Walter and his motorcycle trike
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2000 Honda Gold Wing SE Motor Trike Test

By Walter F. Kern

Before the Motorcycle Trike

This is an article about how I converted a 2000 Honda Gold Wing SE motorcycle into a motorcycle trike using the Motor Trike conversion. It tells why I decided to do the motorcycle trike conversion, some problems encountered, and some riding techniques I had to change to become a proficient trike rider. It also shows pictures of the various parts of the resulting motorcycle trike.

As many of you know, I got started late in motorcycling having ridden my first bike at age 51. Since so many of you have ridden your whole lives, that can amount to 50-60 years in some cases. I had a lot of catching up to do. My first bike was a Honda CM400T. Then came a 1991 Honda Nighthawk and then a 1990 Honda Pacific Coast (PC-800). I had looked longingly on Honda Gold Wings since I first set foot in a Honda showroom but thought them ever too big for me to handle. In 1998 I decided that I finally was going to get a new Honda Gold Wing SE. I rode it for more than a year when my wife* began having leg problems that made it difficult for her to hold up her own PC-800. We decided that it was time for her to get a motorcycle trike. I had my 1998 Gold Wing converted into a motorcycle trike for her use.

I wrote an article about this experience. My only experience with her motorcycle trike was in riding it home 130 miles from Pennsylvania and almost getting hit a couple of times due to my inexperience. Since then, my wife did very well with the trike and even rode it to Massachusetts to take a special trike rider education class sponsored by the Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA).

In the year or so after Jane got her trike, I took many trips with her. Sometimes I was on the PC-800 and other times I was on my new 2000 Gold Wing SE. She loved to make quick turns into shopping centers or whip around a hairpin turn and decide to pull off the road to take a picture. On these occasions I found myself usually fighting just to keep the bike upright and check out the traffic around me when all of a sudden she was off the road and I was trying to figure out how best to do the same and find a decent parking place all the time balancing the 900+ pounds of the Wing. Once, we were on a lighthouse tour in New Jersey. The last lighthouse we were to visit was the East Point Lighthouse near Cape May, New Jersey. This lighthouse is really off the beaten path. As we got within a mile of the place suddenly there was a road crew ahead of us grading the highway. One side was torn up and the other was being filled with dirt. This was the only road to the lighthouse. There was no way I was going to chance taking my new Gold Wing down that road. However, I told my wife to go ahead and try it on the trike. Of course, there was no problem with the trike with those massive rear tires. I think it was at that point that I mentally threw in the towel and decided that I was going to get a trike for myself.

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Becoming a Triker

In early October, 2000, I contracted with Leola Motor Trike in PA to do the conversion. They had done the trike for my wife. In early November, I was still waiting for the trike kit to be shipped from the Motor Trike plant in Texas. Then on November 6 I got the call from Leola that they would be coming that day to haul my Wing away to be converted. I got the trike delivered back to my house on December 7. Of course it was now in the height of winter and a little difficult to give the trike a good road test. I noticed right off that the right rear of the trike was set lower than the left side. I pointed this out to the trike conversion company owner as soon as he had backed it off the trailer. I notice details. He thought maybe it would correct itself with some riding. He assured me that measurements had been taken as part of their testing and all had checked out.

Maybe so but a yardstick showed that the distance from the ground to the bottom edge of the top of the wheel well was 24 1/8 inches on the right side and 24 3/4 inches on the left side. In contrast, my wife's trike has a constant 25 3/4 inch measurement. Of course, her trike uses the older trunk design and mine uses the new Classic II trunk so the bodies may be different to begin with. At any rate, the left and right sides should be closer than what my measurements show. In addition, when I ride the trike I notice a decided right lean which is somewhat unsettling.

After I got the trike, I did take it out for a short 15 mile ride just to check for basic operation. Sometimes, people have reported a clashing of gears when downshifting into first. That was a problem on my wife's trike. I noticed nothing out of the ordinary with my trike. As mentioned, I did feel that I was leaning a bit to the right. I took the trike to a parking lot and did a series of figure-eights just to get some practice on turning the machine. I also did some stops and starts and swerving maneuvers. Turning a trike requires that you push the handlebars quite a lot forward. There is NO leaning involved or countersteering. To go right, you push the left handlebar grip forward. To go left, you push the right handlebar grip forward. These actions are just the opposite of what's required on a motorcycle. It obviously takes a little mind-training to orient yourself to a trike. When sitting on the trike, it "looks" like a motorcycle. Your mind tells you that you're sitting on a motorcycle. All the controls are the same as a motorcycle. The only problems are that the trike will not lean, it will not countersteer and you can't put your foot down when you stop. Some have been known to have their foot run over by doing so.

Now read Page 2 for some initial testing of the trike and my observations about triking in general.

=> Page 2: Testing the Trike

* Jane died in a tragic automobile accident in 2008 that had nothing to do with motorcycling. She was a front seat passenger on a trip with two of her friends when the accident occurred.

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