Friday, January 12, 2007

Trykes in the house

This is a Tryke:

More accurately, it is my Tryke. 20" front wheel with v-brake, 12" rears, custom Roach frame pad, pegs, shocks, lucky. I have owned it since ~'00, though it spent the last few years in a friend's crawlspace. The way it sits is very close to how I had it set up when we rode them regularly, except that I ran a 48 spoke aluminum front wheel. The paint was also in better condition when I last saw it, but I don't mind it this way either since the frame is aluminum.

The Tryke was invented by Joe and John Miller, of North Vancouver. The story goes like this: teenagers are goofing around on little sister's tricycle and break it. They decide to design something stronger, and more suited to doing jumps, etc. Joe's dad gets behind them, and after numerous prototypes, Trykes go into production. I guess this was around '97, when I was riding BMX every day, year round.

The original frames were built from aluminum, and welded by Rocky Mountain. They had 1-1/8" threadless forks, initially without suspension. They retailed for $395 at the time, which was about how much it cost to buy a decently equipped freestyle BMX. They were marketed, and showed up in most of the local bike shops. We would play around on them in the showroom, but never considered actually buying one. Two things came along to change that.

One: In late '97 I crashed my BMX within 5 minutes of arriving at the (new) Richmond skatepark, fracturing my skull and chipping a disk in my neck. This was a momentum killer to say the least, and the turning point of my "career." After recovering from that, I still rode BMX, but not as hard. I went from pushing boundaries of street and ramp riding to simply maintaining my current skill set.

Two: In early '99, my mom and I moved to a new neighbourhood after living in the same place for twelve years. I met Chris Hodgson, who I had played soccer with a few years earlier. We quickly became friends, and he introduced me to Joe and John Miller, the aforementioned inventors of Trykes.

My BMX background transferred very easily to Trykes, and after borrowing one for a while, I had the opportunity to pick up one of the original Rocky Mountain frames. I outfitted it with a beefy Amoeba riser bar and a 48 spoke aluminum wheel, which was lighter and braked much better than the stock plastic wheels. Chris and I spent the next year or so riding Trykes harder than they had ever been ridden: Mt. Seymour roadbombs and trailbombs, skateparks, street, and just general goofing around. The plastic 12" rear wheels were very fragile. Though we broke a lot of them, we also developed a clean riding style that avoided doing so.

All the while, Trykes was trying to figure out how to get their product down to a price that would be more reasonable to the teenage market. They outsourced to Taiwan, and got a whole lot of crap. Steel and aluminum frames were commissioned, and the usual calamity that comes along with offshore production was experienced, complete with "Made in Candad" headtube badges. The cheaper-built steel framed Trykes came in at $195 retail but, not surprisingly, lacked the durability of their predecessors.

In their attempts to have the Taiwanese Trykes better built, the company borrowed my customized Tryke and Chris' as well. They disappeared for a while and, with the advent a new local skatepark, we got (back) into skateboarding during the summer of '01. When the Trykes finally came back some time later, my front wheel was missing. Into Chris' parents' crawlspace went all of it.

Becoming involved in Vancouver bike culture in 2006 had me thinking about unusual wheeled machines again. I talked to Chris about liberating my Tryke from his parents' place over the summer, and we finally hooked up to do so in December. A couple of technical glitches and I had it running. Shortly afterward, another friend's parents sold their house, and I found a couple of the Taiwanese frames and a brand new 48 spoke wheel in the aftermath.

The only problem now is the shortage of easily breakable rear wheels: I have three that are intact. If two of those break, the Tryke may be forced back into hibernation. Until then, I hope it will have the chance to put a smile on some faces.


midnightsimon said...

start looking around for 12" minibikes and stealing their front wheels - they're usually steel. Probably not ultra durable, but more-so than plastic I bet.

Or get in touch with some zoobombers. I bet they have a line on durable 12" wheels...

Jean-Frédéric Gagnon said...

I search the internet about the trykes and miller brother I remember founding a video about them year ago from now. I would like to have more picture of the trykes or even being able to buy one, but it seem like your article is the only living information about them on internet. If you know a place where I could find more information about the trykes please respond. I know you write this article 8 years ago.