History of the Motorcycle Trike

Posted on: August 18, 2017

Although we’ve all probably seen them, a motorcycle trike still catches our attention and perhaps our desire to step out of our cars and into the sunlight with the wind blowing through our hair. Trikes are not steeped in history like the motorcycle but then again they have a history all their own.

It is assumed that a trike was created at nearly the same time as the motorized bicycle (now referred to as a motorcycle.) Trikes are attractive to people wishing to carry multiple passengers, folks with mobility or balance problems or to avoid helmet use regulations. They are generally custom-built and often finished to a very high standard.

Wheel Configuration

A trike’s wheels are arranged in one of two configurations: delta or tadpole. A delta trike has one wheel in front and two in back, and the tadpole trike has two wheels in front and one in back. The tadpole configuration is thought to be the more stable yet still providing plenty of power to the rider.

Braking Issues

Tadpoles (two wheels in front) are typically more stable under braking and more likely to slide instead of roll. A hard front brake on a delta (two rear wheels) requires the vehicle to steer almost straight to avoid tipping. The balance of friction patches and rolling resistance also means that tadpoles tend to under-steer and deltas over-steer.


Today the most common (but this is not all inclusive) manufacturers of trikes include: the Piaggio Ape (Bee) delivery trike (delta); the Bombardier Recreational Products Can-Am Spyder (tadpole); the T-Rex reverse trike; trikes used by municipal authorities in the USA; and, historically, vehicles such as the Scammell Scarab railway dray, a common sight around post-war British railway stations.

Conversion Kits

Another popular option is to turn your motorcycle into a trike via a conversion kit. Several manufactures make a reliable kit for the do-it-yourselfers or to be purchased and added by a licensed mechanic. Additional custom paint can individualize your ride while enhancing the value of your motorcycle.

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