I just don’t understand trikes

A little over a year ago I saw a trike towing a trailer north of Las Vegas and all I could think was, “Why not just drive a convertible?


Here’s a setup with none of the advantages of a motorcycle or a car. It’s like setting out to intentionally try and create the worst of both worlds. Radio and reverse gear? Check. But no roof, climate control or protection from the elements. Motorcycle license requirement? Check. But no leaning in turns, ease of parking in small spots, quick response or maneuverability. If anything, that trailer is just going to complicate in-city driving. The two trunks in my 987 Boxster give me the same hauling capacity, and I can drive more spiritedly in greater comfort. Hell, the traditional trike layout practically invites high-side wrecks by the simple act of turning. And turns at speed are the best part of riding a bike!

1858884_origA trike may have a lower center of gravity than the Robin in the video above, but it’s still a remarkably stupid design as far as handling and tire placement is concerned. I understand them (somewhat) from a limitation of technology or cost point of view. If you lack engineering capability, a trike is a semi-logical outcome. But then I recall sidecars, which are much cooler, more useful, can carry up to three people, still provide a trunk, can be easily converted back to a two-wheeler, and let you do cool things like fly the chair or mount a machine gun on the hack if you’re in WWII. Ural sidecars aren’t the most reliable, but they come with a full toolkit and have a locked differential 2WD option for use in the snow or other low-traction circumstances. In fact, the more I think about it, I can’t think of anything about a sidecar that’s not awesome.

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

A Morgan 3 Wheeler also lacks the advantages of both a car and motorcycle. It, too, could be seen as the worst of both worlds and yet it’s a damn sight better than a trike. For one, the simplest and most practical reason, it’s got two wheels up front for better balance and handling characteristics than a trike, with the lone wheel serving to put power to the ground. Second, it’s powered by a big ol’ American V-twin engine from S&S, the most popular engine for high power custom bike builds, and the motor is proudly on display right out front. And finally, if we admit motorcycles are primarily vanity vehicles and style plays a huge part in their selection, a Morgan 3 wheeler oozes more cool than a Harley or Goldwing trike could ever hope to possess. Every single Morgan is still built by hand in England, with wooden frames, and houses more old school style and heritage and tradition than any trike at Sturgis. And it’s gorgeous.

Those are just two three-wheeled alternatives that spring to mind, and they’re both clearly better choices if what you’re after is passionate motoring. Sure, there’s also the Can-Am Spyder and it’s also a better choice, but I’m ignoring it because it’s ugly and the Morgan has the same layout advantages. If you’re after practicality (and still better motoring), a Miata/MX-5 or a used Boxster S are better choices and still more sporting every day of the week. And remember three wheeled ATVs? When you get right down to it, they were basically outlawed for being a stupid idea, and that stupid idea is the layout of the wheels.

A trike screams “1970s!” to me, and almost everything made in the ’70s was terrible. I’ll grant exceptions to the CB750 and Star Wars. Otherwise it’s the decade hipsters choose to honor ironically for a reason. Fashion was terrible, as was quality of build and manufacture. The era of polyester, disco, acid rock and fake wood paneling in homes.


So trikes are dumb, and trikes with trailers are even dumber. Why do they still exist?

14 thoughts on “I just don’t understand trikes

  1. Trike are around for one reason only. Image. (I’m not saying it’s a good image, just an image.) I think they are bought/made by Harley owners that injured themselves during a ride while wearing their non-safety gear.

    As for me, I’ll take a Miata.

  2. I dream of getting a URAL so I can drive in the winter.
    They make enough Trikes for someone to have a use for them. Personally if it ever comes down to the fact that I cant drive a cycle safely then I would go with the side car option over the trike option. I figure that maybe for a few people out there the Trike gives them a few more years on the road before the are forced to ride in a cage.

  3. I wouldn’t want one personally but I don’t mind them. For some people it’s the only way they can ‘get on a bike’ because of disabilities that would keep them from a two-wheeler.

    • What I’m saying is that at that point, it’s no longer “on a bike”. A sidecar, Can-Am, or even Piaggio MP3 scooter are more of a bike than the traditional trike. And a trike with a trailer?! C’mon, man!

  4. Pingback: At a certain point… | eric.r.shelton

  5. Because a VW powered trike with steering brakes does some pretty MONSTER wheelies, without the pesky worries of falling over, or off. When I was a kid at a rally in Yuma, I watched a dude dig his trailer hitch into the fairgrounds, and draw figure-8’s in the grass with a little mud-rooster tail chase him around. If there was ever something to inspire me to try riding a trike, it was that.

    • Having seen Jason Britton and Chris “Teach” McNeil perform their stunt shows in person, I just can’t work up any enthusiasm for a wheelie with “no risk”. There is nothing a trike can do that a car or proper motorcycle can’t do better. It’s a ridiculous concept that’s flawed by it’s very design.

  6. Good write up! However i build these things low and fast and stupid fun!! Will it throw you off? oh yeah but if you pay attention and hang on all is well. Are they built for the twisties? Hell no! but for all around cruising fun, a VW base trike has a flavor all its own. Is it safe? Only as safe as you make it; but heck what is fun that’s not dangerous. Yeah I had to un-learn everything i knew about bikes but once I got over that curve in like an hour, it’s just plain fun. I’ll be honest, the first trike I built was a totally foreign feeling. The two are not the same, it’s like comparing to completely different things. Bikes rely on centrifugal forces etc, Trikes are at opposition to such force and are a bastard between motorcycles and cars. But when you get that balance right, it’s magic. seriously stupid fun!!!

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