So you took the plunge and decided to buy a new trike! First off, that’s awesome. Trikes come in all shapes and sizes and are available for people of all ages. If you’ve never been on a bike and want to get out and start cycling then a good adult tricycle may be right for you. If you’re a more experienced rider, then there are a plethora of different kinds of trikes that will suit your needs. In this post, i’m going to talk about getting your trike out on the road.
For many people, staying on pathways and trails is more than enough. Some people want to take the next step and start riding a tricycle on the road. For some, this could be a mental barrier that needs to be crossed. For others there may be concerns with safety by sharing the road with motor vehicles. It’s a personal choice whether you’d like to stick to the pathways or hit the road. In this post I’ll try to outline some important points before getting out on the road. I hope to give you some tips and what to be aware of.
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I can’t ride a tricycle!
I’ve read countless posts about people that go from biking to triking and some tend to find it difficult riding a tricycle on the road. If you’re already used to riding a bicycle, there’s a number of reasons for this. One of the main reasons is something called camber. I will go over it in the next heading in more detail. Additionally, taking turns and cornering sharp turns is a little trickier on a trike vs. a bike and is something that takes a little getting used to.
If you haven’t cycled before then this doesn’t really apply to you. You won’t be used to anything! When taking a turn, cyclists will generally lean into the direction they are turning. Because a tricycle has 3 wheels, there is no way to lean it in any direction unless you have a specially designed trike that can tilt. Before taking your tricycle out on the road, these are points that you should consider and practice on a pathway or in a space that you are comfortable.
Camber is basically the tilt of a wheel based on the slope of the road. Roads aren’t flat normally but they’re high point is right in the middle and they usually slope down to both sides slightly — mainly for water drainage to prevent pooling water on roads. Regardless, a cyclist will have a very different ride than a triker. The reason being is that the tilt of the road is completely manageble on a bike. You wouldn’t even feel it.
A biker can be riding on a 20 degree tilted road that is straight but generally speaking, their bike will still be in a straight vertical alignment with the ground. This is because bikes have 2 wheels. Now, with a trike, adding the 3rd wheel makes this impossible unless you have a tilting trike which doesn’t completely eliminate the camber effect, but does help it.
A trike will be vertical with the slope / camber of the road. So if you are on the right side of the road that tilts down and to the right, you will feel like you are always being pulled into the curb. To counter this, you will feel like you always have to nudge towards your opposite side. This is simply something that you have to get used to if you decide to ride a trike. If you haven’t ridden one before then you wouldn’t know the difference if you were a cyclist. An important point to consider when riding a tricycle on the road
Before taking your trike out on the road some people may be concerned with clearance. A trike is generally wider than a bike. Trikes tend to be on average about the width of your shoulder span +/- a few inches (maybe around 24 inches). If you compare that to a bike, the overall width may be just about the same. On a bike, you’re still taking up about as much room width-wise as on a trike but it may look wider beause of the size of the rear.
Also, motorist tend to give trikes a little extra room on the road when passing because they do look bigger. If you’ve ever driven a car past a bike you’ve probably given the bike plenty of clearance with the fear that you may hit the cyclist. I’m sure if you’ve driven behind someone passing a bike you notice how much space they usually give the cyclist. I’m guilty myself of thinking “wow that guy is really giving that biker a LOT of space” when he’s almost fully in the opposite lane. My point being is that any good motorist will give you space, but ensure that you have taken as many safety measures as possible before riding a tricycle on the road.
3 tire paths vs 1 on a bike
I’ve been reading some posts on some triking forums about tire paths of trikes vs. bikes. Taking your trike out on the road means you basically have to be aware of 3 separate tire paths vs. a single path with a bike. First off, a cyclist can go out on the road and easily maneuver around rocks, potholes and other hazards that may present themselves out on the road. With a trike, this is something that is a little more difficult because you have 3 tire paths that you are controlling.
On a bike, the 2 wheels are aligned with eachother front to back. Whereas on a trike, usually all 3 wheels will be on separate paths. If you maneuver around a small bump with your front tire, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you wont go over it with one of your 2 rear tires. In the end, you are 3x more likely to hit a rock or bump than you would be on a bike. Something to be aware of before riding a tricycle on the road, for sure.
Visibility Riding A Tricycle On The Road
Visibility is definitely a concern for many trikers. When you finally decide to take your trike for a ride on the road, make sure you consider your visibility to others. In my opinion I do think that trikes are more visible than bikes simply because they are larger, so more likely to be seen at a greater distance. A driver can really only see as far or as high as the hood of their car lets them though. If we compare a traditional trike to a recumbent trike this is where visibility would be more of a concern.
Recumbent trikes tend to be very low to the ground. Someone driving a taller vehicle may have a more difficult time seeing you out on the road. If you’re a recumbent triker then this is something that you should be very aware of before riding a tricycle on the road. Take precautions if you can. As for a traditional trike, your position and height on the trike is pretty much the same as being on a regular bike. So if we compare regular bikes to traditional trikes, your visibility to motorists will be basically the same.
A note on safety
Whether you’re a biker or triker, always make sure you’re taking as many safety precautions when taking your trike out on the road. Below are some important points to consider when riding a tricycle on the road .
- Always wear a helmet!!!! (#1 most important thing that I’m emphasizing with 4 exclamation points)
- Share the road with motorists and same goes for motorists: share the road with trikers and bikers
- Nighttime means bright time: It’s dark, there are all kinds of motorists on the road (young, old, experienced, inexperienced). Take safety into your own hands and use a headlight, taillight, reflective clothing and fit your trike with reflectors.
- Put flags on your trike and other things that make you stand out and are easier to see.
- Be defensive: Don’t assume a motorist should do one thing or another. They are people just like you and some are terrible drivers and some are great drivers. Always take precautions.
- Try to remain in a straight line instead of playing frogger and passing in between cars.
- Figure out the blind spots for every kind of vehicle (car, truck, bus etc.) and stay out of them as much as possible!
- If you have to stop behind a vehicle, remember that the vehicle might roll back if it’s standard transmission: leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you.
- Pedestrians first. The pecking order is 1) Pedestrians 2) Cyclists 3) Motorists. Be aware of pedestrian and yield to them first.
- Try to stay off sidewalks: Depending on your local laws this may also be against the law.
People all around the world are riding a tricycle on the road. If you feel you are ready to take the next step and bring your trike out on the road, be sure to stay safe and consider all these points. Talk to your local bike / trike repair shop and see what they recommend before hitting the road. Every city and town is different, has different roads and different people & dynamics. Many cities have bike only pathways and routes that could be an option for you. Also, bike lanes are becoming much more prominent in cities across the globe. Finally, remember to have fun and enjoy every moment in the open air riding a tricycle on the road.