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 Major Categories of Human-Powered Cycles

Five major categories of cycles dominate the cycling landscape. These major categories are described below, and in a few instances, subcategories are indicated. These descriptions are applicable to the majority of cycles in each category, but home-builders and some manufactures construct cycles that cross or blur lines of distinction.


Trek 72fx bike.

A bicycle is a two-wheel cycle with the saddle seat above and slightly forward of the rear wheel. The rider's lower body is verticle, while the upper body is hunched forward, with much of the rider's weight resting on his/her shoulders, arms, and hands. From this position, the rider must streatch his/her neck to raise his/her head in order to see ahead. (At right, see the Trex 72fx bike.)


RANS V-Rex LE recumbent bike.

Bibents are recumbent two-wheel cycles. Generally, these are considered a subcategory of bicycles because they have two wheels -- but that's where similarity ends. On a bibent, a rider sits on a wider seat (with seat back) which is located ahead of the rear wheel. The lower portion of the rider's body is horizontal, while the upper body is tilted upward so that the rider is looking directly ahead. Bibents come in several subclasses, which will be defined later. For a good introduction to recumbent bikes, please see: Wikipedia - Recumbent Bikes. (At right see the RANS V-Rex LE short wheelbase recumbent bike.)


Torker Tristar adult tricycle.

Tricycles are three wheel cycles, which generally have two smaller wheels in back and one larger wheel in front, with a saddle seat (or other seating variation) located somewhat above and slightly forward of the rear wheels. While commonly a child's first cycle, because of its stability, adult versions also are widely available. (At right, see the Torker Tristar adult trike.)


Tribents are recumbent (see bibents, above) three-wheel cycles. They come in two major subcategories -- tadpoles and deltas.

TWbents Arrow non-folding tadpole.

Tadpoles have one wheel behind the rider and one each on either side (and slightely ahead) of the rider's seat. Tribents.com offers some of the finest and most affordable folding tadpole trikes. Please see the Products section for descriptions, specifications, and photos of our tadpoles. For other major manufacturers of quality tadpoles, please see the Directory. (At right, see the TWbents Arrow non-folding trike.)

Greenway delta trike from Lightfoot.

Deltas have a wheel configuration similar to the traditional trike -- two wheels at the back and one in front. Riders generally sit higher and have a higher center of gravity on deltas than on tadpoles -- kind of a compromise between tadpoles and true trikes. Lightfoot and Hasebikes are two manufacturers of quality deltas. (See the Lightfoot Greenway at right.) For other sources of deltas, please see the Directory.


Lightfoot MicroCar four-wheeler.

Four wheel cycles have been around for a long time. One of the first such cycles had large wheels on either side of the rider and small ones both in front and behind the rider. Contemporary configurations generally have two wheels per side, with the front pair of wheels used for steering and the rear set of wheels used for propulsion. Our Directory does not include quadcycles, but Lightfoot, which produces two quality models, provides a critical comparison of products from other manufactures to their own products. In the process, they list many other manufacturers of quadcycles. See: Quad Comparisons. (The Lightfoot MicroCar is shown at right. )

Tandems and Sociables

TerraTrike Tandem.

The first four cycle categories listed above, primarily are designed and built for one rider. However, variations are available for two or more riders. If the riders sit one behind the other, this configuration is called Tandem. (See the TerraTrike Tandom tadpole at right.) If the riders sit side by side, this configuration is called Sociable. (See the Lightfoot MicroCar, above.) While some quadcycles are designed for one rider, they primarily are designed and built for two or more riders.

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