Transportation is always evolving. While three wheeled bicycles have been around since 1680 motorized trikes have come to the forefront of vehicle innovation more recently. Three wheeled vehicles are commonly known as trikes. But what makes a trike a trike? When it comes to these three wheeled machines there are some differences to note regarding style, components and rideability. In this article, we’ll give you the rundown on everything you need to know about three wheeled motorcycles.
The first mass produced adult motorized trike comes from the De Dion-Bouton company in France. The De Dion-Bouton Tricycle went into production in 1897 and sold around 15,000 units during its five years of production. These trikes sold for an average price of 1000 – 1500 gold marks which is equivalent to around 11,000 USD today. The last model that was produced in 1904 boasted a 955 cc engine that produced 8 HP at 1,800 RPM.
Three-wheeled vehicles are not all built the same. There are different variations on this design that all center around three wheels. Most trikes are gasoline powered but some electric options are available as well. The four most common types of three wheeled motorcycles are: regular trikes, reverse trikes, sidecar motorcycles, and outrigger trikes.
Regular trikes are the most common style of trike to see in the US. Regular trikes consist of two wheels in back and one in the front. These are often factory built trikes but there are now trike conversion kits that allow you to build a custom trike from a two wheeled motorcycle.
Reverse trikes have two wheels in the front and one wheel in the back. They can also be referred to as “wheels front” trikes and are becoming a more popular option for people looking for a trike that drives like a motorcycle. Wheels front trikes are leaning, meaning they can lean into turns like a regular motorcycle. Other options are rigid and offer less grip when going around corners or making sharp turns.
Sidecars are an older style of trike that are rare to find these days. Sidecar trikes consist of a regular motorcycle with a 1-wheeled sidecar that can store a passenger or gear. These are not traditionally what we think of when we think of a trike motorcycle and were more prevalent in the 1950s. Movies contributed to their growth but faded out of popularity because of readily available cheap automobiles.
You might do a double take when first looking at an outrigger trike because technically they use four wheels instead of three. Outrigger trikes have converted a regular motorcycle into a trike without removing the back wheel. They utilize a two wheel assembly surrounding the original rear wheel of the motorcycle. This essentially works like training wheels on a regular bicycle.
Trikes can also be categorized further between adult trike scooters and adult trike motorcycles. Trike motorcycles tend to have bigger engines like a 600-1,400 cc producing around 50-120 HP. While trike scooters typically run smaller engines like 50-500 cc with automatic transmissions. There are also styles like foldable electric trikes, trike mopeds, and motorized drift trikes.
Whatever custom trike you want to buy, or build there are plenty of options to choose from. The hard part is going to be deciding on just one. If you need inspiration on where to start check out Tampa Trike for reverse trike design ideas as well as trikes for sale.