Custom Builder Russ Dueker’s Custom Trike

June 3, 2010
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
Cruiser Editor |Articles|Articles RSS|Blog|Blog Posts|Blog RSS

Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

A Pro 1 Fork set out at a crazy rake angle sets Russ trike apart from a standard three-wheeler.
A super-long Pro 1 Fork with a crazy rake angle, a sideways-mounted engine and close-spaced twin rear wheels set Dueker’s trike apart from a standard three-wheeler.

Even though he had never built a custom motorcycle before, Russ Dueker knew he wanted to do something different. Sure, most first-timers would have started out by buying a rolling chassis, strapping in an S&S engine and a Baker tranny, bolting on a bunch of aftermarket parts and callng it a one-off custom, but Dueker didn’t want to take that route. No, call it pride, call it sadism, but he opted instead for the torment that comes along with building a ground-up custom primarily through trial-and-error. But his upbringing on the farm and growing up around heavy machinery had instilled in him both a strong work ethic and provided a solid foundation for the intricacies of tractor engines, so Dueker was compelled to step up to the challenge of building a one-of-kind three-wheeled motorcycle.

One look is all it takes to prove that Dueker succeeded in his quest to build something unique. It starts with a crazy-long rake that would make chopper owners from the ‘70s jealous and bars that are ultra-clean, void of wiring or levers. The trike sources a standard V-Twin engine for power but has been unconventionally mounted sideways. Forget frame rails – this thing is industrial strength, punched-out holes and a ridged spine in a combination of two-inch DOM steel and 18-gauge sheet metal. Everything on the back end is packaged neatly between the close-spaced 18-inch RC Components Havoc wheels. The multi-spiked seat reminds me of an upraised, open hand, and true, may serve form better than function, but it contributes to the three-wheeler’s overall heavy-duty design.

Russ Dueker went with cruiser industry leader S S for his trikes engine and fueling system.
Russ Dueker went with cruiser industry leader S&S for his trike’s engine and fueling system.

Its originality starts with the engine. I’ve seen V-Twins mounted in this manner before, but never on a three-wheeler. The S&S 96 engine has been rotated 90-degrees so that the S&S Super G carb is forward-facing. Besides serving as a shiny chrome focal point, the layout boosts engine cooling as well by exposing more surface area of the cylinder heads. The engine configuration allowed him to run the driveshaft up the middle of the frame. To get power to the rear, Dueker sourced a centrifical clutch that he had to modify and mated it to a 6-speed right side drive transmission which has also been turned 90-degrees to match the engine. From there it goes into the right-angled gearbox and then to the wheels via a final drive that also runs down the middle of the trike.

“To shift, you let off the throttle a little and the centrifical clutch disengages and then it’s a regular jockey shift on the left side that runs to the gears,” Dueker said.

The engine is gravity-fed from the small custom tank that’s integrated into the top of the frame, but the oil tank is below the transmission so he had to go with a suction feed. The tank is disguised as the gnarly chrome piece in front of the engine that looks like an evil tire-shredding chin spoiler which is actually a piece of extruded aluminum that he capped the ends on before adding the fins he cut out on the saw. He then had those chromed and stated that the fins help out in cooling.

The trike’s frame is hollow which allowed him to run all the plumbing and wiring internally. He started out by making a skeleton out of DOM steel and then skinned it with 18-gauge sheet metal. Dueker accomplished the drilled-out look by punching holes with tubes of DOM steel. The welds are clean, giving the appearance that the frame is a single piece of billet. The frame’s industrial design isn’t what you’d expect on a three-wheeler, but Dueker wanted it to complement the wicked Havoc wheels he selected for the trike.

Two-inch DOM steel with 18-gauge sheet metal make up the cool frame of Russ Duekers trike.
Two-inch DOM steel with 18-gauge sheet metal make up the cool frame of Russ Dueker’s trike. Danny Gray wrapped the tubes that make up the unique seat below.  
Danny Gray wrapped the tubes that make up the unique seat on Russ Duekers trike.

The fact that he ran the drivetrain through the middle of the build means all the guts of the gearbox are on the inside of the wheels which leaves the rear Havocs cleanly on display. He also kept the rear discs out of sight by mounting them on each side of the gearbox. Dueker opted to make both brakes foot-operated. The right side is the standard arrangement for the rear while the left foot is connected to the front brake. And while each wheel on the back has its own disc, look closely and you’ll see that the one on the right is the only one that has a Performance Machine caliper. The left side is a dummy disc mounted solely for keeping the aesthetics on the rear balanced. When I inquired whether it was a linked braking system, Dueker replied with a chuckle, saying he kept them independent of one another because “I like to have two separate brakes, you know, in case if you lose one then at least you’ve got another.”

With an engine that’s been mounted at a 90-degree angle, a transmission that’s been rotated to match and operates with a centrifical clutch, of all the complications that arose in the course of the build, mounting the starter became the most challenging. Since he turned the engine, the starter actually had to turn in the opposite direction as well. Dueker had a spendy chrome starter that he was bound and determined to use but the rotation was backwards so he had to improvise by buying an automotive one that worked in the right direction. He still had to machine a bigger flywheel so that the starter could come in at a clean shot to the starter ring gear.

“I’ve got a $600 starter sitting on the shelf that I didn’t even use.” Such is the plight of a custom bike builder.

I gave him a little ribbing by asking him how the seat felt, a question he said he’s heard a thousand times. He compared it to a tractor seat and claims that you don’t notice the points much. It’s got to be better than when I first saw it before Danny Gray upholstered the seat for him as a prize he won at the Metzeler Custom Bike Show in Sturgis where he was the People’s Choice Award. He actually took the trike to the Las Vegas show without a seat while Gray was working on it and Danny came through big-time by shipping it overnight the day before the show, but not before causing Dueker a few grey hairs.

When asked how it rides, Dueker stated “It’s obviously different. When you’re going straight, it sticks right to the road. When you turn, you can tell there’s duals back there and they’re spaced apart a little bit. You’ve got to make the thing

Russ Duekers trike always attracts a crowd.
Russs Dueker’s three-wheeler always attracts a crowd.

turn.” The rear wheels are connected by a solid axle. He opted against using a differential rear end because he said that with a differential the outside wheel is going to come up a bit on turns and would just spin.

But he says people’s reaction when they see him out riding it is priceless. At bike shows, it blows people away because they can’t give it a quick one-over to figure out how everything works. During the shows, he says the pack has a tendency to shuffle from bike to bike, but when they get to his trike, they progression generally comes to a halt to get a longer look at his creation.

Besides the People’s Choice Award at the Metzeler Custom Bike Show in Sturgis, Dueker has also won his class at several smaller shows in his home state of Colorado and even won the overall title at an event in Loveland at the Budweiser Event Center that netted him a couple grand. Not bad for a guy who started out solely with a desire to build something different and the motivation to make it happen, who did things the old-fashioned way through trial-and-error. Not many people would go out and buy a metal lathe they had never operated or a milling machine without having used one before. But Dueker did, which makes his first-time effort all the more impressive.

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