Alfie the trike is here!

Alfie the trike has arrived!

As my Trice Q had done SUCH a lot of miles (24,680 in the last three-and-a-bit years) I felt that it was time to buy a new trike to give me a bit of variety – and also to experience some alternative features.

For example, the twist-shifters on my Q proved very awkward when it rained as I couldn’t twist the gears properly without gloves with wet hands (and I don’t usually wear gloves). The rubber for the twist-shifters also started flaking off after 15,000 miles.

I also found that I don’t get on too well with rear derailleur gears and did bash my derailleur once, bending the hanger and requiring rescue by car from my father. I have carried a spare gear hanger since then when touring abroad but I did like the idea of a hub gear which would mean I only needed a fairly small chain tensioner at the axle.

I decided a Rohloff hub was too expensive (almost £1,000) so went for the new Alfine-11 hub gear by Shimano which got good reviews and which the chaps at ICE had successfully fitted to another trike previously.

So today was the big day!

I went out for a haircut in the morning and when I returned home there was a giant box in the lounge…

Which my dog Poppy thought looked interesting.

Here I am, ready to cut the packing tape…

The box is open! Lots of bubble wrap and a surprisingly thin ‘assembly instructions’ book!

After removing lots of goodies (seat, rack, chainring guard etc) I got my first glimpse of the actual bike!

A very expensive meccano set!

James is impressed by my Schmidt hub dynamo…

The frame is unfolded…

And we bung some wheels on to see how it looks. Now how to fit that chain tensioner?…

And there it is!

Now here’s something neither of us have had before – disc brakes!

Fitting the disc onto the wheel…

Now to line up the callipers/pads (this took about 15 minutes!)

Poppy inspects – number 1 is done, hurrah!

We had a tea break before starting the right hand side wheel discs. This wheel also has a dynohub which is rather cool!

Here we are with both brake discs fitted

Starting to look like a proper trike – and I LOVE that new seat design with the pocket at the top. Brilliant!

Here we are, trying the seat out for comfort

I’m not the only one checking it out!

And now the headrest, rear rack and boom are fitted

That’s it for today, after I discovered I hadn’t ordered any pedals! Tomorrow will be the pedals (after a quick trip to a bike shop), chain and gears and then she’s ready to roll!

So… the next day dawned.

I was going on a 45 mile cycle ride with Wowbagger and others from the YACF forum, but as Alfie was by no means ready (lacking pedals, for example, plus no chain attached etc) it was clear the old Trice Q would get another outing.

On the way over to the meeting point for that ride I popped into my favourite bike shop, 53-12 in Colchester, and picked up some SPD pedals for £35.

I enjoyed the ride on the old Trice which still behaves very nicely. When I got home I was in a rush to get ready for my evening engagement (a dancing lesson!) so didn’t have a chance to fiddle any further with Alfie. However, I posed for a photo with new pedals – I seem pleased to have made progress with the trike construction! Spot the appalling Lake Cycling Sandals foot tan!

Whilst I was showering etc James fitted the pedals.

And here I am posing with pedals (and the dog insisted on being in shot as well)

Whilst I was getting ready to go out James fitted the chain now we had got the correct boom length with the pedals.

When we got back from our dancing lesson at 9:30pm I wanted to make a bit more progress so I decided to fit the rear wrap-around mudguard.

Unlike pretty much every other part from ICE, this didn’t seem to have the right instructions (it included information about a plastic bit which we didn’t have and clearly didn’t need). So I decided I’d have a go working it out for myself.

Here is the mudguard fitted:

And here is the small rubber bit that I was left with after I had finished

Aha, I can see where that goes now – between the frame and the screw which holds the mudguard on towards the front of the bike.

However, fitting this screw had been a nightmare. Mainly because we really needed to remove the back wheel – but hadn’t the faintest idea how to do it. The Alfine is an entirely unknown bit of gadgetry and ICE had fitted it correctly and we were afraid if we removed it everything would go wrong. A quick Google failed to show any useful information about how to take off a wheel with an Alfine. So I decided to think about it overnight and see if the morning held any answers.

The next morning I once again would have to use my old trike to cycle to church as Alfie wasn’t ready. However, my brain had slightly unscrambled myself and I managed to fit the rubber bung by deflating the tyre, using the dog’s collar to pull the tyre out of the way as much as possible, and careful use of an allen key. Success at last!

Note, if you’re ever going to buy one of these trikes, make sure you get the mudguard fitted before the back wheel goes on!!!

Back from church (Trice Q enjoyed its 10.5 mile round trip, plus I popped into Waitrose and bought a restorative butterscotch & pecan yumyum to help with the bike building) and we were almost finished.

James, an electronic engineer, fitted my rather fab Busch & Müller Lumotec IQ Cyo Senseo Plus front dynamo light:

He also shortened the chain which we realised was slightly long – in the granny ring the chain tensioner was rubbing two pieces of chain together.

I started taking bits off the old trike to get the new one ready to roll. I took the front light mount off the old trike to use as a Garmin mount (ICE were out of stock of this item when sending me my new trike so it’ll come soon but wasn’t available today). However, I decided to also take the old Garmin mount of the trike – a cut down bar end which I stick on the upright part of the front mech holder. And it fitted! And, not only that, the fold still worked with the Garmin in place. So that was easy. The front light mount went back onto the old trike.

James is going to trim down some of the light cables when I am sure the boom length is correct. For now there’s some gaffer tape holding the cables in place but we will tidy this up in due course.

James had a little sit down on the trike now everything was ready.

Now, after a spot of lunch, it was time for Alfie to have his first visit to the Big Outdoors. Which involved taking the seat off to get him from our lounge through the hallway to the front door. He seems a bit lighter than the old trike to carry around, which is handy!

And here they are together – old and new!

And now time for the first ride!

How cool is that Alfine hub gear! Quiet as anything, easy to use, a great improvement over a rear derailleur.

Alfie rode well, nice and quiet, a different seat position which was strange initially, as was the slightly narrower track (I had to widen the handlebars so I could go round corners!)

We did identify a problem which is that Alfie pulls quite strongly to the right at speed. We’re not sure if it’s the disc brake on that side not quite properly set (we fiddled with it a bit) or if it’s drag from the dynohub (surely not?) but we’ll ring ICE tomorrow just to get their advice. The old trike pulled a bit left (with the camber I suppose) so this is just a bit different to get used to.

I nicked the rear light from my old Trice and am now ready to ride Alfie to church tonight. I wonder if anyone will notice I have a new machine!

The bike stable (the uprights are James’s, and his folding Dahon is lurking in the dining room rather than in shot)

Update after three days

So, Alfie the trike has now been in use for three days and he’s done fifty miles.

First impressions are entirely favourable. It’s a comfortable ride and the new seat is especially comfortable. The zip at the top was where I initially thought I’d keep all my puncture repair kit/spare tubes/pump but they are too bulky for it really so I have fitted the rest of the rear rack and so my Vaude panniers have had their first outing to the shops on Alfie rather than the old Trice Q.

The hub gear itself is wonderful! It seems quiet, smooth, the shifts are all easy and the gear range brilliant (with 33 gears I seem to have plenty of choice). The front derailleur shifter is also much smoother than my old one.

What’s particularly good about the Alfine is the way you can change gear when stationary. This means you can whizz up to a junction in a high gear, stick on the brakes if there’s traffic and stop, or keep going if it’s clear. On my Trice Q I often ended up in a very high gear having stopped due to traffic and then it was very hard to get going again – either that or I had to lose lots of speed on the run up to a junction when I could have just sailed across. It makes life much easier!

I emailed ICE after building the trike to say it pulled a little to the right. They suggested I phone up when I had a few moments and the engineers could talk about it with me.

One possible cause of the pulling-to-the-right would be the cables being tight. Not that I had fitted them – ICE had done them – so they ought to be OK! Chris at ICE suggested I lift the front of the trike off the floor and see if the wheels pull to the right – which would happen if it’s cable tightness. They didn’t.

He then suggested I checked the tracking, which I did – it was fine, within standard tolerances. Again, this is something that ICE set at the factory so one would assume it’s usually OK.

Third option was slightly more significant – to swap the two front wheels round to test if it’s a problem with the dynohub wheel (the one on the right). This involved taking off the brake callipers completely from the Schmidt Dynohub side due to the design of the hub – something I was slightly nervous about. Anyway, I did it and it was fine – I am less concerned now about doing this when I have a puncture.

I put the wheels on the other way round, didn’t bother connecting up the offside brake calliper, and wheeled it to the road outside my house, then riding it for 20  metres.

This appeared to have improved things significantly, although there was still a very slight bias to the right. But not that significant, and it was much, much easier to wheel around by holding the rack.

Chris explained that this was to do with the dishing of the spokes for the hub and that they may not entirely match my other front wheel. They are going to make up a new wheel for me (with dynohub) and will send it to me. Assuming the new one is much better then I’ll send my old wheel back for them to re-use.

Whilst on the phone they also got Dan (who fitted my Alfine) to explain how to take it off. It seemed fairly easy and I have had a couple of goes and seem to be able to disconnect the gearing fine. Haven’t actually removed the wheel but it should be OK.

Full marks for ICE yet again!

Two days later…

So… final bits of trike preparation/building after a few days of riding.

Trike brought into the kitchen so we can work on it whilst listening to the Tour de France on the TV in the lounge…

Five jobs today. Finalising the fitting of the front light before the Dunwich Dynamo on Saturday; fitting of the front mudguards; fitting of the cheap ‘n nasty cycle computer; fitting the LHS bar end with mirror; fitting the bottle cage.

As you can no doubt imagine, I left the difficult job (front light) to James and did the rest myself!

I had transferred the ‘skirt’ (manky bit of high-vis vest) from the old trike to the new one. I do feel it helps visibility and the orange bit on it is super-reflective. I really ought to get a new one though – this is rather discoloured after a year or so’s use.

Now I’ve got the boom length right James was going to shorten the light cables. Out came the gas-powered soldering iron.

The finished light! We changed the over-large washer at the front which looked ugly but which was all we had to hand when originally fitting the light. We now have a smaller, ugly, washer. We could paint it the same red as the trike as ICE sent me a set of the paint but I suspect we won’t get round to it!

I fitted the front mudguards, the cycle computer, taped up the cabling from the cycle computer so it was out of sight below the frame crossmember, added the bottle cage… which wasn’t the same red as the trike, unfortunately; I would have done better with a black one. I had to order from ICE the cycle computer mount as with disc brakes there isn’t a suitable place to mount the sensor as there is with drum brakes.

Whilst ordering the cycle computer mount I also ordered a bar-end for the left hand side (I had already ordered a bar-end mirror). This arrived and I realised that the cable from the shifter meant I couldn’t screw up one of the two bar-end bolts. However, ingenuity struck and I used a cable tie to hold it together. It managed 20 miles last night unscathed so seems to work!

It does mean that it’s hard to reach the shifter with your hand gripping the handlebar as normal. Make that impossible, unless I had fingers like Mr Tickle. So to change gear I lift my hand over the bar-end and do the shifting. It’s not elegant but I find I need the mirror that side. I could potentially mount it lower down which I may do but then what would I do with the bell…

So here we are, ready to roll on the Dunwich Dynamo…

Trike has now done 69.3 miles and is just brilliant – the hub gear especially. It feels much tighter and less rattly than the old Trice Q, although presumably after 25,000 miles this trike might not feel quite so together. What has been interesting is that I’ve got fairly tired leg muscles from cycling Alfie just 12 miles or so – which suggests the seating position is different enough that the muscles are being exercised in a different pattern. Which means the 120 miles of the Dunwich Dynamo might be a bit of a challenge. It feels as if I’m sitting in the same place with the boom the same length but clearly not…


Later that day…

Just had a bit of a mega shock. I looked at the invoice for the mirror mount and the cycle computer widget and the mirror mount was almost £30. I wouldn’t have bought this if I had known beforehand (which I didn’t). I bought a pair of mirror mounts for a tenner a couple of years ago (BBB ones) so I was expecting it to be about a fiver or a little bit more. I’ve fitted it so I can’t return it but needless to say I’ll ensure I ask for the cost of parts in future before getting them.

This means my mirror mount and cycle computer sensor arm cost almost £50 together. Gulp. That’s the price of a bike at tesco!


Report after one week

So… after a week of Alfie and 193.67 miles I thought I’d summarise my experiences so far.

Firstly, the trike is utterly fab. Utterly. And it still looks clean and shiny (which is a miracle with me as an owner). And attracts many admiring glances (this is a group of chums before the Dunwich Dynamo)

The major highlights (to be detailed further below) are:

1. Hub gear.
2. Dynamo and light.
3. Quiet running.

Alfine-11 Hub Gear
The hub gear has been a real revelation to me. Now I know most people get on fine with derailleurs but I have always found them awkward – dirty, noisy things that never index quite right. I seemed to always be in the wrong gear at inappropriate moments (i.e. in top after an emergency stop). I also found that changing the cassette every 6,000-8,000 miles meant twice a year to me and the micro cassette is nearly £70 so the cost added up. I also had the one memorable experience when the gear hanger got bent on my old trike (possibly hit a stone when riding?) and I had to be rescued by car. So a hub gear seemed like a good idea. The 14-speed Rohloff was too expensive (plus ICE aren’t keen) but the Shimano Alfine seemed a better option, especially with their new 11-speed one.

So how does it ride? ICE suggested I might find the rear wheel felt heavier to ride but that hasn’t been the case. It feels just like the other trike in terms of effort to get it started. The other trike’s low-hanging jockey wheels were usually full of gunk and grass so this may account for extra drag on the derailleur system, but whenever I cleaned it out it got mucky again very quickly.

It seems much, much quieter than the derailleur. At speed I can hear a low whine from the back if I listen out for it but if I have panniers on it masks the sound and it’s not that significant anyway. There aren’t any of the ticking sounds I used to get from my derailleur system (the jockey wheels?).

And the magic thing is that when I approach a junction at full speed, ready to slam the brakes on (and with discs I can stop VERY quickly) if there’s a car coming and I have to stop I can change gear when stationary and then pull away comfortably, rather than doing myself an injury trying to pull away in the top gear on the Trice Q (which was, I believe, 110 inches).

The Alfine hub also has a wider gear range. ICE did explain to me what it was but my brain doesn’t retain that kind of information, suffice to say it feels like one or two higher gears at the top end and three or four lower gears at the bottom end. The fact I have 33 gears rather than 27 is immaterial, it’s just a nice, steady range of gears which are always available. The bar-end front shifter is good too.

The shifter for the Alfine is the standard handlebar one on its side. ICE are awaiting J-Tek (who make bar-end shifters) to produce a bar-end for the Alfine so this is the stop-gap option. However, it’s so comfortable and natural feeling when riding that I suspect I’ll save myself some money by just keeping with this option. Its only disadvantage is that it’s fairly easy to get toggles/bits of clothing caught around it when you stand up.

Both those photos seem to obscure the upshifter lever which is behind and to the right of the downshifter one (the large vertical lever you can see). So there are two levers, the ‘down’ you push away from you with your thumb, the ‘up’ you pull towards you with your forefinger, and as fitted there both levers are naturally where your hands fall. You can also just see the orange indicator thingie to let you know what gear you’re in.

You can just see it in this picture (‘scuse the top of my head in the mirror!)

I did find my hands became uncomfortable towards the end of the Dunwich Dynamo – I realised that I used to rest my hand on the collar of the Grip-Shift shifters on the Trice Q and not having that on the Sprint is slightly less comfortable, but this was a 95 miles ride and I don’t usually go that far in one go so I imagine I’ll get accustomed to it.

Dynamo and Light
I’ve got many friends who are audaxers and they all seem to have Schmidt SON dynohubs with Busch & Müller lights. I now know why.

My light was so bright that on the Dunwich Dynamo I had several people cycle alongside me (at my tortoise-like pace) presumably so that they could actually see where they were going. The light illuminated the country lanes beautifully – I never felt like I couldn’t see where I was going or that I didn’t have enough light. I had a backup head torch in case I got a puncture but it wasn’t needed and I certainly don’t need to supplement the front light for normal running conditions.

The Schmidt hub is a special one for trikes and is a fairly neat and unobtrusive bit of kit. I suppose it must make a very minor difference to the rolling of the trike (i.e. create a fraction more work) but I can’t notice anything at all when riding it; my trike does still pull to the right as a result of the spoke lacing not being quite right, but I have already learned to subconsciously compensate for this when steering so I don’t notice it at all unless I take both hands off the handlebars (which one does quite often on a trike, to adjust clothing or whatever).

I think the absolute optimum option would be a Schmidt on both sides – one side to power the front (and rear if desired) light, the other one connected up to a Busch & Müller E-Werk which provides a USB charging point for various gadgetry. If you go cycle camping it would be ideal. Come to think of it, do you think ICE would notice if, when they send me the new wheel-with-hub, I send back the old wheel-without-hub so I can end up with two hub dynamos?

Quiet running
My old Trice Q was noisy and rattly, particularly with the mudguards on (so I tended to use it without them). A lot of the noise was from the chain through the chain tubes and this was the same when I fitted new chain tubes after about 18,000 miles. The rear freehub sounds like a machine gun on freewheel and there are general creaks and groans from the seat/rear suspension which are, I imagine, complaints about having travelled 25,000 miles with me as a heavy weight on it.

This Trice Sprint seems almost silent in comparison. Chain noise through the chain tubes is minimal, the freewheel is quieter (although much stiffer with the Alfine), the mudguards are currently rattle-free and the seat doesn’t complain so much about me moving around on it. Almost all the noise coming from the trike seems to be tyre roar. It’s so peaceful!

Overall, this has been yet another great purchase from Inspired Cycle Engineering. It definitely helped that I had experience of trikes so that I could decide what suits me best – the hub gear, for example. I imagine it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it’s just great for me.

I attempted to ride the Dunwich Dynamo on it last Saturday (five days after completing building it) but in the end only managed 95 of the 120 miles. This was no reflection on the trike which was brilliant, it was more that I was so sleepy that, at the 40 miles to go point, when I knew that I was only 15 miles from home, I decided to take the easier option. It was a very handy ride, though, as a shakedown ride – nothing shook down, all was fine, I had no mechanical issues and I found the seat exceptionally comfortable.

My previous trike cost £1,900 with about another £200 for extras after I bought it (radical sidepods, chainring guard, etc). This new ICE Sprint has been rather more pricey – £3,646.31 for the trike as delivered in the box, plus £35 for pedals, £57 for the B&M Lumotec IQ Cyo Senso Plus light, £47 for bar-end mount and cycle computer mount, about £20 in total for bottle cage, bottle and mirror, £15 for my naff cycle computer, so Alfie is working his way steadily towards 4k. I have robbed from the other trike the Garmin mount, a mirror, some high-vis reflectivity and lots of other peripherals (decent panniers, various SPD shoes etc) that I would have had to buy new if this were my first trike. So it’s not a cheap hobby but boy is it fun! And I imagine if I’d done the 25,000 miles from the last trike in the car instead I would have been much worse off. But what price fun, health and freedom? Alfie is definitely worth it!

Various people wanted to know the prices of the individual pieces of kit, so here they are:

Your Sprint RS in [colour] package consists of:
1 Sprint frame and boom Red 638.81
1 Back end – 20 inch suspension – red 307.88
1 Seat pack (incl mounts) – mesh 163.69
1 Drivetrain – J.Tek left barend, Alfine 11 shifter right 172.92
1 Chainset/front mech – 170 firex + X7 136.16
1 20″ rear wheel with Alfine 11, fitting kit & Racer tyre 471.78
1 Sprint 20″ Chain tube pack with chain 84.09
1 Brake Pack BB7 tektro lever 119.01
1 Complete V brake parking brake Production 13.44
1 ICE Kingpost per pair – 2010 aluminium – IS calliper 120.77
1 Axles – disc brake 23.70
0.5 RIGHT disc front wheel with tube and marathon racer 77.43
2 Sticker – Sprint RS 2.73
1 Flexibility pack 20″ susp (FMG, RMG, CRG, Rack + Sides) 278.59
1 Convenience pack – MESH (FLM, Neck Rest – Mesh – QR 111.59
1 Left Side Schmidt dyno hub wheel with tyre and tube 299.27

These prices are all excluding VAT (add another 20%), and please note that the half a wheel is because the front wheels come in a pack of two and I only had one ‘standard’ wheel, not that it’s a semicircle!




Pulling to the right… (21 July 2011)

Well Neil from ICE phoned yesterday wanting to talk a little more about the pulling-to-the-right issue with my trike as he was less convinced it had anything to do with the dynohub.

After various measurings and other experiments, including an attempt by me to film the trike pulling to the right (firstly the camera refused to go into video mode, then the trike refused to pull to the right), Neil went and experimented with various trikes at their factory and discovered that the left hand brake cable might be the culprit. It is routed in front of the track rod on the left hand side so it lies against it and might affect the steering.

So I trotted out into the back garden again and disconnected the lhs brake. Before doing anything else I took the bike for a push along the garden – and it went straight! Marvellous!

I then worked out a nice loose routing position for the cable, reconnected it, did the push test again (still straight) and felt most pleased with this easy fix. I then did the other side (still fine afterwards) and am about to take it out for a proper ride but it appears the quite strong pulling-to-the-right tendency was caused by just one brake cable. Who would have thought! Congrats to ICE again for getting to the bottom of the issue on the end of the telephone.


  1. Hi Hellen,
    I really enjoyed this ‘show-and-tell’ ! I’m envious. just watching you unwrap that parcel almost made me want to put my order in straight off. I am especially interested in your comments re the internal gear hub. How does the bottom gear compare to your old trike ? I don’t know if dynamos have really changed much–years ago I had one on my bike and used to notice the drag when it was in operation. Perhaps you need a solar panel. Anyway lovely to look and read your comments and to see the whole family so involved.


  2. A lovely read Helen, thanks.

    I’ve put my tyre levers, inner tubes, (park self-adhesive) patches and multi-tool is the seat pocket, and often keys and a few odds and ends as well. The inner tubes I’ve taken out of their boxes, unfolded and refolded (into 3 IIRC) so they’re slightly shorter than the pocket. I’ve wrapped them in cling film so they stay folded.I can’t feel them when riding my Trice T so it works for me.
    The pump is clipped next to the front water bottle.

  3. First blog I have read and felt like I was with you all the way…. Brilliant, and a nice ‘bike’
    Well done you for building it all.
    Just for info, I have had cars that have done less miles than you cover on your bike…puts me to shame really.


  4. Hi Helen
    This is a really good visual diary of how your ICE trike was assembled, I enjoyed reading it a lot. I have just bought an ICE Adventure RS, but I got mine through my local bike shop, and had them put it together for me. I spent the afternoon watching it being assembled, and I’m glad I didn’t attempt it myself. It’s my first trike, and I love it! I’m not sure now that even if I could go back to riding my uprights, that I would want to!

  5. Very much enjoyed your story. My 06 T has almost 20,000 miles and I am still loving it. I know what you mean about rear derailers. That is why I have learned to do my own repairs. Enjoy your new ride.

  6. Hi Helen, really enjoyed reading your blog. I too am in North Essex and I think I’ve seen you on occasion riding around the Colchester area? I have a QNT (youngest son is using it at the moment in Kent) but I’m thinking of ordering a SprintX with Rolloff, so was very interested in how you enjoyed the hub gearing. My main tourer is a DF Van Nicholas with Rolloff and belt drive (that’d be handy on a trike too).
    See you around sometime.

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