As the birthplace of Sir Henry Royce, engineer and co-founder of Rolls Royce, the market town of Peterborough in the UK has a long association with customising motor vehicles.
But while Royce focused his passion on four wheels, one current resident prefers three.
Since 2005, the small team at Casarva has been making a name for itself by converting motorcycles into trikes. And having just moved to new premises and increased production output by 45% to cope with demand, it seems that three really is the magic number.
Mixing custom DIY kits and full blown in-house conversions, there’s a wide range of options and director Steve Read says much of what draws people to biking applies to triking. “It’s a lifestyle thing. The majority of customers want to stay behind the handlebars of their bikes, but they’re worried about keeping it up, or they still want to go out with their partners or spouses, who want more security.
“Around 40-50% of our customers have or are anticipating a physical issue that prevents them riding a motorbike, so it’s freedom as well. You’re part of the biking or triking community, you don’t have to wear a helmet, you can load it up easily, and there’s the sheer joy of riding trikes.”
That joy, though, can take a little practice at first, because trikes don’t lean, they steer.
“When people get on for the first time they often try to lean it go around a corner, then they get off and the back wheel runs over their feet – you have to be quite careful,” Read says.
Trike conversions replace the back end of a motorbike with a bolt on trike chassis. Casarva supplies shaft, belt or chain drive models, each custom built to fit the customer’s ride. So popular are their conversions that several have been featured on magazine covers.
“We build everything twice,” Read says of the six-week workshop turnaround. “First we build it up first to check everything is aligned perfectly, then we take it all down and powder coat it, then put it back together again.”
While Casarva has converted every model of bike you could imagine, two of the Triumph range get two thumbs up. “The Bonneville America make a very sweet trike,” says Read. “It looks good and deals well and already has the rake on the front.”
Prices range from £1,549 for a shaft drive cradle kit (which Casarva ship worldwide) upwards, with the Bonneville chain drive in house conversion at £8,500. But with that extra weight seeing some machines hit the tarmac at over 500kg, are Casarva’s creations slower off the lights? Not at all, says Read. “It’s all about the gearing, and we set the ratios to how customers want it.”
With all that extra space and stability, yet still offering the thrill of the open road, it’s easy to understand why Casarva’s workshop is booked solid until next August. For those not fussed about getting their knee down, or battling traffic on a daily commute, the lure of the extra wheel could be a strong one…