Charlie’s home built Harley trike
Out of the Spinal unit, it wasn’t long before Charlie was looking for a project to keep himself occupied with the added benefit of getting his arse back in the saddle. Having sold his Harley during his period in hospital, Charlie stated from a clean slate but with a Harley bias. From the auctions he picked up a written-off 1990 softail and the project of converting it to a trike was initiated.
DingBob, a name in Australian trike conversions and car engine powered trikes, now retired, supplied the rear end including diff and independent suspension. Basically a bolt on affair, going from two to three wheels was one of the easiest steps in this build. Included in the kit was an electric reverse provided by a starter motor in the diff throwing out to engage the crown gear.
Outfit width of both this and subsequent trikes is approximately 1.6m which, not coincidentally, is Charlie’s arm span. From the riders seat, if he can’t touch anything solid then he knows the trike will fit.
Rear end sorted, front end is a set of Leading Link forks with coil over suspension. The purpose of LL’s is to reduce the trail and provide greater lateral strength during the cornering of a non-leaning vehicle. Most motorbikes typically run 100mm of trail, where as a non-leaning trike (or sidecar) will have less steering effort and increased stability with 40-60mm trail. An alternative to LL’s for trail reduction is a new set of triple trees and several companies in the States sell these, their disadvantage is that the reduction in trail is “fixed” whereas the amount of trail provided by LL’s can easily be changed by providing several options for the lower pivot point. Charlies home built and chromed front end is typical of his workmanship and attention to detail and it is noted that neither of Charlies home built trikes run steering dampeners, nor do they miss them.
As an aside, if your trike or sidecar is heavy to steer or shakes its head under increasing, decreasing or constant throttle, high or low speed or apon hitting a pothole, don’t put up with it no matter what anybody says, and it’s usually the person who has taken your money to build it for you, it need not be this way! Lead links, modified triple trees or the more exotic centre-hub steering are a must for any upright vehicle over a certain power point. You may loose steering lock but your spatial awareness will quickly adapt to this. You will never adapt to heading off the road into a tree! It costs money so factor that in to any build or purchase cost and compromise in other areas if need be, don’t compromise with your steering. And don’t believe anybody who says a steering dampener is a solution or even a necessity.
Ok, back to Charlies Harley outfit. Brakes on the trike were linked, boosted and controlled from a single right hand lever while clutch, boosted also, remained on the left. Gear changing was undertaken by a central hand shift.
Once again Charlie undertook the upholstery of the riders and pillions seat and all three kids can fit on the bench seat. Riders seat is an upholstered bucket and it was from experience with this that Charlie developed the removable backrest on his latter outfit as an aid to his transfers.
A neat bit of work, finished to Charlies high standards, the trike was passed on to an able bodied female rider who appreciated the quality and the low speed stability a trike layout provides.
I’m not sure Charlie appreciated the usefulness of this trailer when construction started but once in use the ability to take his electric chair to swap-meets, invariably held in cow paddocks, and power around looking at the displays with sausage in bread in one hand and soft drink in the other was a revelation to him. If your in a manual chair and haven’t experienced a crutch full of tomato sauce, then you haven’t been in a chair for long!
Going on holidays with a van full with shower chair, hoist not to mention clothes? Imagine being able to ride your freedom machine and carry it all along behind.
The obvious method of loading a trailer, ramps, didn’t appeal for a number of reasons; chair loading would often be done by Charlies youngest and even one metre alloy ramps are a struggle for sub-teens and secondly, Charlie envisaged a small trailer not much larger than his power chair, ramps were just going to take up space.
The solution is air-bag suspension replacing springs and inflated by a reservoir with enough capacity for four raisings. Charlie debated adding an on-board compressor but decided not to since four raising is enough most days and if not, he can inflate the reservoir at any servo or, failing that, by the hand pump in an unlikely emergency. An easily visible gauge has meant he hasn’t been caught out yet.
It is not only the owner who appreciates this trailer, Charlies swap-meet mates have at last a means of getting their crap home!
I’m hoping to get more detailed photos soon, stay tuned!