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What is a Tricycle?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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The tricycle, often called a trike, is a three-wheeled vehicle. The most common type of tricycle is that often purchased for young children who can’t yet master the stability to balance on a bicycle. These trikes, often made of metal, have two rubber wheels in back and one in front. They can help a child master the art of pedaling without having to rely too much on balance, though any child who can pedal fast enough has probably been able to overturn their trike quite easily.

Actually, the early tricycle was in the form of a horse drawn carriage, usually a two-seater. Other forms of propulsion have been used and there have been over time, steam tricycles, hand pedaled trikes, and the motorized (either gas powered or electric) trike. Many motorized tricycle models are simply revised designs of the motorcycle or dirt bike.

Some tricycle types can be hand pulled or have attached cabs. This is true of the pedi-cab, and many rickshaws. Recumbent tricycle models have become increasingly popular in certain forms of bike racing. Hand-pedaled models may be very popular among those who have minimal ability to use their legs due to illness or paralysis. Sometimes these models are quite aerodynamic and are used in racing by those with lower body disabilities.

The upright tricycle is also popular for adults, though it can take some getting used to by people accustomed to pedaling a two-wheeler. This is because most bikes require balance and counter-steering, not required by the trike. The first few tries on an upright tricycle can often result in people weaving back and forth as they naturally oversteer. Once they get used to it, many really enjoy the greater stability of the adult tricycle.

The traditional tricycle for children is one of the simplest designs. It usually has no braking method, aside from putting your feet down on the ground. The design is also upright, meaning the seat is above the wheels. Also popular for children are recumbent tricycles, where the seat is partially below the wheels. This second form, often called a "big wheel", is usually made of plastic and may prove easier to maneuver for some children. Sometimes parents object to big wheels because it usually places children lower to the ground, meaning they are less likely to be seen by passing cars.

In recent years, some tricycle styles for children have also included a feature that is very convenient for parents. A long handle extends from the back of the tricycle, so that when the child is tired of cycling, the parent may merely push him home. This is much easier on the backs of many parents, who formerly had to lean low to the ground to push a tricycle home or pick it up and carry it home, while dealing with a tired child.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Rotergirl — On Feb 18, 2014

I started out on a Western Flyer tricycle before I graduated to a full sized bike when I was eight. I always wanted a Big Wheel, but alas, had to settle for riding the one that belonged to the little boy next door to me.

Still, my tricycle served me well on trips around the patio, racing imaginary cars and cruising down the interstate. A three year old can imagine a lot of things while riding a tricycle.

I was probably the third or fourth owner of my trike. It had belonged to my cousins and then to my sister. Still, I made a lot of memories riding it on the patio.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor,...
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