What is a trike? Do you need a motorcycle license for trike?

What is a trike? Whilst trikes may mean a three-wheeled bicycle to you, there are several different types available. Each type of trike has differences in the way it performs and the benefits it provides.

The image shown above is a classic childrens trike, not interested in these? Keep reading. I’ll be covering recumbent trikes (deltas & tadpoles) and several other types!

What is a trike?

A three-wheeled bicycle, or tricycle, is commonly referred to as a “trike.” Besides having three wheels rather than two, trikes sit their riders lower to the ground than a conventional bicycle, this provides a more comfortable riding position.

What is a trike

Normally you can classify a trike into one of three categories, recumbent trikes, semi-recumbent trike and upright trikes. However, within these categories, there are trikes built for different tricycling disciplines.

History of trikes

The tricycle’s invention traces back to the mid-to-late 17th century[1], when Stephan Farffler (a disabled man living in Germany) wanted to design a tool that would allow him to maintain his mobility. Stephan’s idea was to create a three-wheeled vehicle that hand cranks would power.

Between its inception and the 1870s, the tricycle evolved in several different ways, from a three-wheeled vehicle powered by pedals to a vehicle with two small wheels in the rear and a larger drive wheel on the front.

In 1877, a rotary chain tricycle appeared on the scene in England, and the Leicester Safety Tricycle Company patented the first front-steering tricycle in 1881[2].

In the 1970s, drift trikes were invented by Marty Spellman, but their popularity didn’t spread outside of his city in California, USA, for many years. Drift trikes took off during the 2000s when alternative and extreme sports started being featured on television.

Drift trikes were modified to have even lower seats, with extra-wide, smooth back tires made from plastic that allowed the rider to slide and drift through turns down steep, twisting mountain roads.

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The people who rode drift trikes often started out longboarding and used some of the same techniques, often standing up in the trike’s seat to make more extreme turns.

Why buy a trike motorcycle?

Trikes initially gained popularity as a way for bikers who could no longer manage a traditional motorcycle to keep riding. They’re still a great fit for seniors, veterans with chronic injuries, disabled riders, or anyone who’s afraid of falling on a two-wheeled motorcycle but wants to ride.

For touring long distances, a trike’s extra storage capacity and low-fatigue riding style make them a great option. For bikers who like having a distinctive ride, trikes are eye-catching and look like custom bikes. Some conversion kits allow you to change your bike to a trike set-up without making permanent changes (like drilling holes), so you can switch back.

What is a trike used for?

Trikes are traditionally used as a first bike for children thanks to their stable wheelbase. Many older cyclists also use a trike for recreational cycling, commuting, and a more comfortable transport method than a traditional two-wheeled bicycle.

Most trikes are used for personal transport, just the same way as you’d use a bicycle. However, more recently, specially outfitted trikes have become popular such as drifting trikes.

These trikes are a less viable method of transport and are instead used in drift triking.

Drifting trikes are built differently than other types of trikes and have specialized wheels that allow them to slide and drift more easily.

Drifting trikes have seen a rise in popularity, with companies who promote “adrenaline sports” such as RedBull offering sponsorships and funding events.

Pros and cons of trike motorcycles

What is a trike

Trike motorcycle pros

There are three pros that trike motorcycles offer over more common types of motorcycles. Trike motorcycles are more stable and resist tipping over. Depending on the axle’s width between the paired wheels, they can stand up independently.

Due to the increased size, they typically have more storage space than a comparable two-wheeler. They are less tiring to ride than standard motorcycles since they don’t require as much — or in many cases, any — work to balance.

Trike motorcycle cons

There are three cons to buying a trike motorcycle. Trike motorcycles often cost more than a comparable two-wheeled motorcycle. They’re also physically larger, making them tougher to park, especially in dedicated motorcycle parking. The biggest drawback for motorcycle enthusiasts is that they feel different than riding a two-wheeler.

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Reverse trike models now exist with tilting wheels in the front, allowing the rider to lean more as they would with a typical motorcycle.

How have trikes progressed over the years?

As the tricycle continued to evolve during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it became more popular. The designs streamlined so that the wheels became more similar in size, and the drive-trains became more sophisticated.

Today, e-trikes are becoming popular, which are trikes with an electric motor. This helps riders when they need to power up hills or haul heavy items.

Drift trikes have become more mainstream and are now designed to be as adrenaline-inducing as possible, with some companies adding electric or even gas motors to their ranges.

Drift triking now has a large following and is popular in cities with mountains or steep hills that riders slide and drift down at high speeds. Drift trikes may reach speeds of up to 50mph or more.

Who should use a trike?

People who may not be able to ride a normal bicycle for whatever reason may prefer using a trike because of how comfortable and stable they are.

Trikes are also a great option for children and the elderly, who may be at a higher risk of falling.

If you have to haul heavy goods, a trike may be a good option as well, since many feature large rear baskets.

Do you need a motorcycle license for a trike?

The licensing status for trikes is continuing to evolve in the United States. You might need to get a motorcycle endorsement, a three-wheel endorsement, or a separate license to operate this vehicle.

All states require you to take a basic knowledge and skills test if you’ve never had a motorcycle license or endorsement.

  • In Massachusetts, you must have a motorcycle endorsement to drive trikes, including those that meet the autocycle definition. Standard license requirements typically apply to enclosed trikes, but you might need a 3W endorsement if you ride a three-wheeled motorcycle.
  • If you live in California, Nevada, or South Carolina, you can ride a trike with a standard driver’s license, even though there is a separate two-wheel endorsement.
  • Alaska and Rhode Island may require riders to take tests on two-wheeled motorcycles to earn an endorsement for driving a trike.
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What is a trike

Most states have moved to a three-wheel motorcycle license or endorsement. If you’ve already earned a motorcycle endorsement, you can typically operate a trike without taking a separate class or test.

A trike is a practical way to enjoy a motorcycle experience while providing a simpler ride. Some models come with semi-automatic transmissions, while others give you throttle and foot brakes to make a smoother transition from a car.

Environmental impact of using a trike

Trikes are great for the environment, especially when used instead of a motor vehicle.

Freight trikes that offer a large carrying capacity can be utilised by businesses that would otherwise require a van or car that would produce emissions.

Because trikes provide a way for injured and disabled riders to get outside and exercise, they promote appreciation for the outdoors. In turn, this will have a positive effect on our environment.

Is a trike safer than a motorcycle?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), two-wheeled motorcycles accounted for 91 percent of all motorcycles involved in fatal crashes in 2019. However, two-wheeled motorcycles are still much more common than trikes, so it’s hard to say definitively.

Trikes certainly reduce some of the risks of riding a motorcycle. For example, a trike is harder to drop or roll than a motorcycle, especially for trikes with a two-in-front configuration. That increased stability can make it easier to navigate bad weather or uneven road surfaces. Because of their more prominent profile, trikes can be more visible, which can also improve safety.


What is the difference between a tricycle and a trike?

A three-wheeled bicycle, or tricycle, is commonly referred to as a “trike.” Besides having three wheels rather than two, trikes sit their riders lower to the ground than a conventional bicycle, this provides a more comfortable riding position.

Why are trikes popular?

Like many times mentioned before, a decent number of trike riders usually have a reason for riding on a trike versus a regular 2-wheeled motorcycle. Usually those factors include age, physical strength, and anxiety of over balancing a bike.

What is the point of a trike?

A trike motorcycle comes in two forms, two wheels in the back or two wheels in the front. Both types of trike achieve greater stability and are built for touring with cargo. Trikes are a great choice if you like scenic drives, motorcycle travel or need less body tension with each ride.

Above is information about What is a trike? that we have compiled. Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of Pros and cons of trike motorcycles. Thank you for reading our post.

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