These trikes aren't for kids

Fueled by creative spirits, a Brooksville shop turns out one-of-a-kind three-wheelers.

Published February 27, 2007

BROOKSVILLE - Daytona's Bike Week is just a few days away, and a couple of guys who decided a year ago that they didn't like working for other people are feeling the crunch.

But Trike-It owners Lee Bechtol and John Winne aren't that worried. The two trikes - highly customized three-wheeled contraptions - will get done.

Since they opened up shop on the corner of Cortez Boulevard and California Street, the business partners and longtime friends have sold nearly 20 special-order trikes.

They convert Harley-Davidson Sportsters into the more stable three-wheeled variety, good for anyone unable to handle the weight of a regular bike.

Despite the looming deadline, Bechtol, 50, still finds time to take frequent smoke breaks while considering what needs to be finished. And like 58-year-old Winne, he always enjoys a good chat.

Both explain that one of the trikes will require the installation of several feet of fat chrome piping the owner requested for the exhausts. The other one will need several coats of paint to make it look black with just the right hint of purple haze.

The latter bike also needs a specific type of body, so that there will be a tail area resembling the arches of a bat wing.

"We can do just about whatever someone wants, but within reason," Bechtol said, smiling.

But just don't ask them to touch anything un-Harley.

Their repertoire includes a Budweiser-inspired trike painted red and gold. Outside the shop sits the Patriot, a red, white and blue trike, made to look just like the American flag.

The trikes start at about $12,000 - it takes about $6,500 for the kit, and then another $5,000 or $6,000 for the usually used bike. They also can revamp whatever type of Sportster a customer brings in.

The price goes up accordingly. Trikes take about a month to build.

For one woman, a Hernando County bus driver, they're painting an all-white trike with a dragonfly on the side. For another customer, they added a basket on the back to the 74-year-old's red trike, which also has trunk space.

He frequently stops by to say hi, with his dancing boots in the trike trunk. The bus driver always waves on her afternoon runs past the shop.

Though trikes have been around since the 1940s - used then by what Bechtol says were old meter maids - they have recently made a comeback. They can be an answer for those who want to ride a motorcycle but, for whatever reason, can't.

Take the handicapped-accessible bike the pair are currently working on. While the exact design is still up in the air, whoever ends up with the trike will be able to operate it with all hand controls.

Bechtol and Winne, both mechanical engineers, enjoy working for themselves. It also allows them to be creative.

A year ago, Bechtol was working at Home Depot shortly after relocating to Florida from Michigan. There, he owned a marina where Winne was his general superintendent.

After some thinking, and Winne's move to Spring Hill, they decided on opening a "mom and pop" type shop, to have fun and make a comfortable living.

"So far so good," Bechtol said, taking a drag off his cigarette. "We're having a good time. Isn't that all that matters?"

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com or 352 848-1432.

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Getting there

Trike-It is at Cortez Boulevard and California Street. Call (352) 263-8144.