curly hair green tricycle playing

What is a Tricycle? Your Questions Answered


If you're wondering how the tricycle was invented or hadn't heard of it until today - we're here to answer your most pressing questions about this type of bike.

What is a Tricycle? And How Many Wheels does a Tricycle Have?

A Tricycle is a vehicle. It's very similar to a bicycle in most ways, but the critical difference is that it has three wheels instead of two. These wheels can be in a few formations (we'll return to this, don't worry!)

There's an easy way to remember this! The prefix 'tri' derives from both Latin and Greek, meaning three.

In this case, it means three wheels, but it pops up throughout the English language. Think triangle, Triathalon, trio, or (our personal favourite) Triceratops - the dinosaur with three horns.

Who Invented the First Tricycle?

Many people in history compete for the title of tricycle inventor. Although our list of possible creators ranges over centuries, it's likely that many of them had no idea what their competitors had created.

This is the case with many discoveries! We know that Isaac Newton invented calculus, but Gottfried Leibniz also invented it in the seventeenth century.

So, we credit each of the following inventors with the tricycle (even if they didn't technically do it first):

  • 1680: Stephan Farffler: a paraplegic who had broken his back as a child. He was a watchmaker and put this to good use in his invention. His mechanical skills allowed him to create the first self-propelled chair.

    This chair is understood to be an early version of the wheelchair. And, due to its three-wheeled design, a precursor for the tricycle.

  • 1789: Blanchard and Maguire: French inventors who first used the name tricycle to refer to their project. Ever since this has been the name associated with the vehicle.

    Their design was more recognisable as a tricycle than Fraffler's version - with three wheels and powered by pedals.

  • 1876: James Starley: Known as the father of the bicycle industry. One of his many feats was the invention of the Coventry Tricycle. This, alongside his modernisation of the bicycle, helped pave the way for bikes and trikes as we know them.

  • 1888: Matthew A. Cherry: A patent for the tricycle. He had worked on developing the velocipede, which worked much like a tricycle or bicycle. Instead of pedalling, the velocipede rider moved their feet in a fast walking or running way to propel themselves.

    Cherry's development of this design evolved into what we know as the tricycle.

yellow tricycle studio picture potted plants

Who Should Ride a Tricycle?

In short - anyone. Though we associate traditional tricycles with children, they're available for all age ranges and can be a great alternative to a bike.

Trikes are ideal for people with a physical disability, the elderly, and those lacking confidence on two wheels. The design of a tricycle ensures balance, making it a much more leisurely experience than a bike.

At What Age Can a Child Ride a Tricycle?

Usually, the earliest age recommended for a child to ride a trike independently is three years old. But, there are baby trikes that children can ride sooner. 

Even before your child is walking, they could ride a baby trike. From as early as ten months old, you can start using one as an alternative to a pram. These have no steering or pedalling as a ride-on toy and can instead have the grown-up push it.

From 1-2 years, you might let your child try pedalling. Steering independently will come in the following years. You may choose a steer & stroll tricycle for your toddler. This will give you control of the situation, but your child the joy of riding a trike.

Of course, this is all dependant on how comfortable you and your child are with the trike. The risk when riding a tricycle is very minimal because they are so well balanced.

What are the Different Types of Tricycle?

  • The Delta: When there is one front wheel and two rear wheels.

  • The Tadpole: When there is one rear wheel and two front wheels.

The Delta and Tadpole designs are the most iconic models of a tricycle. Yet, there are other differences to consider. These include:

  • Recumbent: Where you are in a lying down position.

  • Upright: Where you are sat up, like on a bicycle.

  • Manual: When your pedalling propels it.

  • Motorised: When an electric motor powers it.

  • Rickshaw: When the trike carries a passenger.

  • Hand and Foot: When your hands and feet can control the pedals.

Is it Safe to Ride a Tricycle?

Tricycles design means that it's challenging to topple them over. Their low to the ground design and three wheels means that they are incredibly well balanced.

Trikes are also more prominent to the eye than bikes. This means that motorists often give more room when passing trikes. In practice, a tricycle is usually no larger than the width of a cyclists shoulders.

However, the extra space motorists grant you leads to an increased feeling of safety. That is not to say there aren't any risks. It would be best to travel slower than you would on a bike, as tricycles aren't designed to lean like bikes.

It's important to remember this as the trike could topple if you lean while moving at a fast pace.

Also, trikes are very low to the ground. This makes you less visible, putting you at more risk when facing motorists. It's essential always to wear a helmet and stay alert to your surroundings to avoid injury.


green tricycle multi colour leaf wall

Why Should I Ride a Tricycle?

A tricycle is an ideal option if you lack confidence on a normal bike.

You reduce the stress of cycling through the stability the extra wheel offers. This can be the difference between having and not having the confidence to get out and about.

Yet, the most significant advantage of the trike has to be its accessibility. It's the type of bike that is universal. You can ride it as a toddler or a senior citizen and at every point between.

Mobility issues are rarely a concern when it comes to the tricycle. There is a reason that children start to learn to cycle on a trike. You reap many of the benefits of cycling, but without the threat of toppling over. It sounds like a pretty good deal to us!

Why is it Difficult to Ride a Tricycle?

Riding a tricycle, if it is your first pedalled vehicle, is pretty straightforward. It may take some getting used to, but you should get there with a bit of practice.

However, it can be harder if you already know how to ride a normal bike. This stems from the differences between the two designs. For instance, going around corners and sharp turns is trickier on a trike.

On a bike, you lean as you take a corner. Yet, because the tricycle has an extra wheel, this leaning technique won't get you far. Instead, on a trike, you should shift your weight onto the side of the seat that you are turning towards. Little things like this can seem intimidating to begin with.

As with most things, the more you practise, the more confident you will feel.

Where Can I buy a Tricycle?

Well, it's funny that you ask.

Here at Bobbin, we offer two tricycles for toddlers and young children. Both come with your favourite Bobbin touches - the matching mudguards, pedals, and an adjustable saddle for when your little one gets a bit bigger.

Shop from our Tricycle range today!

Related Posts