Dear Savvy Senior: What can you tell me about electric trikes for semi-seniors? I used to cycle a lot in my younger years but have some balance problems and don’t trust myself on a two-wheeler anymore. I’ve read that electric-powered trikes are a good option for older riders, and I could use some help choosing one. — Unsteady Eddie
Dear Eddie: Electric-powered adult tricycles — also known as e-trikes — are a great cycling option for older adults with balance or stamina issues because they’re safe and super fun to ride, and easy on an aging body. Here’s what you should know, along with some tips to help you shop for one.
If you’re interested in cycling but worry about falling or injuring yourself, e-trikes are a great choice because of the three-wheeled stability they provide. With a trike, you can ride as slow as you want without ever losing your balance, which is reassuring for most older riders.
E-trikes also come with a small electric-powered motor to enhance the riding experience, so when you saddle up and apply the throttle the motor will give you a boost when pedaling or do all the work for you. This makes it much easier to whiz up hills and ride into headwinds without gassing yourself or taxing your knee joints.
In addition, most adult e-trikes are also made with a low “step through” design, making mounting and dismounting easier; they typically come with big tires that ensure a smooth ride; have ergonomic handlebars that are easy to reach and grip; and offer oversize seats (some even have backrests) for comfort and support.
There are many types of adult e-trikes to choose from, with prices ranging from around $2,000 up to $7,000. To shop for one, contact bike shops in your area or order one online.
When shopping for an e-trike, pay special attention to the motor, which determines how fast it will go, and the battery, which determines how far it will go between charges.
Most e-trikes can reach speeds of anywhere between 15 and 28 miles per hour, and typically go 20 to 55 miles on a single charge, depending on how much pedaling you do. Battery charge times will vary too, ranging from three to eight hours.
How to choose
To figure out the right kind of e-trike for you, ask yourself how and where you plan to ride it. If you’re primarily interested in a leisurely ride around the neighborhood for pleasure, fitness or running errands, an upright cruiser e-trike that has a rear cargo basket would be a nice choice.
Some popular options in this category: Addmotor’s M-340 Electric Fat Trike and M-360 Semi-Recumbent Trike (both $3,000, addmotor.com); Emojo Caddy Pro ($2,900, emojobike.com); Sixthreezero EVRYjourney 250W Tricycle ($2,200, sixthreezero.com); EWheels EW-29 ($2,000, ewheelsdealers.com); and Buzz Cerana T ($1,700, buzzbicycles.com).
If you’re interested in longer rides, a recumbent e-trike may be a better option. These are aerodynamic, low-to-the-ground stretched-out frame trikes that allow you to recline with your legs positioned in front of you. Catrike (catrike.com) and TerraTrikes (terratrike.com) are two of the biggest U.S. companies that make recumbent tadpole-style trikes (two wheels in front); both offer electric assist options ranging from $5,000 to $,7000.
There are also folding e-trikes, which are practical if you have limited home storage space or would like to take your trike with you when traveling. Some good options: Liberty Trike ($1,600, libertytrike.com) and Eunorau New-Trike ($2,500, eunorau-ebike.com).
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.