Warm sea breezes tickling your face and tousling your hair as you cruise a meandering oceanside route in sunny Southern California. Soft, sandy shores stretch westward toward the crashing Pacific on one side of you; on the other side, lush grasses carpet the lawns in shades of fluorescent green … and in the distance, the gently sloping range of the Santa Ynez Mountains hovers almost mirage-like, hazy beneath the deep blue baby’s eye of a Southern California sky.
Excerpt from a dream vacation?
The kind of magical moment you might experience if you decided to rent a ’65 Fairlane convertible in San Diego and take it all the way up the Pacific Coast Highway, perhaps?
Try your daily commute to work. Or David Lawson’s daily commute to work, rather. For ten years, the 60-something-year-old resident of Santa Barbara blithely bypassed Southern California’s notoriously overcrowded highways in favor of a commute by recumbent trike.
Interstate jams, road construction and an ever-sinking gas gauge needle quickly became all but a memory for the man who preferred to begin his 9-mile commute each day by literally lying back, kicking his feet up and taking in plenty of sunshine, scenery and fresh air from the comfort of his distinctive cycle.
But don’t get the wrong idea—this isn’t your grandpa’s recumbent we’re talking about here.
David’s TerraTrike, produced by the WizWheelz Company out of West Michigan, is sporty and sleek, built for efficient handling at high speeds. He has been known to push the trike up to 30 M.P.H. while on the bike paths, in fact, passing up his years-younger two-wheeling cohorts left and right with the greatest of ease.
Sand on the paths? No problem! Sharp turns? Bring ‘em on! The TerraTrike’s low center of gravity and wide, stable wheel base provides a road-hugging thrill which David describes as being comparable to driving a sports car—a very eco-friendly sports car, that is.
“It’s even more fun with hazards like sand or water on the roadway!” he exclaims.
Now retired, the former Senior Artist for the Anthropology Graphics Lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara owns a total of five TerraTrikes by WizWheelz, including one of the company’s trademark bright red tandems … to enjoy with his wife, of course.
“What a thrill for both of us,” says David. “Judging from the ‘thumbs up’ and cheers we commonly encounter when cycling around town, it appears that the famous ‘Triker’s Grin’ is contagious!”
His love affair with recumbents (commonly referred to as “’bents”) began in 1997, when a chiropractor advised him to give up cycling on an upright due to the resulting stress to his neck vertebrae. A lifetime spent exploring the world from the seat of his mountain bike had apparently taken its toll on David, but he wasn’t ready to give up on cycling altogether.
Luckily, he didn’t have to.
“Recumbent cycling was the obvious answer,” David says. “A way to both recline and ride!”
Following a few experimental stints on two-wheeled recumbents (which he found fun, but somewhat awkward as far as balancing was concerned), David happened upon the WizWheelz site while surfing the Internet. Although the company was barely a year old at the time, he was instantly enamored with their design model. Subtly stylish, the TerraTrike was built low to the ground and featured 27 gears along with a unique wheel configuration consisting of two tires in the front and one in the back. He snapped up a ‘TerraTrike 1.3’—one of the first models ever produced by WizWheelz—and (as David puts it) … “The rest was history!”
In the ten years since he made the switch to recumbent triking, David has undergone a transformation of sorts. Having logged over 20,000 miles on his TerraTrike in that time, he is quick to boast that, “for someone who is fast approaching the seventh decade of life,” he keeps himself plenty busy through cycling adventures which far exceed anything he ever would have attempted in his younger years on an upright. He frequently embarks on spur-of-the-moment 50-mile treks, participates in organized century rides (100-mile cycling expeditions), and in 2002 even withstood a 24-hour endurance ride under the sponsorship and support of WizWheelz.
How does he wind down and relax after all that exertion? On his TerraTrike, of course! The mesh-slung seat conjures up thoughts of a typical lawn chair … and David says it’s not unusual to find him using it as such.
“I’ll recline on my TerraTrike in the backyard and listen to A Prairie Home Companion,” he says.
His love for the recumbent lifestyle is so great he has even managed to convert four of his former UCSB co-workers into fellow TerraTrike diehards. After all, by his estimation, the trikes pay for themselves, saving him and his colleagues each roughly $1500 per year on vehicle upkeep expenses, university parking fees and health club membership costs.
Plus there’s the added benefit of those idyllic seaside commutes, of course.
“Santa Barbara is a cyclist’s paradise,” says David, who fondly recalls a ‘particularly exhausting’ day at work, after which he eased himself onto his TerraTrike, put his feet up and got ready to enjoy a leisurely ride home. Barely a mile into his commute, he noticed an upright biker following closely behind, apparently trying to catch up.
“Do you always ride this fast?” the rider asked after finally managing to pull up alongside of him. David smiled as he gave his reply.
“No, this isn’t my normal speed. Usually I go faster—I’m just having an off day.”
Laid Back Cycles is your Sacramento Valley and Bay Area recumbent tricycle dealer.