Klaus, with whom I regularly cycle, has a Steintrikes Wild One trike from Bike Revolution in Austria.
To read Klaus’s report on his wheel change, written some months after the event, you can go here (as long as you can read German): http://3-rad.blogspot.de/2015/05/km-11214-austausch-der-vorderrader.html
The Steintrikes is available in lots of different formats including a 26 inch or 20 inch rear wheel and for the front wheels 18 or 20 inches. Klaus originally chose 18 inches and thought the trike handled really well. However over time he discovered the limitations of 18 inches – not in terms of the trike but the options for different types of tyres. He could basically choose between Schwalbe Kojak, Schwalbe Marathon or Schwalbe Marathon Plus. The Kojaks didn’t last very long, the Marathons gave a great ride, and the Marathon Plus were never in the frame as they are so heavy.
But Klaus was continually toying with the idea of upgrading to 20 inch wheels and when the wheel bearings failed on his trike he decided to go ahead and order the new wheels (which also meant he had to order new mudguards to fit too).
Bike Revolution is a fairly small company run by the amusing and lively Thomas Seide but sometimes it takes a little while for spare parts to arrive. The wheels were ordered but the new mudguards took a little longer to manufacture, but eventually everything was ready and dispatched to Klaus.
Unfortunately (for me) this was on a Wednesday which was my choir day. However I was really interested to see and help the wheel change event so decided to skip choir for that week and to be Bicycle Technician Assistant (and Photographer).
Changing from 18 inch wheels to 20 inch wheels
Klaus had prepared well for this job, making his own bespoke measuring tool for when we had to do the tracking. This is because with the different wheel size there would be a change in the tracking requirement and it involves measuring the wheel alignment from front to back.
The tracking tool was an aluminium rod with a screw each end which could be screwed in or out and a nut to keep it in position – so a set width could be measured. He had also added a mark on the midpoint of the aluminium rod to help with wheel positioning.
So everything was ready – here is the box with wheels, tyres, tubes, screwdriver etc.
And here is Killer (his name for the trike) ready to have his new wheels.
We removed the first wheel.
Here you can see the dead wheel bearing – worn away for some unfathomable reason. It runs really rough when you turn it with your finger.
The second wheel was removed – the bearing this side was not as bad but was still a bit rough so evidently failing. The two inner bearings (one on each wheel) appeared OK.
We then had to remove the mudguards which is a bit fiddly with the Steintrikes (compared to the very easy removal of the ICE Trike mudguards). It is a much easier job when there are two of you so we sorted it fairly efficiently. And then also the brake calipers.
Killer was now up on blocks.
The next job was to remove the disc rotors from the old wheel. I hope I never have to do this to my wheels as the bolts have rusted in place completely; Klaus’s bolts required a good bit of force from the screwdriver but eventually they all came undone. Phew!
Here’s one of the old wheels laid onto the new tyre to show how much larger the 20 inch wheels are:
Once the disc rotors were removed we fitted them to the new wheels.
The lovely shiny new wheels had rather unshiny disc rotors. But we knew the wheels would get dirty soon enough!
The next job was to clean the axle area, now we could see it, and apply a bit of grease.
Both wheels slipped on very easily and were tightened in place. Then they were lowered onto a bit of plastic to protect the edges of the rims before they had the tyres on. It is best to do the tracking without the tyres in place.
Unfortunately Bike Revolution had sent no information about how actually to do the tracking. However common sense, plus experience from doing it on Alfie, meant we were pretty sure we knew what to do. Although because Killer has front suspension we knew it would be a little different.
The first thing to do was to measure the gap between the front of the wheels and see if the gap between the back of the wheels was the same.
There was enough of a difference that we felt we needed to adjust the tracking. We did it with Klaus sitting on the seat so his weight would have the splaying effect on the suspension. There was about a 6mm difference in total which we felt was too much (ICE say 3mm is a good amount, in other words the gap between the wheels is 3mm narrower at the front than the back).
The way you adjust this on the ICE trikes is very simple – you undo the bolt at each end of the track rod and turn the rod and it extends or contracts the track rod until you have the right size, then you do the bolts back up again. However we discovered that this doesn’t seem to work on the Wild One – rotating the track rod made no difference. So Option 2 was to remove one end of the track rod from the mounting and then turn it so that it extended slightly.
This involved undoing a nut and bolt that were quite fiddly, with several tiny washers.
We rotated the track rode end two full revolutions, put it back together, did the same to the other side and then measured again. We decided that we had gone half a revolution too far so undid both sides again, rotated them back 180 degrees, and then put everything together again.
This time, with the measuring, we had got it very well sorted! We decided it was good enough, certainly to test ride for a while.
It was then time to put the tyres on.
The Schwalbe Energizer Pros look surprisingly large!
It was then time for the second tyre, which took longer as Klaus’s track pump decided to briefly fall apart. But he fixed that and then both tyres were done.
The first seat on the new trike with wheels – it seemed bouncier than normal!
Although the brakes still weren’t attached Klaus went for a bit of a ride around the front of his house – first impressions were very good!
Killer looked surprisingly different with these new wheels. Much bigger and beefier.
Now it was time to do the slightly fiddly brake caliper job. The old caliper settings weren’t right for the new wheels so we did the fiddling about with it all until it was reasonably correct.
Another test ride – the trike rides really well!
We then fitted the new mudguards. Well, they had only sent the mounting brackets, not the mudguard sections, so we reused the old ones (but had to drill new holes as the brackets are different). This was slightly sub-optimal again, a bit disappointing that Bike Revolution hadn’t sent everything we needed.
And another thing to swap from the old wheels to the new – the spoke reflectors!
Everything was now complete. Klaus went for another ride around – he had to adjust the mudguard brackets a bit as the tyres were rubbing slightly on the mudguards (they are quite large tyres) but he got it reasonably well done.
Here he is looking very happy with his new trike wheels!
The first rides
As you can see from the photographs above, it was dusk by the time we had finished so he only had a quick ride. But the next day was a mill-bagging ride so a chance to really experience the new wheels.
Klaus’s immediate comment was that the trike feels really, really different. He felt that it rolled better, it had the same turning circle but perhaps was slightly different actually into the corners when riding fast.
As someone who regularly rides behind him or beside him, the trike actually looks very different as the underneath metalwork is now horizontal. Previously it sloped down towards the front wheels. And the fact that the wheels are slightly larger and the tyres are fatter really makes a notable visual difference. I think the trike looks more balanced with the larger wheels.
We rode again the next day, a longer ride to the Netherlands, and again he was really happy with how it felt. Some of the difference in feeling might be because of the different type of tyre but overall it felt stable (something that is important to Klaus) and it rolled really well. He had to do fine tweaks to the brakes as usual when you make a big change but all was going very well.
The new rim goes kaputt
Two days later it was time for another ride, this time also with Claudia and Lara so at a more leisurely pace. But at a nice ninety degree corner on a sandy track he enjoyed zooming round the corner, with me behind him… but then it appeared he had a puncture. He felt the trike wasn’t rolling right. But the tyre was still inflated!
The tyre had definitely looked wobbly to me so we checked for a broken spoke (what I thought the problem must be) but they were all fine – very tight in fact.
It didn’t take long for me to notice that the nice, smooth rim seemed to have ripples all round the spoke holes.
This was only on one side but clearly the spokes had deformed the metal of the rim.
This was a huge blow to Klaus who had been off the trike for three weeks waiting for the wheels and wheel bearings to arrive and had been so enjoying riding it again. He tried to adjust some of the spoke tensions to re-true the wheel enough for the ride home but they were so tight that this was only partially possible. A quick diagnosis was that the spokes were too tight and the stress of the corner (at less than 15 km/h) had deformed the metal. Clearly the rims were made of something more like cheese than metal – they had certainly felt a lot thinner than the old rims (and the rims on Alfie – still going strong after 40,000km and after I took the corner at the same speed).
So Klaus sent an email to Bike Revolution to explain what had happened to the new wheels and I took the old 18 inch wheels home with me, along with the two new bearings (they actually needed four not two, but two of the existing bearings were in a reasonable state) in the hope that I could find a bike shop to swap them out for me. This would mean we would have to refit the 18 inch wheels and go through all the brakes and tracking and mudguard adjustment again – but at least he would have a bike he could ride for an exciting long ride we had planned in six days’ time.
Options for new wheels
Klaus is not one to faff about so he decided to find some alternative options to the Steintrikes wheels, just in case.
He commented to me that he would be interested to know how much ICE would charge to build the wheels, seeing as I had ridden without issues on mine. So I sent them an email, including the photos of the deformed rims, and received the following reply just a short while later from the ever-helpful Neil Selwood:
Certainly looks like a case of rims made of cheese.
They seem to be single wall which is not necessarily bad (that is what we use at the moment) but it does look as though the material is either too thin or not of a sufficient grade and treatment of aluminium.
I can’t see from your pictures what the lacing pattern is but the less the crossing then potentially the higher the tension can end up needing to be to keep the wheel in line. Higher tension would deform the rim sooner obviously.
I don’t think we are particularly skilled or have some black art for building stronger and longer lasting wheels than anyone else doing a decent job. We just use appropriate materials and build carefully to a sufficient standard.
There is no question that we could build wheels stronger or with more accurate tensioning or straighter but what we do is generally suitable.
We have always been running with single wall rims on our sprints and adventures which are generally fine. A few issues will come up but they are well within acceptable limits.
Recently we noticed using our single wall rim on a hub motor system with low spoke crossing that on a 26″ wheel the rim was too flexy. Investigating this the rim turns out to be more flexy in itself than many other options. So we have selected a new rim primarily for the 26″ wheels but due to the mix and match nature of our wheel sets we are spreading those across the models as stocks switch over. The new rim is quite similar looking to what we have now but is box section and with some nice eyelets and just a little heavier than what we have now.
I am telling you all this to suggest that given suitable rims any good (and willing) bike shop would probably be able to rebuild his wheels at a price a good bit less than it would be from us.
I have attached a quotation including shipping the wheels back. Just one point – we only have 36 hole rims so if his hubs are 32 hole then we cannot help.
The price from ICE was competitive but his hubs are 32-hole so this would unfortunately not work.
Klaus had also investigated a company called Gingko Feine Veloteile who make lots of bits for trikes and velomobiles and other weird bikes. He sent them an email asking about the wheels and got an excellently-comprehensive answer back.
They provided plenty of information about what they would use, which included more elastic spokes which give a bit more cushioning and they’re only slightly more expensive. The price was higher than ICE Trikes’ quote but overall still within acceptable limits.
The third response was from Bike Revolution, the suppliers of the original wheels, saying that new wheels would be on their way shortly.
Repairing and refitting the old 18 inch wheels
Since the new rim deformed it was a matter of urgency to get the old wheels back into service.
As Klaus spends all day pretending to work at a desk, I offered to take the wheels and see if I could find a bike shop who could change the bearings (as I was able to get out and about during the day). So I took the wheels home with me on Sunday and started to think of a plan of action.
Which was entirely overtaken by Frank, my landlord, who’s a car mechanic and excellent all-round chap.
He had a look at the wheels. I showed him that there were four bearings, two of which were OK and two shot. I showed him the two replacement bearings from Thomas Seide and he said “that’s not enough, you’ll have to change all four”. I was not convinced by this, but I had a quick google and discovered that the 6001RS bearings aren’t particularly uncommon so I thought I ought to be able to pick some up from a parts shop in Kempen. They cost about 2,50€ each so hardly a big investment.
However Frank then told me he would make some phone calls first thing the next morning about the bearings. OK, I thought, that’s useful as I’m not great on the phone due to being (a) half deaf, and (b) English.
The next morning when I went downstairs Frank and the wheels had disappeared. He reappeared several hours later without the wheels and reported “I checked with three bike shops, one in St Hubert, one in Kempen and one in St Tönis. The one in St Tönis can change the bearings and they will do it this afternoon or tomorrow.”
The next day Frank went to work as usual and I headed off to the VHS before he returned home. But I had a message from Gudula later to say the wheels were back and all sorted.
When I got home they were waiting for me on the stairs – two wheels with completely new bearings (four new ones – the two from Thomas and two others) and a bag with the four old ones.
Here is a close up of the four old bearings – I can see now why Frank insisted all four needed to be changed. They were all a right mess!
What is noticeable with the wheels is that one of the four new ones is less smooth than the other three. I’m not sure why this is, as they felt normal before they were fitted, but they are a colossal improvement from before and will hopefully provide many thousands of kilometres more service (not that will need to as he will be back on 20 inch wheels soon).
So the next thing was to return the wheels so Klaus could refit them. The obvious time was before Choir on Wednesday when I usually have a spot of tea at their house before going with Claudia to choir. Only I wanted to go by bike rather than car – so it seemed a good idea to see if I could fit the wheels into Penelope or strap them onto Alfie’s rack.
The answer is…
However I was saved the effort of cycling with them (and possibly discovering I couldn’t steer) as Klaus picked the wheels up on his way back from work.
This enabled him to get the wheels changed once again, which he did in just half an hour.
He didn’t bother adjusting the tracking or changing the mudguards over to the smaller ones, so the change just involved removing the disc rotors and fitting them on the replacement wheels and adjusting the brakes.
Here’s a picture of the two wheels side-by-side so you can see the size difference.
And this is what the trike looked like with the 18 inch wheels and 20 inch mudguards
We had an enjoyable 30km cycle ride with his family, discovering a rather nice new Bauerncafé near Tönisvorst. Somewhere to visit again! The 18 inch wheels performed well although Klaus said they felt really different to the 20 inch ones. However they also rolled a lot better than before (because of the new bearings) so that was a very worthwhile change.
I’ve asked Klaus to try to describe the difference in feel between the two wheels but it’s quite tricky to put into words except the 20 inch feel a bit more forgiving (because of longer spokes, presumably), and they roll over some bumps more easily. The original idea that the 20 inch wheels roll better was more likely to be a result of the bad bearings on the old 18 inch wheels.
As a result of the bearing issue, I took the front left hand wheel off Alfie (the only normal wheel – the right hand side one is the SON dynohub) to check my bearings after 40,000km. They were fine, one perhaps marginally less smooth than the others, but nothing to worry about at all. They are also the same type as Klaus’s bearings. And in face he experimented putting my wheel on his trike (for the fun of it) and also using my axle (which is very slightly too short).
The difference in the axles may possibly have contributed to the bearing failure on the Steintrikes. On the ICE Sprint the bearings are recessed in the hub and the end of the axle is a flat section that encloses them completely from the elements. The Steintrikes axle is a giant bolt with a hexagon end and a rubber cap that goes over that, but it is possible that water can get in around the edge of the rubber cap and touch the bearings. So perhaps this is why, or perhaps it was just bad luck. I guess he’ll find out after 10,000km on the new wheels.
The replacement 20 inch wheels arrive
The day after this ride the replacement 20 inch wheels arrived – hurray!
Here is a shot of Killer wearing the 18 inch wheels so the right hand side (front) of the frame is nearer to the ground than the rear section (left hand side).
And here is my attempt at a comparative shot with the 20 inch wheels – where the underside of the frame is horizontal (as opposed to sloping downward).
And here is a close-up of the 20 inch wheel, fitting rather better within the overall mudguard shape.
You can see a slight red tinge around the centre of the wheel – this is a slight view of the wheel bearing (they are red on these new wheels). You can see the bearing on the inward side of the axle too. This leads to the question as to whether the bearing being slightly exposed leads to its early failure, as opposed to a concealed bearing (such as I have on my ICE trike) having possibilities of failing if water gets in and cannot get out. With the exposed bearing water can get out as well as in. The proof will be in the pudding – if these wheel bearings remain OK we can put the failure of the bearings on the 18 inch wheels down to defective manufacture or bad luck; if these start wearing early then it’s perhaps a sub-optimal design in the hub. We haven’t heard of other Steintrikes bearing failures so perhaps it was a one-off. It is worth remembering that I had to change the bearings in one of the wheels on my old Trice Q after about 35,000km, although the others have been OK (and on Alfie all seems OK).
We did a test ride of 107km on the new wheels and they performed very well. Although the rims look like they are the same as the others, the hope is that the spoke lacing is a little kinder and so hopefully all will be well with them.
The wheel change turned into a bit of a project and took longer than initially expected, with a few hiccups along the way, but as Klaus says he is now expert at adjusting disc brakes and also he feels like he has had three completely different bikes – the 18 inch wheels shod with Kojak tyres had one feel, when he switched to Marathon tyres the trike felt really different and now with the new size wheels and different tyres again (Energizer Pro) he has once again a completely different trike. It’s clearly been a fun experience for him trying out all the various options of tyres and it is noteworthy how much they change the feel of the trike. I found the same with Kojaks on my trike.