Vince Robel's Conquest trike is a different breed of custom motorcycle.

When he feels like feels like going for a ride, he just pulls his wheelchair up an automatic ramp into his three-wheeled sled, secures his chair and goes.

It hasn't always been so easy.

This year's Sturgis motorcycle rally is a first for Robel, who drove in from Bisbee, Ariz, with a buddy in another Conquest. Regardless of whether someone's bound to a wheelchair, he said the trend for trikes has been on a definite incline.

"I think you're going to see (them) more and more," he said Tuesday after parking on Fourth Street in downtown Sturgis. "I've just seen a number of trikes. They are coming up for sure. In fact, tomorrow we're going on a trike-only ride."

Robel joined hundreds of others for the Trike Owners United Ride Thursday from Hill City to the Buffalo Chip Campground. Trike-only rides are evidence of a motorcycle subculture on the rise.

As further evidence, Harley-Davidson Motorcycles has rolled out its own model and it has taken off, according to company spokesman Matt King.

"It's been a few years, actually, at least three years that they've been in production," King said. "They've been really popular. It's a good-selling motorcycle. There's a solid market for them."

He said a common misconception is that only older riders are interested in trikes. The truth, he said, is that more and more younger riders are starting to spark to the idea of three wheels rather than  two.

Al Vogele of Rapid City agreed.

Vogele of A&L Trikes converted his first motorcycle into a trike for himself in 1992 and teamed with Lehman Trikes, a company with a mission of giving motorcycles three wheels, for 16 years before switching to California Sidecar, a similar company.

On Tuesday, Vogele was set up at the corner of Junction Avenue and Ballpark Road outside of downtown Sturgis, where he's been posted for the past 28 years during the rally.

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"It used to be nothing but the older crowd," Vogele said. "Definitely, we're all getting older."

Now, he said there has been a definite peak in younger riders converting to three wheels because they don't feel as comfortable on just two. Vogele said when he first started converting, one or two customers was good year. More recently, he was converting up to 30 trikes a year before the economy nosedived.

But, he said, more models are popping up from the factories. Vogele fashions trikes out of most Harley-Davidson models and everything else from Honda Goldwings to Victory motorcycles.

"It may be an opening or reopening of doors for someone to ride a motorcycle that didn't think they could do it on two wheels," King said. "For some people, it extends their experience."

For Kansas City's Daryl Rogers, who's been attending the rally for the past 12 years, buying a trike was the best way to get back on a motorcycle. He had a hip surgery that left him wary of riding on two wheels, so he bought a trike.

"I bought a trike a little over a year ago," Rogers said. "I've more fun on it than any other bike I've ridden. I'm back going again."

Contact John Lee McLaughlin at 394-8421 or john.mclaughlin@rapidcityjournal.com

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