We commend California Sidecar
for attempting to shatter the staid reputation of riding a trike with the release of its Custom conversion kit for Softails. Its latest three-wheeler has a certain Ed Roth appeal, chopper-like on the front with a
The 2010 CSC Custom combines a chopper front end and a hot rod rear in a sporty-looking three-wheeled ride.
mondo front hoop mounted at the end of a long fork stuck out at a heavy rake on a trike. Its rear mixes a hot rod body complete with a rumble trunk. Two fat swatches of rubber wrapped around custom five-spoke polished billet rear wheels beef up the back end. Sporty chrome Vance & Hines exhausts twisting down the right side inject attitude into the trike’s design. Its stock Harley V-Twin is dressed up with chrome covers everywhere, a treatment that extends to its hand and forward controls, its chrome front caliper, stainless steel rotor, headlight, turn signals and chrome extended fork. Throw in some custom two-tone black and gold paint and you’ve got a racy trike with styling chops capable of attracting a much younger demographic than the traditional three-wheel riding crowd.
The chopper end of the CSC Custom runs through billet aluminum triple trees and a chrome extended fork. Stainless steel brake lines leading to a four-piston Wilwood caliper add to its quality finish. As I prepare to push the throttle and spark its electric start, the reach to the bars is up just below shoulder high and I’m at a slight forward tilt in the leather Saddleman seat. Unlike most floorboard-equipped three-wheelers, the Custom’s foot pegs give it more of a two-wheeler feel. Set the Custom in motion and it quickly differentiates itself from a motorcycle.
Our stint on the Custom consisted of a cruise down Sturgis’
Junction Avenue followed by a sprint on I-90 to Rapid City. The toll on the Harley
Twin Cam engine from having to set two rear wheels in motion is evident when accelerating onto the freeway. My expectations on acceleration might be skewed though because bikes I’ve recently tested include the Roadster III, the M109R and the Raider. Power builds but doesn’t surge. I’m winding most of the gears out building up freeway-entering speed and the gearbox is very compliant, but the foot shifter is placed a little high which makes solid shifts challenging at times.
The posted speed on stretches of I-90 reaches 75 mph and at that speed the tall, narrow front end doesn’t have a lot of unsprung weight and bounces around a lot. Keeping the Custom on track requires constant pushing on the bars, so much so that I got a little arm pump on the 40-minute ride to Rapid City. It’s chopperish-rake and 21-inch tall front tire made it heavy in the turns as well. Its trike chassis on the rear hugs the road well, though, but the planted feeling of the rear doesn’t extend to the front.
The Custom’s braking package in its current state is suspect as well. There’s nothing wrong with the single stainless steel disc on the front, but the high performance
We headed up Sturgis' Vanocker Canyon to test the handling characteristics of the CSC Volusia where we found its steering to be stable but heavy.
discs and calipers that are supposed to anchor the rear have no feel and little power. Granted, I was informed of this fact before I took off because the particular Custom I was riding is a prototyope. CSC plans on replacing the rear brake master cylinder which is too small. Currently it doesn’t pump enough fluid so there’s little braking force but it’s something CSC is in the process of addressing.
Its cleanly styled fiberglass back end works two-fold, adding style with its speed hump and storage with its small trunk. The trunk lid is hinged and can be opened by a push-button remote. The inside of the storage compartment is carpeted and very shallow. The rear section serves as a mount for the custom seat in addition to the rear taillights and a license plate frame. Color-matched, tire-hugging rear fenders are mounted to the rocker arms of the rear suspension.
The Custom trike conversion fits most Harley Softails from 2000-up except for the Rocker and 2007 Fatboy. It’s completely a bolt-on installation, so no welding is required. It comes as a factory-installed kit or a turnkey package. The factory install takes about five days because there’s plenty of customization options to tailor the trike to individual style. These options include spoke wheels, electric reverse and a shock preloader, not to mention the Vance & Hines exhaust which adorned our Custom test bike that has a great rumble to it. There are also five color combinations and two different paint schemes offered by CSC, or it can be purchased solely with a gel coat for custom paint to be lathered on. The conversion can be undone by replacing the driveshaft, yoke, and the saddlebag subframe.
Arriving in Rapid City, we swapped out CSC’s Custom for a spin on a more traditionally styled three-wheeler. The Volusia wears a conversion kit that carries over the classic styling cues of Harley-Davidson’s popular cruiser, the Heritage Softail. Up front its got a beefy fork at a tight rake, a removable windscreen mounted above the headlight/running light trio, a traditional H-D tank-mounted console, studded leather seat and big floorboards wrapped in flowing bodywork. The front tire is enveloped by a large, sweeping fender. Its rear tires are shrouded by the singular piece of fiberglass bodywork that makes up the rear end, a big contrast to the Custom whose tires are isolated from the rear bodywork. A small topcase with a passenger backrest mounted on its front is included in the package.
The CSC Volusia trike conversion has the same classic styling as H-D's Heritage Softail.
The Volusia’s rear end features a vertically stabilized, opposing rocker, mono-shock independent suspension. A QA1 shock has a linear-wound racing spring that reportedly accommodates loads up to 650 pounds. It’s combination of a shorter, meatier tire up front in a tighter rake and more weight on the rear end keeps the Volusia planted in the turns of Vanocker Canyon. The action at the bars doesn’t need the constant attention that the Custom requires and steering the big three-wheeler is easier overall. A preload adjuster is offered as an option so riders can manually adjust for loads on the backside.
Its drivetrain features purpose-built sprockets and a twin-reduction jackshaft belt drive. It has 8620 gas carburized sprockets and a new transmission sprocket. Despite converting to dual belts, CSC was able to retain stock gear ratios. The twin-reduction jackshaft features a 90mm Gates performance belt kit. Power transfer to the rear is smooth and the Volusia’s transmission slides easily into gear.
The braking problems we experienced on the Custom were non-existent on the Volusia. Braided steel brake lines front and back provide good feel at the lever. Varga twin-piston disc brake calipers put a palpable bite on the 11.5-inch rotors. CSC also offers an optional Performance Brake Upgrade that includes a drilled rotor with nickel plating and a billet aluminum caliper. On a trike there’s a lot of mass to bring to a halt, so we say the more powerful the brakes, the better. But the standard set on the Volusia is more than up to the task.
The Heritage Softail-styled trike offers plenty of storage. The rear compartment has a flip-up trunk with a storage compartment deep enough for two lids. It also has a small topcase that is convenient for
The Volusia got our nod out of the two CSC trikes we sampled because t didn't require as much wrestling at the bars, had better brakes and tons more storage.
storing paperwork and maps. The fiberglass bodywork is complete with custom tombstone LED taillights that combine the brake, running and turn signal lights in one unit. Color-matching paint and chrome trim on the rear gives the Volusia the same style and class as the standard Heritage Softail.
Full 2010 Conversion Kits were priced between $6895 and $7895. The price goes up quickly as you add paint options, front-end kits ($1995), billet wheels, or electric reverse ($1395). The conversion is a bolt-on process, but the initial outfitting must be done by a certified CSC rep.
California Sidecars has done well by offering a production trike that is sporty in the form of the Custom as well as continuing to produce one that sports the classic lines of the Volusia. I’d love to see a hot rod engine and better brakes to match the Custom’s performance to its styling, while the Volusia is dialed-in almost perfectly for the demographic of riders it will attract. CSC has been in the trike conversion, sidecar and motorcycle cargo trailer business for close to 30 years. It offers a product that can keep riders in the saddle long after they use up the faculties necessary to handle a two-wheeled motorcycle and now offer a hot rod-minded three-wheeler that is fun to ride regardless of age.