We have received a number of questions about the October 2013 Wing World Trike Tracks article – specifically on page 53. The author who is not a Rider Educator, not a GWRRA Trike Riding Course Instructor, and not a participant in the Rider Ed Program claims that “… trikes can swerve at highway speeds while simultaneously braking. Hard braking mixed with a yank on the handlebars can spell disaster on a two-wheeler. A rider can brake hard or swerve, but not at the same time. Trikes are different. Because you can put force into a turn without leaning the bike, a trike is much more capable of maneuvering around sudden road danger.”
Do not assume that the author intended the reader to believe that a Trike Rider could simultaneously apply hard braking and yank the handlebars in a swerve at highway speeds. If you try this your life will be in grave danger! It is NOT safe to swerve and brake at the same time. For those who believe a trike won’t roll over, think about the national campaigns warning of SUVs doing so in the past. They were heavier and had a wider wheel base than a trike. We have seen it happen in one of our classes in 2013 when a student failed to follow their training and braked while swerving at low parking lot speeds (~25 mph).
A swerve is a measure taken when other defensive techniques and options have failed. A swerve is NOT a turn. Please DO NOT attempt applying brakes during a swerve. You can apply brakes immediately before or after a swerve. Just separate them. We teach in our GWRRA classroom portion of the Trike Rider Course (TRC), as well as all of our other Riding Courses, that you should “Never swerve and brake at the same time!”. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation and Evergreen Safety Council also teach trike training with similar advice.
If all of the available traction (there are many dynamic factors involved) is being used to prevent the vehicle’s tires from sliding sideways in the swerve, any application of the brakes during this swerve could exceed the total traction available and the tires could lose their grip. The result could be as forgiving as a slide, and as catastrophic as a high side accident where the trike ejects the rider (and co-rider) as it rolls over. The likelihood increases if the factors are greater: higher speed, greater amount and speed of the swerve, poor road conditions, less experience and training for the rider, solid axle vs. independent suspension, ride height (conversion dependent center of gravity), loading, etc. For those who may have been successful doing this in the past, recognize you were not at the traction limit in your swerve when you applied some braking. It will not be successful with a hard swerve and hard braking. The laws of physics involved do not discriminate based on luck, experience, or the number of accident-free miles ridden.
Understanding the limits of the Trike, the environment and the Rider – and staying within them is the key to reducing the inherent risk involved in our chosen pastime. Take a Riding Course to learn about the risks and practice avoiding them under the watchful eyes of a trained instructor in a controlled environment in the near future!