Tricycle Vs. Bicycle: Which is Better?

By Mark Plummer •  Updated: 09/08/22 •  10 min read

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Both a tricycle and a bicycle provide a comfortable form of transport. Both have passionate fans. But, when compared objectively, how do they stack up? Should you choose a tricycle or a bicycle?

Tricycles will provide more support and stability. They can also be used in a broader range of situations, including as part of therapy programs for disabled people. Bicycles are lighter, can travel at higher speeds, are better suited to off-roading, and will be the most popular. 

Tricycle Vs. Bicycle
Tricycle Vs. BicycleWhich is Better?

Of course, both tricycles and bicycles have their unique pros and cons. I’ll look at how they perform across various areas to bring more clarity. Keep reading to find out how each one stacks up.

Tricycle Vs. Bicycle: Overview

Tricycle

The tricycle has a long history. It stretches back to the early 1800s. Multiple European inventors experimented with different designs, trying to see what worked. The model that we know as a tricycle was first launched in 1877 by James Starley.

Tricycle Overview
Tricycle Overview

Initially, the plan was to create a more stable bicycle.

The tricycle features one wheel at the front of the vehicle and two at the back. Usually, when pedaling, the chain will drive the two wheels at the back of the bike. The wheel at the front is used to steer.

Bicycle

Like the tricycle, the bicycle has a long and exciting history. The idea emerged in 1818 when it became known as a running horse. The idea was that the person would push the bike. Once it had enough momentum, they would hop into the saddle.

Bicycle Overview
Bicycle Overview

A few years later, in 1870, the Penny Farthing was created.

However, it was until 1885 that the modern bike design was created. In this case, pedals are connected to a chain. This drives the wheels at the back of the bike. The wheel at the front of the bike is used to steer.

Tricycle Vs. Bicycle: Side By Side Comparison

#CategoryWinner: Bicycle or Tricycle?
1Carrying capacityTricycle
2Ease of useTricycle
3PopularityBicycle
4SafetyTricycle
5CostBicycle
6SpeedBicycle
7AccessibilityTricycle
8Ability to go off-roadBicycle
9WeightBicycle
The bicycle was the winner in 5 out of 9 categories when compared to a tricycle

To rate each of these options, they were compared across a range of categories:

Carrying Capacity

Both tricycles and bicycles will be a good form of transport. But what if you wanted to take some items with you on the journey?

There are a few ways bicycles can be modified to allow you to carry items; you might want to add a pannier or a basket to the front of the bike. Generally, a bike can hold around 300 pounds.

Carrying Capacity
Carrying Capacity – a tricycle can carry up to 400 pounds

This will include the weight of the rider.

Like a bike, you can add panniers or baskets to tricycles. Though you might be able to find a model that will come with a trailer.

If you have a model that is designed specifically for hauling items, it might be able to carry up to 400 pounds. This includes the weight of the rider.

The Winner: Tricycle

Though the carrying capacity will often depend on the model, tricycles usually carry more weight than a bicycle.  

Ease of Use

Over the years, bicycles and tricycles have been modified to make them easier to use. For example, the gear system was introduced, so you shouldn’t have trouble climbing hills.

Ease of Use
Ease of Use – tricycles are inherently more stable

Riding each of them will provide a unique range of challenges. For example, here are some of the skills you need to master when riding a bike:

However, balance will be one of the most challenging elements to master, especially when just learning to ride a bike. That’s why kids initially need training wheels to stop the bicycle from toppling over. These skills can be learned in 45 minutes.

On the other hand, tricycles use three wheels.

This provides more stability. This allows riders to dedicate more time to pedaling and steering. As a result, many people report that tricycles offer a more relaxing riding experience.

Winner: Tricycle

Tricycles are more stable, eliminating the need to learn to balance and creating a smoother ride. 

Popularity

Bicycles are relatively standard around the world. However, we’ll compare sales data from the United States to see whether tricycles or bikes are the most popular.

The bicycle industry is immensely valuable. In the United States, it is valued at $6 billion. It’s estimated that between 15 to 20 million bicycles are sold yearly.

Popularity
Popularity – 15 to 20 million bicycles are sold annually

On the other hand, there aren’t as many statistics on the number of trikes sold each year. However, bike shop owners report that they are growing rapidly in popularity. For example, three trike manufacturers were in the top 40 best-selling bike brands.

While there might not be any official statistics we can compare, tricycles remain a relatively niche industry.

Winner: Bicycles

At least 15 million bikes are sold yearly in the United States alone. The tricycle market, while growing, remains a fraction of its size. 

Safety

One of the most crucial elements to consider is how safe the mode of transport will be.

Many of the most common bicycle accidents are due to driver error. For example, someone is driving their car under the influence and failing to stop in time. Or because a bike or trike rider drove recklessly in traffic, getting too close to vehicles.

Safety
Safety – tricycles are more stable and visible

Both bicycle and tricycle riders are affected by the risks of driving on the road.

However, tricycles have a unique advantage. They are larger than bicycles. This will make them more accessible for drivers to spot.

Another area of tricycle safety is the three-wheeled design. As we mentioned earlier, this will make the ride more stable, so there is no chance it will tip over as you ride.

Winner: Tricycle

The larger profile makes it easier to see and will be more stable. 

Cost

Many different types of bicycles are available, each with a slightly different price tag. Here is a rough estimate of how much each type should cost:

On the other hand, tricycles will start at around $550, like this model from Schwinn. If you want an electric tricycle, you can expect to pay at least $1,800. Though they can go all the way up to $6,000.

Winner: Bicycle

Bicycles are cheaper to manufacture than tricycles, as they need fewer materials. As a result, $500 will get you an excellent bike, while the exact amount will buy you a basic tricycle. 

Speed

When choosing between these, it’s important to consider performance. In particular, how fast each of these can go. This will vary depending on the model and the skill of the rider.

An electric tricycle can travel around 20 miles an hour. In rare circumstances, you can travel up to 30 miles an hour.

Speed
Speed – an electric motor can give you a boost!

If you are looking for speed, it’s best to choose an electric tricycle.

Because of the additional weight, getting them up a hill can be more challenging. The motor will provide some pedal assistance to help you overcome this problem.

Most bicycle riders should be able to get between 10 to 15 miles an hour without needing an electric motor. With practice, you should achieve 30 miles an hour. Though it’s not uncommon for a professional rider to reach 45 miles an hour.

Winner: Bicycle

Bicycles can deliver high speeds, with riders achieving 30 miles an hour without an electric motor. 

Accessibility

Bicycles can be difficult for people with medical conditions to ride, requiring strong balance. If someone falls on a bike, it can be a big problem.

On the other hand, tricycles are often used as part of therapy. It might also be used for older adults, who require more stability. Here are some examples of the types of tricycles that can be used for therapy:

Winner: Tricycle

Tricycles are often used as part of the therapy process. They can also be used for those who have disabilities and need a little more stability.  

Ability To Go Off-Road

Their three wheels make tricycles a little unwieldy when traveling down a dirt road. Plus, they will struggle with any rocks or bumps in the street. Because of their weight, there is a chance that they will become bogged down on a trail.

Ability To Go Off-Road
Ability To Go Off-Road

Mountain bikes have been specifically designed for off-road adventures.

They have wider wheels, which provide more traction in gravel or dirt. Plus, they are light enough to jump, helping riders get over any boulders blocking the path.

Winner: Bicycle

With lighter weight, more robust frames, and more powerful tread, mountain bikes are specifically designed for off-road conditions. 

Weight

The weight of a tricycle will vary a little, depending on the model you select. On the lighter end of the scale, they might weigh between 40 to 50 pounds. On the other hand, if you want one with an electric motor, you might be looking at around 77 pounds.

Weight
Weight – bicycles are lighter than tricycles

There are many types of bicycles.

Road bikes tend to be the lightest, as they have been designed to achieve high speeds. These will weigh around 18 pounds.

The heaviest road bicycle will be the sand cruiser.

This is because it has a solid metal frame. Plus, the wheels need to be thicker to stop them from getting bogged in the sand. These can weigh up to 40 pounds.

Winner: Bicycle

A road bike will be almost 20 pounds lighter than the lightest tricycle on the market. 

Final Thoughts

In most cases, people will be better off choosing a bicycle. They will offer better performance, allowing you to achieve higher speeds. Plus, you can take them off-road. They will be more compact and easier to store than a tricycle.

However, adult tricycles aim to serve a different audience.

They will be more stable, making them better for older people and those with disabilities. They are also the better choice for those looking to transport cargo.

Mark Plummer

Mark Plummer is an experienced bike mechanic who has built, repaired, and customized thousands of bikes over the years. A former mountain biking athlete, his cycling adventures have taken him all over the globe from the mountains of Scotland to the South Island of New Zealand. These days he enjoys the benefits of commuting to work and touring on his Dahon and Brompton folding bikes.

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