Adult Tricycles vs Recumbent Trikes: The Difference

three-wheeled-cruiserDid you realize that trikes and tricycles can be a great way to get some much needed exercise while having fun at the same time? Many people have been using their bicycles as an exercise tools for years, but there can be many drawbacks to riding a bicycle. And what exactly is the difference between an Tricycle (for adults) and a Trike?

History of Tricycles

The tricycles have been around for almost 150 years. Following the popularity of bicycles as a means of transportation, tricycles started to appear in the market in 1789, hitting their stride in 1876 with the introduction by James Starley and the Coventry Lever Tricycle. The main reason behind the creation of the tricycle was for safety concerns, and the third wheel made the tricycle more stable and easier to ride.

The first documentation of adult tricycles started to appear in 1680’s when Stephen Farffler of Germany, who was a disabled watch maker, created his own tricycle so that he could travel. As a watch maker, he created a tricycle powered by hand cranks to reach his customers.

Before the end of the 1860’s, variations of tricycles started to appear in the market with the seat moved further back to help correct safety issues. At the same time, as a children’s toy, wooden tricycles started to appear. Official documentation about children’s tricycles are hard to find along with photographic evidence about when and where the first ones were made. Chances are good that the first children’s tricycle was probably homemade.

Tricycles’ key advantages are riding comfort, cornering, stability and terminal velocity. People usually regard the tricycle as a children’s toy. However, tricycles are used by adults who don’t know how to ride a bicycle, or for older people who are afraid of falls.

The Coventry Lever Tricycle, even though it started with 4 wheels, it was eventually changed to three

One of the main drawbacks of some tricycles is that a low riding profile makes them hard to spot in traffic, which advocates the use of flags, blinker lights and other accessories as a necessity for safety. Supposedly, another disadvantage is the tricycle has poor climbing ability since it takes much more energy to ride uphill. But then, the same can be said for a bike.


Recumbent Trikes Are Comfortable

For many people a bicycle can be uncomfortable. Concentrating most of your body weight on that small, narrow seat, that makes itself known for many ends painfully. You will often be reminded later, every time you think about going for a ride, of the experience of that sea, and the result is that bike will remain hanging from the hook in your garage.

But recumbent trikes are extremely comfortable. What could be called “adult” tricycles, all of your weight is not on a small seat. Instead with recumbent trikes you get to sit on a wide seat with a back, just like sitting on a chair.

It is relatively easy to get on and off of a recumbent trike. Based on the style and how low they are to the ground will determine if you’ll have a challenge getting up. There’s no throwing your leg over the seat to get on the bike. With these adult tricycles you simply sit down. Many are even made with a higher seat positioning so that you don’t have to go down quite as far, and it also means you don’t have as far to get back up.



Recumbent Trikes Are A Blast

One of the most important aspects about a recumbent trike is the thrill of the ride. You really have no idea how much fun they are until you get on one, but the bottom line is a recumbent trike can be a blast! Imagine the rush as the ground goes speeding by just inches below your seat, and you are in full control! How much more exercise do you think you’ll get when you’re doing something that is so exhilarating? Is it a bit icy outside? Who cares? You have 3 wheels! Get out and have some fun.

Adult Tricycles


And adult tricycle is not necessary just a trike with three small wheels, like those that come to mind used by pre-school age children. There are also those used by adults for a wide variety of purposes. In the United States, adult tricycles, those with larger wheels and seats much higher off the ground, are used primarily by older people for recreation and exercise.

Most adult tricycles made for recreational purpose use the upright layout, or that similar to what is also known as the upright (wrong-right in recumbent terms) when making reference to a road, mountain or cruiser bike. The difference between children’s and adult tricycles is that whereas children’s tricycles are usually direct-drive and have no brakes, adult trikes have a chain-gear drive with multiple speeds and are equipped with front and rear brakes.



Some new riders may find that upright tricycles are a bit strange to ride because they’re more familiar with the steering required to balance a bicycle, as body weight is used during turns. Riding on the road is the principal difficulty to overcome as the variation in the camber of the road throws off the balance of the trike just a bit. Like first learning to ride a bike takes some mastering, the same is necessary for a trike, simply not as drastic.

A Whole New Experience

A recumbent trike is a whole new experience, and for most styles and designs very little effort is needed to master riding trails, streets and country roads with confidence. Because balance is no longer an issue, each successive outing is more enjoyable, relaxing, re-enforcing your choice for a recumbent trike. Your imagination will find it not just easy, but fascinating to imagine riding in events, taking long rides of 30, 60 or even 100 miles, all in comfort.

What are you waiting for? Go find a local bike shop on the internet that offers recumbent trikes as part of their inventory. Then go test ride one. Let your smile be the judge of your experience!

Author: Alan

Alan is retired and resides in Quito, Ecuador. Writing is a passion which has resulted in two eBooks thus far, with more in the works. Married 47 years with four sons and 13 grandchildren, provides potential grist for the mill! Alan is a charter "Boomer", a Viet Nam veteran, committed to roasting his own coffee and writes about whatever pops into his mind. He loves to build and ride recumbent bikes, play racquetball, writes almost daily, travels Ecuador, and talks to anything that does not move fast enough! The twinkle in his eye is a combination of the sun, and an active sense of humor. His desire to encourage others to write is being answered through his articles on the Internet.