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My aging mom is looking to start biking to work as a way to stay healthy. But as an aging women she needs certain things so that she feels safe and comfortable riding a bike about 15 minutes each way.

  1. It must be somewhat covered to provide protection from the elements.
  2. 3 wheels would make her feel a lot more safe.
  3. An electric assist would be very helpful.
  4. It can't be super expensive.

Does there exist a bike that matches these requirements or at least designs to create such a bike?

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  • I do recall recently seeing an image somewhere of a trike with a rag top and, I vaguely recall, electric assist. Can't remember where I saw it, though -- probably on Facebook. IIRC it was at least partly custom. Apr 23, 2018 at 1:13
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    What you are describing sounds more like a mobility scooter.
    – Kim Ryan
    Apr 23, 2018 at 1:29
  • @KimRyan true - but this rider wants to ride to stay healthy. So a mobility scooter won't fill that need for her.
    – Criggie
    Apr 23, 2018 at 5:15
  • @mroll this question is over 3 years old now. What did you and your mother end up doing? How did it work for you, and what would you do differently knowing what you know now. ?
    – Criggie
    Dec 12, 2021 at 0:36
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    @Criggie she ended up getting a regular tricycle. Would have gone with a higher quality.
    – mroll
    Dec 13, 2021 at 0:54

5 Answers 5

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Short Answer

I believe the short answer to your question is no. The first three requirements that you list put you in the 'deeply customized' bicycle neighborhood. This is in direct opposition to your fourth requirement--custom bikes are very expensive. Additionally, without providing information about the climate where you live, local cycling infrastructure (bike paths/lanes/etc.), or your budget, this question is nearly impossible to answer.

Possible Solutions

Nothing makes me happier than people deciding to be healthier by way of bicycle commuting, so I'd like to offer you some ideas about how to get your mother on a bike!

Jumping into commuting can be difficult! I'm not sure how long it's been since your mother was on a bicycle, but it seems like her expectations are divorced from the reality of bike commuting. Does she ride regularly? Can you ride with her on the weekends to build up her experience with modern bicycles and her confidence on the road? I believe that she the following benefits from just getting out on the road:

  1. Strength (no electric assist)
  2. Balance (regular two wheels?)
  3. Familiarity with route, weather, and mechanics of modern bicyles
  4. Confidence

If it isn't possible to ride with her, encourage her to join a local cycling club (if available) and ride with the older group. Once she finds out whether this is something she can commit to (or not), you can start making plans to set her up with a commuting rig!

Other tips:

  • Buy used! (this will keep the cost of gear down)
  • Use a rain suit in the rain
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Look at how often it rains during her intended commutes. In the Netherlands, which is known for 'always being rainy' you need your waterproofs about 6 days a year when commuting 5 days per week.
A little drizzle should not stop a person from riding when a good coat is used and a hood/hat or helmet with rain cover if a helmet is the norm where you are.

A good set of waterproofs which is easy to put on and take off is more useful than a cover that always catches wind and will likely not protect against rain in side winds.

Plan the route (as far as possible) such that the quiet roads or bicycle paths are used and busy roads are crossed at traffic lights or other 'easy to use' points.

Try out several bikes, rentals or loans for a few days if available.
Have her try out bike seats in different heights.
While she is still unsure about riding, easy access to the ground is good. But the ride will be easier/smoother when the seat is a bit higher up. So I would suggest a bike that allows both, the lower position and the 'proper' high up one.

If she is really not able to ride a two wheeled bike, think about a recumbent trike. Those are available with e-bike tech as well. Not only is the bike stable, also the position of the rider on the bike is stable.
I have used a recumbent trike for 5 years, just for the fun of it, and can certainly recommend it. You are lower down (gives more stability) but you are wider and when viewed really seen.
I would not go for the extremely low ones, but for one about the same height as a dining chair.

Yes, you get wet when it rains, but are you made of sugar?
I survived getting rained on all my life and still commute by bike.

The ultimate 'not get wet' cycles are velomobiles, especially those which have a full hood. Likely much more than she will be looking for, but I mention them for others who have different requirements. Here a link to the kind of cycle in the reference question, with a photo.

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Unlikely to match all your requirements.

An adult trike offers exercise, and stability. But they're not overly cheap new.

https://adulttricyclespro.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Torker-24-x-20-Inch-TriStar-2.1-Adult-Trike.png

Weather protection comes in the form of a helmet and perhaps a rain poncho, and even knee-high gumboots.

And electrification of these would be limited to a front-wheel kitset only. On the plus side, you can locate the batteries in the cargo tray.

I'm sure you can google for "electric adult trike" and come up with some pricing, but such answers are off topic for SE.

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    They also make canopys for these, at least the Sun brand does, although with their height they would not protect much from rain coming at an angle but it is an idea, the electric assist is doable as criggie said but it would pricey, if not more than the trike itself.
    – Nate W
    Apr 23, 2018 at 15:13
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    I would look into a recumbent trike rather than a sit up trike, (also made by Sun as well as many others.) And some come with covers or partial covers.
    – Willeke
    Apr 24, 2018 at 17:51
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Most ebikes are not weatherproof.

Some can take a light drizzle but many cannot withstand sustained rain or immersion (such as travel through deep puddles). The problem is the high voltages. It’s hard to weatherproof when you’re operating at 36-72 volts.

The most water resistant are the $5000+ mountain bikes with sealed Bosch mid-drives and Bosch batteries.

But the ebikes that you can get for under $2000 lack the weather sealing needed for truly rainy environments. Just read the reviews on ebike sites.

The same goes for aftermarket kits - such as what would be needed to make an electric assist trike.

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    E-bikes are rather popular in the Netherlands and while it rains less than we complain, it is still quite common for a shower or several on an average winters day. E-bikes do not suffer from being out in it, either being ridden or being parked out in the weather.
    – Willeke
    Dec 11, 2021 at 18:29
  • My E-bike that was $2700 new can handle weeks of heavy rain, wet snow and even some washing with the hose if done from a distance and with care. What a bicycle that cannot run in a rain would be good for?
    – nightrider
    Dec 12, 2021 at 16:59
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You do not need a purpose-built E-bike for riding in a rain. A proper E-MTB can take a lot of nasty weather punishment, including weeks of daily rain, snow, parking at freezing temperatures, riding over few cm of wet snow, pulling with the engine against strong wind and the like. You also need front and rear lights, same as in the night, and the mudguards are the must. Rear one is especially important, without it your back gets dirty. And I do not know if the engine would handle the full submersion, maybe better not.

If you need to commute over 20 km one way or over 300 m uphill, the battery life needs attention. You may look for E-bike with the easily removable battery that you could charge separately at work under your desk. In a university (that was high uphill) nobody cared. In a private company now I do not need this (and have no courage to ask), but maybe permission would be given.

I have never tested a tricycle or recumbent trike, leave alone electric one, so cannot say much about them. They looked for me unsuitable for narrow and generally bad paths that under success may be closed for car traffic, but other say they are not.

What you need is to prepare yourself.

To dress for electric bicycle in cold weather, makes sense to visit also a motorbike shop. The clothes (pants, gloves, jackets etc) there are often warmer, do not count on the driver producing lots of heat and are also heavier. But in cold rain on E-bike it is really almost never too hot and with the engine assist you have less requirements that it should be featherweight and not constraining. Of course, do not buy that already feels like medieval armor and the pants look very funny while at work, you need to change.

As correctly said by @Criggie, most ideal would be to have a dry and heated place to store a bicycle while at work or even charge it, but just bringing inside is problematic as it gets dirty on the way. Otherwise would be great if the employer provides at least a place to hang wet clothes where they could dry. In the worst case only bring gloves and helmet cap inside. Waterproof pants usually do not get very wet all way through (by idea and design) and can stay in a hard (plastic) box on the luggage rack of the bicycle (textile bags do not handle a day of rain regardless that they producer says). Shower is optional for E-cyclist, it is always possible to adjust the level of assist so that you do not get hotter than when travelling by bus.

You need rain-proof gloves, pants, jacket and cap under you helmet. You do not need some special shoes but at work you may need another pair of dry shoes. With all this in place, I actually enjoy riding in a rain.

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    I agree first impression may be wrong. But I have no courage to recommend an electric recumbent never trying myself such a thing before.
    – nightrider
    Dec 12, 2021 at 18:28
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    I find it super-helpful to have access to a dry bike room at work, that has AC and can dry bikes and clothes and shoes over a day. And storage lockers and a shower too.
    – Criggie
    Dec 12, 2021 at 20:48

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