Thursday, June 21, 2012

Trike Project

I’ve been *very* quiet on this blog lately, mostly because I haven’t been training and racing very much lately – at least not relative to what I was doing in 2007-2010. But I have been staying busy with other projects, such as this one: I am trying to build a two-person tricycle, a side-by-side tandem trike.

I’ve wanted to try to build a mutant bike ever since I first saw a tall bike in college, but it has always been one of those back-burner ideas. Now that I’ve allocated a bit more time to “creative projects” (more on that in a future post), this bubbled to the top of the list.

I didn’t really get momentum on this until I figured out that my schedule will allow me to attend Burning Man this year (where we hope to use the trike), and until Brian from our Burning Man camp offered to help out.

Here is a quick timeline of what we’ve done so far. I expect to need about 2 more weeks’ worth of labor spread over the next month or two in order to finish this off.

Tue 12 June: purchased the plans from Atomic Zombie

Wed 13 June: met up w Brian, debated whether this project was too complicated for us, decided to go for it. Toured altspace and decided to buy a membership. Brian called around to get quotes on the metal tubing. Mike at altspace recommended Online Metals in Ballard.

Thu 14 June: we ordered our tubing and axle from Online Metals. Brian picked ‘em up. I got three wheels from Recycled Cycles and talked to the gang about getting some junker/salvage bikes in the near future. My friend Tahoma’s friend Morgan offered to teach us to weld. We cut some of the tubes but broke a band saw blade, weren’t sure how to replace it, and called it a day. I went to Recycled Cycles and to Stoneway Hardware in the evening to get wheels and pillow block bearings, after calling ahead to verify that Stoneway Hardware did indeed sell 3/4” pillow block bearings.

Fri 15 June: I finished cutting the tubes with an angle grinder. Mike taught me how to replace the band saw blade correctly and how to make more accurate cuts. Morgan taught me to weld and I “taught” Brian. We welded the entire frame.

Sat 16 June: I went to Tacoma Screw in the morning to get washers for the flanges. They had washers with approximately the right inner- and outer-diameters but they were too thick – 1/4” when we wanted 1/8”. I figured I could grind them down, but I really wanted to try to slice then lengthwise instead. A few people I chatted with thought it couldn’t be done, but I chatted w Mars at altspace and decided to try to weld the washer to a piece of scrap steel and then clamp the scrap steel while slicing the washer “like a roll of bologna.” Thanks to my dad for the colorful analogy! I spent the rest of Saturday slicing bologna and drilling spoke holes in the flanges. I broke a 3/32” drill bit in the process.

On Saturday I also realized that once we finish the trike we will have to take it on a tour of Seattle to show it to all of the people and businesses who helped us along the way. Of course we will bring beers for everybody!

Sun 17 June: bought two new drill bits at Redmond Home Depot. Finished drilling the spoke holes. Tried to mount the axle but my pillow block bearings were more like bushings than sealed cartridges. I worried that this design wouldn’t tolerate road grit or playa sand very well, so I started calling around looking for better bearings. I acquired three old bikes from Recycled Cycles to use for various parts that we’ll need soon.

Mon 18 June: day off, as I focused on Bicycle Adventures prep. I rode in La Conner, Anacortes, and Guemes Island in order to familiarize myself with the Day One and Day Six routes. Then my friend Shashank taught me how to make two fantastic dishes to serve to our lucky guests as a picnic lunch – a curry chicken and paneer, both of which will be used to make naan sandwiches on Day Five or Day Six. I did also manage to order some better bearings, which required a one-day delay as they shipped from Tacoma.

Tue 19 June: picked up the new bearings at Motion Industries in south Seattle, bought some mounting hardware at Pacific Supply on Capitol Hill, and spent a good chunk of time mounting the axle. I broke a 1/2” drill bit in the process and had to buy another at Madison Park Hardware. Then sliced the axle in half, welded on the flanges and painted the new pseudo-hubs. While the hubs were drying, I cut the headset and fork off of an old BMX bike and ground down the extra metal on the headset with an angle grinder.

Wed 20 June: Brian and I enjoyed the sunny weather in Seattle by lacing up the wheels at Madison Park. It took awhile as we had no clue what we were doing, but the late, great Sheldon Brown’s wheelbuilding page proved to be very helpful.

So tomorrow we hope to weld on the front boom tube and fork, giving us a rolling chassis. Then we have to build the steering system, acquire and install seats, build the drivetrain, and paint/tune/finish. We’re also still trying to acquire two custom-machined parts for the drivetrain: the freehub & brake rotor mounts that will be welded to the rear axle.

We have plenty of work ahead of us, but I’m proud of how far we’ve come in a week. It has been a ton of work so far, but I’m learning a lot of new skills and I’m exercising my problem-solving muscles every step of the way. Win.


A few photo highlights:

Aligning the frame as we weld

one of my first welds

Brian welding. Doesn’t this look cool?!?

goofing around w the completed frame

some of the parts that I bought on Friday+Saturday

the awesome idea to weld scrap steel onto the thick washer in order to “slice the bologna”

the band saw in action, slicing the bologna

forgot to mention this earlier – I hacksawed an old hub in order to create a widget for marking the spoke holes on the new flanges

using the widget to mark spoke holes on the flange

four finished flanges – well, almost finished as I still needed to clean up the welded area

a bunch of old bikes in the back of my car; this part made me a bit sad, but hopefully they’re about to become a part of something great!

the correct type of Pillow Block Bearing

rear axle is mounted!

flanges welded onto axle!

flanges painted!

this bike is about to die Sad smile

cleaning up the head tube after cutting it off of the old BMX bike

a completely laced wheel, after a tough afternoon in the park


And for those of you who made it this far: I ran a race tonight – 5000M on the track in Shoreline as part of the ClubNW All-Comers series. I was hoping I was fit enough to break 16:00 for the first time, but I went out aggressively with the lead group and fell apart once I lost them. I ran 5:02/mile pace for the first half of the race and 5:20/mile pace for the second half. Fail. But I still ran a 16:15, and I’ll have other opportunities to run. Races always make me want to train more/better so that I’ll race better the next time!

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