Seventy-year old Larry Mehlmauer of Medford hates treadmills and any other form of boring, repetitive exercise. But because of his diabetes, heart issues and pending knee replacements, he needs to get out there and do something to keep in shape — so he chose a tricycle.
OK, it's not really a trike. It's a Trikke. It has three wheels like a trike, but you don't pedal it. You yank it back and forth with your arms and upper body. This steers it when it's flying downhill, propelled by gravity.
When it's going uphill, you "carve" your path by pulling rather strenuously to get the ingenious device to go back and forth, gradually moving uphill — like a sailboat tacking against the wind.
Mehlmauer effusively delights in the flexible, three-wheeled Trikke (pronounced "trike"), which has two, big pads for the feet, disc brakes triggered by handlebar grips and a steering wheel fashioned for thrusting your chest, shoulders and arms in the desired direction of travel.
"It's really more fun than a 70-year-old should be allowed to have," says Mehlmauer, a retired salesman for Procter & Gamble, who likes to ride the machine on the Bear Creek Greenway from Medford's McAndrews Road to Ashland's Lithia Park and back — fortified with a bottle of water and some granola bars.
Mehlmauer got his first Trikke on a 30-day, free trial and fell in love with it, noting that it provides a desirable combination of fun and exercise.
"I knew within a few days it was a keeper," he says. "The old heart started pumping real nice and quick."
It took a while longer for him get the hang of carving his way uphill, he says, adding that it takes patience and applying yourself to the workout. But it goes downhill like a streak.
The Trikke weighs about 80 pounds and folds up to fit into a car trunk. Its handlebars easily go up or down to suit the rider's height.
The novel and tricky part is mastering the balance required to make it go, which is different from the balance required for a bicycle in the way that skateboards and snowboards diverge from roller skates and skis. You have to feel it out and notice how, going downhill, it accelerates rapidly, compelling you to slant your body weight in the opposite direction of its centrifugal force. Like surfing, you dig your feet in and lean against the direction gravity wants to throw you.
Because you're standing on moving platforms, it might appear to require a lot of leg muscle, but the real demand is on the chest, biceps and upper back to smoothly manipulate the handlebars toward where you want to go.
It's a lot easier than it sounds, kind of like riding a bicycle must have sounded 125 years ago.
Mehlmauer says he feels safe on his Trikke, at least as safe as on a bike, and he hasn't suffered any injuries. It's led to a terrific amount of pleasure, although he says he's disappointed that he doesn't know of another person in the valley who has one and can ride with him.
"For me, it's a real lifesaver," says Mehlmauer, demonstrating how it can jump curbs, one wheel at a time.
"I had to work out, the doctor told me. But I couldn't handle the treadmill, elliptical, rowing, stationary bike, none of it. It was repetitive to the point of total boredom. This is exercise and fun, a real win-win."
Mehlmauer has six Trikkes, one a prize from the manufacturer in Buellton, Calif., near Santa Barbara, for producing a contest-winning video in which he proclaims, after rushing down a grade at what looks like 40 mph, "The bigger the hill, the bigger the thrill."
The video can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ymn6W7fcmew/