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.


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.

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!

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


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:

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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


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:


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.