I owe this topic an update. A LOT has happened in the year that has passed with regard to this project, but unfortunately, not in terms of progressing it.
I have only ridden the trike a total of 6 times since purchasing it, even though the intent was to get it reliable and regularly used.
I first had it rideable in June of 2015. I used the old part that came on the trike, and had some custom tie-rods fabricated for my Ackerman steering. I went to a local restaurant, parked it there, and came back only to find two punk kids standing on it. They ran away fast. One of the steering rods was bent and I had to have it straightened, which took a month of waiting as I was on vacation from work for the entire month of July, working on my electric Triumph GT6 back home.
In early August, the day after I got my tie rod back, there was a break-in in my apartment while I was at work. My two roommates were present during the break-in, and a melee ensued. There were five would-be thieves. One of my roommates was thrown on the trike, damaging the wheels, disc brakes, tie rods, and a bunch of other stuff. When I got back from work, there was blood everywhere. Fortunately, none of my roommates were badly hurt, but the trike was quite damaged, and the mould that I was constructing to build a body from was a total loss.
A month later, I got it working again, rode it around a bit, and parked it outside of the same restaurant that the two punk kids damaged the tie rods at months ago to get dinner. As I was walking out, it was run over by a black Ford truck, with the asshole driving it speeding off. Lesson learned; I am never parking anything there again, ever.
Fortunately, the frame was not bent. Good and sturdy, which is exactly what I need for this application. Most of the other stuff, on the other hand, was again destroyed.
$300 worth of new wheels/tires/tie rods/other stuff later, plus a complete teardown, rust removal, and repainting of the frame and any other components worthy of being kept, I had it rideable again as of 3 weeks ago upon the arrival of a SunLite dual cable lever that I needed in order to allow both front brakes to be activated with one hand.
The following problems arose(as I knew they would, based on my earlier rides) as I was riding it around the local hood, and the 3rd time I had ridden this vehicle since purchase:
-The rear derailleur no longer worked as it did earlier. It was thoroughly rusted, as to be expected from a custom recumbent built in the 1990s from cheap Chinese-made mountain bike parts. I kept it stuck in 3rd gear for experimenting, with the intent to replace not just the derailleur, but the chain, freewheel, front crankset, cables, and all the usual drivetrain components. It rode very well, aside from the original rear wheel that had a bent axle from the truck running it over and the resultant high rolling resistance. I got it to about 21 mph like that on the flat, but going up hills and starting from a stop was no fun. It should do a lot better when I get a new rear wheel on it...
-Having converted a car to electric, I figured bicycles would be simpler to figure out how to customize. I was wrong. I needed to get this thing to a bike shop so someone could help me figure out what parts were compatible, and get me familiar with some terminology, and later did so(not without a problem, as you will read on).
-The seat is junk. I used duct tape banded around it to give me support, but this is far from a permanent solution. Should the tape snap, there is a metal bracket aimed at my spine waiting for me to fall onto it. I am going to have a mechanic I know bend me up an aluminum tube that will serve as both a seat and a roll-bar, and then use a hardened urethane foam contoured to my back and buttocks as the seat rest with holes drilled all over it to make it breathable.
-I have not been able to source replacement brake pads for my calipers. The calipers are in very usable shape, but I will need to swap them to change out my brake pads, which are thoroughly worn out.
That being said, the rear suspension works great enough to where at 20 mph or so, potholes are barely noticeable. I hope this translates to great usability at 30+ mph when I get the chance to try it.
I rode it to my office one day three weeks ago, and a co-worker took a picture of it:
As you an see, not every piece of the trike was restored at that point. The old 90s era rear wheel with rotted tire and bent rear axle is still there, in contrast to my 20” Weinmann DM30 double-walled rims with Maxxis Hookworm 20”x1.75” tires up front. The restored frame(painted black) is contrasted with a seat and rear bracket that ultimately, are not going to be used, and where all of the drivetrain parts are rusted junk.
Two Saturdays ago, being my only opportunity to get to the nearest bicycle shop 8 miles away on the other end of town due to my work schedule, I decided to ride it there. Not having a car where I live(both of my cars are at my parents' house 1200 miles away as I do not have a valid license), riding it was my only option.
2 miles from the bike shop, the chain snapped. It didn't surprise me much given that it was junk along with the rest of the drivetrain, but I was still expecting it to at least get me to the bike shop, given that I had already ridden this thing perhaps 30 miles in total by now. I decided to lift the bike up by the rear bracket, and drag it with the front wheels on the ground for those 2 miles. I got to the bike shop 5 minutes too late as it was closed, and dragged it another 1.5 miles to a friends' garage to store it, as getting it home would have been a $50+ cab ride that I didn't want to pay for, nor did I want to spend the next 4 hours dragging a 50 lb trike back home.
Last Saturday, I got it to the bike shop. I have the following components on order:
-Shimano Tourney 165 mm mountain bike crank with 28T/38T/48T triple crankset
-Shimano freewheel, 7-speed with range of 32T-13T
-SRAM rear/front derailleurs
-26” rear wheel with 12 gauge spokes
-Schwalbe Marathon Plus 26”x1.75” tire
-Stretchproof 3/32” chain
The components are far from ideal, but they will get it rideable again and perhaps even reliable. Since my work schedule is going to be busy the next 2 weeks, I opted to pay the extra money to have the bike shop install the parts. I plan to ride it back home. First chance I get, I want to get started on a temporary coroplast body for experimentation purposes, as I would have done middle of last year had the trike not been through both a brawl and being run over.
After that, I will get a new seat and steering bars made and then I can begin work on a permanent body shell. I might share my design for the permanent shell here in the next two weeks or so.
With all of that being said, the gear ratios I have aren't good for my application. I chose a 7-speed freewheel due to the need for enough space to fit a sprocket and/or disk brake on the other side of the wheel in 135 mm dropouts, while able to accommodate a durable 3/32” chain. I couldn't find a quality 7-speed rear sprocket that had an 11T or smaller cog available, even though I had been planning all along to use one.
The 13T is the tallest ratio I was able to find for the rear sprocket that was quality built, and it will offer too low of a top speed. With the large 48T crank(the tallest ratio on any triple MTB crank I could find, but I was hoping I could find a 60T or something...), 13T in the rear with a 26”x1.75” tire gets me to 19 mph with a 60 rpm cadence, 26 mph at 80 rpm, 32 mph at 100 rpm, 39 mph at 120 rpm. The best I can hope for with this ratio is a comfortable cruising speed of 25-30 mph with a good body, and a top end of 40 mph.
I will definitely need a taller ratio, especially if I add an electric motor at a later date. I want a good range of cruising speeds between 25-40 mph with electric assist, and maybe 45-50 mph top end.
The 32T granny gear with the 28T ring gets me up a steep hill at 4.6 mph with a 60 rpm cadence. A 34T would be a bit better, but for the low end, this will do. I want to be able to pedal this thing up a hill if the battery is completely drained, while carrying 60 lbs of camping gear/clothes/tools.
Shimano used to make a 34T-11T 7-speed freewheel that would have been ideal for my application, but it is now impossible to find. I really badly want one. 11T would get me to 23 mph at 60 rpm, 31 mph at 80 rpm, 38 mph at 100 rpm, 46 mph at 120 rpm. This gives me the cruising speeds I want. 13T does not.
There is the DNP Epoch with an 11T-34T ratio, which is the perfect gearing for my needs, but the component seems to be too weak and unreliable for my application according to the reviews I have read. The smallest cog is probably going to see the most use out of any of them, considering this vehicle is being designed primarily for long trips at 30-35 mph, and considering my optimum cadence is between 80 rpm and 100 rpm. It needs to last, and it needs to be efficient.
I am at the limit of rear wheel/tire diameter that I can fit as well. I cannot get any bigger without running into clearance issues with the rear frame.