that kind of money when I didn’t know if I’d like it. But I will probably upgrade eventually.
3. Trikes are more expensive than bikes. Especially e-trikes, which I do want eventually and would solve a lot of my trike problems.
4. Riding it felt weird at first. It definitely feels different than a bike. Your center of balance is different; you steer with your handlebars much more than your body; it’s heavier so it has a mind of its own; you have to slow down for turns. And the feel is just different, in ways that are hard to describe. I got used to it pretty fast, though.
Finally, 5. There’s not a lot of room for trikes yet in bike culture. This is hard to put into words, but it’s important, so I’ll try.
There aren’t many varieties of trikes. Bike shops often don’t carry them, or even know much about them. Bike rental places don’t have them, at least not near me: I would have loved to try one out before I bought, but that wasn’t an option. Bike media hardly ever talks about trikes. Trikes are very much treated as an option for little kids, old people, disabled people, or delivery riders. Which is fine for me, I am old — but the general ageism and ableism of society means that “old people things” are dismissed.
I didn’t even know adult trikes existed until a few months ago. I’d seen occasional delivery riders with them, but it never occurred to me that there could be regular trikes for everyday riders. If I had known about them, I probably would have gotten one much sooner. And I think a lot more people of all ages and abilities would like them if they knew about them, or if they weren’t treated as a wussy option for old people. Hence, the evangelism.
If you have questions, let me know!
*This is why I named her Louise. Getting her up and down the stairs is like getting Louise Belcher dressed for soccer.