Lawrence Converts His Honda Reflex to a Trike
Actually, you're paying
over three thousand bucks for training wheels... very well-built,
individually-suspended training wheels. Your kit attaches to the under-carriage
and various strong points on your frame. The rig is massive enough to stabilize
a Harley, so itís plenty strong for a scooter. A skilled mechanic had it
together in two days of off again, on again work.
Training wheels. Am I
embarrassed? No; I'm 72. After two spinal surgeries and having a tree fall on
me during this winter's combination blizzard and hurricane, I have nerve
damage. I walk with a stick for God's sake! This is how I'm
going to keep riding.
I've never crashed in 50
years, but I've twice had a bike down. Both times, I was at walking speed or at
rest, making a turn on an oil slick and then on sand. It's stunning how fast a
bike can disappear from under you. When it's a motorcycle, your position
astraddle the tank will slam you onto the ground. A step-through scooter just
drops away. If that happens to me now, I might not be walking afterwards.
So today, dear reader, I
picked up my trusty Honda Reflex from my mechanic with a set of shiny TOW-PAC
training wheels on it. My mechanically astute friend took it down the road and
returned with eyes like door-knobs telling me for crissakes be careful. I got
on and found out why. Here's why:
1) PICK YOUR FEET UP! A
few inches behind your heels is a set of fenders. Goose the gas and you'll run
over your own feet. It's a trike now. Sit down. Park your feet; you're not
falling over. THEN goose the gas. Forget that just once and you'll
break your own legs - or your bike will.
2) The first 30 seconds
are going to scare hell out of you. Turn a 2-wheeler and you bank into the
turn. Gravity has everything all lined up. Turn a trike and you stay upright,
swinging you into the outside of the curve. That will cause you to over-steer,
swinging you out even more forcefully. It feels like you could easily flip the
thing - and you spent all this money for safety! Don't be surprised if
you're driving home for the first time and thinking you just blew a lot of money
- and you're going to have to pretend for a while that you did just the right
thing. So that's #2. Expect that.
3) You'll go straight
easily and very soon, it will feel natural. Cornering for the first time is
terror-inducing. For reasons already described, you over-steer. Most
importantly, the almost effortless way you bank a motorcycle into a turn is
totally missing! Turning requires effort, as if you were driving a miniature
car with handlebars. SLOW WAY DOWN on turns until you figure it out. I'm
sharing my first-day impressions with you because if you buy one of these rigs,
I want you to be safe right away and not get convinced you made a big mistake
before you've given the rig a chance.
4) Here's what I'm
beginning to discover in my first day - riding home from eating Mexican and
having the presence of mind to pass on the Margaritas. Lean into the turn
forward over the inside handlebar and push firmly away with the
outside arm. At first, you'll panic in the turn. It will seem your bike
doesn't want to obey - and you're going to run off the road and crash. Your
body, tall in the saddle, seems to have far too much leverage, forcing you to
over-steer. So gradually, you try going into turns forward-leaning into it.
Push away hard till you feel your sense of command returning. That's what it
takes. You really have to be the boss with trikes.
5) Turning at the light:
While still at low speed, point your bike instantly where you want it to
go, then give it the gun. On a winding road, take the inside lines to keep your
path as straight as you can. It's already beginning to sink in after only one
day. Easy does it. Steer with authority, lower your center of gravity if it
feels right, and the bike will go where you point it.
6) Your bike is wider
than it used to be. I've already got a scuff on my left fender from coming into
the carport just a little too close to a brick chimney. I'll be adding
reflectives so at night, other motorists know I've got some width to me too.
Remember, you're wider now.
7) You'll never need
your kick-stand again. But that also means your bike can roll away from you if
you just park and walk away. My Reflex has a parking brake. Otherwise, I'd
need a door-jamb on a string to place under a tire to keep my trike from
8) Don't be surprised to
pick up more road vibration. You've got twice as many wheels on the tarmac
now. It's not bad, but it's there.
9) Some roads have
really steep crowns to them. Trikes don't like that. You can compensate
carefully by lowering the stance of your right wheel and lifting the left by the
same amount. Just a little. You'll still have to compensate with continual
pressure on your right arm. Be the boss and you'll be OK, but it is
different than a regular motorcycle.
10) Expect more
curb-side conversations. People think my "new" trike is cool. People are
actually rolling down their windows at red lights to thumbs-up or yell, "Nice
bike." You could get used to it.
So you've gotten my
first-day impressions. Am I glad I did it? I think so. After 50 years of
riding, it was automatic. Everything about it was instinctive - and now
it isn't. But I'm a teacher and I know that new things aren't intuitive but
with practice, they become so. If I don't do anything crazy, I have a bike that
will become almost capsize-proof, even with a flat tire. It will never fall
over - and I'll never need to go find help to pick it up. I can ride my
daughter behind me without worrying my legs can't support both of us at the
light. In short, if I approach this with an open mind, I get to ride a little
Could I be as safe if I
kept two wheels and cornered with half the care I use now? Probably - if I were
20 years younger. Now I have to be more careful. So thereís DAY 1. More soon.
AFTER 3 days & 60
The feet-up commandment
still - and always - applies. Feet up... then go. Forgot today on my
way to work and nipped my heels. I'm going to get a strip of rubber molding and
protect the leading edge of the fenders. Good for rocks and gravel bouncing up,
and not a knife edge as the fiberglass has.
I took it up to 60 on
the freeway for the first time. You'll notice more vibration with twice as many
wheels on the tarmac. It could limit my trips but my hunch is I won't be
ranging as far anyway. Steering was fine and the techniques that work in turns
at 30 work just as well at 60. (Just go into a tight turn, say 90 degrees,
at anything like 60.) I still find leaning into the turn helps, especially
leaning forward and into the turn. Lowers your center of gravity and you
don't have your body being
pushed outside in a turn. That tends to make you
over-steer, which pushes you out even more forcefully. Bad scene.
It's just beginning to
become automatic - at least enough to make riding fun.
I'm getting past my
initial panic, born of 50 years of riding, that going into a turn, the bike
doesn't know my mind. It used to. Want to turn right, you push down on the
right handlebar. The bike banks into a turn and you soar to the right.
With a trike, you push away on the right handlebar and the bike turns LEFT.
Because you're actually steering the bike. The effort
isn't really difficult. But it has to be mindful... to make the bike go
where you tell it.
Maybe the trike will
know my mind eventually. Meanwhile, in my 3rd day and my 60th mile, I know what
I'm doing now and am doing it with growing confidence and enjoyment.
After 3 weeks...
Far more comfortable
now. I'm noticing my gas mileage drop from near 70 mpg scooter rig vs. 60 mpg
with the TOW-PAC rig. More drag; more windage. More comfortable going past
55mph. You never want to make a dramatic maneuver on a trike at highway
speed. Look ahead. Plan ahead. In this respect, imagine you're driving a car.
Maybe itís best to think
you went from a scooter to a really small vehicle. Same view out the
front. Same driving controls, same riding position. But itís also
fundamentally different. If you think a trike conversion makes sense for you,
embrace the change. Iíve ridden and liked several Chinese scooters but
reviews suggest the imported scooter/trikes donít have the quality yet Ė and a
Harley or Honda trike is vastly more money than a TOW-PAC conversion. For the
money, itís the best deal in town Ė and if youíve liked your old scooter, you
get to keep it.
Lawrence Brown is
a 72 year-old school teacher who's been riding scooters and motorcycles for 50
years. Preferring the Honda Reflex 250 - or several Chinese 150 & 250cc clones
- he's finally decided it's time to "trikefy" his Honda.