Bob Mighell is a man with a vision, and that vision tilts.
Soon, Bob's vision may become a common sight on the front end of many motorcycles, extending the riding experience for bikers who previously had to settle for a trike or, god forbid, a car to get around.
Bob Mighell is the CEO and brains behind Tilting Motor Works, a startup manufacturer based in Snohomish, Washington, just outside of Seattle. His company has created a new motorcycle front end that transforms a two-wheeler into a three-wheeler, but still maintains the ability to lean into turns, like a traditional motorcycle. Bob stopped by my house this week aboard a prototype Harley-Davidson Street Glide conversion, and showed me around the vehicle.
Three-wheeled motorcycles have surged in popularity over the past decade. From factory trikes like the Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide to conversions from Lehman and Champion to sidecar rigs like the Ural Gear Up, choices abound. But none of the popular options currently offer a tilting solution. That's where Bob comes in.
The Tilting Motor Works conversion replaces the front end of a motorcycle with an elegant two-wheeled rig that includes suspension, braking and steering components. The wheels are independently sprung, and each features a perimeter-style brake rotor and caliper setup. Steering inputs have been transferred from the steering stem to a telelever-style armature, which Bob says lowers the bike's center of gravity and conquers the inclination to lever up under hard braking. And brake it will -- with two front wheels, the bike has all kinds of stopping power, combined with the stability of three points of contact with the ground.
The conversion includes a hydraulic pump and tilt lock that kicks in when the bike comes to a stop. It levels the bike to the horizon, and locks it in an upright position, which means that the rider can come to a stop without taking his or her feet off of the floorboards, and the bike remains upright and completely stable -- like a trike. Get underway again, and the lock releases, and the bike leans again.
Being based near Seattle's ample aerospace manufacturing base has enabled Tilting Motor Works to access sophisticated engineering and manufacturing resources, and the prototype bike benefits from a very high level of fit and finish. A close examination of the component parts of the conversion shows an extensive use of machined aluminum. It looks a little overbuilt, which Bob says was intentional.
Far from being a stripped mechanical mule, the prototype was styled by legendary motorcycle designer Glynn Kerr. A beefy, retro-looking center fender with a grille conceals the steering mechanism, while twin fiberglass fenders in the Heritage Softail style dress the front wheels. It's a good looking, if disconcerting, package.
Bob took a few low speed passes along my street to show off the leaning trike's capabilities, and to let me take a few photos. Low speed cornering seems effortless, and Bob seems to be able to lean easily into the turns. Thanks to the geometry of the front end, both front wheels remain in contact with the ground at all times, while leaning in tandem. Full suspension travel remains available during the lean, and the ride looks smooth. I didn't get to ride the bike -- Bob was literally dropping by my house on his way from one dealer appointment to the next -- but I've been assured that I'll get a chance to test the conversation soon. Keep watching this space.
Bob took a prototype Tilting Motor Works bike to the Bonneville Salt Flats last August to prove the concept, and wound up setting the Land Speed Record of 134.582 miles per hour, the fastest that a three-wheeled motorcycle has ever been tracked.
Tilting Motor Works is currently in the process of signing up dealers. They've got an application for Harley-Davidson Touring motorcycles and one for the Dyna family, and they've currently got a Honda Gold Wing on the table, getting a kit ready for that popular heavyweight tourer. The Tilting Motor Works conversion will start at $9,999 plus installation, which Bob promises should run at about four hours.
You can check out video of the bike in motion on the Tilting Motor Works website.