There are 9 different types of trikes. The problem is, there has not been an unanimous agreement about what we should call them. I suggest we all agree on the following types. Reverse Trike, Delta Trike, Reverse Motortrike, Delta Motortrike, Reverse Pedaltrike, Delta Pedaltrike, Pedal Drift Trike, Motorized Drift Trike and Child's Tricycle. If everyone calls them the same thing, then when people search for what they want, they will be able to find it!
On the 3rd of July 1886, the Benz Patent Motor Car, regarded as the world’s first automobile – completed its maiden journey in public on Mannheim’s Ringstraße. It was called a Motorwagen, which certainly doesn't help our cause very much. It doesn't even have the word "trike" in there. But we will soldier on!
Over the years, car companies have come and gone and occasionally there have been true attempts to make a three wheeled car. The Messerschmitt KR200 and the Davis Divan spring to mind as examples of true invitation combined with craftsmanship and style.
Just recently though, there has been a resurgence of the trike. A small loophole opened up in American road registration that allowed a car with less than 4 wheels (touching the ground) to be classified as a motorbike. And that allowed potential vehicle manufacturers to avoid the very stringent car crash tests and instead design vehicles that were based on a motorbike's level of safety. This is of course far less expensive and allows a car the chance to get started without large amounts of funding.
What has happened is a mixed fair. In some cases the trike has been a laughing stock, something to be ridiculed but in others, such as Campangna from Canada, or Morgan from the UK or even Polaris and Vanderhall from the USA, we have seen stunning vehicles that deliver stomach churning performance combined with high levels of refinement. I also think it is fair to say that in all cases the enclosed trikes are safer than a motorbike.
So what are these categories? What are the 9 different types of trikes? Well, let's list them.
1. Child's Tricycle (ride on)
4. Reverse Pedal Trike (ride in)
7. Delta Motortrike (ride on)
2. Pedal Drift Trike (ride on)
5. Delta Pedal Trike (ride in)
8. Reverse Trike (ride in)
3. Motorized Drift Trike (ride on)
6. Reverse Motortrike (ride on)
9. Delta Trike (ride in)
Well, lets start by working backwards.
In this case we are talking about traditional tricycles that you buy for an under six year old. These are almost always a Delta configuration (one wheel forward and two wheels back) and some have peddles and others do not.
In the above right picture we have a Huffy's Green Machine. The Green Machine was the first drift trike that started a whole new category in fun toys for adults.
Suffice to say that this was an absolutely top notch fun machine. As such it has been copied into the adult world and there is a range of adult sized drift trikes available. If you want one of these for you or your kids, you can check out the Huffy Drift Trike here on amazon.
The Peddle Drift Trike is the adult version of the child's Green Machine. These are mainly being used as downhill machines and from the videos I have seen, they are outrageous.
The more expensive ones have disc breaks (thank you) as they have to to be able to stop on the hill. I think these are a terrific addition to any family holiday house. Lots of fun and easy to learn. You don't need to take them out on hills either as they can be peddled around a car-park or large flat area and then put into spins and slides. I have added a video below just to show you what they are capable of though.
Of course adults wont be happy with just being able to go down hill, so someone thought up this crazy idea to put a motor on the back and make a Motorized Drift Trike. These are crazy. They are an absurd amount of fun for a relatively small investment.
As you can see they have no peddles as they are not needed. Two bars forward to support your feet and some have a foot break there as well. The biggest thing to look out for is strength of the frame. It has to support the adults weight and the motors as well. There is no suspension so all the jarring is going through the frame. Just make sure the frame is strong enough to handle everything that will be thrown at it.
Here is a video of "SFD Industries" in the USA. They definitely have the right idea. Low cost, high economy and more fun than most could handle these are a blast. 100% recommended.
The Pedal Trike is sometimes called a Velomobile or an open recumbent trike. The good thing is the people who are using that term are butting the Reverse or Delta in front of the Velomobile. I have no issues with the Velomobile title. If everyone wants to use that, then I am in agreement. For this article though I will use Pedal Trike just for convenience.
The Pedal Trikes also come without all the shrouding. Just open to the air to allow the breeze through your hair and to be closer to nature. The biggest trouble with open trikes is that they have shocking drag coefficients. By adding the shroud (or body) you are able to reduce the drag down substantially.
As with the Reverse Pedal Trike, the Delta Pedal Trike is also called a Velomobile or an recumbent trike. Whether you want the delta or the reverse configuration comes down to a matter of personal choice and how you like to roll. Mathematically the Delta trike can be less stable than the Reverse configuration. However with the correct positioning of the weight, you can make it work. If you want more details then click the green to check out our article on Reverse or Delta trikes, which is better?
Excellent for fitness or just for a bit of fun, the Pedal Trike can cover larger distances and higher speeds and in more comfort than a conventional pushbike can. Everyone should have one of these to cruise around the neighborhood in.
I understand that the dictionary doesn't think that Motortrike is a word but it should be. The motortrike is most like a motorbike and was made famous in several films and by motorbike riders who got injured and still wanted to ride. The Delta Motortrike is one wheel forward and two wheels back. Almost always, the rear wheels are driven and the front is just for steering.
The best way to explain a Motortrike is that unlike a normal trike, you ride the Motortrike. A normal trike you sit inside a frame which gives added protection. The Motortrike is basically a motorbike with three wheels.
Tests have shown that having two wheels forward and one wheel back (the reverse configuration) is the safest way to set up a trike. The main reasons are these. Firstly, when you break hard, all the weight (well the majority) of the trike transfers to the front wheel or wheels. If you only have one then it is going to be supporting the complete weight of the vehicle and this often ends with skidding. Two wheels forwards means double the rubber on the road and double the suspension to help support diving etc.
The second reason Reverse trikes are safer than their Delta siblings is that the shape is more prone to skid sideways when the rubber lets go rather than flip sideways as a delta configuration wants to do. These two reasons help the Reverse trike come out on top when it comes to safety. Now you can engineer out some of these quirks if you really want a Delta but I would ask why? Just use the shape that works better naturally.
So we finally arrive at my favorite two trikes. The Delta Trike and the Reverse Trike. Since these are both essentially cars, I am not opposed to using the term Reverse Tricar or Delta Tricar. What do you think? It is not used at all at the moment but it would make the distinction more clear. But at the moment we have the cars arranged in a trike configuration and they are normally called a 3 Wheeler or a Trike, often leaving off the delta or reverse designation. The important part is that you sit inside them. You are protected at least from collision but normally from weather as well. They can be very car-like, with all the creature comforts.
The Trivette Delta Trike was actually sold as a car and broke several records. It was also fast and handled beautifully. You can read about that HERE. Other have had a shot at the delta but no major manufacturers have adopted the platform. Mercedes came close to releasing the Life Jet but it never made it. The Delta configuration seems to work best as a Motortrike.
Now the Reverse Trike has lots of adopters. In fact, most trikes are reverse configuration. All in all it seems to be a better solution to the safety and aerodynamic issues that face the Delta. It is much easier to seat two people side by side in a Reverse and it basically looks better.
From building your own like Dick Kincheloe above to using a Porsche/Harley Davidson engine like the Campagna, the reverse trike is going to be around for a long time.
I hope we can agree on the naming. I am happy to take feedback and adjust this article as the thoughts come through.
Thanks for reading.
Hello, I am Jonathan, a lover of vehicles that spark the imagination, make your blood boil and take you to a place where time stops and the moment is everything. Hence my love of trikes.