Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Happy New Year!

I've got a few things to blog about, and let's start with my latest bike project.

I recently took possession of an Xtracycle kit. My friend RGB has been using one as a winter bike and ended up preferring it, citing not only its increased load-carrying but also better handling and stability in wintry conditions (and here in Ottawa we have real winters!).

The basic frame looks like this...

... and then you can add to it, like this:

Fortunately, mine came with the complete kit consisting of the frame and what you see above. My friend Juergen is an Xtracycle dealer through his Ridemore shop, and he had the necessary brake adaptor for using a 700C wheel on the kit frame. Yes, 700C does fit, so you can (as I did) use a hybrid bike, but the clearance is rather tight and you can't use super thick tires.

I decided to add the kit to the blue winter bike I'd put together last year. That bike was having problems with its elderly Sachs 7-speed hub, and even after a rebuild the situation has not improved. During the changeover I just went with regular derailer gears.

The Xtracycle, in case you have not heard of it, is an extension you can add to the back of any bicycle. It takes the idea of the standard rear rack and expands that up into a true beast of burden. You can now buy bicycles with extended rear frames that resemble an Xtracycle though those are not a bolt-on kit. I recommend checking out the Xtracycle website to see how everything goes together, not ot mention the extensive list of accessories. I have to say I'm quite impressed with the thought that went into this product. When I was putting it together I was noticing how they really thought about how one part was going to fit together or around another part. Some fine engineering smarts went into this thing!

My interest in this concept is to try and lessen the need for my main trailer in the winter. While both of my trailers replace my cargo trike during the winter months they are not ideal at times. The red trailer gets used mostly to move the combination of drums and electronics that I use for my work with the Propeller Dance group.  It has been great for that, but there are a few issues...

Firstly, the bike gets turned from a single-track vehicle into a three-track one, and while the bike's wheels might run in a nice dry (or at least flat) track on the road the trailer's wheels sometimes are outside of that getting dragged through the slush. And even on dry roads you're still dealing with four wheels turning, with resulting drag. Secondly, the trailer has its own weight and you can sometimes feel it tugging behind you. Thirdly, because I have to store my trailer in the basement along with my bike and the gear I have to unhook the trailer from the bike, knock any snow and slush off, then carry it downstairs (it just fits through the door), and then bring the bike down. When one is cold and tired from a winter ride it's nice to reduce the amount of back and forth!

Because I strip my music gear down to the barest essentials to fit in the trailer I'm hoping that I can instead fit it all on the Xtracycle for many of these trips. This way I will still have a single track vehicle, and while it'll still have some weight of course it'll be one less thing I have to put together and put away.

While I await the dance group resuming next week I've been using the bike for trips around town and have found it to be remarkably stable, just as RGB said it would be. It seems to be mainly due to the longer wheelbase, and the most noticeable thing is that while the back end may wash out on occasion it doesn't seem to go as far as before, and seems just better able to stay centered. I still have the studded tire on the front wheel that stays where it should, while the rear just trails along like a happy little dog.

I kept the single 39-tooth front chain ring on the bike, and for the rear decided to do the same thing that I had done on my cargo trike, which is create a custom seven speed cassette. This involves using individual cogs from a cassette, something we have in good supply at the re-Cycles shop. (You can get those by grinding off the heads of the three pins that hold a cassette together. These pins are not structural - they simply keep everything aligned while putting the cassette on. But without them you now have the individual cogs and spacers and so can install the cogs you desire.) Looking up Sheldon Brown's gearing page showed me that Shimano used to make a 7-speed cassette of 13, 15. 17. 20, 24, 29, 34, and that gave me the proper spacing without having to do some trial and error.

(Yes, I know an 8- or 9-speed would give me more in-between gears, but I've been riding 7-speeds for two decades now and don't find the gaps to be much of an issue. And while the gearing range might seem rather low it feels perfectly dialed in for a heavy bike that needs to carry stuff.)

I am looking forward to seeing how this rig will work with the anticipated load that I have to carry to the dance gigs, and will report back as I go along.

Monday, December 10, 2012

My kind of video - musical instruments made from recycled materials!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Homebuilt no-weld recumbent trike

A fellow dropped by the re-Cycles shop with an interesting machine. I've seen quite a few bent trikes in my time, but this is the first that was entirely bolted / clamped together AND it has full suspension! The guy (who's name I've forgotten) said he now laments the full suspension, as it added a lot of weight to the machine. (No kidding...) But one does have to admire the ingenuity in its creation and the patience required to find just the right part.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Another (sort-of) DIY trailer

The re-Cycles shop has received a few trailers this year. One of them was an older Chariot model that had been modified in a very familiar way. This design would originally have the wheels outside the frame using single-sided hubs (like a wheelchair). For whatever reason the previous owner decided to use double-sided bike wheels, which meant added more framework to hold them. And it looks like he was possibly inspired by my trailer webpage or the DIY trailer posts on this blog.

Monday, August 13, 2012

"How a Bicycle is Made (1945)"

A cool vintage movie from Raleigh. The lack of protection for the workers is sobering (belt drives, along with buffing and grinding wheels are not enclosed and waiting to remove a finger or more), but the industrial processes are fascinating.

Monday, July 23, 2012

New trikeport

The shed / trikeport I had built years ago for the cargo trike had to be moved, as my ground-floor landlord was going to build a deck off the back of the triplex. The 'port was relocated to the back of the parking area against the rear fence, and was easily moved, as I had deliberately made it light and transportable in case it ever had to moved for building maintenance or whatever. But, the landlord had also requested that I rebuild the thing to look a little less, well, trailer park. Can't say as I blame him, but the old one looked as it did because it was fashioned, as many of my projects are, from found materials, and also in a bit of a hurry when I'd moved in.

As compensation for the hassle of rebuilding it, my landlord would pay for the finishing materials (covering boards and roof) so that it would match his deck and the adjacent dumpster enclosure. During demolition I was very glad I had constructed the old trikeport with screws instead of nails, as this meant for an easy take-apart and allowed me to re-use most of the wood and even most of the screws! Along with some wood from my stash plus a few boards from the old deck the landlord was demolishing I had nothing to purchase aside from a new pair of door hinges and a box of screws.

I forgot to take photos of the demolition, and even of the first aspects of (re-)construction. Below shows it all framed in, with some temporary thin plywood sheets on top to keep any rain off. The long bottom 2x6 was originally the top board for the old 'port, and the new top one is from the landlord's old deck. Stacked at left are the new siding boards. Also note that this new 'port has a floor, unlike the old one. This is to get it up off the ground for winter access, something I could not do with the old one because its door pretty much scraped the driveway as it opened.

You'll notice that this trikeport is a fair bit larger than the old one (which had to be kept low to stay under a window and still have a slope for water drainage). The old one was also made just wide enough for the trike itself. I don't have a full photo of it, but this should give a general idea. (Say Hi to Jett the cat while you're at it.)

This new one is higher mainly to let rain water drain over the rear fence, as having it drain to the left would just mean water seeping under the trikeport following the slope of the land. While the trike goes into hibernation once salts hits the roads in winter, this 'port was made wider to allow me to stuff the red trailer alongside (with the trike budged over a bit), which will save me having to drag the trailer in and out of the basement during winter use.

Leaning against the structure is one of the double doors being built. The big green tarp that acted as a roof cover and side cover for the old 'port was kept as a temporary roof and front cover during construction. (It has gotten a little worn out in spots after five years but I plan to cut it down into a useful smaller one.)

Adding the siding boards went quite quickly, and the whole thing went from ghetto to nice in short order, even though it was not yet complete. The metal pole in the ground is to mark for the left-side parking neighbour how much room I need to get the trike out, as the adjacent dumpster enclosure (just out of sight to the right) means a hard swing to pull the trike past it. This pole will soon be removed once the various bits of construction fun are over and he can move his car further away.

The roof consists of thin plywood over 2x4 framing. Instead of using the usual asphalt shingles the landlord and I agreed on roll roofing, which is essentially peel-and-stick sheets of asphalt designed for these sort of low-slope applications. I decided a drip guard over the door opening would be a good idea, and fashioned one from a piece of L-shaped metal trim I had lying around and stapled in place. A piece of wood moulding was set against it, and later the gap was caulked.

Along the wide top of the fence I laid down a strip of used coroplast (corrugated plastic) to keep any standing water from collecting, though the run-off should dump it right over. The roll roofing will just tuck over it.

Here's the roll of roofing stuff. It was very heavy...

I lucked out with the roof dimensions, as I had built the thing not knowing how wide this roll stuff was. The roll was 3'3" wide, and the roof was 6'3' wide (also happens to be my height!), so this meant only two lengths would have to be cut and I'd still have the correct amount of overlap between the sheets. Doing so was a bit tricky, as once the plastic was pulled from underneath the sheet stuck rather quick to the plywood. Once I figured out the technique it went fairly smoothly. Also, I had to be rather careful not to tumble off the low side, as the neighbour's yard on the fence side is two feet lower than our property, and falling would also mean crashing into his net of carefully planted squashes! That probably would not have hurt all that much, but would have been very embarrassing...

Once the roofing was on I added a length of the siding boards to cover the top edge of the higher side.

A pair of eye-bolts were inserted into the doors, and fitted through is a surplus bicycle U-lock for security. Also note wheel ramps made from pieces of the same boards used for the doors (door boards were 5-footers, same as side boards, but cut down to 4 feet).

Given that I don't build things like this very often I must say that it looks pretty good! And a shout-out of thanks to friends Rob and Paul for the loan of their respective power tools (circular saw and chop-saw).

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Wheel Art

Hey, where did I go? Sucked into Facebook land with my photos, mostly. And otherwise just busy. But time to get back to the blog!

I've always liked bicycle related art. A few months ago my sweetie and I noticed an upside down fork with front wheel in someone's yard, spinning in the wind due to some tape or plastic put between the spokes. I took that idea and ran (cycled?) with it.

As usual, the re-Cycles shop was the source for all the bike parts. I started with a road bike handlebar, with one fork/wheel in the usual position, then jammed a sawed-off straight bar into the top (well, bottom since it's upside down) of the stem to go into the ground as an anchor. I originally added a fork to each upturned end of the road bar but the wheels ended up too far apart. So I added some inboard mtn. bike stems and then used straight handlebars to extend the outboard forks. The wheels are each held in place with the usual axle nuts but I also added some old-school wingnuts (vintage quick-releases) for decoration.

There was then the usual fussing over angles and height (sort of like hanging a picture on a wall), but the general idea was for it to resemble a flower.

Nothing yet has been added to help catch the wind and make the wheels turn. We'll get to that eventually...