Dear Savvy Senior:
What can you tell me about three-wheeled bicycles? I'm 67 years old and would like to take up recreational bike riding but don't trust myself on a two-wheeler.
-- Unbalanced Bonnie
Dear Bonnie: Three-wheeled bikes -- also known as adult tricycles -- are a great cycling option for older boomers and seniors, especially those who have concerns with their balance or stamina. Here's what you should know, along with some tips to help you shop for one.
If you'd like to take up bike riding, but worry about falling, an adult tricycle is a smart option to consider because of the stability it provides. With a tricycle, you can ride as slow as you want without ever losing your balance and you can put both feet on the ground while seated, which is very reassuring for many older riders.
In addition, adult tricycles are also made with a low "step through" design, making mounting and dismounting much easier than a traditional bike; they come with big tires that ensure a smooth ride; have raised, ergonomic handlebars that are easier to reach and grip and offer oversize seats (some even have backrests) for comfort and support. And, other than the frame, tricycles use the same standard components as traditional bikes do, so replacement parts are readily available and repairs are not an issue.
Types of Tricycles
There are literally dozens of different types of adult tricycles to choose from with prices ranging anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. To help you figure out the right kind of tricycle that meets your needs and budget, here's a breakdown of the different styles and costs, along with some popular models to checkout.
Upright: If you're primarily interested in a leisurely ride around the neighborhood for pleasure, fitness or running errands, upright trikes are a good choice. These are traditional upright-positioned tricycles that come with rear cargo baskets and limited gear options usually ranging from one to three-speeds. Some popular models in this category include the Schwinn Meridian Adult Tricycle sold at Walmart and Target for around $270, the Sun Traditional 24 trike that retails for around $375 and the Torker TriStar three-speed which costs around $500.
Recumbent: These are the lower-to-the-ground, stretched-out frame tricycles that allow you to recline with your legs positioned in front of you. Available in various styles, recumbent trikes are very comfy, easy on the back and aerodynamic which make them ideal for long rides. See terratrike.com, sunbicycles.com, industrialbicycles.com, trailmate.com and bikemania.biz for a nice variety, but be aware that recumbent trikes are more expensive than upright models, typically ranging between $800 and $2,500.
Tandem: If you plan to ride primarily with your spouse or another partner, you may want to get a tandem tricycle that comes with two seats (front and back), or you can get a double seat tricycle with the seats side-by-side. You can find these types of bikes for around $1,000 to $2,000, at the same websites that offer recumbent trikes.
Folding: If you like to travel or if you have limited storage space, tricycles that are designed to fold up to fit in tight spaces are another popular option. The Adventurer Three-Speed Folding Trike which sells for $390 at adventurebikes.com, Kent Westport Folding Tricycle sold at Target and amazon.com for $300, and Walmart's Port-O-Trike 3-Speed Folding Tricycle for $400 are three good folding trikes to consider.
Electric: If you need a boost from time to time, electric tricycles are hybrids that have pedals and an electric motor, so you can exercise when you want or you can sit back and let the trike do the work. Some good options include the EW-88 electric trike at electricwheelstore.com for $1,200, and the Cabbike 3 Electric Tricycle offered through cabbikes.com for $979.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.