Conceptualized in 1967, the three wheeler was initially part of a graduate project. The student in question, John Plessinger, managed to sell the novel ATV patent to New Holland in 1968. When this exchange unfolded, Honda took notice. 


A year later, the aforementioned motorcycle manufacturer started producing a three wheeler model, and dubbed the device an “All Terrain Cycle”. Thanks to this exposure, the original ATVs became extremely popular. Nevertheless, as-of-date the devices are not being manufactured. Find out why below.


Other Big Name Manufacturers Join The Fray


For the next decade, Honda had a stronghold on the three wheeler ATV market. To challenge this well-established monopoly, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Polaris started producing three wheelers as well in the 1980s. As of 1987, roughly 15 different types of three wheelers were available. The list below contains the most popular models in chronological order by year.


  • Honda US90
  • Yamaha Tri-Moto YZ125
  • Honda ATC250R
  • Kawasaki KLT200
  • Honda ATC200E Big Red
  • Suzuki ALT125
  • Honda ATC200X
  • Kawasaki KXT250 Tecate
  • Yamaha Tri-Z250
  • Tiger 500
  • Kawasaki KLT 250 Police
  • Yamaha Yamahauler
  • Honda 250cc Big Red
  • Honda 350X
  • Polaris Scrambler


Of the aforementioned three wheelers, the Honda ATC200E Big Red is considered to be the best selling ATV at the time due to sale count. The Tiger 500, on the other hand, was arguably the most powerful, boasting a top speed of 80 mph, as well as 42 horsepower, 6500 rpm, and a 5 speed gearbox. 


Yet, despite the impressive Tiger 500 specs and the total amount of ATC200E sales, both three wheeler variations lack the longevity of the Honda ATC250R in terms of popularity. To elaborate, the aforementioned model is highly sought-after to this day. Given this overall popularity and marketing potential, many ATV fans may be wondering why three wheelers are so scarce.


Why Three Wheelers Were Banned


Without a fourth tire, three wheelers are unbalanced. To compensate for this, ATV manufacturers made the devices small, and designed the all terrain vehicle to utilize rider weight to maintain balance. Although this strategic plan worked with adult riders, it ultimately backfired when it came to lightweight riders, such as children.


To elaborate, the small design of three wheelers put the handlebar controls in the hands of kids, yet did nothing to address the weight distribution issue. As a result, from 1983 to 1988 over 300,000 injuries and 1,000 deaths occurred while riding three wheelers. 


When the Federal government caught wind of this in 1988, they implemented a 10-year moratorium on three wheeler ATV production. Fortunately for all terrain vehicle manufacturers, they had already prepared for such an event a year prior. 


In 1987, ATV manufacturers opted to voluntarily end the production of three wheelers, and collectively fund a $100 million campaign to promote ATV safety.


The Future of Three Wheelers


To-date, the three wheeler moratorium has ended. In addition, H.R. Bill 4040 separated three wheelers, or ATCs, from four wheelers from a legal point-of-view. By doing so, legislators made it possible for regulation to be drafted for the odd tire device as of 2020. Nevertheless, no motion has been issued to establish such rules as-of-date.


Bintelli Powersports, located in Charleston, South Carolina is your one stop shop for golf carts, LSVs, motorcycles, atvs, dirt bikes, scooters, mopeds, go karts, and more. Nationwide shipping and financing is available! Give them a call at (843) 405-8366 or visit them online!

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