5 reasons to trade your Key West bike for a trike

There it was next to the fireplace and opposite the Christmas tree. Blue and shiny and ready to ride. My first grown-up bicycle. No training wheels. I walked that bike a thousand miles. Got really good at it, too.

It took me two years to learn the ride the thing and my dad wore out three pairs of shoes running along beside and holding the seat. I hated riding bicycles then. I hate riding them today.

I finally got the hang of it well enough to keep up with the neighborhood kids when they’d fly down the hill, no-hands, shrieking just for the heck of it. I was really good at walking it. As an adult, I pedaled with my son and husband on New Jersey and Illinois trails and I did the Sparta-Elroy bike trail in Wisconsin.

Did I say I hated every minute? I was born without the internal gyroscope that seems permanently affixed to everyone else over the age of two. Never could I shake that out-of-control, unbalanced, I-am-going-to-crash-right-now feeling.

cropped-KWWM_Letters.pngSo why in the world would I buy a new bike thinking I could ride it safely in the most dangerous bicycling city in Florida? I mean this is the place where 80-year-olds swoop through town on vintage bicycles, looking cool and fit and, yep, balanced.

I wasted my money. That darling, sea foam green Conch cruiser stayed chained to my house for three months before I finally admitted: Get rid of the darned thing. Buy (embarrassed throat clearing heard here) an “adult trike.”

Oh, go ahead and giggle. I don’t care. Well, actually I do, but I can pretend pretty good. Got lots of pretending experience walking my bike all those years. Anyway, based on the responses I get when I’m out and about on my old lady trike, there are a whole lot more aging baby boomers who wish they had the guts to go with the big-butt tractor seat on the trike.

There are five reasons they ought to make the switch.

  • The three-wheel profile tricks drivers into thinking you are an actual vehicle. This was a surprise. Automobiles and bicycles rarely play nicely together on the same roads. Even the most courteous driver tends to hug too close to the bicycles on their right. Not so with trikes. Drivers give wide berth to trikes. They’ll even slow down and not insist on passing.
  • Trikes have gravitas. One sits up straight in that tractor seat. One can do the Queen Elizabeth parade wave if one wants. No weaving or swooping in and out. Just solid pedaling with a glance into the rear view mirror and a swirl of the get-the-heck-out-of-my-way dainty bell.
  • Trikes are stolid. Forget the flash and dash of skinny tires and 27 gears. Egads and little fishes, this is a stable, boring machine. It does not do anything until you make it do it. Doesn’t turn, doesn’t fall over, doesn’t move backwards. It just sits the heck there and waits. For someone with no gyroscope, those are blessings indeed — and they ensure one can stop at the red light, make one of those cool signals with one’s arm and then pedal queenly across the intersection.
  • Trikes make for great pick-up lines. OK, so you’re not going to pick up lovelies in Spandex. Those days are gone, even if you’re still riding a bicycle. But with a trike, everyone wants to ask about it. Do you like it? I heard they were hard to ride. I heard they take more energy than a regular bike. I wish I could get up the nerve to buy one, too. Do you miss your real bike? Oh, it’s so cute.
  • I’m safe, or at least I feel safer. For reasons one through four, I feel safer on the trike. And in the city that routinely ranks at the top of Florida’s most dangerous bicycling towns, that matters.

The Key West marketing folks want us to believe the Southernmost island is a bicycling paradise. That is, however, a whopper of a fantasy. We simply are not a safe place for bicyclists to work and play. Key West has a shot at becoming a safer, more bicycle friendly town. Its new bicycle/walking czar, Chris Hamilton, has great plans. I wish him well.

Until then, this little old lady and her three-wheeler (with helmet, of course) bid you a queenly wave farewell.

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media, a  digital solutions marketing company for small businesses.

You know you’re old when … it’s time for a bike with three wheels

With age, wisdom: Ditch the two-wheeler.

Here’s the deal: If one be post-40 (I could argue for post-30) and were last on a bicycle at 10, then one ought not be riding one in Key West — or anywhere else for that matter.

Key West brings out wobblers and weavers. Those “how-hard-could-it-be” folks who believe riding a bicycle is, well, as easy as riding a bicycle. Off the cruise ships and day trips they come, heading straight for the myriad rent-a-shops scattered throughout Old Town. What better way to see Key West and get some exercise to boot?

So, it’s back on the bike. Ah, there’s the romance of it. A leisurely roll along the Atlantic, water sparkling and wind fluffing one’s hair. A swift and deftly executed turn from Truman onto Duval. A quick stop to adore the chickens.

Riding a bicycle post-40 has all the romance of sex on a moonlit beach, until, that is, one realizes sand and sex are a better imagination combo than in real life.

One doesn’t just hop on and ride off with the elegance of Lance Armstrong. (OK, that’s not the best reference, but you get the point.) It takes about 10 seconds to realize the balance and grace one had at 10 disappeared with the advent of a paunch, an expanding rear end and a couple decades of sitting in an office chair.

Old people — and I define old as that point at which Spandex is no longer appropriate — should not be riding two-wheel bicycles. We’re dangerous what with the weaving and wobbling, the death-grip on the handle bars and the brain fades over how to stop the darned thing.

You’d think I’d learned my lesson. Took me two years to learned to ride a bike when I was six. Just ask my dad how many pairs of shoes he wore out running along side me, even with my training wheels. I was not, to put it simply, a natural.

But, here I am in Key West. Bicycle heaven. So I take my almost-like-new, white Giant up to Eaton Bikes for a tune-up. “Wow, this bike is in great shape for as old as it is,” says the bike fixer guy. “Garaged for 20 years,” say I, “and only ridden on weekends by a little old lady.”

I walk the bike all the way home, embarrassed to hop on where someone, anyone, might see me. I practice in the neighborhood day after day. And, decide I really hate riding this bicycle.

I want to ride a bicycle. I want to roll along the Atlantic. Stop to adore the chickens. Save $4.09 a gallon on gas on the way to work. I do not want to look like an old lady weaving and wobbling.

Bicycle manufacturers have noticed. Baby boomers, we who will never admit to being a day over 27, need three wheels and thus has been born, the adult trike. Safe, secure, stable, they are painted blue and silver and come with great big baskets.

I counted 10 of them on my way to work Monday. I paid close attention to their riders and nary a one looked old and decrepit — though a 20-something might well beg to differ. Not one was weaving or wobbling and they were getting on with getting where they wanted to go.

I think I’ll get a blue one like my very first two-wheeler. And I’m going to weave ribbons into the basket.


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