To Ron Spiewak, it’s all about how he looks. That’s why it took some pride swallowing for the veteran and one-time bike racer to embrace a three-wheeled bike that looks more like a recliner on wheels.
But today Spiewak, 65, of Spirit Lake, Idaho, knows he has a cool ride – one that he can pedal into old age without worry of losing balance and falling or stressing his neck, back and wrists. He brags about his trike at every opportunity and is excited to promote the Tater TOT (Tricycles Optional Tour) Rally – a gathering of hundreds of trikes and recumbent two-wheelers in Kellogg, June 28-July 2.
In its eighth year, this loosely organized and free event draws trike riders from across the country and Canada to ride the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, the Hiawatha Trail and other routes throughout the historic mining area of North Idaho. One of the highlights is always a ride to the Enaville Resort Snake Pit in Kingston, which has reopened with new owners.
The kickoff is the welcome potluck and barbecue June 29 at 5 p.m. at the GuestHouse Inn on Bunker Avenue across from the gondola, which is the official gathering spot for the very unofficial event that boasts all fun and no rules, no tight schedules, no leaders and no fees. An online forum, a fact sheet website page and two Facebook pages are the only real organizing components for the event.
Wayne Leggett of Oxnard, California, attended what became the unplanned but inaugural Tater TOT when his wife and neighbors planned a trip to the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes and put out the word on an online message board for recumbent and trike riders. About 20 trikers rode together that July 2007. Even then, people did whatever they wanted and went wherever they wanted. Somehow it became an annual event. Leggett said it works because nobody has tried to make the gathering too official, formal or organized.
“It’s a very, very welcoming atmosphere,” Leggett said. “A lot of people who ride trikes are still in that evangelistic mode. Just ask my wife.”
Spiewak, somewhat of an evangelistic trike-pusher himself, agreed it’s the perfect opportunity for people to come learn more about trikes and why they are a fabulous option for anyone having aging problems – such as balance and joint pain – who wants to keep riding and recreating. All the trikes and recumbent bikes are on display during the Sunday potluck and many owners let people tryout the rides and get the feel for a three-wheel, low-rider.
Aches and pains are how Spiewak, a mostly retired house builder, got into trikes. Well, actually, it was his wife who broke her elbow after a fall from her road bike and decided she needed to embrace a new kind of bike riding. Like many baby boomers, Debbie Claire, 60, had no problem transitioning to a trike. She didn’t have to get over the “geek factor,” like her husband.
“I’m the one that wanted to get one first,” Claire said. “I’m a nurse. I know not to let myself fall apart. I know when I’m 80, I can ride this trike.”
Leggett said his friend has poor eyesight from diabetes and uses a trike for transportation. She recently bought a trike with a motor assist that allows her to do an entire Meals on Wheels route on her trike.
The trikes have reclining bucket seats that keep the neck upright and the back in alignment with the rider’s weight evenly distributed. There is one wheel behind and two wheels in front. The pedals are on an adjustable boom out front and the steering, shifter and brake are controlled by handles at the side of the seat. Most have disc brakes and shocks. Because of the small frontal area, trikes are aerodynamic and fast with almost a go-kart feel.
With the three wheels and low seat, the trikes are stable and nearly impossible to tip or fall off.
Claire said the only caution is that they are low to the ground – tire level to a car – making the trikes difficult to see in traffic. That’s why most trike riders fly tall colorful safety flags and prefer carless routes. To help, Claire made sure their trikes were painted striking colors. Her’s hot pink. Spiewak’s bright yellow.
“It seems like it’s a certain age group that is gravitating to the trikes,” said Debbie Domy, who owns Excelsior Cycle in Kellogg. “When you have aches and pains, people think about comfort more.”
The shop sells Catrikes, usually just a handful a year including to people who come to the Tater TOT Rally. She said the rally is great for the local economy and promoting the area and its trails.
“They really like having the long, paved trails that are smooth and away from the traffic,” she said.
Claire and Spiewak said the scenery is another draw, especially the mountains, the lakes and the wildlife.
“It’s the most awesome environment,” Claire said. “People are just waiting for a moose to pop up on the trail.”
The comments and photos on the online forum and Facebook pages are testimony to riders’ enjoyment of the week.
“It was a long ride from Iowa, but the people there, and the trails with all their splendor, made it very fun and worthwhile,” wrote tpy2012 on the BentRider Online Forum the last day of the ride in 2013.