Tilting V-Max Trike by Tilting Motor Works

Tilting 3 wheel V-Max from Tilting Motor Works

Bob Mighell of Stanwood, WA set out to build a machine safer than a two wheeler that could still carve the turns like a bike. He rolls out his latest version at the Cycle World show in Seattle on November 30.

After years of trials with an ‘underpowered’ proof of concept machine, a three-wheeled Honda Rebel 250, Mighell (pronounced ‘mile’) has solved his power problem with a tilting three-wheeled V-Max. He replaced the fork with his own two-wheeled double wishbone suspension that tilts and banks through corners with the feel of a single wheel. But in poor traction it has not one front contact patch to rely on, but two.

A veteran rider (his garage houses a late model BMW GS and an R100 RS, plus a dirt bike), Mighell knows how quickly a patch of sand or oil under a bike’s front wheel can turn a pleasant ride into a lowside. He wanted three wheels for stability, but without the severe side forces of flat cornering on a typical three wheeler. So five years ago he put the old Honda under the torch, adding a tilting front end with sliding plunger suspension. In five thousand miles of testing he proved the tilting concept would work. Tilting Motor Works was born.

Finished just this month (November 2007), the V-Max trike moves Mighell’s concept way ahead. The entire front end is bolted to stock mounting points, with all stresses carried into the lower frame tubes and engine mounts. Front tread measures 37 inches, with wheelbase a stock 62 inches.

Tilting 3 wheel V-Max from Tilting Motor Works

New fork tubes slip into the stock V-Max triple clamps, but they’re used solely to deliver inputs to the steering linkage. Bars and master cylinder are stock. Front wheels from a Yamaha GTS 1000 provide the proper offset. Mighell welded an aluminum disk carrier to each rim and attached his own Buell-style floating perimeter disk. Buell six-piston calipers do the clamping. Custom shocks from Works Performance handle damping. Except for the calipers and rims, it’s all custom made. Mighell is seeking patents on his design.

Craftsmanship is impeccable, not surprising when you know that Mighell makes his living repairing surgical equipment.

Though there’s much testing ahead, Mighell has ridden the V-Max and says it handles like a bike. The trike front end is heavier, so wheelies are probably out. Heavy application of the front brakes will slide the front wheels — it seems stoppies are out too. Mighell credits that to the low V-Max center of gravity, plus the fact that all braking forces are fed into the frame very low, instead of through the steering head.

At rest, the trike acts just like a two wheeler: it’ll fall over unless the center stand, side stand or the rider’s feet are down. Mighell hopes to develop a speed-sensitive pivot lock to kick in as the machine comes to rest and enable the rider to keep feet on the pegs. Also in the future, he’s considering models for other popular models like Harley-Davidson Dynas and Honda Gold Wings.

Tilting 3 wheel V-Max from Tilting Motor Works

Tilting 3 wheel V-Max from Tilting Motor Works

Tilting 3 wheel V-Max from Tilting Motor Works

Link: Tilting Motor Works


  1. taxman says

    i just noticed something. when you go to the website they have a videos page. there is a video of the honda rebel version being ridden in the dirt as they try and get the front to lowside. the side profile of that bike is a very nice looking design i think and if tweeked just a bit more would make a very nice recumbent motorcycle. all the videos are nice, if a bit low quality.

  2. Tanshanomi says

    I am puzzled by what benefits tilting three-wheelers like this one, the Harley thing, the Brudeli and the Piaggio MP3 supposedly provide.

    More supposed “safety?” So you’ve got two contact patches up front. So? I am sure what benefit that is when the lady turns left in front of you. You want safety? The Babe Cage would do more to keep you safe, and that’s not saying much.

  3. kneeslider says

    I agree, the V-Max appearance doesn’t lend itself to this sort of modification but the concept is pretty cool. It looks like the actual tilting suspension would work on any motorcycle, the bottom frame attachment would be model specific as well as the fork tubes and bottom bracket.

    If Bob can fabricate all of the model specific mounts, this looks like it could work on a lot of bikes and if the process isn’t too time consuming or difficult, you could swap this setup for your front wheel for the bad weather months. If it worked well and you liked the looks, you could just leave it on permanently.

    I see no reason why this concept couldn’t be made to look very visually appealing on a wide range of motorcycle types. Custom builders, take note, this could be a new area for design. Which custom builder will be first to come out with a tilting three wheeler?

  4. henri says

    I agree with taxman: in the video of the rebel in the dirt, it looks very bad-ass (did I just say that about a Rebel??)

  5. Phoebe says

    I just went and watched the videos…

    I’m not into cruisers at all, but that proof-of-concept Honda Rebel trike seems awesome! I like it more than the Vmax.

  6. says

    No, the VMax look doesn’t lend itself to this application, but the possibilities for a kit are excellent. I’m sure there are any number of bikes
    on which two front wheels would be extremely bad of ass.
    If the number of model-specific parts was kept to a minimum they could simply be plans on a DVD that the owner of the bike could make(if they knew how to do that), or have made (or buy at the appropriately-branded dealership eventually).

    I was already looking forward to the bike show, now there’s another thing I gotta see in person.

  7. taxman says

    nothing you could do to a bike would help prevent an accident when a vehicle turns into your path. i think the big benefit here is stability. stability in poor weather conditions and/or poor road terrain should be a concern for every biker. tire companies are always improving designs for better performance. this is a possible next step in evolution for motorcycles. obviously not everyone likes this type of design. and thats ok to.

  8. Ry says

    I think the Lego prototype prove design build is awesome!!!! I tip my hat to him for being innovative and developing a add-on kit for this latest craze. I would like to see a rolling chassis kit for a affordable T-Rex style leaning trike.

  9. zipidachimp says

    aren’t these trikes just heading back to the original Morgan 3-wheeler with a J.A.P. v-twin bike engine?
    seems to be regress, not progress.
    why doesn’t someone just build a modern Morgan? that would be really cool.

  10. todd says

    nice work. Looks like good fun. I guess I still find it hard to see the benefit though. All of my two wheelers, on the street, in the dirt, or in the rain don’t seem like they are going to slide out from under me. Maybe it’s just a perception thing that attracts new riders (like with the MP3).


  11. says

    I think the killer application for this is on the Honda Goldwing / touring bikes. I know where I used to live in Arizona, it was really common to see the dual rear wheel scenario — literally hundreds of them every weekend. Problem is that it really affects handling and the motorcycle experience. I’d be very interested to see how this new frontend setup handles in comparison.

    A lot of people wonder why a product like this? Innovation and the engineering challenge itself. But also realize that even if you get a fraction of 1 percent of the motorcycle market, it’s still can be an incredibly lucrative business.

    Hopefully he has success! (And I’ll check it out at the upcoming Seattle show)

  12. says

    I appreciate seeing all of your comments. They give me plenty of food for thought as I work toward bringing my three wheeler to production. The Vmax was chosen because of the increased horsepower and stock mounting points I could easily use on the frame. The kit requires no modification to the frame and only requires 15 stock bolts to be removed and retightened. The perimeter style brakes and the additional wheel in the front combined with the front end being connected low to the frame greatly increases my stopping power without the bike wanting to do a stoppie. The extra wheel in the front will allow one wheel to hit an oil patch or gravel patch without the bike lowsiding on you. It is a real kick to ride!


  13. Sean says

    Wow. A Honda Rebel that looks cool? Pity the V-Max doesn’t really lend itself well to the look. The possibilities are huge, though, and thekneeslider.com is just the first step for this guy.

  14. blaine newell says

    Hi there. I would like to see a large dual sport version. ATV’s are not allowed on the roads in most places. But, a 650 dual sport, with this front end, would be great and street leagal. Put on a set of Yamaha TW200 tires, two on the front, and it would be great in sand and mud. Blaine

  15. ZoeR says

    @BobMghell: Great looking project. A question – at speed, do you steer like a car or non-tilting trike (turning the bars in the direction you want to go), or do you counter-steer as in a normal, 2-wheeled bike?

  16. Walt says

    Bob tells me the trike counter steers just like any motorcycle — that was one of his original performance requirements.

  17. Bryce says

    I had the good fortune to be one of the first riders of the MP3. The idea is that it’s supposed to be safer or easier to ride than a 2 wheeler. I’m not sure I agree with that. It’s been called a great beginner bike. On paper, I might agree with that, but in reality I don’t.

    What I discovered about the MP3 is that it offers only a small improvement in actual road holding. However, it makes a greater portion of its handling capabilities available to the average rider than a traditional two wheeler. Imagine a scenario where two riders of matched skill were given bikes that were identical except one had 3 wheels and one had two. The rider on 3 wheels would more than likely get a faster lap time, than the one with only two. Above and beyond that, the three wheel rider would probably have more consistency in lap times than the 2 wheel rider.

    Whether 3 wheelers are actually a good idea for mass markets is a different story. It’s kind of like CVTs. They are nice in some cases, for some riders. However, they do lower the bar on how much skill is needed to ride, without removing an amount of danger proportional to the drop in required skill.

  18. Michael says

    A dual-sport with that much weight up front? The people who are going to shell-out the big bucks for this kind of thing are people who are already into throwing money around – Harley and Goldwing etc riders.

  19. Blaine Newell says

    Hi there. A dual sport with twice the amount of surface area in the sand, carrying only maybe 30 more pounds. One of the hardest things to do with a dirt bike is ride through sugar sand and mud. Two wheels would definitely help out there. Blaine

  20. kneeslider says

    Zipidachimp, you might want to dig into more of the archive here at The Kneeslider, I first mentioned the Ariel Atom way back here, over 2 years ago when Brammo was first bringing it to the U.S.

    It’s really hard to highlight all of the great stuff we’ve written about but I think I’ll bring more of those stories to everyone’s attention, especially for the benefit of our more recent readers who may have missed them the first time around.

    And, yes, the Ace Cycle Car is very cool.

  21. pabsy says

    it works the opposite to the way it should when leant into the corner it should push the outside front wheel out for greatest stability, this does the opposite

  22. Michael says

    Yeah Blaine but I’m not seeing any lateral suspension. On uneven surfaces you’ll probably be beaten to death by your handlebars.
    It may however be awesome for doing big powerslides on wet bitumen

  23. Frank Colver says

    Blaine Newell Mentioned putting on a set of TW200 tires for a dual sport.

    I built two reverse trikes (two wheels up front, but not leaning) starting with the TW200 as the motorcycle to convert. They have worked very well as California street legal dual sport trikes. I ride a lot in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where you have to be street legal and I also encounter a lot of sand there which was my original inspiration for building the trikes. However one of the trikes is used for trips around town most of the time.

    ON city streets I like the fantastic stopping power of two front wheels and no worry about stability, if I slide those front wheels.

    I have ridden one of the trikes into the Maze District of Canyonlands NP where no ATV’s are allowed. I was very glad to have three wheels under me on that tricky slickrock jeep trail where there are lots of ledges and grooves running in all directions. I’ve done this ride twice now and the park rangers didn’t have any problem with my street legal ATC entering the park.

    I have a lot of other motorcycles (mostly antiques) but I ride the trikes often. Their main limitation is the small 200 cc engine of the TW200 which is more of a limitation on the street than on the dirt.

    Too bad we can’t post a picture here or I could show just what a TWTrike200 looks like.

  24. greer says

    “Yeah Blaine but I’m not seeing any lateral suspension. On uneven surfaces you’ll probably be beaten to death by your handlebars.
    It may however be awesome for doing big powerslides on wet bitumen”


  25. keelbolts says

    Looks interesting. Taxman says, “nothing you could do to a bike would help prevent an accident when a vehicle turns into your path.” Often the best thing you can do in that situation is stop. Already, on a 2-wheeled bike, something like 70% of your braking power comes from the front wheel. Doubling the contact patch has to substantially reduce your stopping distance. As for the old 3-wheeled Morgans, they didn’t lean so I imagine they had a greater tendancy to flip over in a turn than this 3-wheeler would.

  26. James Bowman says

    This is a very nice design and I for one think it doesn’t look so bad but maybee my taste is different. Of course it doesn’t solve every problem one might encounter but if it keeps you from droppin on the slick stuff (done that) and shortens braking distances thats a big plus for safety.
    Also the rebel looks cool but is not practical commercially due to the huge frame modifications and legal regulations involved the bolt on concept is right on. I agree with others here that the Goldwing and Harley markets could be lucrative.
    Bob Mighell how much and how soon to market? 2008?

  27. Eric W says

    I love to see ingenuity put into application, which makes me hate to rain on this inventors parade, but this is too little too late. Look at the Carver Motorcycle ( http://www.carver-worldwide.com ) currently being sold overseas and making its way stateside. It has all the advantages of car – protection from the elements, stability on slippery road surface, heat, sound system – coupled with the handling (it leans into turns)and performance of a bike. It’s even titled and insured as a motorcycle but requires a car license to drive due to the nature of controling it (it has a steering wheel). Attend a couple major motorcycle rallys like Honda Hoot or Struis and look at the people that ride 3 wheelers….they’re definetly not poor, so money is not a big obstacle to this marketing segment. Nice engineering but don’t invest money you can’t afford to loose in trying to get this idea to market.

  28. Prolific Designer says

    I think it is a great design and idea that you got there….Obviously there will be an increase in stability and handling characteristics. However, I think the design is a bit too complex not really clean. I think if you could redesign it so that it is easy on the eyes and possibly make it by CNC than it will be cool……..

    Just merely a suggestion…..

  29. Gregor Porta says

    This seems to be a good idea for some hi tech cruisers, it could be the origin of some amazing trikes if it´s properly merchandised and designed. I live in an area where the sun suddenly allows a heavy rain…and sometimes even shines while it´s raining!(Venezuela is a nice place)…broke an ankle a year ago and don´t want to repeat the experience. And I believe that a lot of wanna-be bikers who are too lame and scary of big motorcycles would buy this thing without thinking twice. So don´t get lost and continue working on this.With a design that can be attached to a wide variety of old japanese bikes (´80s and 90´s)you´ll have all kind of young women and men buying this arrangement around here, trust me, price of new cars are going up way too much. I´d like to be your distributor for Latin America. :-)

  30. says

    Thank you for the continued interest and comments. We are starting our first production run and are working on our costs right now but are estimating that the kit will probably run about $10,000 installed. I am very aware of the Carver but it is a hydraulic controlled vehicle that does not steer like a motorcycle and does not have the extra wheel in the front where it will do the most good. We are looking at an enclosed vehicle in the future as well. We are also working on cleaning up the design and making a small nose cone to streamline the front end. Continue the comments and please contact me at the website link above if you have any questions or want to distribute in Latin America!

  31. Marlon says

    The concept is a very good one. For a paraplegic, like me, it would be a great alternative to the conventional “trike” design. If the bike could hold itself upright at rest, and if the pricepoint were significantly lower, it would be perfect.

  32. Mark E says

    What a waste of a V-Max. Hopefully if you market this kit of yours it’ll be for older, inexpensive bikes, like the Yamaha 650XS which you can buy cheap, are great for tinkering/modifying, are abundant and are the bike of choice for customizing on a budget, because I don’t know of many people who’d invest both in this kit and a nice/expensive bike just to put together someone else’s eye sore design. Hopefully you’ll clean up the design, lighten it up and make it something a little more pleasing to the eye as well as cheap for the home hobbyest. Right now it just looks odd and looks like home garage material. Engineering wise, this isn’t the first design of it’s kind, but still looks like a nice piece of work on the lower section, just not at the forks up, then it gets ugly as well as the bike of choice, just doesn’t flow or look like a good match. But then again it is a prototype, right?

  33. says

    Having been in the (building) design biz for about 40 years, I see the typical process unfold.
    Somebody produces an actual 3-D, in-the-flesh, body of work with some degree of originality, and the armchair engineers/artisties come swarming out of the woodwork with ideas about how they would do it better, if, in fact, they actually did anything.

    I know very litle about motercycles but I have always admired Morgan 3-wheelers from afar.
    I do see some shared dna here.

    Keep up the great work and don’t let the wordy pickers-of-nits get you down.

    John A. Architect

  34. Loomis says

    I wonder how well it steers if one wheel is on the pavement and one wheel is off the pavement?

    I’m a little confused about the front suspension. Are the front forks still operating as a suspension? If not then why are they still there?

  35. says

    Hello Loomis,

    It steers just fine with one wheel on the pavement and one wheel off the pavement. I had a test rider who took a sharp 90 degree right turn and drifted the inside right wheel into the gravel and through a pothole while the left tire remained on the pavement. He said it handled just fine. I then had to go try it myself and it responded very well.

    The front suspension all happens within the double A-arms with Works Performance shocks. The decent shocks in the front make me realize how poor the stock rear shocks are and I am thinking of upgrading the rear to match the better performance in the front. The front forks are still needed for steering. My next unit will probably shorten the fork tubes and just make a longer steering shaft.

    Bob Mighell
    Tilting Motor Works

  36. bob says

    Why don’t you just buy a Piazzio MP3? It does it all, with telescoping front tires running parallel and electronic freezing of front tires in any position up to 40 degrees. I have put 2000 miles on mine and am in love.

  37. James Bowman says

    Bob I think the price is now the most prohibitive feature right now, the engineering and looks are suitable for me its just hard to imagine paying $10K dollars $4-5K seems about right. Perhaps more research into production cost reduction is the next step?

    I was looking at a guy doing custom Yamaha vmax reverse trikes and immediatly your design came to mind as a perfect match with his almost recumbant design. I hope you do well but fear sticker shock will be to much to overcome.


  38. Manfred says

    Locking the tilt doesn’t appear to be too much of a problem, at least academically.
    I would think that the only time you need it is when you park it, so make it default to locked and use a switched live to unlock it.
    If you use a friction lock between the pivots (like a clutch), you could also park on the side of a hill (tilt so it is unright, turn off, walk away).

  39. BILL VAUGHAN says



  40. Bruce says

    I saw this thing going up I5 around the Stanwood Washington area just a few weeks ago. It looks as good as it does in these photos. He did an excellent job constructing it.

  41. Billy says

    I saw this bike at a Lowes in Stanwood on Oct 5th 2008 and thought for sure it was a production bike. It looks awesome in person.

  42. says

    Seeing the comment by Tanshanomi about what “supposed safety” this kind of design this provides, I had to say something. A design with two front wheels is inherently safer than any two wheeler because you have a second brake up front. It can brake in shorter distances as a result, and the bike remains more stable during hard application of the front brake as well. The Piaggio Mp3 is reported to have 20% increased braking power. That my friend, could result in the difference between colliding with that car turning in front of you or being able to brake to a complete stop before hitting it.

  43. Jeff Hiatt says

    I’m the rider who took out the Honda Rebel to the dirt and proceeded to slide the bike as if I were on an oval flattrack.I have been racing flattrack since the 1980’s and was a little hesitant trying to slide a 3-wheeled machine.It took me only a few laps before I felt comfortable sliding it through the dirt corners.The Rebel was super stable coming into the corners and I could really push my limits as the bike didnt do anything weird.The only thing I had a problem with is I could not keep the bike into a broad slide through the middle of the turns because of the long wheel length and the lack of power the Rebel has.It was a blast to ride and handled very well in the dirt.

  44. Jim Carnell says

    I love the design, and the possibilities of it coming into full production. As a person facing upcoming disability due to health reasons I would readily purchase this as it would enable me to keep my current bike instead of selling because I am having difficulties just being able to hold the bike upright. However, the cost is VERY prohibitive on this unit. WAY too much. 2000.00 to 2500.00 would be reasonable for a bolt on application. If it were available today for my bike in this cost range I would be placing an order!!

  45. Lynn Papaboo says

    I loved the look and the reason for designing it. I would like a kit for a Burgman 400. I have medical issues where if you could design it to stay up at stops without having to put my feet down it would be fantastic. I love that your model and lean into curves. That is one of the enjoyable aspects of riding a bike. I would also like to see a design with a custom higher back on the seat. For support so individuals with back issues can enjoy the ride as well. I think the cost is extremely high. But for those with no money issues I suppose it will sell anyway. But for the mainstream it will be a bit pricey. Good luck. I love where your creativity has taken you.

  46. yoyoma says

    amazing machine, I think it looks awesome. Is that jesus’s cross on the front LOL

  47. Ted Wrubleski says

    Hi Bob Mighell,
    Just found Kneeslider on the internet the other day and after scanning the articles yours was the first one I went to. Having a Can-am Spyder (made by BRP) for nearly two riding seasons I have to say three wheels with two up front is the way to go. Due to medical reasons I wouldn’t be riding save for three wheels. It draws a crowd nearly evey time I stop with peolple wanting to know how it handles (it isn’t a sport bike but is a blast to ride), if it leans (it doesn’t), how much does it cost($19000CAN) and on and on. As much as I like this machine I miss the leaning aspect of riding espcially when two up. I think your leaning / tilting concept is on the money the way it can convert a standard motorcycle makes it that much more marketable. My experiance talking to people when ever I’m parked is that there would be a lot more people riding with handle bars in there hands if this was on the market.
    Ted Wrubleski —- riding where the longest straight is less than a mile (1.6k)