2015 Harley-Davidson Freewheeler Trike Review

A first ride of Harley's third trike since the Servi-Car

2015 Harley-Davidson Freewheeler.
The 2015 Harley-Davidson Freewheeler starts at $24,999. Photo © Riles/Nelson

Not 24 hours before we were to see the latest and greatest from Harley-Davidson at the 2015 model year launch held in Sonoma, CA, a 6.1 earthquake shook the county, making headlines nationwide and damaging older buildings in the famous wine country.

Living in California and not worried one bit that the event might be canceled, my first thought was to ask what news from Harley could possibly be so earth shattering?

Was the Livewire really going into mass production? Was it all a tease? Were we all duped into knowing what was in the crate before they even asked us to guess?  We were soon to find out!

Ten minutes to go and there we stand, in the Fairmont Sonoma conference room looking at the uncovered 2015 Road Glide we knew was unveiled a few weeks earlier during the Black Hills Motorcycle Rally, but the second bike on stage was still cloaked in darkness, leading me to ask what it might be. It was bigger than the Livewire, but smaller than any bagger. Long and low, but with a wide rear end, wider than I could completely see before the curtain was drawn and the 2015 Harley-Davidson Freewheeler was revealed.

A trike, hmm.

Do we really get to ride that, I ask? (duh!) It'll be my first experience riding a traditional (two wheels in back) three-wheeler, so let's have at it!

A Triple Play

As my first ever ride on a traditional three-wheeler, I happily accept the mount and ultimately decide it's not all that bad, and downright fun in fact!

I've ridden many a mile on BRP's Can-Am Spyder and enjoyed the ride there as well, but the old adage will forever stand as their design is not going to change, it's not a motorcycle, never will be.

As such, we surely all understand, three wheelers aren't motorcycles. Simply stated, they just don't have what it takes to tickle most of our fancies, but (and it's a big but) they can serve a greater purpose to those in need.

For the injured or the meek, for those unable to unwilling to maintain balance on two wheels, a third wheel is always there to rescue the day and keep you in the wind! Harley-Davidson brings you this happiness with their third three-wheeler since the Servi-Car.

Slimmed Down From its Tri-Glide Roots

With a hot rod in his mind, Ray Drea, Harley-Davidson's Chief Stylist and predecessor to Willie G, styled the Freewheeler with more aggression than carrying capacity. With the maker's first OE run of a three wheeled machine, the Tri-Glide was introduced in full touring kit setup. Riders who weren't for that much mass on two wheels might not have wanted it on three, either.

So they listened to the feedback from current and future buyers, and slimmed not only the Tri-Glide fairing down to nothing more than a pair of 12-inch mini-apes, they also chopped the overall length to just over 103 inches; 3 inches shorter (in the trunk) than the Tri Glide but can still hold a pair of full face helmets. 

It was easy to reduce the overall steering input after knocking off the weight of the front fairing and shortening the overall length, but to balance it all together onto the cool mag wheels they repositioned the center of gravity and added a steering stabilizer to the front fork.

The parts catalog includes a model-specific detachable windscreen, quick-release sissy bar, and rear rack amongst its countless other H-D accessories. Dropping 170 pounds and nearly $8,000 from the MSRP of the Tri Glide, the Freewheeler comes in three color options (Vivid Black, Amber Whiskey and Superior Blue) and the retail price starts at $24,999 for the black, $25,499 for color options. Cruise control and reverse are standard.

Fat Bob-Inspired Styling

With the Fat Bob-style front fender to its pair of bobtail rear fenders, the Freewheeler is styled to look tight and compact, according to styling lead Tony Pink. An all-new headlight nacelle slims down the front end, while a pair of dual chrome mufflers with slash-down tips peek out from beneath the waterproof trunk in the rear (which open right-to-left clear of any passengers).

Between the tip and tail is all Harley.

The design and ergonomics playing its most import role within your riding club or favorite rally, as feeling part of the pack is paramount. Given the lack of the comparably massive front end of a Can-Am Spyder and its pair of drive wheels up front, or even the smaller batwing-faired Tri-Glide (starting with 2009 model year), there's nothing keeping the Freewheeler from feeling part of the stagger. With just a headlight and handlebars before your eyes, the feeling of oneness with the road, and the club, is the same as it used to be... you, the road and your friends, together again. Just don't forget that backend of course. Add the overall width of 54.9 inches (just 5 more than the average ATV) to your mental checklist when rounding corners, wanting to split lanes or banking into a set of canyon roads.

Countering My Counter-Steering Instinct

First thing I had to learn, or relearn, is how to counter my counter-steering. I think they call that plain old steering by the way... and you'll need to remember it when you ride the Freewheeler. No longer a pair of centrifugally balanced hoops spinning and leaning about beneath your derrière, but instead a road steady triangle of contact patches that don't learn in either direction - not without dire consequence anyway. A 49mm telescopic front fork and a pair of air-adjustable rear shocks keep the triangle 4.9 inches above ground with an easy-to-manage 26-degree steering head and nearly 4-inches of rake. While inherently stable in motion or in park (with the foot-activated parking brake), the Freewheeler doesn't have any traction control or ABS brake, nor options for such. Not yet anyway.

In the canyons, or just about any turn, initiation starts opposite where you wanna go: turning right, push from the left and vise versa. As a motorcycle rider, this will be the hardest obstacle to riding the Freewheeler. Second to that is getting over it in your head (that you're on a trike), but that fades quickly when you start seeing yourself as riding a sports car with a single wheel up front instead of the mass of chrome and steel that you actually are.

Acceleration Like No Other Harley

Twist the grip, and that big rubber-mounted High Output Twin Cam 103 launches you forward like no other Harley with nearly 105 horsepower. The twin contact patches of the rear Dunlop Signature P205/65R15 tires grab like teeth and until the first turn... and you smile big time.... then get on on the brakes. With three wheels and over 1,000 pounds of badass in motion, the Freewheeler gets 4 discs for one machine: 6 pistons grab a pair of 300mm discs up front, and two more grab a pair of 270mm fixed rotors in the rear. A linked braking system applies front and rear systems on the application of the foot lever while the front brake acts independently when the lever is applied on its own. When you're on the long haul, there's an electronic cruise control for a more relaxed ride. And a 6-gallon tank will take you a claimed 234 miles.

And the Rest

The Freewheeler and the Road Glide were not the only news for 2015, however. There were a pair of new Low models for the Ultra and Limited introduced and in the CVO department, 4 new models including a Road and Street Glides, a Softail Deluxe and a Limited. So many bikes to ride, so little time.... good thing we've got another 365 days until the next launch, but lets keep the earthquakes to a minimum please!

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