Tag Archives: Inspired Cycle Engineering

Steintrikes Wild One – Changing The Front Wheels

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.

Parcel has arrived

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.

Tracking rod

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.

Measuring Tool 1

So everything was ready – here is the box with wheels, tyres, tubes, screwdriver etc.

Wheels tyres tubes

And here is Killer (his name for the trike) ready to have his new wheels.

Ready to start

We removed the first wheel.

First wheel off

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.

Dead wheel bearing

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.

Killer on blocks

Killer on blocks 2

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!

Removing the disc rotors

Here’s one of the old wheels laid onto the new tyre to show how much larger the 20 inch wheels are:

Old wheel and new wheel

Once the disc rotors were removed we fitted them to the new wheels.

Putting the disc rotors on 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.

Cleaning and preparing the axle

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.

The start of the tracking

Wheels on tracks 1

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.

Klaus with measuring stick 2

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.

Removing screw for track rods

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.

Klaus with measuring stick 1

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.

Fitting the first tyre

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.

Ready for the second tyre

The first seat on the new trike with wheels – it seemed bouncier than normal!

Sitting on new wheels

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.

Killer with new wheels

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.

Setting up the brakes

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!

Adding the spoke reflectors

Adding the spoke reflectors 2

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!

Job done

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.

Dodgy felge 1

Dodgy felge 2

Dodgy felge 3

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:

Hi Helen,
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.

Wheels with new bearings

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!

Old Kugellager 1

Old Kugellager 2

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…

Wheels in Penelope 1

Wheels In Penelope 2

Wheels In Penelope 3

Yes.

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.

Changing the wheels again

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.

Two wheels

And this is what the trike looked like with the 18 inch wheels and 20 inch mudguards

Small wheels big mudguards

Mudguards and wheels

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).

Downward Slope 1

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).

Killer with 20 inch wheels

And here is a close-up of the 20 inch wheel, fitting rather better within the overall mudguard shape.

Killer's new wheels

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.

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Filed under Trike maintenance, Trikes & Velomobiles

Trice Q goes to Colchester

Today I went for a cycle ride – from Great Bromley to Colchester on my Trice Q.

The Q is my original trike, now 6 years old, and it had done 25,000 miles before I bought Alfie (the newer trike) and retired the Q. (For some unfathomable reason the Q was never given its own name, unlike my more recent recumbents).

Anyway, the Q is vaguely up for sale (except I haven’t advertised it) and languishes in the back of the shed at home in Essex. But it does mean that I have a trike to ride when I return home from Germany.

Today, halfway through my visit home to the UK after three months in Germany, there was a concert at my church in Colchester which I wanted to attend. So out came the Trice Q as I didn’t want to suffer the hassles of driving to Colchester, finding somewhere to park and emptying my purse to pay for the parking.

I had brought some cycling shoes with me (with SPD cleats on them) as these are needed for the Q’s pedals. The day seemed reasonably warm so I put on my old cycling clothing that was still here in Essex and got ready to set off, borrowing James’s blue panniers for the journey. The panniers didn’t have any tools in (my set of trike tools are 300km away in Germany) so if I had any issues I would have to phone up for the broom wagon!

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Having barely used the Q in three years (and I’ve done a cumulative 22,000 miles on my other trike and velomobile since), it seemed very different. The boom/bottom bracket seems lower, the trike is a little wider so feels different, and it seems to need a bit more muscle power to steer for the corners. But it is still a very comfortable trike and feels a bit quicker to accelerate than Alfie (it has derailleur gears at the back, not a hub gear, so the rear wheel has less rotation resistance). On the other hand it is shod with three Marathon Plus tyres so these have more rolling resistance and lead to a slightly slower ride time overall.

Off I went along the country lanes of Great Bromley, heading towards Colchester.

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It was strange to be riding on the correct side of the road again!

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The roads feel a little bit more cramped than in Germany but I think this is almost entirely down to the hedges either side that give an illusion of narrowness – all the roads around where I live in Germany have nothing at the sides except wide open fields which makes you think everything has more space.

My new cycling shoes were performing well – here’s one getting into the photo again!

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I must have done this ride to Colchester hundreds of times in the past. In includes two rather nasty hills (well, nasty for a non-climber like me). The first hill, Crockleford Hill, is a dip down to Salary Brook which marks the town limit of Colchester. It was also a bit strange today as there were lots of police about – a few days ago there was a murder in the Greenstead area (near where I was cycling) and they haven’t yet found the person who did it.

As I rode along the Harwich Road I spotted this house that didn’t seem to have noticed that England were now out of the World Cup!

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As I arrived towards the centre of Colchester I passed some of the old houses near to the river Colne.

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This mill building (I think!) has been turned into a very posh block of flats.

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Then I was at the traffic lights with East Hill in front of me.

Now for most cyclists this probably doesn’t look very hilly but believe me, it is. Especially on a recumbent trike, and when you’ve been eating too many cakes and too much chocolate in Germany. I was glad of my nice low gear ratios on the Trice Q so I could winch my way slowly up this hill.

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This is a slight problem with Colchester – the Romans decided to built it on a hill which means you always have to go up a hill to get to it. How inconsiderate of them!

Anyway, I managed to ride to the top without expiring and then rode down the pedestrian streets to get the the church which is slap bang in the middle of the pedestrian precinct central section of Colchester, built above the shops River Island, Costa Coffee and the Body Shop.

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One thing that I noticed almost immediately as I was cycling slowly around the streets is that an awful lot of the people round and about me were fatter than me. In the Kempen area I am one of the lardiest people that I know (well, lardiest woman anyway); here in Colchester I was very much at home in terms of spare tyres and muffin tops.

A possible reason is just opposite Lion Walk – a very nice bakery! (Although, of course, there are lots of nice bakeries in Germany too, as regular readers of my blog may have noticed)

I was very good and just bought a filled baguette from here, no cakes or pastries!

There appeared to be a Giraffe in the church car park.

As I was quite early I decided to park the Trice Q at the church and have a short wander around Colchester to do a couple of boring errands (paying in a cheque at the bank, etc).

Here is the Trice Q arriving at church.

This church began in 1647 but has been rebuilt several times – this particular building is only 25 years old, but the tower was retained from the previous building (which had to be pulled down as it wasn’t very well built!)

The church parking area was surprisingly busy with pushchairs – the pre-school were obviously still there.

I left the Q there and went off on foot through the pedestrian area. I was reminded how many mobile phone shops there are in the UK, as well as pound shops like this one:

However there is also some culture in Colchester with the castle:

And the town hall:

Once again some people are still flying the flag for England, despite their exit from the World Cup first round!

I had to cross the main road at one point and I suddenly realised that I was standing at the traffic light (with a red man for the pedestrian) waiting for it to turn green – but everyone around me was crossing the road as there was no traffic. My three months in Germany have made me very law-abiding!

There’s a small street market around Culver Square and it was all reasonably busy. The vegetable seller was doing the fabulous market calling of his wares but I couldn’t get a good recording of the special way in which they speak – it would have been interesting for my non-Brit readers! Sorry.

Here I am arriving back at Lion Walk church – dangerously close to an Apple Store!

I went into the church and had my lunch (they offer light lunches before the concerts) which involved me spilling some asparagus soup down my front (very messy!). I was then talking to Paul the church caretaker (who I know quite well) and he told me he had a new bike – well I really had to see it! Paul lives above the church in a flat so we went up to the roof of the church (which is itself built over some shops) to admire his wonderful new Pashley bike.

Interestingly Paul didn’t provide me with a safety harness as the sign suggests!

This is the view across the rooftops of the Town Hall.

And here is the beautiful bike!

He’s going to take the lock off and put it somewhere else which is a good decision – it rather spoils the lines of the metal.

It has a nice Brooks saddle, a Sturmey Archer 5-speed hub gear, drum brakes front and rear.

Paul says it is great to ride, which I can believe (for those who can ride uprights)

Some more views across the rooves – on the left is St Peter’s Church at the top of North Hill, the Jumbo Tower and on the right the Town Hall.

And this is looking over to the church – the grey stuff behind the brick tower is the area for the organ pipes and then the top skylights of the octagonal church sanctuary are visible.

After a good look around and chat about the bike it was time for me to go down to the concert which was a wonderful cello and piano event. Beethoven’s Sonate in A Major (Opus 69) played by Oliver Ray on the cello accompanied by his father Ian.

After the concert (which was 45 minutes and included a lovely Vaughan Williams piece as an encore) I stopped off at Aldi to buy some curry sauces for Germany and then rode home, once again hauling myself up the two significant hills at a snail’s pace.

Still, it was good to get out on the bike and it’s worth me knowing that three months in Germany absolutely kills my hill-climbing ability. I’m going to have to tackle the Süchtelner Höhen at least once per week if I’m to have any chance of coping with Essex Hills next time I visit.

My top speed was quite good though! Unfortunately it appears that my ‘Moving Average Speed’ has turned into ‘Sunrise’ so I’m now sure how long it all took but I reckon it’s about an average of 10mph which is pretty slow!

Here’s the track of the ride:

Picture 1

And here’s the elevation information:

Picture 3

The Trice Q acquitted itself well seeing as it’s been mostly ignored for three years except for when I’ve lent it to people. I am more used to Alfie and definitely prefer his hub gear (I am rubbish with derailleurs) but the Q is still a very decent trike. And it’s up for sale at a bargainous £1,000/1.125,00€ if you’re interested!

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Filed under Cycling in England, Trikes & Velomobiles

SPEZI Radmesse – a quick report

For the past nineteen years there has been a Special Bike Show in Germersheim near Mannheim in Germany, called SPEZI Radmesse.

Spezi Radmesse

This year was my chance to attend!

Last July I met a bunch of velomobile riders from Germany, one of whom lives near me in Schwalmtal. Back them he said that I could go to SPEZI with him so all the details were finalised over the last few weeks. I would drive to Rolf’s house in Schwalmtal for 7am and then we would travel together in his car to Germersheim. The original plan was to collect Gabriele (Jedrik) and a friend on the way past Bonn but in the end Gabriele decided to cycle to Germersheim in her Quest Velomobile the day before, which she duly did (all 280km).

The night before I left for SPEZI Lara, the daughter of the house, asked what time I was leaving as she had to be at Kempen railway station by 6:15am for a train to Köln for a University event. As I had planned to leave at 6:15am I was happy to get up fifteen minutes earlier to save her cycling to the station and having to lock her bike up all day.

The battery in my car had seemed a bit weak recently but I was reluctant to start it the day before to check as I’d need to run it for a fair while to recharge it and I didn’t have anywhere to go on the car – I hadn’t used it for a fortnight and apart from this trip to Schwalmtal had no plans to use it for at least a month. So I warned Lara that it was a bit dodgy.

And I was right – the car didn’t start. It almost did, then gave up. Fortunately Lara’s father was awake and I had jump leads ready so we tried to jump start it using their Opel Agila; no dice. So Frank moved the Agila away and brought over their VW Transporter – again, it was almost catching but not quite. Time was ticking away for Lara’s train (she had a specific ticket for the 6:15 train) so I assumed Frank would drive her to the station himself in their car and I’d see what I could do about starting mine later (or get a taxi to Rolf’s or something). Instead Frank handed me the keys to the Agila and said to take that, and that his insurance would cover me.

So I grabbed my stuff, locked up my car and hopped into the Agila with Lara.

For the last twenty years I have driven an automatic car as my bad arm doesn’t get on well with manual gearboxes. Of course in a German car the gear stick is on my ‘good’ side but it was still an interesting start to the morning, driving an entirely unfamiliar car, left hand drive, which was a manual. I wasn’t very good at finding the clutch biting point for the first mile or so but eventually got the hang of it.

Lara made it to Kempen station with five minutes to spare. I dropped her off and then headed on to Schwalmtal.

There doesn’t seem to be that much traffic in this part of the world during the day but at 6:15am on a Saturday morning it was beautifully quiet – I was pretty much on my own for the whole forty minute journey.

I arrived at Rolf’s, parked the car and then we hopped into his Vectra and headed off to the A61 motorway which would take us pretty much the whole way to Germersheim. (333km).

Rolf said that a few years ago he got stuck in a traffic jam and it took him six hours – this year the roads were great and we were there after just three hours.

We parked right opposite the exhibition halls (with free parking – you’d never get free parking at an exhibition in the UK!) and walked past the Parcours to get to the Halls. There were bikes and trikes and other weird vehicles whizzing about everywhere the whole time!

The entrance fee was 9.50€ which I thought was pretty decent and was given a blue wristband to allow me access to the various halls and outside areas. There were also various brochures and maps handed to me.

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I went straight into Hall 1 which had a group of exhibitors including ICLETTA who are the German distributors of ICE Trikes (and other bikes/trikes). ICLETTA’s stand was being shared with three chaps from ICE.

Displayed proudly on the stand was Maria Leijerstam‘s White ICE Cycle which she used to ride to the South Pole in December.

And here is Elliot from ICE who seemed to know exactly who I was when I introduced myself. Most of the visitors to SPEZI seemed to be Germans and speaking German so perhaps he was pleased to speak English with someone. Anyway he was extremely helpful, talking to me for over an hour about a lot about the changes and updates that ICE have been doing recently to the range. Here he is standing beside Kurt Seifert (of ICLETTA)’s ICE Sprint with Rohloff and various other changes from the standard ICE Sprint.

During our conversation we spotted a guy in a red cycling jersey with reflective writing on the front saying ‘Keep calm and ride an ICE Trike’. The chap had a Lonsdale London backpack and jogging bottoms so I assumed he was a Brit but no, he was German. We had a good chat (I translated the salient bits for Elliot) and discovered that this chap prints his own cycling jerseys. He gave me his card – he is Tomas Bernd Wiedemann and his website is www.mobil-mit-muskelkraft.de. And here is his page about jerseys and other cycling gear that he produces: Liegerad T-Shirts, Pullover, Trikots uvm. His comment to Elliot was that ICE didn’t do enough merchandising really!

After having a very enjoyable chat with Elliot I wandered on and had a really good look around. I was amazed at the number of different recumbent bike and trike dealers, as well as lots of upright bikes, Bromptons and other folders, electric bikes, vehicles for people with disabilities and more.

Readers of my blog know that I have recently bought a Flevobike Versatile. The Versatile is now marketed as the Flévelo Orca. Flévelo had two Orcas at the show and it was really interesting to see them – the differences in the nine years since Penelope was built aren’t significant but incremental.

I had a chat with André Vrielink, the original builder of the Versatile/Orca, and got a few bits of advice from him. He was keen to sell me a new Orca of course… maybe in the future with the electric assist…

There are a lot of Steintrikes (from Austria) trikes in Germany it seems. The Wild One, very popular, seemed extremely complicated at the front:

I subsequently saw one whizzing past and it seems to cant over on cornering which probably explains all that faffage at the crosspiece.

I did feel it was rather unfortunate that they used Comic Sans font for the logo though!

There were hundreds of people at the exhibition and it was a beautiful day – 25 degrees and sunny. The second day of the exhibition, the Sunday (today), it’s rather rainier in Germany so I hope those exhibiting outside are still having a good time.

There were some very fast-looking recumbents from Troytec

And hundreds of people whizzing around on recumbents and other weird bikes and I didn’t see a single crash. Rolf, who I travelled with and has visited SPEZI many times, said he had never seen an accident. Amazing! People were riding round the exhibition halls too.

I was also pleased to see loads of disabled people visiting – hopefully they were getting options for bikes that might suit their individual needs.

ICE trikes put a link on Facebook to photographs taken before the exhibition opened so you can get a flavour of what was on display without hundreds of people standing in the way:

Elliptigo were exhibiting – I last saw one of these on the last stretch of LEL. Amazing machines!

In the background here is Sinner, current makers of the Mango velomobile:

The very popular Velomobiel.nl stand!

An unusual vehicle:

More recumbents on display:

Räder-Werk with their world record Milan (I think!)

There were lots of Tandem stands including this one from Santana:

And here is the Hase stand – they had some Pinos on display as well (out of shot)

And the local Germersheim bike shop had their own stand with lots of things including some pretty cool flags (unfortunately 25€ plus so I didn’t succumb)

Three wheels good… four wheels better?

Or how about this, the Veloschmitt:

Modelled on the Messerschmitt Kabinenroller of the 1950s

And more photos (again courtesy of ICE’s Facebook feed)

These are all Greenmachines from Flevobike (who made the Versatile):

A folding electric bike thingy – but 27.5kg so quite a lot to carry

The display bikes were all pretty shiny although there were a lot that you could try out there and then. I had to periodically dodge people cycling within the Halls.

Outside lots of people had their own bikes/trikes/velomobiles that they had brought with them, some were for sale (a great opportunity to advertise your unusual bike to a receptive audience, I suppose). But there were also some fun things to try:

Five HASE trikes linked together like a train.

The SPEZI shuttle. I used this – knackering on the legs for just 200 metres!

A very shiny Ordinary. The chap says it was from the Czech Republic and very new.

And this very weird spinning bike thing – a Health & Safety nightmare if ever I saw one, but the Germans aren’t too fussed about H&S

And below should be a short video of it:

I had a very enjoyable day.

We had a two hour look around and then met for lunch with some others which was long and leisurely at a Vietnamese place, then went back to look at more bikes.

I managed to only spend about 20€ on things at Spezi – a t-shirt from the German HPV association (my friend was manning their stand) and a set of cleats for a tenner.

Rolf and I left at 5:30 after meeting up with some of his friends from the German Velomobilforum. You can tell velomobile riders – they all have very tanned faces but very pale arms and legs. I am purposely using Alfie the trike every few days to attempt to get a bit more of a tan!

Anyway, good fun was had, and I was home by 9:30pm without crashing the landlord’s car. Bonus!

I certainly recommend SPEZI as an event to visit – there was loads going on and plenty of food on offer which didn’t have ridiculous price hikes like you might see in the UK at exhibitions. There was some kind of racing event going on that I didn’t watch and a whole hall of E-bikes which I only had a cursory look around. All in all well worth the entrance fee and a great way to experience some of the weirder bike options that are out there!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Penelope the Velomobile, Trikes & Velomobiles