Chicago-born and New-York bred, Herman (Herm) Markell has lived in Memphis since 1955. He has been a devout runner and cyclist his entire life. When he used to travel for work, he always packed his running shoes so that he could remain active on the go, and even completed the highly competitive New York City Marathon in 1980, as well as 2 triathlons locally. At 87, his passion for fitness is still as strong as ever: he rides his tricycle 20 to 30 miles four or five days a week.
Herm started cycling after suffering an injury that left him unable to run. After struggling with a variety of medical issues, he ultimately underwent surgery that left him with a balance problem. “That was when I discovered the tricycle,” he explains. “I didn’t want to just give up on exercise completely, and bicycling was too hard for me to keep from falling.”
Although the tricycle was a new form of exercise for Herm, he’s grown to truly love it. “I actually like it more than the bicycle because you can actually look around sideways to appreciate the beauty around you,” he explains. “The structure of the tricycle offers a firmer base, lower center of gravity, and more overall stability.”
He purchased his current tricycle on Thanksgiving in 2018 and has accumulated 3,850 miles. While he typically averages about 20 miles per ride, he sometimes cycles as much as 32 miles in one day, even biking 60 miles a couple of times.
Herm finds that his love for being outside and staying in motion motivates him to regularly ride the tricycle. “I’m comfortable on the trike and I like that it gives me the motivation to get outdoors,” he says. Herm takes the trike all over the city, from the Shelby Farms Green Line to the Wolf River Greenway, to Big River Crossing in Arkansas to Tanglefoot Trail in Mississippi.
Herm even travels with the tricycle, much like his running shoes back in the day. “I take the trike everywhere—Aspen, New York City, Washington D.C., Breckenridge,” Herman proudly declares. “One time, when I was tricycling on the Fourth of July in Breckenridge, I even ended up in a parade!”
In addition to keeping him in good physical condition, tricycling also keeps Herman’s spirits up. “Exercise gives me peace of mind,” he says. “When you’re exercising, you can really get clarity and go into a space with few concerns or worries.”
Although Herman usually goes for his longer rides alone or with his friend Dan, a fellow triker, he loves to ride with his family. “My wife Sally and I have been married for more than 30 years, and we have five children, two that live right here in Memphis,” he says with a smile. “I really get a kick out of riding the tricycle with one of the six grandchildren when they visit.”
While many people might have abandoned the idea of fitness after roadblocks like injury and surgery, Herman has remained dedicated to finding creative ways to stay in shape. “For me, exercise just makes life more enjoyable and even smooths out the bumps,” he says.
By Lucy Harrison
Photo by Amy Goode