Which Muscles Does a 3 Wheel Bike Work?

A quick look at how you can be more comfortable while getting a great workout in. We’re diving into the 3 wheel bike – the muscles it works and why it’s a great stay fit option.

If you’re getting older and still want to remain active, water aerobics aren’t your only option.

Here, we’ll explain why a 3 wheel bike will give you a great workout – without putting extra stress on your joints. We’ll also take a look at the specific muscle groups this kind of bike training targets.

Woman resting on a tricycle

The Basics: The Overall Benefits of a 3 Wheel Bike

The Basics: The Overall Benefits of a 3 Wheel Bike

According to research conducted by the AARP, 32% of adults between 60-64 are active every day, while 39% of adults over 70 work out every day.

What does this tell us? That just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you want to – or have to – slow down.

Plus, the CDC points out in a recent study that for older adults, engaging in regular physical activity helps to keep your bones and joints strong, can lower blood pressure, and is great for keeping you mentally healthy. 

You know you should work out every day – but you don’t know which routine or piece of equipment is safest, or you feel like your current routine isn’t effective anymore or just wears you out for the rest of the day.

It’s time to look into a 3 wheel bike for adults, sometimes also referred to as an adult tricycle or a recumbent bike. 

Even if you’re already using another type of bike, switching to a bike with three wheels can take pressure off of your neck and help to strengthen your posture – a crucial adjustment for older adults who have already begun to notice a slump.
Plus, an adult tricycle also allows you to lean back (a bit like sitting in a lounge chair) meaning you won’t be tensing up your shoulders, leading to aches and pains.

While everyone loves an adult trike, they’re especially popular among riders over the age of 50: in fact, another study found that many adult tricycle manufacturers say that about 75% of their customers are over 50.

Why is a 3 Wheel Bike Better than a Standard Bike?

Especially for older riders, 3 wheel bikes offer lots of advantages over the standard model. Some of these advantages include…

  • Faster speeds: Since a three wheel bike places your body close to the ground, you’ll be able to go faster – even in harsh winds!
  • More Adaptability: If you have a disability or limited mobility, these types of bikes are a great choice for you – unlike standard bikes, they can be adjusted to suit your specific needs and conditions. 
  • Better Balance: If you’re an older rider, we know that concerns about your bike tipping over or even falling off your bike may stop you from riding. Because of the way you’re seated in an adult tricycle, your balance is far more stable than on a standard, 2 wheel bike.
  • The Spreading Of Weight: While 2 wheel, upright bikes place your weight (and therefore, put pressure on) only your hands, feet, and your sits bones, an adult trike uses the reclining seat to evenly distribute the weight between your legs, feet, back, and bottom – meaning that each part takes an equal load of pressure, preventing strain or injury.
  • Increased Aerodynamics: Because 3 wheeled bikes have lower gravity levels, and their triangular shapes help them to better cut through the wind, your bike will have less drag to it, and your arms and legs won’t be quite as sore as they likely are after a standard ride. 
  • More Comfortable Seats: Let’s face it: there’s usually nothing especially comfortable about the tiny seats of a standard bike. Luckily, 3 wheel bikes are great options for those whose hip and knee replacement surgeries have made standard bike seats even more painful, and because the seats are a little roomier, it won’t be as tight of a fit.

 Pro Tips For 3 Wheel Bike Riding Safety:

  • Since these bikes can sometimes be hard for cars to see, especially if you’re riding in traffic or prefer an evening ride, we suggest placing a large, bright orange flag on your bike to increase visibility
  • If you’re planning to ride your 3 wheel bike in an especially hilly area, instead of relying on your body weight or shifting your position to help get you up the hill, shift your gears to help you gain the leverage you need to keep climbing. 

What Specific Muscle Groups do 3 Wheel Bikes Target?

What Specific Muscle Groups do 3 Wheel Bikes Target?

Just because these bikes are far more comfortable than it’s standard 2 wheel counterpart, doesn’t mean your workouts will be any less effective.

In fact, 3 wheel bikes help to target specific muscle groups – especially ones that require a bit more attention as you get older. 

In addition to acting as a killer cardio workout, helping to increase your stamina and overall strength, these bikes also target…

  • Your Quads: The meaty muscles on the front of your thighs are huge sources of energy and a great support system for movement in your daily life as they work to flex your knees. When you push the pedals on your adult trike, your quads help out the work your glutes are already doing. Your quads also help to draw your leg up when you’re doing a full rotation.
  • Your Glutes: The muscles of your bottom may be seated comfortably on a 3 wheel bike, but they’re certainly still engaged. When you do an extension movement (basically, when your thigh straightens and then is pulled back into your body) you’ll be engaging your glutes as you push the bike’s pedals back down. 
  • Your Calves: These lower leg muscles often quick weaker quickly as you age. Riding this kind of bicycle engages your calf in a movement called plantar flexion – basically, when you point your toes downward to complete a cycle, your calves get a major workout. 
  • Your Hamstrings: Located on the back side of your upper thighs, your hamstrings exist to help you to flex your knee. When the lower part of your leg bends as you pedal, you’re activating and engaging your hamstring muscles, as you have to use them to bring your foot back to the top of the cycle.
  • Your Abs: Yep, believe it or not, you’ll still be working your abs even in the more relaxed seating position of a bike! And that’s great, because doing crunches as an ab workout can put a huge strain on your neck – something older folks just can’t afford to have happen. Riding a 3 wheel bike engages your abs when you pedal, as your body will be relying on them to help you keep balanced. Plus, when you’re cranking into high gear or going over hilly terrain, your abs will be engaged as they help you to climb.
  • Your Tibilais Anterior: The name of this muscle group may not be as familiar to you as the others listed here, but trust us when we tell you their development is just as important. Use a bike to strengthen and engage these muscles, which run down your shins and are activated when your toes point towards your body during the pedaling cycle. 

Don't Forget About 3 Wheel Upright Bikes!

Don't Forget About 3 Wheel Upright Bikes!

Recumbent bikes are likely the most well-known form of 3-wheel bikes, but there is also an upright model available.

These work to engage the same groups of muscles as recumbent versions, and have the following features that, depending on what’s the most important to you, may make them a great fit as well: 

  • They’re more visible in traffic than a recumbent bike
  • They have more space for you to put bags and other stuff – great if you’re using your bike to run errands
  • You can get into and out of them more easily
  • If something goes wrong and your bike is in need of repair, bike shops are more likely to have the parts in stock for a 3 wheel upright bike  – they may sometimes have to order them for the recumbent option

Keep in mind, though, that 3 wheel upright bikes may place a little more of your upper body weight onto your hands and bottom than a recumbent option. Again, it’s all about what works best for you and your body. 

If you’re unsure about which body parts you need to watch out for, or if you’re wondering how long your daily ride should be, it’s always a good idea to get in touch with your doctor. 

Where Can I Find a 3 Wheel Bike?

If you’ve been convinced and are ready to give 3 wheel bike riding a try, we suggest checking out our website to familiarize yourself with the benefits of specific brands, makes, and models. 

You’ll also be able to read our reviews of some of the most popular bikes out there, meaning that you’ll be armed with professional information when making your decision about which bike to buy. 

For more tips and tricks, don’t forget to keep checking back with our blog – we’re always happy to share our knowledge with those interested in learning more about how bikes offer workouts that are safe for older adults, effective in strengthening a variety of muscle groups, and best of all, that are just fun. 

About the author

Mike Bravetti

Mike is the senior author for Adult Tricycles Pro. His main duty is to update, edit and post articles/reviews on tricycles. He's a HUGE fan of adult tricycles models - his dream is to create his own tricycle brand!