Are Recumbent Trikes the Bikes of the Future?
“We’re the trash can of bicycling,” jokes Mel Birgé, co-owner of RecumbentPDX, a neon-green storefront on Hawthorne Boulevard that appears almost empty—until you look up at the walls. Suspended from cables around the space, dozens of recumbent bikes and trikes of assorted sizes and colors hang at various heights, leaving the worn wood floor open to test rides, demonstrations, and Birgé’s two poodles.
Though it's been less than a year since Mel Birgé and his wife Janet Morgan purchased the space, the former home of bike shop Coventry Cycle Works, RecumbentPDX has already become Portland’s go-to shop for reclined bikes and trikes.
Birgé, an avid recumbent biker-turned-triker laughs as he references the long-held stigma attached to recumbent trikes as being geared towards “fat old men”—a decidedly “uncool” form of transportation. But for those with injuries old or new, issues with weight that prevent other forms of exercise, or diseases from Osteoporosis to Parkinson’s—really any kind of physical impairment—the recumbent trike offers a way back onto the road.
According to Morgan, the “infinite adjustability" has made recumbents so popular. “I always go back to the word opportunity. It is this awesome opportunity that people are just finding out about.”
Selling 30 trikes for every one bike, RecumbentPDX seeks to meet the growing demand for the ease of the three-wheel machine, recently placing an order for 100 Catrike trikes, the largest order to date for the small trike manufacturer based in Orlando, Florida. Why Catrike?
“It’s US-made; it’s the premier brand; it is hands-down the best trike for the money,”Birgé says while folding and unfolding a lightweight Catrike model on the floor. “Customers come in specifically asking about Catrike—they’ve done their homework."
And, according to Birgé, it's not just Portlanders. Catrike fans from as far as Alaska and British Columbia have found their way to RecumbentPDX, the only Catrike megastore on the West Coast, a distinction meaning they carry the entire award-winning line—currently seven models, soon to be eight. Though the shop stocks several other reputable brands, “our sweet spot is selling the Catrike,” Birgé says.
While the upright bike is undoubtedly faster and unlikely to disappear from city streets anytime soon, the recumbent trike offers an unmatched range of visibility and comfort level. "We’re a little apart from the Portland biking scene, which is a bit younger, but we’re our own culture,” Morgan says.