Recumbent trike handlebars

Looking at the upturned handlebars in the plans and the comments about twist grip shifters being hard to use, I was not surprised. You would naturally grip these thumbs up. You have to grip the shifter with your 2 smallest fingers against your palms.   Poor grip and leverage. Below is the photo of the handlebars from the Warrior plans.

I want to do a flatter arrangement so that I can reach down and have my thumbs toward the center rail and a normal arrangement of the brake lever and twist grip shifters.   I had purchased an aluminum mountain bike handlebar, but it did not turn up far enough for my liking. So it made a number of passes through the Harbor Freight roller tubing bender and ended up in a decent upwards arc. It was a bit tough at first to keep it from turning as it went through, but then shallow grooves wore into the center section and it stayed centered. The rollers I used are for 1″ diameter tubing which matches the ends but he center is 30.8 mm (approx 1.25″).

To make the pivot, I used another of the same bearing sets I used for the front wheels. The center post is fixed. The post is 1 1/8″ steel tube and has a step ring brazed on as I did for the wheel bearings. This was then tack welded to the frame for a test fit to see how it felt. The distance from the tail end of the rail is 7″ rather than the 10″ in the plans. After testing, I solidly welded it all the way around.

The center section is 1.5″  OD steel tubing that is bored on the lathe  to fit the bearing cups as before.  To this, I welded 2 steel shaft collars. They held a piece of tubing while I did the welding to make the alignment right. The collars were a bit undersized for the handlebars (it would have been better to test fit BEFORE welding up the assembly). So  I had to bore them out on the mill for a perfect fit. I placed some washers as shims between the halves before boring to make the opeing a bit elliptical for good clamping pressure. The soft Chinese steel bored easily.  Here is the view from the underside.

Next comes the linkage from the handlebars to the front wheels and hooking up the brakes.

Recumbent trike brakes and seat

The trike is set up with disk brakes. The fronts are new Avid BB7 mechanical and the rear is a used Avid Juicy 5 hydraulic.  All have 160mm rotors.

Mounting the brake assemblies requires fabricating some odd shaped pieces of steel to weld to the front wheel assembly and the rear fork. The easiest way to do this is to make templates from paperboard. First the template is attached to the brake assembly and successively trimmed while fitting the brake on the rotor.  Make sure that the brake is out far enough so it does not rub on the peaks of the non-round rotors.

For the mechanical brakes you can adjust the pads to hold it in place, however this is sensitive to slightest movement of the bike.  The mounting plates were cut from 3/6″ steel flat stock. My bandsaw has a 1/2 ” blade so the curves to a number of passes and a lot of grinding. The grinding was done on the bench grinder, some 1.5″ sanding drums and the combination belt / disk sander.  The mounting holes are 6mm diameter.

Once the shape appears close, then more test fitting is done (and more grinding). The plate is then clamped in the correct alignment with a small c-clamp.  The clamp is important as otherwise it is too hard to hold at the right position to get good solid tack welds. Then the plate gets tack welded in place. Now spin the wheel and actuate the brake. It should spin nicely and stop nearly instantly with hand pressure on the brake actuator arm.   At this point, the wheel and brake are removed to complete the welds. You don’t want to damage the brake with excess heat, weld splatter the rotors or tires. In the end the Philips screws will be replaced with socket head cap screws and properly torqued. These were just easy for testing and not tearing out of the paperboard templates

This is done for each of the brakes. The mounting will vary for each wheel although I was able to reuse and trim one of the front templates for the rear. Note that the rear brake is mounted behind the fork, not under it as the plans show

The next step was to modify the rear drop-out to fit the rear derailleur.  The derailleur is a used long cage SRAM X-9. This involved quite a bit of grinding to fit the recess in the derailleur for the original bike drop-out.  Comparing to the other side,  you can see how much had to be removed. In the background, you can also see the profile of the rear brake mounting bracket.  I still need to drill a hole and make a new bushing for the retaining bolt for the derailleur. (there is probably a more proper term for this, but I don’t know it). At this point it would fall off each time I remove the wheel.  The derailleur travel still covers all of the sprockets when moved by hand.

The seat needs to have mounting tabs to secure it to the frame. These are about 3″ long and I had the ends drilled with a 5/16″ hole.  The brackets are welded to the frame and ground flush. The seat is placed on the completed brackets and the holes marked. The were then drilled for 1/4-20 T-nuts which are mounted from the top. This makes for a very secure mount.

Once the seat is mounted then a small “backrest” bracket must be made form 1″ tubing and fitted. This an be seen below. I had test fitted it, in the process of setting he angles and after tacking, but it seems a bit steep right now. It may be  cut and adjusted after the padding is on the seat.

In addition to these items I did a fair bit of weld grinding and clean up today as well. Overall, it was a productive day.

Recumbent trike front wheels

The fit-up and welding for the front wheels was the most taxing process in the build of the trike  by far. There are multiple factors to take into account when creating the front steering geometry.  The pivot point for the front wheels should be under the contact patch of the wheels. For the axles I had made this meant that the steering tubes had to be at a 15.5 degree angle with respect to the plane of the wheel. If this was not enough, the same steering geometry had to lead the tire patch by about 10 degrees to make the wheels (caster) to naturally track.

The instructions said to fit the steering tubes directly to the struts.  Then adjust the strut angles with the rest of the frame to get the correct geometry.  I think the plan authors must have been rolling on the ground laughing at how much fun this would be.

Problem 1:  The tires need to pivot on the contact patch as you turn the front wheels. If this is mis-aligned you scrub of tire and lose cornering control. So, you need to fit the axle to the steering tube and held it in place at an obscure angle so that the projected line through the tube lands under the center of the contact patch of the tire.  Check.  With my axle configuration and hubs this as about  a 15.5 degree angle.

Problem 2: Now that the wheel can turn without scrubbing, you need to set the forward angle of the pivot such that the trike will track on its own. On a car, this is referred to as the Caster.  Think of the fact that hands free steering is “really nice”. So how do you accomplish this? It requires that the steering tube be inclined at about 10 degrees forward such that the imaginary line through the tube lands in FRONT of the tire contact patch. The tire is then automatically following the steering direction and tracks nicely in the forward direction (not so much in reverse) .

To achieve this , there was a lot of measuring, template making, cutting, grinding, cutting and grinding again and cussing. Making all of this fit, is a 3 dimensional puzzle with pieces that keep turning, throwing off the angles,  as you play with them.  The plans are basically saying “make it fit” rather than giving good guidance for the angles which may be hard given all of the variables in play. On top of this, as you dig into the AZ website you see  the slogan on the of:  “weld, cuss, grind, repeat” —  I did a few cycles of this …

Eventually I ended up with a reasonable facsimile of the angles and arms that are needed and they even fit the bearings I had purchased. The FSA ” the PIG” bearings have so far worked out well  (but I am still worrying about losing pieces).

So now, I have front wheels for the trike.  I have also tacked on the pieces to connect the wheels so they turn as a single unit. The Ackerman geometry seems to be working with the inside wheel turning more sharply than the outside wheel. However my testing in the shop is limited by available space.

Next, will come the brakes and the rest of the steering components.

 

Blueberry Banana Bread

One of our favorites is Blueberry Banana bread. Whether mid-summer with fresh picked berries (like today) or thawed berries from the freezer, it is delicious.

Today we tried a new variation substituting apple sauce instead of the shortening. The result was even more flavorful AND the blueberries were evenly distributed, rather than weighted towards the bottom. Contrary to popular belief, coating them with flour does not make much of a difference.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c apple sauce    (original had 1/2 c shortening)
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 jumbo eggs
  • 3 large ripe brown mushy bananas, mashed  (if you can’t smell them from across the room, they are not quite ripe enough for optimum flavor)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 T vanilla extract (the good stuff)
  • 2 1/4 C flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c buttermilk, sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 chopped nuts (optional – Teal is allergic)
  • 1c fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter & flour 2 loaf pans. Place parchment paper (or brown paper like my grandma did) in the bottom of the pans. This helps the loaves come out cleanly without sticking

Mix ingredients until blended. Fold in the blueberries and the last 1/4 cup of flour at the end (if you mix them early they get smashed and the color is just plain wrong).

Pour the batter into the 2 loaf pans. Sprinkle the tops with 1 T Turbinado sugar per loaf.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. Check after 40 but make sure the center is getting done. Don’t be afraid to extend the cooking time by another 5-10 min.

Cool for 10 min in the pan, run a knife around the edges to loosen, and then turn out onto a rack to cool. Teal can do this neatly ending up with the loaves upright and intact, me not so much.

Compared to the original recipe with shortening, the edges are not as crunchy initially, but after a day or so it does not matter anyway as this is a very moist and dense bread. These will keep for a week or better in the fridge and freeze well.

Blueberries work well in many batter/ quick breads. We use them in zucchini, lemon poppy seed, rhubarb & apple breads.  With fresh berries mix them in and extend the cooking time by about 10%. Try the applesauce vs. fat in other recipes as well. Typically a 1 for 1 substitution by volume for quick breads and cakes works well.

Smoked Chicken Legs and Thighs

We have become turned to chicken legs and thighs as our meat of choice lately. We have become dissatisfied with chicken breasts and Teal thinks the thigh meat also makes better chicken salad for her sandwiches.

The more flavorful and juicy meat responds well to low and slow cooking. I was then looking for a new way to brine and then smoke them. We also had a surplus of Coke left over from a party that I needed to get rid of and neither of us drinks regular soda.  So I started searching for “coke smoked chicken” and this yielded a variety of results that were all promising but quite varied in both formula and time to brine. We also had a family get together coming up so I needed a big pile of chicken. The resulting recipe was VERY well received (no left overs).

Brine the chicken for 48 hours in:

  • 4 cans Coke, Dr. Pepper or Cheerwine
  • 3 C water
  • 2 Tablespoons (T) granulated garlic
  • 2 T dried onion flakes
  • 1T ground ginger
  • 1T Nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1.5 T Allspice lightly crushed
  • 2 T dried thyme
  • 3T Chili powder
  • 2T Salt (yes this is a low sodium “brine”
  • 2 T black pepper lightly crushed
  • 1/2 c cider vinegar

Mix all, place in a small cooler with

  • 4- 5 quarter family packs of chicken legs and thighs.  Cut the legs and thighs apart before brining.

Place the cooler in the fridge or put the small cooler in a big cooler filled with ice. Turn or shake vigorously at least twice per day.

Prep the smoker. I use  a Big Green Egg (Large) with a Heatermeter for temperature control. The Heatermeter is a DIY open source temperature controller that makes long smokes easy (but this was a short one) .

Start with the bottom filled with lump charcoal at one edge and two 2-3″ diameter green cherry or apple branches the width of the firebox. Get the BGE up to about 200 degrees F and then add the chicken. I used the indirect method with the ConvEggtor and the 3 layer grate to hold this much meat. The heatermeter was set for 225 degrees F. The smoke was for 3.5 hours.  Raise the temp to 325 for 30-45 minutes at the end to crisp up the skin a bit.

Remember when smoking, you don’t want to let the fire get too hot initially and then struggle to get it down to the right temp without putting it out (again).

In the end, you have chicken that is luscious, juicy, deep mahogany brown and with a nice but not overpowering smoke flavor and a pretty pink smoke ring.  It is good hot or cold.   Unfortunately, I did not shoot photos before it was all gone. That is a task for the next batch.

We did sample a couple of legs at the 24 hour mark to make sure the brine flavors were going in the direction we wanted.

If you live nearby, I have plenty of surplus cherry and apple wood for smoking.

Wheel tensioning and truing

The wheels were laced up and the spokes initially tightened. The Atomic Zombie tutorial videos were great.  Plus Sheldon Brown’s wheelbuilding page yield more detail.  The primary means of keep everything straight is simple turns counting. 4 turns initially, 2 , and then checking against a stationary reference. I did this on the desk by placing the wheel next to a soda can and spinning, using the can lettering as a reference in the vertical direction and rubbing against the side in the horizontal.

One of the keys in keeping the wheels straight is also in the stretching and seating of the spokes by grabbing groups of them and squeezing.  After a while, tightening the spokes and tweaking the rim wobbles less and spokes sing when plucked.

I don’t have a truing stand but I do have dial indicators and a large, rigid stationary reference – the Bridgeport mill!  I mounted one of the axles in the vise. Then Placed the wheel on the axle . Next I positioned the test indicators, with on in the spindle chuck and another on a magnetic base on the table.   The worst case run out was total 0.030 inch (0.7mm) as set by the soda can method. Final runout was less than 0.010 inch (.25mm).  This should be close enough. I can re-tweak it later if necessary.

Overall, it worked great for a simple kludge method without specialized single purpose tools. This would have worked nearly as well with a table saw, jointer table, welding table or reasonably large steel plate or I beam as the reference and a pair of dial indicators on magnetic bases, like the one I am using on the vertical direction. These are quite inexpensive ($30-40 each) when ordering from Grizzly, CDCO, Amazon or even Harbor Freight.   The test indicators I used are a step up from the budget units, but the basic 1″ travel indicators would do just fine.  The Starrett test indicator I am using was eBay find.

Being able to adjust the spokes directly under the vertical dial indicator was quite convenient.

The Mill and Lathe were both school shop drop outs. With the current lack of support for skilled trades, many schools have been dumping their machine tools and shop programs which is a travesty.  The lathe came out of a Milwaukee high school (First Division?) and the mill came of Milwaukee Area Technical College. Both underwent multi-month complete rebuilds as they were moved into my basement shop.  It is a joy to use real heavy weight tools. However it is a sometimes back breaking and tedious process to break them down to components and bring to the basement for cleaning, adjustment, painting and reassembly. These join other rebuilds such as my 14″ Radial Arm saw ,16″ Jointer and others that range from 50 -125 years old.  Plus there are also scratch built tools such as the 4×5′ bed 3HP CNC router.

 

Recumbent trike component fabrication

The plans called for using a lot of salvaged components from other bikes.  I don’t have any frames to cut apart and wanted to use modern components for the most part.

The first pieces built up were the wheels. This was my first experience building bike wheels. These are built from BMX components and I even found 100psi capable tires for the nominal 20″ (604mm) rims.  Until starting this, I did not know there are 6 different nominal 20″ sizing systems  which are incompatible!

I needed 3 headstock bearings, one for each front wheel and one for the the underseat handlebars. For these I am using FSA “The Pig” . The bearings must be pressed into the headstock tube. Normally the tube is reamed with special reamer which I don’t have. Instead, I faced and then bored the shells on the lathe. These are 2.5″ long for the wheels. The bearing seats will then be press fit in place. The arms that go from the spine of the frame to the front wheels need to be coped to fit these shells.  Rather than cutting each to length and then coping the end I cut the pieces to double length and then used a 1.5″ hole saw in the middle. The tube is 1.5″ square so the hole saw nearly cuts through the sides.  This makes a nice clean arc faster and more accurately than trying to saw and grind per the plans.  You do need to clamp securely and do this in the drill press or mill. Use the lowest speed available and lots of lubricant.  The Bridgeport works nicely for this and I was using mist cooling as well to avoid damaging the hole saw .

You can see the nice fit-up of the coped arm ends against the bearing tubes.

The front axle shafts and steerer tube are also coped and shown at the approx 15 degree angle that is required. Steerer tube is 1-1/8″.

Crank bottom bracket is adjustable. The clamp bars were made the same way out of 3/16″ x1.5″ steel flat stock. The shell is a standard 74mm ISO threaded bottom shell from Framebuilder supply.  Here you can see the bottom bracket shell fit up and ready for welding. Note there is a shim on one side to allow for the paint thickness later. 3/8″ bolts secure it to the spine tube.

.Parts list for the front wheels. These were purchased from Niagara Cycle.

 

Recumbent trike axles

The front axles of the trike are some of the highest stress load components. I am using 20 mm BMX hubs but now need axles to match. The AZ (Atomic Zombie) plans call for taking bolts, welding on some material and then grinding to “fit”. I wanted to to do better. The axles start out as 7/8″ cold rolled steel. Then there is some metal lathe work to get them to finished proportions.

Raw stock should be 158 mm long. Face off the ends to 155 mm and center drill each end.

Mount in 4 jaw chuck and center it up.  Note that a 5C collet would not hold the stub end tight enough, and my dog and faceplates would not work for this size stock, so I had back to the chuck. Tail end center is a ~1/2 face solid center  to allow for the tool clearance.

Step down to 20mm for 133mm from the tail end. Test fit the hub. It should be a tight sliding fit. File if necessary.

Step down to .73″ diameter for 27mm from the tail end to prepare for threading  (sorry for the mixed units) .

Make a small 3mm wide by 2mm deep groove next to the step to allow the threading tool to run out into it.

Thread the end to 10 TPI and test fit against the nuts. I am using a double jam nut setup.

Drill through at 3/8 ” from both ends and for the length of a 1/2″ drill from the post end. 

Recumbent Trike Project

For me, life is not complete without projects. I need to build things or at least rebuild them. Merely using things, does not satisfy me for long. I have to “make it better”.  So this has lead to the current project, which is  a tadpole style recumbent trike (human powered – the VTX is not being harmed in the process).

The trike is base on the Atomic Zombie Warrior: http://www.atomiczombie.com/Warrior%20Recumbent%20Tadpole%20Racing%20Trike.aspx    > It will of course have multiple modifications along the way to improve the design and make use of the machine tools I have rather than getting by with hand tools. Plus I am keen to add fixturing for stability and accuracy rather than hand holding or using props like buckets.

This is largely a welding project. So the patio we added last year outside of my shop is getting some use.   Many of the parts were purchased from someone who was parting out a cracked Trek carbon fiber mountain bike.

You start by building the rear fork and “spine” of the trike. The tubing is 1.5″ across with 1/16″ wall thickness.   The plans state the heights of the pieces, but omit the angles. The angles are cut and filed “to fit”.

The rear fork is the first assembly. The tubes are cut and then welded up. Tube ends are capped off with welded on pieces. The drop outs are added next. 

Her is a close up of the rear drop outs. You can still see the scribe marks for where I drilled and milled the slots.

This is the first test with the donor cycle wheel. It is nicely centered.

Here I am starting to weld up the spine of the trike. The blocks are ordinary melamine coated 1/2 ” MDF scraps that have been squared and notched for the tubing at the correct heights. The reference for this setup is the front edge of the board resting on the welding table.

Now with the spine welded up, it is time to fit the rear fork. So this means another trip back into the shop.

The front wheels are made from 20″ BMX components with a 20mm center shaft hub to handle the force of only being supported at one end. This is the first time I have laced a bike wheel. One wheel is assembled and ready for truing and the other is still awaiting assembly. However, the hub must be used for fitting the axles which will be turned on the lathe.

Bananas Foster Cheesecake

If you are wondering what to serve for Mother’s Day Brunch…
Here is a preview of tomorrow’s desert. Banana’s Foster cheesecake.
Teal Bronkalla saw a Facebook posting for the Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) Banana’s Foster cheesecake . However this was the jumping off point. Teal used our absolute favorite Colorado Cache cheesecake recipe (and of course when you are going to cover the cheesecake there are no cracks in the top) and the Banana’s Foster topping. This is absolutely delicious.


Cheesecake Crust

1 1/4 graham cracker crumbs
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c melted butter
Mix and bake in a 9″ spring form pan for 12 min at 350 F

Filling

1 lb cream cheese (we use Neufchatel) to lighten it up a bit
3/4 c sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract (the good stuff)
In the mixer, cream the cheese well and slowly add the sugar. Then add the eggs one at a time and keep beating.
Pour into crust and bake 45+ min at 350

Topping

4 TB butter
2/3 c brown sugar
4 bananas – not very ripe, just to the barely all yellow stage – you want them tart
Melt butter and brown sugar until bubbly. Stir in bananas and cook for 1 min. Pour into a bowl and cool for at least 10 min.
Pour over the cool cheesecake.

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