Trikes for all

Three tricycles lined up in a bike shop

Three trikes: from a child's bike (front) to an adult version (centre) to a serious cargo bike, trikes have wide applications. Photo: Vanessa Courtot

Old photos mark time and memories of a bygone era, allowing present and future generations to look back at and gleam events, fashion, cultural trends and family life styles. Looking back some twenty or thirty years at these memories is always good for a laugh, being reminded of our hair styles and clothes, thinking at the time how fashionable and trendy we were. It also gives insight into what we allowed our children to have as leisure toys as far as bikes go.

Most of us could remember our first bike possibly being a tricycle that had powered by pedals on the front wheel. Stepping back further than this short time of our own life span to that of our father’s and mother’s childhood or even to our grandparents to when they were children we get to see things much different at that time.  The general youth in early days may have had a hoop and a stick to roll along or the home made fruit box billy cart with the pram wheels and for those that were really trendy you might see a flashy scooter and very occasionally you might have seen a big wheeled chain driven tricycle as seen in this weeks photo (Circa 1920’s).

It seems to be very rare that you would see a two wheeled bike as you might these days for early childhood times. Tricycles were very popular in later years as a starting bike for young children where as today a two wheeler with trainer wheels is more likely to be the trend. Yet it is the tricycle that we are now seeing resurgence and not just for young children but a much wider application of age and needs and even commercial applications.

Eastern culture has been exponents of the tricycle in many shapes and form as a mode of transport since the turn of the twentieth centenary and generally as a source of paid public transport and income for males. These were also known as Trishaws (taken from the name from the name of the human pulled rickshaw) or Cycle Rickshaw.  It seems that very few riders ever owned their trishaws but worked for an entrepreneur who owned a fleet of them not dissimilar to today’s taxi fleet owners.

While having a standard three wheel configuration that by definition makes it a tricycle this is where it can become quite diverse as to how the bike is steered and ridden.  For example, in most of South Asia the passenger seat is located behind the driver on a “delta” tricycle, while in Indonesia and Vietnam the driver sits behind the passenger seat on a “tadpole” Tricycle. In the Philippines, the passenger seats are usually located beside the driver.

In India in certain provinces far remote from the bustling cities tricycles are used like a utility or small tray truck would be used.  It is not uncommon to see building materials stacked onto a platform the size of a utility body and it seemed the only limiting factor was the tyre bursting or the wheels collapsing.

Most tricycles were single geared chain driven fixed wheel with an axle with one driving wheel and the other free wheel to allow for the bike to be ridden around corners. Tricycle’s are now far more sophisticated with gears giving the rider more freedom to ride at a pace that suits them and tackle hills.

People who may have a problem with a two wheel bike due to balance and freedom of use of all limbs legs as well as upper body can most likely sit astride a tricycle without the fears of falling over sideways.  We are seeing more of these on the streets of Bendigo as a mode of transport for the elderly that wish to enjoy the freedom of cycling and maintain a reasonable level of fitness.

On the world commercial scene Google Maps and its Street View project have pulled out one of the most basic of all forms of transport to bring the most detailed mapping and filming of storefronts, houses, people and streets the tricycle. In order to get to those public places which cars cannot, like busy tourist areas and small alleyway style roads in Europe and Japan, Google has enlisted a fleet of tricycles, the Google Street View Trikes.

Looking to join the cycling experience but can’t cope with two wheels? Give the three wheel option consideration.

See you on two or three wheels soon God willing


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