Last year, my parents bought a pair of Penninger Voyager recumbent trikes. One reason they bought the trikes is that my brother has visual and balance problems that have prevented him from driving a normal bike or an automobile. The trikes have been a great success for him--he got the hang of the trikes first by riding in the rear trike, with the two trikes connected together, and now rides regularly, both on his own and in tandem with another person.
I would highly recommend recumbent trikes for people with balance and mobility problems, or who are afraid of the injuries that may occur if they tip over on a regular bike. I always think that recumbent trikes could and should find much more widespread use among older people and people with certain disabilities. I often see older people riding the old-fashioned, high-seated tricycles--but these have a very high center of balance and are very tippy. These high-seated trikes are, in fact, rather dangerous.
A recumbent trike has a much lower center of gravity and won't tip over if driven at slow to moderate speeds. It won't tip over at moderate to high speeds, either, if the operator exercises a modicum of care and skill. In general, riding recumbent trikes is safe (probably as safe as or safer than walking!) and can provide a wonderful sense of mobility and a fun way to build strength and endurance, for many who could not ride bicycles or walk long distances.
The one downside to recumbent trikes is their price--they can be rather expensive. But their price should be seen in context. The cost of a trike is more than a simple bike, but less than cost of buying/maintaining/operating a motor vehicle for a year. It is far less than the cost of a coronary bypass operation! The trike can by be invaluable if it provides mobility and strength training that are difficult to gain any other way.
Many specialized items of use to disabled people are expensive simply because they are specialized and do not sell in mass market quantities. Recumbent tricycles are no exception.
Which recumbent trike should you buy? The answer depends on your budget, abilities, and specific needs. We purchased the Penninger Trikes for these reasons:
The tandem trike, then, is a perfect setup for those with visual impairments or other disabilities that prevent them from riding a trike (or bike) alone. This is what we were thinking about when we bought the trikes with the tandem attachment. But we have found that the tandemed trikes are a lot of fun for everybody! When the trikes are tandemed, the riders stay together. They can chat and enjoy the ride together. When two bike riders go together, inevitably one wants to go faster than the other. So one person is always hold back or the other always straining to catch up. Even when "together", often the bikes are more than 5 or 10 feet apart--a distance far enough to make conversation difficult.
With the trikes tandemed, all these problems are solved. The two riders are close enough to enjoy each others' company. Regardless of differences in strength and endurance, both riders stay together.
You will likely find that your average speed on a trike is a little lower than it would be on a bike. On a perfectly flat course, I was able to average 16 or 18 mph on one of the trikes--probably not much, if any, slower than I would do on a bike. But trikes are quite a bit heavier than bikes, and as soon as you start climbing, the extra weight catches up with you. In a long, steep climb you may find yourself going 2-4 mph--maybe half the speed you could do on a bike. But on a bike, 2-4 mph is uncomfortable--it is a struggle to maintain balance and a reasonably straight line. On a trike, that same slow speed is still pleasant, stable, and enjoyable. The Penninger trikes have plenty of gearing to maintain a comfortable cadence even at 2 mph. Want to stop and take a breather? Fine--you'll have no problem getting started again, and you've brought a comfortable lounge chair along with you . . .
In general, my observation is that the trikes are about as fast as bikes on the level or slight downhill. On uphills, they're slower than bikes and on downhills, they can be faster than bikes.
While visiting my parents this spring we went on several upright bike and trike rides. We all agreed that riding the trikes is just more fun than riding bikes! The seats are comfortable and there is no pain in the behind, hands, arms, shoulders, back, or neck. And vehicles give the trikes a far wider berth than they do bicycles.
So, yes they're a bit slower. But I'll take an hour and ten minutes of fun on the trikes any day, over an hour on a bike to cover the same distance. . .
You can find out more about Penninger Trikes on the Penninger web site at http://www.penninger.com.
You can find the Triking FAQ at steve.at/pages/faq.html.
The FAQ includes a list of trike manufacturers with links to their web
sites. The FAQ also has good advice and tips for trikers and for
the use of trikes by disabled riders.
Trip to Mammoth Cave
Yes, they are as fun as they look!
The feeling, especially when they're separated, is a lot like the thrill of driving go-carts.