July 11, 2019 5 min read

Hey everyone, we're back again at the Die Epic blog with another cool story for our readers.

Today we bring you Marty Spellman and the first drift trike.

He actually got in touch with us because he wanted to set the record straight (more on that below) about who got first in the drift triking world. 

See for yourself. Here's his story: 

DIE EPIC: Back in the 1970's, you were in your 20's and you made the first drift trike ever. I know people from the 70's were as crazy as we are now but, what were you thinking when you built your first trike? What's the story behind it?

Marty: Back in 1974 I would have been 24 years of age. 

Like most young people I was little goofy, crazy at times and always looking for something fun to do. We had skateboards, inline skates, surfboards, motocross bikes skiing and soon (this tells a lot of the tale) Class A Speedway bikes—fast bikes with no brakes. This pretty much set the stage for me as an adrenaline junky. 

I first got the idea by watching a couple of kids racing down a hill at a place called Hillcrest Park in Fullerton, California. They were on Big Wheels and having a great time. I just thought it would be fun to do even though I was too old and never had a Big Wheel as a kid. 

So yes, the kid in me came out. (Oh, and for the record, I still have that kid in me).

The craze started when I convinced by brother and some buddies to get Big Wheels for themselves and we began racing down that same hill in Hillcrest Park.  

Our style of use, though, wore out the Big Wheel trikes way too fast. That’s when I got the idea to build a true drift trike with a metal frame.

I had a friend that had a muffler shop. He let me cut up some tubing he had to form the seat and rear axle section. I had bought a 20" Stingray-type frame at a swap meet for a few bucks and used the front forks, head tube and the lower bar.  I made my cuts on that frame and welded up the seat and rear section. Using an arc welder explains the crudeness of all the welds. 

So that's how the first trike frame was built. 

For the rear wheels I used wheels from a company that made the "Hot Cycle" which was “Big Wheel's” competitor. They lasted a lot longer than Big Wheel wheels. I still have the last worn out pair. They don't make Hot Cycles any longer so they are probably the only ones left in existence.

Soon I was building a trike for my brother. I think I was busy building trikes on Saturdays for several months. We would go out looking for hills to ride on Sundays. All in all I believe I built 17 trikes. Of all of those that were built to my knowledge only my first one, which I have restored, still survives. 

DE:How did things evolve from 1974 to the present? Were there competitions or did you get some attention from this new adrenaline sport? We have this press release from the time which looks very cool - thanks for sharing it with us.

Marty: We held our competitions for several years. I think the enthusiasm died off when I got into Speedway racing. That became a full time deal for me racing 5 nights a week 27 weeks out of the year. 

I quit playing drums and my band friends started getting married having families etc. and drifted away into their own lives. I still stay in touch with several of them. So, sadly that’s how things evolved from then to now.

DE: Have you done any downhill triking recently? Maybe you have any video/picture that you can share with us?

Marty: No, I haven't ridden recently. However, there is some chatter about going back to California for a speed record attempt. 

I've also had offers from Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Italy and Australia to come ride with them. Who knows, maybe you see me drifting in some foreign country one of these days.

As for the video--yes it is currently getting copied from VHS to digital. There is an animated sequence in there that I came up with. VERY kewl and funny. I’m sure it will be enjoyed by all.

Quick note from Die Epic: Here's the video Marty's talking about, very cool! We recommend watching seconds 6:30 to 10:00 for some cool action shots. Also check 33:00 until the end to check how to competitors arrive safe at the goal line.

DE:Would you like to see downhill triking as a major sport in the future? If you do, what's your vision?

Marty: Sure I would love to see that become a major sport. However it seems the sport is on the decline here in the states. This is merely a perception on my part; you might have a better feel on that one. New Zealand and Australia seem to have a strong following however. 

As for my vision, not sure that I have one these days. I did back in the day but then again here we are. For me now I just wanted everyone to know it didn't start in New Zealandas Wikipedia says. 

As you saw I have the documentation to prove otherwise. Just want to set the record straight. 

I think to make it a true sport it needs to be more organized with regular competitions and hopefully a lot of media coverage. Then again maybe the purist would say that would take the heart out of the sport. Hard to say.

DE:Can you give anyone looking into starting on downhill triking some of your top 3 tips? We have a veteran triker here with us after all.

Marty: It would be very interesting to hear your rider's take on this question. 

First off I would say start slow to get a feel for what the trike will do. For some crazy reason I took to it straight off. I hardly ever spun out. 

I want to make a point here. In many of the videos of other clubs (not all by any means) it seems the goal these days is to "slide for style". We didn't do that. We were into it for the racing and the drifting. So maybe the objective is different these days. 

Back to tips. 

Secondly, go over the trike yourself. Make sure it is safe and sound. 

Lastly if you are doing it for racing/speed just remember you are scrubbing off speed when you are sliding.  Put ankles on the pegs and stretch out as flat on the trike as you can for less wind resistance, tape pant openings to legs and go fast because fast is where the fun is!

DE:Just to finish, how can people get in touch with you if anyone wants to hear any more triking stories from you?

Marty: Anyone is more than welcomed to contact me at spellmkr@gmail.com. I would also like to thank you for your interest in the history of the sport. Your enthusiasm has put a smile on my face. I have VERY fond memories of the times I had with friends on the trikes. 


The first drift trike before Marty's renovation.The first drift trike, several years in Marty's attic.

The first drift trike after Marty's renovation.
The first drift trike after Marty's 2019 renovation.

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