Don and Chris were meeting one another for the first time for breakfast at Mabry Mill in late spring of 2012. He rode from North Carolina on his 1800cc Honda Goldwing, which had a comfortable passenger seat and an extra helmet. It was raining, and he sort of figured that Chris wouldn’t want to go out on the bike.
After breakfast, she asked: “Are you going to take me for a ride or what?” So they rode up and down the parkway. “That was our first date,” Chris smiles. They got married the following spring and moved on to a different Honda Goldwing, a pearl white 2008 model that has been converted to a tricycle.
Goldwing trike conversion kits are only available aftermarket. Even though the makeover was done independently, the integration of the new rear end was done seamlessly. The Noels’ three-wheeled Goldwing looks like it could have ridden off the factory floor that way. It’s only when you peek under the bike that you can notice some of the parts aren’t original. The trike’s rear end, according to Don, is from Ford.
Don bought the trike a year ago, finding it on the Internet with only 11,000 miles. It’s fitted with about every option: satellite navigation, a cold weather comfort package with a foot warming system which directs air over riders’ feet and a premium audio system, which can be piped over the motorcycle’s speakers or through a helmet intercom system. It also has a CB radio, which Don loves using to communicate with truckers, as he himself holds a commercial driver’s license. The bike even has a cup holder.
The 1800cc bike has a full array of illumination, including the Ring of Fire light kit, which attaches to the front rotor covers and emits various colored lights. The bike also has a multi-colored underglow package and an instrument panel also equipped with lighting for most environments.
Several air management accessories make for comfortable riding. A tall windshield, wide front fairings, and side windscreen air deflectors (which can be adjusted to direct air toward or away from the riders, depending on preference) permit the Noels to ride on an Interstate highway without being whipped by wind. In fact, at Interstate speeds, the bike even deflects rain. Last year, as Don rode through a storm on I-81, thanks to the bike’s various air management parts, he didn’t get wet going about 65 mph.
Don has had motorcycles all his life, starting with a 1968 Honda 305 when he was 16. His next bike was a 1970 Suzuki 500 two-stroke, which he sold when he shipped to Vietnam. While overseas, Don served in an airmobile field artillery unit which operated a towed 155mm howitzer. It shot 105 pound shells, and not being self-propelled, it was a challenge to maneuver. “Its nickname was the pig,” Don remembers.
When he returned home, Don bought another Suzuki 500 two-stroke, then a 750cc four-stroke, four-cylinder Suzuki. “That was quite the sports bike. It sounded like a sports car going down the road.”
Over the years he moved on to other bikes, including a 1000cc Honda Shadow and a 1500cc Kawaski Vulcan. “The bikes kept getting bigger,” he says, though none bigger than the 1800cc Goldwings, which weigh in at about 1,000 pounds.
Some lifelong bikers move to trikes when their knees weaken, and they can’t hold up the bike at a stop. That’s precisely why the original owner of the Noels’ current bike converted it to a trike. After a knee replacement, he could ride two-wheelers again, which is why he sold it to Don.
“My knees still work fine,” states Don, who describes himself as short-statured. “They’re just built too close to the ground.” One day, while riding with Chris and on the two-wheeled Goldwing, he came to a stop and put his feet down. It was right where the road had a depression in it, however, and his foot kept going down. So did the bike. Neither Don nor Chris was hurt, and thanks to engine guards, the bike’s fiberglass wasn’t damaged. “The Japanese are very smart in their design and engineering,” Don observes. That incident led Don to consider a trike.
Riding a three-wheeled motorcycle is different than riding a two-wheeled bike. In curves, “you’re steering more than leaning. It’s a whole different ball game,” he explains. Also, when you get to a stop, you don’t have to put your feet down. “It’s the greatest thing. “
“It’s a good solution,” Chris adds. “We didn’t want to give up riding.” The couple enjoys riding scenic roads in the New River Valley, and, of course, the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Goldwing is so comfortable “you could ride forever. You just go. It’s called cruising.”
Text by Karl H. Kazaks
Photos by Nathan Cooke