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Trikes compared

One driver's comparison of the merits of the Lomax, BRA CV3, JZR, and Pembleton Grasshopper Super Sport

This article first appeared on the JZR Pilots website and has been updated by Keith Bull

My trike experience in over the last 11 years has included owning and driving the above assortment of trikes so I have gathered some experience of the plus and minus points of the various types. The Lomax and the BRA both suffered from considerable roll. Anti-roll bars and adjustable shocks added to their stability but sharp left-hand corners still raised the pulse rate! The lowering of the chassis in these cars upsets the steering geometry. This is not a crucial problem but they do acquire excellent straight line stability offset by heavy steering loads when cornering. These cars were not built with weight-saving in mind, except to meet the original 410Kg limit. (I'm talking pre-MSVA here). Thus the performance is not electrifying but adequate. The 2CV engine is very robust, reliable and, above all, cheap and simple to maintain. They also have reverse gear!

The JZR CX500, (Honda liquid cooled, 500cc V-Twin), came as a revelation. Brilliant good looks, double wishbone plus coil over shocks front suspension, twin Hagens on the rear swing arm, superb cornering, with no roll at all to speak of, excellent steering (although I know some people have had bump steering problems), 5-speed sequential box, good performance and that mean, low, engine-in-your-face appearance, which I craved!

However, the down side of the JZR CX500 is well documented- liquid cooling, overheating of both engine and driver, no reverse, drive shaft vibration, small driver hip room. (because the shaft drive comes out on the right-hand side of the engine), and high cost of Honda spares and repairs. However, it certainly is a driver's car, well worth the agro, and I enjoyed every minute of it! Sadly, I never got to drive the Moto Guzzi version.

The Pembleton Grasshopper Super Sport then appeared on the market so I went to see the designer, Phil Gregory. As an ex-motorcycle racer, who designed and made his own bikes, he looked to weight saving and road-holding as basic crucial ingredients of any performance vehicle. I bought chassis number 17.

The 'hopper has a tubular space frame with an integral chassis sub-frame. The engine is suspended from the bell housing thus doing away with any chassis forward of the axle tube. The front axle suspension arms are corrected for both camber and caster angle thus ensuring near perfect steering at a ride height of 4"/100mm. The rear suspension system uses 2CV parts and is both simple and weight saving. The 2CV main suspension springs, liberated from their cans, are used, and, by chocking out coils using inserts, the rates can be adjusted to suit your ride requirements. The body is all aluminium generated from flat sheet 0.9mm thick on the regular specification. I used 1.5mm thick for extra stiffness. This turned out to be a masochistic build decision and added some 10 to 12kg to the weight. I left the body in polished aluminium finish. The engine uses two Honda 250N Superdream Carbs with larger main jets. These give a progressive increase in urge unlike the twin choke Solex normally fitted to the 2CV engine. My finished car tipped the scales at 360kg, minus driver. Follow the link for some pictures of the completed car.

On the road, the car handles more like the JZR. The centre of gravity must be on or below the axle centres as the car corners dead flat without the use of an anti-roll bar or special shocks. The top speed and general performance, on Shell V-Power, is more than adequate and compares favourably with the JZR. There is the question of front or rear wheel drive, (JZR), to consider. My own view is that front wheel drive is the safer of the two. Driving down a narrow country road with the single rear drive wheel scratching for grip and weaving from side to side on a mound of wet moss, weeds and unmentionable droppings can be both exciting and off-putting! Finally, the 'hopper meets all my criteria for a low, mean looking trike. The engine is entirely exposed, an air-cooled boxer twin leaving nothing to the imagination, and, with wires, it looks the part! The combination of low-tech reliability and striking looks have meant that over 300 'hopper kits have been sold, the price including all the modifications to the 2CV parts. Finally, my view is that it never hurts to see what the other fella is doing. In the end you pays your money and you takes your choice!

Happy motoring,
Keith Bull

One of the reasons I chose to build a Pembleton rather than a JZR was reading the original article. The lack of cockpit space in the JZR and the safety aspect of the front wheel drive were the main factors.

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