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Grand Rapids Press Features TerraTrike

Local trikemakers riding high

Monday, August 04, 2008
By Kristi Jourdan
The Grand Rapids Press

KENTWOOD — They call it the “TerraTrike grin.”

It’s the toothy smile first-time riders have as they slide into the beach chair-like seat of a TerraTrike, a low-riding recumbent tricycle.

But its makers at WizWheelz Inc. in Kentwood are smiling for another reason. As gas prices hit $4, the company’s sales have noticeably increased.

People are trading their four wheels for three.

“People want to get on the green bandwagon, and we built the bandwagon,” said Jeff Yonker, marketing manager. “Every time the gas prices go up, the phone’s been ringing off the hook. People are looking for alternatives to get to work.”

WizWheelz doubled it’s space in January and might need more room soon.

The company, which says it is the largest in the world and the only in Michigan making recumbent trikes, assembles them in the Kentwood warehouse to be shipped to customers worldwide.

WizWheelz uses parts from local suppliers as well as overseas.

About 90 dealers nationwide carry TerraTrikes, which come fully assembled. The trikes can be taken to any bike shop for repairs and adjustments because parts are similar to traditional bicycles.

TerraTrike’s reclined seating spreads the rider’s body weight over a larger area, increasing comfort, while easy handling and pedaling allow for a safer ride, the company says.

Riders also are closer to the ground, giving a shorter distance to fall should an accident occur. And the feet-up position allows the body to effectively circulate blood, increasing oxygen to the muscles for a longer, less tiring ride, the company says.

“People are realizing they can save money on gas but also ditch the gym membership,” Yonker said. “We’ve seen unprecedented growth within the last year.”

Although the company doesn’t claim to be “treehugging,” its 12 employees do everything they can to be environmentally friendly. Only hand tools and a limited amount of electricity are used to assemble the trikes, which usually take one person almost two hours to put together.

After riding 1,000 miles, riders will balance out the trike’s carbon footprint, the company says.

“Our motto is, ’Be part of the solution.’ We’re not telling people to stop driving cars; we’re just showing them this is one way they can make a difference,” Yonker added.

Send e-mail to the author: kjourdan@grpress.com