Now, that’s easy riding: three wheels instead of two
CORNWALL — The generation that produced diehard motorcycle riders is aging, and getting to the point where waning strength, bum backs and bad knees are making riding anywhere from unpleasant to downright dangerous.Count among that group Jim Batterton. He’s an enthusiast who has long built motorcycles at his Kent Road home. Now, with an artificial knee, a construction career over and a wife who refuses to ride with him since he dumped a bike in their driveway, he is turning to the option that is allowing many to pursue their riding passion: the trike.Earlier this year, Batterton leased garage space across the road from his home, and opened Kent Road Motorsports, where the focus is on converting two-wheelers into three-wheelers. It followed a somewhat involved process of getting a special permit from the town, in part because few had heard of such an endeavor before.Business has been steady, with two to three conversions per month and, already, repeat business.“It pays the bills,” Batterton said. He was not surprised or put out when a reporter showed up unannounced last week. While the shop is open, a few trikes are moved outside to clear workspace in the garage. The machines are attention grabbers. People stop by almost every day to ask about them. His main customers are the recreational riders who enjoy Northwest Corner roads on the weekends. “They’re good people, and they come here and spend money. They are the basis of the area’s tourist trade,” Batterton said.But it’s about more than that. It’s about promoting the riding culture and keeping riders safely on the road. Besides, a garage full of motorcycles is a fun place to be. Neighbor Richard McDonnell, retired from the military, comes over to help out.“The most comfortable bikes for riding are the heavier ones, Harley Davidsons and Honda Goldwings,” Batterton said. “But it takes a lot to keep them balanced on the road, and even to put your feet down and hold them up when you stop.”Conversion kits are available for most makes. Batterton does custom conversions. The cost, including the kit, installation and paint is about $10,000 to $14,000, which is still well below the cost of a new motorcycle. Batterton also looks for older model Goldwings, the most powerful touring motorcycles, and converts them to sell on speculation at reasonable prices. He has a brother-in-law with a Honda dealership in Pittsburgh who sells him trade-in bikes.“The older ones I can get for $6,000 or $7,000. Plus $10,000 for the kit and it’s a good deal, especially for those who want to give it a try. A new one will run $25,000 to $30,000.”Up until last year, trikes were rarely seen on the roads. Now, they seem to be everywhere. The stigma is wearing off.One of Batterton’s recent customers is a 73-year-old man who is just happy to be out on the road. “The biggest reason trikes are becoming more popular is that it’s something a husband and wife can do together,” Batterton said. “It’s fun and it’s safe. The trikes are bigger and have more lights, they are more visible and you don’t have to balance while riding.”Kent Road Motorsports is at 240 Kent Road (Route 7), south of the center of Cornwall Bridge. It is open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Or call 860-672-4632 for an appointment. For more information, go to www.kentroad.com.