Three-wheeled bicycles, more commonly referred to as trikes, come in a range of designs. Some resemble traditional two-wheeled bikes with frame modifications to accommodate a wider axle and additional rear wheel. Others are recumbents, supporting the rider in a chair-type seat, with a frame that is low to the ground. Three-wheeled bikes are known for their stability and ease of riding. However, they also have some drawbacks.
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Three-wheeled bicycles are extremely stable. While riding, there is no need to maintain a minimum forward motion to balance the bike, as it rides on a tripod of three wheels that will not tip over easily. If the rider of a trike chooses to stop, he simply stops pedaling and applies the brakes. The trike will come to a rest without the need to balance the bike when at a standstill.
When it comes to climbing hills, three-wheeled bikes, especially those with multiple gears, are more capable than traditional two-wheelers. On a two-wheeled bike, the rider must maintain a certain amount of forward motion to keep the bike upright. The three-wheeled bike rider, however, need not worry about balancing, so the rider can simply place the bike in a very low gear and pedal away at a comfortable pace to climb the hill without fear of falling over.
The wide wheel base of upright three-wheeled bikes make them very capable of carrying even heavy amounts of cargo. Even recumbent trikes can be fitted with substantial cargo packs, fitted on racks behind the rider. The trikes also continue to demonstrate good stability, despite the added weight.
Some trikes, particularly recumbent trikes, ride very low to the ground. This can present visibility problems, particularly when riding in traffic or in busy parking lots. Drivers in cars may have a more difficult time seeing recumbent trike riders on the road. To help avoid a potential accident, many recumbent riders use a tall fiberglass rod with a flag at the top attached to their trike to make them more visible.
Many three-wheeled bicycles also have a broader wheel base, making them wider and more likely to stick out in traffic when riding in bike lanes on roads or on side walks. This can make the trike inconvenient or even dangerous to ride in certain situations, such as in heavy traffic. The narrow body of a standard bicycle also makes it easier to store, compared to the wider body of the trike.
The wider stance of three-wheelded bicycles can make them more difficult to handle. This is particularly true with turning. While traditional two-wheelers are very narrow and have a relatively small turning radius, trikes tend to require more space to turn. Recumbent trikes are more difficult to handle at slower speeds, but typically handle faster speeds well.