Custom-fabricated trikes have always been a viable moto-retirement option for handy welders, bike builders, and riders with enough cash to drop on getting their two-wheeler chopped and refurbished as a three-wheeler.
That said, more and more of the big moto-brands are offering stock trikes these days.
There’s no doubt that a trike is an excellent option for seasoned riders who develop physical limitations impairing their ability to lift and handle a two-wheeled vehicle, but are trike motorcycles good for beginners?
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Here’s the Short Answer to Are Trike Motorcycles good for beginners:
Trikes are good for beginners because you don’t have to balance them; they’re less physically taxing and cause less mental stress. Trikes are safer and more comfortable than a two-wheel bike, especially for long trips, but they cost more, are bulkier, and provide a less technical riding experience.
Long story short, if you aim to graduate to a motorcycle eventually, we suggest learning one from the beginning to avoid having to retrain yourself on the physics. Since most trikes are manual, learning the mechanics of a trike is similar to that of a two-wheeled moto.
That said, the physics are completely different; a trike master will encounter a learning curve if they switch to a motorcycle.
Furthermore, a pro motorcycle rider who’s never been on a trike before will need to spend some time adjusting to the three-wheel physics.
Trikes are a good choice for beginners looking for an open-aired touring experience, but no vehicle is perfect.
Let’s weigh the benefits and setbacks of learning to ride a trike.
Pros and Cons of Riding a Trike Motorcycle (For Beginners)
Here are the pros and cons of riding a trike motorcycle for beginners:
Here are pros of riding a trike for beginners:
Trikes Are comfortable
The most obvious advantage a trike offers to beginners is the increase in stability over that of a two-wheeled moto. Three wheels mean a rider isn’t having to balance or lean into turns.
This allows less physical strain and more mile-packing before the rider gets tired. It also means beginners have less to think about while getting used to the mechanics and open-air riding.
Trikes Are More Stable
New riders find trikes to offer more security than motorcycles, as their wider, heavier, sturdier, and more visible than their two-wheeled counterparts.
Trikes are as exciting as riding an ATV; the stability keeps the rider engaged while not overwhelming or tiring them the way riding a two-wheeled bike for hours on end can do.
Trikes Offer More Space
Three-wheeled trike motorcycles are typically built for cross-country touring, with or without a passenger.
The increased weight and stability mentioned above allow engineers to pack trikes full of storage compartments for you and your passenger, including extra lighting and suspension upgrades that many two-wheeled bikes don’t supply.
Here are some downsides of riding trikes for beginners:
Trikes Are an Expensive First Bike
As far as beginners are concerned, trikes are one of the most costly open-aired options. A brand new Harley Trike runs between $28,000 and $50,000.
Otherwise, the other option is to buy a used two-wheel bike and a trike kit and have a custom builder put it on, though that might not be too much cheaper.
Trikes Are Expensive to Maintain
It’s not just the initial price point that makes trikes more costly; the insurance, vehicle registration, and service maintenance are all more expensive on the trike since the vehicle is worth more and parts and labor are more involved.
Trikes also get worse gas mileage than two-wheeled bikes, which puts a strain on the pockets of more than a few beginners over the years. Finally, a trike’s electrical wiring is more technical, requiring more power, inspection, and maintenance.
Trikes Are Bigger
For beginners, this can be a double-edged sword. The sheer size and weight of the trike make it more stable and comfortable, as mentioned above. But it also makes the bike harder to move at slow speeds and sketchy during quick turns and curves.
The large dimensions of the typical trike frame eliminate parking options available to two-wheelers. Furthermore, not all trikes have a reverse gear function—backing up a trike without a reverse capability is hard work for beginners and pros alike.
Are Trikes a Good Choice for Complete Beginners?
Trikes are a good choice for beginners because they are more comfortable, more stable, and cause less physical and mental stress, making them a safer option overall.
That said, trikes aren’t an injury-proof option, either for beginners or pro-two-wheeled riders.
A trike accident can cause injuries that are just as severe as those of a two-wheel collision.
Or, as Michigan Auto Lawer Steven Gursten says:
As a motorcycle accident lawyer, I’m starting to see injury cases involving these 3-wheel motorcycles when they are involved in crashes with other cars. I had assumed that with three wheels grounding it, a motor trike is safer on the road than their two-wheeled traditional counterpart.
If you’re a beginner excited to learn the mechanics and hit the road on an open-aired vehicle without having to learn the physics of balancing an unstable 2-wheeler, a trike is a fun, safe option–
–as long as you keep the following information at the front of your awareness:
Three Wheels Make Them Stable
Trikes are a great option for new riders because they take balancing out of the equation while you learn the mechanics and master the eye-hand coordination required for shifting.
Riding a trike compared to riding a motorcycle is equivalent to comparing a bicycle with training wheels to a bicycle without them.
With training wheels on, you turn by slowing way down and using your handlebars to steer your front wheel towards the turn or curve, then you power yourself through it, taking care to maintain a safe speed, so you don’t topside in the middle of the curve.
The steering motion is attuned to that of a car, except you’re using your linear bars instead of a 360-degree steering wheel.
Turning or riding through a curve on a two-wheeled motorcycle is more like doing it on a bicycle—sure the moto weighs a lot more, but it also goes way faster, making the physics of turning pretty comparable once the motorcycle is in motion.
On a two-wheeled motorcycle, turning and technical or curvey riding required the rider to lean, shift their hips, legs, and back to steer the bike while using the handlebars to counter-steer against the shifting weight.
Unlike the direct steering of a trike, the counter-steering of a motorcycle is a much more complex method that takes much longer to get used to.
That said, once mastered, the leaning and counter-steering techniques of two-wheel riding offer riders more control over the whole of the vehicle, rather than just the front wheel.
The more integrated physics allows two-wheel riders to take technical curves at much higher speeds, making it a sportier, exhilarating experience.
While trikes are a good choice for beginners, they don’t prepare you for counter-steering on two wheels; as we mentioned in the first section, riders who intend to switch to a two-wheeled-moto should learn on one from the beginning.
That said, the rider is just as exposed to the elements and dangers of any other open-wired vehicle, especially in the case of a collision with another vehicle.
That said, the trike’s design naturally makes it easier to see from the perspective of oncoming traffic, which brings us to our next point:
Trikes Increase Rider-Visibility and Are More Visible to Other Drivers
The unique, robust, and stability-increasing design of a three-wheeled trike motorcycle makes it more strikingly visible to other motorists, particularly those in cars and trucks that might miss the sight of a slender two-wheeled bike.
While motorcycle-related accidents happen for a variety of reasons, one of the most common stories you hear from car drivers involved is, “I just didn’t see them coming.”
To return to Michigan Auto Lawer Steven Gursten:
Most of my motorcycle injury cases involve drivers who either don’t see a motorcycle at all because they don’t look, or they look but they don’t “see” the motorcycle that is there to be seen because they are looking for other cars and trucks on the road. The human factors experts that I talk with when I have these motorcycle accident lawsuits all agree that it is the other drivers on the road that are the biggest danger for motorcycle operators.
There are a variety of trike designs out there these days; most of them are Y shaped, with a lone front wheel forming the base of the Y-shape and the two side-by-side rear wheels forming the top.
In addition to the widened, dual-wheeled, rear-wheel-set-up of a three-wheeler, a trike motorcycle is made more visible by more bodywork, luggage compartments, and more braking and running lights.
The Hurt Report — a motorcycle safety study initiated by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and first published in 1981 — says that approximately 77 percent of accidents involving two-wheeled motorcycles comes from the frontal (or “11 o’clock to 1 o’clock”) position.
These figures are revealing of how often the sheer lack of visibility inherent in the design of a motorcycle is the cause of the collision and, in unfortunate cases, damage, injury, or worse.
It’s also more visible on the highway, making side swipes from cars changing lanes a less common occurrence on trikes than it is on two-wheeled bikes.
The robust trike design makes it easier to see, therefore reducing the danger of multi-vehicle accidents that may take a beginner’s mind off of the joys of riding.
How Much Training Do You Need to Ride Trike Motorcycles?
While some states recognize a Class-M Motorcycle Licence as valid for trikes, many require a specific license to operate a three-wheeled trike motorcycle. The course includes classroom work and tests and riding training on a closed track.
Since a three-wheel-bike operation differs from two, we suggest all trike riders take the training course, even experienced motorcycle riders in places where their M license is valid.
A trike-rider’s body is just as exposed to the elements and road debris as two-wheel rippers, making you at risk of injuries during a collision, particularly with a car.
Your tires might be more rugged than a motorcycle but have nothing against the multi-ton, beefy steel cage a car brings into the equation.
While some trikes do have airbags, a front-end collision has the potential to eject a trike rider from their seat.
In short, trikes might not require that much training, but we suggest you take your time getting comfortable on turns, practicing on the backroads, away from traffic, until you get the hang of it.
And finally, as with two-wheeled motorcycles, we suggest every trike rider wears a helmet, whether fresh in the scene or with years of experience.
Can Anyone Learn to Ride a Trike Motorcycle?
While trike riding presents unique challenges, there are specialty setups that include automatic transmissions, hand shifters, and reverse gears that make trikes accessible to a variety of riders to whom two-wheel bikes aren’t.