In response to my recent post on the pros and cons of adult trikes, Andi (you know, from Facebook) commented:
You made me remember that I want to get a trike! [Partner] has and loves bikes, but my balance issues and general dyspraxia make me very unsteady on them. Do you have suggestions for where to start looking?
Hi, Andi (you know, from Facebook)! “Where to start looking” is a good question, but a tricky one. Most local bike stores don’t carry adult trikes, and rental places don’t rent them — not in San Francisco, anyway. 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. So here is my very half-assed guide to shopping for an adult trike, based entirely on my own limited experience, with some guidance from the I Saw It Somewhere On The Internet Times. Some of this may be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway, since I didn’t know all of this when I was first shopping.
If you can find a bike store that carries trikes (or even just one trike), and if they let you do a test ride, I’d 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. I love my regular trike, but I still can’t go very far on it: my quads just aren’t up to it yet. If you can do a test ride, give yourself a little time to get the feel of it — a trike rides differently than a bike.
If you can’t do that, or if your bike shop only has one trike and it’s not the one you want: Order online from a place that’s easy to return to — or don’t spend more than you’re willing to eat. (You can probably re-sell if it doesn’t work out, but still.) 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. Cost, obviously. Size? For me, I have a narrow front door, so I’m limited about which trikes will even fit through it. Weight? 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. Assembly? Some trikes arrive a lot more assembled than others. If you’re not going to put it together yourself, factor in the cost of hiring a mobile bike assembly service. (That’s what I did.)
How and where do you want to ride? Some trikes are made more for cities, others for trails — and of course, you may want a different trike for hills versus flats. Do you want to carry a lot of cargo? Basket sizes vary: some trikes have enormous cargo capacity, some don’t have any. Do you want to travel with it? You might get a folding trike: there’s a limit to how small a tricycle can fold, but if you want to throw it in the back of your car, folding does make a difference. Do you want to carry passengers? Seriously: there are e-trikes with back seats.
Physical limitations or disabilities? I’m short with short legs, and arthritis is starting to eat my joints, so smaller wheels and a low step-through are important to me. Some trikes have seats with back support: I’m considering that when I upgrade. Or a recumbent trike might work better for you. And there’s an interesting continuum between “mobility scooter” and “e-trike.” When you’re shopping for a trike, don’t just look at bike sellers — look at places that sell mobility devices as well.
And if you’re getting an e-trike: How much power do you need? I’m in famously hilly San Francisco, so when I do upgrade to an e-trike, I’m going to want some heft. Does battery placement matter to you? I want a battery I can remove and put back easily: if I leave an e-trike outside in SF for ten seconds, the battery WILL be stolen. Plus I don’t want the battery to take up cargo space. Do you want throttle, pedal assist, or both? I probably want both. Again, I’m in San Francisco: if I got throttle only, I’d probably be riding the throttle the whole time, basically turning my trike into a very slow moped. And very importantly: If you get an e-trike, know that there are some safety issues with lithium ion batteries. Make sure your battery is a reliable brand, and pay attention to its care and feeding.
The trike 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 about the Mooncool: it’s a good, solid utility trike, affordable and a good value for the money, with the big downside being that it’s a MASSIVE 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 mostly from sixthreezero. That may just be because they have good YouTube marketing, though: they have lots of instructional videos about triking in general as well as their trikes in particular, so the message of “sixthreezero good” has penetrated my subconscious. But I’m also enough of a skeptic that I know to question that.
When I do upgrade, I’ll let you know what I got and why. If you have questions, leave them in the comments. And if you get a trike — or already have one — I’d love to hear about it!