Friday, December 10, 2010

Riding urge

I got the urge to ride, but the weather lately has been horrible! Rain everywhere, mud, and dirt. Definitely not ideal riding conditions. Ugh. I only have a few more months of riding before the big event and I still don't have even half the funds I need to join the ALC. Ugh.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's been a month

Wow, it's been awhile since I last rode. After just 3.75 miles I already felt like throwing up. It was probably b/c I didn't have much to eat for lunch and rode too hard. Lack of training made it a bit uncomfortable. But boy was it fun! I almost forgot how much fun it is to ride this thing!

Sped up to about 28 mph today on the asphalt. A couple slow moving cars ruined my speed though. Darn. Got the usual looks and kid's remarks,

"Wow, I haven't seen one of those bikes before!" shouted a little girl probably about 9 years old from her voice as I sped by.

Didn't see her face, but she was probably one of the most excited kids to ever comment on the trike. Sometimes I'm a bit hesitant to be too nice. Scared their parents might think I'm some guy from, "To catch a predator."

Just showered. Feels good.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Training success

My thoughts on how to best approach the ALC event as a recumbent rider is a lot more clear after experiencing this first training ride.




When I finally got to Mill Valley, there were about 25 people waiting there stretching and drinking coffee. Out of 100 participants for this particular training ride, that puts me in the first 1/4 of people to arrive. That's really great news.

There was also lots of space between riders. I was the first 5 people to take off from the starting line. Even after being warned by other riders, these first 4 people took the first wrong turn away from the Golden Gate Bridge. Not sure where they ended up b/c I hadn't seen them the rest of the day.

Immediately, riders would pass by me but it wasn't stressful. On the first hill, I made it to the top without getting passed up. Even on the bridge, people didn't really pass me up. One young rider did who later slowed down probably to get a better look at the trike,

"How do you steer with that thing."

"These handlebars," as I gestured using my fingertips to show him how it worked.

"That's sick." Later that day, another person would compliment with the same phrase.

For the remainder of the bridge ride, I was hanging with the group of 4 in front of me. No one else passed me. It was on the way back that loads of people - at least 10 people came up from behind.

When I reached the starting point, there were a ton of bikes. I think at least half the people were already on site.

CONCLUSION:
Although starting out in the first pack on this ride helped me and so did leaving the destination point to head back to the base, I'm hesitant to start in the front pack on day of the ALC. There will be over. This time there were 100 riders alongside me. On June 9th, there will be over 2,000 riders coming out of San Francisco. The front section will be insane.

To gain some distance over the course of the ride however, I have a couple strategies:

1. Leave early.
I am an early riser and I know most people don't want to start riding out at 6am. I'll sleep early the night before and start riding out from each of the camp sites early to give myself a head start while others are still resting, washing up or eating breakfast. This will buy me some more time if I need to rest later. It'll also give me more time to ride slower when I encounter hills. I'll also gain the benefit of less chaos. I'm guessing that around 9am, there will be a big group of riders leaving the campsites.

2. Take shorter breaks than the others.
Since I'm reclined the whole time, there's definitely less fatigue. I will take advantage of this and get an early start.

3. Don't take a break at the top of the hill.
I noticed people taking breathers after the hills. The hills are a pain in the butt, but it's either flat land or downhill that follows, I'm continuing. This worked for me during the training ride. While everyone took a break after the bridge, I kept going. They eventually caught up to me, but I needed the extra time to at least get a head start and maintain acceptable speed.


LESSONS LEARNED:

1. Take a break when I need it.
Though I'll be taking shorter breaks, I will need to take either the same number of breaks or more especially during hill climbing. I'll have plenty of people to accompany me. During this past training session, I developed a bad cramp on the inside of my thighs right before a big hill climb. It was killer. I knew if I kept going, I'd be in worse shape and regret it later. I took a good 10 minute break which was a great opportunity to check my tire pressure. By the time I was done, my cramp went away and I was ready to continue.

2. The lane's not too narrow.
My biggest concern for the ride is slowing other riders down. It's a single file line and I'm super slow on the climbs. Riders give me plenty of room as they pass me up which is great.

3. Support exists:
There really is support even during these training rides. One of the ride leaders kept his eye on me making sure I was okay. I'd catch up to him occasionally as he'd finish his breaks. For the long haul, I wasn't too far behind him. Another rider shouted,

"Good job rider!" as he saw me struggling up the hill. These few words do keep me going.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

First training ride

ALC's having their first training ride for this next 7-day ride. It's tomorrow at 8am. After consulting with one of the staff earlier this week, I've decided to join the intermediate team for a 20 mile ride to Sausalito. It should be familiar territory, but I'm still a bit concerned about being able to keep up with the bicyclists.

I'll have a much better idea of where I stand with the upright bikes after tomorrows ride.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Red light traffic light changer mod

ACCESSORY 43: Red light traffic light changer $0 @ Reused junk

It's not what you think.

Although ambulances and police cars do have devices in them that literally change traffic lights from red to green in seconds to allow them to pass more safely through intersections during emergencies, this isn't what I'm going for. Having something like that in a non-city or government vehicle is punishable by fines and imprisonment.

Not worth it.

The device I'm looking for is to solve one problem. Small vehicles like bicycles, motorcycles, mopeds and tricycles are not detected at intersections where traffic lights change by under ground sensors. Our tiny vehicles are too small and the amount of metal in them doesn't trigger the traffic lights to turn green appropriately they effectively do for cars - a much larger mass.

Solution? Magnets. A company called Green Light Trigger sells magnets for $25. To keep $25 in my pocket, I looked for other sources.

Hidden inside computer hard drives are such neodymium (ultra strong) magnets. After watching some Youtube videos on where they are located and how to disassemble them, I took one apart from an old '80's computer and will be attaching it to the trike shortly.

This is how they look like. My old drive has four tiny ones. A newer drive from closer to the millennium will have two large ones equal to two of these.



Although I haven't personally encountered traffic lights not being able to sense the trike, I can imagine how frustrating it would be if I ever were to encounter such an intersection where the pedestrian button wasn't conveniently located or existing. As soon as I figure a nice clean place to put this, I'll pop it on and hopefully I'll never have to experience this traffic light issue. I'm tempted to put it on the bottom of the frame for maximum effectiveness, but I'm worried if and when I need to jump a curb, it'll scrape right off.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Wet Sunday

It's supposed to rain again. This is the second time a Sunday Streets event will be rained out. The event goes on rain or shine, but last time time the weather was anything but dry, only 5 people showed up all wearing complete rain suits. I'm not up for that. The rotors have just been changed out. I'm not looking to get them or other components rusty again.

Looks like I'll be absent from Sunday's event. Fairly disappointing considering I was looking forward to trying those new brakes and riding around in a new neighborhood. Life goes on.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Brake Adjustment

Finished! All three wheels rotate freely w/o any friction from warped rotors and poorly adjusted calipers. The front wheel setup is in good shape and the rear wheel spins more freely than ever!

I had previously been adjusting the brakes incorrectly! No wonder it took me so long! I've finally figured it out. 10 steps to proper brake adjustment:

1. Remove the cable completely free from the caliper.

2. Loosen the caliper so that there's a bit of play with the trike frame.

3. Push the caliper towards the stationary brake pad. This is to ensure that the caliper is parallel with the pads. A gap will be made later.

4. Tighten the two screws to secure the caliper in place.

5. There should now be no gap between the rotor and the stationary brake pad. There is a gap between the rotor and the active brake pad. Slip a thick business card (credit card is too thick, 0.76mm) in this gap. I've found that placing a white sheet of paper as a background will help you see the gaps more clearly especially when working in a dark garage that has a dark colored floor.

6. Pull the active brake pad towards the credit card gently - not too hard.

7. While holding the active brake pad against the business card, reattach the cable and secure it with the screw. The business card is meant to maintain the gap. Securing it too tightly will not allow the wheel to spin freely. Nor will it allow you to remove the business card in the next step.

8. Slip the business card out. If it can't be removed, the cable is secured too tightly. Loosen it and try removing the business card out again.

9. Using a 5mm allen wrench (the same size used for the other adjustments) adjust the stationary pad so that it has a sufficient gap between it and the rotor. The closer the better. But spin the wheel intermittently to be sure the gap is wide enough and there is no friction. There should obviously be no friction before the brake lever is engaged.

10. There should now be a perfect gap on either side of the rotor. Test the brake lever. A full stop should occur before the brake lever touches the handlebar. If it touches, the gap between the rotor and the pads is too wide. Make necessary adjustments using the hand-tightening (w/o tools) the screw by the cable.

The only thing to worry about now is fine tuning any adjustments for brake steer. I haven't yet had a chance to take it on the road. Once adjusted, everything should be set and the efficiency should drastically be improved.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rotor up

ACCESSORY 42: 160mm Avid G2 Rotors (3) $41.98 shipped @ Ebay

I can't believe these things normally sell for $35/each! Ebay's the best. The rotors came in! Though all the rotors are identical, they must be orientated correctly. They are directional. An arrow on the face of one side indicates the direction they're designed to spin in the forward rotation.

New vs. old. The stock Tektro rotor on the left was warped and I had been dealing with it by making brake adjustments to compensate. Once it started to rust though, it was time to swap them out for a new set.



This is the left front wheel. The original set required a T25 torx head to remove. The bolts were pretty worn out and at first it made me think they were hex screws.




The new set came with hex screws - size 3. They came with locktite already on them! How convenient! Again, the rotors are directional. After confirming that the rotors are in the correct orientation, all screws were secured.


Removing the front rotors also requires removing the wheel, but it's a bit more complicated to take off the frame than the back. An allen wrench is needed to hold the axle in place while the bolts are removed. The axle needs to slip out before removing the wheel. It took me about 20 minutes to figure out, but I'm sure I can do it next time in 5 minutes. I've learned that replacing it with traditional bicycle skewers is not possible due to the thickness of the axle.


Removing the front wheel isn't much of a chore, but it is more difficult than removing the back wheel. It requires a 17mm wrench and an allen wrench. I don't recall the size, but it's the third one missing from this red pack.

The axle looks like this. The right side has fatter threads and is orientated on the outside. After degreasing all the gunk, I put some new grease on it to keep it running smooth. I used locktite on the threads when replacing the nuts and washers.

I was in a bit of a hurry for dinner so I didn't clean the wheel, but this would be a good time to do it while it's off the trike. It's much easier to get into the grooves to clean it out from sand and dust that's collected. Brake adjustment is next.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Work Station

Thought I'd post a photo of my work station. It's just a shelf, but it works for the time being.

I chose it knowing it's got enough room for the wheels to rest on either side when the trike is placed on top of the shelf horizontally in this photo.




Rather than tossing out some plastic foam packaging I found with my old Dell computer, I found use for it to prop up the wheel. Works perfectly.

When I had worked on it previously, I was hunched over on the floor with the wheel over an open box. It was horrible for my back. This setup is tons better and all my tools are within reach so everything can more easily be accounted for.

I just finished slapping on the reflective rim tape on the new wheel and replaced to stock 12-28T freewheel with my old 11-34T one. Glad I got the tool and learned how to do it myself. I think I paid $25 to swap it out at the shop last time. Not much excitement since it looks identical to the old wheel, but there's definitely less play in the axle. It's way smoother than when I first got the trike!

Rotors!

Since the new wheel didn't come with a rotor, I had done a quick search for affordable ones to replace the warped one I have. Since the stock Tektro 160mm ones have rusted, I thought I'd try something new. If the price is right, I'm picking up 3. The Delta Aztec looks to be its twin except it has red accents on its profile. Sounds good, except I'd still like to try something different for comparison. I might be missing out on something.

The Avid G2's got very good reviews for the most part. Great stopping power and no squeaks. At $25 a pair, it sounds good to me! A third rotor was $15.99. I could have bought another pair to save myself $4, but I decided I'd only purchase my equipment as I need them. No such discount was available for the Delta Aztecs nor Tektro's. They're about $17-20/each all over the web. What would I have done without ebay?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bike vs. Trike

I had another opportunity to ride the upright bicycle again and have a few thoughts on its comparison to the bent trike. In no particular order...

ADVANTAGES OF A BIKE:
1. Higher seating position allows more visibility above car hoods and other obstacles.
2. Slimmer and lighter, 17 lbs for a high end road bike compared to 33lbs for quality bent trike.
3. Can be easily pushed by the stem while standing up off the bike. Pushing a recumbent trike would require the rider to hunch over while walking behind or alongside it.
4. Much more availability of parts for easy repair.
5. Bicycle stores love you. Recumbent riders are hated at most bike shops due to their size.
6. More easily transportable compared to a non-foldable recumbent trike.

DISADVANTAGES OF A BIKE:
1. Too much upper body weight is placed on the hands especially while going down hill which makes it more difficult to produce hand signals.
2. Balance is required which makes it difficult to change directions quickly.
3. The need for balance on a bicycle also makes it difficult to go up extremely steep hills where low gears and therefore lower speeds are necessary.
4. It also makes it more difficult to start from stop on a hill.
5. There are many areas where bikes aren't allowed, but often times security will allow a recumbent tricycle pass for whatever reason. Perhaps they think the rider is disabled? They know the rider can't conveniently push a tricycle like then can a bike?
6. A bit scarier. If the front wheel comes off or goes flat, it could lead to detrimental occurrences.
7. Handling is not as good as a recumbent trike. A trike can turn from left to right to left again w/no hesitation.
8. An upright DF is not as good for the back as a bent trike.
9. Views aren't as good. While it takes a bicycle rider an unnatural effort to look up, a bent rider is in a reclined position perfect for looking forward or up.
10. Isn't as respected on the road by motorists as a bent.
11. Endurance is much weaker.

MYTHS:
1. A trike is less efficient b/c it doesn't let the rider stand up and use body weight to create assisted momentum during the pedaling cycle.

Although on an upright bicycle, the rider can stand up, the gears have to be significantly increased to maintain a constant cadence. A tricyclist can create even more momentum by pushing back against the seat which is option an upright cyclist doesn't have. An upright cyclist is capped at the riders weight, while the recumbent tricylist is limited by muscle power. Since the tricyclist doesn't need to balance, the rider can use a significantly lower gear that wouldn't otherwise be possible with an upright bicycle.

2. Trikes are slow.

This is true only while going uphill. Trikes can go much faster during a downhill run.

3. Motorists can't see you.

Ironic b/c motorists claim that, but they're constantly approaching bent riders saying, "I can't see you." Motorists typically leave much more room for bent tricylists than upright bicyclists. Motorists also often times slow down to get a closer look at the bent trike than they would a much more common bicycle.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back on track

The wheel arrived today! The bubble wrap was good, but I hope it didn't absorb sharp drops during shipment. Mag wheels should be able to withstand any abuse through delivery though.


Even though I told KMX I didn't need another freewheel, they still included this set of cogs.

After further inspection, I noticed it's a made-in-china version, named Golden something or other. KMX has replaced their previous Shimano branded freewheels with these shiny look-a-likes.


A friend of mine has the same one and has no complaints, so I guess it's not too big of a deal. I'm storing it away though b/c I still need my 11-34T.

They included the axle! Thought they would though. I figure it comes with the hub as a set. Too bad it doesn't have the disk brake though! I was hoping my warped one could be replaced by a new one, but I guess I'll have to purchase a new replacement. I don't want my existing warped brake disk to mess up the alignment of the wheel.

Ooooo! Looks like KMX sent me a used wheel! Scratches already! I'm guessing it's from one of their demo models that they just pulled off for me. Good thing the mag is black and blends in with it. Not noticeable from a distance and it was all free so I guess there's no complaints. I almost would have been willing to pay for a new one though.

I'm posting this for record. It shows where the spacer should be placed - drive side in the freewheel between the cone (black) and outer locknuts.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Missing parts?

Two more days before Fedex shows up at my door with my replacement wheel, I'm realizing that KMX might have forgotten to include the axle with the wheel and hub. I hope this isn't the case b/c attaching the axle means exposing the ball bearings and readjusting the cone. I'd much rather prefer just installing the wheel with all the components already ready to go - plug and play. I'm not certain of the order of the axle components. It would help if everything was already put together. Should I be prepared for another email to KMX? Hopefully all the components will be included. 2 more days. 2 more days.

Waiting...

A new found appreciation

I always knew the recumbent trike was more comfortable, but I hadn't realized exactly how much more relaxing it is to ride than a DF (diamond frame) traditional upright bicycle. It took no more than 25 blocks covering uphill paved terrain to go return a DVD from those new Blockbuster Express video rental kiosks before I experienced the infamous seat pain that bicycles so often complain about. No wonder people wear those padded shorts!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shoulda coulda woulda

Although the wheel broke due to no fault of my own other than normal wear and tear and what I suspect to be poor quality of parts, taking the hub apart taught me a bit about the mechanics of how it all works.

HOW LOCK NUTS WORK:
For some reason, I had tried unlocking both bolts from a single side simultaneously rather than loosening the outer one before touching the inner bolt. Duh! Two wrenches are needed. Since I don't have two 17mm ones, an adjustable wrench can be used as well.

Lesson learned?
Unlock the outer bolt first by turning the wrench in the opposite direction as the inner bolt. Don't touch any of the other components prior to this step!

HOW A CONE WORKS:
The purpose of the cone is to secure the ball bearings to the cup. Proper adjustment needs to be maintained b/c if it's too tight, the ball bearings won't roll smoothly even if they're greased correctly. If the cone is too loose, there will be lots of "play" between the axle and the wheel. This won't necessarily warp the disk brakes, but it will have that effect. It won't spin smoothly and can wear out the brake pads unevenly. Having a loose cone can also put uneven pressure against the cup as the wheel is spinning. Roads cause vibrations which will inevitably alter the tightness of the cones.

Lesson learned?
Maintain proper adjustment of the cones as needed by buying a cone wrench. Don't be cheap and try squeezing in a regular wrench especially when the wrench is only $4.99 at Performance Bicycle when price matched with their website - $7.99 otherwise. It's pretty ingenious how the manufacturer, Spin Doctor designed a single two ended wrench with 4 sizes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sign, sealed, delivered

Dave from KMX just shipped out my new wheel! It's been Fedex'ed and it should be ready to mount next Tuesday. Can't wait! I'm not enjoying another week long vacation from the trike. Especially since the weather's been so good these days, it would be good to get out and enjoy the sunshine.

Glad I learned so much about hub mechanics though. I'll be taking close-up photos of the wheel when it arrives for future reference in case I need to service the hub again.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New wheel coming right up

The shop wasn't able to help. They called me back and said that I was missing a part! Missing a part??? I'm pretty particular about mostly everything, especially car and trike parts. I worked on the floor so that nothing could drop and kept an eye on everything as I was working and even took working photos.

The cup that Will said I was missing would have been covered with grease so if it did fall, it would not have rolled away from my working area. Despite knowing that, I checked everywhere and couldn't find anything.

Still frustrated, I was having a hard time admitting that I lost something. There's absolutely no way.

I looked into the wheel hub further and suspected that I did not lose the cup where the ball bearings sit and that the cup had fallen through the hub shell to the other side. It looks flush in the photo, but looking closer I could see the rough edges in the diameter.

If I was wrong and was actually looking at the back of the bearing cup on the other side, this piece would be convex. Here we clearly see that it's concave. It must be the bearing cup from the top side that had fallen through.

The dark line at about 2/3 down the photo to the right is where II suspect the bearing cup sheared off. I inspected this portion with a flashlight and confirmed that this location of the hub shell is also rough. This is where the bearing cup used to sit before it broke.

Reaching down the hub shell with a pick, I was able to wedge the bearing cup out. I was right!!!! It did shear off! Good news is that I know what happened and know a ton more about the internal mechanics of a hub and how it works. But bad news is that it cannot be repaired.



I tried placing it back in its original location but w/o luck. Besides, normal expected vibrations from using the trike would move it out of alignment. If the cup isn't completely 100% level, it will cause play between the axle and the hub/wheel.

Just checked my email a moment ago and Dave from KMX is sending me a new wheel. Thank God b/c I wouldn't know what else to do other than replace the entire wheel. I like the mag wheel that matches the front two, so I'm happy for the time being. The trike will still be out of commission until the new wheel arrives.

Glad the guys at KMX are cool and are following through with these warranty issues. I am surprised that the quality of parts is so poor though. Hubs shouldn't fail like this. The integrity of the KMX staff is excellent, but I'm a bit concerned about the integrity of the parts for my ALC trip. Is the KMX brand up for 80-100 miles per day for 7 days straight? How about all the training miles up until then?

Only time will tell.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Overhauling

During the end of the Sunday Streets event when 7 miles of the City was closed off to cars, my rear wheel started shaking more than normal. The creaking sound got me worried enough to head home early.

The freewheel removal tool was worth the buy. I remember it being about $8 or so and it was super easy to use. Last time I had the shop replace the freewheel, it was about $20 and my trike was out of commission for the full day. With Parktool's adapater, I can easily change it out in minutes.

After reading up a bit on how to overhaul the hub, I gave it a try only to make it worse! I took the whole thing part and at 2:30am finally called it quits on trying to put it all back together. I'm usually pretty good at this sort of thing, but this time it just didn't fly.

Realizing that most of the repair shops aren't open on Mondays, I'm resorting to my least favorite shop, Nomad Cycles. Again, the techs are good but the boss is just a royal pain. He hates trikes and makes each visit feel like a huge inconvenience. Since I had already removed the wheel, I'm just bringing that and the parts as to not take up too much of their shop space with the entire trike.

I'm hoping Will, a new guy there will be able to get the axle spinning freely. If he can manage it successfully, the only thing left to do before a new idler is to replace my warped and now rusty disk brakes. At over $40, it's going to have to wait.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ride #2

To be sure my ride on the Schwalbe Big Apples really was as good as I thought, I needed a second ride. The experience today turned out to be just as good as yesterday. The trike rolls smoothly downhills and surprisingly up too! Though I have I yet to test turning at high speeds, the response time continues to be immediate at even low speeds on the flats. No lag time whatsoever.

I can't wait until San Francisco's Sunday Streets event coming up in a few days.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New weapon for confrontation

Sounds cheesy, but I think this might be more effective than the single finger salute. Perhaps it might instill a bit of guilt in some unreasonable motorist and at least it won't piss people off more than they already are (whether they ought to be initially or not). As a cyclist, there's a lot more damage drivers can do to me than I do to them.


It's not an issue of pride. It's an issue of size. Bigger wins.

Yesterday, I was speeding down a hill (no cars b/c the road is closed) and as I approached the stop sign, I saw a fellow cyclist's bike leaning up against a car in the middle of a T-intersection! The bike looked fine and I didn't hear the collision. From what I can tell from the aftermath, the cyclist felt it was the driver's fault. He was yelling into the driver's window when the driver of this Super Shuttle who made a u-turn at the intersection w/o looking rolled down his window and asked,

Are you okay?

The cyclist was pissed. Pounding again on the car, he shouted,

No, I'm not okay! Give me your insurance. Give me your insurance!

The peace sign wouldn't have worked in this situation, but it reminds me of the constant battle between cyclists and motorists. Cyclists really need to do their part in being super aware of what's going on and rather than hoping that motorists are all perfect drivers, assume that they are distracted by plugging in their IPod while fumbling with their Starbucks coffee and rushing to pick up the kids. No excuse, but cyclists need to assume that motorists don't see us and respond in that matter.

It shouldn't be a blame game. It's a protecting your life at all costs game.

I'm always waving drivers to go by even if I get to an intersection before they do. I just can't confirm that they see me unless they wave me to go on, which often happens but not every time. I'd rather wave them to go to eliminate the chances of them hitting me by 100%. I can't speak for the red light and stop sign runners.

I know you

After 2200+ miles on the trike, I'm starting to get to know the trike very well. When initially installing the elliptical chain ring a few weeks back, I wasn't confident that the benefits I was experiencing were due solely to the chain ring itself.

Things have changed since.

I contribute to the experience on the trike to making me much more certain of the benefits of each upgraded component.

While on vacation and recovering from personal matters, I was away from the trike for almost two weeks. When I finally got back on, everything felt a lot more smooth and the performance was impressive.

The smoothness of the drive train was more likely than not due to having cleaned the chain and lubed it before my break. The gears changed much more smoothly during the shifts. This might not seem like a big deal, but the effects were definitely noticeable. Though still quite loud, the noise was reduced.

I credit the efficiency of the pedaling stroke to the elliptical chain ring. I can really feel the resistance beginning in the power stroke of the pedal when the crank arms are straight up and down (90 degrees to the angle of the force). The pull stroke is so quick that I'm finding myself spinning out down the hills a lot more easily than before.

The tires definitely contributed to my ability to climb hills much more easily. Again, that big hill that I took usually brings me down to gear 2 at the highest. I was halfway up on gear 3 w/o any more momentum going up than usual. In fact, I was slowed down by pedestrian traffic. There was less mashing resistance. As long as I maintained a particular cadence, the stroke was fairly easy relative to the angle of the hill. This experience no doubt was assisted by the efficiency of the elliptical chain ring too.

Although I could isolate the benefits of each component while riding, each definitely work as a team to assist in the overall efficiency of the trike. The tires just brought it all together. Prior to swapping out the front tires with the new Schwalbe BA's, an improved drive train and pedal stroke efficiency was hindered by the poor rolling resistance of the front tires. No matter how much everything improved, the front tires limited the performance potential. Once swapped out, the tires pulled everything together and the experience on the trike is that much better.

No regrets. I'm glad I purchased each component and tried them independently over time. I can really appreciate the benefits of each and experience how it all comes together. I can't wait for my next ride.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The real BA (Big Apple) review

The Internet is not that big. I read every review on every news site, product review site and even forums and found everyone's feedback on the tire. I had a chance to cover 12 miles on these tires today. The conclusion? Get them.

In contrast with the stock KMX Lein Fortune tires:

WEIGHT:
Although the rear BA wheel is significantly lighter than stock, the front tires are pretty much the same weight. I'm not a fanatic of weight reduction simply b/c the trike already weighs 43lb's. I'd have to shed a few lbs of the trike just to make a dent in the overall weight - not possible. People usually talk in terms of grams. I can shed grams by filling my water bottle a little less. If there's a choice btw tires, weight isn't the deciding factor.

ROLLING RESISTANCE:
Everyone talks about this. It makes a big difference. I first road the BA's on Mike's trike and could tell instantly that it was faster. After covering just a short downhill drop, I noticed the increase in speed right away. I was equally impressed when I put this set on my own trike.

UPHILL:
The lower rolling resistance factor makes going up hills a lot easier. I found myself going up the Cliff House hill in 3rd gear as opposed to my typical 2nd and 1st gear. I felt dumbfounded to say the least. Couldn't have imagined it would have made that big of a difference. The improvement is definitely contributed to the tires. I've been away from the trike for over a week, so my muscles would have weakened if anything.

DOWNHILL:
This is where the fun begins! I was hoping to improve my speed by 2mph from these tires. It does perform at or close to that level. I'd say 1.5-2mph increase on the same hills I take regularly. The efficiency of each pedal stroke is realized exponentially. You don't know fun until you've gone down a hill at 30+ mph three inches off the ground with the wind rushing against every inch of your body. What a thrill!

TURNING:
My first experience with the BA's on my friend's KMX Tornado surprised me a bit. It gets up on 2 wheels fairly easily. Knowing that, I was more careful going down the curvy turns alongside cars. Getting on two wheels would've led to a catastrophe I don't want to think about. I slowed down and leaned extra hard to get the turn. The response of the trike from these BA's is immediate. I can twitch left and right and the trike moves without hesitation. I'm getting to understand what people mean when they say these tires are more predictable. I expect though that even if I were to get on 2 wheels, it would be controllable to a degree. I'm not nearly as fearful of getting on two wheels accidentally on these tire than I was on the stock made-in-China ones.

SUSPENSION:
Most people couldn't care less about speed. They're perfectly fine coasting at 12mph and want to get rid of the bumpiness of the uneven roads. That's where the Big Apples come in. That wasn't much of an issue for me. I was willing to sacrifice comfort for speed and ability to climb hills. Luckily these BA's provide the full package without any downside. At 40PSI, I'm almost maxing out the limits of my mag wheels and can't say for sure that there's a huge difference in comfort that makes my jaw drop. Any improvement in this department would be nice but not necessary.

DURABILITY:
The last thing people want to do is pop a tube and spend extra time on the side of the road patching. These BA's come with Kevlar lining. At $29/tire, Schwalbe's providing some pretty good stuff. Though I probably shouldn't have taken my shiny new tires through the dirt and gravel, being the curious George that I am, I did. I rode across gravel the size of tennis balls. Some people call these rocks. The tires did just fine. Not flats. I still carry a spare tube as a 4th level of precaution.

1 being the Kevlar lined tires
2 being the self sealing tubes
3 being the patches

Those who know me may not be surprised at my paranoia. I call it preparedness.

CONCLUSION:
Just buy it. I was worried about the weight and as discussed, the weight isn't an issue. In fact the rear BA tire is lighter than stock which makes up for any possible difference in weight of the front tires. Everything is a benefit. I don't see any downfalls. The tires even carry a safety measure of having reflective strips for improved visibility during night riding. Although this is only my first Schwalbe product, I'm more than satisfied with the purchase. Schwalbe, I love you.

Welcome to the Big Apple

ACCESSORY 41: Tires $68 shipped @ Utah Trikes

Though I just came back from New York, that's not what I'm talking about. I finally took the plunge last week and bought the two front Schwalbe Big Apple Tires.

They just arrived today. Utah trikes did a decent job of packaging the tires. Nothing big, but it didn't come folded smushed in tiny box. The flash from the camera shows the effects of the reflective tape around the edges.

They're known to be a fatter tire. More cushioning to provide a better suspension ride. They're not that much bigger in terms of diameter. Unlike the rear 20" tire that's much lighter than the stock ones, these 16" front tires are pretty much the same weight. I didn't put them on a scale, they're identical in weight from what I can tell. KMX's stock made-in-china Lein Fortune tire on the left and Schwalbe Big Apple tire on the right.

The tread is completely different - a bit wider too. The tread has less depth, but apparently from what I've read, tread has little to do with traction. A smoother surface actually has more area and holds to the ground much more effectively. These tires are rated with a low rolling resistance which should help with the performance.


The reflective tape took me a while to get used to in terms of aesthetics. It looked a bit too busy with alongside the red reflective tape I already have on the rim. At least it's white though which brings out the base color of the trike's frame.

Monday, August 16, 2010

BW

I tried a new method of photo editing to make the background black and white while maintaining the accent color on the trike. Rather than selecting the trike and pasting it on a black and white background, I layered the full color version on top of the bw version and erased the background revealing the greyscale beneath.

Tread on me

I took the plunge and bought the Schwalbe Big Apples for the front two tires. After contacting Utah Trikes to get the status, they replied quickly informing me that the tires should be here tomorrow! I just ordered them on 8/13/10. Pretty good ship time.

I can't wait to put those suckers on. I'm expecting the full benefit of the lower rolling resistance all around. I'll be nothing but disappointed if I don't get the 2mph speed increase I've been so desiring for the last month or two. Only time will tell. More reports tomorrow if the weather improves.

ALC is now accepting donations!

My main purpose for riding the trike since I got it is to train for one event: the Aids Life Cycle, a 545 mile 7 day ride. Last week ALC finally released their websites to accept donations and I've put mine together:

http://www.tofighthiv.org/site/TR/AIDSLIFECYCLE10/AIDSLifeCycleCenter?px=2543492&pg=personal&fr_id=1320

Thursday, August 12, 2010

ALC Meeting 2

Arriving at the Sports Basement where the second ALC Eat and Greet Meet was held, I quickly looked at the sign indicating the location within the store and headed to the back of the building. Not bothering to read the heading of the sign in paper I was putting my name, I grabbed food and chatted up with a girl I saw there.

Referring to the ALC ride, I inquire:

Hey, I'm Brian.
I'm Jasmine.
So have you done this before?
No, this is my first time.
Me too! Are you scared?

Then she said it,

Scared of what? The Burning Man?

I soaked it in and replied quickly,
I am totally in the wrong meeting!

After a brief smirk of embarrassment and her laughter that felt like it took forever to fade, I continued,
Hope you guys don't mind I'm eating your food.

I stuck around to play off my crazy mistake of attending the Burning Man social hour instead of the ALC Meeting. I learned a couple things about their event before I made my way out and finally found the location of the correct meeting. It was downstairs! OMG, I can't believe I showed up at the wrong meeting and took their food! Who would have guessed there were multiple meetings in the same store on the same night at the same time?

This would have been a great story to share at the ALC meeting, but everyone there was coupled up with someone they came with. I saw the slideshow and had a couple of my questions answered and decided to leave.

About 10% of the bicyclists from last year's ALC 9 rode mountain bikes.
There are probably about 10-20 recumbent riders.

Russ, the team leader offered to hook me up with a group of bent riders! Great! He even offered tires that he recommended would be better suited for the trip - slicks. Too bad none of the one's I've come across have a low enough tire pressure to be within the limits of my mag rim.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

42T Elliptical

I didn't have enough discipline and wanted to try out the 42T elliptical chain ring right away, so on it went. Despite the small 2T difference from the current 40T ring, the changes are very noticeable. I didn't have a chance yet to go down to gear one to test how it is on the hills I normally take, but so far I'm not spinning out on gear 7 down hills. My speed is about 1mph higher if at all. Not sure if the downhill speed gains are worth losing the low end.

I plan to keep the chain ring to build up more muscle and endurance, but have a feeling that I'll swap back to the 40T within a few weeks.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rolling on the river

Looking more in depth at limited availability of 16" wheels, I've found the following to be compatible at least in terms of diameter. All are made by Velocity.

ATB Heater
Road Helios
Road Dyad
Road Nuvian
Recumbent Aerohead
Touring Dyad
Commuter Aeroheat (Wizwheelz Terratrike Race has these)
Commuter Aerohead

Schlumpf Comparison

As we approach the end of the year, I'm getting closer to purchasing something from Schlumpf. I've been going back and forth between the Mountain Drive and the High Speed Drive (HSD).

Compared to my current setup, the Mt. Drive gives me 4 lower gears and 2 higher gears.

The gear chart here shows the benefit of gaining a huge number of lower gears by adapting the Mountain Drive . I've included the center column to compare the drive's specs with my current setup. I'd be getting 4 lower gears, 2.2, 19.0, 16.7, 11.8 gear inches. Unlike the HSD that's limited to one of two chain ring sizes, the Mt. Drive lets owners select any size chain ring.



Although the Schlumpf drives are easy to engage, I would rather not go through the motion of engaging it from normal stop and go rides along flat or downhill rides. Ideally, the effective 20T chain ring will be used strictly for hill climbing. I plan to spend most of my time in the larger chain ring.

Of all the chain ring sizes to choose from, how do I pick? Easy. Being that I typically start from a full stop in gear 3 or 38.1GI's, I've chosen a 50T chain ring to bring this down as my first gear in the largest chain ring. 41.7GI's is fairly close to 38.1GI's. Sometimes I start in gear 4, so I will be able to start with the Mt. Drive disengaged using the large chain ring from a start as long as I'm between 38.1-44.4GI's. 41.7GI's.

Compared to my current setup, the HSD gives me 2 lower gears and 4 higher gears.

The HSD Gear Chart here shows that 2 higher gears and gained and 1 lower gear is lost by comparison. By choosing the HSD, I'll have 15.9GI's as my lowest gear as opposed to 11.8GI's from the Mt. Drive.

I find myself spinning out at my highest 72.7GI. Will I ever really get a chance to use something as high as 120GI's? How steep of a slope would I have to be going down to utilize that effectively and would it be worth the expense of not getting the ultra low gears that the Mt. Drive offers?

Ashley from Utah Trikes recommends 18-130 as an ideal gear inch range. He seems to be the speed demon type claiming 45mph regularly on downhills. Neither of these setups brings me to those numbers, but the HSD definitely brings it closer than the Mt. Drive would. Fellow BROL members have mentioned that their ideal top end would exceed 100GI's and sometimes as high as 120GI's.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

GI Analysis

It might be a good time to post my current gear inch chart for later reference and comparison to any future modifications to the drivetrain. Eventually, I'd like my lowest GI's to be in the teens and the top GI's to be over a hundred.

This chart shows my current GI's with the existing chain ring and what my top chain ring could eventually become. KMX is offering me a triple chain ring setup with a 42T as the largest ring. My buddy popped on a 44T recently which has proved to be compatible with the existing derailleur.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Art

I forget where I saw this, but I've seen a photo similar to this before. Theirs was much better of course, but here's my attempt at the same artistry. Background has been edited to a grayscale leaving just the red accents of the trike and my helmet.

Quad burn

Ouch! I traveled about 15 miles in agony before being convinced that it wasn't my lack of preparedness or fitness that brought such pain to my quads. The tires felt fine to the touch but after checking with the air pressure gauge I found that my normally 40lb PSI rear tire was only filled with 25lb's!

No wonder!!!

It was a relief though. I was starting to doubt the effectiveness of the elliptical chain ring. Had the oval shaped ring made climbing and even flat ground riding even more difficult??? Luckily it was just the low tire pressure! My pump is no good so I wasn't able to get the air pressure back to 40lbs, but 35lbs was close enough. The 5lb was a big difference. I wish I had it up to 40lb.

Lesson learned? Check tire pressure before long journeys. I crossed 33miles this morning starting at 7:30am.

New downhill speed record was touch today just before Broadway in Sausalito after the GG Bridge - 34.2mph. I'm hoping once I swap my 40T chain ring to 42T, I can get at least 35mph. 40mph might be wishful thinking, but that would be great. Maybe when I swap the two front tires to Schwalbe Big Apples to match the rear, I can get up to that mark.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Testing testing 1-2-3

22.5 mile test ride today with the 40T elliptical chain ring and one minor modification - toe clip adjustment!

I'm definitely spinning faster. I'm upping the gears so much more quickly. The 42T chain ring is definitely going on. Totally glad I got it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Meeting fellow riders

I never thought I'd find myself intentionally going to the Tenderloin, but there I was at the home of the SF Aids Foundation attending the first Aids Life Cycle meeting. Though a bit disappointed to see only 16 or so people at the meeting, it turned out to be a good experience. The program leader was hilarious!

The 25 minute wait for the MUNI bus ride back home was worth it. Russ gave me one of his promotional items - a bike bag! It felt a bit heavier than I would imagine. After getting home, I tore open the plastic wrapping to find there was something in the bag! A brand name tool made by Topeak!

This was also a great opportunity to get responses from veterans of the ride to a couple of my biggest worries concerning the ALC ride.

"How long is the Quad Buster?"
There's a portion of the ride that is a long uphill ride. It's one of the bigger obstacles on the ride that people are always worried about. I've heard rumors about how difficult it was, but wanted to hear from some veterans first hand. It turns out that that Quad Buster is only 1.3 miles! I had read elsewhere that it was 4 miles and have been looking for 4 mile hills to practice on. Glad to hear it's much shorter.

"How do I transport my trike back to SF once I reach Los Angeles?"
No need to disassemble the trike and find a box for it to ship by Fedex. There's actually a company that will round up bikes at the finish line and drive them back to SF's Golden Gate Park for $55! That pretty much relieves me from my biggest worry. Fitting a 43lb awkwardly shaped trike in a box would be a bit of a challenge.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Q-rings at last!

The nice fellow I met at the track had agreed to let me borrow his 40T Q-ring for a test run. I'm wondering how much improvement over my current ellipticals it could be. I'll soon find out I suppose. Fine tuning it to one of the 37 holes sounds like it might work better than the 5 I have to work with on my current oval ring.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Spin out

ADJUSTING THE ELLIPTICAL CHAIN RING ORIENTATION:
I asked my fellow BROL (bentrideronline) forum members how the orientation of the elliptical chain ring looked on my trike by posting the photos from yesterday. Their feedback suggested that I should turn the chain ring counter clockwise by one bolt. I did this last night and couldn't wait to take a test run. My first ride was this morning but it was only up and down the block. I felt an improvement, but I couldn't say for sure it wasn't just my head hoping to see a benefit.

Rushing home after work, I hopped on the trike and away I went. Normally on the first downhill sloped I'd be in 4th gear, but I found myself to already be in fifth. I was going faster than normal but gave credit to the fact that I just ate a good meal and was rushing before it got dark.

Both my underwear and tanktop were more drenched than normal.

HILL CLIMBING:
When I finally got to my first uphill on my usual route, I found myself climbing higher up the slope maintaining a higher gear before having to gear down. To reach the top using the same amount strength, I still had to drop to my normal 3rd gear before the peak.

DOWNHILL:
I felt the most difference of the elliptical chain ring yesterday going downhill. So the natural thing to do to test the new orientation of the ring was to take another downhill ride. I found myself changing gears a tad bit slower (almost negligible) from the top. This could have been for other reasons. I don't know for sure, but just wanted to make mention of it for record. However, I found myself spinning out in my top gear sooner than before!

SPINNING:
Later on my next hill riding alongside a group of 6 I've-never-met-before DF riders, the intensity of the spinnout was much more apparent. The difference was ridiculous. I've never spun out to that degree ever before even on steeper slopes on smoother terrain! It literally felt like I didn't have a chain. Zero resistance on the pedals in gear 7 - 70 something gear inches.

SOLD ON ELLIPTICAL RINGS?:
I'm 100% convinced that elliptical chain rings promote faster spinning on downhills. As for flat ground and uphills, I'm still figuring that out, but leaning towards positive feelings about it. I'll need more than 8.5 miles (what I did today) to be as convinced of the benefits like the downhills. So far though, the elliptical chain rings seem to create better momentum through the stroke over all terrain. It's as if the mashing during the power stroke brings momentum to the pull part of the stroke. With the circular chain ring, it felt forced but here it feels a lot more natural.

WHAT'S NEXT?
1. Taking it to the track to see some endurance results. The track has always been my control area where everything is pretty much consistent. It's a good way to test any variables in the trike. Even the wind direction is predictable.

2. I'll be riding a few hundred more miles before switching up to a 42T elliptical chain ring. Since I'm spinning more quickly with my current 40T ring, I'm assuming the 42T ring will provide some performance gains with the same effort as my circular 40T ring. Hopefully I can gain some extra speed down the hills! My goal is 40mph. I'm peaking now at 33mph at top speed.

Take my chain

I had a chance to take a test run with that one link removed and twice the chain came off. I may be contributing to this be changing gears at the wrong time or pedaling with the incorrect intensity, but either way it looks as though I may to remove another chain link. I'll go one by one until the gears no longer change smoothly.

Chainlink gone

I don't know why I didn't do it sooner. On my last ride with Mike covering 50 miles, my chain come off the chain ring at least 8x. It wasn't more than a mere inconvenience, but I can't help but to worry if it were to happen in a bad place. At one point, it had come off while I was in the middle of an intersection crossing from sidewalk to sidewalk. I'm just lucky that cars weren't coming my way.

It was time to remove a chain link to make the overall chain tighter against the drivetrain.

Removing the link was fairly easy. Very easy actually. The tool I used worked perfectly and the link came right out! I'll test it out next weekend on rougher roads. The usual weekday roads I take are fairly smooth and don't typically cause my chain to fall off.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Give me a ring

ACCESSORY 40: Elliptical Chainring $15.00 (used) + shipping @ Zach from BROL

I'm always looking for more efficient ways to increase efficiency of the trike giving me the edge I need for completing the Aids Life Cycle next year. Though elliptical chain rings aren't 100% well received and are one of the most controversial pieces of technology, the cost was worth a personal test. For $15 apiece, I could find out for myself the effectiveness of elliptical chain rings.

Time for the installation. Since yesterday night, I've decided to go with the Q-ring methodology. After further reading, I've found that there are too many people who recommend this for me to ignore it. The effective smaller diameter will be at the dead spot and the longer diameter will be in the power phase.

This will hopefully help me skip over the dead spot more quickly and help me enter the power phase earlier in the stroke. These are various photos of my current installation orientation of the ring. Phase one of the stroke is when the crankarms are in the power position. The chain ring is at it's longest diameter at this point.

This is the transitional phase as it approaches the dead spot.






Here's the final phase of the stroke at the dead spot. The crank arm is slightly higher than complete horizontal. The only real way to determine this is for the rider to simply sit down and go through a normal stroke to see where the leg is most extended. This will change based on boom angle, rider height, seat height, etc.

After further discussion and analysis of my setup from fellow BROL members, I've been recommended to turn the chain ring counter clockwise by one position, 70 degrees.

Before doing that, I'll review the performance and experience with the current setup. This will give me something to compare to after I make the change.

If my attempt at orientating the chain ring so that the dead spot is virtually eliminated is correct, this would mean that I'd be spending more time in the power phase. My muscles would no longer get the split second rest at the dead spot that I would get with the traditional circular ring. My setup would ask for muscle work more often.

Some have complained that the elliptical chain rings make riding more difficult. If my theory is correct, this is exactly what we'd expect. The dead spot rest is virtual removed from the equation therefore giving more opportunity to work the muscles in the rest of the stroke.

I did feel this in the real world test run of 25 miles. One additional benefit I noticed right away while going down hill was that I could go through gears more quickly. I no doubt reached higher speeds sooner than I did with the circular chain ring.

It would make sense that this would translate to a similar experience going uphill, but I can't honestly say with certainty that I experienced this. I'll have to ride a bit more. Something tells me that I was able to go up hills more easily, but I can't contribute this to the elliptical chain ring. There's too many other factors that could have made me spin up the hill. Food, rest, mood, weather. There's too many variables for me to commit to the elliptical chain ring as benefiting my spins uphill.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Elliptical Chainrings....ugh!

What makes the elliptical chain ring so controversial is that there are two schools of thought which are completely opposite of one another. Let's examine:

1. Theory 1 slows down the area just before the dead spot at 3 and 9 o'clock (on bents) where the momentum normally speeds up. This is an attempt at evening out the stroke to make it more smooth and therefore efficient.

By cycling backwards, riders will notice that the stroke is naturally very jerky. It's not smooth at all. Before heavy training, this is normal for most people. I've ridden over 2,000 miles in 4 months and I found my stroke to be super jerky during the reverse stroke test.

In this example assuming an elliptical chain ring has an effective 42T at its widest point and 40T at it's shortest point, the chain ring should be installed with the 42T just after the power stroke before reaching the dead spot.

This theory is adopted by Shimano Biopace and Sugino Cycloid (the one I bought).

2. The second theory attempts to increase potential power my offering more teeth during the power stroke and less teeth at the deadspot to get you through it more quickly. The effective 40T portion of the ring is installed at the dead spot so the rider can quickly get through this less efficient part of the stroke and get to the power stroke faster.

Assuming the least power is delivered during the dead spot, theory 2 makes riders feel as though they have a smaller chain ring at this portion of the pedal stroke and a larger one during the power phase.

This theory is adopted by Rotor Q-Rings.

Before trying anything out physically, I'm leaning towards Theory 1 to even out the speed and smoothness of the stroke. I'll have more updates after I give both theories a test run.

Biopace!

It's Biopace, not Biospace! For the longest time I thought these Q-Ring competitors were called Shimano Biospace! No wonder I couldn't find information on them. Unfortunately Biopace is still a tough find.

The chainrings came in the mail today! I bought a couple 40t and 42t rings from Zach at BROL and can't wait to install them, but one problem - don't really know how. I guess there's only 5 options (5 holes in the chain ring to choose from).

I'll give it a try in the morning and go for some test runs.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Metro

Good to know the metro side of me hasn't gone unnoticed. I rode by the Sausalito end of the Golden Gate bridge today when I heard an onlooker talking to her husband,

"Wow, that's a bike! And look at his outfit!"

Hahah! I smirked to myself as I rode on past. She wasn't talking to me and I had already passed too far for me to respond. I wouldn't know how to respond anyway.

I hit a new day's record for miles. In 5 hours and 13 minutes, I covered 48 miles throughout the City. My legs are beat! But I'm still looking forward to tomorrow's bent meet. 2 water bottles pretty much empty. Good to know.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Date at the gate

An old photo recently enhanced using Photomatix. The software imitates a HDR photo using a single image. It's a good reminder of how the chain ring, mirror and pedals used to look like.


Old rear tire too. This was before the Schwalbe Big Apple replacement on the back end. The seat has been reclined since by one notch.

Pop!

I hit my new flat ground top speed of 26.1 mph. 0.5 miles later, I heard a flapping sound. Ugh, the tire. The same one that was causing me trouble was leaking big time. Luckily I expected this and kept a backup tube in my bag. Tossed the flat tube and am awaiting the replacement to come in the mail in a few days. Free of charge!

Crank me up

After my 5 day hiatus, I started triking. Towards the end of my 10 mile ride on a slight decline, I found the the trike getting way smooth in 4th gear or 44.4 GI's. Trying to confirm that nothing was wrong with my drive train, I took notice of my chain ring and it was intact. No slippage.

I've used the White Lightening chain lube for some time, so I didn't think it had anything to do with that. Continuing my search I still couldn't figure it out so I hopped off the trike at a red light to be sure the chain was on the correct cog in gear 3 when I came to a stop - it was!

I'm finally convinced the shorter 155mm crank arms really have contributed to my increased ease of the stroke. I'm finding the difference/improvement more obvious as I continue to trike.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Q-rings?

I've recently come across something called Q-rings. They're ovular or elliptical shaped chain rings! The purpose?

This technology supposedly eliminates the dead spot in the pedal stroke but lowering the number of teeth in the return stroke (pull up) and increasing the number of teeth on the power stroke using the same chain ring.

The mere shape of the chain rings (in theory) does this effectively. I have yet to prove this through experience, but am completely eager to give it a try. Notice the oblong shape. That's not a disfigurement of the photo. Nothing's wrong with the computer screen. It really is stretched out vertically in this photo.

More on the crank

I rode another 15.5 miles on the shorties and found it to be very efficient. I noticed a couple days later (today) that my knees started hurting a bit under the kneecap earlier in the morning. I hadn't ridden today and the pain has gone away. I'm expecting to be reminded of it next time I go on a ride, but hopefully the pain will go away after I get used to these new arms.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

More impressions of the crank

I had a chance to ride my usual track for a bit over 10 miles yesterday evening. I revisited the same routes and can honestly say that the 155mm crank arms are an improvement over the 170mm stock ones.

The benefit of not having to move my entire leg over such a large stroke is a great benefit not only for my knees, but for the sake of efficiency. I'm still getting the same gear inches, but cycling with less leg movement per stroke seems to give me a bit more endurance.

Looking back after having tried the 155mm crank arms, the 170's seemed to have wasted a lot of energy on the upstroke. Though the cycling shoes provide more efficiency through the entire stroke, the upstroke (when my knees come up towards my chest) still puts less power to the pedals.

If I ever go shorter, it'll be to the 152mm arms that come on the Schlumpf drive as an option. I can't really imagine myself liking anything shorter. 135mm seems ridiculously short. Still curious though.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Shorty crank arm review

WHY 155mm's?
I wasn't sure what to expect with the shorter crank arms. I suspected 165mm's wouldn't be a big enough difference from the 170mm stock ones to be worth the purchase. As a test, I picked the 155mm's in preparation for my future Schlumpf Mountain Drive which has a 152mm option. No 155mm, but that's close enough.

FORM:
My first test run was up and down the block. There was a noticeable difference, but I knew the real test would happen after a few miles. Immediately though, it felt easier to pedal a full stroke. My knees no longer had to come up so high.

PERFORMANCE:
Getting back to my familiar routes, I found that climbing the hills are indeed easier. It felt like getting an extra 1.5 gears. In other words, I can climb one hill at 5th gear as opposed to 3rd gear when I had the stock crank arms. I can't commit to this reasoning until I try it a couple times more. My increased superman powers could easily have come from adrenaline or other unrelated factors.

COMFORT:
I found my triking today similar to my experience up and down the block earlier in the morning. It's more comfortable reaching the same speeds and cadence. I'm sure this translates to better endurance and speed in the long run. For now, I'm just getting used to the stroke.

SPEED:
I can't strongly say that I can reach the same top speeds more quickly. The comfort level is probably the biggest benefit of the shorter crank arms which is good enough for me.

KNEE PAIN:
Gone? After riding 28 miles earlier in the day, I kept going for another 20 miles trying out the new crankset. My knees started hurting a bit towards the end of the day, but it wasn't the same type of pain as I had experienced before with the stock 170mm ones. The pain before was just under my knee cap; it's now mostly around my knee. I'm hoping it's b/c I'm just not used to the setup yet. We'll see.

Trek with Mike

This ride was better than the one at the East Bay! No sun burn, views were tons better and all in good company. Great despite the....err...flat tire. Guess those slime tube's aren't indestructible.

The day started off crossing a pedestrian bridge over a freeway. First time for me. The views were great and the weather was perfect. We hit up about 38 miles that afternoon going through four different trails!

TRAILS:
1. Sunnyvale Baylands Trail going through Alviso
2. Los Gatos Creek Trail
3. Middlefield Trail
4. Shoreland Baylands

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DAY:
- Geese
- Lake with paddle boats for rental
- 1,100 foot long pedestrian bridge

LESSONS LEARNED:
We swapped trikes for a bit and found that the Schwalbe Big Apples on Mike's ride did make a difference in speed. Going down just a short hill, I could already feel the difference. The 20 minute session on his trike sold me on those new tires. I have zero doubts now about the performance of those tires compared to the stock KMX ones on the Tornado.

Mike seemed to love the short 155mm crank arms I had on the trike.

When I came off the street onto a driveway at high speeds, the chain came off the front ring! On a later ride, the same thing happened. After checking the length though, I found that it wasn't too short. The length was fine. I just wish that the stock KMX bash ring was compatible with the new ring. I think this chain ring guard really made a difference in keeping the chain onto the ring during rough rides.

Crank it

ACCESSORY 39: Chainring 14.50 + shipping @ ebikestop.com

Much like the crank arms, my #1 reason for choosing the Sinz brand chainring was price. The second was that it comes in this fancy red color. Normally priced at $16.50, I felt like I got a good deal.


I never planned on getting a new chainring, but I need this one to mount my crank arms. The new crank arms are not compatible with the stock chain ring.

Let's see the difference in crank arm length. It's not that much shorter. 170mm stock one on the bottom and new 155mm one on top. Though 15mm might not seem like a lot, remember that it's 15mm on each side. The total difference will be 30mm or to us Americans, 1.18".


I like the look of the RMP Components one. I'm not a big fan of showing off brand names and would much rather have a cleaner look than having it plastered with "KMX" on it. The shape is also a bit cleaner too - straight edges. It doesn't have that organic look with all the unnecessary curves.

I'm not a big fan of pink. The chain ring is starting to look more pink than it does red. We'll soon see how it looks on the trike. I want to install this ASAP to test the shorter crank arms, so I'll pop it on for a trial run and get a black chain ring if it ends up not looking right. This might've looked better if the bash ring (chain guard) was compatible.


Installation is pretty direct. 4mm bolts are needed for single chain ring setups. Longer ones are available for double or triple setups. The bolts come as a package. The steel ones I'll be using were about $5.99. The more expensive ones sell for $14 or so. The allen head screws right on. A flat head screwdriver is needed to tighten it from the other side.

Fully installed! Finally. Looks pretty good! Except that I was right about the color. It's off. It's pink. It's ugly. Do I want Schwalbe Big Apple tires more or a replacement chain ring? Hmm...


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Torque

ACCESSORY 38: Clicker torque wrench $11.99 + shipping @ Harbor Freight Tools

Something came in the mail for me today and boy was that quick. I ordered it a few days ago and later read that some buyers had waited up to 2 weeks for delivery! With the prices though, I went through with the purchase anyway and lucked out when it came in 2 days!

Yes, and it comes with a case! Wicked. I always wanted one of these. It reminds me of my special inspections days where I used to torque bolts all over construction sites. These torque wrenches typically go for $24-50 each! Quite a deal from Harbor Freight. I have yet to test it though. Hope it doesn't break on the first try.

The ones Park Tools sells are all 3/8", so that's the one I went for. 5-80 lb range sounds good. The difference btw this type and the kind that Park Tools sells is that this one can't be calibrated as easily. But this one seems a lot more durable and I can't imagine I would need to calibrate it ever. I won't be using it that often. Again, the justification for buying this is that it's a fraction of the cost of taking it to the shop to complete the work I need to do installing the crankarms and new chain ring. yes, new chain ring! That's next. Review tomorrow.

Fellow bent rider

Arriving at the Polo Field, I saw another bent! I had seen two on the track before. This is the third. Turns out the guy, Eric had seen me on the road before! In fact, I had see him also, except I didn't know it at the time.

I had been riding around when I passed by a black car which I had thought was a Dodge Charger, but later learned was a Chrysler 300. They look the same. The rear hitch had a tadpole bent trike! By the time I realized it, I had passed it. Little did I know that I would have later been granted my wish of being able to exchange a few words with him.

We ended up riding over 10 miles together. Nice meeting a fellow bent rider who's up for chatting (and slowing down so I can keep up). We were cruising at about 17mph average. The 10 miles went by like 15 minutes.

Apples

ACCESSORY 37: Schwalbe Big Apple Rear Tire $0 @ Mike

Thank you Mike for allowing me another accessory w/o having to ride 200 extra miles! Freebee from Mike. I owe you a lunch at the very least! This is a 2" wide Schwalbe Big Apple 20" rear tire. After researching like a mad man, I was still hesitant to buy a set. After trying Mike's ride, I'm sold. He gave me one of his extras and I'll be buying a front pair soon enough.

I guess the people who bought these and reviewed them in various places on the web didn't get them for a KMX kart. I don't notice the tire being thicker and the weight is actually less than the stock ones! The two biggest worries were pretty much non-existant. I'm definitely getting a front set eventually.

As for the tread, the stock tire on the left definitely has more. The BA's (Big Apples) are designed as a road tire so it has less tread as expected.

I have yet to take this on the gravel, but from my 13.5 mile ride today, I can say that these tires do give a bit more cushioned feel to the road. I inflated them to 40lb's. Perhaps a bit less would give me a more comfy ride. I'll have to experiment with the air pressure to see what works the best. It's a bit tough to tell though w/o the front tires to match. Even if the BA's did have less rolling resistance, the front wheels prevent me from noticing the difference.

A lot of people like the reflective grey strip along the edge of the tire. Yes, I said grey. It's not white like people say. It's grey. Grey. Grey. Grey. Like I suspected, I don't like it nearly as much as w/o the strip. It's fighting with the red strip. Not a good look but maybe it'll grow on me. Let's give it a few weeks.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mirror mirror on the wall

ACCESSORY 36: Mirror $13 @ Walmart

Though not thought to be as useful as my current mirrors, the size of Mike's mirrors definitely caught my attention in a good way. My current Blackburn Multi Mirror sticks out beyond the width of the tires. I'd be lying if I said I haven't run these mirrors into lamp posts and hedges during my sidewalk rides. A small pair would be ideal not only to allow me to ride through tight spaces, but hopefully would be better aerodynamically for my 20mph laps.

For the price of $6.57/each at Walmart, I couldn't pass it up. Yes, I cheated. I hadn't gotten to my 200 mile mark before buying this. At this price point, I'm worried that by the time I'm ready to buy, there's a good chance that Walmart may not stock this product anymore. I dropped by during my lunch break and picked up a pair. The total with tax for two mirrors was less than 70% of the cost of one of my Blackburn mirrors!

Thinking I might return it if I didn't like it, I took the packaging apart very carefully as to not rip anything. The packaging was decent. I had remembered from my ride last week that the mirrors were not really glass, but some sort of reflective tape. The reflection on the face of the mirror was a bit distorted and wasn't nearly as clear as the Blackburns.

The size difference though is drastic enough for me to take a shot to see if it'd be worth keeping. Notice there is not dial knob on the Zefal mirror. This "spin" model is a lot more sleek.


Can you even tell there's a mirror on the right side of this photo on the handlebar? Barely. The Zafel mirror is nice too b/c it folds away nicely when not in use.



I hadn't previously considered this mirror b/c the retail price I saw online was $13-16, much too close to the $19 I paid for the Blackburn Multi Mirror shipped. The Blackburn product got better reviews and seemed to have more adjustment technology built in. There's a rotating locking ring that holds the angle of the mirror in place. When installed properly, vibration is minimal.

REVIEW:
The sheer size of the mirror makes the Zafel Spin worth considering. Though competitor's larger models show more in its reflection, they tend to be more exposed to street obstacles like hedges and lamp posts. In its use, my Blackburn Multi Mirror has suffered scratches on the backside from ramming into things. It's also not the most convenient when turning the trike over on its side during maintenance and cleaning. Sticking out, the Blackburn mirror is the first thing to hit the ground.

I admit that I had installed the Zafel mirror with a 45% intention of returning it. I didn't think the size would be large enough to be useful.

I was wrong.

After 23.5 miles of using these mirrors, I can say that the size takes a while to get used to but still works for my needs. Vibration is also improved over the Blackburn mirror. The Zafel Spin is just so small and lightweight that there isn't really much to bob around during bumps on the road.

While the Blackburn mirror comes loose on a regular basis and needs readjustment, the Zafel mirror holds well in place. Though I've only ridden it once so far, the mirrors hold in place very well. So well in fact that I'm not hesitant to fold the mirrors away as it was designed to, knowing that I can easily flip it back open and put it back into place.