Category Archives: options

PROS & CONS OF ELECTRIC MOTOR PEDAL ASSIST


Those who have been following my writings from the git go  probably know that I got my start in this writing articles about tadpole trikes on Steve Greene’s Trike Asylum blog. One of my earliest articles (To Motorize Or Not To Motorize, That Is The Question which was posted on April 5, 2013) was on the subject of motorizing a tadpole trike and I made it pretty clear that I was against it. I made an exception for those who truly needed it Never the less I ruffled some feathers and caught some flak for writing the article. I have to admit that when I wrote it I didn’t know much about the subject of motorizing a trike. I don’t recall whether or not I was even aware of “pedal assist”. Anyway, since that time I have gotten myself a bit more educated about pedal assist. I also finally reached the point I felt I would benefit from having electric motor pedal assist. I have had one on my trike now for awhile so I have experience with using it and feel I am qualified to write about it. I am loving it. Anyway, I am reposting the early article I wrote so you can read it here in this posting. You will find it at the bottom of this article I am now writing. As you read thru it you should be able to pick up that I was thinking that this subject matter is about propulsion by a motor and not pedal assist.

Recently a fellow triker brought up the matter of a tadpole trike being a Human Powered Vehicle (HPV) … that is to say, they are suppose to be. Hey, that is exactly the position I used to hold so I know where he is coming from. We are all familiar with the terms “Pros & Cons” … stating those things in support or favor of and those things which are not if support or favor of. After having a motorized pedal assist trike and riding it quite a lot already I though it would be good to try to write an unbiased opinion and report on the pros and cons of having a pedal assist motor enhancement. Of course, now I speak only of “PEDAL ASSIST”. I like the description … “it’s like having a built in tail wind”. I am still against a motor propelling a trike where the rider is not required to pedal.

I will state the things that come to mind as pros as well as those things which come to mind as cons. I will say upfront that the list will be considerably lop sided as I have been giving thought to this matter and have to say that there is very little I can come up with to put on the cons list while there is a whole lot that comes to mind to place on the pros list. This certainly is not an exhaustive list. As I think of more I will add them to the lists.

THE PROS

1) It makes pedaling easier not requiring nearly as much pressure to be exerted on the pedals. This greatly helps in hill climbing and those with knee joint problems, pain and weakness.

2) The rider can go considerably faster even though they are exerting the same amount of pressure on the pedals and using the same amount of energy as they did previously. For instance, climbing a hill that used to slow me down to 2 to 4 mph I can now ride up at 14-16 mph if I want to.

3) If the rider tires out during a ride the motor assist helps them to get back to wherever they started from or need to get to.

4) If riding has become a chore rather than the fun it once was then pedal assist can make it fun again.

5) It enables a rider to ride at a faster pace so that being able to ride with faster riders is now possible. You still won’t be able to keep up with a lot of the roadies however as they really go. Funny thing is they are allowed on bike trails and some bike trails ban pedal assist bikes and trikes. It is not right.

6) It is a real blessing to have when you need to zip across a busy street when a break in traffic finally comes along. It can propel you across fast and out of any danger.

7) When you need to make good time to get some place faster than you normally could again the motor is such a blessing.

8) Having the ability to accelerate  quickly and go fast can be a big help in getting away from a dog or person you might be concerned about as far as your personal safety. Of course, most dogs can run faster than 20 mph.

9) Because you are still pedaling, but pedaling easier you actually get more exercise. You can pedal at a faster cadence which is a very good thing as many of pedal way too slowly anyway. And because it is easier to pedal you can ride longer.

10) Someone who has had problems with hernias and are concerned about overexerting them self and causing serious problems can greatly benefit from having pedal assist.

11) Having electric motor pedal assist does not mean that you have to use it. You can ride with it turned off just like it wasn’t there. And quite honestly most of the time I can’t tell the difference between riding my trike as it came from the factory and riding it now with the motor and battery installed but not turned on.

12) If you have long downhill grades you can set the controls to generate rather than use power and in doing this you  recharge the battery. You can also just ride along recharging the battery if you are strong enough to pedal with the resistance involved. Or if you are up to the task even on level ground you can pedal along recharging the battery if you are physically up to it. Please note that the charging rate in this mode is very little so it would take a lot of time and travel to put much of a charge back into the battery.

13) You can play with the minds of the road bike riders  by being able to ride their speed and maybe even pass them. Some of them however ride much faster than a motorized pedal assist can go (legally).

14) When riding off road the pedal assist is great to have. It makes such adventure so much easier and enjoyable and even safer as one doesn’t always have the strength to pedal in/over/thru some places.

15) It reduces the stress being placed on the drive system (pedals, crankset, chain & sprockets) as the motor is helping to turn the rear wheel.

16) If you are riding with others and you have to stop or slow down and they keep going having the pedal assist motor makes it much easier to catch back up with them.

17) It is great when riding into a headwind. Other than feeling the wind you can truly say “what wind?”.

THE CONS

1) The motor and battery add weight to the trike. It has added over 20 pounds to my trike and all on the back. That being said, much to my surprise and delight the only time I can tell there is additional weight is when I lift it. When I ride I can’t tell it at all.

2) Being able to go faster is fun, but it also adds a measure of danger and concern that didn’t exist riding slower. You may tend to go into curves faster than you should. If you are not used to handling a trike at higher speeds you could crash.

3) It is expensive to add a motor to a trike and the battery only lasts so long before it needs to be replaced at considerable cost. My conversion kit costs about $2500 and the replacement battery costs about $900 to $1000. There is always the chance that the manufacturer will either go out of business or simply not offer a replacement battery later on if they opt to make some changes in their product offerings.

4) Some trails don’t allow the use of any motors on  them. I personally don’t think that this should apply to pedal assist systems and I would hope that trails which say no to them will reconsider and change their position on this.

5) Motorizing a tadpole trike adds to the value making it more of a target for a thief.

6) Motorizing a trike makes it so much fun to ride that your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend will want to ride it and cut you out of the picture. 😉

********************

TO MOTORIZE OR NOT TO MOTORIZE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

I am getting into something here which I will state upfront I am very opinionated about. I”M ‘AGIN’ IT! To my way of thinking motorizing any type of human powered vehicle is defeating the whole concept of the thing … exercise. I mean, come on … if you want a motorized open air vehicle buy a motorcycle for crying out loud. I rode them for over 50 years of my life until I finally decided I would give it up for strictly pedaling around. I was also riding a bicycle all those years so I still got some exercise … just not nearly as much as I do now.

I am sure that there are some folks who are not able to pedal to get around … perhaps can’t use their arms and hands to propel a vehicle either and so they may NEED something in the way of a motorized trike. But there are a whole lot of folks out there who are perfectly capable of pedaling who really don’t NEED to go this route.

That being said, I know it has become pretty popular. The man I sold my homemade tadpole trike to told me he planned on motorizing it. There is lots of information out there on the subject. And I am sure riding a motorized tadpole trike is a lot of fun even though it could lead to an added element of danger. And there may be some folks who just need help pedaling up hills as just maybe their bodies can’t deliver what it takes.

Obviously there are two main ways to go … electric motor or gas engine. Those who oppose gas engines because they “pollute” would no doubt only consider the electric motor route. But I AM STILL AGIN IT!

Here are some pictures of various setups:

KMX trike motorized

KMX trike motorized

gas engine motorized trike

gas engine motorized trike

solar charging motorized trike

solar charging motorized trike

ecospeed motor on boom

ecospeed motor on boom 2

And I say to ya’ll …

KEEP ON PEDALIN’

(We all need the exercise!)

By the way,  one needs to be aware that there are trails where it is against the rules to ride a motorized bike or trike. Our local trails here in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area do not allow them. Only motorized wheelchairs are permitted. When it comes to “pedal assist” it is not fair to ban them. They are as much as a human powered vehicle as the roadies out there zooming by at 25 plus mph while my top speed is only 20 mph with pedal assist. HERE is a good article on the subject.

AND AWAY WE GO! (WITH BIONX)


It took several years, but I have finally succumbed to the concept of my using electric motor pedal assist. It is a matter of aging I think and finding it a bit more challenging climbing hills. I can still climb them, but oh so slow and if I am riding with others I just watch them ride on away from me as I can’t begin to keep up. So I bit the bullet and got myself some help. Now I can shoot up those hills and don’t have any problem keeping up with my friends should I choose to ride with them.

HERE is a webpage about Bionx products. And HERE is another one.

The electronics are quite sophisticated and pretty well thought out. The reviews of Bionx are extremely favorable. Pretty much everybody say they have the best system going. The company is out of Canada.

They have 3 different size batteries. They are all 48 volts, but their power in amperage varies providing a choice of 50 miles, 65 miles or 80 miles between charges. The one pictured below which fits under their rack is the middle one. The largest battery mounts down low behind the seat alongside of the frame.

Although with this battery mounted up under their rack means the weight is carried up high effecting the trike’s center of gravity and handling it also means that the battery is positioned so that it doesn’t get nearly as messed up from water, mud and other crud being splashed up on it like would happen if it were mounted down lower alongside the frame. Also having it higher makes it much easier to get at to charge it or remove it.

Their controller (shown above) has been upgraded as have their display console.

This display unit (shown below) has replaced the larger combination display controller they had previously.

This next video features an older version of the console and controller which has been replaced with the ones shown above. I offer it here as it still is helpful in understanding some factors of the Bionx system.

The new electronics also offers a  Bluetooth connection to their free smartphone app which among other things is a tracking and reporting info of the route,  ride and even pulse of the rider. The Bluetooth module sells for $175.

They offer 250, 350 and 500 watt hub motors. I understand that Bionx limits the top speed of 20 mph for all units shipped to the United States to comply with the law.

If your trike has a 20 inch rear wheel you are limited to the 350 watt hub motor as the 500 watt is too large in diameter to be laced into a 20 inch rim. If you have a larger diameter rear wheel such as a 26 inch or 700 the larger 500 watt hub motor is available for them although the larger motor may not be needed. The bike shop dealer told me that unless one lives someplace with a lot of steep hills to climb the 350 is more than enough power to use on a trike.

Having a FAT trike with electric motor pedal assist sounds like a very helpful addition for off road riding. It might require someone skilled at wheel lacing to come up with a wheel laced to a hub motor.

It is my understanding that the batteries can be charged approximately 1000 times. Replacement batteries cost between $900 and $1000 so they ain’t cheap.

The bike shop I am involved with is a Bionx dealer. He told me about the high tech system Bionx has in place making trouble shooting and repair easy for the dealers. They simply plug the unit into a computer with Bionx software installed on it and it connects with Bionx while running diagnostics on the system. The dealer gives permission for Bionx to remotely do various things while connected to your unit over the internet and they can remedy most problems or at least know what is wrong so it can be remedied. With this system the dealers don’t have to learn and know a lot about the Bionx system yet they can take care of the customer.

In closing I want to mention that there are more powerful hub motors made and available which can propel a trike much faster (not legally mind you) and even at 70 years old there is still a part of me that is attracted to riding along at 45 plus mph on my trike, but I am wise enough to know that when you play with fire you are likely to get burnt. I would probably wrap myself around some tree or telephone pole. Nope, I best stick with the 20 mph option. That is plenty fast enough.

With the use of electric motor pedal assist it can help us to …

ENJOY THE RIDE & kEEP ON TRIKIN’

Update (5/3/17) – I now have the Bionx hub motor system installed on my trike and I am loving it. I haven’t been able to ride it much as it has been raining for 3 days straight. I took some pictures of my trike with this unit installed. I remounted the controller from where the bike shop had located it. I like it much better now as I can see it much better and get at it much handier. I probably should paint the blue piece of steel tubing I used to place on my mirror where I mounted the controller. I need to paint it black so it is not so conspicuous. 🙂 Anyway, riding with this motor assist is amazing. For the same effort I used to exert to ride 5-7 mph I can now ride about 14-16 mph. And for the same effort it took to ride 10-12 mph I can now ride 19 mph. The battery has a built in LED taillight which is extremely bright. Above the taillight is a large red reflector. As I said, I haven’t been able to ride it much yet, but hopefully I soon will be. And it surely looks like I will most definitely …

ENJOY THE RIDE!

WHO NEEDS FENDERS ANYWAY?


fender-set

Who needs fenders? We all do unless we like getting all kinds of ucckkkyyy stuff on us. Even if you ride only when it is dry it is quite likely that you will occasionally get “something” rather unpleasant flung up onto you. If you are going straight most stuff just goes on your arms, but when you are turning it gets flung up on your chest, lap, and legs. Sometimes even when going straight stuff gets flung elsewhere on you. I am always amazed with those who ride without fenders and don’t think they need them. They either live a charmed life or they are not being honest about this matter.

Now if you are riding off road and at a very slow speed  or even on pavement at a very slow speed fenders may not be needed, but most of us ride on pavement and fast enough that crud is flying off of our tires. BTW, to my knowledge most FAT tire trikes don’t have fenders available for them at this time.

ice-and-catrike-fender-mounting

When it comes to fenders all too often the quality and design is not all that great. Some are downright poor in design while a few are much much better. I personally don’t like the ones that have braces on them. I much prefer the ones which have a strong mounting bracket such as newer Catrike, Greenspeed, HP Velotecknik and ICE offer. I have the older type Catrike fenders and mounting hardware (pictured below) which I don’t care for at all. I paid a lot of money for them and they are junk. They are a problem in more ways than one.  The steel rods easily get bent and cause further damage to the fender. Plastic fenders are fairly strong and durable, but they have their limits.

front-fender-braces-2

planet-bike-fender-braces

The braces like pictured above which employ the plastic mounts shown are not desirable in my book. A few times I have had the fenders get chunks broken out of them where the braces attach. When that happens I have had to relocate the braces to get to a place where I can reattach them. I have learned something about attaching these braces which helps. The small screw which is used in the plastic part that attaches to the fender should not be allowed to go “thru” the plastic fender as if it does it weakens that area of the fender considerably and is the main cause of those areas breaking out. So now I just tighten the screw until the tip of the screw slightly penetrates the plastic fender enough to hold it. I have not had anymore chunks breaking out since I started doing this.

Most fenders are plastic, but some folks use wooden, steel or carbon fiber fenders.

CHAIN TUBES … WHO NEEDS THEM?


chain-tubes

Chain tubes seem to be somewhat of a controversial issue among tadpole trikers. Some people just don’t like them and remove them. They replace them with a dual idler pulley setup. Some say that using chain tubes slows them up as the chain drags thru them and the friction involved is the culprit causing the slowup. Some just don’t like the appearance of chain tubes. They say they are unattractive. Some say that chain tubes are noisy and they object to having them because of this. I personally don’t buy into most of the objections people raise. If everything is set up correctly I think chain tubes are a great component to employ on a tadpole trike. They keep the chain cleaner while keeping the rider cleaner. They “manage” the chain keeping it from flopping around unnecessarily, keeping it from rubbing on the frame and also keep it in place, especially if the trike is folded.

dual-idler-pulleys

A few years ago I decided to try eliminating the chain tubes and using a second idler pulley. I ran my trike that way for awhile, but I didn’t care much for it and went back to the original setup. In fact, I even added an additional chain tube on the back side. I personally think the argument about slowing one up is silly just as is the argument about safety flags slowing a trike up and/or making too much noise flapping around. There are always going to be people who think like this and that is ok. They can do what they want. It does bother me however when they try to talk others out of using these things. A good safety flag may very well save your life.

chain-tube-on-folded-trike

You can see in this picture of a folded Azub trike how well the chain tubes

control the chain keeping it in place and protecting the trike frame.

In managing a chain they keep it from making contact with the trike frame and rubbing the paint off of it. They keep the chain from making contact with the rider’s leg and leaving a “tattoo” on the skin or clothing. They keep the chain in place so it doesn’t get relocated somewhere it doesn’t belong and cause other problems. This also includes the fact that it helps eliminate our having to get our hands all messed up trying to get the chain back where it belongs. Keeping a lot of the chain enclosed eliminates a lot of exposure to external elements which get the chain dirty.

chain-tubes-2

The way I look at it the trike manufacturers know what they are doing and they incorporate the use of chain tubes for very good reasons. Yes, they can be eliminated, but why would you want to? In doing so you are defeating the whole purpose of why they were installed. Not every chain tube installed from the manufacturer is set up properly. I will grant you that. I redid mine so that they sort of “float” and stay in line with where the chain moves to when shifting between the various sprockets. I even heated the chain tube and put a slight bend(curve) in it so it better lines up with the chain. I also flared the ends of the chain tubes so that the chain moves thru the chain tubes better. I don’t notice any drag or noise from the chain tubes and I definitely like my leg and clothing from not making contact with the chain thanks to the chain tubing. Lastly one thing I have observed when it comes to the use of chain tubes is that they can be too long or positioned wrong or held to solidly to where they interfere with the chain moving freely allowing proper shifting onto the sprockets … front or rear. This is all common sense stuff but, hey, it happens and needs to be corrected so that everything works right. (Right along with this I have also seen idler sprocket/pulleys positioned too close to the front derailleur and sprockets which do not allow the needed movement and alignment of the chain to shift properly onto the various sprockets. This can also be the case at the rear derailleur. This is especially true with homemade trikes or trikes where someone has replaced the original chain tubes and made them longer or placed them too far forward or back in the case where they are on the rear of the trike.)

So who needs chain tubes? In my opinion we all do. But, hey, you do whatever you want. Forest Gump had it right and they say you can’t fix it! Did I really say that? Shame on me! Hey, …

KEEP ON TRIKIN’ & ENJOY THE RIDE!

BOOM CHAIN TENSIONERS (CRANK ARM SHORTENERS UPDATE)


Note: I started out writing this article about an update on the subject of crank arms shorteners, but it more less evolved into another topic so I changed the title accordingly.

It has warmed up a bit recently and all the snow has melted. Between that and rain we have had recently the rivers have risen and flooded over their banks so that some parts of our local bike trails are flooded over and closed. Boo Hoo!! Never the less I have been able to ride my tadpole trike which I thoroughly enjoyed despite the nasty wind chill factor. In order to ride my trike I removed the crank arm shorteners I had installed on my wife’s recumbent bike I am using for rehab and exercise here at home. I installed the crank arm shorteners on my trike. (I was even able to move the pedals one hole further out so that means my new knee joints are improving.) What a difference! I really like them (Yes, both the crank arm shorteners and my new knee joints.) 🙂

crank-arm-shortener-on-my-tadpole-trike-3

However, there is one thing that I noticed using them on my trike that I didn’t notice on the bike. With the crank arm shorteners installed on my trike I need to readjust my boom … lengthen it … as I am not getting the leg extension I need with the pedals relocated. I have not done that yet, but I should. It probably will require adding some more chain. That is the main reason I haven’t tried moving the boom out yet. It is winter out there folks and I am not too crazy about working out in the cold to accomplish this task.

A rear derailleur is supposed to be able to handle about 2 inches of extra chain length as far as movement of the boom.  That equates to approximately one inch of boom adjustment. However that figure is based on the boom position at the shortest length the rear derailleur handles to the position of the boom at the longest length it can handle. If the boom is already positioned out quite a ways within that range than most of that 2 inches is already used up. If this is the case then additional chain would need to be added.

One nice option is to employ a Universal Boom Adjust Chain Tensioner designed for the boom of a tadpole trike.

crank-arm-shortener-on-tadpole-trike

They are not cheap ($155), but they do make it easy to move the boom in and out and automatically maintain the proper chain tension. They are especially nice to accommodate various riders of differing sizes. The chain can be made up long enough to move the boom out for a tall rider and when the boom is shortened for a shorter rider the chain tensioner automatically takes care of the extra chain the rear derailleur would not be able to handle. Obviously there is a lot of extra chain and hardware involved and it might appear a bit unsightly to many (myself included), but they do work. You definitely would not want to run it into a curb or such as it would likely be damaged. TerraCycle (not to be confused with TerraTrike) manufactures these for several different brands of trikes. They can be purchased from some trike dealers and trike manufacturers as well. Catrike sells it for $150, but it is $145 at most of the other sources I have seen including directly from TerraCycle. The Chain Gobbler fits Greenspeed trikes and sells for $149.

Here is a Utah Trikes video on the subject of these chain tensioners …

So this is a very handy and practical option available. Most definitely if you have various size riders riding the same trike this is the way to go. Adding and removing lengths of chain even if you use links which are supposedly quick and easy to remove is a real pain compared to this slick setup. So if you have $150 or so burning a hole in your pocket here is a place to unload that cash and make your life easier. It is always nicer to ride then to “wrench”. And it will even help you and others to …

KEEP ON TRIKIN’

CRANKARM SHORTENERS REVISITED


crank-shorteners

For a very long time now I have wanted to try using crankarms shorteners as they are supposed to help those who have knee joint issues. And it is said that short people should use shorter crankarms. I qualify on both. At my rehab physical therapy sessions I am going thru for knee joint replacement their stationary recumbent exercise bike has the crankarms adjusted to their minimum setting and that setting works great for me. I recently ordered a set of crankarm shorteners so I can pedal normally. With my 165 mm crankarms that came on my trike I have to place the heels of my feet on the pedals in order to pedal it. I tried pedaling my wife’s recumbent bike which I have set up on an indoor trainer out on the enclosed patio at the back of the house, but I couldn’t even pedal it with my heels on the pedals. I think it has 175 mm crankarms. I just am not “there” yet in my recovery. At rehab I can pedal with my feet positioned normally on the pedals. I even cranked it up to 100 rpm cadence a couple of times. So the shorter crankarms really do make a difference. I am really looking forward to having them on my trike.

Here is a video which explains the need and benefit of shorter crankarms.

What I am not looking forward to is winter weather for the next few months. I don’t know how much I will be getting out riding thru the winter. If it gets nasty enough I will no doubt bring my trike back inside the house for the third winter in a row and set it up on the indoor trainer in the living room in front of the large screen TV which is also used as a computer monitor. With access to the internet I can find all sorts of stuff to watch on that big screen in front of me including riding on bike trails. It is almost like being there except I can’t lean in the turns. 🙂

Yep, a set of these just might be your ticket as well.

short-crankarms-2

Shortens cranks by 24, 41, 59 and 76mm. I am pretty certain that I will be using the 59 mm position (next to the shortest) as that will give me about 106 mm crankarms which is close to the setting of the crankarms on the stationary recumbent exercise bike I am pedaling at rehab. The really neat thing about using these is that if and as one improves the pedals can be moved further out. I doubt if I would ever go back all the way to 165 mm though.

HERE is an article I wrote previously about crankarm length.

HERE is the best price I have found on them. I am quite certain that they are going to help me to …

KEEP ON TRIKIN’

PEDALING WITH KNEE PAIN


As many of you know I am in the slow painful process of recovering from total knee joint replacement. I am 4 weeks post surgery as I type this. All in all I am doing very good. I was walking without a walker in just 2 weeks time. I was driving motor vehicles in 3 weeks time. One thing I have been aware of and have even written about before is the use of shorter crankarms. One of the options to this is crankarm shorteners which bolt onto your existing crankarms. They make really good sense to me as they offer various length settings. With this you can change from one setting to another as needed and as your range of motion improves. And if you ever get back to where you no longer need them you simply uninstall them and go back to your original crankarms.

I am currently going thru rehab therapy and sometimes ride a stationary recumbent exercise bike. The rehab facility has two of these bikes, but I can only ride one of them. I looked at both of them and noticed that the difference is the length of the crankarms. The one I can ride has adjustable crankarms and it is setup with shortest available length. I pedaled it yesterday at 100 rpm for a short time. It felt really good to pedal it. Interestingly the physical therapists told me that very rarely can any knee joint replacement patient ride the other bike.

So anyway I plan on buying a set of crankarm shorteners to help me pedal. Hey, if you have knee joint issues and limited range of motion using shorter crankarms might be “just what the doctor ordered” for you. They are not cheap however. I was surprised and disappointed when I looked them up online. The best price I was able to find was about $115 with shipping thru Amazon. They are a different brand than the ones in this video. (I have noticed that the prices seem to change almost daily. The best deals I have found are usually on Ebay.) I had not yet come across these Ortho Pedals which sell for $89 each or $149 per set. Most of the ones I found were far more expensive … $130 and up. Ortho Pedal’s FAQ. Ortho Pedal’s warranty.

BTW, my second knee joint replacement is scheduled for Nov. 10th … just two weeks away. Oh boy! I am hoping to be burning up the asphalt come next spring.  Don’t get in my way! 🙂

TIRE LINERS – DO THEY WORK?


Mr. Tuffy & RhinoDillos

Tire liners … do they work? Well …………………………….. yes and no. Once more it all depends. I used to use them and as far as helping prevent externally caused flats, yes they work. However, I and a couple of friends who also used them found that they caused flats internally. Now there are things which can be done to help prevent this from happening. Unfortunately we did not do any of it so we got occasional flats as a result. I would think that there should not have to be any thing done extra such as this for the tire liners to work properly and not cause internal flats. Now that I use the best tire money can buy I no longer use tire liners as I don’t need them. That being said when I first switched to the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires I installed the tire liners initially as I already had them and had been using them for a few years on all the various tires I had tried previously. I thought it would be a good idea to have the extra measure of protection. Big mistake! I got about three flats over a period of a few years. All were internally caused flats. When I replaced the inner tubes I removed the tire liners. I have not had any flats since.

So my advice is if you are going to use a regular tire prone to getting flats the tire liners are a good thing. If you are going to use them either sand the end of the tire liner where it overlaps itself to remove any sharpness or use duct tape to help protect the inner tube from any sharpness on the end. Personally I would do both … sand the end and use the duct tape.

rounded end

And be sure the end is rounded as this will help with the edge the inner tube comes in contact with.

Lastly with or without tire liners I highly recommend using talcum powder inside the tire and on the inner tube to reduce rubbing and abrasion which cause ‘internal’ flats. Put the talcum powder inside of the tire after the tire liner is in place.

Definitely there is “abrasion” which occurs when tire liners are used. Take a look at this picture.

inner tube tire liner abrasion

You can plainly see the outline of the tire liner on the inner tube. Notice the sharp line of the end of the tire liner where it overlaps itself. Again, using duct tape on the end will greatly reduce this. As to the use of duct tape some say to put it over the end which overlaps. Some say put it on both ends. I see no reason to put it on both ends as it is only that which is in contact with the inner tube which is a concern. I would only put it on the overlap area. Here is one way to do it … wrap it around the top and bottom of the tire liner and then trim the duct tape to the rounded end shape.

duct tape drawing

I wonder if it would not work better to just place a piece of duct tape over the overlap once the tire liner is in place inside of the tire. That way there would be less thickness at the overlap so that the overlap would not protrude out as far into the inner tube. I see no advantage to having tape on the bottom side of the tire liner since it is not in contact with the inner tube. Also the tape on the overlap would help hold the tire liner in position inside of the tire. The end which overlaps tends to want to drop away from the rest of the tire liner once it is up inside of the tire so I think it would be very helpful to place duct tape over the overlap.

tire liner toughness 2

To the best of my knowledge there isn’t all that much difference in quality and protection offered between the various brands of tire liners. I have read that the Kevlar liners should not be used as they don’t work very well. Stick with the plastic type such as Mr. Tuffy, Rhino Dillos, Stop Flats 2, Zefal, and Slime. As you can see in the picture above they are pretty tough.

I think that with the exception of Rhino Dillos all of the tire liners come packaged all rolled up tightly in a small coil/roll. In doing so the inside end is all curled up and presents  problems when trying to work with it to install it. So because of this I recommend buying the Rhino Dillos as they are packaged so that this doesn’t happen. They are rolled up in a larger diameter. If you buy one of the other brands it is best to take it out of the packaging and hang it up by the small inside curled end (if it is one rolled from the end) so that it can straighten out for a day or two before installing it.

tire liner rolled up

If it is one rolled from the middle like pictured below then, of course, you should hang it from the end (either end).

curled up end of tire liner

Again, my thinking is the worst way of packaging these tire liners is to fold them in half and then roll them up like the red one pictured above. If I were buying any I would steer clear of any packaged like that.

I myself have only used Mr. Tuffy tire liners, which is the originator of tire liners. They are made of made of durable, lightweight polyurethane. They also have what they say is a lighter weight product for those who are weight conscious/concerned. They claim that their liners will not cause tire or tube damage. I take issue with that as I consider causing internal flats as “damage”. Whether the hole is the result of a puncture from the outside or abrasion on the inside it is still damage and has the same consequences … a flat and a destroyed inner tube.

Tire liners come in different widths since tires come in different widths so be sure you get the correct width for the tires you are using. They also come in “XL” for FAT tires.

FAT tire liner

As to installing tire liners you will find different methods and suggestions ‘out there’.

tire liner installed

Some say to remove the tire and inner tube completely off of the rim so you can install the tire liner inside of the tire off of the rim. That is the way I have always done it. Some say to leave the tire and inner tube on the rim and just remove one side of the tire off of the rim so you insert the tire liner between the tire and inner tube. Some say to remove on side of the tire off of the rim and remove the inner tube. Certainly it can be accomplished in any of these ways. It is important, of course, to ensure that there is nothing sharp inside of the tire or rim before installing the tire liner. That is best and easiest accomplished by removing both tire and inner tube off of the rim. It is also important to be sure the tire liner is centered inside of the tire and that the inner tube is installed correctly with no twists or other abnormalities.

Here is what Mr. Tuffy shows as to how to install the tire liners:

installation instructions

I found it interesting that their instructions say to remove any debris found inside of the tire casing before the inner tube is removed. How in the world are you supposed to check inside the tire casing without first removing the inner tube? DUH!

I personally much prefer to take the tires completely off of the rims to install tire liners. Doing them while still on the rim one can not nearly as easily tell where the tire liner is positioned as far as getting it centered in the tire. Of course, no matter how one goes about it there is always the chance that the tire liner will move out of position during final assembly and reinflating the inner tube.

Another good reason for removing the tire completely off of the rim is one can much more easily and thoroughly examine the casing of the tire and do anything needed to ensure the tire is fit and ready to use.

stop flats 2 round end

The side of the tire liner that has the extra layer of material bonded to it (it is usually darker color like shown above in the picture) goes outward toward the tire.

I watched several videos on installing tire liners and quite frankly I was not very impressed by any of them. I settled for this one to use here.

Well, like ol’ Forest Gump … that’s all I have to say about that. Tire liners? … Use them if you need them. As for me, I am going to just continue to use the best tire money can buy and not concern myself with flats. My Mr. Tuffy tire liners are hanging up on the garage wall. I will probably never use them again. It is a real joy to just be able to …

KEEP ON TRIKIN’

and not be concerned about flats. And it is great to get such phenomenal mileage out of the tires as well.

UNDERSTANDING GEAR RATIOS


All those round things with teeth around the outside are commonly known as “sprockets”. (Yes, I know for those who insist on being technical … they are cassettes/cogs on the back and chainrings on the front.) These sprockets are several different diameters and this is for a reason. All those different diameters provide a different gear ratio when the chain goes from one to the other. When the chain is on the smallest sprocket in the front and the largest sprocket on the back it is the lowest gear ratio. And when the chain is on the largest sprocket in the front and the smallest sprocket in the back it is the highest gear ratio. Knowing these gear ratios, lowest to highest, helps us to determine the performance capability as well as the hill climbing ability and effort needed. As to the fastest speed we can ride we can only pedal so fast. Once we reach the maximum rpm we are capable of pedaling we reach the maximum speed we can go. The only way we can go any faster is to have a higher gear ratio. And even then we reach the point of “practicalness” as sooner or later we find too much resistance in our pedaling.

There are other contributing and limiting factors involved in determining the gear ratios such as wheel size and tire choices, but I am not addressing any of that here.

HERE is a well written article on the subject of understanding gear ratios.

large sprocket on tadpole trike

As you can see in the picture above an oversize sprocket has been installed on this tadpole trike. It looks mighty impressive, but the truth is probably not many of us could pedal it to its potential top speed as we just don’t have what it takes. Most of our trikes come equipped from the manufacturer with a 52 tooth sprocket as the largest. The picture above is real, but the one below is fake … a little photo editing fun I had sometime back.

130 tooth chainring on Catrike 700

Mind you there are bikes and trikes with oversize sprockets which have been ridden to accomplish setting new land speed records for human powered vehicles. Usually they have some sort of streamlined bodies on them so they can cut thru the air and not deal with the resistance you and I do with our plain ol’ trikes. Here is a picture of one such vehicle which broke the world record. I haven’t kept up with who currently holds the distinction so this may not be the current record holder.

world record holder

It takes more than gearing to accomplish such a feat. One must be a very top athlete to reach these speeds with just human power. But you can bet there is not 52 tooth sprocket installed here.

Some of us need help with gear ratios as what we currently have isn’t “getting it”. It can get a bit on the expensive side when one starts changing all the sprockets to accomplish such a change in gear ratios. Obviously the best time to do it is when the original sprockets are wore out and in need of changing. And we can only accomplish that by …

KEEPING ON TRIKIN’

FAIRINGS FOR TADPOLE TRIKES


Windwrap WGX one point fairing

Different strokes for different folks as they say. Me, I like the wind in my face (and elsewhere) while I am out riding as it feels so good to me. I would be most miserable without it. However, some don’t like it so they opt for fairings. I readily admit that riding in nasty weather a fairing might indeed feel good.

I only know of three manufacturers for these … Windwrap, ZZipper, and HP Velotechnik.

Zipper DragonFlyer

Some are made so that they can be temporary moved forward somewhat out of the way helping the rider to get in and out of their trike. If you have physical limitations these fairings would be a big problem. I could not use one as I get on and off of my trike  walking forward and backward straddling the boom. I can not safely step over the boom as is required when using a fairing. Anyone with balance issues or unsteadiness would probably have problems.

HP Velotechnik Streamer fairing

HP Velotechnik (shown above) states that their fairings will also fit several other brands of trikes.

Graham Williams of England has a video about two of his trikes outfitted with fairings. He is obviously sold on fairings and truly enjoys them on his trikes.

Graham also has this video showing a little detail of how the fairing is mounted.

Here is another video showing the installation of a HP Velotechnik Streamer fairing. The audio in this video is all messed up.

As mentioned in the video the location of lights might very well be another problem. Also oncoming lights may as well. Mind you, I have never ridden a trike with a fairing so I have no experience with one. I am merely stating what comes to mind about potential concerns.

Another concern I would have in using a fairing is visibility. Brand new a fairing would be clear, but in time I would think they would get messed up and greatly reduce visibility. Even in rain and snow looking thru a fairing could be quite challenging and unsafe in my opinion. And depending upon where one rides the fairing could get in bad shape rather quickly. I guess I am glad I have no desire for one as I would be quite upset to spend all that money only to see it get ruined before my eyes (quite literally).

Lastly, I would be extremely concerned about damaging a fairing as they would be very easy to damage since they stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. And again, that would really upset me spending all that money on one.

Utah Trikes has several fairings shown on their webpage along with the prices of each.

INVERTING TWIST GRIP SHIFTERS AND BRAKE LEVERS ON HANDLEBARS


twist grip shifter vertical reducedor twist grip shifter vertically inverted reduced

Some of us use twist grip shifters and some of us who use them complain about difficulty twisting them using the little finger and palm of our hands. Certainly on a diamond frame upright bicycle (which is what they were designed for) they are installed so that our thumb and opposing finger are positioned on the twist shifters making them much easier to twist. Trike manufacturers who installed these on their trikes have inverted them so that they are facing down instead of up. I have often wondered why they did this. Surely they know it is not how they were designed to be used and inverting like they did creates problems twisting them. But, hey, there is nothing that says we have to have them that way. We are free to invert them. The same is true of the brake levers if we want them inverted. It is likely that we will need longer cables if we invert these.

Some homemade trikes have the twist shifters and brake levers inverted. When I made my first trike I positioned my twist shifters and brake levers inverted from the “industry norm”. Here is a picture of it during construction.

inverted twist shifter and brake lever

I have to admit that I liked it this way and I have been seriously considering changing my setup around on my Catrike Trail trike.

brake cable noodles

An available option is the use of “brake cable noodles” to help make the sharp bends without binding or damage to cables trying to curve them more sharply than one might normally have them. Although they are made for brake cables I have read that they can be used on shifter cables as well. Although the image below is not of an inverted shifter it still serves to illustrate the use of a noodle on the brake lever. Notice how tight and neat the curve is keeping the cable from being stuck out into outer space so to speak.

using brake lever noodle on trike handlebar 3

BTW, the brake lever does not need to be inverted unless one desires to have it inverted. It will function fine the other way around when the twist shifter is inverted. Indeed, if your handlebars are positioned fairly close to the wheels/tires you may not want your brake levers inverted from the industry norm.

Yep, I just might invert  my twist grip shifters. How about you? They are easier to use that way. I don’t know about you, but I am very much in favor of ‘easier’, especially as I age and get a bit weaker. 🙂 I am all for most anything which will help me …

KEEP ON TRIKIN’

CATRIKE REAR WHEEL EXTENSION KIT


Utah Trikes Catrike Extension Kit 2

Utah Trikes has announced that they are now offering a rear wheel extension kit for all Catrike models.

Utah Trikes Catrike Extension Kit 3

Here is what they say:

“All of our SolidWorks training has paid off and we have created a very nice extension kit that will allow you to put a 26 inch or 700c wheel on your 20-inch Cat. Catrike owners have been asking for these from us for a couple of years and we have finally finished the prototypes. The results are fantastic.

So, what am I talking about? Well, let’s suppose that you bought a Catrike Road a few years ago and then the Expedition came out. Well, you really like the Expedition with its longer wheelbase and larger rear tire, but you have a lot invested in your trike. Up until now your only choice has been to sell the road (or give it to your significant other) and then buy an Expedition for yourself. While there is nothing wrong with that (after all, we are more than happy to sell you an Expedition) it may not be in your budget.

Our kit includes the machined extensions and bolts. We are working out the exact parts for each kit, as some will require additional chain routing modifications. Our extension kit is setup with the OEM mounting for a Rohloff hub and we’ll have many other wheel choices.

Our Catrike Wheel Extension Page shows our last prototype. We are going into production within the next two weeks. The final version will appear a little different in that it has disc brake dropouts and is black anodized with lazer engraving. We are trying to estimate how many to make on our initial run, so please let me know if you are interested. We should have pricing for the different kits up by next week.
In recent Journal correspondence with Catrike, Paulo Camasmie, commenting on third party modifications, said, “We always see, with good eyes, add ons and accessories that are made by third parties and we encourage that. People like options and we think it is cool that people and suppliers will spend time developing add-ons for our products. That shows the thorough passion behind our products.”

Utah Trikes Catrike Extension Kit 5

I could not agree more. Everything I have seen Utah Trikes offer from their own resources is always excellent quality. They have offered an extension kit for Catrike models for some time, but when Catrike changed the frame in 2013 the extension they were making and selling would not work on the new frame. So until now owners of the newer frame did not have this option.

Utah Trikes Catrike Extension Kit 4

Here are links to the two different products.

pre-2013 models    post-2013 models

RECUMBENT TRIKE CANOPY – A NEW FACEBOOK GROUP


Ed Miller, who many know makes canopies for recumbent trikes, has just started a new Facebook Group for those interested in trike canopies. Ed writes of this new group …

 “I believe it will provide a place of those interested in recumbent trike canopies to enjoy a focused format to learn & share.”

Recumbent Trike Canopy FB group header

Ed has posted this as part of the group description:

“”Form meets function”- The Recumbent Trike Canopy. Let this site serve as a place for lively chats involving positive equipment design growth where people share their interest and passion relating to recumbent trike canopy equipment.
Open to all who maintain a respect for others and their viewpoint and can exhibit a personal refrain from subjective expression, whether written or in pictures, regarding political, religious or other controversial belief.”

To visit the Facebook page and request to join the group click HERE. It is currently an Open Group meaning that anyone with a FB membership who is logged in can read thru the postings. However, in order to comment or post anything you have to be a member of the group.

NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU ARE SORE


body aches

Many of us remember the movie ‘Love Story’ where the famous quote “love means never to have to say you are sorry” came from. BTW, that is a lie of the devil. Just the opposite is true. Real love always means saying you are sorry if you wronged, offended and hurt someone … not just saying it, but truly meaning it. Anyway, taking that phrase and “running with it” … NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU ARE SORE comes to mind when it comes to riding a recumbent. Now I know there are some who still have issues … recumbent butt, problems with tingling feet, etc. … but for the most part most of us I think would agree that making the switch from a conventional (traditional) diamond frame bicycle to a recumbent bike or trike has eliminated pretty much all the soreness, pain and problems we experienced riding DF bikes.

When I made the switch over to recumbents I started out with a recumbent bike. Then a short while later I got a tadpole trike and found it is even more comfortable than the recumbent bike. I also found it to be more fun to ride and safer. Consequently I had no more desire to ride my 2 wheel recumbent bike so I sold it.

Various things make for the comfort to be found on a recumbent trike. There are differences in seat types, seat angles, seat sizes, lumbar support (either built in or aftermarket add on), frame and layout dimensions, tire type, size and inflation, etc. … all of which affect personal comfort.

A mesh seat has tension adjustment via the straps which make a big difference in how the seat feels when sat upon. The seat straps can be adjusted individually to different tensions or they can all be adjusted the same. Personally I like them all just as tight as I can get them.

mesh seat straps

There are also various add on things such as seat pads/cushions some use which add greater comfort. I personally use an open cell foam pad sandwiched between my mesh seat which I find helps immensely to add more comfort. Here is a picture of it. The red arrows point to it and the blue arrow indicate the width. As you can see it runs the entire length of the seat (bottom and back). It even sticks out the front where it adds comfort for my legs. The foam pad is encased in a zip up king size pillow case to keep it clean. It was modified to fit the pad.

my foam seat pad

Here is what the open cell foam pad looks like …

black foam pad with lines added

I have drawn black lines around it to help others see the shape and dimensions of it as without them it is hard to detect. It is a 2 inch thick pad and 12 inches wide by 35 inches long. It could be cut shorter, but I opted to leave it full length as I like having it stick out the front like it does. It may have looked better if it stopped at the front of the seat, but it definitely is more comfortable with it all the way out where it is.

Pads or cushions can also be placed on top of the seat rather than sandwiched in between.

There are neck rests available which can make a world of difference, especially for someone who has neck problems such as arthritis, degeneration or injury. Most of the neck rests available from trike manufacturers are not very comfortable. I personally would not have one of them. There are a couple of after market third party makers of neckrests which are far more comfortable and popular. Finer Recliner seems to be the most comfortable and popular as well as reasonably priced. Here are a couple of examples of them …

Krispy Steve's headrest

finer recliner neck rest

After trying two of Catrike’s neckrests both of which felt like a brick I sent them back for a refund. I then made my own neckrest and it is super comfortable … like leaning back on a cloud. I love it and I am a person who absolutely needs a neckrest as I have arthritis in my neck. I couldn’t ride much without it. With it I can ride for hours on end.

my headrest

There are yet other options which can add comfort to our ride. Canopies add shade from the sun and partial protection from rain and snow.

white canopy

Fairings or windscreens are available to help block the air from us and provide some protection from rain.

fairing on trike 2

Of course, for ultimate protection from the elements one can always go the route of a velomobile or velocar.

Sundrider left side view

ego velomobile 4 cropped

Ah yes, our trikes are like sitting in a recliner chair on wheels …

recliner chair tadpole trike

I am fond of saying that the hardest part of riding a tadpole trike is trying to stay awake. 🙂  No more sore butt, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, etc. like I constantly had riding a diamond frame bike. Yep, for me it really is a matter of NEVER HAVING TO SAY I AM  SORE. And it helps me to be able to …

KEEP ON TRIKIN’

SURE A PRETTY THING!


eon green Catrike Villager

On Facebook awhile back there was a discussion on colors … mostly white. It got me thinking about all the pretty colors I have seen trikes come in.

Yes, some tadpole trikes have some great looking paint jobs. I have noticed that some manufacturers change their offerings somewhat frequently. Catrike is among them. I can’t keep up with their color options. It seems like a certain color is here today and gone tomorrow. Then there are manufacturers which offer only a very few colors and some models only come in one or two  colors at the most.

I personally have a 2013 Catrike Trail which is “Saber Green”. I thought it was a pretty color, but Catrike no longer offers it. Now in its place they offer Eon Green which is prettier yet. (The Catrike Villager pictured above is the Eon Green.) Prior to the saber green they offered another green, but I think the saber green was prettier. So at least in one sense they seem to be improving when they make these changes.

These are the colors Catrike offered in 2013:

Catrike colors 2013

And these are the colors they offer presently:

2015 Catrike colors

One manufacturer which offers an amazing number of choices is HP Velotechnik.

HP Velotechnik color chart

I think possibly the prettiest color I have ever seen on a trike is pink but I know it is simply a personal preference. Here is an example of the color:

pink Catrike Trail

pink Catrike Expedition

I once had a picture saved on my computer of a pink Catrike which was a lovely picture. I have searched and searched for it to display it here, but alas I have not been able to find it. Yep, Catrike used to offer the pink color, but they chose to discontinue it. Here is one of their old color charts showing it. I think the purple was quite pretty as well.

Catrike older color chart

catrike road with pooch sitting in rear basket 2

I sure wish they would bring it back and keep it among the colors they offer. Yep, lots of pretty colors not too mention custom paint jobs one can also get. Utah Trikes offers quite a selection of custom colors. There are way too many to try to display here so I suggest you take a peek at their webpage where they show them.

ICE trikes offer very few color choices and a couple models only come in one color.

I am amazed to discover that some of the trike manufacturer websites have absolutely no information that I can find about color options. To be most honest I literally got frustrated and tired out trying to look up such information as I just could not find it. I would think that this would be a pretty key thing to show if they want to sell their trikes. Hey, what do I know. One of us (them or me) must be rather stupid.

Anyway, whether you have a trike that is one of these gorgeous colors or one that looks like this …

uglification

bicycle uglification 2

by all means … be safe, enjoy the ride and …

KEEP ON TRIKIN’

In case you are wondering about the last 2 pictures they are a bicycle frame which was purposely painted like this to “uglify it” as a deterrent to theft. Watch this video to learn more about it. It is a very controversial thing for sure. It might indeed deter theft, but who wants a cycle that looks like that? I just can’t fathom taking a gorgeous looking trike and painting it to look like that. It makes me shudder just thinking about it.

Trike Hood (or Canopies)


Ed Miller ridin'

Note: I have a more recent article on canopies which  offers more information, pictures, videos, and resources. HERE is a link to it.

My very first article I wrote and is posted on Steve Greene’s Trike Asylum blog was about trike canopies. Steve Greene was kind and gracious to me in giving his permission to post my articles I wrote on his blog on my own blog and so here is the first of 4 I am posting.

Ed Miller, an avid trike pilot from Tennessee has many fine YouTube videos available of his numerous trike adventures as he rides with his various friends.  He rides an ActionBent tadpole trike.  I love watching his videos and highly recommend them to you.  I personally think they are among the very best I have viewed to date.  There is lots of beautiful countryside and wildlife in most of his videos, especially deer.  His YouTube username is LogNotching.  HERE is a link to all of his videos.

He also has come up with some ‘innovations’ including what he refers to as a Trike Hood.  It is all about providing shade from the sun and offering a little bit of protection from rain as well.  I say little because he would be the first to admit that it offers “little” protection.  His design is pretty ingenious in that it is simple, basic yet relatively inexpensive and effective.  And it is lightweight which is a concern to most of us.  He can readily release the front hook which holds it down horizontally over him so that it stands upright out of the way allowing him to mount and dismount normally.  He says it doesn’t effect handling or speed noticably as he has it tweaked in which he explains in one of his videos.

trike hood

trike hood released

If you are interested in ordering one of Ed’s canopies or just want more information you can contact him via email at …

logbuilder  at  mindspring.com       Just mention ‘canopy info’.

Ed has a few videos among his 142 (and counting) YouTube postings which show and explain various aspects of the construction which should prove quite helpful for anyone considering attempting something like this.  Here are a couple of links to these videos:

Another item he has made which might be of interest to some readers is a flat platform which serves as a rack for hauling his trike behind his motor vehicle as well as a work stand to perform maintenance, cleaning, etc. and a vertical stand for storing his trike so it takes up less room.  And it is made out of plywood so it is fairly simple to make and relatively cheap in cost.  Again, he has a video showing and explaining the construction of it.

If you get a chance, perhaps on a rainy day when you can’t be out there riding (without a canopy :<), check out Ed’s videos.  I think you’ll like them.
Check out my more recent article about canopies HERE. It has more information, pictures videos and resources than this older article.