hot rod trike
hot rod trike

   I first met Frank Pedersen in the Back Porch, a biker bar in Spearfish, South Dakota, during the Sturgis Rally August 2005. He was out there to promote his frame and custom bike building business. Well, actually he was drinking beer when I met him, in between chomping on a big cigar, and roaring with laughter just as his Norwegian ancestors would have done in similar circumstances.

   During the course of the evening, I mentioned that a few friends and I were going on a ride through Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, following the legendary Outlaw Trail, visiting the sites made famous by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, amongst others. His imagination well and truly captivated, Frank asked if we could accommodate two extra Norwegians, himself and his good buddy, Steinar. They were good company, so it was all arranged. When asked what he would be riding, Frank said; 'Well, I've got a choice of customs which I've built, but I fancy doing the trip on my trike. Check it out, it's parked outside'. We wandered outside and walked along the long line of Harleys parked along the street until we got to a group of bikers who were gathered around, stroking their beards and shaking their heads in an incredulous fashion as they perused an ultra-low narrow Harley trike which appeared to be all tires across the back with barely a five inch gap separating them. The back end looked like half the dual-wheel arrangement on the back of a heavy duty pickup truck. ’I think I’ll take this along on the road trip’, said Frank, ’It’s just that since I built this trike I got fed up with everyone saying okay, very nice, but you couldn’t ride it anywhere.’ Well, a two thousand mile road trip, some of it on unpaved gravel roads, would be a good test of the build quality of any custom bike let alone an ultra-low hardtail trike.

   Frank was born in Frederikstad, Norway and spent his teenage years messing with bikes and old Yank cars. It was during these years that Frank became a confirmed gearhead, an affliction he has in abundance even today. His passion for American cars led him to move to the USA twentythree years ago.

   Twelve years ago, a return trip to Norway revived a latent interest in motorcycles when he hooked up with some old friends who belonged to a club called Chopperfreaks. As is well known in Europe the choppers never left the Nordic scene and long and low was the look. After riding proper choppers with the Chopperfreaks he returned to the USA with a new vision. He immediately informed his wife Barbara that he was going into the chopper building business and , in 1995, he established Motorcycle Works in Olathe, Kansas- a long way off from California, which at that time was still the hotbed of custom bike building.

frank pedersen hot rod trike frankenstein trikes

   Frank built Scandinavian-style - long and low with loads of rake and no stretch up in the neck. He was the one of the first in the USA to use the 200 Avon as soon as it was available. In January 1996 Frank had modified a chopper guy's frame, raked it out and fitted a 16 inch over front end. It had the 200 Avon on the rear and a skinny 19 inch front wheel. The motor was a 96 incher with two and a quarter inch pipes, and it had a combined sprocket and brake disc and a sportbob gas tank. He took it to Daytona Spring '96 and NOBODY was riding choppers. Donnie Smith, Roger Bourget and Arlen Ness said yeah, it's great, but hey a chopper, no one wants a chopper nowadays, they're buried, dead and gone!

   Well, we know what happened a few years later when the chopper scene re-ignited and took off. Frank was one of the first of the chopper new wave, but was largely unrecognized even though he was a Rat's Hole show winner in 1999 with his chopper called Thors Hammer'. In 2000 he won at the Rat's Hole show once more with a chopper called 'Goldrush' which featured a single-sided hardtail rear end. It was again a typical Scandinavian chopper with a 230 rear tire, jockey shift and polished aluminum gas tank. No American magazine would feature it as they deemed it unrideable although it appeared in several European magazine. It was six years before it appeared in American Iron, a chopper way ahead of its time.

   Ever the pioneer, when Frank decided to build his first trike it was always going to be different. Since choppers were getting ridiculous with huge 330 plus rear tires, he decided to try and get a jump on them all and build a trike that looked like a bike that was just all tire right across the back. This necessitated getting the wide rear wheels as close together as possible. He initially intended to fill in the 5 inches between the tires with a piece of bodywork painted like a tire to create an ultra wide tire effect, but in the end he decided to put the license plate there.

The frame is a Frank-built one off raked to 46 degrees with a three inch forward stretch and a one inch up stretch. The forks are eighteen inch over FL mounted to a Norwegian Customspeed eight degree rake triple tree set which decreases trail thus improving the trike's handling. The front wheel is a nineteen inch wide glide and the front brake is an HHI caliper acting on a saw tooth brake disc that Frank made. Both rear wheels have Excel calipers and discs. Foot controls are by MidWest and hand controls are by Jaybrake. The motor is a 93 inch aftermarket Panhead with Delkron cases and STD heads. The rocker box covers are from Custom Cycle Engineering. The motor sucks in via a SU carb and blows out through a two-into-one four inch pipe with a reverse cone providing the required back pressure. The open primary is a BDL. The five speed Harley Dyna transmission is connected to a jackshaft and, note, only the right rear wheel is driven. The rear wheels are twelve inch rims fitted with low profile 335x30x18 tires which are set only five inches apart.

   Over the past ten years Frank has built some eye catching choppers (check them out on www.choppersforever.com), but not one of them has attracted the attention that this Hot Rod Trike has. Attention is one thing, but the proof of the pudding is in the riding. The big question has to be how does it handle?

   Frank admits that he approached his first test ride with more than a little trepidation. How would such a narrow trike handle the curves? Better than expected, says Frank, but caution in high speed turns is essential, especially if the surface is bumpy. Riding behind Frank I noticed he moved his body weight from one side to the other to keep the rig on the right line, so a fair amount of rider input is needed. Frank can get it over on one wheel in right handers (only the right rear wheel is driven) quite safely, it just looks like he's about to crash!

   Frank accompanied us on our trip to Utah and, apart from a blown base gasket early on, the trike held together even on gravel and washboard rough roads. Even Frank's back held up to the punishment and, after 2000 miles, he and Steinar left us to continue another 500 miles home to Kansas City. Do not make the mistake of calling Frank Pedersen a trailer queen, or you'll get a dose of Thor's Hammer applied to your skull! ----------written by Garry Stuart

hot rod trike