October 28 2009 by Jason Fogelson
I write about riding around on two wheels. That's my passion.
But there's another step between two wheels and four: Three wheels.
There are two ways to get on three wheels with Harley-Davidson. Since 2009, the Motor Company has offered a factory Trike, with one wheel and a traditional fork in front, and two wheels in the rear. For 2010, you can choose between the Tri Glide Ultra Classic (starting at $29,999), which is basically a three-wheeled version of the Ultra Classic; or a Street Glide Trike (starting at $26,999), a more stripped-down version of the Touring platform.
The other option is to add a sidecar to your bike. Harley makes a sidecar rig that's designed to hook up to the Touring lineup, and there are aftermarket manufacturers who will build sidecars for other bikes in the lineup. When a sidecar is hooked up to a bike, the resulting three-wheeled contraption is called a "rig," or a "hack," probably based on the tradition of horse and buggy hacks.
Riding on three wheels has some advantages, and some disadvantages, over riding on two wheels. The biggest advantage is stability at a stop. A three-wheeled motorcycle won't tip over if you don't put your feet down at an intersection. That's why trikes and sidecar hacks have become popular for women and for older riders. If your legs aren't as strong as they once were, or if you doubt your ability to hold up a 900 lb motorcycle at an intersection, a three-wheeler might be your entrée into motorcycling. Or it might extend your motorcycling life long past the point where you feel secure on two wheels.
Three wheels aren't always better than two, though. In traffic, a trike or sidecar hack takes up much more space than a conventional motorcycle, so you can forget about lane splitting or lane sharing. It takes a completely different skill set to ride a three-wheeler, too. Piloting is more like driving than steering a bike, and turning, especially on a sidecar hack, requires much different technique. Sidecars and three wheelers can still be ridden fast, but they behave differently than motorcycles around curves, and they weigh more than their two-wheeled cousins.
And riding a sidecar hack will get you a lot of attention, which you may consider either an advantage or a disadvantage. Everyone will point and stare, and you'll be besieged with questions at every stop. You'll wind up giving lots of rides to friends and acquaintances, meeting new people, and spreading a lot of smiles.
On second thought, where's the disadvantage in that?