Many islanders have spotted him at least once — you know, the man who rides that strange-looking contraption all over the islands every single day?
That man is Gary Thomas, a Sanibel resident for 10 years, and that strange contraption is called a Trikke — an upright, three-wheeled device used by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world for everything from daily exercise to extreme sports.
“I ride it because I have bad knees and the Trikke builds the muscle around my knees and eases the joint pain,” Thomas said. “You don’t get the pounding on your knees or the strain from other forms of exercise. Riding the Trikke is like rollerblading without the strain on your ankles.”
For the past seven years, Thomas has spent two-and-a-half hours every day, rain or shine, carving up to 28 miles all over the islands.
“I go up and down West, East and Middle Gulf, I go up to the lighthouse, the Dunes, all over. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining — unless it’s really bad. But I always want to keep going. You get a kind of high like when you’re jogging and you could just keep going forever.”
Thomas said he’s owned at least nine Trikkes over the past seven years — which makes sense, as he puts about 8,000 miles a year on each one — and he now buys all of his new Trikkes from Southwest Florida Trikke Connections.
Don Gaiser, the owner of Southwest Florida Trikke Connections, who demonstrates and sells Trikkes from Sarasota to Marco Island and everywhere in between. Thomas now buys all of his Trikkes from Gaiser.
Like Thomas, Gaiser first became interested in the Trikke as a rehabilitative option.
“About three years ago, I fell and fractured both knees at the same time, and I was having quite a bit of trouble after they took off the walking casts,” Gaiser said. “I saw a Trikke, saw that it was a no impact vehicle that I could get some exercise out of, and after three months of using the Trikke, the pain in my knees was gone, without having surgery or shots.”
Three years later, Gaiser, who is 78, still rides his Trikke and has no problems with his knees.
“My oldest customer is 92 and he tries to ride everyday and has been for two years. It’s a rehabilitative machine, but it also lets you exercise outside, and because it takes some energy to get it going, you’re burning calories and working out your heart. And, as long as you operate it correctly — and I always recommend that people wear a helmet — it’s safe.”
Gaiser and Thomas both said that it takes some time and practice to get used to powering the Trikke forward — but anyone can do it.
“It’s a carving vehicle and your momentum is gained by turning the front wheel at 45 degree angles, and once you get the hang of it, you start making bigger and bigger sweeps with it. It’s a similar motion to rollerskating — but for the first week, don’t use it more than 15 minutes a day or you’ll really be sore,” Gaiser said.
Thomas said. “But once you learn how to do it it’s worth it. It takes ten days of swearing — you can’t get it right away — but you get the hang of it,” Thomas said. “I continue riding because it’s so enjoyable — it helps my knees, but I just ride for the enjoyment. Everyone thinks I’m crazy, but I love it!”
Trikke models start as low as $299.99 and come in a wide variety of colors.
To contact Don Gaiser of Southwest Florida Trikke Connection, call 239-671-9343 or 863-224-7374.
For more information about the history of the Trikke, go to www.Trikke.com.
Sanibel resident Gary Thomas rides his Trikke every day to improve his knees. He is often spotted on the Gulf Drives and Sanibel-Captiva Road in the evenings, doing his daily 25+ mile Trikke ride.
Fact BoxAbout Trikke
Trikke’s designer, Gildo Beleski, began the Trikke story in 1983, when he began designing and building prototypes of his unique three-wheeled cambering vehicle concept so he could bomb (or, ride down) the paved hills of Southern Brazil. Beleski unexpectedly discovered that if you keep carving turns, you continue to propel forward.
As he became an avid rider, many others also began mastering the fluid carving motion and learning the full-body fitness benefits of the ride.
Over the course of the last 25 years, Beleski has continued to enthusiastically ride and refine the vehicle’s designs for maximum carving propulsion, ergonomics and performance.
Trikke’s standing, “active riding” platform can now be enjoyed by nearly everyone for a variety of purposes: fitness and weightloss, green transportation and mobility, or pure exhilaration.