What are Motorcycles with 3 Wheels Called? [10 Facts About Trikes]

Motorcycles with 3 wheels are often referred to as trikes, trike motorcycles, motor trikes, or three-wheeled motorcycles. These vehicles are designed in many styles like regular trikes, reverse trikes, and sidecar motorcycles.

If you would like to discover these unique 3-wheel vehicles this post is for you.

We at PowerSportsGuide have done the research and compiled all the basics on trikes under one roof!

What are Motorcycles with 3 Wheels Called?

Motorcycles with 3 wheels are most commonly called trikes or trike motorcycles. These vehicles are very similar to motorcycles, but the main difference is that they run on three wheels.

They are usually powered by a gasoline engine, but you can also find electric trikes on the market.

There are basically four different types of 3-wheel motorcycles:

Regular trikes: These vehicles are also known as “wheels back trikes” as they have two rear wheels and a single wheel in front. It’s safe to say that the majority of trikes in the U.S. are designed in this style. Besides the factory-built trikes, you can find plenty of trike kits on the market. These affordable kits can turn a regular 2-wheel motorcycle into a trike.

Reverse trikes: These days, reverse or “wheels front trikes” are becoming more popular. As their name implies they come with two front wheels and a single driven rear wheel. There are two main types of these machines, the “rigid” as well as the “leaning” reverse trike. The latter can lean into the turns just like any other ordinary motorcycle. That’s why this design has been gaining in popularity!

Sidecar motorcycles: A sidecar motorcycle consists of two main parts, a regular motorcycle with a 1-wheeled sidecar. This device is connected to the side of the motorcycle and can hold a passenger or some gear. In the past these vehicles were more prevalent, but now you rarely see them on the road.

Outrigger trikes: It might be confusing at first glance but outrigger “trikes” actually feature four wheels instead of three. This is because these vehicles have been converted from regular motorcycles without removing the rear wheel. Instead, they are equipped with a 2-wheel assembly surrounding the original rear wheel of the motorcycle. Finally, these wheels work like the training wheels on children’s bicycles.

Trikes are also categorized as trike scooters and trike motorcycles based on their design.

The majority of trike motorcycles are powered with 600-1,400cc engines, which produce 50-120 HP depending on the make and model. In contrast, trike scooters typically feature smaller, 50-500cc engines and automatic (CVT) transmissions.

In Asian countries, these smaller trikes (called tuk-tuks) are very popular and used as commercial vehicles to transport people or cargo.

Who Invented the Trike?

Although it’s hard to say who invented the trike, the first trike in history that was mass produced was the De Dion-Bouton tricycle.

This vintage trike motorcycle was built in France and hit the market in 1896. During the following five years, this vehicle was the most successful motorized vehicle on the European market.

The De Dion-Bouton 3-wheel motorcycle was actually a tricycle that was supported by a small 211cc engine that produced 1.5 HP. The total weight of the vehicle was less than 176 pounds and was only 36 inches wide.

This model remained in production for many years, but the latest models got a more powerful 955cc, 8 HP engine. Finally, 15,000 units were sold before the model was discontinued in 1904.

It’s a fun fact that the registered top speed record of the De Dion-Bouton trikes is no less than 67.8 mph!

Do They Make Automatic Trikes?

Yes, the good news is that you can find many automatic trikes on the market. As a rule of thumb, all trike scooters are equipped with an automatic transmission. But if you are looking for more power, keep in mind that Can-Am trikes also feature a semi-automatic transmission.

What’s more, the iconic Honda GoldWing is available with a 7-speed automatic (DCT) transmission. So, if you are looking for an automatic trike, you can convert a new GoldWing into a trike with an aftermarket trike kit.

Conclusion – What Does Trike Mean?

The term “trike” usually refers to 3-wheeled motorcycles or trike motorcycle. On the other hand, although they are powered by a human (often a child) pedaling, tricycles are also called trikes.

Trike motorcycles can be categorized as regular trikes, reverse trikes, sidecar motorcycles, or outrigger motorcycles.

Besides trike motorcycles, you can find trike scooters on the market. These innovative 3-wheeler scooters offer great stability and traction. Because of this, they are considered to be great commuting vehicles.

Trikes are available off the shelf, but you can also build one by installing an aftermarket trike kit on a regular motorcycle.



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