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Not All Tadpoles Are Future Toads. Some Are Trikes. Trikes? TRIKES: Hitting the Road on Three Wheels!


August 13, 2012 by Rider Newsletter Staff

Trikes are growing in popularity, slowly but surely

Motorcycle trikes have been around for decades, but have never really caught on among hardcore bikers. It’s possible, however, that new technology and the demands of the riding public may combine to expand the market for three wheels under power.

There are two types of motorcycle trikes. A Delta trike has two wheels in the rear and one upfront. Advantages over a two-wheeled motorcycle include significantly enhanced stability and more built in space for cargo. They can be particularly nice for long trips with a passenger onboard. They handle a lot like a “normal” motorcycle and are particularly popular for older riders and those with physical challenges that reduce balance. These machines can greatly extend the number of years a biker can continue to ride. They also look pretty cool. A delta-style trike with a matching trailer can allow you to ride in style and take everything you might need with you.

The second style of trike is called a tadpole, also referred to as reverse trikes. As you probably have guessed, these are the vehicles with a single wheel in the rear and two up ahead. Today, the Can-Am series of tadpole trikes are becoming well known and has an avid following. Tadpoles are even more stable than deltas. Their primary advantage, however, may be in braking. When you brake hard on a delta, you have to be extremely careful to keep the single front wheel under control to avoid rolling over. That’s because, like any moving vehicle, most of the braking is done in front, as the weight shifts forward. Putting all that weight on a single wheel can cause serious control problems.

Tadpoles, however, have a wide turning radius, compared to a two-wheeler and this can take some getting used to. One solution is to allow the rider to lean into turns, increasing stability and decreasing the turning radius. Way back in 2006, Harley-Davidson showed off a super-cool looking leaning tadpole trike design called the Penster. Combining modern technology with a unique retro look, the Penster caused quite a stir among riders and was thought to be on its way to production. It now sits in the company’s museum, but no production plans have been announced. Harley does, however, sell a trike. Rumor has it that a leaning version of the Can-Am is in the works.

Because trikes are not the focus of most leading motorcycle manufacturers – with the exception of Canada’s Bombardier Recreational Products, makers of the Can-Am series of three-wheeled motorcycles – an industry made up of small, innovative companies has sprung up to meet the growing demand. For a few thousand dollars, you can turn your GoldWing (or most other popular bikes) into a stylish and stable three-wheeled machine. One you can keep riding well into your golden years.

A three-wheeled motorcycle may not be your cup of tea, but they surely have their place in the world of biking. They help keep many folks on the road and the newer designs are attracting people who may have resisted motorcycling in the past due to safety concerns. As they continue to evolve, we will be watching with interest to see how popular they become.

Another form of motorcycle trike (sort of) is the bike with a sidecar. We’ll have a look at some of those in a future installment. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the summer season.

Find Out More 

The has some information on the Harley-Davidson Penster here.

Here is a Pintrest page with lots of photos and info on tadpole style trikes.

Here is another Pinrest page on reverse trikes.

If you’re looking for a fairly detailed history of trikes, you’ll find it on this blog.

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