There’s no shortage of reasons to ride a trike: they’re powerful, comfortable, and look awesome. But if you are coming to trikes having only driven cars, or especially if you only have experience riding standard motorcycles, there are a few tips and tricks you’ll need to learn before you start riding. This short guide will provide you with some of the info you need before you ride your trike. In most states you’ll at least need to get a motorcycle endorsement, and in some states you’ll need a three-wheel/trike-specific endorsement. This guide isn’t meant to replace that, but instead, to offer some of what you might expect from a class and give you some handy tips you might be able to use.
If you’re looking to purchase your first trike, stop by Abernathy Harley-Davidson in Union City, Tennessee near Jackson, Clarksville, and Nashville, Tennessee, as well as Paducah, Kentucky. We carry the latest trikes from Harley, including the Tri Glide and Freewheeler.
Turning and steering may be the biggest difference between riding a trike and riding a standard two-wheel motorcycle. A standard motorcycle uses what’s known as “counter steering,” which refers to the way a rider must lean into a turn in order to counterbalance the centrifugal force of the turn. On a trike, a rider uses “direct steering,” which is more similar to the way you steer when driving a car. All of the steering action comes from the act of turning the handlebars. So while on a motorcycle, you need to lean harder for tighter turns, on a trike, you’ll need to slow down more and turn the wheel at a more severe angle. Once you’ve made it about halfway through the corner, you can start to accelerate again, and this will help to pull you out of the corner.
It’s important to remember that the addition of a third wheel will significantly change the geometry of your steering. On a motorcycle, the distance travelled by both wheels is the same. On a trike, the inside wheel will have to travel a shorter distance than the outside wheel, and both will travel a slightly different distance from the front wheel. Getting used to the speed at which to take corners and planning paths around corners takes some practice.
Trikes use a manual transmission, just like a two-wheel bike. This type of transmission requires the rider to engage a clutch to disengage power from the engine so that gears can be shifted before letting the clutch out and reintroducing power from the engine. For those who are used to driving a manual transmission in a car, the concept is the same, but the controls are split between the hands and feet in a different way. The transmission should be in neutral when you start the bike. Once the engine is running, engage the clutch and kick the bike into gear. Then, pull the throttle slightly to increase the RPMs just a little. Try to keep the throttle at this point as you slowly release the clutch and roll forward. If you do it right, you won’t jerk forward and you won’t stall the engine. When you reach the top of the engine’s power band, engage the clutch again, kick the bike up a gear, and release the clutch again. Getting these shifts to the point where they are smooth and also don’t cause the bike to slow down takes some practice!
One of the most important things about riding a trike is remembering that you have much more weight behind you than you would in a normal motorcycle. You’ll need more space to slow down, and quick stops might take longer than you think. The good news is you do have an extra wheel for braking. On a normal bike, the front wheel gives about 2/3rds of the braking power, but on a trike, the rear wheels have the advantage. Use both sets when you need to slow down from high speeds.
Riding a trike is a rewarding experience, especially if you take time to get used to the controls and riding mechanisms. If you’re in the market for a new trike, stop by Abernathy Harley-Davidson in Union City, Tennessee, near Jackson, Clarksville, and Tennessee, as well as Paducah, Kentucky. Our knowledgeable staff will set you up with the perfect ride!