2013 Harley-Davidson Tri Glide Ultra Classic: freedom for life

It ain't easy getting old. Sure, some people may try to slow down the aging process with cosmetic surgery or a hair dye, but ultimately, staying young at heart is much easier.

We especially don't want to change our lifestyle or abandon our passions just because we're getting older. Harley-Davidson's Trike seems to have been created with that philosophy in mind. When the logo of a legendary brand such as Harley is tattooed on our heart, it'll stay that way for life.

The American company is famous for its resistance to change, yet as it blew out 110 candles on its birthday cake last week, it announced some significant powertrain changes for the 2014 model year. In short, Harley's engines will soon be water-cooled instead of air-cooled. Sacrilege, some might think.

Who buys Trikes?
Anyway, the typical buyers of the 2013 Harley-Davidson Tri Glide Ultra Classic are retired couples. Avec with good reason; this three-wheeled machine still offers the freedom of riding under the sun, even your physical capacities are starting to diminish. Or, if you've finally decided to get yourself a motorcycle, but have never really ridden one.

Certain provinces offer special licenses for three-wheeled motorcycles such as the Tri Glide and the Can-Am Spyder. For example, in Quebec one can get such a license after a training course of about seven hours, provided they also have a valid passenger-car permit.

There are many companies that convert touring bikes to trikes, yet Harley-Davidson is the only manufacturer that factory-builds one.

Easy to ride
The 2013 Harley-Davidson Tri Glide Ultra Classic is equipped with an air-cooled, 1,690-cc V-twin that develops about 83 hp and 100 lb-ft of torque. It's a pleasant, torquey engine that's muscular enough to get this 540-kg beast moving along swiftly.

The Trike is easy to ride, since you never have to keep it standing straight at every stoplight, and is pretty comfortable, at least while sitting in the front seat. The rear seat is perched slightly higher so the passenger can get a nicer view of the scenery, not just the back of the front rider's helmet.

On the other hand, the rear suspension on our test Trike was fairly stiff, and my girlfriend went airborne quite a few times when we'd hit some nasty highway expansion joints as well as potholes around town. The suspension can be adjusted for a little more compliance, however.

Since you can't lean the Trike in curves, you must negotiate them at a much slower speed than you would on a two-wheeled machine. Hit an apex at a good clip, and you'll discover just how much the Tri Glide understeers, which is a tendency go keep going straight even though you're turning the handlebars. You get used to it, and besides, you're in no hurry, right?

Lots of features
On the highway, both occupants can relax and enjoy the four-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system. There are bidirectional audio jacks that riders can plug their helmets into for talking to each other or to listen to music, if so equipped. The Trike's fairings do a good job of cutting down wind turbulence, and adjustable winglets can be fiddled with if a little more draft is desired. Planning a long highway jaunt? No problem, as the Tri Glide also includes cruise control.

Around town, the 2013 Harley-Davidson Tri Glide Ultra Classic is easy to park, thanks to an electric reverse system that can be activated by the touch of a button. In back, the trunk can swallow two helmets, while the upper storage case can accommodate backpack, purse, gloves or other accessories. Both compartments are lockable, and the Trike even includes an alarm system as well as a chipped ignition key.

Would you ride one?
The Tri Glide Ultra Classic starts at $36,519, although metallic or custom paint jobs will cost extra. It's a comfortable and capable machine for those long treks across the countryside accompanied by the love of your life. On the other hand, the riding sensation obviously isn't the same as a conventional bike's.

Ok, so the Trike lives up to the brand's heritage. But would you, the experienced rider, the symbol of utter masculinity, mind be seen piloting a three-wheeled motorcycle? I'm not sure hardcore Harley fans would add a third wheel to their hog, given the choice. But as they get older, for those who live to ride and ride to live, it might become an interesting option.

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