Revolutionary Harley Trike Has 2 Front Wheels That Lean
The Harley-Lehman Venture Has Been Shrouded In Secrecy
It all started two decades ago when John Lehman's wife Linda wasn't too sure about riding a motorcycle with one of her children in the back. John took the 1981 Honda CB900 into the garage, scavanged a 7.5 inch Chevy Vega differential, hammered, welded and soon Mrs. Lehman was enjoying the wide open country roads of Alberta on her new trike.
This 900 trike started to turn some heads and was quickly sold. This gave John an idea. Why not build trikes fulltime? Starting with a few workers crammed in a tiny work space the trikes started going out the door, the orders continued to pour in, and soon John's company was employing close to 100 people and had two plants: one in his hometown of Westlock, Alberta and another just south of the border in Spearfish, South Dakota.
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Lehman Trikes became a market leader and even established its own Owner's Group with a full slate of events, but on the first of September, 2006 a press release was issued that made jaws drop to the ground across motorcycleland. Lehman had signed an agreement to build trikes that would be sold directly in the dealerships of, and would carry the brand name of, Harley Davidson!
This was momentous news for several reasons, the most significant ones being that not only Lehman had managed to do what no company since Buell had done, become an independent that ended up producing and marketing motorcycles directly for Harley, but it also marked Harley's first foray into three wheeled vehicles for several decades.
Since that September press release, both Lehman and Harley have gone completely mum about the deal. They were obviously up to something that would shake up the market, but what?
Then some intrepid journalist dug up a patent application by Harley Davidson for a three wheeled vehicle, accompanied by a few sketches. The images did not show the expected design which Lehman had been producing for years, and even Harley had produced in their old police trikes, which was two wheels in the rear, and ont in the front. This sketch was more of a three wheeled design with two in the front, one in the rear, somewhat similar to the Bombardier Spyder covered in my CanAm Hub, but designed to lean like a motorcycle or a Dutch Carver... or at least a Carver going backwards!
Actually, most Harley enthusiasts will easily lose bar bets on this question, but Harley Davidson did market a vehicle with the two in front, one in the rear configuration, albeit for a very short time around 1985. Harley bought Trihawk and for a while had this Lotus Seven-looking thing taking up space in the dealerships until they realized that at the MSRP of $12,995 (which at the time would have bought you about two Honda CRX cars), these curiosities were going to be gathering dust for a very long time, so they disappeared never to be seen again.
So, will this "thing" that looks like a Formula 1 front end grafted onto a SuperGlide see the light of day? No one at Harley or Lehman is talking. And that usually means yes.
Personally, I see this current design as a complete aberration. I have nothing against the concept overall, and can certainly understand why Harley wants to put the trike's two wheels up front as the inherent design is much more stable in hard cornering than two wheels in the back. If it were based on a VRod, I'd be much more amenable to it, as those models are the ones on the "cutting edge." But just grafting on a very complex, high tech and leaning/racing car front end on a SuperGlide is the definition of incoherence. The two styles just clash and look like it was put together in some demented engineering nerd's garage.
Perhaps the patent application was just to cover some of the internal mechanicals that allow the vehicle to tilt, and it will end up being powered by a VRod or other drivetrain. That new Hayabusa V8 looks tasty and it might be fun to ride a 2.8 Litre 455 HP Trike!!! I can only hope that Harley decides to go in any powertrain direction other than with the Big Twins, because as it sits this may be one very technologically advanced, but real Ugly Hawg!