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Adults taking to the road in three-wheel revolution

Tricycles aren’t just for little kids anymore.

Parents, teenagers, even Harley owners are jumping on board.

“Third wheel” used to connote superfluousness. These days, it frequently is one of the design features in everything from baby strollers to motor bikes.

Last month, Toys R’ Us began selling the Cyco Cycle, a new tricycle manufactured by Dynacraft. But this trike is for kids 13 and older. It has no handlebars but is steered using the waist and upper body. Riders grip the seat but can learn to ride with their hands free. It sells for about $120.

“This is the kind of riding experience nobody has ever seen before,” says Bob Friedland, toy expert at Toys ‘R Us in Wayne, N.J. “It really leaves using the Cyco Cycle up to the kid’s imagination.”

For parents of young children, there’s the BOB Revolution, a three-wheeled sport-utility stroller whose single front wheel pivots for easy turning. It’s one of several three-wheeled strollers available at Babyland in East Liberty. Its suggetsed retail price is $379 for the single, $519 for the double.

While there are probably more four-wheeled strollers on the market, owner Hillary Carrozza says the tri-axle models appeal to parents for their looks and their functions. At least, that seems to be the case with their biggest seller, the Baby JoggerCity Mini ($240).

“It makes it easier to maneuver,” she says. “It turns on a dime. It also has a sporty look. Even if it’s not a running stroller, it gives it an outdoorsy sporty look. You don’t look like you have the minivan.”

Some graying bikers are trading in their two-wheeled hogs for three-wheeled vehicles such as the Harley Davidson Street Glide Trike. It’s one of two Harley “trikes” sold at Three Rivers Harley Davidson in Shaler.

Joe Homolek, general sales manager, says the trikes are popular with older riders who may not be strong enough to hold up a two wheeled bike. The Harley trikes, including the Tri Glide Ultra Classic, have their own suspension systems and don’t need a kick stand. They cost about $30,000 and up.

“As you get older, it’s hard to hold those bikes up. They’re very heavy, especially if you’ve had knee or hip replacement,” Homolek says. “The trikes solve that.”

Some companies have flipped the three-wheeled concept from back to front. At Mosites Motorsports in North Huntingdon, the showroom includes at least two brands of vehicles whose two wheels are in the front. There’s the Piaggio MP3 Hybrid, a three-wheeled scooter that sells for around $8,500. It handles more like a traditional motorcycle.

Mosites also sells the BPR Can-Am Spyder RT Roadster, a touring bike that manager John Zalenchak says provides much of the comfort and technology of a car with the freedom of a motorcycle. Like the Harley trikes, they feature a reverse gear.

“They appeal to everyone,” Zalenchak says of the Spyder Roadster and the sportier RS model, which cost from $17,000 to $26,000. “They’re so easy to ride. You don’t have to worry about balancing; you don’t have to worry about holding the vehicle up. They make them in a semi automatic. You don’t have to use a clutch. They’ve also got power steering and traction control.”

Ron Richards, 62, of Mount Washington traded his Harley for a three-wheeled BRP Spyder RT.

“I was developing vertigo issues on the bike, doing 80 miles an hour on the interstate,” says Richards, a photographer. “I choose not to die that way.”

The Spyder’s two front wheels and suspension provide peace of mind, he says. He doesn’t have to worry about losing his balance at a red light or while stopped on a hill.

“I know a guy well into his ’70s who got a Harley trike,” he says. “In our hog club, there are six to seven people that have the trikes. Who wants to chance things• There’s no need for speed as you get older.”

Richards also likes the extra trunk space and the roomy passenger seat, which includes two handles and a volume control for the radio. It allows him to ride with his wife, Denise.

“She wouldn’t even ride the two-wheeler,” he says.

The Spyder was created by Bombardier Recreational Products, or BRP. The Quebec based company also designed the Ski-Doo snowmobiles and the Sea-Doo watercraft.

Pierre Pichette, BRP vice-president for communications and public affairs, says they first conceived the idea in 1996. It took them 11 years to develop the model, which features a distinctive “Y-architecture” that maintains stability.

“Why go two wheels when you know the big guys are in the two-wheeled business all over the place?” he says. “How can you differentiate in that traditional matter• We decided to be creative.”

Manually powered thee-wheelers are attracting adult attention, as well.

Rapp’s Bicycle Center in Butler has sold recumbent tricycles for about 10 years.

“It’s relaxed, comfortable seating,” says owner Jeff Rapp of the three-wheelers, which allow the rider to pedal from a reclining position. “It’s easy on your butt and easy on your back.”

They sell about 20 per year, he says. Customers range from weekend warriors to those with physical limitations. The position of the seat allows the rider to increase pedaling power by pushing their back against the seat.

“I get people who may ride them once a year,” Rapp says. “I’ve got people who ride them every weekend. It’s a wide variety.”

Prices for recumbent bikes at Rapp’s start at $700. While they ride well on groomed trails, they can be difficult on steep hills, because the rider can’t stand up. They can be unwieldy to transport, although some folding models are coming on the market, Rapp says.

Adult tricycles, which feature an upright seat, often are used by those with balance problems that would make riding a two-wheeler unsafe. Adult trikes frequently include a cargo basket, while some even have windshields. They have a gear that allows riders to pedal up inclines without undue exertion.

In the May 8 finale of “The Amazing Race,” competitors had to reach the finish line by riding tricycles across the Seven Mile Bridge that connects the Florida Keys with Miami.

WizWheelz in Kentwood, Mich. sell recumbent trikes. Despite the state’s dismal economy, the company has seen 40 percent growth for the past three years, marketing manager Jeff Yonker says. Their original clientele consisted primarily of Baby Boomers who wanted to stay in shape. But many buyers are considering their TerraTrikes as an alternative to automobiles for their commute.

“Whenever the gas prices go up, our phones ring even more,” Yonker says. “But it’s almost become a non-factor.

“A lot of people like to ride them just for the fun of it. They’re kind of like a small mini-go cart,” he says. “People are riding longer distances now. They’re looking for something that’s a lot more comfortable for longer rides. The recumbent trikes are like sitting in a beach chair.”


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