Graeme Obree has dedicated his cycling career to making the cycling position as aerodynamic as possible. Rather than lying further and further back, like fast recumbents do, he went the other way and moved more and more horizontal with his head at the front. Prone, in other words. His latest attempt has been a fully prone and fully faired racer, which he planned to race at the Battle Mountain speed contests.
He is not the first to try the prone position, as shown in this 1907 prone bicycle design. This looks like it hurts to ride it, but its not so different in concept from Obree’s prone racer.
Bike designs using a drive shaft were tried at the turn of the century, but never caught on as the best form of power transmission bikes. I’m not sure why, because a lot of bikes were made with a drive shaft and bevel gears for a power train.
A Finnish company led by Tatu Lund has designed a beautiful drive shaft recumbent bike, shown below. It has disk brakes, a wonderful feature on a recumbent, fenders , a built in pack support, and rear suspension. As in all Finnish products, the design is a thing of beauty. Sells in the neighborhood of $3500.
The drive shaft goes inside the frame to the gear wheel, yet the rear wheel has suspension and moves up and down. Very impressive. The bottom bracket is a bit lower than the seat, so stopping and starting should be much easier than on my high race. Tatu says that the bike is designed for two demographics: those that are looking for increased speed, and those that are looking for increased comfort. Sounds like the same demographics that all recumbents appeal to. Mirage has 3 U.S. distributors, and if the bike rides as well as it looks, it should be a world beater!
Info about the company:
Br. Tatu Lund, CEO
MirageBikes (VAT ID: FI23497371)
+358 40 541 0900, Skype: tatu.lund
Charles Mochet of France first set out to build a four wheel bicycle, because his wife (just a tad overprotective, are we?) thought that bikes of the day (the 1930s) were way too dangerous for her precious baby boy. So Charles made a little 4 wheeled car that his son could not fall off of. However, he found that the little car was very fast, and son George was leaving the other kids on their bikes in the dust. That observation started Charles on his next project. The first was to make more pedal cars, and there was a mini craze over pedal cars.
From the childs pedal car, Mochet went on to improve a recumbent bike design to a world speed record setting form.
In the world of recumbent bikes, there are several broad categories such as Long Wheel Base, Short Wheel Base, Tadpole trikes, Delta trikes, and Low Racer. Short Wheel Base (SWB) bikes typically have smaller wheels, and typically the front wheel is smaller than the rear wheel. Another type of SWB with 2 wheels of equal size, of 650 or 700 cm wheels. Having bigger wheels opens lots of options for selection of racing wheels and tires, and it is thought that the bigger wheels are faster than smaller wheels. These SWB bikes with larger wheels are called High Racers, and my new (to me) Rans F5 is a high racer.
I got it used about 2 weeks ago, and have been learning how to ride it since. These are bikes you just don’t jump on and ride. You have to learn to launch it, learn how to drive it more or less straight, and learn how to stop it without falling over. Yes, you have to learn these things like you were 6 years old and learning to ride a bike for the first time, and 60 years of riding a DF (diamond frame, or standard) bike doesn’t help that much.
My learning curve:
Day one: I did get up the hill to my house, but it sure doesn’t track as easily and straight as the trike, and going downhill is downright scary! I think I was actually faster on the Rans than on my trike, but I’ll have to put on a speedometer to verify. I have heard people talk about high speed descents on a high racer, but I don’t see how that is possible at present. Rode about 5 miles, fell off twice when launching. Very twitchy on downhill, but I made it uphill about a mile. The bike feels super high off the ground. I’ve been using shoes with cleats that snap into the pedal, and hence the risk of falling off the bike when launching or stopping.
Day two: rode about 10 blocks, 6 or 7 stops and launches, went uphill on the steepest section of my hill. Launching on slight downhill definitely helps.
Day three: rode to work down hill, much more stable feeling on the downhill this time, and got up the steepest portion again, did 2 or 3 launches from flat ground. The bike feels not so high off the ground.
Day 5: I’m doing better on starts. I can start on level ground now fairly smoothly. I still use brakes when going down my hill that I didn’t brake on in the trike. I’m a bit better as far as tracking straight. I have to think a lot more about stops and starts and intersections on this bike than on my trike. I feel a bit faster going uphill on the F5 than on the trike, but a good deal slower going down hill. I have not had it on a long flat straightaway yet, but by the weekend I’ll be ready to try that.
Week 2: starting on level ground is fine for me now, as long as I remember to put it in a low gear on the front chainwheel. I am still not tracking very straight sometimes at the moment of launching. I’m way faster going up a hill than I was with my trike, because on my trike I could go slow, put it in a low gear, and not push myself. With the F5 I am afraid to go slow, so I try to keep the speed up to improve tracking. When I get to the top of the hill, I’m sucking air like crazy, having spent way more energy to keep the speed up.
On my trike I could get up to 20 mph, but it felt like an exertion. This past weekend I got a speedometer on the F5, and today noticed I was cruising at 20 mph effortlessly. I bet I could easily kick it up to 24 and hold that for awhile on flat roadway. To get to 24 mph on my trike I was on the verge of blowing the engine, and I could not hold it for long. I have still not had it on a long flat road, but I’m looking forward to it. On my way home I go up a big hill, about a mile long, with sharp curves around corners. I have mentally divided it into 10 segments, and to try to get faster on my trike, I would maintain a speed of 7 mpg for one or two sections. After such a pace, I’d be wheezing and puffing like crazy, and I’d have to slow down. I thought I’d eventually build up to every other section doing 7 mph, then someday the whole thing at 7 mph. DFs go at about that pace on that hill, as I know from pacing some of them for a short distance.
Still at a somewhat shaky stage of steering, and at far less huffing and puffing than I would be on my trike, I go up that hill at 6-8 mph, exactly the same motor and fitness level. I’ll take that. If I can also go 2 mph faster on flat ground, hurray for high racers! I might try the full out speed on flat terrain this weekend.
End of week 2: Went on a 30 mile group ride today on the F5. We did great! It put me at about the same pace as riders who were much younger than me, on expensive bikes, in team colors. They didn’t lose me on the hills, and I got passed darn few times, until I had a flat tire.
I started at the back of the pack, to give myself plenty of room to wobble around on the start. As the pack thinned out, I moved through the pack, toward the front. Out of about 100 riders, I could see about 15 ahead of the group, and I picked off a few of those and was keeping the faster group in sight and maybe gaining a little. The faster group crossed a RR track before a long freight train crossed, and I had to wait out the train. Shortly after that I had a flat, so I never caught the lead group, but all in all its quite a bit faster than the trike, and is enough of an advantage that a 63 year old commuter becomes comparable with road bikes in speed, and in the same league as DFs going uphill. The hills were fairly gentle, and I had a rider or two pass me on hills, but not flocks of them like pass me when I’m on the trike. So far so good!
Day after 30 mile ride, the guys on Bent Rider OnLine, a recumbent forum, told me I had the riser to the handlebar on backwards. I reversed it, and it is more comfortable for me now.
OK, riding for 2 weeks now, and I take my 3rd fall! I came around a corner of a building where I planned to stop for food and water, and as I slowed to stop I was still turning to the right. My routine is to pop my left foot out and put it down, stop, pop my right food out and put it down. That doesn’t work when turning right, so down I went at zero mph. OK, so stop only when pointed straight ahead, not turning. Lesson learned.
I notice after the 30 mile group ride yesterday, my steering is accurate enough to go around the speed bumps in the gutter. Today was the first time I could reliably hit that small zone between the speed bump and the curb.
Riding it for one month, I take my 4th fall! I was going slow on grass and making big steering movements. I got my left foot caught in the wheel as the pedal came close to the wheel as it was turned. Down I went, on grass, and not hurt. I can go up my hill at 4 mph, and don’t have any trouble starting on the level or at stoplights. I have not even tried starting on an uphill!
Inventor Charles Mochet designed a recumbent bicycle, and in 1933 the design was compete enough that he thought it was ready to enter a race against professional cyclists, in the home of professional cycling, France. His rider was Francois Faure, who was not a top cyclist of the day. Riding against professional cyclists, Faure set a new world record that day for distance covered in one hour. The old record was 44.247 km, and the new record set that day was 45.055 km. Later races on recumbents in the same year raised the record to 49.99, and that was set by a 43 year old.
The international governing body of bicycle racing, the same one that had earlier banned metal rims and derailluers, decided within a year that the recumbents should not compete against “real” bikes. They also revoked the records set by the recumbents the previous year. Their ban has stood for 70 years, and essentially remains in place. Don’t they realize that with a recumbent, a French cyclist might be able to beat Lance Armstrong? More recumbent related items at Bent Rider Online, Bent Stuff, and Mochet Velocar Racing, and http://www.wisil.recumbents.com/wisil/. Photo from Mochet Velocar Racing, with all the sites listed above maintained by Warren Beauchamp.
An earlier recumbent was patented in 1902.
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.
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.
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.
If you search the forums a bit, you will find all kinds of homemade repair or shop stands for trikes, generally made of PVC pipe. I have a better one, one which gets the trike up at a nice height for working on stuff. It is also very stable, and will hold the trike horizontal, vertical, or any angle in between. It is a Park PCS-9, and sells for about $130 at Park Tools. However, there is one critical modification that has to be made to make it strong enough to hold trikes, and that is to make a metal bushing to replace the plastic one that it comes with. The legs fold up to make it easy to store or transport.
I was lucky enough to get one by Bruce, but I don’t know if has any more for this unit. The bushing to replace looks like this: