It seems that recently, trikes have become a source of discussion and great debate. Some seem to think that trikes are in a different category entirely from traditional two-wheeled motorcycles, while others see them as just a variation. Perusing through blogs and message boards seem to offer up the general conclusion that trikes are easier to handle and ride, but somehow lack something in the general appearance. They certainly aren’t lacking in a fan base, though. Several trike exclusive events and clubs are popping up all around the world. For now, push any of your preconceived notions or opinions aside, and remember: it doesn’t matter what you ride, it only matters that you ride! That being said, let’s take a closer look at the trike.
Is it even a motorcycle? Absolutely. Engine styles, pipes, handlebar controls, general size of the wheels- it’s all there. Riding a trike still gets your knees in the breeze as you sit relaxed in the seat, feeling the rush of the wind. There is nothing between you and road but metal, chrome, and rubber. You are still as likely to have to clear dead bugs from your face shield or eye protection at stops as someone on two wheels. You still need to be licensed to operate a trike. When I took my MRSP in New York State, one of the guys had already decided on buying the Can-Am Spyder. He could have gotten his endorsement for the trike only, but wanted to have the option of getting on two wheels someday without having to retest. New York abides by the ruling that if you have an M endorsement on your license, you are therefore covered to legally operate a trike; in NY, If you test only for a trike, you are not permitted to operate a two wheeled motorcycle. (**It is important to note that testing and licensing varies from state to state.**)
What is the difference? Obviously, a trike has three wheels, and in general are larger than their two-wheeled counterparts. Standard trikes (such as the Harley Davidson Freewheeler or the Honda Goldwing Trike) have the two wheels in the rear. Just like the tricycles and training wheels of our youth, this style allows for more stability. The Polaris Slingshot and the Can-Am Spyder models place their solo tire in the rear, with riders of the Spyder raving with delight about how that rear wheels steers them into the turn, as opposed to a front-wheel powered trike “dragging” those rears. Depending on make and model, rear wheel steering is not always standard. (Like most things in life, it’s an option, but options often mean a higher price tag.) Trikes can come originally built as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) or can be built with a conversion kit. (A conversion kit is a great option if you don’t want to part with your current ride.)
What are the advantages? Trikes, whether the two wheels are placed in the front or the back, certainly offer more stability. You don’t have to put both feet down in order to stop, and it certainly isn’t going to tip over on you. Road conditions, such as water, gravel and other debris, uneven pavement, and metal grates are much easier to handle. Dirt road? No problem! They have a low center of gravity. Long, sweeping turns are handled with ease. Most offer an almost unbelievable amount of storage, which is a must-have for longer trips. If you choose to take a passenger, their weight is supported more by the bike and less by your strength and balance, allowing you to be both safer and more secure during the ride. You also won’t get fatigued as quickly. Think about how you feel at the end of a long day of riding. You know you’ve used your legs and core muscles to aid in steering and balance, and sometimes, those last five miles home can feel like five hundred. With the two wheels keeping you steady, you are required to move less. You also steer a trike more like a car, which for most of us comes more naturally than counter steering.
What are the disadvantages? First off, it steers like a car. Yes, we just saw that in our advantages category, but for a seasoned biker, you may suddenly find that counter steering not only doesn’t work on a trike, but can send you into a lane of oncoming traffic. Old habits die hard, and this one could be a matter of safety. When making the transition from two wheels to three, this is critical. Likewise, it is important to remember that you don’t need to put your feet down at a stop. Doing so could actually cause you to run your own foot over with your rear wheels. Expense is another distinct disadvantage. Trikes are built with more parts, and of course, more parts equals more money. Conversion kits can even sneak upwards of five figures and require a qualified individual to properly install them. Those wider tires in the back can cause you to be a bit clumsy as well. You may find yourself running over a bed of flowers or hitting the concrete island at a gas pump. Tight turns and decreasing radius turns are noticeably more difficult and require steady pressure and more careful maneuvering. Lastly, gas mileage. You are certainly going to see the difference at the gas pump!
Why ride a trike? I’ve witnessed ladies debating about whether or not to get a trike. Just as it is when deciding on a brand and model, it comes down to personal choice. Are you going to feel more stable on a trike than on two wheels? Do you have a medical or physical condition that would make a trike not only more comfortable, but safer than a two wheeled bike? Do you need more storage space, or a more secure spot for a passenger? Definitely consider it!
Ride on, ladies. Whatever you ride, the road is out there waiting.