Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lehman Monarch Trike: Day 1

Well, that was different.

I put about 75 miles on the Lehman Monarch today. First impressions aren’t usually lasting when it comes to road tests—it takes way more that 75 miles to bring out most bikes’ personalities—but here they are, for what they’re worth.

Like the GL1800 it’s based on, the Monarch is smooth, and torquey as hell, and scary fast. Among other goodies it comes with an audio system and cruise control, both of which I left off so I’d be able to concentrate on the driving technique. (I think “driving” is the right verb.) The heated grips and seat (heated seat!) I turned on right away and never turned off.

The GL top case swallowed everything I normally carry on the V-Strom—toolkit, tire repair tools and pump, extra gloves, emergency spares and other on-the-road miscellany, a camera and tripod—with room to spare. Under the top case is the 4.5-cubic-foot trunk, which looks big enough for everything I’d take on a week-long ride.

The big difference between the Monarch and a motorcycle is, of course, in how you turn it. You steer a trike like a car—left to go left, right to go right. The faster you’re going when you initiate the turn, the more effort it takes. I discovered that if I rolled off the gas as I entered the turn, then rolled it back on as I exited, the initial effort was lower.

You have to hold a trike in a corner; let go of the bars and it wants to go straight. I learned to lean my upper body to the inside of the corner, and stiff-arm the outside bar, a technique that’s called lock and roll. Going fast on a curvy backroad can be a pretty physical undertaking.

The Monarch works best on the highway. In big, fast sweeping corners you still have to hold it on line, but it’s not as hard to do as it is in tighter corners. Straight-line stability is great; just remember to stay in the middle of the lane.

I can’t imagine I’d want to do a 200-mile stretch of twisties on a trike unless I had a lot of time to cover it, with some rest stops built in. I bet that on day 30 of riding the Monarch I’ll have more upper-body strength than I had on day one.

That’s it for now. More impressions as the miles pile up.

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