I lucked into a fantastic bike about 6 years ago, a Fuji 1987 Design Series road bike. This was their top of the line road bike, and all components were top quality Campy parts. It fit my wife Tuckie perfectly, and was her road bike. We went on some fun short rides, and she never did longer rides or group rides on it. She didn’t ride it enough to get used to using the clip-in Speedplay pedals, and one time she didn’t get a good push off from a stop, and fell over onto the pavement. She broke her fall with her hand, and ended up with a broken bone in her wrist. This was exactly what the bike looked like, but it was not quite as pristine as this one:
The picture below shows the down tube Campy shifters. Our bike was the same color, same saddle, same components as this bike, but the paint was not as perfect as this one.
While recuperating from the broken wrist, Tuckie rode a mountain bike with flat handlebars, and got used to having all the controls on the bars. She never really got used to the down tube shifters, nor riding with hands on the brake hoods, as road bike riders of the 80s did. I talked to a friend of mine who owns a bike shop, and looked at his new road bikes with flat handlebars. They also had wide rims and heavy tires, and cost upwards of $1500. I wanted the light weight and speed of a road bike, just with flat handlebars. He said don’t try to convert the old road bike, as it would be a money pit, and would require a different axle and derailleurs, and I’d never find the right size parts to do the job. I had a love for the old bike, and I wanted to try to make it work.
So my project was to make a few changes to the Fuji, to take advantage of the light frame, and nice road wheels, and keeping the Campy brakes. The tasks were thus:
replace the drop handlebars with a flat handlebar, complete with shifters and brake levers
put on a granny gear for getting up the mile and a half long hill to our house
possibly make it indexed shifting, but I knew there was a low probability of that
I had a pair of brand new brake levers, so that was easy. I bought a pair of Suntour thumb shifters on ebay. With those components I put on the flat handlebars, and replaced the down tube shifters with shifter cable stops, as shown below.
The flat handlebars, with brake levers, new grips, and the Suntour thumb shifters, are shown below.
That was the easy part. To add a granny gear, I would need a different axle with a longer end on the drive side, and a triple crankset, with pedals. I’d also need a long reach derailleur to take up the extra chain slack when using the granny gear. The chances of getting all these components to fit correctly was pretty small, and would likely be costly but I had two secret weapons. First secret weapon: We have a bike co-op in Boise, the Boise Bicycle Project. They have a good supply of bike parts, and I found an axle with sealed bearings that fit my bottom bracket, and would likely accommodate the extra gear of the triple. We also found a long reach Suntour rear derailleur, and also a front Suntour derailleur. It was coming together, against all odds. The triple crankset we found is shown below, after I added a 40 tooth chain ring to replace the 48 it came with. Cost of parts, about $50 for the axle, triple crankset, derailleurs, platform pedals, and flat bar, $40 for the thumb shifters. Second secret weapon: expert advice and coaching by two BBP mechanics, Yon and Michael. Wow, those guys saved my butt every time I turned around!
So the bike came together nicely, and every thing actually works. We found that the thumb shifter had an indexed setting for a 6 speed cluster, and since the rear cassette was a 6 speed, and the Suntour rear derailleur was compatible with the Suntour index thumb shifter, we had 6 speed indexed shifting! Awesome, and an unexpected result. So the bike ended up looking like the picture below. I also put on platform pedals, which Tuckie wants to use. Now maybe we’ll get a gel saddle, and do on some rides when the weather gets better.
I don’t know if this is the first, but it is certainly an early tandem bike. This is a conversion kit, for making a regular bike into a tandem. This kit was patented in 1894.
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.
There seems to be a bewildering number of handlebar types for recumbents, especially 2 wheeled ones. Here is my attempt to define some of them:
Below: Hamster bars
Bruce: I much prefer the hamster bars. I run them on both of my bikes. They place my hands and arms in a “natural”, relaxed position. Very little movement to affect a turn. I never did understand the “tweeners” style. Limited movement, and if you have really long legs, lots of banged knees. Way too much hand travel for a given steering input, too! Not for me.
Below: Tweeners, (legs between bars) aka Superman, Open Cockpit, OC
Disadvantages: Bruce: I never did understand the “tweeners” style. Limited movement, and if you have really long legs, lots of banged knees. Way too much hand travel for a given steering input, too! Not for me.
Below: Chopper bars (ER and Rans LWB)
Below: Praying Mantis
Below: Machine Gun bars, Graeme Obree piloting
Below: Under Seat (Linear Recumbent)
Below: Drop Bars (Chopped Drop Bars)
civl3: I have drop bars on my Carbent. I used 56cm SOMA Portola bars. When I put my hands on the hoods, they are in the same position as they were with the original OC bars. That hints at how much lower the crossbar is which gives me a less obstructed view forward. I can turn tighter too because the bars don’t run into my thighs unless I’m turning really tightly. If I want a more relaxed arm position I can put my hands in the drops. The drop bars also let me use brifters (Sram Force in this case), which I prefer over bar-ends. The brifters also allow the cables to be cleanly routed along the bars. I tried a tiller set-up but all of the cables obstructed my view forward as much or more than the OC bars. I am using a flip-it style stem because I needed adjustability to find the correct position of the bars. Plus it makes it easier to get off of the bike.
Below: Varna Bars, for a fully faired super fast Varna low racer
Catrike Maintenance and Repair topics are listed below. Links are to specific posts or links to information. Submissions of posts by any Catrike rider for inclusion here are welcomed. FYI, Catrikes are recumbent tricycles, with more information available at the Catrike Performance Trikes site. Information on other trike or recumbent technical topics is welcomed.
Basic Setup and Maintenance”
Catrike Performance Trike Official 2004 Manual
Catrike Performance Trike Official 2005 Manual
Catrike Performance Trike Official 2006 Manual
Catrike Performance Trike Official 2007 Manual
Catrike Performance Trike Official 2009 Manual
Catrike Performance Trike Official 2010 Manual
removing the master link on the chain, and replacing it (page 18 of the above manual).
checklist of initial setup items
removing a front wheel
replacing front wheel bearings
replacing rear wheel bearings
adjusting rear derailer (link to Sheldon Brown’s instructions)
adjusting disk brakes (link to Park Tool page)
replacing disk brake pads (link to Park page)
Bruce’s advice on adjusting Avid BB7 brakes on Catrikes
installing front fenders
fixing a flat tire in front, rear wheels
installing teflon bushings in front headsets
Catrike headset adjustment, servicing bearings
cleaning a chain, and lubrication
rear wheel squeak: lube rubber weather seal
Bottom bracket not horizontal when trike is on flat surface: loosen boom clamp, reorients boom, or file guide tooth
after removing a front wheel, my brake pad rubs: adjust brakes, per this link:
shimmy in steering: purchase teflon bushings from catrike, install
brake cable routing
shifter cable routing
setting toe on front wheels of a trike
Facing the bottom bracket edges
Discussion of After market items and FAQs:
Locking brake levers. These are great!
What is Schlump and other drives?
what would Schlump or Roloff give me over the stock gearing?
Terracyle idlers discussion
Super bright (240 lumens) flashlight for use as headlight, tail light
what size bearings does my (year) (model) Catrike use in the front, rear wheel?where does one get replacement steel or ceramic bearings (link, or part number)
ceramic bearing installations in front hubs
options for mounting both a light and a speedometer
list of all tools needed
chain guards, bash guards: Purely Custom, with Catrike Logo available, and many colors, Trice (Utah Trikes) Chain Guard Ring
– Cables: how to order replacements, how to cut to length, how to install end pieces on housing and cable, what tools are needed
– Chains: how to order (how many chains needed/length), brand, types
– Articles on component upgrades (brakes, shifters, derailleurs, etc)
– Common accessories: what has worked well (lights, racks, bags, pedals, mirrors, etc)
– Arizona Whip lighted flagpole
– Tactical Flashlights for lighting system
Todd at Stokemonkey has started a great new blog, with information about his product, the electric assist to Xtracycle bikes, as well as bike related information, philosophy and opinion. He has a link to a canoe trailer pulled by a bike that looks like a great idea.
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!
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.
below is a view showing how much clearance I have when my left knee is at the highest point of the pedaling circle.
Below is a pic of my right leg with the knee at about the highest point of the pedaling cycle.
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.