Sunday, March 1, 2015



The irony is not lost on those who ride them. As toddlers they started out on three wheels. As aging boomers, they have gone back to their trikes.

Often for health reasons, people in the boomer and beyond age bracket are shedding their two-wheel bicycles and motorcycles for more stable and “forgiving” trikes. It’s a trend that has been spotted and promoted throughout the nation, including in Bakersfield.

At the dealership on Merle Haggard Drive, salesman Mark T. Welch said the $30,000-plus three-wheel Harley-Davidson motorcycles are flying out the door. They can’t order them quick enough to keep up with the demand.

At Snider’s Cyclery, Olivia Snider said she is seeing an increasing number of people coming into her Union Avenue shop asking for trikes. Sales of three-wheel adult tricycles have climbed.

“People see it as easy mobility and a good way to keep in shape,” she said, explaining most trike customers are recovering from injuries or illnesses .

Snider manager Miguel Berger said most people are buying three-speed trikes, with coaster and hand-brakes in the $600 range. Recumbent tricycles, which are geared and designed for more advanced, competitive riders, sell for much more.

In February, Barney Padilla, 60, bought a head-turning high-gloss red 2010 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Trike from the Bakersfield dealership. A motorcycle rider since 1978, Padilla said he hopes his new wheels will keep him riding for many more years.

Padilla retired as the service manager of a local car dealership. After encountering health problems that required his heart to be assisted by a pacemaker, Padilla said he feared his riding days were over.

“I am not having any problems yet in riding, but I was not sure what would happen in the next five years,” he said, explaining that he worried about keeping his balance on a two-wheel motorcycle.

At first he considered modifying his motorcycle to add a third wheel for stability. But as modification costs added up, his interest turned to buying Harley-Davidson’s popular Street Glide Trike. The manufacturer also makes a pricier Tri Glide Ultra Classic.

While Padilla can still feel the wind on his face and the bugs against his teeth, his new wheels ooze luxury. These trikes, which are acquiring a lot of “street credibility” as more and more boomers head down the highway on them, are equipped with cruise control, optional reverse gear, GPS navigation, stereo speakers, hand warmers and headsets to ease communications.

Padilla and his wife, Eva, are planning some long-distance trips, the first being to Modesto to celebrate a friend’s 25th wedding anniversary. Arizona and Nevada destinations are also on the horizon.

Padilla said his adult children have never shown much interest in riding. But after he brought his trike home, his daughters are suddenly asking for rides. “It’s pretty tricked out.”

Carmen Mazzei is fighting a seven-year battle with cancer. It showed up first as a brain tumor and she beat it back. It returned in her spine. Again she was triumphant. Then it was her breast and kidney. Now she is being treated for lung cancer.

Mazzei, who looks 20 years younger than her age (which she will keep to herself) credits her athletic life for her ability to fight her grueling health battle. Before she became ill, she worked out regularly at a local gym, enjoyed water and snow skiing, taught her children how to ride motorcycles, didn’t smoke, ate good and kept her weight down.

She has a “won’t quit” attitude, believes “every day is a good day,” and can be heard telling people, “I have cancer, but I am not going to let cancer have me.”

But the side effects of her chemotherapy and related health problems, including a knee injury, kept her from her exercise routine. Mazzei’s son, Mike, talked her into buying an adult tricycle from Snider’s.

“Thanks to my precious son, I got this,” she said, grinning as she straddled her new wheels on the street in front of her northeast Bakersfield home. “He knows how active I want to be.”

Mazzei’s trike has a basket in back of the seat, where she carries her two pomeranian dogs on her daily treks through her neighborhood.

“I need to exercise. I’m not the type of person who can just sit around,” she said. But her medications throw her balance off, preventing her from riding a two-wheel bicycle.

“I feel so much better being able to ride,” she said. “At first I thought I would look silly. But I have fallen in love with it. I came alive when I saw it.”

Mazzei had no reason to fear looking silly on her trike. She only had to check out www.bicycle-riding-for – to discover the wide range of cycling options that exist for boomers and beyond.

“There is an exciting re-awakening in the world of bicycle riding driven by boomer-aged riders looking for fun and fitness. Old line bike manufacturers are producing more products for mature riders and new manufacturers are appearing frequently,” according to the webpage.

Recognizing the demand for trikes as its customers aged, Harley-Davidson began manufacturing three-wheel versions of its popular touring bikes in 2009.

“Fifteen years ago, people didn’t know what to make of it,” Harley-Davidson’s chief marketing officer, Mark-Hans Richer, told The Associated Press earlier this year. “Now it’s become a form of personal expression. The stigma of three wheels is gone.”

This article by Dianne Hardisty appeared first in The Bakersfield Californian on March 14, 2010.

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