During a holiday on the Central Coast area of NSW I took the opportunity to visit Oz Trikes, which is located at Somersby, just a few kilometres along a narrow winding road from Gosford. Oz Trikes has built up an enviable reputation of being the manufacturer for top-class trikes in Australia, so it was great to call in and check them out, as well as have a chat to Johann, the owner. I didn't get to take one for a test ride, but it was great to have a look around the workshop / showroom area and check out the trikes they had on display.
WHO ARE THEY?
OZ Trikes have been designing and manufacturing trikes in Australia since the mid 1990s. Johann says that he has spent most of his lifetime in perfecting what he believes to be the absolute best trike in Australia. His extensive years of experience is reflected in the pride that he puts into every one of the trikes that is manufactured and assembled at OZ Trikes. OZ Trikes claim to be the first trike manufacturer in Australia to receive Australian Compliance Approval. They say that their trikes are designed, engineered and manufactured to provide superior handling, performance, and durability. They also emphasise that they take great care in the design for style, as well as comfort, for what they term their “Threedom Machines.” They claim that their designs eliminate stresses to the frame and provide optimum front to rear weight ratio. Their attention to these details, along with developments to the suspension, they claim produces, “Exceptional high-speed handling and confidence inspiring manoeuvrability.” All OZ Trikes are built in-house at Somersby. They say that they are unique in being the only trike manufacturer that does everything at the one place; from the frame to fibre-glassing, painting, all the mechanical work and then to the assembly and delivery. They say that this provides the customer with, “The means and the opportunity in offering precision to detail in minimal time, and also permits us to control the quality that we expect of our OZ Trikes. Upgraded suspensions, long range tanks and gearing options are available for all OZ Trikes and recommended on some models. To compliment the suspension we fit premium quality wheels and tyres, which are included.” There are options in style too, as you will see from the photos here. So the customer has a lot of control over the trike they buy. OZ Trikes are now the sole agent in Australia for Boom Trikes, which are manufactured in Germany. The model they import is the Mustang ST1, although other models will be available. As well as their own custom-built trikes, and the new Boom trikes, they have just started doing a trike conversion of the SYM scooter. That’s a photo of one on the left. (Sorry if the photo looks a bit grainy, a black trike in a dark corner of the workshop didn’t provide good lighting for my little pocket camera). They use the basic scoot from SYM, including the power-train of course, and modify the bodywork and rear-end to convert it into a trike. If a scooter is more your thing than a big machine with a stonking big motor hanging out the back, then this might be the three-wheeler for you. It’s certainly a pretty cool looking creation, from the simple scooter base. As of 2013 they have about 8 employees. As well as manufacturing trikes, they also hire them. Hire charges as at 2013 are $240 for one day during the week, and $290 for one day on the weekend. Two day hire costs $530. You can also go for a chauffeured tour, with costs ranging from $45 per person for 30 minutes up to $120 per person for 2 hours. They also offer half-day and full-day tours as well. With these tours, and trikes to hire, I wondered what the main part of their business was; was it the hire side or the constructing side? Johann was very definite, the building of the trikes was the main part of the business. Test-rides are available only on the Mustang ST1, and only for customers who are seriously considering purchasing one.
WHAT ARE THEY?
OZ Trikes describe their machines as, “A genuine 3 wheeled sports car.” You might not think of them as a “car”, and they’re not, but that description is more apt than it might at first appear. (I'll get back to that below). As mentioned above, all their trikes are built entirely on the premises. The bodywork is fibreglass of course, and made to order for each customer. So each trike has to have individual moulds made up. The engines are from the venerable VW Beetle, and run carburettors, not fuel-injection; although most are modified beyond standard Beetle specification. But wait, don’t start thinking that the engines are 2nd-hand units pulled out of cars at a wreckers, they wouldn’t consider doing something like that. These engines are all brand new! How do they get new Beetle engines? Well, Johann says that there is a company in Brazil that makes all the engine components, as brand new spares. These components are then sent to another company in the U.S. who build-up the engines. OZ Trikes then imports the completed brand new engines for their trikes. Now, if you’re still unsure about using engine technology that is a few decades old, Johann points out that these VW engines are used in off-road buggies and ultra-light aircraft, so they have to be pretty good! The trikes that are supplied for hire all run standard 1600cc engines, but custom-made trikes for customers are usually fitted with more up-spec units; most having been bored-out to just under 2,000cc and having some hot-up bits fitted. Controls are a cross between bike and car. The throttle is a twist-grip, just like a bike, and there are switch-blocks on each end of the handlebar, just like a bike, but from there on, it’s very much car-like. The brakes are operated by a pedal on the right-side of the machine. A similar pedal on the left operates the clutch. The gear-lever is a stubby car-type lever located down on the left beside the seat. The instrument display is all digital, and housed in a neat-looking pod behind the big shiny headlight. There is something very cool about sitting on these things! You sit back in the seat with your legs stretched out, arms reaching forwards and up to the high bars. You look out over the chrome instrument pod to the long forks stretching out ahead of you. Comfort probably depends on what seat is fitted – there were a couple of different seats on the trikes I sat on. Of the ones I saw, the yellow one – not the Mustang, but the one pictured here – was the one I preferred. That trike was very comfortable; and as I sat there for a few minutes I was easily getting the feel for where all the controls were. Just sitting there and operating the controls it's easy to imagine you're out on the road, carving up the traffic and looking cool, feeling great! Hmm, I’m really liking this! The photo from behind the bars was taken on this one too, and it’s this one again that is pictured at the top of the article here. It was one of the hire trikes. Okay, so how much do these cost? Well, cost depends on specification and what accessories are ordered, of course, but in general most sell for the mid to high $30,000 - $40,000 range. The Mustang, which Johann describes as “The best trike in the world,” costs $48,000. These prices were correct at the time of writing - 2013 - but if you are reading this at a later date, just check with OZ Trikes for the current figures. Speaking of the Mustang, it is very different to the machines Oz Trikes build. It seems longer and lower; more stretched out. The instruments are analogue speedo and tacho, with a small digital display in the bottom of the tacho and a couple of other dials and info in between the two round gauges. But the biggest difference is in the power-plant. The Mustang runs a water-cooled 1.6 litre Ford engine. With fuel-injection and electronic ignition, the engine puts out 81kW and 168Nm of torque. It’s a great looking machine, but if it was me buying, I’d save the 10 grand and buy one of OZ Trikes machines. Like the yellow one that I liked so much!
Johann said that there is a technique to riding (“driving”?) these trikes. He said you have to think “car”, not “bike”. That applies to using the car-type controls, but also to the way you steer it, and even how you position it on the road. You have to keep to the centre of the road, as you would in a car. The throttle is like a bike, but the clutch and gears are like a sporty car: in that sense it feels very car-like, not bike-like. When you corner you don’t lean as you do on a bike of course, and counter-steering doesn’t work: you have to steer this like a car. Most bike riders like to position themselves to the left or right of centre of the lane, but that doesn’t work on a trike. If you put the front wheel on the left side of the road the left back wheel will run off the side. Put the front wheel towards the right of your lane and the right back wheel will be across the centre-line. So there are things to remember, but you’d get used to them fairly quickly I would think.
I didn’t get to try one out, or go for a ride. It was fairly late in the day and I didn’t have a lot of time. But I’d like to give one a try. Next time! I did sit on everything though – the photo on the left is me sitting on the Mustang – and from what I saw, I was very impressed! The standard of workmanship is very good indeed. Even looking very closely at the frame, everything is very neat and well-constructed, with no messy welds etc. And when you consider that every machine is hand built and individually custom-made to your preference, you start to realise that in buying one of these machines you are getting something very special. A trike is probably not for everyone. If you just want to blend in with the crowd, and not attract any attention, then a trike is probably not for you. But if you don’t mind standing-out in the crowd, and want to look super-cool, these machines would do the trick. And of course there is the practical side of not having to worry about them falling over. For many older riders the weight of a big bike becomes a problem, especially at slow speed or when parking etc. Not so with these! In NSW you don’t need a motorcycle licence to ride them, they can be ridden (or “driven”) with a normal car licence. But NSW is the only state where that is the case; in all other states you need a motorcycle licence. I was told that some states are introducing a special trike-licence; so if you are in a state other than NSW, and don’t have a motorcycle licence, check with the local authorities to see what you need and what licence is available. For me, if I won the lottery tomorrow I think I’d be paying them another visit! I wouldn’t sell my two-wheeler, but I’d like to have one of these to drive. Of course I’d have to get a bigger shed! For more information, and to contact them, visit their web-site at www.oztrikes.com.au, or phone them on 02 4372 1100.
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