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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 11-22-08, 02:41 PM   #1
RLSchell
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Tricycle for Commuting???

I have some questions about the viability of a tricycle for commuting. Im not committed to the idea just thinking about it and looking for ideas.

Let me explain my circumstances. I started bike commuting about 6 months ago and I've logged maybe 1000 miles both commuting and recreational riding since then. Prior to this year, I hadn't used a bike regularly since high school (I'm 42). My current commuter is an Electrec ebike with the usual accessories (lights, fenders, rack, etc.). I practice vehicular cycling and mix right in with traffic on some narrow, shoulderless, busy roads (this is really my best, safest route given the alternatives). My average speed is about 15 MPH and I dont need to go faster.

Although I've never fallen off a bike as an adult, I'm very afraid that if anything should happen and I go down on my commute, I'd be instantly squashed by a vehicle. I'd also like to be able to carry more cargo, safely commute in winter with occasional ice and snow, and avoid low speed balance issues in stop-and-go traffic. Hence, my consideration of a tricycle. Now, my questions:

1. What are the legal issues? NJ laws and regs strictly define bicycles as two-wheeled and rear-drive in the context of motor vehicle code. Has anyone been told by law enforcement that a tricycle is not a bicycle and cant be used on-road as such?

2. How well does a tricycle lend itself to commuting in general and with busy traffic on narrow roads in particular?

3. Assuming careful and slow biking, I would think three wheels stay up on ice better than two right, wrong?

4. I know there are lots of recumbent trike fans, but being that low in heavy traffic would seem to make it hard to see and be seen. Id prefer an upright tricycle design. Pros, cons?

A bit off topic maybe you can see what I really want is an all season, street-legal, human-electric hybrid vehicle. Such things are produced (e.g., Twike), albeit at ridiculously expensive prices and in my state would require motorcycle classification and would lose the flexibility of being a bicycle.
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Old 11-22-08, 02:57 PM   #2
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Sounds like you want a Twike. Seriously, though: I know this isn't what you want to hear, but.. just learn to ride a bicycle. If ice really scares you get studded tires. Trikes are large and cumbersome and IMO defeat alot of the advantages of bicycle commuting(maneuverability in tight spaces, can be carried up stairways or through doorways, easy to lock up if need be...)also three flat tires is a bit harder than two to fix.I know someone who decide they "couldn't" use a bike, so ended up with a trike- that thing was like an albatross around their neck i.e. ridiculously heavy and hard to get up hills, so they ended up walking around pushing a trike. Hope this perspective helps..
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Old 11-22-08, 04:01 PM   #3
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A trike is a "human powered vehicle" just like a bike so state laws will see it as a bike.

That said, you WILL need to have a "slow moving" vehicle sign just like farmers use at the
rear for saftey AND a bike pole flag since you will be lower than a bike on the road.
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Old 11-22-08, 04:05 PM   #4
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I do appreciate the perspective and you have some good points.

A note about weight. With electric assist, this is not really an issue. My Electrec weighs about 80 lbs. I know that if the motor dies, I'm calling for a ride or pedaling in low gear only. It's OK for flat or down hill, but you can't really ride this up hill without using the motor. I'm used to the weight.

I do park my bike inside in a hallway at work. A trike wouldn't fit very well.

Keep the thoughts flowing - I'd like to hear more ideas!
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Old 11-22-08, 04:21 PM   #5
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I like the idea of the trike -- no worries about awkward start ups at stop lights, no balance problems if you are carrying too much stuff, and some trikes have nice big baskets at the front and back so you could load up on groceries and stuff. If I knew I was only riding on little used roads maybe in the country side or in a subdivision (and not too hilly) I'd give it a whirl. I have seen a few people ride them downtown for neighbourhood grocery getters, but the riders were all plump senior citizens and riding on the sidewalk. I'd worry that the trike would take up quite a bit of space on the road considering the relative slow speed in comparison with the traffic -- I can see getting some annoyed car honks and rude gestures.
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Old 11-22-08, 04:24 PM   #6
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Trikes rock!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/ima...sporting-goods

I like the small trike recumbents, but I'm the same as the OP in that they're too close to the ground where I'd be uncomfortable in traffic.

Last edited by CCrew; 11-22-08 at 04:28 PM.
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Old 11-22-08, 04:30 PM   #7
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I would love to have this "trike".

http://www.utahtrikes.com/TRIKE-GSGLYDE.html

My wife would never understand my purchase if it, however.
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Old 11-22-08, 04:35 PM   #8
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^ Yup; if I got a tricycle, it would definitely be a velomobile.
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Old 11-22-08, 04:42 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RLSchell View Post
I have some questions about the viability of a tricycle for commuting. Im not committed to the idea just thinking about it and looking for ideas.
Let me understand this. Are we talking.....

....Adult tricycle (very slow and super-dorky)....



....or recumbent trike (super-fast and very cool)?

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Old 11-22-08, 05:52 PM   #10
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Let me understand this. Are we talking.....

Roody, I like the recumbent very much, but I don't see, literally, how I could navigate in traffic from that low. So..., I guess we're talking dorky upright adult trike (which I would motorize, of course) unless there are other options, which is why I ask.
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Old 11-22-08, 06:03 PM   #11
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So basically you want a motorized tricycle that isn't classified as a motorized tricycle? Really? Seriously though... is there a compelling reason that you can't/don't want to use your legs to propel yourself? You could always get an electric three-wheeled wheelchair- they're legal on sidewalks and commuter paths and some even go up stairs!
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Old 11-22-08, 06:46 PM   #12
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Meh, since you ask, I like the maneuverability of a two wheeled bike. You can hop curbs, medians, cut between cars and zip along narrow sidewalks to get to work. Now I don't normally cut between cars or ride along sidewalks but I like the option of being able to move along using any means possible. Seems like a trike would slow me down.
On icy roads, I can just imagine that trike slidding sideways in the ice just as we used to do as kids and the trike would be tail heavy too. Just my two cents.
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Old 11-22-08, 06:49 PM   #13
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Get a Mini Cooper, about the same size as the upright trike and a whole lot more fun.
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Old 11-22-08, 07:17 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nightshade View Post
A trike is a "human powered vehicle" just like a bike so state laws will see it as a bike.

That said, you WILL need to have a "slow moving" vehicle sign just like farmers use at the
rear for saftey AND a bike pole flag since you will be lower than a bike on the road.
A trike is not necessarily lower than a bike. My Schwinn Town & Country trike is the exact same height as a cruizer. I concur with the rest..
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Old 11-22-08, 07:55 PM   #15
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There are trikes and there are trikes. Those writing them off as heavy and unweildy are just parrotting misconceptions. Nor do you have to go to a recumbent.

Advantage of a trike? Stability. Not an issue to someone who is confident on two wheels but there are many reasons why you may not be - my sister is someone who simply can't ride a two wheeler. My gf, no matter how much riding she does, is just not comfortable riding on two wheels (in her case, it's the result of a very heavy fall just after getting involved with bikes as an adult). Then you start getting into all sorts of medical reasons and no, these don't have to be obvious or dramatic.

If you're not comfortable on two wheels, the stability of a trike is a big plus.

Note that I don't include 'load carrying' as an advantage - it's not, two wheeled bikes can safely carry huge loads and if you add a trailer, it just gets better (yes, I use a trailer ... to tow my dog ).

Disadvantages include requiring extra space on the road, weight (because of the extra bits) though this doesn't mean they have to be heavy, harder to transport (get a folder).

Good adult trikes don't suffer these problems to the point where they're major issues though.

Finding a good trike can be hard and expensive - they're a small market, just like the recumbent scene, but it can be done. Fire up google and go for it, but don't be surprised if it's harder than just going down to your lbs (in my case it's not, because my lbs runs a business making these brutes ).

Quote:
Originally Posted by RLSchell View Post
Let me explain my circumstances. I started bike commuting about 6 months ago and I've logged maybe 1000 miles both commuting and recreational riding since then. Prior to this year, I hadn't used a bike regularly since high school (I'm 42). My current commuter is an Electrec ebike with the usual accessories (lights, fenders, rack, etc.). I practice vehicular cycling and mix right in with traffic on some narrow, shoulderless, busy roads (this is really my best, safest route given the alternatives). My average speed is about 15 MPH and I don’t need to go faster.
There are some things I'd like to pick out of this.

6 months and 1,000 miles isn't very long, particularly at 42 when learning new stuff (which you effectively are) takes time - I'm 52 so I've got some exerience of this. I can confidently predict that your attitudes WILL be wildly different in another six months and different again a year after that. This is why most people returning to cycling (or taking it up) buy another bike inside the first 12 months. So don't panic, just keep riding.

Forget this 'vehicular cycling' bulldust. I'm not saying the theory and thinking is flawed, I'm saying that as soon as you start applying tags and following a 'school of thought', you stop thinking about the game yourself. In your case, you are still new to playing in the traffic and so needed the guidance. Now is the time to toss those theories away and to start riding with your brain. You are a unique individual in a unique environment, there is no way that some else's methods and attitudes will apply to you. In fact, my riding methods vary depending on where I am in the city.

Riding amongst cars is always scary and dangerous. This is why I do my very best not to. There are nearly always ways to avoid riding in the traffic but these can be very obscure. The first thing to do is to forget your car based route choices. In a car, we tend to take the most direct/shortest route. On a bike, that's false thinking. Detours, loops, going 'out of your way' often produces a safer and sometimes faster route and the additional distance is usually a lot smaller than it looks. Similarly, riding back streets is quite practical on a bike where it's not in a car. Bikes allow you to sneak through areas that cars can't. There may not be a bike path that goes from where you are to where you want to be, but often taking the time to ride to a path, travelling it and then riding from it to your destination is much better than playing dogems with SUVs.

You say that the route you take is your 'best, safest route'. Mate, I'm an experienced cyclist and well practiced in finding alternatives or taking the 'long way round'. I started commuting into the city this year (in march) after a couple of years of riding into the city periodically. I'm STILL making changes to my route and exploring new options ... and finding, to my chagrin, that one option I've been consciously avoiding until feeling bored one afternoon, has made a massive improvement in safety (ie no cars) to my route. After 6 months, you aren't even close to having fine tuned your commute.

Your choice of bike. The electric assist has its place but it does make for a heavy bike. The electric assist itself, while useful (I'm not putting it down), helps make the bike just a little more unweildy. I reckon that now's the time to buy yourself a companion for it. You don't have to buy a racer, just get something lighter and more sporty - the flat bar road bikes, as opposed to their heavier hybrid cousins, are a lot of fun, very fast and agile and can be used for the commute on days when you don't want to take the work horse. The thinking behind this suggestion is that if you get a bike that is more rideable, more fun, you'll do more riding, more sporty riding and will grow in confidence and skill as you go. Even if the new bike only ever serves as a toy, it will improve your riding and appreciation of your commuter and it will make your current commute safer and easier.

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Old 11-22-08, 07:58 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by frankenmike View Post
So basically you want a motorized tricycle that isn't classified as a motorized tricycle? Really? Seriously though... is there a compelling reason that you can't/don't want to use your legs to propel yourself? You could always get an electric three-wheeled wheelchair- they're legal on sidewalks and commuter paths and some even go up stairs!
Ahh, I think you may not be familiar with the nature of an electric bike. I DO pedal under my own power the entire time I'm riding. The electric assist just essentially flattens hills and neutralizes headwinds so I expend a more even amount of effort. I'm commuting to work in casual business attire, so I need to arrive not all hot and sweaty. My route has a lot of hills that I've estimated using mapmyride to be 6% to 15% grades in some areas. Electric assist isn't about being disabled. For me it's about making a bike commute practical when I would otherwise drive a car. I assume what we all want here is more people on bikes. The little electric motor does it for me.
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Old 11-22-08, 08:01 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by europa View Post
Forget this 'vehicular cycling' bulldust. I'm not saying the theory and thinking is flawed, I'm saying that as soon as you start applying tags and following a 'school of thought', you stop thinking about the game yourself. In your case, you are still new to playing in the traffic and so needed the guidance. Now is the time to toss those theories away and to start riding with your brain. You are a unique individual in a unique environment, there is no way that some else's methods and attitudes will apply to you. In fact, my riding methods vary depending on where I am in the city.

Riding amongst cars is always scary and dangerous. This is why I do my very best not to. There are nearly always ways to avoid riding in the traffic but these can be very obscure. The first thing to do is to forget your car based route choices. In a car, we tend to take the most direct/shortest route. On a bike, that's false thinking. Detours, loops, going 'out of your way' often produces a safer and sometimes faster route and the additional distance is usually a lot smaller than it looks. Similarly, riding back streets is quite practical on a bike where it's not in a car. Bikes allow you to sneak through areas that cars can't. There may not be a bike path that goes from where you are to where you want to be, but often taking the time to ride to a path, travelling it and then riding from it to your destination is much better than playing dogems with SUVs.

You say that the route you take is your 'best, safest route'. Mate, I'm an experienced cyclist and well practiced in finding alternatives or taking the 'long way round'. I started commuting into the city this year (in march) after a couple of years of riding into the city periodically. I'm STILL making changes to my route and exploring new options ... and finding, to my chagrin, that one option I've been consciously avoiding until feeling bored one afternoon, has made a massive improvement in safety (ie no cars) to my route. After 6 months, you aren't even close to having fine tuned your commute.
+3 (one for each paragraph).
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Old 11-22-08, 08:12 PM   #18
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I've never used a normal adult trike. I've got my Worksman trike, which is an upright trike with two wheels in front, back half like a bicycle. I can tell you that it is LESS stable than a bicycle for normal riding. If you ride slowly on flat ground, you're okay, and don't need to balance. But, you can turn a sharp corner at walking speed and tip it, too. And at normal bicycle speeds, it doesn't take much to tip it.

Now, maybe the normal adult trikes are more stable than that, but I would be very hesitant to buy one, figuring to weave in and out of traffic at 15 mph, and figuring that it would somehow be more stable than a bicycle. I've seen people ride these, but I don't recall ever seeing anyone ride one faster than a walking pace.

They may be geared slower, too, not sure about that- my Worksman is, but it's intended for industrial use.
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Old 11-22-08, 08:28 PM   #19
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there are more upright trikes the delta's that are not as dorky
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Old 11-22-08, 09:04 PM   #20
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There are trikes and there are trikes. Those writing them off as heavy and unweildy are just parrotting misconceptions. Nor do you have to go to a recumbent.
....etc etc etc....
Richard
Whew! You used a lot of words to say it but I think you're right.

I hope the OP reads this carefully. Even--especially--if he disagrees with you, he's very lucky to get such a long and well-reasoned response.

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Old 11-22-08, 09:31 PM   #21
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Before you discount recumbent trikes, check out the 'bent sub-forum here and also check out recumbent.com and bentrideronline.com.

EDIT: Just re-read the OP. Main reasoning for the interest in the trike is for safety/stability issues on his route. Don't know how far you have to go, but here's an option that hasn't been yet: a crank foward bike. That would allow you to get your feet down in a hurry.
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Old 11-22-08, 09:39 PM   #22
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I use a Raleigh grocery-getter, old-lady trike for hauling groceries and other cargo around. I first bought it for my wife a few years back, but discovered she was scared of traffic too much to ride it, so I took it. It was pretty dorky, I have to admit, being a guy who normally rides a recumbent and an ultra-cool Firebike stretch cruiser. I even had one guy give me the gears until I reminded him I can fit 3 cases of 24 beers in the back and another in the front, what could his bike carry? Anyway, I cooled it up by modifying it from 5 to 15 speed, putting crusier bars and saddle on it, full springer fork and chrome fenders all around. It's still a little dorky, but I get a lot of compliments too, so I'm not ashamed to ride it.

But, having said all that, it is not fast, even with 15 speeds and it does not corner well. You can't lean into your corners remember. But once your used to it, it's not a bad ride. Folks will look at you funny though being a relatively young guy riding a bike that's generally used by little old ladies.
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Old 11-22-08, 10:03 PM   #23
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Before you buy a trike, you might want to look at the Rhoades Car. It has 4 wheels, and IMO is slightly less dorky than an upright trike. They offer several models, including one with e-assist.



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Old 11-22-08, 10:18 PM   #24
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Before you buy a trike, you might want to look at the Rhoades Car. It has 4 wheels, and IMO is slightly less dorky than an upright trike. They offer several models, including one with e-assist.



Hey, Roody, you must be feeling better now. Your all over the forums tonight.

Anyway, I posted in the form of an edit the idea of a crank forward for the OP. I think that would assuage his fears/concerns about falling in traffic. What do you think?
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Old 11-22-08, 10:41 PM   #25
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Anyway, I posted in the form of an edit the idea of a crank forward for the OP. I think that would assuage his fears/concerns about falling in traffic. What do you think?
How would they do that? Wouldn't they just be like riding any other sort of bicycle?

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