We all know that it is a good idea for seniors to stay active. Physical activity helps both the mind and body stay sharp. Research has proven it. But, what activities should you consider? Many seniors and elderly folks are turning to adult tricycles or trikes as a source of recreation and exercise.
The best 3 wheel bikes for seniors are those that are easy to ride, easy to get on and off, and comfortable to ride. Because they have an extra wheel, these bikes are more stable than their 2 wheeled cousins. This makes them easier and safer to use for seniors with balance problems. Another benefit is you can get outside for some fresh air while getting some exercise!
Of course, you should consult with a physician or medical provider before starting any new exercise programs. This includes bike riding. You should make sure any activity you are considering is safe for you to participate in.
Where would you like to start?
For those who want to get right to my recommendations, here is a comparison chart of my top picks. Or, keep reading to learn more about what to look for in a bike for seniors and read reviews on these models.
Who Uses Three Wheel Bikes?
Lots of people. As the population ages, sometimes a 2 wheeled bicycle is no longer a good option. Even dedicated bike riders are turning to three wheel bikes or trikes.
They are simply more comfortable to ride. And, they also lessen the strain on joints that can become painful with age. People who have diseases associated with aging, such as Parkinson’s or arthritis, often feel safer on three wheel bikes. Despite weaknesses or tremors, these seniors continue their preferred exercise as long as possible with the extra support of these bikes.
Check out this fun video of seniors using a three-wheel bike in Atlanta as part of a senior exercise program:
Types of 3 Wheel Bikes
There are several styles of three wheel bikes for seniors to consider. Most of the differences are in the way you are seated on the bike which affects your safety and control of the bike.
Upright Three Wheel Bikes
If you liked riding bikes when you were younger, you’ll probably love these three wheel bikes. They have two wheels on the back, so you don’t have to try and balance the bike. This feature allows people with injuries or weakness caused by age to freely enjoy the ride without fear of falling.
The lightweight frames of these bikes make them easy to propel and to carry. They also often come with a basket between the back wheels. You can use this basket to carry your bag on the way to the shops and groceries on the way back. But they aren’t only practical. If you enjoy riding, but are concerned about the changes brought about by age, these bikes can be a great solution.
Because you are sitting at 90 degrees and higher off the ground, this style of tricycle is not for everyone. I would not recommend this style for seniors who are a fall risk, have dizziness or limited mobility.
This type of 3 wheel bike is best for seniors who need the extra stability of three wheels as opposed to a standard two-wheel bicycle. But, they should be able to support their own balance overall.
Semi-Recumbent Three Wheel Bikes
The semi-recumbent three wheel bike may be a good option if you find normal bike seats uncomfortable. These bikes have a full-sized seat and backrest that allows you to rest your back. They also have pedals which are more forward on the bike.
This setup allows you to stretch out more and can make the pedals easier to reach. It also lowers the center of gravity for greater support and stability. If you can ride a bike, then you’ll be able to put your feet flat on the ground when riding this one. That gives greater control and stability for riders who may feel unstable on ordinary bikes. The handlebars on these bikes are turned up and back for easy gripping in the new position. They are overall a very safe and comfortable way to ride.
Semi-recumbent bikes are good for seniors who still have decent mobility. They also should be able to get up and down with or without help to get on and off the bike. These bikes are lower to the ground which adds to their stability. But, they can be a bit harder to get on and off.
Recumbent Three Wheel Bikes
If sitting upright is too painful, or you don’t have enough strength, you can try a recumbent three wheel bike.
These devices can allow you to enjoy all the freedom and exercise of a bike while giving support for your entire body. They usually have the two wheels at the front of the bike and let you sit at a 45-degree angle as you pedal. The pedals are in front of you instead of below. You can steer these bikes by handles on either side or by using front handles.
Basically, these bikes can be modified to suit any physical condition. These bikes are still lightweight and easy to steer and propel. They’re also a whole lot of fun!
I use recumbent three wheel bikes in my practice as an ATP. They really are used with people with all types of disabilities. With the right setup, I have taught paraplegics, kids with cerebral palsy, and even people with multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy to use recumbent bikes.
Another type of 3 wheel bike for seniors to consider is the electric bike. Sometimes, these are even called scooters.
These trikes use motors to propel the wheels. Sometimes, the motors do all the work. Other times, they supplement and add power to your peddling.
Before a senior considers using an electric 3 wheel bike, they should make sure they are able to control it at all times. This includes knowing the best and safest ways to slow down and also stop.
The final type of tricycle for elderly people is the foldable style. These bikes look like the others but they have a folding frame. This allows them to be stored in smaller spaces.
Before buying a folding 3 wheel bike, make sure you are able to fold it up and unfold it again. Or, you have someone able to help you do that task.
Useful Features of Adult 3 Wheel Bikes for Seniors
The best recumbent bike for seniors is the one that suits your budget, your physical condition, and your needs. Some of the more important and useful design features are as follows:
- Step through design. This allows for easy mounting and dismounting, and basically, means there is no high bar between the handlebars and seat.
- Lightweight frame. You don’t want the bike to be too heavy. Most of them are made from lightweight materials so they’re easier to ride and store.
- Availability of parts. Most of these bikes use standard bicycle components, so repairs and replacements are easy. Make sure you can get your bike fixed easily if something breaks.
- Braking options. Most three wheel bikes have pedal brakes, but you can get hand brakes if you have trouble using the foot brakes. Many three wheel bikes also have coaster brakes. Again, you need to choose the option that works best for you.
Choosing the right seat and handlebar configuration for your three wheel bike makes a big difference. These affect not only your comfort but also your control and safety. Features like these are important to establish biking as a healthy habit!
The frames of most 3 wheel bikes made for seniors are made of tubular aluminum. This frame style is strong but also lighter in weight than tubular steel. That way, they are easier to lift and fold (if that is an included option).
Heavier duty bikes or those that will support heavier riders are made of steel.
Gears and Speeds
Most adult trikes come with a range of gears and speeds to choose from. While you can get a single speed bike, there are others that have up to 21 speeds.
These gears and speeds affect how your bike handles on varied terrain. They also determine how hard you have to work to pedal the bike!
If your trike has multiple speeds, it will also have a shifter lever mounted within easy reach of the handlebars. This allows you to quickly and easily change gears while keeping your eye on the road.
If you are using your bike in a flat neighborhood or subdivision, a single speed bike will do just fine. But, if you need to pedal fast to cross a street or you encounter varied terrain, choose a bike with multiple speeds.
Finally, if you are riding your 3 wheel bike on long rides or over long miles, go for the most speeds you can get. You never know when you will encounter a steep hill or sharp turn and need to make adjustments.
When choosing your bike, your physical condition should be the first consideration. This determines what type of seat your bike should have.
Traditional upright bikes have a wide, padded saddle seat. They are a lot more comfortable than the bike seat you probably remember from your childhood.
However, if you find these seats painful you should try some other options. The padded, sling seats or platform seats of the semi or fully recumbent bikes are better for people with back or balance issues.
Arthritis often accompanies aging. This is why the handlebars on your bike are essential for your comfort. There are three types of handlebars with adult bikes, and they each have their strengths and weaknesses
- Traditional handlebars work well, but should only be used by people who have good upper body strength and range of motion.
- Loop handlebars come in a circle or square shape. If you have weaker hands or arms, these might be the best option as they allow you to grip anywhere you can and steer.
- Chopper handlebars are long and thin and pointed back towards the rider. They can be on any type of three wheel bike. Only use these if you have near-normal strength and range of movement in your arms and shoulders.
The brakes on a 3 wheel bike are very similar to the brakes on a standard 2 wheel bicycle. Disc style braes are operated by rotating the pedals in a reverse directions.
There are also squeeze style hand brakes mounted to the handle bars as well. These use a cable to apply the brakes and are usually quicker to react than the pedal brakes. Be careful when applying hand brakes because of this increased sensitivity.
If you are purchasing your trike at a bike shop, chances are it will be assembled when you pick it up. Make sure you have room to transport it or arrange for delivery.
However, if you order the bike online, you will probably be responsible for assembly. Most of these bikes assemble like a regular bicycle so anyone with basic tools and mechanical skills can probably swing it.
Another option is paying a local bike shop to put it together for you. Larger cities have assembly services that will come to your home and put items like this together for you too.
Most senior-friendly trikes come with a basket mounted on the rear for carrying groceries or personal items. But, there is no shortage of accessories you can order separately for these. Everything from drink holders, to GPS units, to mirrors and locks are available so that you can bling your three wheeler out any way you like.
Trike Riding Safety Tips for Seniors
I know. Most adults don’t like to wear helmets or other safety aids. But, it is important. Think about the injuries that could happen in a bike accident to a senior or elderly person.
The AAA suggests these bike riding safety tips that are important to senior riders of 3 wheel bikes as well.
- Always wear a helmet. Yes, always.
- Keep your head up and forward – always look where your are going.
- Do not ride two to a bike unless the trike was desgned for this.
- When riding with others, stay in a single file line to the right side of the road (for US riders).
- Plan your route out before you leave. Know where you are going to go and how to get back.
- Avoid heavy traffic and peak road times.
- Do not ride at night without lights and proper reflectors.
- Keep your bike well-maintained at all times.
- Do not wear headphones or block your hearing in any way.
- Keep both hands and feet on the bike at all times.
- Know how to use proper bike hand signals for turns and stops.
Summary and Recommendations
Three wheel bikes are another tool to help you maintain your independence as you get older. They may even be a good alternative to cars for shorter trips and allow you to perform daily tasks with less trouble. Hopping on one can be a great way to meet friends at the rec center to play a game of cards, play a few board games, or work on a puzzle!
Because of the sturdy design of these bikes, seniors can feel comfortable and secure while using them. They’ll probably even enjoy zipping around on them! If you enjoy biking, but worry about it as you age, three wheel bikes are a more secure version of traditional bikes. You might like them even more than your old bike and riding one can quickly become a fulfilling hobby.
When shopping for a bike, keep in mind your physical condition. Use a fitness tracker with heart rate monitor to keep a watch on your progress and heart rate. You might want to use a pedal exerciser to work up to a full bike (click here to learn more about these).
Know going into it if an upright, semi-recumbent, or recumbent style is best. Also, know what your needs are for seating, handlebars, and pedal style. Safety should always be the first concern. If you have any concerns about using a three wheel bike outside, these same style of bikes are available as indoor exercise bikes too.
Either way, check out my recommendations above for the best tricycles for seniors and see if one of them could work for you.
Have you ever tried a three-wheeled bike? Tell me about your experience in the comments below! If you are considering one, how do you expect it to help you? Are you looking for fun and exercise or a practical way of getting around the neighborhood?