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Revolutionary Harley Trike Has 2 Front Wheels That Lean

Updated on March 20, 2011

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.

This patent drawing shows the maximum lean angle
This patent drawing shows the maximum lean angle
Only from the side view can you confirm just how out of place the Big Twin is in this design
Only from the side view can you confirm just how out of place the Big Twin is in this design
The result of a collision between a SuperGlide and Lewis Hamilton's Formula-One Mercedes McLaren
The result of a collision between a SuperGlide and Lewis Hamilton's Formula-One Mercedes McLaren
When Harley announced its joint venture with Lehman Trikes, everyone expected something like this!
When Harley announced its joint venture with Lehman Trikes, everyone expected something like this!
Harley's new trike is designed along the lines of the Carver from Holland, except backwards!
Harley's new trike is designed along the lines of the Carver from Holland, except backwards!
The sweetest engine in the world. Nowhere else can you find something as compact, light and powerful as these two Hayabusas welded together to produce 455 HP! What a trike motor!
The sweetest engine in the world. Nowhere else can you find something as compact, light and powerful as these two Hayabusas welded together to produce 455 HP! What a trike motor!
The long gone and totally forgotten TriHawk, Harley's last and very short-lived foray into the two-in-the-front trike market.
The long gone and totally forgotten TriHawk, Harley's last and very short-lived foray into the two-in-the-front trike market.

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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!

 

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    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      8 years ago from Toronto

      Except they'll never see the road. Sigh... :(

    • profile image

      wicklesscandles 

      8 years ago

      With the great gas they will get, there should be a decent market for them.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      8 years ago from Toronto

      Yes, it would, but it seems like a pipe dream the way HD is going these days. Very sad. :(

    • mspearman profile image

      mspearman 

      8 years ago from Newark, Ohio

      These are awesome, but it's sad that Harley can't produce these in this financial climate. I'd hate to think of what they would sell for.

      If Piaggio can make this MP3 - http://bestrideforyou.com/piaggio-mp3-3-wheeled-sc... do what it does, Harley's version of a leaning trike would be phenomenal.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      8 years ago from Toronto

      The reason CanAm went with the rear single wheel design and HD was considering it is due to safety. The rear single is far more steady in hard cornering than a front single trike.

    • profile image

      Sergeant 

      8 years ago

      I have an old school VW trike with a springer front end. It works fine and rides great. That is the style HD needs to produce. All these bikes look like they are for people who are too lazy or lack the skill to ride. They can stay in there cars. I'll ride a real trike.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      8 years ago from Toronto

      Can't help you in your quest for a similar type of bike, and neither can Harley. This Hub is 3 years old and since that time the once mighty HD is now on its financial knees. They don't have the $$$ to engage in any truly momentous projects such as this! Very sad.

    • profile image

      Joe Hawkins 

      8 years ago

      I checked out this large V-Twin leaning 2 front wheel trikes and if you use the V-Rod water cooled engine and make a fancier covering on the front end and still keep the price at about 15K to 18K tops there is a market here. I would buy this in a flash. The 2 front wheels are much safer than the 2 back wheels and if it leans it can get better traction in a turn. With the low seats of the chopper style bike you also have a lower center of gravity than a modified scooter would have. Also the horse power is much better with the V-Rod back end plus that giant back tire of the V-Rod is perfect for pushing this baby and you can handle a larger trailer and have it like a full dresser. It is exactly what I am hunting for. I want to switch to Harley but my wife is afraid of a 2 wheel bike and I do not trust the trikes with the 2 wheels on the back. This looks like it has a wide wheel base in the front also which means even more stability that that Can-Am Spyder has. Those Spyders are way over priced for the power and stability they have at present. They need a wider wheel base and more horse power. Also I love the sound of a large V-Twin engine rumbling and vibrating along. I had a Honda Shadow 1100 with the sportster Look and it was with Jardin Pipes and it rumbled and sounded like a Harley. But it was water cooled which is why I never bought a Harley. Everyone I know that has those air cooled V-Twins has nothing but problems and is always breaking down and needed repairs. So you use that V-Rod on the back of that design and I will love to buy it. I was looking for someone that makes a kit to put on the front of the V-Rod to make it just like that when I found this page. I have looked in all kinds of Motorcycle magazines for such a kit and have yet to find one. It should only run a few thousand for such a kit to modify a V-Rod. Anyone see one of those out there that can work on any water cooled V-Twin cycle, Harley, Kawaski, Suzuki, Honda, You name it?n Let me know if you do hawk at sfo.com

    • profile image

      Neognosis 

      8 years ago

      Yes, Piaggio already does this as a scooter, the MP3:

      http://www.piaggiousa.com/scooters.php#/views/Piaggio%20MP3%20500

      I don't really care how it looks, I think it would be great to see an american motor company take some risks and do something new(ish).

    • adorababy profile image

      adorababy 

      8 years ago from Syracuse, NY

      I have never seen a prototype that of a motorcycle that leans as much as the one shown in here. This is indeed revolutionary.

    • profile image

      JoeH 

      8 years ago

      Doesn't Piaggio or some other italian manufacturer build a trike with 2 in the front that leans in the corners? More an overgrown scooter i think, but I know I've seen them. Personally, I figure two wheels has been good enough since bicyles started showing up so I'll stick with the proven design. Just seems like more stuff to break and have to pay to replace to me. It would have o be on the market for 4 or 5 years and proven to be dead reliable and safe for me to consider.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      8 years ago from Toronto

      Thanks!

    • P Morgan profile image

      P Morgan 

      8 years ago

      Great pics!

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      9 years ago from Toronto

      Will do! Thanks!

    • profile image

      John 

      9 years ago

      Wow men .... your hubs and those bikes are really great ....

      post some more and keep the good work up ....

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      9 years ago from Toronto

      Folks, in the 2 years since I wrote this Hub, Lehman has just manufactured a very conventional trike for Harley, and this model has not shown any signs of life. Undoubtedly it's being delayed due to Harley's current very serious financial troubles. We can only hope and pray that it will be in their 2011 lineup!

    • johnr54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 

      9 years ago from Texas

      I had never seen that kind of front end on a bike. My brother inlaw sells some bikes, I'll have to send this along to him.

    • profile image

      Chris 

      9 years ago

      I'm very interested to see how it comes out.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      Butt ugly, especially if they try to shoehorn a traditional big twin in there!

    • joaojeronimo profile image

      joaojeronimo 

      10 years ago from Maputo, Mozambique

      I don't think it will be very eye appealing lol...

    • AndyBaker profile image

      AndyBaker 

      10 years ago from UK

      What a great bike !

    • profile image

      Ted L. Smith 

      10 years ago

      I think Harley should build trikes with one wheel in the front and with one wheel in the back and put them on the market for a smaller price. Not only would it bring lots of sailes but it would attract more people to start looking at the Harley products that has almost over priced themselves right out of business.

    • flread45 profile image

      Frank 

      10 years ago from Montana

      It should prevent a lot of wrecks

    • profile image

      sledmaster 

      11 years ago

      The Harley version is aimed at the skill set of a current bike rider. The Cam-Am Spyder is aimed at the skill set of a current snowmobile and/or ATV rider. Thus the difference, IMO. Harley is looking to provide a stable motorcycle, where Cam-Am is looking to provide a sled/ATV that is street legal, with wheels. The true question is to find riders who own both bikes and ATVs/sleds and see which they would prefer. There are a large number of ATV and snowmobile riders who do not own a street bike, they are enough for Can-Am to do well (ATVS are like 900,000 units per year, sleds are down to 125,000? from 250,000 ten years a go per year?) These riders can hop on the Spyder and instantly feel "at home", where a bike rider looks at the Spyder and wonders if the devil had something to do with the way it corners!

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      11 years ago from Toronto

      Hi, CW. When you look at the Can Am Spyder's similar layout they have had to implement several very expensive and complex high-tech innovations to keep their non-tilting trike from flipping over in corners. Harley/Lehman's design is far more elegant as it utilizes the same dynamics as a two wheeled motorcycle, not to mention that we're all used to leaning in the corners and going around a curve bolt upright just feels weird!

    • profile image

      C W BLANCHARD 

      11 years ago

      BUT WHY THE LEAN ? BETTER FUEL MPG, OR MORE STABLE, IS IS A MORE SAFE COST -THAN NOW STYLE ? SCARY TO ME .

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      11 years ago from Toronto

      Hi, Roaddog! Way ahead of ya!

      https://hubpages.com/autos/CanAm_Spyder_3-Wheel_Cr...

      I had that hub up weeks before this one! :) Ride on!!!!!

    • profile image

      roaddog2 

      11 years ago

      can-am roadster is the one I'm betting on check it out trysyder.com can-ambrp,com

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