I own a Harley Street Glide and a Harley Tri-Glide. For those who do not know, a Street Glide has two wheels and, as demonstrated by its name, the Tri-Glide has three. For obvious reasons the Tri-Glide is more stable—I don’t fall over near as often when I ride the Tri-Glide verses when I ride the Street Glide.
Riding the Tri-Glide on a gravel road is less likely to increase my level of stress verses riding a gravel road on two wheels. For the experienced rider the gravel road will always get your undivided attention and often we will seek ways to find another route that is less hazardous. If you are an inexperienced rider, one who does not give the gravel road the respect it deserves, then you will soon learn firsthand a gravel road is unforgiving and will demand respect right after you come nose to gravel to its intolerant nature.
If you weigh the pros and cons when comparing two wheels to three you will often determine the three wheeled variant of the motorcycle is safer. So why do I enjoy riding the Street Glide over the Tri-Glide? It’s not like I do not enjoy a ride while on the Tri-Glide—I do. But the Street Glide is more fun even though it can be more dangerous. The term “dangerous” is relative—if a cager (a car) hits me while on either the Street Glide or Tri-Glide the result is going to be the same so it’s not like the survivability is greater while on three wheels if you encounter a distracted driver.
So, what is the real difference here? When I come to a stop on the Street Glide I must cater the approach and put my feet down when I stop. If you don’t put your feet down then gravity takes over and you find yourself in a very embarrassing situation. When I come to stop sign on a Tri-Glide all I need to do is stop. I can do whatever I want with my feet and the result is the same—gravity has no bearing on my vertical stature. When I am riding in a straight line there is no difference between a two or three wheel motorcycle. Really the only difference, while riding in a straight line, between two and three wheels, is the location within your lane where you ride. One two wheels I favor the left side of the lane, on three a necessity to ride in the center of your lane is warranted—no major issue here.
So, what’s the difference? Why do I prefer the Street Glide over the Tri-Glide? This past weekend I went for a short ride to meet up with some of my fellow Hoka Hey riders and, at the last minute, I decided to ride the Tri-Glide rather than the Street Glide. Throughout the 650 miles I kept wishing I had taken the Street Glide and I began to formulate a reason why. I think it all boils down to curves.
On three wheels you must force the bike to take the curve. If you want to go right you push with your left hand and pull with your right. If you want to go left you push with your right hand and pull with your left—it requires effort. Not a considerable amount of effort, but effort none the less. Plus, while going through that curve centrifugal force is trying to push you off the bike and you have to apply lower and mid body muscles to keep yourself centered on the bike. One two wheels the execution of going through a curve is virtually effortless. You lean and the bike follows. Centrifugal force, rather than push you off the bike, acts to solidify your connection with the ride. It’s all about the riding experience. Do you and the bike act in unison, or are you forcing the bike to do what you want.
Sure, a three wheeled motorcycle may be more stable and thereby more secure, but it lacks maneuverability. It’s like an airplane—you can have stability or quick maneuverability, but you cannot have both. Some prefer stability and that’s fine. I’m not trying to degrade anyone who prefers a three wheeled motorcycle. I’m just saying I think I prefer maneuverability—three wheels might be less hazardous, but, in my mind, it’s not near as much fun.
So, there you have it. The world of two verses three wheels according to Hoka Hey Rider 779.
Regardless of what you ride, ride safe.