photography by the author and Brian Rathjen
[This 2009 Harley-Davidson Tri Glide Ultra Classic Road Test was originally published in the December 2009 issue of Rider magazine]
Aftermarket trike conversions have been around for many years, but now you can pop down to your friendly Harley-Davidson dealer and buy the new 2009 Tri Glide, the first factory-produced trike on the market—at least in the last 36 years, as Harley quit making its Servi-Car in 1973. To create the Tri Glide, Harley struck a deal with Lehman Trikes about three years ago. John Lehman has been building conversion kits for Harleys and other motorcycles for more than 20 years. The Lehman factory in Spearfish, South Dakota, receives the front half of an Electra Glide from Harley’s plant in York, Pennsylvania, and adds the rear half.
The frame is reinforced as, sitting at the curb, the Tri Glide weighs the better part of 1,200 pounds. A GVWR of 1,700 pounds means you can load it up with more than 500 pounds of people and gear, though that makes the optional reverse gear a good idea. The Tri Glide Ultra Classic has the conventional Harley Tour Pak, holding 2 cubic feet of stuff, while below is a trunk with 4.5 cubic feet of space. A new FLHXXX Street Glide model is available sans Tour Pak.
Several significant changes are made to the Glide’s front end in order to ease the effort at the handlebars. A raked triple tree kicks the fork out to 32 degrees, which is extended by almost 1.8 inches, reducing the trail to a bit less than 4 inches, all done to reduce handlebar effort. A steering stabilizer has been added, which does a great job of keeping front-end chatter down to a minimum. Steering a trike is quite the opposite of a motorcycle, and a lot more strenuous. I put a lot of miles on the Tri during the Americade Rally last June, and it was happily at home at 80 mph on the New York Thruway, but a challenge on back roads in the Catskill Mountains and the Berkshire Hills. The Tri Glide rider will learn to pay attention to those yellow and black “recommended speed” signs.
At the back a splayed swingarm angles out toward the rear wheels, a pair of air-adjustable Showa units absorbing the shocks and providing good comfort. The back wheels are 15 inches in diameter, 5 inches wide, with a pair of Hayes disc brakes effectively slowing the trike down. The three-track design means that when you see a dead skunk lying in your lane, and an approaching vehicle prevents you from moving to the opposite lane, you will hit the corpse. I did. And when there are potholes in the road it is very hard to avoid them with all three wheels.
The Tri Glide is powered by Harley’s 103-cubic-inch motor, which generates some 70 horsepower at the rear wheels, and 80 lb-ft of torque. The standard six-speed transmission is used, but the final belt drive ratio is a bit lower to suit the heavier vehicle, with the rear sprocket having 70 teeth instead of the two-wheeler’s 68. At 60 mph in sixth the engine is turning 2,300 rpm, and it averaged 32 mpg for the 1,800-mile test.
Harley is selling this Tri Glide Ultra Classic under the “touring” designation, and it fits that criteria well. It is comfortable, easy to pack, and has all the juice anybody would need for traveling. The MSRP is about 30 grand, which is a lot of money, but this Tri Glide comes with a two-year warranty and servicing at any Harley dealer.