August 06, 2008


What attracted me to the Lehmann Trikes factory tour was their slogan: "Leader of the Three World". At least for me, that's a truly clever phrase. Lehman's slogan is almost up there, if not quite, with Air Deccan's "Simplifly". (And what's the bet that this para is the first in history to mention Lehman Trikes and Air Deccan in the same breath, so to speak?)

So anyway, 930am this morning was the factory tour in Spearfish, South Dakota, not far from Sturgis. A tall hearty woman -- "I'm just a beancounter from the next building," she introduced herself, "I don't really know much about what goes on here" -- took us through in twenty minutes flat, stopping briefly to point out where things get painted, or put together, or QA'ed, or fixed, or whatever. It's a relatively small, sparkling clean facility, one part dedicated to converting Harleys into three-wheelers, the other to converting other brands, such as Honda, Suzuki and Victory.

I know very little about either bikes or trikes, but the rest of the group -- all at least a decade older than me -- was clearly knowledgeable. "What is that, a 96?" asked the only woman, pointing to a rack filled with the Harleys that arrive for conversion. "They're either 96s or 103s", said one of the men, advancing to peer at them to make sure. From behind, one of the staff shouted: "They're 103s!" And so we were enlightened.

The Harley conversion goes through six stations, and the hallmark of it, said the woman, is that one technician takes each bike through the whole thing. That doesn't happen with the other brands being converted, I don't know why and neither did she; though I did get the sense that this was somehow a virtue of the Harley conversion.

"How long does the Harley conversion take?" asked one of my companions in the group.

"It just kinda depends, y'know?" said the woman.

Codespeak for "I don't know" or similar, of course.

"Well," I piped up, "is it a matter of hours? Days?"

"It just kinda depends, y'know?" she said again, and then levelled with us. "Truth is, I'm not at liberty to discuss that information with y'all. It's just one of those things I've been told not to divulge."

Whyever not?

And that was the end of the tour. Well, not quite, but within a few minutes of that point. A man asked, "you have any dealers in Utah?" The woman thought for a minute and replied, "I've spoken to some of them and we have some really neat dealers out there" -- I couldn't help wondering what would qualify a dealer as "really neat" -- "one of 'em I'm going to say in Hurricane? There a town by that name in Utah or am I wrong?"

Outside, I had a brief conversation with another companion from the group, a writer for Quick Throttle magazine. I asked him the only question that interests me about trikes: why would somebody choose to convert their bike into a trike?

"It's just that as guys get older, y'know, they want a little more stability, safety, they don't wanna be putting their feet down each time they come to a stop light. They get that with a trike."

A Lehman dealer standing nearby then confirmed this. "It's the aging bike population," he said. "So trikes are doing reee-al well -- bike market is down, but trikes are up 40% growth over last year. Bikers are mostly baby boomers, and those boomers are gettin' old."

And some brochures I picked up off the Lehman racks confirmed this again. In other such brochures, you'd find athletic young models draped over the gleaming machines. These have the gleaming machines all right, but are filled instead with people obviously middle-aged or older. (And they are not draped).

And now that I think about it, the group I took the tour with confirms this yet again. About a dozen people, me the youngest by a decade.

All of which actually explains a lot about this time in Sturgis. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the John Fogerty concert.


Somebody else has a video of the Lehman Trikes tour here.


Pareshaan said...

Dilip Sahib,
what are you doing in Sturgis Sir? Howcome - on business or just pleasure?

Anonymous said...

Bike modification? Check these out (also see the flickr link therein):

more reason to visit Davis, CA.