The photo you just clicked on is of me when I rode my balloon tire bike in my home town's Aqua Daze summer festival. Each year at tht time, my parents would stay up late the night before the parade and decorate our three kid's bikes with floats made of wood lathe and crepe paper.

I've been a confirmed cyclist since that first heady day when I used the back door step of our house on 8th street to get up on my bike and take off on a tour of my neighborhood. I'm embarrassed to admit that on those first feeble attempts I end up walking the bike back home whenever I stopped because I couldn't start from the ground level--I guess there was something magic in my own doorstep. Much later, In my high school days in the '60's, I would tour the Minnesota/Wisconsin St. Croix Valley area in a 3-speed "English" bike. In the mid-70's, I rode vintage balloon-tire tank models which I modified with 3-speed hub (w/internal braking) while living in Northern California in the '70s before it was cool to ride fat-tire bikes. My Monark was the only full-size balloon-tire bike entered in what may have been the first organized mtn. bike race way back in 1976 in Chico's Bidwell Park .

After settling in Santa Barbara, I continued my quest for pedaling enjoyment by joining the fledgling mountain bike revolution in the mid-80's by acquiring a Specialized Stumpjumper and then a Ritchey Ascent. Many hours were spent in the back country of Santa Barbara County and other California sites, both coastal and mountaine (one of the most memorable was the White Mountain ride a group of us from UCSB did in 1986. Cycling at elevations over 10K feet was figuratively and literally breathtaking!)

During the '90's I found that I was spending less and less time both on and off-road . . . having a child come into your family sure does change one's priorities in life--I was now towing a Burley trailer with our little pre-schooler, rather than finding new mountain routes to explore. And spending more time bike commuting to work was prompting me to consider how to make that aspect of my daily experience more fun. After all, I no longer had the trusty and now probably rusty Sears Hawthorne 3-speed of my youth, the balloon tire cruisers were not comfortable for long daily commutes, and I seemed to be wasting altogether too much energy using my mtn. bikes to keep up with the rest of the commuters on the bike paths. I'd long since passed on riding road bikes--(no fun factor, 'cepting speed, and that came at the price of comfort). What I needed was something new and exciting, like the experience each of the preceding bike styles had provided for their specific tasks: touring, campus cruising, and off-roading. I was ready for another step in the cycle evolution . . .

It came after test-riding a Linear recumbent that I'd seen hanging forlornly on the wall in a local bike shop the autumn of '96. Wow! After experiencing the joy of reclining for the first time I have to admit that it was extremely hard not to just plunk down my plastic right then and there and take this wonderful machine home. However, reason prevailed and I set out in the next few months to learn more about these recumbents or 'bents as is the vernacular among these cyclists. Later, after visiting Linda & Jim Wronski's PeopleMovers shop, I became even more enamored with this mode o' transport upon discovering three-wheel 'bents: trikes!

Thus I set myself upon the task of finding an affordable recumbent trike and as luck would have it, I ran across WizWheelz now known as, a company on the web just starting out. I managed to snag a trike on their initial run that year and the rest is history--both for them and for me.

What I immediately discovered with these machines is that there's no "balance learning-curve," yet despite an additional tire on the road it was not unusual to cruise along at 20 mph. And although I've now entered the seventh decade of my life, I'd have to say these machines are still the closest thing to the proverbial fountain of youth! How else can you describe the rush of being able to go much faster and much, much farther than I've ever done in my life?!

Recumbent trikes are great for long rides: things I never quite enjoyed as much on a diamond frame road or mountain bike, because I either couldn't keep up or if I did, I paid for it physically in the ensuing days. But in the nine years and nearly 20K miles since acquiring my first TerraTrike, I've participated in an ever-growing number of fun rides (usually with my bike club), a dozen metric centuries, and one 24 hour endurance ride in 2002 (thanks to the sponsorship and complete support of TerraTrike.)

My first century was in September of 1997, the SLOB Lighthouse Ride, a metric century in which I averaged 15 mph overall--and felt great afterward (albeit very thirsty!) The second was a metric half-century (The Holiday Halves) put on by the Santa Maria Tailwinds Bicycle Club. Averaging 15 mph again, I toured the Santa Maria Valley from Orcutt to Nipomo Mesa on an incredibly beautiful day. Had a three-mile-stretch (must have been a slight downhill!) where three of us (2 roadies and myself) averaged nearly 30 mph--wheeeeeeeee! In the summer of '98 I did the Santa Maria Tailwinds Bicycle Club's Windmill Metric Century as well as what turned out to be a metric century from Santa Barbara to Ventura and back to Goleta with my bike club on Father's Day, 1998. Here's the story of a ride I did in Spring '99: Fred Lenk's Tour de Ojai Ride--April 24th, 1999. I finally did our own GVCC bike club's People Powered Ride in October of 1999, after just finishing another metric century on my second Lighthouse Ride in San Luis Obispo. These last two were on my 2nd TerraTrike (the convertible).

Another of the unexpected joys I've experienced with the Trike is going into sharp turns at speed and applying the brake to just one side inducing almost a three-wheel drift around a sharp corner! And it's all the more fun with hazards like sand or water on the roadway--things that would have called for caution in the past. I've even made unexpected jumps with all three wheels off the ground--or dropped one wheel into the dirt shoulder and maintained control of the trike every time. The seats are so darn comfortable I've found myself reclining on the Trike in the backyard whilst listening to A Prairie Home Companion.

But, back to speed--usually question #1 on people's minds when they first encounter TerraTrike. I've already commented on the 20+ mph cruising speed on unassisted straightaways (no tailwind, downslope, or riders to draft). Having a speedometer means constantly checking whether I'm keeping to that speed--and I've since learned that something is either wrong with me or the bike if I'm not holding to cruising speed. Case in point: on a Tailwinds ride one summer I suddenly found myself having increasing difficulty keepin up with another rider. Then I looked down at the left front tire and noticed it was flat! For all those unfortunate souls who've had a blowout on a two-wheel bike and fought to retain control I'd say this speaks volumes about the stability of a recumbent trike! However, back to the topic of top speed for a short sprints (unassisted on level ground)--my best unassisted mark is 30 mph! This was achieved a number of times on my commute to work (yes, with a change of clothes, assortment of tools, etc., on board as added ballast!)

As for the other main question: cost, I figured out that my first trike paid for itself--many times over, in my years of daily commuting to work. Why? Automobile upkeep expenses (@$.50/mile) work out to $1500/year; parking, once I get to where I work is $432/year; and health club membership (equaling the daily exercise I get) costs $300/year . . . heck, I could afford a new trike each year (hmm, maybe that's why I've collected 8 of them!)

The stable platform that defines the recumbent trike invites all kinds of streamlined design possibilities such as this. For additional glimpses of complete streamlined recumbent trike shells, check the fully-faired designs of Mark Murphy and Don Elliot. And if you want to follow the physics and metaphysics of recumbent tricyclists, subscribe to the recumbent trike mailing list. Also, check out the impressive Bentrider online site.

The Santa Barbara area is quite a cyclist's paradise, due to a delightful combination of climate, topography, and organizations like The Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition and The Goleta Valley Cycling Club.

back home

updated July, 2009