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helen-louise
baratron
baratron
tricycles for the gravitationally-challenged
Does anyone know anything about tricycles for adults?

I can't ride a normal bicycle because I don't have enough balance, and a recumbent would be a bad idea bearing in mind I'm asthmatic and being lower to the ground puts me closer to car exhausts. Since we moved house going to Sainsbury's has been a PITA for me, because it's slightly too far for me to be able to walk there, walk round the shop, and then walk home again. It's on a bus route, but not a convenient one - for me to get there by bus I have to go into Kingston itself and back out again, which is just a bit tedious, y'know? So I was thinking the answer (to this, and a few other transportation annoyances) would be for me to get a tricycle.

I know I can ride a bike with stabilisers, and apparently it is possible to buy stabilisers for adults. But I don't have any confidence that putting stabilisers on my bike and practising will make me miraculously gain the sense of balance I'm lacking - I've never been able to walk along a narrow beam or wall for more than a few feet without falling off (probably I'm lacking something in my inner ear). More importantly, I think if I tried riding a bike with stabilisers, I'd feel like a complete moron and people would laugh at me - whereas if I rode a trike I'd look cool in a geeky sort of way. Plus there is a whole support group for adult tricyclists, and you can even get racing and mountain trikes.

Tricycles are generally much more disabled-friendly - several suppliers sell trikes adapted with low frames (so it's easy to get a dodgy leg over the top), orthopedic seats and backrests. Having Googled extensively, there are a surprisingly large number of companies making trikes, but some of them are far too expensive for me to consider (in excess of £1500!!) or not suitable for my needs. I've narrowed it down to 3 possible choices. What I want is some advice about which one might be best for me.

The Mission trike looks like the kind of tricycle I had in mind - big and stable with a large shopping basket at the back. Also, there's a shop in London that sells it. It's comparatively cheap as trikes go - ~£400. But it doesn't fold, and because trikes are so enormous there's no way I'd be able to take it on the train without paying the bike supplement - and as the trains that go through Kingston & Norbiton don't have a guards van, it becomes totally impractical if I wanted to take it into central London. I don't know if I'd actually want to cycle in central London, but it would be nice to have the option.

Di Blasi make a folding tricycle that can also be adapted with a (folding) backrest, but two drawbacks are that it's significantly more expensive (~£800), and it doesn't have a luggage area. You can get a luggage rack, but it's mounted at saddle height rather than between the wheels. This would limit the amount of shopping I can put in it, and also make it harder to balance - as lack of ability to balance is the whole reason I'm going for a trike, I'm not so sure about this. It's difficult for me to predict at this stage just how much I'm going to find myself using the trike, so it's difficult for me to make a decision about stability vs portability.

Pashley make several trikes, including the Tri-1, which seems like the best of both worlds. It's the same low-slung shape as the Mission trike, you can get a basket, wide saddle and back support for it, and it even comes with the option of a folding frame. I don't think it folds down as small as the Di Blasi, though, and all these options add up:
£595 for the basic trike - ok, that's pretty reasonable
£645 for the trike with a folding frame
£85 for a rear basket
£25 for a wide(-arse) saddle
£85 for a back support
and £30 for getting it in a colour other than tomato red (!)
thus making a total of £870.

Also, Pashley are based oop north (Stratford-upon-Avon) and I don't know whether they have any southern resellers, which could make actually trying out the trike a pain (~£30 rail fare and several hours effort).

eBay is of course a possibility, but I don't know how sensible it is to buy a second-hand cycle from the internet. I know NOTHING about basic cycle maintenance, having never had one (funnily enough, if you can't ride something without falling off, you tend not to want one), and I would prefer not to be riding a death-trap. I discovered the other day that there exists a safe cycling for adults course in my local area, so I would of course go to that prior to riding on the road, but I'm not sure whether they also cover maintenance or indeed whether they'd know anything about trikes.

Update: Please read this comment before commenting. Either help me answer these questions, or help me find someone who can.

Advice, please?! Should I go for the cheapest option non-folding and try to sell it & buy a new one later if I find I'm using it more? Or go for the more expensive trike, with the folding option I may never use? And does anyone know anything about the reliability and customer service of the three companies mentioned? (Pointless buying something which looks good if it breaks down all the time and the company want to charge you an arm and a leg to fix it).

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Comments
From: taimatsu Date: 23rd June 2005 17:26 (UTC) (Link)
I have a similar problem to yours; I tried a tricycle once and the height and the speed really rather scared me. I don't think I could cope with riding one along roads, which is why I haven't investigated further.
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baratron From: baratron Date: 23rd June 2005 17:38 (UTC) (Link)
Do you remember what sort it was? There are several trikes that seem quite good that I've discounted because the seat is just too high (in the same position as a normal bike) - principally all the Falstaff ones. The Pashley one has seven gears, or the option of a limited-speed easier-to-pedal thingy, which seems like it would help.
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From: judiff Date: 23rd June 2005 18:03 (UTC) (Link)
earwigmc used to have an upright trike so you could talk to her about them.
ruis has a recumbant and manages fine with it even though she is asthmatic (i think car exhusts are hot and so the gunk tends to rise).
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lovingboth From: lovingboth Date: 23rd June 2005 21:14 (UTC) (Link)
Recumbent trikes tend to be built for speed speed speed, and are thus lower than even "racing" recumbents are. It'd be fun to take one of these around a park or two - you'd never fall off - but I wouldn't want one on the road. Although people do...

The bit that makes me go 'huh?' about the Tri-1 is the super powerful brakes on the front wheel and nothing on the back wheels. On a normal bike, this is a recipe for going flying over the front wheel when the bike stops and you don't.

But see if London Recumbents have any you can ride.

You'd be reasonably safe on a trike - the novelty factor means drivers give you more space etc.

As you say, forget trying to do anything 'mixed mode' (bike + train).

Ask on the uk cycling newsgroup.
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lproven From: lproven Date: 24th June 2005 14:56 (UTC) (Link)
Au contraire! It is terrifyingly easy to fall off a Windcheetah. I've had 2 of them. They're marginally more stable than an elephant standing on a traffic cone.
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epi_lj From: epi_lj Date: 23rd June 2005 23:09 (UTC) (Link)
I have not used a trike, so I can't give a whole lot of advice, but I will say that buying a cheap bike and then later replacing it with a more expensive one when I found that I was using it more is what I did, and I haven't regretted it. I can't see why the same principle wouldn't be reasonable in a trike. I got a couple of good years' use out of my bike before upgrading, and was able at that time to donate it to someone who really needed one, which made me feel good about the switch over.
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johnckirk From: johnckirk Date: 24th June 2005 08:50 (UTC) (Link)
This isn't directly relevant to your question, but when I was on duty at the London-Brighton bike ride last weekend I saw a "tricycle made for two". I.e. it had three wheels, but there were two seats next to each other (not one behind the other as on a tandem). Depending on your travel plans, would that be any use to you?
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baratron From: baratron Date: 24th June 2005 19:49 (UTC) (Link)
Not really - if I had another person to come with me, the issue of "how am I going to get this heavy shopping home?" would be solved! Or I'd do what I usually do now, and just send the other person to the shop.

Yeah, there's a lot of tandem trikes around - some of them are excellent for people with disabilities that mean they can't ride solo (blackouts, epilepsy etc). I'm unconvinced how useful they'd be for my situation. But thanks for the idea.
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From: skibbley Date: 24th June 2005 09:34 (UTC) (Link)
Cyclemagic in Leicester do all manner of bikes and trikes and can loan them so you can try them out properly (their website is pretty basic, they spend more time with bikes than online) and you could come and visit us in Leicester.

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lproven From: lproven Date: 24th June 2005 14:55 (UTC) (Link)
Alex asked me to comment, but I must be brief, therefore curt!

[1] What you describe is a problem of nervousness, not the inner ear or anything else. If you're nervous on a solo, you'll be nervous on a trike or anything else. What you need to do is beat the nerves. Changing vehicle may help this but it is *not* the answer. You have to change *you*.

I speak from experience. I was run over by a bus in 1994, while on my motorbike. Along with a shattered limbs & a mostly-metal skeleton now, I had whiplash injuries and the semicircular canals in my inner ears are severely damaged. My sense of balance is fucked. It took me a long time - 6mth+ - to learn to walk safely again. I can ride a bicycle as well as ever and I could and did *before* I could walk unaided. The exercise of cycling is whay I can walk without a limp today (unless I'm very tired or the weather is cold & wet).

You do it with eyes and brain more than balance organs; you could probably learn to do it without otoliths at all.

Get a static exercise bike or a rollertrainer for your existing bike. I got a 2nd hand one for £30; a trike will cost you more than an order of magnitude more than that. Practice. Practice lots. Do it assiduously until you have built up the strength in your legs. Then cycling on the road will be less effort and you can focus on control. A month or 2 of doing it at LEAST 3 times a week for 30min and preferably every day will cause major, noticeable improvement. I did it with one leg smashed in more than 13 major places, my hip held on with a bolt and severe chronic asthma, when I had to limp painfully to the bike on crutches. You can too.

[2] Trikes are quite hard to ride at first. You can't lean so steering is utterly different. You will be even more scared - MUCH more - at first on a trike. You also need to be aware of this.

[3] Recumbents are not all that low. You're thinking of racing ones. I own a street recumbent myself. On mine, the rider sits at car driver height. Visibility is good - way better than a car - and you really get noticed. The thing about traffic fumes is *utterly* spurious. If you are significantly overweight, you will be MUCH better off on a 'bent than an upright. They cause much less pain and stress to arms, wrists, shoulders, neck, bum and fanny than upright bikes or trikes. They are even more beneficial for female riders than male.

Go to Bikefix. Try everything they offer. 'Bents are MUCH easier to ride than uprights, both solo bents and trikes compared to solo bikes and trikes, and this is especially true if you're unfit or overweight or asthmatic or any combination thereof.

However: on a 'bent or a trike, you will attract attention. You will get jokes and comments and abuse and piss-taking. I know; I ride a 'bent and a motor trike and a sidecar outfit. Anything out of the ordinary, you will get stick. You have to be able to cope with this. You will have to grow thick skin.

You'll get abuse from car drivers even on a bicycle.

Finally: my personal experience of upright adult trikes is minimal. I'm a 'bent man, myself. ;¬) For info from an upright trike rider and evangelist, go ask my girlfriend, the_major.
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alexmc From: alexmc Date: 24th June 2005 19:45 (UTC) (Link)
> Alex asked me to comment,

On the basis that I know nothing about bicycles or tricycles, but I know a man who does....
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From: (Anonymous) Date: 1st June 2006 15:01 (UTC) (Link)

Tricycles

I know this is from a year ago, but I'm interested to find out what happened in the end? I have MS- so balance probems too- and decided to try a trike. I bought a Pashley trike from Ebay for £140. It's a very well made, quality trike, but very heavy, and, as you pointed out, no good for taking on trains etc. I'm considering trying the Di Blasi despite the price, simply because it folds, seems narrower and lighter so therefore more portable than the Pashley, they also come with a motor which I've decided is something I need.
Trikes are easy to ride after a couple of hours' practice.

I was surprised you jumped down Iproven's throat. He (?) was taking the time to give you genuine and helpful advice, albeit a bit blunt in places. Plenty of people have suggested I try a recumbent/scooter/etc- I've settled on a trike but I'm happy to listen to other ideas.

I'm looking forward to hear what you decided to do in the end.

Sally x
baratron From: baratron Date: 8th June 2006 17:11 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Tricycles

I'm surprised you can't tell from the comment trail why I "jumped down lproven's throat" - I thought I'd expressed quite clearly why here. His comments hurt me to the point of tears.

I'm willing to accept that it could be possible for me to learn to ride a bicycle. But the learning process would be very, very difficult, and make me feel very, very broken. I have tried to ride a bike, repeatedly. It doesn't work for me. I found an alternative that I thought would work for me, and wanted advice about that - not to have someone I don't know try to talk me out of it due to the perceived cost, when the cost was never an issue for me.

That's as much as I'm going to say about that.

Anyway, I bought a Pashley Picador from eBay and love it to bits. I rode it extensively for a couple of months, and rapidly extended my range from a few hundred metres to round trips of 9 miles - not bad going for a couple of weeks. Then I had to stop due to another, completely unrelated, medical problem, which caused me a lot of distress. On the trike, I feel like a normal person. I can cycle at a normal person's speed, on normal roads and cycle paths, and go places that are normally only accessible to me by public transport, or in someone else's car.

I've literally just started cycling again this week - haven't written about it in my journal because it's all still rather *fingers crossed* and hoping that my gall bladder isn't going to start being problematic. But I'm having enough fun that once again all my old thoughts about wanting a folding trike so I can take it on the train have sprung to mind, so I dug out this old entry to see what I had to say before, which is how come I found your comment (I don't get lj comments emailed to me). Seems exactly the same issues still apply, because the Di Blasi is still the only trike that folds down small enough to be allowed on suburban trains. (The Pashley TR-1 is 1m x 80 cm x 90cm when folded, because it's just designed to be able to fit in the boot of a car.)

The one thing I will say about the Di Blasi is that it's damned heavy - 21.4kg for the non-powered trike and 31.3kg for the powered. That is considerably more than I'm able to lift even on a good day - I can carry maybe 5kg comfortably, and lift maybe 10kg onto or off a train. 20kg is too heavy for me unless I'm travelling with companions. So I'm still just as unsure what to do as before, but I'm researching custom-built trikes now.

Does this help?
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