Tricycles

Add an extra wheel, and the potential of pedal-power is drastically transformed. Trikes are very little understood these days, and their image varies enormously from country to country. They are due for a big revival.

"It is desired by most Tricyclists to separate themselves entirely from the Bicyclists, who are a disgrace to the pastime, while tricycling includes Princes, Princesses, Dukes, earls, etc. There is none of the upper circle who ride bicycles."

A trike gives stability, graceful low-speed manoeuvering and extra presence on the road, but it can often also carry heavy loads and wriggling children. Trikes come close to replicating the functions and convenience of the family motor car and, of course, beat the car in many positive ways.

Not all trikes are designed primarily as goods or people carriers. There are lightweight custom-built trikes for people who enjoy the thrill of hitting fast speeds, leaning into corners to counter centrifugal forces. Trikes are often raced, especially in Britain, and a high quality trike makes an excellent touring machine. Since you don't wobble at low speeds you can use fantastically low gears without falling off. And if you tire half way up a hill, just put the brakes on and rest a while.

Trikes come in many shapes and sizes. Most have two wheels at the back. This gives a carrying space between the rear wheels, and a familiar steering arrangement at the front. Others have two wheels at the front, with Ackermann steering. This arrangement usually gives you more stability, and allows you to use standard components for the rear of the trike, but it restricts your turning circle to some degree. Then there are recumbent trikes, tandem trikes, load-carrying box trikes, children's trikes, trikes for the disabled. They also live secret lives on factory floors, chemical plants, studio lots and even crude oil carriers for their ability to haul big stuff cleanly and efficiently. Trike-riding is not as easy for the beginner as it looks although if you've never ridden a bicycle you'll probably sail off on a trike with no problem at all. Tricycles usually require about half an hour of meandering, till the brain re-schools itself.

At slower speeds you point the front wheel where you want to go, and perhaps occasionally make slight and almost instinctive adjustments to your body position if you sense a severe camber in the road, or if you need to swerve to miss a pothole. Once you have got tricycling skills you keep them for life. Trikes are not without their drawbacks: they weigh more and have higher rolling resistance than equivalent two-wheelers. They have three tracks instead of one, and don't always allow you to squeeze past congested traffic. These are minor matters. Trikes are splendid beasts: safe, sure and visible on the roads. They are great fun to ride, and show your community what can be achieved with pedal-power, and should be seriously considered as an alternative to the car in many situations. Tricycling is a broadening experience.

Colin Guthrie