Friday, October 22, 2010

Penny trike

Meticulous care with the lathe - meticulous - and so I was only four thou out when I'd finished making the bearing housings. Four thou for heaven's sake! Again! Heigh ho, so what's new? I'm a rubbish machinist. But I own scissors, and Coke cans are to be had from the wayside. Neatly shimmed, the bearings sort of fit, after a fashion.

The frame angle is a Lowing Joint which is my favourite. The Lowing Joint is named after Dr Lowing who, in a series of complicated emails from the far side of the world, told me how to do this partic'lar weld which he calls a 'Double-D Joint'. When I finally understood I was so impressed that I renamed it, and the Lowing Joint it has now become in the great lexicon of recumbenteers, along with tadpole, which I rather disapprove of, and sitzhöhe, which I like.
The rear axle got welded to a sleeve clamp so I can vary the wheelbase, and the vile handlebar got itself off that BMX which started the whole project off. No other handlebar would allow knee clearance, and I certainly wasn't about to waste time making one.

I had thought - being realistic - we would now have a completely ludicrous machine for riding round and round the house at a variety of speeds on varying numbers of wheels, destroying the lawn and various boy's (sic.) trousers. But the surprise was how much there was to learn from it.
The seat position puts all the body weight on the muscles doing the work and it's painfully uncomfortable but the seat needed to be well back to avoid putting the weight above a single wheel. Lifting oneself forward and up does make the thing dreadfully unstable because it isn't a bike. Ever ridden one of those Newton conversion trikes? Single back wheel from a conventional bike, but with two front wheels and Ackerman steering. I once rode one through the village along Warner Street, where there was a murder at number 12 and where Johnnie Johnson (1) was born at number 21. At the war memorial I got off and pushed it home. It was a Truly Horrible Machine. Effectively you're riding a bike because you're sat above the single of three wheels, and you're not allowed to balance because the second front wheel won't let you. Ghastly. I mentioned this to my brother-in-law who possesses a disabled child, and who is keen to get through money as fast as he can, and who was about to buy his daughter exactly this layout of trike for six hundred quid. I spoke of the shortcomings. He bought it anyway and whenever the child came to stay with us, she tipped herself off it into the road. (You paid for it, incidentally, not him. He applied for a government grant.)

When the wheelbase is long the trike isn't very stable, but is rideable. With a short wheelbase the weight is on the back wheels so the front wheel spins like a drag racer. But oddly enough, you don't immediately feel you need a wider range of gears. Your psyche seems to say, 'Ho, 26er, eh? I'm happy with that,' and you trundle along at double walking speed on the dirt roads of the orchard. But you soon realise the need both for a brake, and for footpegs for when you've wound it up to speed and don't want your knees to buzz like a Japanese motorcycle. And it has the remarkable sophistication of a reverse gear. And if you forget to tighten the clamps on the back axle it's a lean-steer trike. - Well, a lean-wobble trike.

Immediately, of course, thoughts of miniature penny farthings are provoked, either with a 29er front wheel which I can afford, or a 36er which I can't. 36er unicycles are to be had in New Zealand; I saw someone riding through the middle of no-where on one with a huge rucksack on his back. But Mr English, notified of the experiment, immediately discovered that 36er penny farthings are being made in Taiwan so now I fancy making a penny penny, which means a mountain bike wheel on the back too. Since this would be a FWD MTB fixie I imagine all the locals will get very enthusiastic about it. Or not. As the case may be.

1. Johnnie Johnson was Britain's highest scoring fighter ace of WWII. He shot down my wife's mother's fiancée. Probably.


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