WHEN you look at the glorious, late-afternoon shot of Rod and his impressive trike, politeness goes out the window and you’ve just got to ask the most obvious question: ‘What’s the story with those crazy boardshorts?”
“I’m a wakeboarder,” laughs Rod, “and these are just the type of boardshorts that wakeboarders wear.”
Oh, and the missing leg, that was the other question.
“Yeah,” Rod reflects. “I had a big stack on a Harley Wide Glide; it was the morning of the very first day of my holidays when a four-wheel-drive came straight through a give-way sign and bang! Ripped my leg off. There wasn’t much hope for it, as it was sorta lying over there, and I was over here, and the bike was somewhere else. But I was lucky, in a way, as the second car on the scene was the emergency room doctor from the local Bunbury Hospital. He did a great job and I reckon I’m still here because of him and what he did on the side of the road that day.”
Strangely enough his Wide Glide wasn’t too badly damaged, so while lying in a Royal Perth Hospital bed, Rod was already planning his next bike—a trike of course! Rod’s dear old dad, who was a bit against the bikes, was visiting at the time Rod announced his grand plan.
“That went over like a lead balloon…”
He wasn’t long out of hospital when the dream commenced. Just before the stack, he’d already fitted a 120 cube big motor to the Wide Glide so that came out and the stocker went back in. The whole bike was given the flick and a trike was planned around the 120 cuber.
The front part of the ensemble is an old school Softail style frame from the USA, while the rear comes from the same place; it’s a Mystery Design unit.
“I built it with the help of a mate in his shed. The trike rear-end fitted on to the frame perfectly, and it was mostly fairly easy with a lot of the parts as it went together nicely,” Rod reckons. “Some parts came from mates, like the front-end, pipes and BDL belt drive, while the rest of the bits were bought locally or from America.”
Rod also made the rear guards and many other bits and pieces around the bike.
“I used to be a boatbuilder,” explains Rod, “that’s my trade. I’m okay working with my hands but these days I’m a limo driver so that leaves the door open for a lot of funny situations.” We can only imagine.
While the authorities and punters may be cool with wise-cracking, one-legged limo drivers, the laws are fairly specific in Western Australia with regards to amputees riding motorbikes.
“They reckon if the leg’s gone above the knee, you just can’t ride solo machines, so I’ve got no choice there; it was trikes or nothing. I used to be called Rodney, but since the knee went, I’m just known as Rod. (Boom-boom! — Ed.) By law, I had to fit a parking brake so I made one out of a go-kart brake which incorporated a sprocket, chain and ratchet system; it works quite well.”
Another special feature on this trike is the Pingel electric shifting. An up or a down button is depressed on the left-hand side switch-block, and Rod simply pulls in the clutch, presses the up or down button, and relays do the shifting.
“It used to have a feature which killed the motor momentarily for changes but it wasn’t necessary and didn’t work all that well so I left it off,” Rod explains.
One thing you’d think would be a must for a one-legged bloke on a three-wheeled machine would be a reverse gear, but this trike misses out on that little bit of backwards-going luxury.
“I bought an electric reverse set-up, but had changed the plan for the gearbox, so the reverse set-up didn’t fit at all so out it went too. I haven’t really missed it because even though the bike weighs in at 343 kg, I can still shove it around most places I need to be. There’s a mate’s front yard that’s always mushy and sloping the wrong way so I usually need a little help there, but normally, everything’s okay.
“I really like riding this trike,” Rod says. “I’ve even entered the odd show and won the odd trophy for Best Trike. The only things still Genuine Harley fitted to the machine are the footboards and rear brake pedal so the rest is aftermarket. The rack on the back is for the crutches and the leg, as I usually remove it when riding.”
Yeah, we know a lot of riders with wooden legs and the biggest problem is the leg slipping off the footboard —Ed.
“I’m very happy with the trike just the way it is,” said Rod. “Ray Towel did the paint, Sterling Electroplating did the chroming and polishing, and I’ve got to give a big thanks to Cory and Theresa from Perth Motorcycle Wreckers for helping me so much while building it.”
It’s got to be the attitude that helps a bloke like Rod get by against the odds. As mentioned, he’s right into wakeboarding, and a month after his big prang, he was given day release to spectate in the West Australian Wakeboarding Championships. One year later, he was competing again, all one-legged and wet.
Pics by Brian White; words by Kelly Ashton