Cool kids didn’t want a tricycle, they wanted to rule their sidewalk domain with the Big Wheel.
The motorcycle of the pre-school set, this oversized low-rider tricycle was a favourite of kids of the early 1970s.
Launched in 1969 at the New York Toy Fair by Marx, Big Wheel was promoted as a safer option with its oversized front wheel and because to its mainly plastic pieces, was more affordable than a traditional tricyle or bicycle made from metal.
Noticeable with its black, red and yellow original trio of bold colours (and blue pedals), the Big Wheel became the transport of choice for the kids. Due to its simple design, there were soon many other similar products available, but the moniker Big Wheel became the one everyone used, whether they had purchased the original or not.
Competitor Carolina Toys introduced the Hot Cycle in 1972, a similar tricycle and in the late 1970s, the two companies merged to create Empire Toys, which continues to make Big Wheel. In the past, the company produced several unique editions, including editions inspired by the military, police, Barbie, Muppets, Mr. T from The A Team and many other pop culture icons.
I did not have a Big Wheel, as my Dad wanted me to focus on learning how to ride a bike, after I left behind my tricycle. But I had friends with Big Wheels and eventually it always became a challenge, as we would race against each other, roaring downhill to prove the prowess of the Big Wheel. But it was a short obsession, since the tug of aging and riding a bicycle was what I fixated on.
Big Wheel still exists – and is probably bringing joy to many kids as they pedal fast, propelling that large front wheel forward as they explore their neighbourhood, low riding rebels in the making. My thanks to the official Big Wheel website, which has a great gallery of images of past editions.