archival and resource material for human powered recumbent tricycles

Trike Bum

Recently, while working on the Trike Asylum website at my local library (hi speed wireless internet), a couple of fellows walked into the small study room where I take refuge when I need to get serious writing and work accomplished. Throughout the days I spend here, people come and go from time to time, and most I don’t really notice visually, being so thoroughly engaged in my electronic toil. Yet after about a half hour, these two got my attention when my ears picked up on cycling talk, clearly identifying them as kindred spirits.

I glanced up from my laptop screen and indeed beheld typical road cyclist garb on each gent, that stretchy spandex material covered in those colorful and cool-looking text and graphics seen on bicycle racers. They had their helmets on the table next to a small netbook. I surmised they were on an overland bicycle trek, using the library to update their blog about the trip. Outside the window were their road cycles, laden with panniers and all the stuff you’d expect to see for such an adventure.

One guy had a short cell phone talk with the third member of their party who was just pulling into town, having been delayed by some mechanical issue. He directed his tardy friend to their library location, and then the two began talking about finding a certain local campground with a laundry, a place by the river with which I was familiar. They had their Adventure Cycling tour map, and were pointing to where they wanted to go.

At this point, I chimed in, and offered my assistance about local directions, which they really appreciated. I also identified myself as a rider of a human-powered recumbent tadpole tricycle, and very briefly told them about my cross country trip from here to Death Valley National Park. I concisely related having just finished writing an extensive article on trike touring, and then in the next breath, the fellows’ eyes lit up and they both proceeded to share a trike story.

Verbally sharing their impressions, they spoke about how they had passed a triker about 12 miles north of town, in a tunnel on the cliff above the Pacific Ocean. The triker was pedaling north, away from town, while the two bicyclists were pedaling south, towards town. This particular tunnel has zero shoulder, and all cyclists must ride directly in the narrow automobile lanes while inside. Speed limit is 55. Only a flashing yellow light on each end of the tunnel warns motorists that human-powered humans are inside (if the people remember to push a tiny button prior to entering).

Well anyway, as I was expecting to hear about another tadpole trike pilot on an overland tour, they begin describing the triker to me. The essence of their descriptions went something like this: There was a large rack behind his seat, full of personal belongings, and he was towing a trailer behind his trike. He was not wearing a helmet, and had on old clothing. The old trailer had some kind of tattered cloth covering on it. The trike was one that reminded them of when they were little kids, with two wheels in the rear and one in the front, what is commonly called a delta trike. The triker was sitting atop a standard bicycle seat, making measured but slow progress on his dilapidated vehicular setup.

Based on their observations, they concluded the trike rider was a local bum, a down-and-out coastal hobo on whatever mission he thought was important at the moment. Their story about the transient man lasted a while, and they seemed to find it somewhat humorous. The two cyclists were clearly educated and well-healed men, and the trike bum was nothing more than a bizarre happening on their trip’s latest day, as they cycled south from Seattle, Washington to San Diego, California.

Somewhere in my mind, I had been hoping for some worthy connection of their story to what I had said earlier about my trike and trip, since that description was what set them in verbal motion about the trike they saw in the tunnel. Yet, as their tale came to a close, it was apparent my talk about the streamlined ICE Qnt had only served to bring to mind a bum on an old trashed-out delta. A trike’s a trike right? Seen one, you’ve seen ’em all! Three wheels … that’s what counts, right? Bums ride trikes.

Imagine, if after they had told me a little about their sleek expensive road bikes and their grand coastal tour, I immediately launched into a story about a destitute transient riding an old worn-out bicycle on a country road. Imagine if I had not acknowledged their effort, their expensive bikes, and their impressive achievement at all, and had given the impression that hobos rode bicycles because they can’t afford anything else. It would be like them telling me a story about their awe-inspiring bicycling realm, and I verbally respond with a story about a bicycle world that has absolutely nothing at all to do with what they had just said.

These fellows were nice enough in all this, very polite, and certainly likable, but it seemed to me that they saw a connection to the bum just because he was pedaling on a three wheeled contrivance, even though their experience bore no resemblance in the slightest to me as a person, my type of trike, or my reasons for riding a trike. The disconnect was glaringly conspicuous, but as any gentleman would, I remained courteous and interested.

They then asked further detailed information and directions about the local environs to get themselves squared away that evening, which I happily dispensed, being somewhat like a host and local ambassador. I thought about giving them the web address to Trike Asylum and Silent Passage so they might learn more about my kind of triking (as opposed to the hobo’s type), but decided not to bother since their interest in, and knowledge of, trikes appeared minimal at best.

As the two highly experienced long-distance bicyclists walked out of my quiet library study room, stepping awkwardly as do all cyclists in cleated cycling shoes, one of them quickly mentioned that tricycles were perfect for the elderly with disabilities, as he gave a small wave goodbye.


3 responses

  1. My husband & I visited a local bike shop on the other side of town that we’d not been to before. After browsing around a bit we asked the guy behind the counter – who turned out to be the owner – if he worked on trikes. He said sure, they worked on several. Though the only kind they seemed to sell were the utility trikes that look like oversized kid trikes. So I verified, “You have experience working on recumbent trikes?”

    “What kind do you have?” he wanted to know. To which I responded that I have a 2006 ICE QNT. Guy’s brow furrowed and he said, “Haven’t heard of that maker.” At which point I realized they weren’t too familiar w/recumbent trikes. But the next question from him kind of started us. “Why would you want to ride one of those things, anyway?”

    Before I could say something about the comfort, about being about to look at the scenery, etc. – my husband offered that I have MS and cannot ride a bike anymore because of balance issues. To which the guy said, “Oh, well that’s different. At least you’re not one of those recumbent trike gear heads that just ride them for the novelty of it.” Then he went on to tell us how odd They (those trike ridin’ folks) are.

    Wow, the assumptions and prejudice of the 2-wheeled against the 3-wheeled is perplexing, ludicrous, and quite pervasive . . .

    September 29, 2010 at 5:40 am

  2. dexey

    NTW. They’d be mamals (middle aged males and lycra) nothing to worry about. There’s a lot of them around at the moment but they’ll find another trend; they believe what they read in magazines.

    September 29, 2010 at 5:59 am

  3. Well this is a universal story. I live in New Zealand and ride a QNT I imported from England last year. I haven’t seen another one here yet. I was steered towards them after much research because I had a bit of spinal damage years ago and my balance isn’t 100% but since I got it my eyes have been opened to a whole new way of seeing the world.

    But – the most common vibe I get from people is that ‘oh, it’s a special disabled bike’… a few people do see and appreciate the supreme engineering and potential for fun but they are few and far between. I have come to the conclusion that trike riders are a special breed who see the world in a more human, relaxed way.

    I have just found this blog and will follow your trip with interest :)

    September 29, 2010 at 10:46 am