In March, right about the time COVID-19 arrived, I was going through a very small personal dilemma. I was mourning the loss of my mobility, the lack of taking spins on my two–wheel bike. A fall in January had caused me to hit the blacktop hard. Because of a strong, close–fitting helmet, I did not have a concussion. Miraculously, no bones were broken and I had only a small bruise or two. That day, after lying on the ground for a few minutes and deciding all was intact, I got back on my bike and finished my ride.
However, after thinking about the fall and talking with friends about it, my common sense and their comments suggested, “Maybe it’s time to put your bike in storage and walk instead.” I had been very fortunate not to get hurt and certainly didn’t want to end up with a broken hip or anything else. So, I reluctantly listened to my friends and my inner voice, saddened to give up riding my bike.
A two-wheeler had given me freedom as a 10-year–old country girl. I’d received it, a newly painted snazzy light blue and silver bike at Christmas. By spring, I was out riding it all over the countryside with my best friend. We’d go miles but almost always would stop at the local gas station to buy an Eskimo pie. I also used my bike to carry the newspapers I delivered door-to-door to neighbors on my route.
As an adult, there were some years of moving around with no bike but once settled and raising a family, there was always a two-wheeler in the garage for each family member. I remember rides both in Beaver and later in Sewickley, PA, with our biking group from church. We’d ride between 10 and 15 miles, stop for lunch and make the return trip. When we bought a condo in Marco Island, my bike dealer boxed up my two-wheeler and sent it to Marco where it was put back together, and when I moved to north Naples in 2018, the bike came with me.
How I was going to live without my bike riding was a problem since my other exercise routines were closed for the pandemic. I decided to try renting an adult trike. Actually, a tricycle was probably how many of us got the bike bug as little kids riding our tricycles in the house, the basement, on the driveway until we were finally ready for training wheels. I had skipped that step and gone right to the two-wheeler with the help of an aunt when I found my balance and confidence.
Checking out the local availability, I rented an adult trike for a week. It was fine, I could get my exercise and the price was doable. The next week, I rented a recumbent bike and liked it better but not the price, about twice that of the adult trike. I wanted to be economical and choose wisely and actually, my back decided for me. It was the recumbent that worked better for my back and whole body. So, I justified the additional cost by saying it was the means to keep my sanity during the pandemic and it was my birthday and Christmas gift to myself.
On April 1, a bright red recumbent was delivered to my address, adjusted, and I had my first ride. After, an hour or so of riding and making circles with it off the street—it rides differently than a two-wheeler—I was off and having fun. Currently, I ride my recumbent four or five mornings a week. With multiple gears, I can adjust my effort for wind and elevation and with a small basket on the back carry a jacket or rain gear if needed. I’m getting my exercise, Vitamin D, and I often see rabbits, squirrels, occasional tortoises and hear the birds. My neighbors, when walking, will wave and sometimes we stop and talk. Drivers in passing cars may give me a thumbs up.
If you are considering a purchase, first check out the safety guidelines. My dealer’s salesman covered the following for me. For safety, each recumbent or adult trike should have a flag—many are orange—for visibility. Helmets are also recommended as the bikes can tip if there is too much speed when going around bends. Reflectors may come with the bike and a bell; lights and a mirror can be added. Since the recumbent’s rear wheels are about a yard wide, before making the decision to buy one, check on available storage space to see if it will fit.
Then, if you want to experience the freedom of riding a three-wheeler for exercise or the fun of it, consider renting an adult trike and also the recumbent—dealers who sell bikes often don’t rent them. Find out which is better for your body. Since it’s the season of Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, consider asking family members to donate to your personal gift, a bike. Check out several dealers near you who have a good service record, try out what they have for sale, pick one and make your big purchase.
It was the late John F. Kennedy who said, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.” Try it in a safe three-wheeler and If you like biking as much as I do, you won’t be sorry. You’ll be cycling for life like me and others who believe that cycling adds adventure and zest to your life.
Although a German Baron Karl von Drais is credited with inventing the first two–wheel bike in 1817, it was Charles Mochet, a French inventor who designed the four–wheel Velocar, a predecessor of the recumbent in the 1830s. The Velocar was fast, but because it didn’t corner well, Mochet designed a three–wheel model called the Bicycle of the Future or the Vel-Velocar. After cyclists won a number of races on his model, the Union Cycliste International (UCI) was lobbied by manufacturers of upright bikes to invalidate a prestigious race won by a Vel-Velocar. In April 1934, the UCI published a new definition of a racing bicycle that effectively banned recumbents from all their events. The UCI ban stopped developments of the recumbent for four decades until their resurgence in the 1970s.