Bike vs. Trikke

Lately my bicycle has been turning green with envy every time it watches me take my little green Trikke out for a joyride.  Today I decided to show the bike some love by taking it for a 19 mile ride on the D&L Canal Path from Bethlehem to Easton and back.  This was also my first chance to try out the new seat I installed on Monday, in an effort to overcome my primary objection to riding the bike.

Battle of the fitness machines

My ride was great, albeit a bit tiring over some rough terrain that would have been better conquered on a light-duty mountain bike.  At least my new seat cushioned me as I hoped, and I’m not experiencing much post-biking pain and discomfort as I sit here and type this.  At many points during the ride, I wished I was gliding along on a smooth stretch of tarmac on my Trikke instead, and this got me thinking about the pros and cons of the two different, yet effective fitness machines.
Riding Environments:

The bike has the advantage of being able to go almost anywhere.  Rough pavement, gravel trails, and undulating hills may take more effort, but they are not show-stoppers when you’re on two wheels.  The Lehigh Valley is filled with plenty of such terrain that is difficult or off limits to the Trikke, which instead thrives on smooth and relatively flat asphalt and concrete.  While some of these asphalt patches, such as parking lots or neighborhood streets, may be boring and uninspiring on a bike, carving across them with the Trikke is a sheer pleasure because you are more focused on the motion of the machine than on the scenery itself.
Riding Speed and Distance:

How far and fast you can go is primarily a factor of your fitness level, riding skill, and the terrain you ride on.  I consider myself an intermediate rider with continually improving fitness, yet I am still technically classified as obese, so my commentary here is made through those filters.  I’m currently able to bike about 20-22 miles at an average of 10-11 mph.  I typically Trikke 8-10 miles at an average of 6-7 mph.  In general, you can expect to go slightly faster on your bike and travel about twice the distance that you would on a Trikke.
Workout Quality:

Here’s where the Trikke really begins to gain the upper hand.  Your entire body gets into the act of carving, and you can alter your riding style to emphasize or rest certain parts of your body at any given time.  In general, your legs, arms and core are all going to feel equally exercised after a good ride.  On the bike, your legs bear the brunt of the effort, while your upper body is enjoying a free ride.  I personally get a better cardio workout on my Trikke, because I’m able to exercise more of me at once.  I find on my bike, my legs start to burn and protest long before my heart rate really starts to climb.  This may improve with my fitness, but if you’re in a similar condition, you are likely going to get a better workout on a Trikke.

This is another area where the Trikke shines.  Quite frankly, the bike is a pain in my rear!  Yes, the new seat and padded shorts have helped, but I am typically squirming around and counting the miles to the finish line on a typical ride.  I also have problems with my wrists and hands going numb, as they are locked into position on the bike supporting the weight of my upper body.  I ride a hybrid bike, which is fairly upright compared to a road bike, but this is still a problem for me.  As for the Trikke, I really have no complaints comfort-wise.  Apart from stepping on and off its foot decks, it is a literal no-impact exercise.  My wrists are never numb and I never wince as I sit down after a ride.  I also love that I can hop on the Trikke regardless of what I’m wearing.  This makes it great for after-work rides on days when I really don’t feel like bringing a change of clothes.

I drive a small hatchback, which is a necessity for fuel efficiency on my long commute.  My Trikke folds up quickly and is very easy to load in and out of the car’s rear hatch.  I recently had two Trikkes back there, and there was still room to spare.  My bike, on the other hand, is a chore to wedge in and out of the car, and it eats up every inch of space.  I have to detach the front brake cable then remove the front wheel to get it in.  Even with that done, it is still difficult and awkward to handle.  Needless to say, I have to reassemble it to ride it once I reach the trail.  I have considered buying a bike rack, but I had one years ago, and I know they can be equally difficult to fumble around with.  Plus I like the security of having the bike locked completely inside the car.  When you’re pressed for time and looking for convenience, the Trikke is again the clear winner.
Learning Curve:

Many people shy away from buying a Trikke because they’re worried they won’t be able to learn to ride it.  There’s no denying the learning curve that comes with riding a Trikke.  Well guess what?  Your bicycle has a learning curve too!  But you likely learned to ride at a young age, and have thus forgotten about that aspect of it.  If you found the rare adult who does not know how to ride a bicycle, I would venture a guess that they would actually find the Trikke to be the easier of the two vehicles to master.  Don’t let the learning curve discourage you from riding a Trikke.  If anything, it is healthy and satisfying to challenge yourself to do something new at any age.  I am the kind of person who is always looking to grow and learn, and I have taken great delight in mastering my new riding toy at the tender young age of 40.
Social Opportunities:

Odds are you already have a lot of friends who ride bicycles, so joining them on a ride is simple.  There are biking clubs everywhere, so finding new friends is easy too.  Although there aren’t a lot of Trikke riding groups out there yet, hooking up with one is a great way to make new friends and to become a better rider.  Our choice of an unconventional fitness machine creates an instant bond with each other.  As you ride, you’ll also attract the attention of a lot of curious passersby, and for some of us shy types, this is often enough to break the ice to lead to a conversation (and perhaps a new friendship) that would have never occurred had you pedaled by on an ordinary bicycle.  If you’re looking to meet others who Trikke in southeastern Pennsylvania, please check out the Trikke Riders of Pennsylvania, who are very welcoming to new riders.

Hopefully you’re riding your bike and/or Trikke often enough discover that they eventually need maintenance and repairs.  The Trikke wins again in this final category, as it is a simple machine to work on.  Apart from occasional tire and tube changes and the tightening of bolts and brake cables, it is as close to a maintenance-free ride as you’ll get.  A bicycle, on the other hand, has a lot more complex moving parts, especially with the drive train.  The chain requires frequent lubrication in addition to the typical bolt and brake cable tightening.  I consider myself very handy mechanically, yet if my bike requires fine adjustments to the gears or truing of the spokes, I usually find myself crying uncle and carting it off to the local bike shop to have a real mechanic deal with it.
For some good graphical depictions of bikes vs. Trikkes, go to click on the “Bike vs. Trikke” tab.  Even though this is on the Electric Trikke website, the same principals apply to the body-powered fitness models.
You’ve now learned about the pros and cons of bikes and Trikkes, so which do you decide to ride?  There’s certainly no harm in having one of each!  I ride them both and can personally attest to the benefits of cross training.  The Lehigh Valley offers a wide array of trail types, and it is great to have both a bike and a Trikke so that I can enjoy them all.
There are a lot of people who are overweight and out of shape these days, and several of them that I know have complained to me that they are just too far gone to ride a bicycle now.  It saddens me to see how they have given up on the idea of ever being healthy and fit again, even though these same people tell me how much they used to enjoy biking before they gained weight.  This also frightens me, because I came so close to crossing this threshold myself.  If you find yourself identifying with this growing problem, consider learning to ride a Trikke.  It has made exercise possible for people who can no longer do more traditional activities like biking and jogging.  I have lost 43 pounds since I bought my Trikke, and have heard numerous stories of people losing even more than that on theirs.
Whichever your choice, it is most important to do something you enjoy.  The more you enjoy an exercise, the more likely you will do it regularly enough reap the rewards of improved health.  Happy trails!
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