archival and resource material for human powered recumbent tricycles

To Motorize or Not to Motorize, That is the Question

by Steve Newbauer: I am getting into something here which I will state upfront I am very opinionated about.  I”M ‘AGIN’ IT!  To my way of thinking motorizing any type of human powered vehicle is defeating the whole concept of the thing … exercise.  I mean, come on … if you want a motorized open air vehicle buy a motorcycle for crying out loud.  I rode them for over 50 years of my life until I finally decided I would give it up for strictly pedaling around.  I was also  riding a bicycle all those years so I still got some exercise … just not nearly as much as I do now.

I am sure that there are some folks who are not able to pedal to get around … perhaps can’t use their arms and hands to propel a vehicle either and so they may NEED something in the way of a motorized trike.  But there are a whole lot of folks out there who are perfectly capable of pedaling who really don’t NEED to go this route.

That being said, I know it has become pretty popular.  The man I sold my homemade tadpole trike to told me he planned on motorizing it.  There is lots of information out there on the subject.  And I am sure riding a motorized tadpole trike is a lot of fun even though it could lead to an added element of danger.  And there may be some folks who just need help pedaling up hills as just maybe their bodies can’t deliver what it takes.

Obviously there are two main ways to go … electric motor or gas engine.  Those who oppose gas engines because they “pollute” would no doubt only consider the electric motor route.  But I AM STILL AGIN IT!

Here are some pictures of various setups:

KMX trike motorized

gas engine motorized trike

solar charging motorized trike

ecospeed motor on boom 2

And I say to ya’ll … KEEP ON PEDALIN’

We all need the exercise!


14 responses

  1. Gary

    Oh boy, now a can of worms has been opened.

    April 5, 2013 at 5:26 am

  2. Steve Newbauer

    Some things come to mind here … like … “we need to agree to disagree” and “can’t we all just get along?” But I just want to reiterate that “I’m AGIN it!” :<))

    April 5, 2013 at 6:02 am

  3. Brown Daniel

    Augmented human powered vehicles whether a trike, boat or what ever is really a good idea. You can still get your valuable exercise but it sure is nice to have some help on a few of the grades or adverse currents you’ll encounter.

    April 5, 2013 at 10:23 am

  4. Steve Newbauer

    I knew this would be controversial, but I repeat myself … it is all about exercise. That’s what they make “granny gears” for. Works for me all the time. And I am grossly overweight and have bad knee joints. Motors? We don’t need no stinkin’ motors!

    April 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm

  5. When it comes to a peddle “assist” electric engine. You have no room to judge, or gripe about it. Why because, that engine acts as the extra power one may need that they don’t have physically. I know an individual who started out peddling with strong ability, but due to a genetic disorder. Started to lose muscle mass. Which in turn reduced his over all performance ability. So, to continue what he enjoyed most. It required he added a pedal assist.

    April 5, 2013 at 12:48 pm

  6. Brown Daniel

    May not need “no stinking engine” just yet, but the time approaches…..

    April 5, 2013 at 12:57 pm

  7. Steve Newbauer

    That is what I said in my original posting … that there are some who need the motorized assistance for whatever reason. In fact here is exactly what I wrote:
    “And there may be some folks who just need help peddling up hills as just maybe their bodies can’t deliver what it takes.” That being said, I still stand my ground. Most people are able to peddle. Hey, if I can do it with very bad knee joints … I mean, come on?! And with a trike you can always stop while going uphill and rest … then just take off again. I have done it several times on a pretty steep hill. I didn’t stop to rest, but rather to remove some debris off of the trail.

    Gary, you were right! A can of worms for sure!

    April 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm

  8. Steve Newbauer

    Just as a Post Script … Hey, I don’t care whether someone motorizes their trike or not. It is their trike and their money. I just don’t happen to agree with the concept for reasons explained. It is all about human pedal power and exercise. I am sure others have encountered this like I have … being accused of riding a motorized vehicle on a bicycle trail which doesn’t allow motorized vehicles. I have had to explain to them that my trike was not motorized … just pedal powered.

    April 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm

  9. Randall Oakley

    Well said, If you want a motorbike, get one.
    As for hills, persist. When I got back on the bike at 125kg it took me 5 stops to climb the hill I live on, then 4,3,2,1. In all it took me 5 months to climb that hill but the increase in fitness and sense of achievement was worth the effort.
    To me a motor just seems like cheating…

    April 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm

  10. Glen Aldridge

    I think this is a non issue. Steve, you may want to adjust your writing style because the way you stated your position on this makes you sound very opinionated. That’s your right of course but from an editorial point of view it makes those that want to motorize feel inferior. Not everyone rides a Trike or a Bike strictly for exercise. Some collect Bikes or Trikes for their novelty or uniqueness. Some people ride for the sheer pleasure of riding. Whether that includes an electric assist or not is nobody’s business but their own.

    April 6, 2013 at 5:33 pm

  11. Brown Daniel

    How fast do you like to travel on your trike ? When traveling alone my speed most of the time is from 9 to 11 miles per hour. That rate is just fine for shopping and traveling around town but when with a group, in the country, I’d like to have the electric boost and move along at about 15 mph. That way it is not too tough to keep up with the two wheelers.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm

  12. Conrad Zalace

    My wife and I are over 55 years old and both have Bionx powered recumbent trikes. In the past, I couldn’t get my wife on a bike because her knees would lock up 10 miles away from the car and she couldn’t get back without help. With the motor, she currently goes 20-30 miles, pedaling all the way and not afraid of getting too far away from the car. The Bionx acts more as a pedal assist than just sitting back cruising without pedaling. She has also gone from an average speed of 6mph to 10mph in the past two years. The motorized trike has contributed to her health as she now goes out every weekend for a ride. I understand the comments against the motors, but the goals of riding a recumbent trike for one person may be different than another person. Because I may not have the same goals as others, my goals should not be invalidated because I choose to get a little help. Our enjoyment comes from riding together and enjoying the scenery around us. We are not cheaters as our goal is to enjoy each other and the ride, which sometimes is hard to achieve when we are verbally attacked on the trails (as we have been) for something as simple as an electric motor on our trikes. We are having more fun than ever because of the motors and I would encourage anyone that can’t get out on the trails now to investigate this road to enjoyment.

    April 7, 2013 at 4:32 pm

  13. Conrad,

    I currently have a BioniX unit on my upright TREK 7100 hybrid. I might eventually lace the motor onto my recumbent tricycle. I haven’t decided for sure yet. I love riding both machines; each has features I really enjoy. Depending on the situation, I have been happy to have a bit of assist when needed.

    It’s a sad thing to realize, but even in the community of bicycle and tricycle riders there are going to be a few individuals at the far end of bell curve who can’t keep their mouths closed unless they are putting someone else down. You would not believe the number of Lance Armstrong wanna-be’s that have had something to say when I’m on my tricycle.

    Stay true to each other, recognize the source, and ride your own ride. As you already know, the joy is in the journey with the one you love. Everything else is just the trials that come along with trying to live rightly in a less-than-perfect world.

    Take care.


    April 24, 2013 at 11:57 am

  14. As long as you’re able to get some motion in those knees. That a gold star right there. Keep the wheels turning.

    April 24, 2013 at 3:49 pm