Deeply Conflicted – Why A Trike Instead of A Motorcycle

I’ve always had a hard time understanding why someone who loves riding a motorcycle would want to ride something that just isn’t a motorcycle.

I refer, of course, to the trike.

It’s not that I don’t understand the appeal and appreciate the engineering involved, and there may well come a day when it’s time for me to sell off all the two-wheelers and mount up on one myself, but I hope that day is far, far off in the unforeseeable and ineluctable future.

There’s a guy in my neighborhood who drinks at the local watering hole and made this marvel of engineering and audacity, and I see him riding it around all the time. I must admit that I think it’s sweet as pecan pie, but I just can’t see myself riding around on one myself.

It’s kind of a moped joke issue for me. And they don’t lean.

I’d be proud as hell to be the guy who built this RatWheeler, it’s a thing of beauty and a joy to behold, but riding one?

I’ve also yet to hear anyone make a convincing argument as to why they want one over say, the latest and greatest Ducati or a fine old Indian, but maybe that’s because I usually don’t pay much attention to what people are saying.

Okay, I get it, the suspension makes the ride softer and allows for a more comfortable seating position, but what else is different about riding a trike?

Those in the know say the biggest difference riders have to adjust to when riding their first trike is the lack of countersteering.

When riding a motorcycle, countersteering is the name given to the counter-intuitive technique used by motorcyclists to turn corners. Countersteering is a method of initiating a turn by a small, momentary turn of the front wheel, via the handlebars, in the opposite (counter) direction of the intended path of travel. It usually doesn’t take much physical effort, and that’s because the geometry of a motorcycle’s steering system brings with it  a tendency for the front wheel to steer in the direction of a lean.

With a trike, you steer it like you do a car, and since there’s no way to lean, you pull back the right handlebar with your right hand and you turn right and vice versa.

Unless, of course, you’re riding a “reverse trike,” or one where the paired wheels are in the front of the bike.

Then you have to deal with a little principal called Ackerman geometry, and the gist of the explanation of that is the need for tires to slip sideways when following a common path around a curve. Ackerman is the geometrical solution and does it with all the wheels having their axles arranged as radii of a circle with a common center point. As the rear wheel is fixed, the center point must be on a line extended from the rear axle.

It’s basically a principal that says the steering geometry is designed so that the inside wheel in a turn will turn more than the outside wheel. Without Ackerman? One tire will tend to ‘scrub’ in a turn, and that’s hard on linkages and tires, real hard on them.

Now that I have all that covered and I have a rough understanding of how trikes steer and work…I still don’t want one.

At least not yet.


SuperTrike at the TimeOut Lounge – Photo by Todd Halterman


Insuring your collectible or vintage motorcycle

As for insurance for your collectible motorcycle? You should be able to get Agreed Value coverage on a classic 1959 BSA Gold Star Catalina valued at $15,000 for somewhere around $25 a month, and that gives you the whole shooting match of coverage.

You can spend a lot less, but if you plan to ride the bikes in your collection, the above pricing is a reasonable approximation of what you can expect to pay.

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