Writer's Ramblings

Sturgis on a Rented Trike

Written by  August 31, 2010

Why would I rent a trike for my annual Sturgis tip? It’s a long story. Please feel free to skip the first couple of paragraphs if you would prefer not to know the details of the crash that caused me to include a trike rental in my Sturgis plans. On April 11, my life changed and that of a deer ended, results of a devastating Sunday morning motorcycle crash. I was headed for church and was running late. I would be there in about 15 minutes, or so I thought. Dressed in jeans, a dress shirt, a light jacket, and street shoes (boots would have taken longer) I headed for my garage where my 2000 Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide was ready to go. I have several helmets with various levels of protection, but my full-shell Caberg skid lid, an apt nickname as it turns out, hung on the handlebars, and I chose it out of laziness as much as any other reason. For the same reason, I left the windshield on my workbench, even though it could have been attached very quickly. Colbern Road in the vicinity of Unity Village is a known deer hangout. Even in my haste, I limited my speed to 40 mph in the 45 mph zone. The right-hand side of the road is lined with trees and brush very close to the road. I will never know what startled the deer, but it ran into my path in the blink of an eye. There was no time to swerve or brake. My life did not flash before my eyes, maybe because I closed them. There wasn’t even time for a prayer, but my guardian angel knows I need constant attention and was on duty. While my eyes were closed, I could hear the scraping of the motorcycle as it was converted from a really nice ride into a total junk pile. I opened my eyes and found myself on my hands and knees in the road. My helmet’s face shield was scratched and the chin bar gouged. This is for readers’ information only. I firmly believe that adult motorcyclists should have the right to make their own choices with regard to safety gear. Other drivers were on the scene immediately and it was no time at all before I was in a neck brace and on a backboard in an ambulance on the way to Research Hospital, thanking God that my injuries weren’t more severe or even fatal. I had movement in all my extremities, so I was pretty sure that my neck and back were OK. My ankles, however, were not. My right tibia was broken and the left fibula was shattered. Dr. Sascha Taghizadeh was on duty in the emergency room, fortunately for me. The surgical team gathered a supply of plates, screws, and pins and went to work. The surgery was all done during the same session. In my medicated post-op state, I was thinking I would miss several days of work and maybe a couple of months of riding. As I regained my senses, reality sunk in, and I realized that the ordeal would last much longer.

I chose Life Care Center of Grandview for my residence during therapy. My selection hinged mainly on the fact that wi-fi was available at the facility providing me with Internet access. Again, a choice made somewhat in ignorance was a good one. I experienced excellent care, and my progress in therapy was remarkably quick, especially for a 56-year-old. When the therapists had done all they could for me without putting weight on either foot, I was sent home. My house is not especially wheelchair accessible, but my wonderful friends moved things around so that I could live on the ground level with everything I needed. As weeks passed, I focused on therapy at home, and my condition improved. About the time I was authorized for full weight on the right ankle and regained driving privileges, I started to formulate a plan. The four-month anniversary of my crash would occur during the 70th Sturgis Rally. I knew I wouldn’t have fun traveling to South Dakota in a car, and I wouldn’t have strength to safely ride my 1990 Heritage, my surviving motorcycle. Then an inspiration hit me like a bolt of lightning! How about three wheels? I wouldn’t have to hold a trike up when stopped, and I could park in handicap stalls or at the art studio of my friend Jody, only a half-block from the Broken Spoke. Depending on my progress, I could get around on foot with a walker, crutches, or cane.

After surfing the net and making some phone calls, I decided the best plan for me would be to rent a Harley-Davidson trike at Blue Springs Harley-Davidson. Rather than the fully-dressed Ultra-Classic trike, the one that captured my interest was the sporty Street Glide version. Since I would not have a passenger, many of the features on the Ultra, while nice, would not benefit me and would not be worth a higher rental fee. After contacting Tammy Edgmon who handles the rentals at Blue Springs Harley, I realized that my dream might just come true. The rate was not dirt cheap, but was certainly reasonable and affordable, and a lower rate was available multiple days. I decided to make the commitment. All of the dealerships rental machines would be going to Sturgis.

When I attended the A.H.D.R.A. Nitro Party at Blue Springs on July 11, I was still hobbling around with a walker. My friends helped load me aboard the trike so I could see how the seating position and footboards were going to work. My conviction that I could do this ride was affirmed.

As the big day drew near, I purchased a new pair of Harley boots that provided terrific ankle support and protection. I also bought a 2009 closeout Bell Star helmet. I was sold on the light weight and excellent ventilation offered by the Star. The day before the ride, I asked Tammy to loan me the owner’s manual so this old dog could start learning all of the new tricks that came with the three-wheeler. Some of the things that would be new to me—three wheels (Well, duh! It’s a trike!), fuel injection, reverse gear, six-speed tranny, parking brake, security system, am/fm/weather/CD player stereo, cruise control, extra width, and frame-mount fairing with shorty windshield.

The plan was for Editor Mike Schweder to take me to Blue Springs Harley around noon on the Friday before the rally. I would ride the bike around town a bit to get familiar and make a short trip to North Kansas City to spend the night. Tammy had all the paperwork ready, and there was a lot of it. However, it was all easy to understand and didn’t take long. Authorization was confirmed on my credit card for the rental fee plus $2,000 (my maximum out-of-pocket expense if the bike were wrecked or stolen and was a total loss). Of course, the $2,000 would be charged only if one of those nightmares occurred.

The trike was waiting out front, and salesman Scott Branstretter was ready to talk me through the information I would need to safely operate this three-wheeled road machine. Scott demonstrated all of the controls, making sure that I was getting the idea. The information I had gleaned from the manual, reinforced by Scott’s capable teaching, gave me confidence. I was ready to go! I couldn’t wait to get in the wind for the first time in almost four months.

I clumsily climbed aboard. Mounting would get easier as I tried different ways. It seems simple, but it was a bit of a challenge until I figured out the best approach given my temporary disability. I remembered to release the parking brake and wait for the dash light to go out before cranking the starter. So far, so good. I rolled out of the parking lot trailed by my buddy B.C. on his Sportster. At the first stop sign, I had to fight the urge to put my feet down. Old habits are hard to break. The other adjustment that was needed right away was to steer using the handlebars rather than by leaning. On the way to my house, I decided to ride around Lake Jacomo to get familiar with the way the trike behaved in a hilly, curvy environment. It’s a different feel, but it didn’t take long to get comfortable with the three-wheeler.

The next adjustment became apparent the next morning when I joined the group and set out on the highway headed for Sturgis. With a staggered formation, it is normal to ride directly in line with riders ahead on your side. Using this approach on a trike, as I quickly discovered, results in a rear tire riding the lane divider line. After feeling the effect of the rumble strip a time or two, I got accustomed to the concept of lining up offset to the center of the lane to compensate for the additional width. With a big 103 cubic-inch engine, the trike had no trouble accelerating on pace with the accompanying bikes. The six-speed transmission allows the Street Glide Trike to cruise at 70 m.p.h. at only 2,800 r.p.m. Steering input at speed is minimal, and the steering damper and extra front-end rake provide a very stable feel. The comfortable seat, footboards, good handlebar position, radio, cruise control, and six-gallon fuel tank combine to make this a great touring machine, although the varying speed resulting from riding in a large group kept me from using the cruise on this day’s ride. At gas stops along the way, I had to remember to allow for the additional width when approaching the pumps.

The difference in the feel of the three-wheeler became much more noticeable when we headed into the hills between Rapid City and Nemo. When negotiating curves with some speed, the steering effort required increases significantly. The effect of centrifugal force is felt in a very different way. With a bike, the rider feels the force in the seat of the pants. Since the trike doesn’t lean into the curve, the rider feels a pull toward the outside of the curve, especially in the upper body. Still, the vehicle felt very stable and had no trouble keeping up with the two-wheelers. It just feels different.

During Rally Week, the trike’s large 4.3 cubic-inch trunk was handy for hauling my camera bag, rain gear (fortunately not needed), jacket, and other miscellaneous items. Whenever I parked the trike, the camera bag came out, and the helmet went in. The security system proved to be a very convenient feature with a proximity device that disables the starter when the key fob moves a few feet away. To activate security, the rider simply walks away from the trike. When backing out of a parking space, the transmission is placed in neutral. An electric motor with controls on the left handlebar activates and engages reverse.

After a very enjoyable week in Sturgis, some of which is documented in Mike’s Road Trippin’ to Sturgis - 2010 article, I headed back toward K.C. attending a family reunion at my home town, Stockton, Kansas, along the way. The final 5-1/2 hours of my journey was a solo ride and was mostly on Interstate 70. This gave me a chance to appreciate the cruise control. It did a great job of maintaining the set speed and was very easy to use.

By the time I returned the Strret Glide Trike to Blue Springs Harley. , I had grown quite fond of it. It really served me well during the entire 2,100 miles. Gas mileage varied between 28 and 48 miles per gallon. Obviously, riding in the hills hurt mileage as did riding at interstate speed against a strong headwind. Checking in my rental ride was simple and quick. For anyone considering a motorcycle rental for any reason, I recommend it without reservation.

Article by Stripe
Lead photo by Mike Schweder and others by Stripe

Special thanks to all who helped make my Sturgis trip possible and to my riding group for all of the assistance they provided along the way.

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