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Chainless Drive Bicycle

Around the turn of the century there were a number of bicycle designs which did not use chains, but instead had a drive shaft with bevel gears.  This bicycle is from 1891 and uses four bevel gears and a drive shaft for propulsion.  This idea was later taken to motorcycles, such as the BMW shaft drive motorcycle some 50 years later.


The Backstory on Holey Spokes

In fall of 2008 I (Bruce, trikebldr) bought a 2003 Speed. As I hefted it up to put it in the rack on top of my car I thought I would just throw it all the way over the car, it was so light. When I got it home I weighed it at 28lbs, complete with fenders. It made me wonder how light I could make my 2007 Speed. Stock, it weighed 31lbs.

I have a friend in Los Angeles who runs the computers that control the earthquake shift equipment under a high-rise building in downtown. He asked for a lot of pics, dimensions and weights, then plugged them all into this computer to do a stress flow analysis. It gave us back hundreds of diagrams that showed where the trike’s frame, and other parts, were most and least stressed under load.

DF bikes are made from butted and double-butted tubing to reduce weight. For those not familiar with the term “butted tube”, this means that the center has thinned out walls while the ends are thicker walled. These special butted tubes can be made in approximate lengths and cut to fit precisely into a DF’s frame. All trike makers that I know of use pretty much generic, uniform-wall-thickness tubing. It’s simply a matter of economics, since trikes of various frame design require too many tube lengths to be able to provide butted tubing for all parts of the frame. The old solution to non-butted tubing was to drill across the tube in the middle areas to reduce the weight. Tubes under side loading cannot be drilled, but those in longitudinal compression and tension can be. Most DF frames are completely triangulated, meaning their tubes are all under tension or compression, but not side loaded, appreciably. Trike frames are not so lucky!

Holey Spokes was drilled in those areas shown to be over-built as far as tubing wall thickness. The main, one-piece frame was drilled exactly as the computer showed, but I took some liberties on some smaller, easily replaceable parts. In the end the only area that I would do differently would be not drilling completely through the boom’s internal “peace” webbing. A stock, undrilled boom gave me 1/16″ of twist under heavy loading measured at the top of the der post, but the drilled version now gives me 1/8″ of twist, measured the same way. By loading, I mean causing the rear wheel to spin slightly with the front brakes on. This would not be acceptable for all you pseudo-Lances out there, but for me it isn’t a noticeable loss of efficiency.

A lot of criticism has been heard about drilling the cranks. You cannot drill most cranks, but the older Truvativ Elita cranks have a dog-bone cross section to them and the main strength is along the edges. Small, 1/2″ holes can be drilled with no problems. The most stress that can be applied here is until the rear tire breaks free, and I have done that, as well a stomping on them hard.

I have about 200 hours of drilling and de-burring in the project, as well as other tweaks to make it handle quicker. The wheels were tightened up to the max recommended spoke tensions for each rim. Ceramic bearings are used everywhere except in the Frog pedals. I have one set of Stelvio Light tires that are over 11,000 miles old and are much lighter than new Stelvios. I keep these stored except for special rides. I normally run newer Stelvios. I dumped the stock seat mesh and made up a new sling from a single layer of the stuff POC sells. It’s laced inside the seat rails with some parachute cord.

The cost to build this trike (other than the stock trike) was $12.53 for the materials to make the seat, plus about $183 for the new XTR Shadow carbon-cage rear der. The der weighs just 181grams as opposed to the 495grams for the stock Deore der. I was already running Q-rings and hollow-pinned chains, so throw in a bit more money for those if you must. Ceramics for the whole trike run about $500 for everything, including BB and idler.

The base trike weighed 31lbs, 3oz when I started. Set up for final weighing, with the lighter tires, no headrest, mirrors, bottle cages, it weighs exactly 24lbs. I normally run it with newer, heavier Stelvios, one mirror, one cage and a POC headrest. Set up like that it weighs at 25lbs, 14oz.

Holey Spokes drew a lot of flak on the Catrike forum as it was being built. Comments like “fold up around his ears” were found often! The drilling was not done helter-skelter like so many bikes were in the old days. It was done carefully according to indicated high and low stress areas. It’s now three and a half years old, and I ride it about 3000miles a year. I almost always pull my dog in her trailer behind it, too (another 56lbs, total!)! If Cindy is pulling the trailer, I get carried away and take a lot of curves on two wheels. After all, higher performance in handling was what it was built for. I prefer to bicycle it rather than slide through a corner.

I  have weighed between 207 and 225lbs during the last 3-1/2 years, so it has endured a lot of heavy abuse from my riding style, with no failures yet. The reason is, those drilled tubes are not being BENT, but are under tension or compression. The seat side rails were not drilled specifically because they are being pulled sideways, inward from the weight of the rider in the mesh. There’s one short video in the link to my pics of this trike, showing me bicycling the trike as well as doing hard stoppies. This is pretty much normal for me while I wait for others to get ready to ride. It’s just a fun trike to play with like this!

About six others have test-ridden it and two of them have had me do this treatment to their’s. One is a 2008 Speed, and the other is a 2007 Pocket, called Piccolo Pockets. I consider the 2007 to be the very best Speed of all models, especially to do this with.

The First Tadpole recumbent tricycle? A cool one from 1875

According to the Field:

My tricycle weighs 83 pounds, and, when loaded for a summer journey of several days, it is made to carry myself, 196 lbs, and an overcoat, spare clothes, a book, sketch book, colors, etc to the extent in all of 221 lbs.  I have always a comfortable seat to sketch in, or to rest in when I need, with great ease in driving.  Although I can put it along on level ground at the rate of 8 or 9 mph, I seldom cover more than 6 in traveling/ but the road must be very bad to reduce me to 4 mph.


Rambler Bicycles

Thomas B. Jeffery was born in Stoke, Devonshire, England.  At the age of eighteen he emmigrated to the United States, and moved to Chicago.  Later he worked making models of inventions for submission to the U.S. Patent Office by inventors.  With partner R. Phillip Gormully he formed a bicycle company and became the 2nd largest bicycle manufacturing company in the U.S.  One of his accomplisments was developing a clincher rim and tire so that pneumatic tires could be used more effectively on bicycles.


The Gormully and Jeffery bicycles included a model called the Rambler.   In 1900 Jeffery and Gormully sold their interest in their bicycle company and bought a factory in Kenosha Wisconsin, and began making automobiles.   They kept the mark Rambler, and their cars were called Ramblers.  This is Jeffery’s first automobile. Some of his early designs had a front mounted engine, and a steering wheel, but his first production models conservatively followed the Duryea pattern, and had a tiller and a rear engine.

The Ramblers costs in the $750 to $850 range, and has an 8-hp, 1.6L, 1-cyl. engine mounted beneath the seat.   In the first year of sales the Rambler became the second largest selling car, with 1500 automibiles sold, second to Oldsmobile.


Gregory Allen’s Steampunk Trikes

If you are around downtown Boise for long, you will notice an unusual trike driven by an interesting looking fellow.  Dawson’s coffee shop is a likely place to run into the driver, which I often do.  It is a handmade trike designed and built by Gregory Allen.

They are pedal assisted, but run primarily on battery power.  He used lithium for long life, and lead acid for quick take off.  This is about the 17th model he has built, and each version has some different features.

First Full Suspension Bike, Circa 1890

Here is a pretty well developed full suspension bike patented in 1890, a year before McGlinchey’s full suspension velocipede, and 32 years before telescoping forks of Sage. As far as I know, Becker is the first inventor of the full suspension bicycle



Gus Duncan’s Woodies!

If you think of technology as a work of art, Gus has taken the technology to a new level of art in his wooden bikes.  Here are the two I have seen:

more photos here, and here.  Gus has a blog here with more details their construction.  You can drop him a line with questions at <>


Puprunners Dog Trailer

The Puprunner Trailer for Doggies!

I have had the opportunity to test drive the Puprunner trailer, a trailer made for dogs and their owners.  Full disclosure: the makers, the Carters, are clients of my patent law practice and we are getting a patent on this device.  Their website is HERE.

We hooked up this trailer to my Catrike Speed, which is a recumbent trike.  The hookup was very easy, and didn’t take more than a few minutes.  The photo above shows the Puprunner in a configuration where my dog Ginger can trot along behind my bike.  The Puprunner does this by having the floor made of two panels which hinge up and attach so the dog can be on the ground.  The idea is that after a few miles the dog might be tired, but the bike rider might want to cover some more miles.  When that point is reached, the floor panels of the trailer hinge down, and the tired pooch can ride.  It really works, and my dog who is very sweet, but not very bright, figured it out on the first ride.


The Puprunner has a storage area in front of the dog compartment, and a sun screen that goes over the top. It is 33 inches wide, and weighs about 45 pounds.  The photo above shows my dog in the riding position, which lets me speed down hills without leaving her behind.  The dog is tethered by a chest harness to the frame, not by a collar.  I was impressed and thought it would be perfect for a nice ride that is too far for my dog, but would allow her to get a workout.

1936 French SWB Recumbent

The question is, when was was the first recumbent made?  This is the earliest bent of the short wheel base (SWB) variety I have seen, by a Mr. Albert Raymond.  I know of an earlier long wheel base bent invented by Jarvis in the U.S., from 1902, but this is the earliest SWB I have found.  That it was from France should be no surprise, since Charles Mochet was making recumbents in France about that time period.

Tadpole Upright Trike, Underseat Steering

Here is a comfy looking tadpole trike.

This looks like its chain drive, single speed, the rider’s back would be straight up, not leaning forward.  I don’t see any brakes, but if it was direct drive, you could brake by resisting the pedals turning.  This would work well today.