Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide


Trike for Oz?

There’s good news and there’s bad news

Did you watch the inauguration of US President Barack Obama on TV? If you did, you might have noticed that leading the way was a police motorcycle escort riding a trike. This was not, however, a kit bike. Ridden by Lieutenant Scott Fear, Commander of the US Park Police Motorcycle Unit, it was a 2009 Harley-Davidson Police Tri-Glide Ultra Classic.

Why would H-D add a three-wheeler to the range? As so often, the answer is “the baby boomers”. Take a look at the demographic wave that’s going to break in the next few years. A bunch of the boomers are reaching the age when, frankly, they just can’t hold the old Electra Glide up any more. What to do? Harley’s answer is simple: supply them with a bike that won’t fall over.

Specifically, the answer is the Tri-Glide. It is based on a new chassis designed especially for this three-wheel application rather than a bolt-on rear like a lot of kits. The Tri-Glide offers the classic styling and popular touring features of the top-of-the-line Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide in a vehicle available from Harley-Davidson dealers and covered by a two-year warranty.

Changes to the front-end geometry enhance steering control by reducing steering effort up to 25 per cent. The forks have been lengthened by 1.775 inches compared to the regular Touring motorcycle and rake is increased from 29.25 degrees to 32 degrees. A steering damper controls potential wobbles and minimizes bumps and other unwanted road input while turning.

Harley-Davidson has designed a new rear-axle assembly for the Tri-Glide that utilizes an aluminium centre section with steel axle tubes. The good news is that the Tri-Glide retains the high-strength and low-maintenance advantages of belt final-drive and the smooth operation of a rubber-cushioned, compensated rear drive. The rear suspension features dual air-adjustable rear shock absorbers.

The Tri-Glide is powered by the Twin Cam 103 vee-twin engine with Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI), which means there will be no shortage of torque to get the extra weight up and boogieing. It retains the six-speed cruise-drive transmission standard on Harley-Davidson’s Touring range. An electric reverse integrated with the rear differential assembly and engaged from the handlebar is an optional extra and the Tri-Glide has a lever-actuated, integrated parking brake.

The styling is nice. It looks a bit like a Lehman trike kit, but Harley-Davidson’s stylists gave the Tri-Glide clean lines that go well with the existing Ultra bodywork. There is a lot of storage space, although not quite as much as in the old Servi-Car. The boot and Tour Pak are rated to carry more than 36kg. The 16-inch front wheel is three inches wide and carries a MT90B16 motorcycle tyre while the 15-inch rear wheels are five inches wide and are fitted with P205/65R15 tyres.

Forward of the rear wheels, the Tri-Glide retains the style and features of the Ultra and cruise control is standard. The Tri-Glide Ultra Classic will be offered in three colors: Vivid Black, Dark Blue Pearl and Red Hot Sunglo.

So what’s the bad news? Well, Harley-Davidson badly underestimated the domestic demand for the Tri-Glide. Even at $US30,000 the factory will be working flat-out to meet American demand for at least a year before they can look at exports. The trikes will also have to pass ADRs, which is not a done deal by any means. It seems that they might run into barriers built into the rules to stop people from registering Asian-style Bemos…

We’ll just have to keep holding our bikes up for a while longer.