Lehman Trikes cleverly proclaims itself "Leader of the Three World," starting business in the early 1980s in Alberta, Canada. In 2004, Lehman opened a U.S. facility in Spearfish, S.D. I spent a couple days on a Lehman Renegade trike conversion of a 2008 Harley-Davidson FLH Electra Glide Ultra Classic touring bike. I first viewed the eight-minute video that is shown to demo-ride participants. It did a good job of explaining the experience, such as that the trike's front end will wiggle over bumps at low speeds, that I would have to muscle it in slow turns, and that with its dual rear disc brakes (it has Wilwood 2-piston calipers on automotive tires) the braking force available from the rear would be huge.
The full fiberglass Renegade body includes fenders and a lower 5-cubic-foot trunk. It also utilizes the Harley TourPak trunk that comes with the bike.
Most everything from the seat forward (except for the fiberglass "Hog EFX" running boards) is Harley-Davidson, and most everything to the rear is Lehman. The bike also carried the company's proprietary swingarm with internal solid axle.
After a brief spin around the parking lot, I was soon out on the road with the Renegade. There, I immediately found that while the controls (brakes, clutch and shifter) work exactly the same, a trike is vastly different from a motorcycle. With the paired rear wheels, the handlebar must be pushed and pulled forcefully to change direction.
While I applaud Lehman's "no-lean suspension," its body still leans to the outside of the turn (like a car's), so the rider has to compensate by leaning to the inside.
Because the rear wheels are both driving the machine forward, potholes and bumps that slow one rear wheel relative to the other will lever the front wheel to the side, causing headshake. This phenomenon diminishes as speed increases. I soon learned that tentative riding allowed the trike to push me around, but that things came together once I started to push the bike around with confidence.
Soon I was whipping the trike around some backroads, yet I was still concerned about that understeer. While riding, I was always aware that I was dealing with a 1,140-pound machine with a lot of additional rolling friction and wind resistance. It requires more throttle and clutch slippage to start from a standstill, and if you plan to carry a passenger and pull a trailer, you might consider gearing it down by changing sprockets. In a solo day ride of mostly highway miles at around the legal limit in hilly terrain, our Lehman Harley conversion turned 32 mpg, while the Electra Glide Classic I'd recently tested turned 38.4 mpg in more aggressive riding conditions. And yes, braking force is huge.
The Renegade on display at Daytona Bike Week.
To have your own bike converted, take it to one of Lehman's nearly 100 dealers or to the plant in Spearfish, S.D. Their techs will disassemble the rear portion of the motorcycle and replace it with their own swingarm, rear axle and bodywork. The differential allows the rear wheels to rotate independently relative to each other while cornering.
Lehman accommodates the bike's stock drive system, meaning a Harley or Victory can retain its belt final drive and a Gold Wing conversion can retain its driveshaft.
A conversion includes one color of your choice for paint—a two-tone treatment is extra. The conversion price starts at about $13,000 beyond the cost of the motorcycle you provide. Our bike carried a full range of options, including the Hog EFX wings under the footboards, light bar, laced wheels, trailer hitch, trunk carpeting and reverse gear. We found the carpeted, 5-cubic-foot trunk extremely handy.
In any other situation in which the trike has to be maneuvered backward, you'll be wishing for help. One option I highly recommend is reverse. Lehman has partnered with Baker Drivetrain, which manufactures the F6R reverse kit, a modification to the stock Harley-Davidson six-speed transmission that first appeared in 2006. With the engine running, the rider flips a switch that electrically allows the reverse to be engaged. Pull in the clutch, shift to first gear, then shift down again. You feel the transmission engage another gear—reverse —and when you let out the clutch, the bike begins to move backward under engine power, just as it would in any forward gear. When backing is completed, the rider pulls in the clutch, flips the switch, lifts the shift lever with the left toe and is immediately in first gear.
This motorcyclist's final advice? Take a test ride yourself.
As for this motorcyclist's view of triking, while it's certainly "easier" and more relaxing to ride a trike in terms of having your feet up all the time, I was surprised by the high amount of steering effort and movement required to turn it. Several companies offer raked triple clamps that purportedly will ease steering effort. Comfort was extraordinary, like driving a small convertible automobile. My primary question is regarding the expectation that triking will draw older riders who want an easier ride. Mounting a trike is not much easier (although there's no balance issues to deal with), and steering at low speeds requires significantly more force than leaning a motorcycle. In my brief experience, I found that what effort I saved by not having to support the bike at stops was expended in steering effort. So what's my advice? Attend a rally or visit a dealership and take a test ride yourself. For more information, visit LehmanTrikes.com