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Why Tricycles are Suitable for Seniors

Staying active is one challenge seniors often face, but much of the physical decline they see can be connected directly to their lack of activity. Exercise brings many benefits to the older generation physically and psychologically, but they struggle to find things to do. Providing them with a tricycle might be what the senior in your life needs to get them moving again. 

Why Do Seniors Struggle to Get Exercise? 

There is no simple answer to this question. For some, it is physical discomfort such as:

  • Back pain
  • Sore knees
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Mild chest pain

They may also have limits to their mobility, but partly due to a lack of movement. They can feel like they are not well enough to exercise, too, but chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes can benefit from low-impact exercise like bike riding. It is vital to check with their primary care provider before starting a new exercise program, however, to make sure they are healthy enough. 

The problem might also be fear of injury, which is a legitimate concern. Falling when you are older can cause more damage. However, not being active can make your body less flexible and interfere with your balance. According to the NHS, people pay a high price for being inactive, such as an increased risk of chronic illness, obesity, and falls. 

Being active is not just about exercise; it can slow physical and cognitive decline. Inactive seniors may end up with aches and pains that wouldn’t exist with a moderate, low-impact workout. There is strong evidence that exercise is good for mental health, too.

Why Biking Is a Good Choice for Seniors

One of the primary reasons biking of any kind makes sense for seniors is that there is less stress on the joints than you see with other types of activity, like running or even walking. Weight-bearing exercises like walking can take a toll on the hips, knees, ankles, and back.

Biking strengthens the knee muscles that support the joints. Stronger knees can reduce the risk of injury and falls.  

What Is a Tricycle?

Adult tricycles, sometimes called three-wheel bicycles, are like those made for kids, just larger. They come with three wheels positioned to give the rider balance. They have pedals that the rider pushes to propel the cycle forward like a bike. 

An adult tricycle provides stability and a sense of balance that you can’t get with two wheels. 

How Tricycles Differ From Bikes?

The primary difference is the number of wheels, of course. Three wheels mean better stability. Adult tricycles also have a lower center of gravity. This can give the rider a better sense of security while on the bike.


Most adult tricycles come with a seat that has plenty of cushion. The seat's design helps ease the stress on the lower back and buttocks. Two-wheel bikes, especially road bikes, have thinner, harder seats.


When riding a two-wheel bicycle up a steep hill, you must maintain a specific pace to avoid flipping over. That is not easy to do, and it can strain critical muscles. Tricycles are generally simpler to ride on hills since they remain stable even at lower speeds. Tricycle riders may travel more slowly up slopes than bicycle riders without the risk of flipping over.

Is a Tricycle the Same Thing as a Trike?

Tricycle and trike are sometimes used interchangeably. A trike can also refer to a vehicle with two or more wheels. They are commonly a better choice for cargo or even carrying passengers. For example, a rickshaw trike has a passenger section in the front, and the rider provides power from the back. 


Benefits of a Tricycle for Seniors

More and more elderly persons who would not dare to pedal on a standard two-wheeler bike are enjoying the benefits of a tricycle. Seniors, in particular, who can and want to move, are increasingly choosing a tricycle over a mobility scooter, too.

The problem some seniors have with a traditional bike or a scooter is balance. Even if they have good balance, fear of falling might keep them from going on a ride. That’s where the tricycle comes into play.


While adult tricycles need pedaling in the same way that standard bikes do, the way they interact with the body is different – and more suited for seniors. The bikes sit lower to the ground. There is no need to hop off the seat to balance the bike during a stop.


The step-through frame allows a rider to mount and disembark quickly. They also sit in an upright position while riding. Adult tricycles often have baskets for transporting items, making them ideal for shopping.

Climbing hills on a tricycle is more straightforward since the rider does not maintain the same forward momentum. They use cutting-edge gears, which aid in the ease of climbing, too.

Tricycles offer a stable base, so even the person who is hesitant about biking for exercise will do well on adult tricycles. With a tricycle, a normally inactive older adult can enjoy the same strength, balance, and mobility benefits as when they were younger and rode a two-wheeler. 

The Downside to Adult Tricycles

Of course, nothing is perfect. There are some downsides to riding a tricycle. For one thing, because they are lower to the ground, they can be more difficult for cars or even other bikers to see. 

Also, some find them harder to pedal on flat ground. Some models are top-heavy, too, meaning they don’t take tight corners well. For most seniors, though, the pros outweigh the cons.

Choosing an Adult Tricycle

Many of the things you consider when choosing any bike also apply to an adult tricycle. For example, common terrain is always something to think about when purchasing a bike. Adult tricycles are not suitable for rough terrain. They do best on a smooth, paved surface.


Frame Style

There are different styles of tricycles out there:

  • Recumbent – This design provides complete back support for the rider like a recumbent two-wheel bike. They sit in a laid-back position with their legs stretched out front. This takes the strain off the back, shoulders, neck, and buttock. 
  • Upright – As the name suggests, an upright tricycle allows the rider to sit straight, similar to a traditional bike. This style provides better visibility for the rider. It still has a low center of gravity, though. The seat sits straight over the pedals.
  • Electric – These bikes come with a motor that kicks in to make riding easier when necessary. 
  • Folding – The frame folds for easier storage.
  • Chopper – Chopper tricycles are a bike trend with a longer, sleeker front. They can be more challenging to ride, though. 

Choosing the right frame style depends on how the senior wants to ride and any physical limitations, such as chronic back pain. 

Wheel Size

The diameters of the wheels range from 16 inches in smaller folding variants to 20, 24, and 26 inches in normal and bariatric models. Tricycles with 24-inch wheels are excellent for riders 4 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 5 inches tall, while tricycles with 26-inch wheels are best for riders 5 feet 4 inches to 6 feet 2 inches tall. Larger wheels roll over uneven ground more easily than smaller wheels, giving a more cushioned ride.


Adult tricycle seats are often well-padded since they are designed for rider comfort. Wider and more comfortable versions of the saddle seats seen on ordinary bikes are among the design alternatives for upright bikes. Tractor seats on semi-recumbent bikes are generally more like cushioned chairs than standard bike seats. Recumbent bikes often have bucket seats that cradle the rider and maintain a neutral spine posture.


Most upright tricycles have traditional curved handlebars, which are appropriate for riders with a typical range of motion and adequate upper body strength. Because a cyclist may steer using any area of the rectangle-shaped loop, loop handlebars offer additional grip possibilities. They are ideal for users with shaky arms or weak hands.

Chopper handlebars are comparable to standard handlebars in that they need upper body strength and adequate control of the shoulders, arms, and hands. They are available in both upright and recumbent variants. Some recumbent trikes feature handlebars near the seat, while others have hand pedals instead of handlebars.


It is fun to customize the tricycle with accessories such as:

  • Baskets – A small one can go in the front and a larger one in the back between the two wheels
  • Canopies – To help keep the sun out 
  • Safety flags – They can improve the safety of the tricycle by making it more visible
  • Horns – Also a safety feature
  • Phone holders – Allow them to call for help if necessary
  • Rearview mirrors – See who is behind them
  • Covers – To keep the bike safe and clean in storage
  • Lights – Also a vital safety feature

Finding the right tricycle size and style is critical for a comfortable and safe ride. 

Tips For Riding an Adult Tricycle

Probably the most essential thing any senior can do before getting on a tricycle is to put on a helmet. Tricycles are typically safer to ride but not infallible. They can still flip over. Also, the helmet provides protection in case someone else hits the bike. Consider some other tips for successfully tricycle riding.


Know the Laws in Your Area

Check the laws in the area to see if there are any rules regarding adult tricycle use. Since they have a broader base, there may be some limitations. They may not be suitable for high-traffic pedestrian areas or sidewalks. There may also be rules about riding them on street-based bike routes where they share the road with cars.


In some areas, the only place to ride them might be the street. They may be unlawful on sidewalks, so it’s essential to do some research.


Speed Matters

Adult tricycles are not built for speed. They can be challenging to navigate on turns. Riding too fast can mean the bike will flip when it comes time to turn.


It is also hard to make quick changes on a tricycle. For example, if the rider has to veer off course to prevent hitting a child or animal. Riding a tricycle is a leisurely activity, not a race. 

Remember The Width of the Two Wheels

The widest point of the tricycle is the rear, so the rider can easily forget it is there. When turning corners or going through tight spots, the back wheels can get stuck if the rider isn’t aware of them. 

This is a problem that will improve with experience, though. Most people associate bike riding with two-wheels. It takes some time to grow accustomed to the change in size and reorient it.

Climbing On and Off the Tricycle

Because the seat is lower, getting on and off takes some practice, too. The best way for the rider to approach it is to hold down the brake levers as they prepare to climb on or off. This stabilizes the bike frame so it won’t move.


Plan Ahead If a Turn is Coming

It is important that the rider not lean into a turn like you would on a bike. Leaning can cause one wheel to lift off the ground and the tricycle to flip. Instead, the rider needs to keep their weight centered.


Riding a three-wheeled adult tricycle addresses range of motion, strength, and balance issues as individuals age and their physical abilities alter. Even if riding a bicycle isn't safe or pleasant, a rider on an adult tricycle may safely use their hands, legs, muscles, heart, and brain.

Find out more about tricycles on their benefits by visiting our Sixthreezero website today. 


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