Three-wheel motorcycles date to World War I. At that time, Harley-Davidson made side cars for the U.S. military bikes. The advantages offered by motorcycles with an extra wheel include the ability to carry heavier loads for commercial or vacation purposes and enhanced stability. Models vary in wheel configuration, power source and the amount of protection from the elements offered.
Electric Three-Wheel Motorcycles
Electric three-wheel motorcycles are divided into two categories: Some are hybrids, also featuring a gasoline powered engine, and others run solely on electricity. The lithium ion batteries that power electric three-wheelers typically give speeds ranging from 30mph to 105mph, with a range of 25 to 150 miles between charges. All this depends on the size, weight and design of the motorcycle. Some of the hybrids get up to 225 miles per gallon of gas.
Gasoline Powered Three-Wheel Motorcycles
These motorcycles are available in two main styles, those with two front wheels, known as "Tadpoles," and the version with a single front wheel, known as "Deltas." The internal combustion engines that power these motorcycles range from 49cc, the size of a small scooter, to models with advanced engineering features and 999c v-twin engines. For power sports fans, these engines can get up to a large 1700cc touring model. These bikes aid shorter riders who experience difficulties placing one foot on the ground at a full stop.
Enclosed Three-Wheel Motorcycles
One variety of three-wheel motorcycles features extensive weather shielding, forming a cockpitlike cabin around the rider and any passengers. These machines are often described as small cars, but they are technically and legally motorcycles. The added protection from wind and rain allows riders to use their vehicles during poor weather. They are useful for persons with disabilities who can modify the controls to fit their requirements.
Three-Wheel Motorcycle Trikes
Customised motorcycles with long front forks, large engine capacities and large double rear wheels, which are often decorated with extensive artwork, are known as trikes. An industry has grown around their production, with some manufacturers of traditional two-wheel motorcycles introducing their own factory models. These machines, which began as a hobby within biking fraternities, have become more popular with the general public and gained a measure of respectability with their feats of engineering, after being featured on a TV series.
Commercial Three-Wheel Motorcycles
The advantages of three-wheel motorcycles, including extra stability and the ability to carry larger loads, make them perfect for adaptation into small commercial vehicles. Modifications include the addition of a "flatbed" style area to carry cargo that fits behind the rider's single seat and rests on the rear two wheels. In Asia and India, these machines serve as budget taxis. U.S. traffic police and the Postal Service have tested or used three-wheel motorcycles as a means of transport for their employees.
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