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Setting Toe on Front Wheels of a Trike (Catrike)

Mikey says: Toe is a measurement of the horizontal diameters of the two front wheels, and how close to parallel they are to each other when the wheels are pointed straight ahead. If they’re not parallel, the wheels either “toe in” (the fronts of the wheels are closer together than the backs of the wheels) or “toe out” (backs are closer). I’ve seen people use a tape measure, piece of string, Catrike flagpole, trammel points, framing squares, or (last resort) a special tool. Once you’ve got a way to measure the inter-wheel distance front and rear, just fiddle with a tie-rod end to tweak the wheels to make the distances equal, or at least within about 1/16″ of each other. Loosen the stop nut, disconnect the tie-rod end from the bracket on the wheel, turn the rod-end in (adjusts the toe “out”) or out (adjusts the toe “in”). The finest adjustment you can make is a half-turn of the rod end, so you may have to settle for a tiny bit of toe. Some people prefer toe-in, others toe-out if they can’t make it exactly neutral, and some people don’t want it exactly neutral anyway. Once you’re happy, reconnect the rod-end to the bracket, tighten the stop nut, and go riding.
trikebldr adds this about toe:

Basically, toe-in gives better stability at higher speeds, but higher tire wear. Toe-out will give more nimble, power-steering feel, with more tire wear. Neutral toe will give a balance of the two, with very little tire wear.

To explain the stability issue, think of it this way; with toe-out, each wheel is trying to pull the trike in it’s direction, and when you try to go straight and hit even a tiny bump with one wheel, that wheel gets a traction advantage over the other and begins to turn the trike it’s direction. As it does so, the weight advantage transfers to the other wheel. And, this cyclic action happens over and over, making the trike feel very unstable. Example: left wheel hits a bump, gets more traction than the right wheel and the trike starts to turn to the left, shifting the weight over to the right wheel. Now, the right wheel has more traction than the left, so the trike starts to turn to the right, shifting the weight over to the left wheel. This cyclic action happens over and over, creating an unstable, unpredictable feel for the rider. It manifests itself as a tendency to wander from side-to-side.

With toe-in, when one wheel gets a weight advantage and tries to turn the trike, that action only adds more weight to that wheel and nothing changes, giving a feeling of stability. No wandering!

Absolute neutral toe tends to feel more like toe-out at very high speeds, so just a touch of toe-in is preferable for most riding conditions, but not so much that it causes tire wear. That’s where it gets tricky! I run all of my trikes at zero toe when unloaded (in the work stand), and that gives it just a hair of toe-in when I sit on the trike. My original set of Stelvios on my ’07 have over 9000 miles (YES! NINE THOUSAND!), and are still useable. I replaced them only because Tickle Pink was going to be riding that trike during the rally week this year, and I wanted it to be absolutely trouble free. I think this setting has well proven to be optimal for at least my ’07 Speed. Tire wear on my ’08 looks good so far, too, with this setting, and it has over 2000 miles so far.

Here’s a little bit about setting toe. The trueness of the wheels can kill an adjustment completely!!! If each wheel wobbles even 1/32″, and they are in just the right position to each other during the toe setting, that could affect the setting by 1/16″, and that is all I would recommend as a maximum toe-in value. So, even if you actually have neutral toe, it COULD look like 1/16″. The only way to eliminate that is to bind the wheels slightly by adjusting the brake pad just enough to hold the wheel from spinning freely, but allow you to rotate them during this operation. Now. working from the right side, take your toe reading, front and back. Write it down. Now rotate only the right wheel 1/4 turn and take the toe reading again. After doing this at the four “corners” of the right wheel, rotate the left wheel 1/4 turn and start over on the right wheel. This means you will be taking sixteen readings total to see how much your wheel trueness affects the real toe setting. An average of all sixteen values will be a very accurate reading!

This is all very tedious, but if you like a very accurately tuned machine, it is worth it. And, once done to this accuracy, it shouldn’t change unless you take things apart or bend something. My ’07 never changed, and it was never apart in over two years until I recently took it completely apart for “surgery”. My ’08 is now almost 18 months old and has also never changed.

Bicycle Front Suspension 1891

This appears to be a front suspension bike, patented in 1891.  The seat and cranks are attached solidly to the rear wheel, but if the front wheel hit a bump it would be allowed to raise up against the spring located near the crank.  Interesting.  Many other early suspension designs are in the Bicycle Technology section of the Patent Pending blog.  In the top version of this bike, steering is by handles by the saddle, which is connected to the front wheel by cables. There is no traditional handlebar.   I think the inventor was trying to allow the rider to sit upright and not have to lean forward to steer the front wheel. That might really relieve some back strain.


1863 Rear Wheel Steering Trike

Here is a cool trike, tadpole configuration, built with the horse lover in mind. When one technology is replaced with another, the new technology often mimics the old one, either to be conservative in design, or to appeal to users of the old technology. This trike is very early on the American scene, and might appeal to riders used to horses. It is steered by reins which control the rear wheel, and is propelled by the rider lunging the front legs of the horse up and down, to turn the cranks attached to the front wheels. This patent was used as a reference first to invalidate the Lallament patent, and later was acquired by Colonel Pope as part of his patent portfolio used to obtain royalties from all bike manufacturers.


The Rambler Bicycle

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 trademark “Rambler” from their bikes, 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 automobiles sold, second only to Oldsmobile.


Multiple Geared Driveshaft Bike

Here is yet another way to achieve multiple speeds on a bike, by the use of a driveshaft and bevel gears. This one has multiple bevel gears on the drive shaft, and multiple bevel gears on the wheel plate, so it could achieve a wide range of gear ratios.


Early Cantilever Brake

The earliest bicycles, like Lallement’s bicycle, did not have brakes as such, but back pressure on the pedals provided some braking. Later bikes used a brake pad that pushed against the tire, like the brakes found on wagons of the day. Later bikes used pads that pressed against the rim of the wheel, like the centerpull brake. Another type of brake is the cantilever brake, in which the brake arm is pivotally attached to the bike frame, with the brake pad placed between the pivot (the fulcrum of the lever thus formed) and the end of the brake arm. This type of brake is thus a class two lever. Although this cantilever brake is from 1939, they really became popular when added braking power was needed on bikes that were being made for off road use.


Early Recumbent Bike

Here is an early (1949) recumbent bike which is similar to many recumbents seen on the road today. An even earlier recumbent was by Jarvis, and the recumbent that set world speed records was by Charles Mochet.


Early Driveshaft Bike, 1893

Here is a good way to have multiple speeds on a bike without using a derailleur.  This bike has two gears on either side of the front sprocket, and a driveshaft for each of them.  One driveshaft would be disengaged while the other was engaged. the driveshafts engage bevel gears on the rear wheel.   This might be a little heavy, but should work just fine.  bevel-gears-18931

Other driveshaft drives were patented in 1897 with a transmission and a gear shift knob and in 1891 with a single drive shaft. Alexander Pope also patented a driveshaft bike.

Gears for Drive Shaft Bike

In the late 19th century many bicycle industry pundits thought that drive shafts would be the bicycle power train of the future.  The patent below was a way for the bevel gear of a drive shaft bike to engage a selected gear, and to change to another gear for more gearing options.  This system might have been in use today had not derailluers been developed to allow a chain to be moved from gear to gear.


Tandem Bike, 1891

Here is a nice design for a two wheeled tandem bike, with each rider’s seat being directly above a wheel.  This is from 1891.