Wow! This issue is our 2nd anniversary for Cycle Connections, and I just want to thank all our readers for their support, comments and article suggestions. It is through our readers that others hear about the magazine, and we thank you for your interest.
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to ride a motorcycle without putting your feet down at a stop? Or having to balance the bike in stop-and-go traffic? And don’t all of us get a little tense on a long stretch of gravel? Do you have injuries that keep you from riding? Well, there is a solution if you have found riding two wheels is no longer comfortable for you. Trike your bike! Be free on three!
Trikes are becoming more popular with motorcyclists; we see them at rallies, in parades, in group rides and even in the parking lot of grocery stores. Hey, I wouldn’t mind having a trunk to haul my shopping bags in or just the extra room to pack more threads for a trip! And, with the outrageous fuel increase, it would be cost/fuel efficient to run all your errands on a trike. I’m sure there are a lot of trike owners doing just that.
Let’s take a look at why women convert their bikes to trikes, the costs involved, the various kits that are available, advantages and disadvantages, and some advice from diva trike owners.
Basically, a trike is a motorcycle with the rear wheel removed. It is replaced by two automotive wheels attached to the rear differential with shaft drive and wrapped in a fiberglass body. Trikes are not new; Harley-Davidson sold its Servicar 45 ci trike from around 1932 until 1972. Of course none of our readers are old enough to remember the earlier years, but they were recognized as police bikes and ice cream wagons.
When it comes to choices for conversion kits there are a multitude to research. The most popular one that I have heard of is Lehman Trikes, Inc. They are usually at all the major rallies and claim to be the world leader in trike conversion. They offer 150 dealers throughout North America, and you can choose from a wide range of styles to fit Harleys, Harley police bikes, Honda, BMW and Suzuki models. Only an authorized Lehman dealer can sell the kits, and the mechanic must be licensed by Lehman. The Trike Shop, located in Minnesota and Daytona Beach, does conversion for Harley-Davidson, Honda Gold Wing and Valkyrie, or will build you a VW powered trike! Tri-Wing Industries developed the first “bolt-on” conversion kit for Gold Wings and has since developed this style of kit for the Yamaha Venture Royale. Leola Motor Trike is one of the largest Motor Trike dealers, located in Leola, Pennsylvania. There is also an alternative to the standard trike called The Voyager. They advertise “from 2 wheels to 4 wheels in 5 minutes.” “Easy on- Easy off” motto.
Mystery Designs specializes in innovative trike conversion kits and is the home of the Tiltster- tilting mechanism. According to their website they are the world’s first independent suspension kit for motorcycles. Conversion kits from the companies listed above range in price from $6,000 to $15,000. The high end includes add-on accessories. And of course that price does not include the bike.
Carmen Esler of Platte City, Missouri has been riding for four years. She started on a Harley-Davidson Sportster that her husband bought her for Christmas. She rode the back roads of Platte County the first year, but never felt comfortable riding in a group or on the highways.
The next year when her husband decided to get a new bike, Carmen decided to keep his Harley-Davidson Road King Classic and trike it out. She looked at the Voyager, but after watching them on the road she didn’t like the way they handled. She ordered the Lehman Conversion Kit from Central Harley-Davidson, and they also performed the installation. Carmen said the service from Central has been nothing but the best.
She has about $35,000 invested in her trike, which includes the original cost of the bike, chrome, the conversion kit and extras like wire wheels, tour pack and a new seat.
Carmen has a 5-gallon tank and can usually get 30-35 miles per gallon. Her trike does not have a reserve so when she reaches 160 miles, she is running on fumes! She does not have a reverse; that would run about $1,600 to add on, and she said, “ I can do a lot of pushing for that kind of money!” A few weeks later when it was completed she pulled into my driveway in a candy apple red trike—did I mention expensive trike?!! Carmen made the comment, “I have more money in this trike than some people have in their houses!!” Well, if you ride enough it could be your “second home” if that makes you feel better. See photo below of Carmen riding in the End of the Trail parade in Platte City a few weeks ago.
When I asked what the most challenging part of riding a trike was, she said, “ I try not to get myself in a situation where I can’t get out. If I have to park in an awkward position, I make sure there are people with me to help back the trike out. Also, cornering is not as big of a deal as people talk about. You do have to slow down some, but once you get into the corner, you gas it and get the hell out.”
The big selling point for Carmen to convert to a trike was the safety. She said, “I feel safe on my trike; knowing there are three wheels makes me more confident. And since I have so much trouble with my hands and feet, I don’t think I could ever ride a 2-wheeler again.”
Carmen’s advice to anyone interested in a trike is, “It’s a great ride, the only downfall is the trunk is not big enough for those shopping trips!”
On the recent Biker’s for Habitat charity ride, I met Susan Matthews who was riding a fire engine red Harley-Davidson V-Rod Trike. She also rode on two wheels first on a bike her husband bought her for their 10th wedding anniversary. She took the MSF classes and rode a little, but not a great deal. She said she never felt very comfortable. Then a year later they traded that bike in on a V-Rod for two reasons. “Since I wasn’t riding very much we thought that would be a bike both her husband and she could ride. And if I wanted to ride alone, he still had his bike.” “This spring, we started discussing getting me a trike. We first looked for trikes already built, but there are not many around. My husband started researching the different kits and manufactures.” “He found a dealer in Miami, Oklahoma, Nutting Custom Trikes that would convert my V-Rod into a trike.”
“Thinking safety first, they used the Motor Trike kit, which is what my husband wanted for me because it had the direct drive transmission and the air ride suspension.” “I preferred the Motor Trike because of the look, so we had it done! I love it!” Susan says she is riding more than she ever thought she would (2,000 miles this summer). She rode to Sturgis and is riding all over Kansas City now. Susan said, “The bike handles great, steers perfectly and is very stable.” She would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to enjoy the feel of riding a motorcycle, but apprehensive with two wheels (see photo below).
Joyce Shook is the Missouri State Ambassador for Women on Wheels and has been around motorcycles since the age of 17. She said she was introduced to the three-wheelers around 1997 when it became apparent that because of bad knees she was either going to have to stop riding her 1982 Honda Silver Wing or find something else.
Joyce said her husband Jerry suggested she look into a Gold Wing trike, so she started the research process. She went straight to the Internet and searched for articles about the different trike kits and talked to numerous dealers who handled Lehman, CSC, and Motor Trike.
Joyce’s first trike was the “White Elephant,” a 1990 Pearl White Honda Gold Wing SE (1500 cc). Her main ride now is a 2003 candy red, Honda Gold Wing (1800 cc) with a Lehman conversion. Joyce’s comments on her trike, “The ride is smooth and steady, it hugs curves like a magnet, and the speed and response are magnificent, not to mention all the whistles and bells. I have ridden both trikes through the curves in Arkansas, up through Bear Tooth Pass, down through Needles Highway and the Big Horn Mountains, across the beaches of Florida, down Highway ‘666,’ and hugged the big curves on ‘The Dragon’ in Deal’s Gap. It’s hard to explain how going around those curves on a trike can be just as fun and enjoyable as on two wheels, but the feeling is there.” “Am I glad I ride a trike? Well, I wouldn’t say I don’t miss the lean of two wheels, but I sure do love my trike.”
Her advice to others who are interested in purchasing a trike would be, “The best thing to do is test ride as many as you can. If you talk to individuals that ride a trike, chances are that is the one they will tell you is the best. And, if you do choose to ride a trike, get used to being popular. People will come up to you to talk about your trike. I never pull into a gas station, restaurant, or national park anymore without having someone come over to me and ask numerous questions about the trike.” See photo below with Joyce and her Dragon in Canada.
Recently on a Saturday afternoon at F.O.G. Cycles, the Boss Hoss demo rides were available to anyone interested in riding the monster bikes and trikes. There were approximately 8-10 trikes and just as many 2-wheel bikes. They were absolutely beautiful (see photos below). Boss Hoss trikes get about 24-30 miles per gallon with a 300-mile range on a nine-gallon tank. They do have a reserve of two gallons, and it takes five quarts of oil. The transmission is a 3-speed automatic with reverse and park. They weigh approximately 1500 pounds and the frame width is 60 inches. The engine is a V-8 Chevy 350, with horsepower of 355-502. Prices vary from $35,000 to $45,000.
A friend of ours, Steve Hanchette, rode both and said the trike handled like a dream. He was impressed with the power and how easy it was to accelerate. I understand Frank Hicks, owner of F.O.G., is now a dealer for Boss Hoss, so you may want to stop in and talk to him, compare prices, etc. They are definitely head-turners and conversation pieces!
After talking to the girls on their riding experiences, here are some tips on riding a trike:
I hope this article gives you some insight on trikes and helps in your decision-making if you are considering the change.
- Spend time getting familiar with steering and evasive maneuvers.
- Train yourself to steer, not counter steer.
- Don’t try to put your foot down when you stop, or the rear wheel may run over it.
- You need to compensate when you pull into a gasoline island, or toll station.
- Steady pressure is required in tight turns or decreasing radius turns on entrance and exit ramps.
- Don’t assume that since you have been riding motorcycles that you already know how to ride a trike. It’s not as easy as it looks.
In closing, as we witness the horror and tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina, the devastation and human loss is heartbreaking. Many have not only lost family, but also their homes, businesses, pets and all their worldly possessions…even their motorcycles.
They are all in our thoughts, and I hope all our readers will reach out to contribute in some way to help them whether it be in the form of money, supplies, bedding linens, or pet food. Every bit helps heal a broken city.
We have been to New Orleans three times and attended the Steel Pony Express Rally last October. It’s shocking to see what is left of the party town we so fondly remember. Riding our bikes around Lake Pontchartrain, down St. Charles, through the Garden District and finally finding our way to the French Quarter makes it seem impossible that something of this magnitude has happened. I fear it will be several years before the Steel Pony rebounds, but knowing the way the great American people have come forward to help, it may be sooner than we expect. I hope so.
“Never ride faster than your angle can fly”
TIP OF THE MONTH: Never, never trust the turn signals of oncoming vehicles when pulling out. WAIT until you know for sure they are making the turn.