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How Many Axles Does a Motorcycle Have? – Everything You Need to Know

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If you’re new to motorcycles, almost everything about them can be really confusing, especially – their wheels.

We all know that a motorcycle has two wheels – that’s why we call them motorcycles, but how many axles does a motorcycle have?

We’ll find out that and more in this article.

How Many Axles Does a Motorcycle Have?

Here’s the deal – all motorcycles have two axles and two wheels. There are no exceptions to that.

If a motorcycle has three axles, then it’s classified and called a trike, a sidecar, or a three-wheeler. Can you guess how many axles do trikes have?

A trike or a three-wheeler has two axles, the same amount as a regular motorcycle. But why is that?

Why Do Motorcycles Have Two Axles?

Before we go any further, let’s first understand what we actually call an axle.

By definition, an axle is what we call a center shaft that’s used for rotating wheels. However, that is just very confusing, as almost all definitions are.

The absolute best way to figure out how many axles a vehicle has is to simply look at the vehicle from the side and count the number of wheels it has. The number of wheels a vehicle has while looking from the side is the exact amount of axles that it has. If the wheels are parallel to each other – they make up a single axle, it doesn’t matter how many wheels are on the same axle.

Semi-trailer axles
Semi-trailer axles

For example, if you look at this semi-trailer, you can see that it has three wheels, which also means that it has three axles. It’s that simple.

Now, it’s easy to see where the confusion comes from.

a differential
Most people think an axle looks like this

When we usually speak of axles, we automatically imagine a big differential or an axle shaft. However, an axle can be simply just one wheel, like in the case of the motorcycle.

Motorcycle axle

Can Motorcycles Have Three Wheels?

Technically speaking, motorcycles can have three wheels, but we have different names for them – the trike and the sidecar. Trikes and sidecars are still considered motorcycles, at least legally speaking. Any motor vehicle with three or fewer wheels is considered a motorcycle.

Sidecar motorcycle
An old sidecar motorcycle

Sidecars were really popular in WW2, and not so much today. Some motorcycles, like the Ural, come with two wheels just like you’d expect, but get converted into a sidecar by installing the extra passenger compartment with its own wheel.

A modern trike motorcycle

Trikes are a more refined and sophisticated version of the sidecar. They’re more stable and more comfortable to ride.

With that said, both of them are considered motorcycles, even though we have different names for each.

Are 3 Wheel Motorcycles Safer Than 2 Wheels?

It really depends on what kind of 3-wheel motorcycle we are talking about.

If we’re talking about a sidecar, then oh boy do I have news for you. Sidecars are really, and I mean REALLY unstable – especially if you’re not used to riding one. The center of gravity on a sidecar motorcycle is located opposite of where the sidecar attachment is located.

This means that when you’re turning sharply to the opposite side of where the sidecar attachment is located, then your motorcycle will lean and raise the sidecar up in the air. Really scary if you’re not prepared for it.

On the other hand, trikes are a little bit safer than two-wheeled motorcycles – mainly due to their stability. However, if you end up in a crash with a trike, then the results will not be much different than those from a regular two-wheeled motorcycle.

Final Thoughts

While motorcycles seem like simple two-wheel machines, in reality, they are actually really complicated.

However, figuring out how many axles a motorcycle has is really simple – just look at it from the side and count how many wheels it has.

This easy method can be used to figure out the number of axles on literally any vehicle.

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