Monday, October 20, 2008

An odd yet cool little trike

I've come across this rather odd little tricycle. It was donated to re-Cycles, and when it came in we stared at the rusty frame and noticed the missing parts and went "what the heck are we going to do with this?". So I took it home to assess what was needed, and decided it could be revived.

It's a bit of a mystery as to who actually made this thing, but more on that later. For now we look at photos!

Here's how it looked when it was donated:

Nice, eh? The interesting thing about this little beastie is that the front half of the frame tilts! The pivot for the tilting mechanism (situated on the axis of the two rear wheel axles) was quite seized up, and the rear drum brake was also stuck.

Here's the back end:

Oil was applied to the tilter in a few doses, and after a few days and some wrestling it eventually broke free.

The 16" drum brake wheel was replaced with an identical unit, as through a stroke of goofy luck I'd had one lying around for a few years. It had come from a similar trike whose owner had left its parts at re-Cycles while he took the frame home to repaint, and never came back (one reason re-Cycles had to adopt a policy against bikes or parts being left overnight) .

Yes, that is a Shimano 3-speed hub with extra-long axle. Both chains had to come off for a good scrubbing.

Close-up of rear underside, showing pivot. The rubber sleeve encloses the U-joint the connects the central front chain to the right-side drive chain:

Here it is all apart, ready for some sanding and painting:

Since I was only painting with a spray can, I was not going to be anal retentive about making the finish perfect. I got most of the rust off, and the downtube is still a bit bumpy under the paint. I decided to go wit two strong colours, and settled on a dark green frame, with yellow fenders and chainguard. Of course I realize when I'm about to paint that those are also the factory colours for John Deere tractors...

So here is everything painted and awaiting reassembly:

The only original paint showing its robin's egg blue is the steerer tube, and a bit underneath the U-joint area.

And here's the assembled little beastie:

Yes, the entire front end tilts!

Halloween pumpkin and groceries fit nicely in the big Wald basket (it was missing its original one):

Now, back to the mystery. The head badge said "Sears" (of course the trike was not actually made by them), while the front fender flap says "Miyata". But there are no photos of a Miyata leaning trike to be found on the Net, outside of a few photos taken by my friend Richard of another local one here in Ottawa:

Note the design of the rear basket, as we'll refer to it later.

There IS a similar trike called the Bridgestone Picnica Wagon (and a newer Picnica that is a 2-wheel folding bike), and its rear frame, fenders and chainguard look to be identical to this Miyata / Sears. But the drivetrain is different, and from what I can tell this one does not tilt.

Here are two photos, one from eBay, and the other from random surfing (they look like twins, don't they? Maybe it's even the exact same trike in two different places.)

Now, recall the basket on the blue Miyata. It looks identical to the one on the above trikes! And so the plot thickens and I'm still going to presume that Miyata made my trike. Of course maybe Bridgestone made this trike for Miyata (not uncommon in the bike biz), but that does not explain the differences in the frame and drivetrain.

Mike Plummer and Kundstadt Sports recently confirmed for me that this was inded built by Miyata in the mid to late 1970's, as they sold a few of them back then. Since there's no info on the Net about a Miyata trike I'll perhaps become the main web resource for this little thing, just as my website seems to have the only info on the Auto-Mini folding bike (Google it and you'll see!). :)

I'd like to keep this trike for oddity's sake if nothing else, but it's way too small to ride comfortably. Its design really doesn't make much sense to me, but someone (or a design committee) put a lot of thought into it, and it got corporate approval to be manufactured. The tilting feature is cool, so it doesn't act like a regular trike and one can go around corners with ease, but then you also lose the stability while stopped that a conventional trike offers (because of course the frame will flop to either side if you're not paying attention). So all I can figure is that one gets the cornering of a 2-wheel bike, with the ability to carry a small load out back, and that's about it.

Oh, and just to make life interesting, Bridgestone makes a trike called the Minna, with two wheels in front!


Anonymous said...

I bought a bike exactly as your and I do not find in France tires 16 thumbs 1,75. Can you help me?
Thank you

Mark said...

Alexandre, email sent.

Anonymous said...

Sweet trikes

Dubb Jones said...

i have a bike just like the Bridgestone Picnica Wagon (the one with the white basket & light green paint), but mine is all original. i haven't found any other info on this bike besides from your website. do you have any clue how much a bike like that is worth? i can take pictures & send them to you if you would like. the difference between the photos is mine has crome fenders, a chain guard, & all the parts are original(Bridgestone name brand parts) also has the tilting frame. contact me at 615-400-1448 or at thank you Dubb Jones

Mark said...

Hi Dubb,

I have no idea on the value of these things. They are so non-mainstream that the value becomes a classic case of it's worth whatever someone pays for it. That said, if someone wanted to buy my trike I'd start at $400. After all, offers will only go down, never up. ;)

Seb Labelle said...

Hey Mark,

This page is the ONLY page I could find that has ANY info on these trikes... no one knows about them! I got mine (exactly the same as yours) in a 14 bike lot I purchased from a retired re-cycler. It was missing a few non-specific parts (the seat, the handles.) I completely rebuilt it, powdercoated it and it's running like a champ. You are in Ottawa too? We might see each other in the market soon!

I adapted a banana seat to it, makes it more hot rod'ish... Now my wife has a hot rod bike! :)

Here's a pic!


Mark said...

Hi Seb,

Yup, I seem to be the first Google hit for odd bikes, including the Auto-Mini folder (on my website). Your trike looks great, and yeah maybe we'll run into each other sometime!

Anonymous said...

Hey Mark,
your blog has been a lot of help for me! I found one of these in a small town in New Zealand and have been trying to pull it apart ever since...mine is the the same as the later bike pictures on your page (slightly different rear end to yours) and i cant get the axle out of the rear frame. i have completely pulled apart the rest as trying to repaint...any clues??? cheers, Rick

Mark said...

Rick, hmm, not sure. On some older bikes the wheel axles have tension fittings that allow you to pull the chain tighter. But these are fairly obvious so you'd know if your bike had these. Some front wheels also have specific shapes to their cones so that they only fit in the fork one way, and then for ends actually have to be spread a bit. But I've never seen that for rear wheels. Sorry I cant be of more help!


Dawn said...

I have this bike in the Girl Scout Green color I love it.. I was able to locate it in the Bridgestone Cat from 1982!!

Unknown said...

I recently purchased a bike like this and I cannot find any info on it either lol. Such a rare, unique little bike I'm in love with it! Can't wait to sand her and clean her up :)

Anonymous said...

I have one of these in white. I took it to a bike shop and had it all spiffed up. Has 3 speeds and the tilt frame.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where I can get parts for one of these trikes? I'm looking for the rear reflectors.

Mark said...

I think the reflectors may be similar to the curved ones found on old Raleigh (and other British) 3-speed bikes, if that helps.

I sold this little trike back in the summer. A regular customer with the re-Cycles shop purchased it, and she said she's going to repaint it and add some funky touches and show it to me next summer.

Unknown said...

Hay ive got a very simalar trike but the frame is very simalar to that first bike back to the rear brace off the seat pole. My trike has a twist rear on it but has a u section around the rear frame where it twist from. Not much info on the net at all on these bikes. Any sites you can suggest. Cheers natha n