Before we had four wheels, we had three. The first mass produced ATV was a three wheeler, it was called the Honda US90. Honda did very well with the US90, before it's introduction offroading was limited to dirt bikes. But with a three wheeler, riders had a new level of stability in loose terrain and you could ride rain or shine.
Honda officially introduced the trike to America in 1970, at a price of $595. The original US90 was based on an 89cc single cylinder engine that sent its 7 horsepower through a dual-range four-speed gearbox with automatic clutch. A big feature of this machine was called Swivel-Lok, which allowed for quick handlebar removal for easy loading in a trunk of a car or a station wagon (remember this was the 70's). Later that year the US90 was renamed the ATC90 when Honda trademarked the ATC (All Terrain Cycle) name, and three models carried that Honda ATC monogram through the 1970s. The ATC70 gave younger riders a scaled-down version of the fat-tire experience. And by the end of the decade, requests for more power turned the original ATC90 into the ATC110 in 1979. The ATC was as evolutionary as it was revolutionary from the beginning.
I personally have a lot of history with three wheelers, and so I have a soft spot for them. When I was a kid I had a fear of loud noises, engines in particular. This concerned my Dad, so he decided to buy an ATV hoping it would help me overcome my fear. He thought a three wheeler would be good because I would be able to ride it by myself without having to worry about being tall enough to touch the ground. And one day he brought home a brand new 1984 Honda 200M ATC on the back of our truck.
|Dad and I at the Ottopasso Trails in 1984|
It worked! I was no longer afraid of engine noises. My Dad and I would go riding a couple times a year at the Ottopasso Trails South of Saskatoon, which at the time was still a public facility and run by the province. We would also bring it to my cousin's farm when we went to visit them. I loved the freedom the trike gave me, anytime I was bored I could hop on my machine and go explore. Most of my memories are good, but there were a couple accidents. One of the incidents happened shortly after we got the 200M. My Dad and I were riding around the Beaver Creek Conservation Area just south of Saskatoon, I was just a little guy and was riding in between my Dad's legs. Neither of us were wearing a helmet. My Dad attempted to go down a steep hill at an angle, but three wheelers don't do well with angles unless you can hang body off the side as a counter weight. Needless to say we rolled, tumbled all the way down the hill. In the carnage I ended up hitting my head on something, I can remember touching the back of my head afterwards and having a lot of blood on my hand. It was scary at the time, but the blood dried and I had a way cool battle wound to show my Mom and friends when I got home.
|Terry and I on our machines|
Fast forward a number of years into my early teens, I ended up selling the 200M to buy a dirtbike. Less than a year later I sold that dirtbike to buy another three wheeler. But this trike was nothing like the last, it was like the 200M on steroids, enter the 1983 Honda 250R ATC.
|Terry's 200X and my 250R|
|The "Pyscho" 1983 Honda 250R|
|My son on our 1984 Big Red 200ES at the Ottopasso Trails |
Are three wheelers dangerous? Absolutely yes! A novice rider can get onto a quad and learn to ride it in a relatively short time and become proficient (knowing how to predict what the machine will do in a particular situation) at riding within a couple of months. Because of the reduced stability of the ATC that same proficiency takes at least twice as long.
In conclusion, I will always love three wheelers, and I don't plan to ever sell my Big Red. But they are different, and ultimately more dangerous than a four wheeler. Some want them banned all together and I will never go that far but they need to be treated with even more respect than your average ATV.