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Allan Pillard's Recumbent Trikes

Part-time Inventor Logs 10,000 Miles on Recumbent Tricycle

by Chris Rhatigan

Allan Pillard
Inventor Allan Pillard has developed a variety of recumbent tricycles over the years at his Zing Trikes workshop in Princeton, Iowa.

IT ALL STARTS WHEN ALLAN Pillard pulls out a pencil and starts sketching design specifications on a blank piece of paper. Putting the ideas floating around in his head on paper is something he's been doing for over 40 years-he's always coming up with ideas for new vehicles and toys.

Over the last ten years, Pillard has mostly devoted his mechanically gifted mind to designing and building recumbent tricycles. He does all of his work out of his basement, and calls his operation Zing Trikes.

He’s continued developing different concepts for this mode of transportation, creating around a dozen frames. Recent models have worked well for Pillard—he’s logged more than 10,000 miles on one of his trikes.

A recumbent tricycle has a lower seat than a bike, and does not require as much energy for movement as a bicycle. Pillard has sought to improve the basic recumbent tricycle model by raising the seat up a bit.

“I wanted to be at eye level with the traffic. I want to be seen [by car drivers] when I’m on the road,” he says.

Another difference between a Zing Trike and a standard recumbent tricycle is the change to front-wheel drive, which gives the rider more control. He also installed a durable, fiberglass suspension on his recent tricycles. These tricycles were designed to be portable as well, and can be broken down for storage in a car trunk.

Pillard says that there are several reasons to choose a tricycle over a bicycle.

“The advantage of a tricycle is that it has the stability built into it,” he says. Considerably longer than a bicycle and with a 24-inch front wheel, a Zing Trike certainly appears to be a rock of stability.

In order to turn a tricycle, Pillard says one merely has to lean in the desired direction. Additionally, tricycle riders can keep their feet on the pedals at all times.

“That’s what I like about it. My feet are always on the pedals. I’m always poised and ready to go,” he says.

And Pillard, of Princeton, Iowa, has taken his tricycle show around the state—touring with RAGBRAI and showing them off at ArtBike (part of New Bohemia Cedar Rapids). He also commutes to his construction job with one of his creations.

In the long term, Pillard believes tricycles are a great mode of ecologically friendly transportation. The entertainment factor with these unusual vehicles could give them some staying power.

“It’s like an adult Big Wheels,” Pillard says, evoking the name of a popular childhood toy. “If it’s fun, you’re more likely to play with it.”

For now, his girlfriend, Dawn McMeen, has funded Zing Trikes. Pillard says she liked riding the first one he built and has continued riding some of his later models.

Pillard hopes to sell his tricycles one day. The selling cost of a new tricycle would be $2,000 to $3,000. He never expects to make a living on a tricycle business, just to fund his passion and see others enjoy his inventions.

For more information on Zing Trikes, contact Allan at (563) 289-3463.

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Comments (1)Add Comment
written by Vivian Catt, October 26, 2008
I want to know if there is a recumbent trike for a beginner with artificial knees and lower back trouble (besides other physical illnesses like brain tumors), that is affordable. I live on disability and I need exercise, but nothing I see is affordable for me. Can you give me any advice?

Thanking you in advance!

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