Curb Appeal

Johnnie Wilson’s brand-new Big Wheel, with its 30-degree raked front end, low-slung backbone, molded-plastic seat with low-rise back support and wide rear wheels, challenges the observer: “Do you own me or do I own you?”

My hand-me-down red tricycle, with its white spoke wheels, traditional upright steering, arched backbone, and stamped-steel seat mounted high on the frame, at best lacks imagination and at worst violates the design dictum “Form follows function.”

Clearly, given the free-flowing form of Johnnie Wilson’s brand-new Big Wheel, its designer was in possession of a French curve, which would have been a nice 90-cent complement to the 45/90-degree triangle and wooden yardstick the designer of my hand-me-down red tricycle must have used.


Johnnie Wilson’s brand-new Big Wheel, with its chopper-style front end, offset handlebars, and low-rider seat, makes for a recliner-style look that says “cool” but also allows for power-pedaling through the full natural range of leg extension at the knee.

The position of the stamped-steel seat high on the backbone of my hand-me-down red tricycle forces the knee to remain positioned at 90 (+/– 5) degrees. This requires the largest bone in the body, the femur, and the largest muscle in the body, the gluteus maximus—or at least it’s the largest muscle on Martha Bodner across the street—to overcome the mechanical disadvantage of the leg’s piano-hammer configuration.

My hand-me-down red tricycle conveniently places the handlebars directly over the pedals. This allows for repeated knee-banging on the bottom of the handlebars or an awkward 45-degree outward slant of the shinbones while the knees remain at 90 (+/– 5) degrees. This Sophie’s Choice of toddler transportation puts my hand-me-down red tricycle on the American Pediatric Surgeons Society’s list of toys to avoid, just ahead of the backyard trampoline and lawn darts.


Johnnie Wilson’s brand-new Big Wheel pulls away from the start effortlessly. The well-thought-out design melds form and function, and its low center of gravity allows for high-speed travel, sharp turns, and the ever-impressive doughnut slide. Ever impressive to Martha Bodner across the street, anyway. The tramp.

Breaking inertia on my hand-me-down red tricycle requires—unless you’re positioned at the top of old man Byar’s driveway—throwing your upper torso violently over the handlebars. If you are at the top of old man Byar’s driveway, the requisite rolled-up newspaper to the back of the head, accompanied by a shrill “Get offa my driveway, kid,” works just as well.

The high seat position mentioned earlier gives the rider of my hand-me-down red tricycle approximately the same center of gravity as an 8-foot two-by-four affixed vertically to the top of a roller skate. This makes turning in any area smaller than a baseball diamond impossible without tipping over.


Johnnie Wilson’s brand-new Big Wheel quickly developed a flat spot on the front wheel from continuous doughnut slides. This flat spot produces a “bump” effect at each rotation of the wheel and seriously hinders the performance of Johnnie Wilson’s brand-new Big Wheel. The bumping effect allows Johnnie Wilson to play the clown in Martha Bodner’s circus, however, so Johnnie Wilson’s brand-new Big Wheel is durable in the sense that it can be used in many ways to impress low-functioning women.

My hand-me-down red tricycle is durable in the same sense that a limestone obelisk in the local cemetery is durable.