Gear: Local Motors Electric Drift Trike

Keep one foot pushed against a front peg during a drift so you stay planted in the seat, or else you might eat pavement.

For years, bearded men have drifted down the hilly, city streets of New Zealand not in cars, but on tricycles. The Kiwis recognize trike drifting as a sport, and we’re on our way in the States, too. Downhill trike drifting has grown so popular stateside that the American Drift Trike Association has sprung to life and now organizes competitions across the country. Drifters can race commercially available trikes or build specialty trikes themselves. But these trikes need gravity to do their work, so hills are a must. What if you live somewhere that looks like a parking lot with vegetation? Well then, you need a drift trike powered by an engine or electric motor.

La Vida Local

One of the few companies making powered drift trikes is Local Motors, the company behind the Rally Fighter off-roader. Local Motors now produces an electric version of its standard Verrado drift trike. Many of the parts are carried over, including the BMW fork, sexy steel-tube body, and go-kart-style rear tires wrapped in 10-inch PVC sleeves, which allow the trike’s rear end to break loose easily. The standard Verrardo needs a hill (or a buddy with a truck and a tow strap) to function, but the electric Verrado doesn’t.

Twist-throttle trike

Powered by a 1000-watt motor on the hub of the front wheel, the electric Verrado will get up to about 20 mph. A motorcycle-style twist throttle on the handlebar controls your speed. The lithium-ion battery pack mounted to the rear axle gives you about 45 minutes of riding time after a three-hour charge. Since the electric Verraro is front-wheel-drive, its PVC-wrapped rear wheels have little effect on the trike’s traction (until you want them to, that is). The only bummer is that while the standard, downhill-only Verrado drift trike costs $450, the electric version runs $1560.

The electric slide for a new generation

Trust us, the steep price will seem worth it after you nail your first slide. The Verrado pulls you through turns as you steer with your hips, so put on some speed, toss your body one way to initiate a drift, countersteer to maintain control, and enjoy the stupid fun that is drifting a tricycle through a haphazardly assembled slalom course in a parking lot. Keep one foot pushed against a front peg during a drift so you stay planted in the seat, or else you might eat pavement.

Have an air pump handy

The PVC sleeves can be forced out of position if you knock the trike’s back end against, say, a stack of tires. Don’t try hitting the sleeve with a rubber mallet like we did. “The best way to reposition a PVC sleeve is to deflate the tire to about 15 psi, re-center the PVC sleeve, then re-inflate the tire to 60 psi,” said Matt Jackson, Engineering Community Manager at Local Motors. “A rubber mallet will do it, but it will make it easier for the PVC sleeve to slip off in the future.”

Stop shaving

Pre-orders for the electric Verrado are expected to start shipping in early August. It’ll be awhile before engine- and motor-powered drift trikes gain as much attention as simple, human-powered, gravity-aided trikes have, and that’s good. It gives us more time to practice and grow a Kiwi-approved beard.