My Adult Trike: Pros, Cons, and Shameless Evangelizing

Greta on adult tricycle, Louise
I have a new thing! It’s a toy, a mode of transportation, an exercise helper, and a thing to get all excited about. Let me introduce you to my tricycle, Louise. (Yes, she’s named after the character in Bob’s Burgers.)

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.

Trike butt in hallway
2. It’s bulky. The bulk, plus the weight, makes it hard to wrangle the trike out the front door and down the six stairs from my apartment to the street.* And there’s no good place to store her. I keep her front end in a bedroom and her butt in the hallway, which is fine but a little annoying. I’m making it all work, and it’s gotten much easier as I’ve gotten used to her, but I won’t pretend it’s not a hassle.

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.

Greta on trike


My Adult Trike: Pros, Cons, and Shameless Evangelizing

3 thoughts on “My Adult Trike: Pros, Cons, and Shameless Evangelizing

  1. 3

    Hi Andi! “Where to start looking” is a good question but a tricky one. Most bike stores don’t carry them and rental places don’t rent them (at least in SF). I bought mine online, and there are LOTS of online sources, but I wish I’d been able to try one out before I did that.

    If you can find a bike store that carries trikes, even just one, and if they let you do a test ride, maybe do that first, just to get the feel of it and see if you like it. In particular, I wish I’d been able to test ride a regular trike and an e-trike before I bought: I might have waited and saved up for an e-trike.

    If you can’t do that: This is probably going to be obvious, but order online from a place that’s easy to return to. Also, when ordering, pay attention to assembly: some trikes (and bikes) arrive more assembled than others. (If you’re not going to put it together yourself, factor in the cost of hiring a mobile bike assembly place. That’s what I did.)

    The one I got is a Mooncool (same as Slsy, as far as I can tell) 7 speed. I got a folding one, but I never fold it. I looked at a lot of ratings and reviews, and they all said pretty much the same thing: it’s a good, solid trike, affordable and a good value for the money, with the big downside being that it’s a PAIN to assemble. Since I paid for assembly, this wasn’t an issue, although I’m glad I hired bike assembly people who were familiar with the brand and knew what they were getting into.

    The e-trikes I have my eye on are from sixthreezero, but that may just be because they have good YouTube marketing: they have lots of instructional videos about their trikes in particular and triking in general.

    The main things I’d say about shopping in general are pretty obvious, but I’ll say them anyway: Look at ratings and reviews. Look at info videos (even the sales ones can be useful). Look at a few different models, to see what’s the same about them and what’s different.

    And consider the factors that are particular to you. For me, for instance, I have a narrow front door, so I’m limited about which trikes will even fit through it. Is weight going to be an issue? Trikes are heavy, e-trikes even more so, and the difference between 50 and 80 pounds isn’t trivial. (If I had a garage or lived in a building with an elevator, I wouldn’t care, but I have to wrestle my trike up and down stairs.) Is it important to you to carry a lot of cargo? (Basket sizes vary.) If you’re getting an e-trike, does battery placement matter to you? (I want one I can remove and put back easily, since if I leave an e-trike outside in SF for ten seconds the battery WILL be stolen. And I don’t want the battery to take up cargo space.)

    OK, I think I need to turn this into a blog post. Thanks for asking!

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