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Re-imagining a Harley-Davidson Trike

Freewheeler, Trike Market in America and the Big Players

by Ujjwal Dey
3/16/2017


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Is Trike a reality? Do people prefer to buy a trike instead of a motorcycle or a car? What possessed Harley-Davidson management to venture into Trike business again after the ancient Harley-Davidson Servi-Car which was designed during the Great Depression of 1930s. Actually the 45 Servi-Car was one of the longest running models.


Servi-Car was a three-wheeled utility motorcycle manufactured by Harley-Davidson in production from 1932 to 1975. It allowed towing of cars for delivery to customers and hence available with a tow bar at the front and a large 60 Ah battery. The Servi-Car was designed for the road conditions of the day, where surface roads might still be crude and unpaved. They became particularly popular with the police departments, some of which still used Servi-Cars into the 1990s.

 

 
The 1930's Harley-Davidson Servicar
The 1930's Harley-Davidson Servicar

 
So is Trike better than a car? Or is it a better form of motorcycle?

 

The 21st century saw the American behemoth Harley-Davidson jump into the Trike bandwagon once more, but for different and varied reasons. Harley-Davidson Tri Glide Ultra Classic was introduced in 2009. It has an air-cooled OHV V-twin engine, 6-speed manual with optional electric reverse. In 2015, they rebranded their Trike model as the Harley-Davidson Freewheeler. The target market for them are motorcycle riders who are experiencing health problems due to aging or injuries and to female riders. Reverse is now a standard feature on Harley Trike. Freewheeler adds hippie style with its mini ape hanger handlebars and bobtail fenders for a low profile.

 

Currently, in 2017, Harley-Davidson offers two brands of Trikes:

1.     Freewheeler

2.     TriGlide Ultra

 

Who buys these things? What is it used for? Do people tour cross country on a Trike? Do they travel alone or with a pillion? What is the benefit? What is the utility of a Trike? Why buy a Trike? Can you expect new customers for Trikes or focus on old aged motorcyclists to start buying Trikes? Are women riders empowered with a Trike? Do trikes offer a new experience? Is there a trike-culture? Is there a preference for a Trike over 2-wheelers and 4-wheelers? Why are there so many new big brands such as Campagna, Polaris, BRP (Bombardier Recreational Products), Vanderhall, etc. making and marketing Trikes? Why are established automotive market leaders such as Toyota and Honda making electric trikes?

 

 
 

Harley-Davidson’s official website is quite empty regarding Trike experience. It’s almost as if the Harley Freewheeler is a black sheep or a step-son forced upon the family.

 

Starting at the price of $26,339 it is intimidating to even think of buying a Harley Davidson Freewheeler instead of the various beautiful motorcycles listed by their 2017 catalog. Freewheeler is a stripped-down, hot rod style on an easy-handling frame that lets you roll with the confidence of three wheels. Harley-Davidson is aiming at Trikes being the preferred choice for anyone not confident on two-wheels. The branding and marketing strategy is limited and does not aimed at exploring the Trike experience and the Trike industry.

 

However, the design and build of Harley-Davidson Freewheeler is definitely eye-catching and powerful. It is a good trike ready to go as soon as you leave the dealership. It is sturdy, fully customizable and of great value for money compared to the costs of building a custom trike from scratch in your garage or with your local custom-builder.

 

You get classic cruiser lines and styling details, like bobtail rear fenders, slash cut pipes, chrome headlight nacelle, 12-inch mini ape hangers and Enforcer aluminum wheels. You also get enough cargo space to hold two full-face helmets. The acceleration is instant thanks to the low-end torque of the all-new Milwaukee-Eight 107-inch engine. And the 49mm front forks and adjustable rear suspension make the ride smooth. They say good things come in threes, and Freewheeler is the proof.

 

Freewheeler also offers a quick throttle response easily-adjustable emulsion rear shocks, the massive stopping power of Reflex dual disc linked Brembo brakes, Daymaker LED headlamps and fog lamps, brighter turn signals and brake lights, the beefy steering head and front forks. This will enable you as a rider to pass faster, stop quicker, take curves tighter, and see and be seen better on highways.

 

 
 

So, understanding the Harley-Davidson Trike offering called Freewheeler or Tri-Glide Ultra, we can say that it is:

1.     Aimed at the growing Touring community

2.     Aimed at offering motorcycle road experience with the safety of 3 wheels

3.   Aimed at buyers not interested in an expensive custom-build trike from scratch in a garage.

      4. Aimed at the disabled vet or injured rider who wants to remain in the game
      5. Aimed at the touring couple who are growing concerned about the weight of big touring bikes, so wish to shift to a solid free-standing base. 

 

Trikes allow a rider to experience the freedom of riding in bad weather or on uncertain roads. Trikes came into existence as custom-built comfort for people with specific needs. It's proven that some trikes out-handle 4-wheeled performance vehicles. They can allow riders significantly more carrying capacity. They afford the custom builder and different platform to add features to, customize the entire chassis, or go hot rod without the cost of a 4-wheeler. . You have to let go of the mentality that suggests Trikes are for certain safety concerned motorcyclists. It is actually for motorcyclists who want to expand their experience on the road with the unique utility of a Trike. This experience is different, it is unique. You have to ride it to understand it. Give it a go. Test ride a Harley Davidson Freewheeler because it is a wonderful Trike and not because it is a Harley nor because the salesman wants you to feel safe on the road.
 

 

Analogy:

I like to write everything with a ballpoint pen. I always use a pen for writing. But when I want to draw and sketch, I naturally crave a pencil. And I start using a pencil when I wish to draw a cartoon or a diagram. Sometimes I wish to paint on a canvas. I don’t use a pen and I don’t use a pencil. I use a paintbrush. It’s the natural choice for me for canvas painting. Similarly, Motorcycles, Trikes and Cars are THREE DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES for you to explore and adopt as per your need and preference and your lifestyle.

 
 

 

At $34,339 starting price, a TriGlide Ultra is a luxury for those who can afford it. It certainly is unbeatable on features and pricing. TriGlide is a dream piece of machinery with the classic design and engine-heart of Harley-Davidson through the ages. I am indeed criticizing their marketing / advertising effort but the product itself is mind-blowing awesomeness. There’s more than an added wheel at work here.

 

Infotainment on a TriGlide Ultra is five star luxury on wheels. When they go to work on the infotainment system for a Harley-Davidson Touring motorcycle they follow one simple principle - If you’re going to live in the saddle of a top-end touring bike, you deserve better sound than most people have in their living rooms. More sound. Purer sound. Big, full-color touch screens. Switches that are located where you intuitively want them to be and can reach without removing your hands from the grips. Voice activation for your music, phone and GPS. Think of it this way. Back in the day there was nothing wrong with the sound of Johnny crackling out of a dashboard Philco. But what the latest infotainment systems do for your ears, and eyes, is infinitely better.

 

So, this time, tell your local Harley-Davidson Dealer that Bikernet.com sent you to check out their Trikes because they are a whole new world of experiences that you never knew was possible on the road.

 

Trikes are here to stay. We will be exploring the Trike Experience and the Trike Adventure in more detail in upcoming feature articles. Ride a trike and tell us your story at support@happymen.org or at bandit@bikernet.com or just drop us a note in the comments below.

 
 

 

SPECS FOR FREEWHEELER

 

Pricing:

Vivid Black $26,339

Color $26,839

Custom Color $27,939

Security Option $395

California Emissions $200

Freight $856

 

DIMENSIONS

Length 103.3 in.

Seat Height, Laden 26.2 in.

Seat Height, Unladen 7 27.5 in.

Ground Clearance 5 in.

Rake (steering head) (deg) 26

Trail 3.96 in.

Wheelbase 65.7 in.

Tires, Front Specification MT 130/60B19 M/C 61H

Tires, Rear Specification P205/65R15

Fuel Capacity 6 gal.

Oil Capacity (w/filter) 5.2 qt.

Weight, As Shipped 1,062 lb.

Weight, In Running Order 1,096 lb.

Luggage Capacity -Volume 2 cu ft

 

ENGINE

Engine Milwaukee-Eight 107

Bore 3.937 in.

Stroke 4.374 in.

Displacement 107 cu in

Compression Ratio 10.0:1

Fuel System Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)

 

DRIVETRAIN

Primary Drive Chain, 34/46 ratio

Gear Ratios (overall) 1st 10.534

Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd 7.302

Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd 5.423

Gear Ratios (overall) 4th 4.392

Gear Ratios (overall) 5th 3.741

Gear Ratios (overall) 6th 3.157

 

CHASSIS

Exhaust Shorty slash down-style chrome finish mufflers

Wheels, Front Type Enforcer Cast Aluminum

Wheels, Rear Type Enforcer Cast Aluminum

Brakes, Caliper Type 6 Piston fixed front with 4-31.75 mm frontPistons and 2-25.4 mm linked rear pistons, 31.75mm single piston floating rear

Parking Brake Foot actuated dual parking brake

 

PERFORMANCE

Engine Torque Testing Method J1349

Engine Torque  110.6 ft-lb

Engine Torque (rpm) 3,500

Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy 43 mpg

 

ELECTRIC

Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps  High beam, running lights, battery, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, cruise control, security symbol (optional), gear indicator, low fuel warning, reverse, park brake, miles to empty.

Gauges Large speedometer and tachometer with wide numbers; large fuel and volt gauges with wide numbers; display features odometer, trip A, trip B, range to empty, and gear indicator; and larger telltale indicators, including new reverse indicator light .

 



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Reader Comments


I have often been curious about a trike. I've ridden and owned every member of the Harley family except the trike...may be my next bike. Maybe Harley will offer a CVO Road Glide Version!!

Johnny
Humble, TX
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Editor Response That would be awesome wouldn't it. CVO Trike. Wow. We will feed the idea into their H-D heads.
Ujjwal Dey
With all do respect, you failed to mention the trike conversion business that has been very successfully converting thousands of new and used motorcycles to trikes for the past 25 years through dealers across the country. These are not custom made trikes out of your garage.
In fact, companies like Roadsmith trikes (which I admittedly am associated with) have been offering independent rear suspension and many other features and options for riders that want a smoother riding, better handling trike with more options than the Triglide or Freewheeler has offered.
I understand the popularity and ease of purchase of the factory trikes, but those that do their research find that a company specializing in motorcycle trikes and only motorcycle trikes always does it better.
You should have given your readers a better overview of the industry not just a promo for a certain model.
If you'd like a comprehensive overview of the industry I'd be happy to talk with you. Our company has been building trikes for 45 years now.

Doug Lindholm
White Bear Lake, MN
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Editor Response We would love to hear more from you on Roadsmith Trikes - they look pretty and fun.
I believe the tow bar on the Indian dispatch and the Harley Servi-car was used for towing the trike with the car and then allowing the deliveryman to return to the garage by riding the trike. Hence the tow bar being on the front of the trike.

Sam
TX
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Editor Response Glad to know

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