Tricycles aren’t just for toddlers. They have a rich history for commercial and personal use. In the United States, they promote fitness and provide a green means of recreation and transportation for older persons as well as younger riders who might have difficulty balancing a two-wheel bike. Full-sized tricycles for older children and adults tend to be expensive, but conversion kits available on the Internet allow you to transform your current bicycle into a tricycle for a fraction of the cost of a new tricycle.
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The first tricycle, built in 1680 for a German paraplegic, used gears and hand cranks. Following the introduction of the Coventry Lever Tricycle in 1876, tricycles gained popularity in England. By 1884, more than 120 different models dominated the market, outselling two-wheeled bikes. Initially used by women in long dresses and short or nonathletic men who might have been intimidated by the large high-wheelers of the day, tricycles morphed into a status symbol, announcing that the rider belonged to a genteel family that could afford the costlier tricycle. Two-wheel bikes have since surpassed tricycles in England and around the world to become the most popular self-powered vehicles. To this day, however, tricycles are still used the world over as a means of personal and commercial transportation, carting around riders, passengers and freight.
One company that manufactures bicycle-to-tricycle conversion kits in the United States, BigTricycle.com, markets their bike-to-trike conversion product chiefly to children with special needs. Another company, Spooky Tooth, offers conversion kits suitable for adults and children. Children with developmental disorders or physical impairments, who are unable to balance or ride a bicycle, can more safely balance a full-size tricycle. Children with cognitive disabilities may lack the physical or cognitive skills to ride a bicycle. These children can benefit from the pedaling, steering, planning movement and coordination of the tactile and visual cues involved in riding a tricycle. With enough riding time, they might be able to graduate up to a bicycle. Meanwhile, riding a tricycle enhances motor skills and sensory-motor integration while providing social opportunities. Adult kits, also available online, allow older people who seek greater stability in their ride to transform their bike into a trike.
The bicycle-to-tricycle conversion kit available from one company uses heavy 20-inch tires and rims. The assembly works on 20- or 24-inch bicycle frames. The rear axle, which determines the width the two rear tires are spread apart, comes in 24-inch or, for greater stability, 30-inch lengths. The company offers coasting axle, which coasts when you stop pedaling, and a fixed gear axle you can pedal forward or backward like traditional tricycles. The rear-wheel kits have a 300-lb. weight capacity. The kit can be used only with single-speed bicycles. Another company offers a conversion kit that includes two rear wheels, an axel, a 20-tooth freewheel, trike freewheel adapter, a housing unit and necessary hardware, as well as a trike basket to carry your goodies while you travel. They offer freewheel and coaster brake conversion kits, and also offer a three-speed coaster brake hub.
One vendor advertizes that the conversion only takes 10 minutes to do. This might underestimate the time involved for those who are not comfortable with tools, but the process for this assembly seems simple enough. You remove the old tire and fender, slip on the new carriage assembly, which comes preassembled, and tighten it with a wrench. If you want to have a three-speed hub, you’ll have to go with the company that offers non-preassembled conversion kits, which obviously involves a more complicated assembly.