Recumbent Trike – Steering pull solved

The steering pulling to the right bothered me.  The 1.5 to 2 degree difference in the caster angles was there and it had to be the clue I needed. However, the angle readings were varying on each try but overall the right wheel had less caster than the left. I really did not want to cut off the arm and realign the whole thing again as that was not easy the first time. Searching at lunch for caster steering problems, I came across a Quora post that said if the caster is uneven the car will pull towards the side with less caster. https://www.quora.com/How-caster-angle-affects-to-the-vehicle-dynamics. This was the answer I needed!

So, I decided to cut the front tube perpendicular to the long axis. This would give me the ability to adjust the caster without messing up the camber.  WIth a 2 degree angle error and 1.5″ tubing I would need to have a slot 0.078″ or just over 1/16″ . One slice with a cut-off blade in the angle grinder would be about right.  I placed a straight edge against the back of the spindle tubes and marked across the arm.

Measuring the angle exactly is very hard. So I enlisted my wife’s help and used a pair of 2 foot long winding sticks placed against the front edges of the steering bearing cups. Sighting along these from the side I could see the angles were plainly different.  Winding sticks are used in woodworking when flattening benches, aligning jointer beds and other areas where you are looking remove twist in a surface.  Below, I am holding a ruler in the position where each of the winding sticks was placed. 

After slicing through the top and then the sides, a bit of downward pressure closed the gap.  A quick check with the winding sticks again showed that they were now almost exactly parallel – the difference was gone! Now it was time for a couple of hot tack welds and a test ride. You can see the gap at the bottom, where the cut is folded and that it is tight at the top.

This did the trick. I can now go 100-200 feet hands free with very little drift. I will still tighten up the steering a bit to add some friction as bumps will cause a deviation (yes more caster would probably help but I am going to leave this one alone now.  So it was now time to weld over the length of the joint and start to grind flush. It gets dark early now so I was not able to completely finish and it will be easier when the bike is disassembled for painting.

Now I need to figure out the rear chain skipping…

Recumbent trike front end work and test rides

The front derailleur needs a tube on which to mount. This ended up being a piece of water pipe that was bored out to a reasonable wall thickness. The pipe was then tacked in place on the bottom bracket as the derailleur range of motion was tested prior to final welding.

The used front derailleur is a top pull design. So in order to not have an excessively long mounting tube a special bracket was made to support the cable end.  It is made from a piece of steel flat stock and a cable end braze on piece.  The braze on piece was brazed into the bracket and the whole thing welded on with some intermediate test fitting.  

Afterwards, I flipped the trike back up on the buckets for more work. However it was a bit too soon and I am a bit too clumsy, so the bracket branded my left arm. This is what it looks like a day later.

You can also see one of the sets of water bottle mounts in the photo of the crank assembly. These were more braze on bits. They require a 1/4″ hole in the tubing and are an M5 thread.

The next pieces were a rear mount for the tail light and adding the parking brake. The parking brake, seen below, was a down tube mount gear shifter in its previous life on my dad’s old bike. It was trimmed down and brazed onto the frame under the seat. It still needs a dip in rust remover and a new cable but it works.

So here is the nearly finished trike. Ready for test rides, body work (more grinding and some filler) and painting.

Ready for the next test ride (minus helmet). One water bottle mount (stolen from my road bike) in place.

There is still tuning required. The front derailleur does not like to shift onto the lowest gear and the rear skips when I pedal hard. I don’t know if it is an adjustment issue or that the used gear cluster is too worn. With the recumbent,  there can be a lot more torque applied than when upright.  I can make it up the driveway, but the speed is limited by rear gear skipping (darn).

The top speed riding around our neighborhood so far is 23 mph. Not great, but not horrible either. The trike tends to pull a little to the right when hands free. I will probably add a tiny bit of friction in the steering linkage somewhere to account for this. I really don’t want to cut off the right front wheel arm and tilt it a few more degrees to add more caster. I see 9 degrees forward on the right vs the 10.5 on the left as best I can measure.

Now it is time to tear it down, cut down the front rail tube, do some body work and paint it. There are also some parts to 3D print, including new chain idlers. The Northern Tool idler pulleys are too narrow and generating lots of metal shavings on the chain and I am sure excess friction as well.

Smoked pork loin chops

Today, Teal wanted pork chops and I had a craving for smoked pork chops. However the smoked pork chops at the store did not look all that appealing. However, thick cut boneless pork loin chops were on special.  So a compromise was in order, and it was still early enough in the day to get these done. So here is the experiment:

2 very thick cut pork loin chops, about 1.5 lbs. total.   These were a good 1.5 ” thick or more.

Brining

  • 2/3 c brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1.5 tsp Penzey’s jerk pork spice    You could use McCormick or others but they vary a lot in flavor, like curries do.
  • ~2 c water

Mix the brine.  Trim the chops removing the fat and sliverskin on the outside.   Poke with a paring knife repeatedly all the way through. This helps the brine to get absorbed more evenly.   Soak in the brine covered in the fridge for 4 hours or so.

Smoking

Prepare the smoker. I am using Big Green Egg. Start the charcoal with wood sticks for kindling. The “starter blocks” take too long to burn off and get rid of the paraffin odor. I added some nice big chunks (3-4 across) of cherry for flavor. Once the fire is going, set up for indirect cooking with the platesetter under the grate and set the Heatermeter to 225 degrees.   Smoke for 4 hours.

The chops hit 135 degrees internal temp at 1.5 to 2 hours, so anything in the 140-145 range at the end will be plenty safe to eat.  If in doubt, refer to Doug Baldwin’s pasteurization tables (the temps are for a sous vide water bath and therefore overkill here where I am watching the internal temps).  http://www.douglasbaldwin.com/sous-vide.html#Table_5.1.

Results

The smoking temp overshot a bit at first, to 245-250 for the first 45 min as I neglected to put the daisy wheel damper on the BGE.  I was to anxious to get the trike out for a test ride.  From 1 hour on, it was staying right at 225. We pulled the meat at 3.5 hours rather than the planned 4 due to the aroma of not only the pork but also of the apple crisp that Teal baked for dessert. Our apple trees are providing a nice crop this year.

When cut, the smoke ring penetrated 1/3 of the way in from the edges (nice!). This is fairly “light” smoke. The pork was juicy, fork tender and delicious. This experimental recipe is a keeper.  In the future, I plan to run more time and temp variations.

Recumbent Trike cabling

Hmmm, One brake lever and two front brakes.  This needs a bit of work. I considered the dual brake line brake levers, but they don’t look exceptionally well made. I also considered dual hydraulic brakes, but I would still be stuck with the original piston in the grip and reduced braking power. Using caliper brakes linked together was rejected mostly due to structural issues (long support arm for the brake). This left taking good mechanical disk brakes and linking them together. So, I settled on a new set of Avid BB-7s and 160mm rotors.

Looking over photos from the web I saw a variety of ways of linking up the brakes that were either needed some aesthetic help (big assembly on the handlebar),  were mechanically unsound ( lever system with then unequal pull on the 2 brakes) or overly bulky. So I settled on a system where I would use an aluminum block to attach the 4 brake cables : two to the brakes, one to the handlebar and one reserved for the yet uncompleted parking brake.  In the photo below you can see the bottom section of the block. It is made form 3/4 x 1/4″ aluminum stock. The holes for the brake cables on the left are drilled 7mm in diameter and he grooves were cut with a slitting saw, although the band saw or hacksaw would have worked as well. You can see that the exits are a bit too close together. I made the bracket before the adjusters arrived and the closest they can be set is about 12mm / 1/2″ on center. So the holes and slots should be a bit further apart to minimize friction on the cable entry to the adjusters.

Here is the view from underneath the frame. The “combiner block” assembly is really not visible from above.

Now it was time to add the cover plate. This serves 2 functions: retaint the outbound brake cables and clamp the inbound ones from the handlebar and future parking brake. You may ask how it retains the outbound cables? This is due to the slots not being cut all of the way through. The “dumbells” on the ends of the cable drop into the, holes after a bit of filing, but are prevented from falling through by the slots for the cable only being about 2/3 of the way through the block.

Next was getting the brake line sleeves properly run and not rubbing on anything.


I had to turn down the heads of the screws to get the 2 to fit next to each other. You do need all 3 for clamping pressure.

The long bolts for the chain idlers were trimmed off and the spot welds made firm.

After this the chain was run and the inelegant but practical garden hose return run was mounted. The chain run actually takes nearly 3 full chain lengths to cover the distance. I used SRAM PC971 chains for this (at $20 a pop)!  I mounted the chain and set the length per the Sheldon Brown recommendations. The front derailleur is not yet mounted, so I will need to see if I truly have enough take up for the lower gears. However at this point I should only need to shorten the chain rather than lengthen it and I was using a used chain for the 3rd one, so if it ends up looking like confetti, so be it.

With steering, brakes and propulsion hooked up it was time for some test drives. I double checked the brakes and steering connections and was ready to set off down the driveway (which is steep) and for a cruise around the neighborhood.

The shifting was not perfect and I nearly got hung up in high gear – yes I should have set the derailleur end stops. I was riding around the neighborhood at a nice clip, looking ahead and I became thankful that I was wearing underwear otherwise the neighbors would have had quite a  show with my shorts billowing upwards in the breeze (not a problem on a regular bike). The handlebars were not quite tight and I got them set to a comfortable.   On the way back, I was dismayed that the pedal resistance was higher than expected.  I then stopped at the bottom of the driveway and pushed the trike up – remember I have no low gears without a front derailleur and on my road bike I am normally in gear 1-3 on the way up.

At the top I tighten the handlebars and notice the front wheel hub nuts are loose. No wonder the resistance increased and thankfully it must be pretty hard to lose a front wheel with disk brakes.  So I tightened the hub nuts and added the jam nuts.  I also fiddled with the toe in of the front wheels to minimize the steering twitchiness I had been feeling.  Now it was time for another test.   This time speeds were up and steering settled out.

Now it was time for the kids to come over for Labor Day dinner and I had prepared another big batch of smoked chicken.

After dinner it was my son David’s turn to try the trike. He took it on the same route, and came back with a big smile and started up the driveway (remember I said it has no low gears). He gave it a valiant effort and made it half way up.  Now he was stuck. Cnt go forward, and really can’t get off either, for as soon as he lets go of the brake to swing his body up forward to get off, the trike slides back down the driveway (hence the need for the yet unfinished parking brake).   So rather than risk having a father-less grand-daughter, I go to rescue him and prop my leg behind the trike while he gets off .

All in all, it is a success so far, but there is still more work and fine tuning to go.

 

 

 

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.