MEASURING in at ten feet long and costing a jaw-dropping £5500, it is a sight that is guaranteed to turn heads.
A rare “laid back” tandem tricycle has just been sold in Edinburgh as one of only a handful made worldwide each year.
While it might be a particularly unusual example of its type, it seems the popularity of “recumbent” bikes – as they are also known – is soaring.
So much so that a specialist shop has now opened in the Capital to sell them.
“I have customers that have to either go to a shop in London, or me, or to Amsterdam. So even in European terms they’re quite uncommon,” said David Gardiner, owner of the new Laid Back Bikes shop in Marchmont Crescent.
The business, owned by David and his wife, Irene, began seven years ago by offering tours on recumbent bikes and then started selling them from The Bicycle Works in Argyle Place.
But the couple’s business has grown so much there was no longer the space to store all their models, so they have set up their own premises specialising in recumbent bikes and tandems.
Although recumbents – also known as Human Powered Vehicles, or HPVs – are gaining in popularity, they are sold through only a handful of outlets.
Mr Gardiner said: “There are specific markets for these machines and there’s only a couple of dealers in the UK.
“They won’t be selling for very much under two grand a piece. In the first year we were just doing tours, then we sold a couple of bikes, then six bikes a year, then 20 a year. Now we have to sell a bike a week to be in the shop, which we’re just about doing.”
He said that some people, concerned about the safety aspects of riding such low bikes in traffic, had come into the shop to take him to task, but he insisted they were safe if carefully ridden with a mirror, flag and lights.
More importantly, he added, they open up opportunities for people who might not otherwise be able to cycle.
“People buy for health reasons – people that have got polio, for example – especially the trikes, because of the stability,” he said.
“They’re more diverse than the stereotype of bearded middle-aged men. My youngest customer is 20, but has a walking difficulty, and people like him have got a right to exercise as much as anyone else.
“Other people buy the bikes predominantly because they dream to do long tours and the idea is that you can sit on one of these for 100 miles and then get on it the next day for 100 miles, and again the next day whereas – as Mark Beaumont found out – it’s quite hard on an upright bike to do that 100 miles a day, again and again.”
The £5500 recumbent tandem tricycle was specially made to order for a couple from Cumbria and imported from TerraTrike, an American company that makes only around 30 such bikes to ship worldwide every year.
Mr Gardiner said: “It’s such an expensive item, it’s actually made to their size. We’re fitting a couple of bits here in Edinburgh to get it ready for them.
“The couple had to come to see us. We can do things on the internet but we don’t have a shopping basket that you can check out for one of these – everything is done to order.
“It is a recognised design by a company, it’s not that we’ve got some poles and put it together, but there probably won’t be another one for years.”