Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why Am I Seeing So Many Trike Conversions?

Twice in the last week, I have spoken to someone who has converted a motorcycle to a trike. In both cases it is because the weight of the bike was getting too much for them. Today I heard a friend of mine has just bought his first bike in many years, and it is a Honda VTX1800.

Am I seeing a trend here? People buying bigger and bigger motorcycles, and eventually ending up converting them to trikes.

Today I read a review of my Vulcan 900 Classic LT on this website.

The relevant quote:

"In recent years the Big Four Japanese manufacturers have dabbled in the more diminutive touring class, offering fully functioning longer-haul machines that are easier to ride and handle than their big brothers. It's not to say they are small bikes--just comparatively, yet a bit more manageable. One such off the showroom floor bike is Kawasaki's Vulcan 900 Classic LT" - Toph Bocchiaro,
OK Hold it right there. "in recent years?" "diminutive?". It's as if teeny weeny tiny*** bikes like the Vulcan 900 are a new invention. Not so.

Let's put the size of the bike in perspective, and to do that, I will go by weight. I'm sure I could pick a lot of things to measure size, but I like to look at weight because the weight is what makes it fall over, and hard to lift up and push uphill. The weight also kind of indicates how big it is in length, width ands height, as well as how much metal is used vs. plastic. I'm not going to put a colourful bar graph here, but look at the numbers and compare.

The Vulcan is over three times my own weight. Any heavier, and I would need a reverse gear to back up a moderate incline. Any heavier, and I would be looking for a three wheel conversion.

  • The Vulcan Classic 900 weight is 657.1 lb.

For comparison, here are some historical weights of what we call normal bikes, all functional motorcycles, and a few current normal or even excessively large bikes.

  • Triumph Bonneville Thruxton 1969: 350 lb 2004 remake: 451 lb
  • Vincent Black Shadow 458 lb.
  • Brough Superior SS100 1925 400 lb. (top bike of the day, the "Rolls Royce of motorcycles")
  • Honda Gold Wing (1976) weight 584 lbs. Latest Version (2010): 792 lbs
  • Harley Davidson 1929: 420 lbs. 1970 Electra Glide 750 lbs (full touring model)
  • Harley Davidson 2010 Dyna Wide Glide: 647 lbs.
  • Yamaha V-Max 2010: 683 lbs.
  • Triumph Rocket III 2010: (2300cc) 807 lbs.

Notice how the bikes seem to have increased in weight over the years? Here is my question. How fat are we now, that a 657.1 lb bike is called diminutive, while in 1929 a 420 lb Harley Davidson was a heavy bike.

***Here are the synonyms I found with an online thesaurus for DIMINUTIVE.
Definition: tiny, petite
Synonyms: Lilliputian, bantam, bitsy, bitty, button, little, midget, mini, miniature, minute, peewee, pint-sized, pocket, pocket-sized, small, teensy, teensy-weensy, teeny, teeny-weeny, undersize, wee, weeny
Notes: Diminutive words can be literal or metaphorical, are often terms of endearment or affection, familiarity or intimacy, but sometimes also suggest condescension or dismissal.


  1. I agree that there seems to have been a trend for motorcycles to progressively get heavier and heavier.

    There's certainly no argument if you compare the more common bikes of the Sixties (e.g. BSA 500s and 650s weighing in at about 400 lb.) with today's ubiquitous 'cruisers,' most of which tip the scales at a minimum of 500 lb. and generally significantly more.

    Admittedly, were I planning to do 1,000 Km. days for weeks at a stretch, I might be tempted to go for a heavier machine (although I would draw the line at a 3-wheeler). But I'm not; for me, riding is not about 'distance covered.'

    On the other hand, I find it refreshing that over the summer I've seen numerous articles lamenting the absence of smaller-displacement bikes in the North American market, bikes in the 300-400 cc. range. This quote is from the September 2010 issue of Cycle Canada (from the full hard copy article on the Kawi Ninja 440R):

    '... small motorcycles reveal secrets about riding that you cannot learn on larger motorcycles. And I don't just mean initially, I mean ever. I know it sounds overly dramatic, but start on a big bike and you'll forever remain a gnat on the back of a beast. Start on a little bike and the relationship is one of equals - you learn to work the throttle and the gearbox sympathetically and by learning the machine's limitations, you learn your own.'

    Hear, hear.

  2. very good post. makes me think about all the bikes I've owned in my short life. i sure liked my 250cc marauder, but I love my 1100 Virago.

    however, if I had a barn and some extra cash, i'd have a dozen bikes, and 11 would be smaller than my current bike.

    as I grew to enjoy longer trips, e.g., to Ottawa and Thunder Bay (from London), I learned to appreciate more weight. But where would my experimenting end?

    I think w my 94 Virago 1100cc, at 487 lb. (dry weight), I've finished getting heavier. It took me to Halifax and back this summer w only one hairy day - on the windy flats south of Moncton, NB.

    I'm already thinking re lighter bikes, e.g., 600cc Honda Shadow, but I have a few more long rides in me, e.g., BC., Cape Breton Island

    I read in the book 'The Harley Davidson and Indian Wars' that manufacturers were aware in the late 1940s and early 1950s that the American public was getting a taste for 'bigger' and 'more comfy'. bigger cruising autos played a part in changing tastes re bikes.

    about the 1948 Indian Scout I read the following:

    "The frame is filled with engine, a virtual requirement as noted earlier... the only flaw in the looks department may be that the machine itself was just a fraction smaller the the American public expected a sporting twin to be."

    I know the feeling. I owned a 650 Suzuki, one cylinder, and though it was as dependable as anything, I felt the engine looked too small. call me spoiled, eh.

    would I buy a trike? nope. too much money. smaller is the way I lean once I kiss Cape breton good-bye!



  3. why did you ignore the entire point of my words? a key statement you decided to overlook: "diminutive touring class." merriam-webster defines diminutive as, "a word or suffix that indicates that something is small."

    1. I didn't actually ignore it, rather I highlighted it, and based my entire blog on how shocking I found it that the word "Diminutive" was used to describe my 650 lb. bike.

      The misunderstanding may be simply a generational thing. You look like a young guy. I am a senior citizen. Maybe, to youngsters, it is right and natural that a 650 lb bike should be referred to as small. Maybe to youngsters, I am the one who is wearing my baseball cap backwards. In the end it is all relative to what you think is normal.