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Common Operating Characteristics of Trikes and Motorcycle with Sidecar

Types of Three-Wheel Vehicles

Traditional two-wheel motorcycles are considered single-track vehicles. Three-wheel vehicles could have either double or triple tracks. Double track vehicles are motorcycles with sidecars, while triple track vehicles (trikes) can have either two front wheels or two rear wheels.

Differences between Two-Wheel Motorcycles and Three-Wheel

A three-wheel vehicle is naturally more stable than a two-wheel motorcycle. However under certain conditions it could “tip over” or lift one of the wheels off the pavement. In order to ensure its stability, you will need to pay attention to your body position, your speed, and how you load a three-wheel vehicle.

They also steer differently. Since three-wheel vehicles cannot lean, the front wheel needs to be pointed in the direction you want the vehicle to go.

Be Familiar with Your Vehicle

Make sure you are completely familiar with the three-wheel vehicle before you take it out on the street. Be sure to review the owner’s manual. Remember three-wheel vehicles take up more space than two-wheel motorcycles and therefore you will need more space to maneuver.

Body Position

Your body position is important for control on a three-wheel vehicle. You should be able to reach both handgrips comfortably while leaning and shifting your weight in turns.


Approach turns and curves with caution. If you enter a turn too fast you may end up crossing into another lane of traffic, lifting a wheel, or going off the road. Oversteering could cause the vehicle to skid and you could lose control.


When riding uphill on a three-wheel vehicle some weight will shift to the rear, causing the front of the vehicle to become lighter. This weight shift reduces the traction on the front wheel(s) for steering and braking. You should shift some of your body weight forward to maintain steering control.

When riding downhill, gravity increases the amount of braking force required to slow or stop the vehicle. It is important, therefore, to begin slowing earlier for cornering and stopping.

Lane Position

The width of a three-wheel vehicle is similar to the width of some automobiles, therefore, unlike a two-wheel motorcycle, you are limited in lane positioning. Keep toward the center of the lane and within the lane markings.

Lane positioning when riding in groups is also an important consideration. Ride single file and always maintain a safe margin, four seconds minimum, between vehicles.

Parking at the Roadside

Position your vehicle in a parking space so you are parked parallel to the curb. Set the parking brake or leave it in gear to keep it from rolling. Parking parallel to the curb will facilitate pulling away from the curb and entering the lanes of traffic.


A three-wheel vehicle is not as maneuverable as a two-wheel motorcycle, so it is important to look well ahead to avoid the need for any sudden turns or swerving. Swerving is seldom the best option to avoid a collision. If swerving is required, brake either before or after the swerve, never while swerving. You should not attempt swerving without proper training. If you need to avoid a collision the best option may be hard braking.

Cornering and Curves

When riding through curves, remember to stay within your lane.

Adjust your speed before entering a curve. You may need to lean or shift your weight in the direction of the turn to avoid causing any of the wheels to leave the ground and, possibly, losing control.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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