Tips & Advice

Trike Tune-up

May 01, 2012 by Elena Noble, MPT

We have visited many classrooms and found that Rifton adaptive tricycles purchased years ago are still going strong. We’ve also found that the favorite Rifton tricycles often need a simple tune-up to keep them running at top form.

These steps, done once a year, will guarantee a long life of use. You will need the following for your springtime tune up:

  • Light household lubricant.
  • Phillips screwdriver (for Tricycles produced after January 2005.)
  • 3/16″ hex-head wrench
  • 5/32″ hex-head wrench

Place your tricycle over some newspaper, either up on a table or on the floor. Set the parking brake and begin!

Getting Ready

Taking off the storage tote and black plastic chain guard:

Remove the plastic storage tote from the rear of the adaptive trike. Because the tote is designed to stay in place, this will require a sharp, jerking, pull.

Removing the storage tote from the Rifton Adaptive tricycle


Remove the screw in the side of the chain guard with a Phillips screwdriver. If your special needs trike doesn’t have a screw, go to the next step. (The side screw is only present on models produced since January 2005.)

Removing the adaptive special needs trike chain guard screw


Lift off the top cover, starting at the rear.

Removing top cover from the adaptive special needs bike


Starting at the rear, drop down the bottom cover.

Removing the bottom cover from an adaptive special needs bike for kids


Remove the front part of the bottom cover by pushing it forward and then pulling it down.

Removing front of bottom cover on an adaptive tricycle


Now you’re ready to do the actual maintenance.


1. Chain Tension Maintenance:

Check the chain tension. A loose chain sags and is not parallel to the colored metal tube above it.

Check chain tension on adaptive special needs trike


For tightening a loose chain, the first step is to loosen the two cap screws located on top of the crankcase, using the 3/16″ hex-head wrench.

Loosening cap screws on Rifton special needs bicycle


Then, use the same 3/16″ hex-head wrench to tighten the cap screw at the front of the plate. This will tighten the chain.

Rifton adaptive special needs bike chain parallel to metal tube


You will know it is tight enough when the trike chain runs parallel to the colored metal tube above it. Do not over tighten.



For adaptive tricycles, it is especially important to make sure the chain is not over tightened. Do this test: Raise the lower chain by lifting it up toward the upper chain. There should be no more than 1″ of deflection of the chain when you do this.

Checking chain tension on Rifton special needs trike for kids


When the chain tension is right, complete the job by re-tightening the 2 cap screws on top of the crankcase. Even if the trike chain is not loose, it is a good idea to check that the two cap screws on top of the crank case are tight. Tighten with a 3/16″ hex-head wrench.



2. Rear Toothed Gear Sprocket Maintenance: 

It is advisable to tighten the rear gear sprocket screw, using the 5/32″ hex-head wrench. The toothed gear sprocket at the rear axle should be centered left to right on the axle when tightened. This will make sure it does not slip out of place with continued use.

Tighten rear gear sprocket screw on special needs trike bike




3. Oiling the Chain: 

Place 2-3 drops of oil on the rear axle, on either side of the toothed gear sprocket, where the plastic chain guard rests. This will prevent squeaking pedals.

Oiling Rifton adaptive trike bike chain


Go to the front-toothed gear sprocket located between the pedals, and place 2-3 drops of oil on either side.

Place oil at location of Rifton trike special needs chain


Lastly, place a moderate amount of oil along the chain. Release the brake. Raise the left rear drive wheel off the ground surface and rotate the pedals around a few times. This will distribute the oil evenly along the chain.

Distribute oil evenly on Rifton adaptive tricycle bicycle chain



Replacing the Chain Guard and Storage Tote Box:

To replace the chain guard and storage tote box, refer to the images in Section A. Replace the bottom cover first, and then the top cover, and finally, replace the Tote.

Congratulations, you completed your Spring Trike tune-up!

Watch the Rifton Adaptive Tricycle Video to learn more about your tricycle or read about Brooke and her first ride on three wheels.

Back to Top

Share Your Thoughts

We will not publish your email address or give it to any other company. All comments are moderated, and may be edited for brevity.

Please enter your name
Submit Cancel
Reply by Diane Miller, PT on May 01, 2012 at 2:19 PM
How about replacement wheels for the trikes built before 2000? I believe the trikes we use were maybe oringinals and they are going strong. the tires are just running out of tread.
Reply by Elena Noble, MPT on May 03, 2012 at 8:38 AM
Hi Diane, If you have a trike built before 2000 it may be time for a new one! But if it’s just wheels that are worn, you can always try calling (800-571-8198) with the serial number of your trike and see if we have a wheel that’s compatible. Elena
Reply by Joanne Bundonis on May 16, 2012 at 10:38 AM
Is it possible to attach forearms prompts like from your gait trainer to the trikes handlebars? I have a client who needs his arms secured to ride; I have been playing with this on an older rifton trike but if it was possible his family may be interested in getting one. Thanks
Reply by Elena Noble, MPT on May 17, 2012 at 8:10 PM
Hi Joanne, At this point there are no forearm prompts for the tricycle. However I will pass on this suggestion to our design manager to consider for future design. Elena
Reply by Tamara Kittelson-Aldred, MS, OTR/L, ATP on June 27, 2012 at 5:31 PM
I work with a girl who got a Rifton trike over a year ago. I assessed her today and she needs some modifications – a loop handle bar instead of standard, and a different backrest with lateral supports. I know we can retrofit the back, but can we change out the handlebars?
Reply by Elena Noble, MPT on June 29, 2012 at 10:45 AM
Hi Tamara, It is possible to change the handlebars, but if there is a hand-brake involved, it gets a little tricky. I will have your account manager contact you to help you with the details. Elena