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Local News

Off-Road Recumbent Tricycle Gaining Traction

An injury on a mountain bike sets in motion a local entrepreneur's business concept

When Adam Stephens flew over a 12-foot ledge on his mountain bike two years ago, he had no idea the resulting injury would spin off a business.

Stephens, an avid cyclist, broke the front end of his mountain bike and compressed two disks in his lower back, which made traditional cycling too painful for him. Stephens used his injury as a catalyst to create a prototype for an off-road, recumbent tricycle that could tackle the terrain he loved while taking the pressure off his spine. “The original trikes just didn’t fit me,” he said.

The result was the Berserker trike, which is a beefed-up version of a normal recumbent tricycle. The trike’s wheels can handle obstacles of up to 6 inches with its suspension, and has a wide reclining seat with more than an inch of foam padding on the back, which Stephens said was crucial to distribute weight evenly.

“On a normal bike, you’re applying all your weight in a critical zone,” he said.

There are other companies that sell recumbent trikes, but Stephens said Berserker is the only company tackling the off-road concept. “Just about anything that gets in your way, it can handle,” he said.

The young company was formed after Stephens met Brian Gobrogge at an MIT Enterprise Forum in Santa Barbara in April 2008. Gobrogge has helped take numerous products to market for clients such as Miller Brewing, Proctor & Gamble and Merck Pharmaceutical, and offered to help Stephens with the trike.

“We sat across the table from each other, hit it off right away, and within a couple of months we had formed Berserker,” he said. In the past 10 months, they’ve been working on prototyping the tricycle, which is now available to the public.

Stephens is a faculty member at Cal Poly in industrial technology, and has his shop set up to make the trikes in a workshop in San Luis Obispo, where two interns help him build the trikes. Gobrogge handles marketing of the bike in Santa Barbara. The company makes tubing for the frame of the trike, cutting it to length, bend and weld the frame together.

Gobrogge says one of the most effective ways to get people interested in the trike is just riding it out in the community. “It always gets a lot of attention when we take it out in public,” he said. The trike has been a hit at several Earth Day events, including the one in Santa Barbara.

The Berserker's wheels can handle obstacles of up to 6 inches with its suspension, and has a wide reclining seat with more than an inch of foam padding on the back.
The Berserker’s wheels can handle obstacles of up to 6 inches with its suspension, and has a wide reclining seat with more than an inch of foam padding on the back. (Brian Gobrogge photo / Berserker Cycle Design)

The original prototype was made of aluminum, but the frames that the pair brought to market and now sell to the public are made of recyclable Cro-Moly steel.

“That steel is very recyclable,” Gobrogge said, and more if it can be reclaimed as a frame made of aluminum. The trike is also equipped with a heavy-duty rack that can handle up to 150 pounds and is tied directly into the main frame. The ability to carry that much cargo has garnered interest from the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department, he said, as well as several organic farmers looking at the trikes for hauling produce and equipment.

The trikes start at about $5,000. Gobrogge said the biggest market so far, according to surveys the company has conducted, is riders about 55 years old. “As cyclists get older, it’s really common to see people with carpal tunnel and problems with their fingers,” he said. The trike also appeals to people who have balancing problems or never learned to ride a traditional bike.

As for the price, “It’s a lot cheaper to put a $5,000 new tricycle in your garage than a new Porsche,” he said.

Gobrogge said the Berserker team will make the rounds at community events, including the Santa Barbara Bicycle Festival at Elings Park on June 5-7, where would-be riders can try the trike.                 

“At first, they’re scared of it, because it looks so different,” he said. “But they all come back with big grins on their faces.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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