Graeme is a Victoria-based web developer who worked as a bicycle mechanic for three years. He loves writing about bike-related topics.
What Is a Recumbent Bicycle?
Cycling is one of the best sports for you. It is (in my opinion) the ideal cardiovascular exercise, and it's a lot of fun to do. However, conventional cycling isn't for everyone. A three-wheeled recumbent bicycle is great for adults seeking cycling freedom along with a more relaxing riding position.
Three-wheeled recumbent bikes are perfect for anyone worried about poor posture on a bike. They are comfortable, stable, and every bit as much fun as a regular two-wheeled bike. They're great for your back, and it's a mechanically superior position to pedal from.
Three-wheeled recumbent bicycles are also fantastic for a rider who has difficulties with the balance required for a two wheeler. Anyone with a disability or a balance disorder like vertigo will tell you that they miss out on stuff like this.
This lens is all about recumbent bicycles with three wheels for adults. I'll talk about the riding position and how they work as compared to a regular bike. I'll mention the price differences between the two, offer some pictures of recumbent bikes with three wheels in action, and of course offer a few links to great options and deals on the market today.
I hope you enjoy. If you have any questions or comments about anything, please leave a message at the end.
The Best Three Wheel Recumbent Bicycles
- TerraTrike Rover 3
- Mobo Triton
- Performer Trike-X
- KMX Tornado
1. TerraTrike Rover 3
An affordable, easy to ride adult three-wheeled recumbent bike. The TerraTrike Rover 3 is a wonderful option for anyone interested in getting into a three wheel recumbent bicycle. It's really affordable, and offers nice features for that low price. The bike offers a wonderfully small turning radius, and a three speed internal hub for easy shifting, even at a standstill. The three speeds make it great for getting around town or managing small hills.
It has a high seating position for comfort and visibility, and direct steering which makes handling a breeze. Compared to other recumbent three-wheeled bikes out there, this one is extraordinarily affordable, and it's my personal favorite.
Note: They also make it in an eight speed variety, in case you need a wider range of gears.
2. Mobo Triton
An affordable three-wheeled recumbent cruiser bicycle. The Mobo Triton Pro is a good entry level three-wheeled recumbent bicycle. It's more intended for puttering around and having fun with the family than for serious commutes, but it does the job admirably. It's designed to be safe for all family members and most ages. It's built to be adjustable for different heights and sizes.
It is a single speed bicycle, and definitely more intended for fun and cruising around the neighbourhood than real long distance riding. It's the three-wheeled recumbent bike equivalent of a beach or boardwalk cruiser, and it's an affordable and fun ride.
Is it the fanciest three-wheeled recumbent bike on the market today? No, but it's fun, easy to ride, and (most importantly) very affordable to purchase. Don't overlook the Mobo Triton!
3. Performer Trike-X
A multi speed three-wheeled recumbent bike for adults. The Performer Trike-X is a recumbent bicycle that's well suited for touring, commuting or even just running to the store to grab groceries. It features a whopping 27 speeds, so it's geared for virtually every riding situations. With a strong chromoly frame and linkage steering, this bike has everything you need. There are bar end shifters which are easy to access, and it features Tektro I.O. mechanical disc brakes. The tires are by Kenda, and it has a Truvativ crankset. The drivetrain delivers power nicely and it shifts well too.
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The race-like seat is extremely comfortable. It's pretty low-slung, but you are upright enough to see everything coming your way.
Performer is well known for their recumbent bicycles, but they've made a splash with several reasonably priced adult recumbent tricycles that would compete with the best two-wheeled versions out there. This bike comes in a wide range of popular colors.
The more professional nature is reflected in the price, but this is one three-wheeled recumbent bike that will last a long time and serve any racer, commuter or fitness rider well for years to come.
4. KMX Tornado
An upright, adjustable adult recumbent three-wheeled bike. The KMX Tornado is intended for someone who wants an affordable adult recumbent tricycle ride without compromising on fun or capability. With an adjustable seat and a strong steel frame, this bike is tough and capable. A three speed rear derailleur provides flexibility and capable gearing for hills or flats, and a sporty riding position and direct steering mechanism make this three-wheeled recumbent tricycle a ton of fun to ride around the neighbourhood.
As these trikes go, this is an extremely affordable ride, and it doesn't compromise on fun, fit and finish, or road capability. It's one of the best three-wheeled recumbent bicycles around due to its sporty and fun stance, great maneuverability, and sporty qualities. You'll be surprised at how fast and zippy this trike really is, and I'd consider it one of the best adult recumbent trikes for a new rider or someone who's looking to get into this style.
What Is a Three-Wheeled Recumbent Bicycle?
A three-wheeled recumbent bicycle is a bike that allows the rider to ride, pedal, and steer while seated in a reclined position, with the feet forward. They are essentially tricycles, built to the specifications of an adult. The seat (and entire bicycle for that matter) is very low slung and sporty, leaving you quite close to the road.
All recumbent bicycles feature a riding position where you are reclined, with your feet in front of you. Usually you steer by using two handles, one on either side of your body. These handles usually have brake levers attached to them as well for easy stopping.
The brakes on a three-wheeled adult bicycle are usually located alongside the wheels. Disc brakes are by far the most common because they work well with the architecture, but I have seek linear pull (otherwise known as 'V' brakes) before too.
Seats on three-wheeled recumbent cycles are large and comfortable, more like a chair than a traditional bicycle saddle is. Long distance rides are very comfortable on these things, and they are extremely easy on the back. In particular, tall people will notice a great deal more comfort riding a recumbent cycle with three wheels than a conventional cycle.
There are typically two styles of these bikes. In one style, the two wheels are up front with the single wheel in the rear. In the other, the two wheels are in the back. In most cases, the two wheels are used for steering and braking, while the single third wheel is used as the main drive, with the chain and gears attached to it.
Pros and Cons of a Three Wheeled Recumbent Bicycle
Comfort: A three-wheeler recumbent bike is really the most comfortable way to go, hands down. No more hard saddle, no more leaning all your weight on the handlebars (and your wrists). The large seat makes your trip fly by, and you can rest easily at any point by simple pulling over and leaning back. It's on par with a folding camp chair, comfort wise.
Visibility: Since you're in a lower riding position, a three wheeler will provide a bit less visibility on the road. That means that you are harder to see, especially by big trucks and vans. Many riders get around this by adding flags or other warnings for vehicles, and simply riding with this in mind, choosing routes carefully and being cautious.
Superior Riding Position: a three-wheeled recumbent bicycle has a superior riding position compared to a conventional bike in more ways than just comfort. The recumbent riding position provides an optimal power delivery position and allows for better resting between each pedal, meaning you can go farther using up less energy. It's incredible how far you can go on one of these bikes.
Portability: Three-wheeled recumbent bikes are not necessarily easy to tote around. Some can fold up, but a lot of them will require a bit more storage space than a conventional bicycle. Storage racks for regular bikes won't work either, so you'll need to find a dedicated spot to store it if you commute in. If you can afford it, go for the fold-up variety, it'll save space.
Stability: Having three wheels, this adult bicycle will keep you extremely stable in all riding situations. If you're a little leery about the balance required for cycling, this is a great middle ground. Also, since your'e low to the ground, you don't sacrifice any agility, and tipping is almost impossible. It's like riding a little race car.
Expense: On the whole, a recumbent tricycle will cost more than a bicycle. This is because they have a bit more to them, and also because they are less common and considered a bit of a specialty item. The more people riding them, the lower prices will get. Really though, this shouldn't be much of a con. They are extremely durable and will last you for many years of constant use if you treat them well.
Safety Gear and Equipment
Recumbent bicycles with three wheels are very stable and safe, but they still require safety equipment. You'll be on the road and vulnerable, so be sure to pick up a decent helmet and reflective clothing. I also find that cycling shoes are a big help, making riding a lot more comfortable. And don't forget about a high quality bike lock!
There are also several decent car carriers for three-wheeled recumbent bikes, so you can carry it on your vehicle without too much hassle (though you might need two people to load it up!)
Any Thoughts, Comments, or Questions?
richard koellner on July 05, 2019:
Bi means 2 and tri means 3, so why do you call them 3 wheel bikes?
Graeme (author) on November 28, 2018:
Yes, they're very efficient, but it's mostly a matter of riding preference!
Liyan Floyd Bongcawel from Tagum city on November 12, 2018:
is recumbent bikes really efficient?
Rene`e on January 28, 2017:
Hi there, Iv`e had several back surgeries and it hurts me to ride a regular bike cause of the bending. Which of these would be the best for me please?
Graeme (author) on August 05, 2015:
Hi Cam, they can handle light trails, but they're better suited to pavement. Big tree roots and rocks are gonna give you trouble, and you might have difficulty if the trail narrows. I wouldn't take one into the woods or on mountain trails for those reasons.
Cam Trathen on August 03, 2015:
will the bikes go on trails like in river vallyes where mountian bikes go ?
and how do they compair to other bikes in price?
Graeme (author) on January 18, 2015:
Recumbent bikes can have baskets mounted over the rear wheel, or saddle backs mounted behind the seat in many cases (like a conventional rear bike rack). In general you're right, they're a little less practical for luggage. It's a trade off!
They should be assembled by a bike shop, definitely. They'll come with instructions, but I always recommend getting a pro involved unless you're quite technically inclined!
Graeme (author) on January 18, 2015:
A recumbent bicycle MAY be easier to ride for you, but I'd definitely recommend giving one a test ride first. Technically you'll still be pedalling, and that can still place a lot of stress on your knee regardless of the seating position. I'd find a local bike shop and give a recumbent a try before diving in. Just my two cents!
Tony Estes on January 06, 2015:
I have no cartilage in my right knee.
I the past I rode many miles with my sons.
I am considering a recumbent to be able to ride again.
I got a Synviscone injection 6 mos. ago; so far it has worked very well.
I want to avoid a knee replacement.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Alice Ramirez on December 16, 2014:
If a person needed to, say, go buy groceries with a recumbant bike, or just have a place to stash her purse while on the road, where would such bulky items to? The recumbant trikes look FAR more comfy than traditional upright adult trikes, but seem to have no place to put a few bags of groceries.
A second question: if they come unassembled, how easy and difficult are they to assemble?
anonymous on May 10, 2013:
Joyce, Titusville,Fl I am looking for a three wheel incumbent bike for my 79 year old husband. Until a few years ago he competed in NORBA races in mountain biking. He was diagnosed with Parkinsons and we moved to FL. He misses biking a great deal and the exercise would be wonderful therapy. Our terrane is flat and he would only be riding in our community. No extensive gears are needed and the most basic bike would be sufficient. What would you recommend?
Graeme (author) on April 24, 2013:
@anonymous: Hi Frank, well the riding quality is different. I prefer two wheels in the front for serious riding, you seem to get better leverage. They also seem a bit less tippy, and because the widest point is at the front, it's easier to judge how much space you'll need. Two wheels in front tend to be smaller too, because your legs stick out past the wheels. I hope that helps!
anonymous on April 23, 2013:
Frank from Cleveland says:
One noticeable design variation of recumbent trikes is the wheel arrangement. Some have two wheels in the front, and some have two in the back. This obviously affects a lot of things but nobody ever discusses it. Say something about it.