Excitement And Comfort With TerraTrike



Excitement In The Outdoors: TerraTrike

A Three-Wheeled Bicycle That Puts Riders In The Reclining Position While Taking Them On Adventures In The Great Outdoors

Couple Enjoys Quality Time While Riding The TerraTrike [Courtesy/TerraTrike]

"The big thing is comfort," says Jeff Yonkers, "it's like sitting in a beach chair."  Yonkers is marketing director for TerraTrike and he is talking of their recumbent trike products.  A recumbent trike is a three-wheeled bicycle that puts riders in the reclining position.  There are about 5-6 serious manufacturers of trikes and TerraTrike is one of the top sellers. 

"It started with two friends from grade school named Jack and Wayne," explains Yonkers, "they met back up at a Christmas party."  Yonkers says that Jack is the mad-scientist type and Wayne is a number guy.  They talked about starting a business together and Jack drew his idea - a recumbent trike - on a party napkin.  "The napkin is framed in our building," Yonkers explains.  The company started in 1996. The first 2-3 years, they built trikes in the garage.  It took four years to pull a paycheck of $300, and then the company grew incrementally to what it is today - one of the top sellers of recumbent trikes in the world.

Besides comfort, the trikes offer an exciting time for its riders.  "It is very much like a go-kart," Yonkers explains, "and when older people feel that, they immediately turn into a 10 year old."  It is a social activity, too.  When a person is on a bicycle they are usually hunched over, however on a trike a person is lounging and, since it is stable on three wheels, people can sit and talk to each other or pedal and talk to each other down the road. 

These benefits originally mostly appealed to the aging baby boomer with a little bit of disposable income.  Lately, though, the demographics are getting younger and younger.  "We are solidly in the 30s, even some 20-somethings are getting them and doing some fun stuff with them," Yonkers says.  By fun stuff, he means taking them off-roading or on skateboard ramps.  "Our trikes have 20 inch BMX tires and they can handle a lot," Yonkers says.  Also, schools are starting to utilize recumbent trikes for special education students.  “It doesn’t have the stigma of a wheelchair and the kids really like it,” Yonkers says. 

Riding The TerraTrike In The Great Outdoors [Courtesy/TerraTrike]
The Party Napkin With The Idea [Courtesy/TerraTrike]

The trikes are also used by outdoor enthusiasts for easy transportation and because of the amount of luggage they can carry.  “We have people taking them out to a lake in the woods and they can relax while they get there and put their fishing poles and tackle on the trike,” Yonkers explains.  He says it’s like a cross between an ATV and a bicycle. 

Another trend that has shaped the fortunes of companies like TerraTrike is the attitude towards bicycles in the USA.  "We are one of the only countries that treat bicycles as toys.  Lately that has been changing," Yonkers says.  He says the trail systems have been exploding in cities.  For example, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where TerraTrike is based, "Rail trails have become very popular and lately the city has been connecting all the rail trails so you have 40 miles worth of trails to ride."

“We sell more trikes than all our competitors,” Yonkers says.  He thinks this is because the company is always trying to improve their product.  “We are always trying to add more value, refine it and make it more user friendly,” he explains.  They once wanted to make a $500 trike without it being poorly made.  They weren’t able to do it, however they learned a lot about making it more user friendly and came up with the Rover trike.  “It addressed a lot of the feedback we get from our customers,” Yonkers says.  The main complaints were price point and how low the chair was to the ground.  So TerraTrike made the Rover to be priced at under $1000 and with a chair about the height of an average lawn chair.  “It took the industry by storm and became the best selling trike of all time,” Yonkers says.

In terms of next steps, Yonkers believes the biggest obstacle is awareness.  He says TerraTrikes are sold in about 250 dealers in the USA, but there are “about 4500 total throughout the country.”  Fortunately, though, enthusiasts are willing to drive great distances to get a trike.  “Our demographic is very enthusiastic about the things they like,” Yonkers says, “so they are great marketers for us.”  As mentioned above, he also is seeing a trend towards younger and younger consumers, something he would like to encourage.

Whatever the use of recumbent trikes, Yonkers hopes that TerraTrike will remain at the cutting edge of technology associated with the trikes.  “We feel like we have always been helping shape the industry and we want to continue to do that. “

Andrew Malo

A graduate of Northeastern Illinois University in Education, Andrew has taught for the past decade in Chicago, New Mexico, and Japan.  He  enjoys tinkering with trucks and motorcycles, woodworking, reading and computer programming. 


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