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What Is a Trike Axle?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 23, 2024
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A trike axle is a device used to create a three-wheeled motorcycle (trike). Commonly mounting to a sub-frame designed to fit the specific brand and model of motorcycle that is undergoing the trike conversion, the trike axle uses two axle bearings located on either side of the axle shaft where it connects to the frame. The trike axle also uses an open differential to drive the wheels forward. The axle can be either chain- or drive-shaft powered, with each type of drive system being equally used in the trike conversion and original model lineup. Made of two solid steel shafts with a tapered finish, the axle offers the strength required to create a safe and comfortable ride.

On the typical three-wheeled motorcycle, the rear axle is comprised of two solid steel axle shafts extending outward from an off-centered differential. The differential is commonly of the open type, with an occasional limited slip version offered on high-performance trikes. The open differential on the trike axle allows one tire to receive all of the motor's power while the other tire is in a free-wheeling mode. This allows the trike to drive around corners and turns in the road without attempting to push straight through the turn.

In a trike axle, one tire must be allowed to freewheel or the motorcycle would not be able to negotiate turns without dangerous pushing conditions. With both wheels receiving power from the engine, the trike would attempt to go straight even with the front tire turned completely to the side. This could actually result in the front tire sliding across the pavement as the trike attempts to turn. With a trike axle, the design is often very similar to that of a chain-operated riding lawn mower, where the power is applied to one side of the axle only.

In the high-performance trike axle, a limited slip differential is often used to send equal amounts of power to each rear tire. It also cuts power to one side when the trike enters a cornering situation. Spring clutches within the limited slip differential sense when one tire is attempting to turn faster than the other, as in a cornering situation. When this happens, the trike axle differential unlocks one side of the axle, allowing the tire to spin faster than the other side to comfortably negotiate the corner. In a straight line acceleration condition, the trike axle will apply power equally to both tires, thereby producing the utmost in traction.

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Discussion Comments
By PurpleSpark — On Aug 25, 2011

@cmsmith10- My brother and his wife belong to a motorcycle club that is for what they call "reverse trikes". They bought their reverse trike last year and have traveled across the United States on it.

I think theirs is called a Tri-Rod or something like that. However, they paid more for it than I did for my brand new SUV. It's great if you have the money to spend on it and they have had a great time touring on it, as well.

By cmsmith10 — On Aug 24, 2011

My cousin loves to ride her motorcycle everywhere she goes. She recently had a trike kit added on and it looks great. One reason that she did it was that she now takes her son with her quite often and she just feels more secure. Since that trike offers more support, she felt that was the best safety measure while riding with her son on board.

If I were to ever buy a bike, it would probably be a trike. I have even seen the commercials about the bikes with the two wheels in the front and one in the back. That's kind of weird looking but I could very much see myself riding on the open roads on one of those!

By Mykol — On Aug 24, 2011

We belong to a motorcycle club, and are seeing more motorcycle trikes all the time. Many of the people in our group are over 50 and so I am not surprised by this.

Those that I have talked to really like them. They say they feel more secure when riding them and don't have to worry so much about falling over.

When I have priced them, they sure seem to be a lot more expensive than a motorcycle, but would probably be worth it if you felt that much safer on one.

By honeybees — On Aug 23, 2011

My husband bought a trike kit and converted a Harley Davidson motorcycle in to a trike. He feels much more comfortable on a trike, and it does look really nice.

I enjoy riding on the back, but find that riding on the trike is not nearly as comfortable as the Gold Wing motorcycle we had before.

My husband says that because of the way the trike axle is made it probably wouldn't be as comfortable no matter what kind of trike it was.

If I had gone from a small motorcycle that wasn't very comfortable, I would not have even noticed. But it was hard going from a seat that felt like a recliner to a trike rear axle.

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