Category Archives: Selecting a Donor Motorcycle

Choosing which engine and motorcycle best suited for building a leaning reverse trike motorcycle

Selecting A Doner Motorcycle

Which comes first, choosing a motorcycle to to design your leaning reverse trike around or designing your leaning reverse trike and then find the doner motorcycle that best suites your design? Its a classic chicken or the egg scenario. Unless you already have a motorcycle ready for the operating table, the best answer is to do a little of both. You should at least be settled in your mind about engine placement (fore, mid, or aft), drivetrain (chain or shaft), and how you will implement a reverse gear. Are you building a cruiser or a race car? What is your budget for the motorcycle? These all should have an impact on your motorcycle selection. Once you have figured out the ideal motorcycle for your you leaning reverse trike, it’s time to obtain it and design the details of your leaning reverse trike around it.

My First Choices

Currently I am leaning toward a cruiser with a front mounted engine, drive shaft and a stock reverse gear. I also want reliability and parts availability. This leaves me with three motorcycle model choices:

Honda GL1800

The Honda GL1800 has all the requirements I have for my concept of the leaning reverse trike, but is probably out of my price range. A 2002 GL1800 with 100,000 miles and some major front end damage will go for over $4000.00 at a salvage auction.

Honda GL1500

The Honda GL1500 also has all the requirements I have for my concept of the leaning reverse trike and the price is more reasonable. On the down side it is an older motorcycle no longer produced and tends to have higher mileage and more ware and tare. If I can find one in the last few years of its production run at the right price I will get it.


The BMW K1200LT is an excellent choice, it too meets all my leaning trike concept requirements. The BMW K1200LT is harder to come by, but go for a more reasonable price at salvage auction than the GL1800. I also am vainly thrilled with the simple idea of having a BWM hood emblem on the finished reverse trike.

Other Doner Motorcycle Options

If I just remove the stock reverse gear from my requirements, the list of motorcycles to choose from grows much larger. It now includes most shaft drive motorcycles. Because I want a front mounted engine I will be needing to extend the drive shaft from the engine in the front to the rear swingarm. I can use a aftermarket reverse gearbox inline with the driveshaft. The gearbox will cost an additional $1000.00 – $1600.00. This would give me a very robust reverse gear, but need to do more research to decide if it is cost effective.

If I were to use a rear engine mount, I would no longer want a shaft drive and I could use an after market reverse gear box as a jack shaft on a chain or belt drive. There are also reverse gear kits for Harley Davidson motorcycles. I could use almost any chain driven motorcycle on the market.

Screw It! I’m getting a Suzuki Hayabusa (GSX1300R). Stick a reverse gear and jackshaft on it and I’ll be carving those canyons! Just kidding, well maybe not?