SCARBOROUGH – Ron Dubay only came to Scarborough Marsh to walk with his wife and enjoy the wetland’s natural beauty. The strange fold-up device getting packed into a Mazda Protege in the parking lot was unexpected.

“That thing has too many wheels,” Dubay joked about the recumbent tricycle Ethan Davis was loading into his car.

Davis joked back with equal zest.

“Most bicycles have too few wheels,” Davis said with a grin.

Davis, owner of Wildfire Human Powered Vehicles in Arundel, is the only exclusive dealer of recumbent bicycles in Maine. And in six years, he has sold just 40 recumbent bikes. So clearly, these pedal-powered vehicles are not widely used.

Still those who have them love the recumbent’s comfort and laid-back approach, both figuratively and literally.

They’re not bikes, they’re lawn chairs with wheels.

Funny as they may look, the perspective they provide is unparalleled on two wheels. On a recumbent bicycle or tricycle, also called a “trike,” the world comes at you like a movie screen.

Bicycling, roller blading and scooters can’t give the panoramic view one gets on a trike.

“It’s a wide-screen TV,” said Davis, an ed tech at Biddeford Middle School, as he peddled along the Scarborough Marsh.

Once fitted, the trike is unbelievably comfortable, which is their main selling point.

“The biggest reason people want them is comfort,” Davis said. “The biggest question people have is how safe it is in traffic. You’re so low to the ground. I’ve had motorists slow down and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t see you.’ Well, obviously they saw me because they stopped to talk to me.”

Davis prefers to sit way back on his trike, yet has no fear in traffic.

As long as there is a bike lane, as there is for instance on the Pine Point Road along the Scarborough Marsh, Davis is comfortable.

He practices defensive riding, making eye contact and waving to motorists.

“I try to be predictable. There is always some risk in cycling, because there are careless drivers who are distracted,” he said.

Trikes come with a natural fear factor. But those who have them still love them.

Ann Foye of Portland wanted a trike for the stability and comfort to allow her to return to riding at 57. Foye said nerve damage in one leg as a result of back problems made it difficult to peddle an upright bike.

She saw one of these three-wheeled, zippy vehicle and sought a dealer.

“I decided I wanted to ride and I can’t do it on a two-wheeler. It’s not something I’ll get sick of. I do enjoy it. I had seen a couple of them around. That made me start looking,” Foye said.

Foye mostly takes her trike around Baxter Boulevard, on the stone dust path where she can do a five-mile loop worry free of traffic.

She still takes every precaution, with a flag, blinking lights on her helmet, and lights on the front and back of her trike.

“I’m still not real comfortable in traffic. It’s so low and you get a lot of looks. There are not that many of them around,” Foye said.

Ed Stolkner of Saco also got his first recumbent to provide relief from chronic back pain. Now he’s a veritable collector.

He got his first recumbent 10 years ago. Some 12 recumbents later, he has four in his garage.

But Stolkner picks and chooses where he rides them. In Saco, where he lives, he waits until after rush hour.

“I don’t ride on Route 1. But I wouldn’t on any bike. It’s crazy. I ride my recumbent where I would ride any bike,” Stolkner said.

And yet, Stolkner doubts they will ever catch on in Maine.

“It’s not exactly a big thing. There are other parts of the country where there are more recumbents. I think they are more common in Europe,” Stolkner said.

A fan of all human-powered modes of transportation, Davis said he loves trikes because they are ever-changing. Upgrades and improvements and innovations occur annually in the world of trikes.

Trikes come in different models and configurations. Some have two wheels in the front and one in the back. Others have one of three wheels in the front.

Davis has sold all kinds, including some that have an adjustable frame to allow it to fit all size riders.

Most have 27 gears with shifting done right above or on the handles, allowing an intrepit cyclist to fly.

“They can easily get up to 25 mph,” Davis said.

 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]