Top 10 tilting trikes

The next big thing or an engineering dead-end? Tilting three-wheelers are becoming  a class of their own

Brundeli Trike

Tilting trikes are still intriguingly alien despite the fact that they’ve been around in one form or another for decades. But it’s a growing field with an ever-larger number of manufacturers getting involved.

With the introduction of the Yamaha Niken this year there’s been an explosion of interest in the format. But even before it appeared we’d seen tilting trike concepts from Honda and Kawasaki – proper, big bikes, not just scooters – and even companies like Harley-Davidson have had a close look at format. Harley’s design never made production but prototypes now reside in the firm’s museum. The attraction of a machine that feels like a bike but offers an added level of grip and stability is clear to see, even if there’s yet to be decisive proof that large numbers of buyers will be persuaded enough to part with their cash.

Here are our top 10 machines from the history of tilting trikes.

10: BSA Ariel 3

We might be getting used to the idea of having two wheels at the front but at the dawn of the tilting trike it was the rear wheels that were doubled up. And the Ariel 3 was a pioneer of the leaning three-wheeler format way back in 1970. By keeping its 50cc two-stroke engine in a unit with the back wheels, the whole drivetrain could remain upright while the front of the bike – including the rider – leans into corners. But the execution was less than great. Only one wheel was driven, and only one had a brake, and buyers were hard to find; the bike was a flop and is blamed in part for BSA’s eventual collapse

9: Honda Gyro

The Ariel 3 might have been a flop but its basic design – from a patented idea by George Wallis – later became the basis of the Honda Gyro, arguably the most successful tilting trike of all time. Wallis licenced the idea to Honda in the 1970s, and the firm’s first trike, the Stream scooter, appeared in 1981. A 50cc two-stroke, like the Ariel, it drove both rear wheels and was much better executed. Later versions included the Joy, the Just and the wonderfully mad chopper-style Road Fox. But the real success was the Gyro X, a tilting cargo vehicle based on the same technology that first appeared in 1982. The roofed Gyro Canopy followed it, and both machines remain on sale now in Japan as some of the most successful home-market models Honda has ever made.

Check out page two for more tilting weirdness!

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