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My new ride: a Rans F5 High Racer

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.

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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!

Below is the bike with different handlebars, Rans 3 way adjustable ones. I’m thinking they are too high, and i might use a riser that is 3 or 4 inches lower than this.  Below is with one leg at full extension.

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below is a view showing how much clearance I have when my left knee is at the highest point of the pedaling circle.

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Below is a pic of my right leg with the knee at about the highest point of the pedaling cycle.

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Fastest Bike in the World

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.

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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.


The Schrader Valve

August Schrader immigrated from Hanover, Germany, to New York in 1843.  Within a few years he started a small company making brass fittings for the rubber industry, which had been started only a few years before. 

In l890, pnuematic tires were in use on the bicycle racing circuit, and soon bikes with pnuematic tires began winning the races.   A tire manufacturer asked Schrader to design a better air valve than the one they were using, and Schrader did so.  Schrader and his son George applied for a patent on their design in 1893, and made many improvements over the years.  Every car today uses Schrader valves to keep the air in the tire, whether tube or tubeless tires.  Most bicycles today use Schrader valves, with certain tubes using an alternative valve, the Presta valve.  The Schrader valves used  today are very similar to the 1893 version.

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Four wheel, four seat, pedal vehicle

photo(1).28 photoIMG_0195I ran across this totally cool vehicle in downtown Boise.  It has 4 wheels, and seat for 4 riders. Each rider has pedals, and pedals at their own pace.  It has 4 disc brakes.  The seats slide up and down on slanted posts to adjust for height.  What a cool ride!

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The First Tricycle

Which was invented first, the bicycle or the tricycle?  That depends on what you count as the first bicycle, and the first tricycle.  If you say the Lallament version was a bicycle, it was patented before the tricycle below.  If you count the John Starley Rover as the first bike, then the tricycle was first.  If you count the Cugnot steam vehicle as a tricycle, it was before Lallament.  Here is a very early tricycle, which looks very similar to Lallament’s bicycle, but inclues a verion that is in the tricycle format.

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Twist Grip Shifters

Twist grip speed control started with the first motorcycle, a steam powered oddity made by Sylvester Roper in 1869.  His motorcycle was controlled by a twist grip throttle.  The twist grip for control of bicycle derailleurs was first popularized in the 1960s by the Sturmey-Archer company, famous for their internally geared hub shifters.   Other  makers followed with their own twist shifters, a notable one being the 1990 the Campagnolo twist-grip shifter below.

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Front Suspension Bike – 1889

Here is one method of front suspension for a bicycle that came out in 1889! This was patented by J. S. Copeland.  When the front wheel hits a bump, it can travel up in relation to the frame. It also has a cool spoon brake, which was the norm before caliper brakes were invented.

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It is the same idea as shown in the Softride shock absorber stem above, which is also a parallelogram with a strong spring, to cushion some shock from hard bumps.  But in the Softride version, the wheel doesn’t travel up, the handlebars travel down.  My friend Kurt inUtah really likes his Softride stem, and has used it for years.


Catrike Headset Adjustment, Replacing Bearings

I found that I needed to replace my factory bearings at 5 years of all weather commuting on my Catrike speed.  I opted for a set of 4 cartridge bearings, rather than using the teflon bushings for the upper bearings. A great place to get these is Utah Trikes, who know exactly the size that is needed for Catrike bearings.  The teflon bushings were made available to eliminate shimmy problems that certain models of Catrikes were having at certain speeds.  I just never had the shimmy problem, so decided to keep the ball bearing type cartridge bearings.  These are available from Utah Trikes for $10 each, for a total of $40.

 

To replace the headset bearings, you loosen and remove the top cap bolt and top cap, and loosen the handlebar clamp. When that is removed the steerer tube (the tube inside the head tube) can drop out of the head tube, so keep a grip on it to guide it out.  Remove the top bearing, then remove the steerer tube from the head tube. You don’t have to disconnect the tie rod in order to remove the steerer tube from the head tube.  When the steerer tube is free of the head tube, remove and replace the bottom bearings.  Put the steerer tube back in the head tube, and replace the top bearing.  Put the bearings in oriented the same way as they were when you removed them.

To cinch the bearings together on the steerer tube, put the handlebar on the top of the steerer tube, but don’t tighten the bolts.  Put the top cap and top cap bolt on the steerer tube, and begin tightening.  The top bolt engages a star nut inside the steerer tube to tighten up the assembly.  At first there will be a lot of play in the steering tube in the head tube, but as the top cap nut is tightened, there will be less and less play.  The top cap bolt will be “tight” when there is no “tick of play” and the bearings still allow the steerer tube to turn freely.  When that point is reached, tighten the handlebar bolts.  Its really the handlebar bolts that hold the steerer tube in place at the proper tightness.  Check to be sure there is no “tick of play” in the bearings.  If any play develops in the steerer tube, loosen the handlebar bolts, tighten the top cap bolt, and then tighten the handlebar bolts.

Once the handlebar is secured, you can remove the top cap bolt if need be to install or remove the front fenders on a Catrike.

 


Front Suspension Bike 1889

Here is a nifty front end suspension for a bicycle, from 1889.  In this design, when the front wheel hits a bump the front wheel and handlebars move up in relation to the frame.  Thus the rider is not really protected from shock, it seems to me.  Am I seeing how this works incorrectly? 

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The Sturmey Archer Hub

A strong rival to derailluers for gear changing on bicycle was the Sturmey Archer three speed hub.   The SA Hub had internal gears, which were selected using a lever on the handle bars.  They are reliable, sturdy, and trouble free.

The Sturmey Archer hub was designed in 1902 by a schoolmaster, Henry Sturmey, and an engineer, James Archer.  Both of these men had designed earlier internally geared hubs, and were brought together by Frank Bowden, inventor of the Bowden cable in 1894, and owner of Raleigh Bicycles.  Raleigh favored use of Sturmy Archer hubs, which left the French to develop and popularize the derailleur.   The story of the development of the derailleur is told in the wonderful book “The Dancing Chain”, by Frank Berto and Daniel Rebour.

Tony Hadland has written a book on the Sturmey Archer Story that has the complete history of SA Hubs.  As usual, Sheldon Brown of Harris Cyclery has detailed information about Sturmey Archer hubs, the various models, and repairing them.

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