Jim Harrell was thinking about trikes for some time, even before the blond on the cell phone rear ended him and his wife at a traffic light, but with a new collection of bumps and bruises it was getting even more difficult to ride, so, Jim finally decided, now was the time. He surveyed the options already out there, from Hannigan, Can-Am and others and became more convinced than ever, without the ability to lean in the turns, a trike just doesn’t work. He set about designing a conversion for late model Harley touring bikes and the Too Kool Cycles TRT, tilting reverse trike was born.
A lifelong rider, Jim rode a BMW K1200LT just before returning to the big Harley. He no longer needed a high speed Autobahn cruiser and the Harley worked really well for slower speeds and weekend rides exploring the back streets of Charleston, Savannah and Georgetown.
Tackling this sort of project requires a bit of preparation, but Jim has a lot of hands on experience rebuilding engines, building race cars, restoring British cars and building custom pan head and knucklehead bobbers, so, he felt he was ready to create the trike he had in mind but couldn't find anywhere else. Jim also thought a lot of other riders getting up in years might like what he had in mind, too.
He had several requirements for his design:
First, while riding a Can-Am trike, he was really uncomfortable with the forces acting on his body in the turns and knew leaning was necessary, not only to feel right, but for safety, as well.
Second, Jim says this concept is aimed at the aging segment of the rider population, where the mind is willing, but the "ol' bod" keeps resisting.
We "oldsters" would prefer the lean/tilt sensation but without having to put our feet and legs down to support these rascals when we stop because they are getting heavier and more awkward as we get older. To achieve this, I have designed a unique locking mechanism that at slow speeds (~ 6mph or less) locks the bike vertical and negates the need to put your feet on the pavement for support.
Third, with Jim’s background building all kinds of street and race car suspensions, he wanted to improve on the ride quality. Long A arms and coil over shocks coupled with a little longer wheelbase have achieved that goal. Jim’s wife confirms the trike rides much better than the original bike.
During the design and build phase, Jim knew he needed to limit the lean, but how much? Initially he thought 16 to 18 degrees would do it, but the first road test at that angle through a local roundabout was an eye opener when he discovered the road camber designed in for drainage used most of the available lean and gave him a "puckering" moment. Now at 25+ degrees of lean, all is well.
Is this a kit someone buys and goes home and assembles? No. If someone is interested we will do the installation and functional testing. Right now it’s intended for late model Harley touring bikes, but versions for other models and makes are in the planning stages. The package in no way molests the original bike. You can unbolt the complete snout and put the original single wheel and forks back on in several hours.
I have 300 plus miles on road testing from Interstates to back roads with special emphasis on the roundabouts and the congestion of downtown Charleston SC. As with anything, tight conditions take some getting used to, by design the bike does drive vertical, only at slow and low speed and thus does not attack the rider with the unwanted physical dynamics. Once up to speed the bike performs very well with no problems. It’s different though with two front wheels out there and the bike tilting.
Think about that, a complete tilting front end conversion yet completely reversible right back to stock. Sweet. The whole project looks very professionally done. I like the midget racer nose that covers the front tilting mechanism, an area that would really take away from the appearance if left out in the open. One of Jim's friends created that and did a great job.
I talked to Jim for quite a while and it was clearly evident he's proud of his trike, rightfully so, and hopes to build these for other riders who would appreciate the extra wheel, but don't want to give up the feel of leaning in the turns. He estimates a conversion could be performed on a customer's bike in 5 to 7 days and that includes painting to match. Price isn't firm yet and will vary depending on options, but his range is somewhere between $8,000 and $12,000, very reasonable in my view, especially since it can be removed, the bike returned to stock and the entire tilting unit moved to a new bike. He doesn't have a website just yet, but will very soon, where you'll be able to get more information and arrange for an installation.
Earlier this year, I said I knew some builders with projects already under way, not waiting for the perfect moment to begin, they just decided to get moving and started building. Jim Harrell is one of them. Look around. The economy is still not perfect, but here's a brand new, designed from scratch, tilting reverse trike conversion, and it's on the road. Nice work, Jim! Very, very nice.