Category Archives: Trike maintenance

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):

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


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.


Filed under Recumbent Trikes, Trike maintenance

Replacing the track rods on my ICE Sprint

A long, long time ago (well, August 2013, i.e. six months ago) I realised that the ball joints on my track rods on my ICE Sprint trike had got rather worn. This meant that they wobbled around a bit and consequently the trike’s tracking was rather variable. In other words, if you stood between the two front wheels on the trike you could pull them towards you or push them away from you a couple of millimetres. They should always be parallel and shouldn’t move independently of each other.

I contacted ICE who sent me replacement track rods. However I was a bit nervous about doing this job as the allen bolts holding the old track rods in the ball joints were hugely corroded and didn’t look like they would undo (I didn’t try very hard as I didn’t want to break anything). Neil at ICE sent me replacement bolts in case I had to drill these out (worst case scenario).

I procrastinated and procrastinated but realised I needed to get this job done before I flee to the continent (move to Germany to live for a while) as all our tools are here. So today was the day – a sunny if slightly chilly March day to do a bit more trike maintenance.

This was a two stage operation – removing the old track rods and fitting the new ones, and then tracking the wheels so that they are pointing the same way.

Replacing the old track rods

This was what I was worried about – would these things come off!

1 Old Track Rods

This is the trike lying on its side and the track rod (the straight black bit of pipe between the two arrows) is the thing I need to remove. It’s theoretically a simple removal – just undoing the two bolts indicated by the red arrow.

It’s fairly obvious these are made of different metals – the top one is very corroded (I had tried to remove it six months ago and it didn’t budge) and the bottom one still looks pretty pristine silver colour. Mind you, the one lower down in the picture doesn’t get splashed much whereas the top one gets lots of muck off the wheels and brakes.

We sprayed the allen bolts with GT85 before we started to see if this would help.

Rather surprisingly, I was able to undo both bolts without too much difficulty. I had to use more torque on the top one than I had used before as it didn’t matter if I ‘broke’ it (I had replacements from ICE) but in the end it undid OK.

When I took it off the wheel flopped to the side rather drunkenly!

3 Wheel without track rods

And here is the old one beside the new one.

2 New and old Track Rods

Notice a rubber collar thingy on the bottom (new) one? this is an enhancement by ICE, a set of gaiters which roll over into place once the track rod is fitted to protect the area and stop it corroding. Yet another example of ICE’s attention to detail.

So now it was time to work out which way round to put the track rod (so that the thread was in the right direction) and then screw it in place with the new bolts.

Here is the new track rod attached at the handlebar end.

4 New Track rod in situ 1

And here it is at the wheel end.

5 New Track rod in situ Wheelside 2

We then repeated this procedure on the other side – stage 1 was complete!

Tracking the wheels of the trike

Rather fortuitously, ICE Trikes have developed a Youtube video which explains how to do this very task in detail.

James and I had watched this before we began. They suggest various tools to help you and we were able to find suitable ratchet straps and a couple of rulers to help measure the distances between the wheels and the frames to line things up.

So first of all the set the handlebars to parallel to the crossbeam of the frame so that nothing would move around.

6 Preparing for tracking

We had also removed the tyres to make it easier to measure between the wheel and the frame.

The tracking procedure involves ensuring that the front wheels are toed in ever so slightly so that when the rider sits on them and adds weight they splay out to perfectly straight. This means you need the gap between the rear edges of the wheels to be 2mm wider than the gap between the front edges.

With a few twists of the track rods we lined it all up (it wasn’t that difficult) and then tightened the track rod bolts so they couldn’t move any further.

Here it is all done and ready for a test ride (I hadn’t yet put the gaiters over the ball joints – I wanted to ensure everything worked properly first).

7 Track rods fitted ready for test ride

8 Track rods fitted ready for test ride

Please excuse the muddy seat – the dog jumped all over it when she had mucky paws.

I had a very enjoyable ten mile ride to check everything out. The trike seemed really quiet (it had developed a slight rattle with the old track rods being worn) and it also felt somehow firmer/more stable – I suppose the steering previously had a very slight shimmy.

We have noticed that the bearing in the nearside front wheel is a little worn so I’ll probably need to get that changed but it’s not a major undertaking (as far as I am aware – I did it on the old trike OK), but overall the steering feels much more direct and precise now.

Once I returned home it was time to tip Alfie on his side to wrestle with the gaiters. This was the hardest job of all, getting the little rubber covers over the ball joints. There were four and it took me about fifteen minutes but in the end I managed it.

Here is the wheel side joint:

9 ICE rubber cover

And here is the view from above – you can see how nicely the underside is protected from the elements now.

10 New track rods and covers

And this is a worm’s eye view!

11 Worm's eye view

So all in all this was a pretty easy job, it probably took us an hour in total including removing the tyres. I also gave Alfie a wash beforehand as he was filthy after riding through all the rain we’ve had this winter. He’s almost ready for his new life in Germany now!


Filed under Alfie the Trike, Recumbent Trikes, Trike maintenance

Alfie gets another Alfine

Long-term readers of my blog will know that Alfie, my ICE Sprint, had his hub gear internals changed in September 2011, after I’d ridden him a 1300 miles, due to skipping of gears/slipping into neutral.

The new hub gear worked fine and I got quite adept at the oil changes and even changed the sprocket (see various blog posts). 17,000 miles passed, and I noticed that when I did an oil change in late August 2013 that I wasn’t able to get that much oil out. I’d seen some evidence of it oozing out over time (I had to occasionally wipe traces of oil from the outside of the hub) but wasn’t particularly worried.

I happened to send an email to my contact Huw at Madison to ask him if this was normal. I’d read reports on the web of people with Alfine-11s having a bit of oil loss when the bikes were stored lying down. Obviously that’s never the case with Alfie, his rear wheel is always vertical (except when I fold him which is for very short distances in the car and only occasionally) so that wasn’t likely to be the problem for me. But I wasn’t unduly concerned, just thought I’d send Huw an email to check.

He replied that it shouldn’t leak but that Shimano had changed the seals they use on the hub now. He offered to swap the seals for me sometime so we arranged for my wheel to go to him when I was having a short holiday in Germany in early December and wouldn’t be using the trike.

So Alfie’s rear wheel returned to Madison on Milton Keynes for the third time in early December.

Huw had a look and sent me the following message:

Bad news I’m afraid, I’ve discovered the cause of the leak from your hub, but it’s not going to be repairable.

Unfortunately the disc rotor mount has split from the main body of the hub, I’ll have to strip your wheel down and rebuild it for you.

If your happy with me sorting it all out then I can go ahead but it may take a bit longer than expected. Should be back with you early next week?

So that was a bit of a surprise, particularly as I don’t have a disc rotor on the rear wheel so the mount is entirely unused. He explained further:

It is interesting as to how it’s failed, I’m not quite sure what’s gone on, Shimano will want to see it back.

To be fair, you probably wouldn’t have seen it, if you’ve not got a rotor installed then there is a little black cover that goes over it (which was installed).

And then he made another offer:

Having looked at your hub to strip down the spokes/nipples, it looks like your rim is probably on it’s way out, the braking surface is pretty worn.
Would you be able to see if ICE have a replacement wheel available for you? I can cover the cost of the wheel under warranty for you.

It’s worth noting here that the rear rim only has the parking brake, not brakes for normal use, so it’s impressive that I’ve worn the rim out. However this can be explained by the fact I often forget to take the brake off and ride for a mile or two thinking it’s very hard work and my legs are rubbish before I realise! I haven’t been that good at adjusting it to hold very tightly so you can actually move the trike with the brake on.

I agreed to the new rim and spokes (very sensible plan!) and contacted ICE who sent Huw the rim and spokes directly and explained to him how it’s all laced (not as you lace a usual bike rear wheel as it has almost no dishing).

He sent me a message to say the rim and spokes had arrived and then gave me another option:

Did you want a black or silver hub? (you had silver originally but black is available too).

Well of course I went for black for the variety (and it might not look so dirty!).

So after a couple of days the parcel came from Madison, extremely well wrapped up with sticky tape!

Madison Box

And inside was my shiny new wheel with shiny new hub.

New Wheel 2

New Wheel 1

I fitted the wheel back on Alfie and all looked great.

New Alfine Hub Gear A

I’ve now ridden Alfie with the new hub gear for 350 miles and it’s working really well. It’s a little bit smoother than the old hub (which had covered a fair distance), although it’s still in its running in period. I’ll need to do an oil change on it in another 500 or so miles.

It’s looking a bit muddier now, of course, but I like the black colour very much!

New Alfine Hub Gear 1

New Alfine Hub Gear 2

Thanks again to Huw at Madison who has been so brilliantly helpful to me over several years. I wrote a letter to the Chief Executive of Madison praising Huw’s helpfulness so hopefully he got a bit of credit for all the advice and support he’s given me. He did tell me that he’s now changed his job within Madison and is no longer in the Warranty department so I hope that Alfie’s new hub behaves itself so I don’t have to contact a new person at Madison and start annoying them! Mind you, with my new velomobile I expect Alfie will get less use so hopefully the hub will have an easier time of it.

Once again, full marks to Madison for customer service – they have been brilliant.

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Recumbent Trikes, Trike maintenance

40,000 miles and a change of tyres

I’ve cycled a fair distance in the last five years – 42,000 miles – and have done the vast majority of that distance on one type of tyre, the ever-popular Schwalbe Marathon. But six weeks ago I decided it was time for a change, and time to fit the Panaracer Minits Tough tyres that I had bought two years ago after a recommendation from fellow trike rider John Eady.

Left to right: Panaracer Minits Tough; Schwalbe Marathon; Schwalbe Marathon Plus

Left to right: Panaracer Minits Tough; Schwalbe Marathon; Schwalbe Marathon Plus

The previous 40,000 miles hadn’t been entirely with Schwalbe Marathons though. The trikes were originally supplied with Schwalbe Marathon Racers (the ‘faster’ version) but I found they were puncture prone and swapped them for something a bit better after 1,000 miles on the original trike, especially as they were already down to the canvas at that point. My second trike kept its original Marathon Racers for 500 miles until I had two punctures in one ride on those and I took them off and swapped for Marathons.

I’ve also run Schwalbe Big Apple tyres (which are extra fat and comfy) on the old Trice Q for 1,000 miles but they, too, suffered from early wear and less puncture resistance and they were also really hard to get on the rims evenly – they often had buckles in the sidewall which were very awkward to get out.

After several people had recommended Schwalbe Marathon Pluses I also tried those.


Never again! They may be virtually puncture proof (although I did get one puncture with them) but they are very hard to fit and the rolling resistance is awful – you feel like you’re cycling through treacle the whole time! They knocked a mile per hour off my average speed which was far too much, especially as a puncture repair only takes about ten minutes and I sometimes didn’t have punctures on normal Marathons for several months. The 1mph off my average speed for a month works out at nearly six hours of extra riding each month for the distances I was regularly doing!


So anyway, I’ve done about 36,000 miles overall on the reliable and reasonably puncture-resistant Marathons. I like them!

After 3,000 miles of riding they can look like this though:



Where I live we are ‘blessed’ with country lanes with millions of tiny flints. The Marathon tyres pick up the flints and embed them in the rubber but rarely let them right through, fortunately!


However, if you do get a puncture it’s important to find the corresponding sharp spot in the tyre to remove the flint or thorn that is almost certainly embedded in the tyre else you will get another puncture immediately with your fresh tube.

The Advantages of Marathons:

  • Comfy – I buy the 1.5 inch wide versions which are narrower than some but they still give a comfortable ride
  • Fitting – they go on the rim fairly easily and don’t seem to get the awkward buckles that I get with the Big Apples, for example
  • Puncture resistant Greenguard – this is fairly effective.
  • Rolling resistance – not too bad, you don’t feel like you’re having to work too hard to get the trike moving.
  • Longevity – these tyres last for 3-4 thousand miles on my front wheels which is fairly good. Obviously in winter they get more cut up but in summer they do very well. The rear tyre lasts between 6 and 10 thousand miles usually (it has less weight/wear).

Still, it’s always nice to have a change and I’d heard a lot about how different tyres can help you to go faster. I’m more tortoise than hare so faster sounded good.

I had bought the Panaracers two years ago and immediately thought ‘they are too thin to provide any puncture resistance’ so had put them in the shed and mostly forgotten about them. However, we appeared to be in a bit of heatwave with no rain at all and I thought the sunny, dry conditions were ideal for fast racing tyres and so I’d give them a go.

What are the Panaracer Minits Tough like?

They look good!


Note that there is no reflective sidewall detail so these would not work well for me in Germany (I’d have to buy some spoke reflectors instead if I wanted the trike to have these in the Fatherland).

They also run at higher pressures than the Schwalbe Marathons – between 65 and 100 PSI (4.5-7 bar).

As a consequence the ride is harder and rougher but definitely quicker!

There was also a slight issue of failing puncture repairs at this high pressure. I usually patch my tubes over a dozen times before throwing them away – the patches generally work really well. However when I first fitted the Panaracers and pumped them up to 85psi it caused one of the patches to fail and I had to change the tube. This patch had worked perfectly well in the Marathons at 60psi.

They were 1.25″ wide rather than the 1.5″ of the Marathons, 1.75″ of Marathon Pluses and 2″ of the Big Apples. This meant I had to do a whole new lot of bike computer calibration to to Garmin satnav as my wheel diameter had changed!

They were also significantly lower profile. This meant they looked pretty smart!


However the low profile had both advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage was in cornering as they cornered much better; the Marathons tend to squirm around a bit if you corner really fast on an adverse camber but these Panaracers felt more secure and solid. They were much sharper turning in and had less understeer – they made the trike feel more stable (not that it feels unstable usually).

The disadvantage was that I had more examples of heelstrike, something I get occasionally on the trike (my heel hits the floor during the pedal stroke because of a bump or something). This happened far more with the Panaracers. It’s never a real problem, as such, but can be a bit startling.

The Panaracers are very easy to get on and off the wheel rims. I can get them on just using my hands (I don’t need tools) and they are easy to get off using a tyre lever. Comparing this with various travails with Schwalbe Marathon Pluses was quite interesting!

One extremely noticeable difference between the two types of tyres was the noise. Finally my trike made that high-pitched whooshing sound rather than the deep rumble that normally followed me around. The slick tyres at high pressure with a hard rubber compound sounded utterly different – they sounded fast. They also sounded rather noisy, particularly when riding in situations were you could hear echoes (such as beside brick walls) and it was something it took me a long time to get used to.

The tyres were £22 each when I bought them two years ago so more expensive than the Marathons but I thought it worth a punt.

So overall I liked them and I particularly liked the increase in my average speed by 0.7mph. Over my average of 750 miles per month that’s a not inconsiderable time saving. It was great to go out on a thirty mile ride and to average over 13mph for the whole ride – when I started triking five years ago I would be lucky to average 10mph for that distance, so I was now saving nearly forty minutes on that distance.

However there was one big problem with these tyres, best exemplified by this photograph.

Flat Panaracer Minits 2

This was a very familiar sight, both in my shed (like here) and out and about on the roads.

In the dry the tyres were reasonable, getting punctures now and again but generally being reasonably reliable as long as I didn’t go off road or through gravelly patches, but as soon as it rained… pfffffffft, instant puncture! I’m writing this blog post on a rainy day when I had three punctures in 18 miles – that’s no fun at all!

One advantage of the tyres not having a puncture guard layer is that the flint or thorn or whatever causes the puncture isn’t usually in the tyre any longer when you go to change the tube so getting back on the road is quick, but today’s punctures two and three were caused by the same tiny flint, so it’s not always the case!

I also found that after just 1,203 miles (when I changed the Panaracers and put Marathons back on) that there were some pretty significant cuts on them.

Cut Panaracer 1

This deep slice had actually been on this tyre for three weeks and hadn’t caused a problem but the tyre is bulging a bit at this point and I expected it to fail in the near future if I hadn’t taken the tyres off.

Cut Panaracer 2

And the real evidence of the puncture situation is here, in my little spreadsheet of all punctures for Alfie the trike. Notice how the Panaracers seemed to struggle on the left hand wheel which is usually in the cleaner road surface. When I fitted them I’d had 2,488 miles without a puncture and I had an instant patch fail with the new tyres – the maximum distance I travelled between punctures was 399 miles – not good. I once did 6,200 miles between punctures on Schwalbe Marathons on the old trike.

Bike Spreadsheet - Alfie punctures

So despite enjoying my extra 0.7mph average speed with these tyres, as soon as the rain falls I end up at the side of the road changing the tube or (as happened today) phoning home for the Broom Wagon. The tyres are fast, good at cornering, easy to get on and off and a fair price but I feel that after 1,000 miles they have too many cuts and holes and that I want to be able to ride in drizzle or rain without being concerned that I’ll get yet another puncture.

So what for next summer?

A very kind Dutch velomobile rider gave me a set of Schwalbe Kojak tyres which are fast but look to have a harder and thicker compound. Next summer I shall try those and see how it goes. I won’t be buying the Panaracer Minits Tough tyres again.

I am also aware that Schwalbe now do the Tryker, a tyre especially for trikes. This is now the standard tyre that ICE fit when supplying their new trikes. I expect I’ll buy a pair of these to try out in the near future.

Oh, and throughout all this the rear tyre has stayed as a normal Marathon. I change the rear tyre every 6,000 miles or so and the current one’s been on since May (2,500 miles) and looks pristine.


Filed under Alfie the Trike, Recumbent Trikes, Trike maintenance

How to remove a stubborn wheel

Alfie the trike has now covered 15,000 miles in two years. This has included cycling through snow, much rain and, last month, flooded cycle paths in Germany.

Before I went on my Konstanz to Koblenz cycle tour I did a bit of trike servicing and discovered that I couldn’t remove my front right hand wheel, the one with the SON XS-M dynohub (a wheel hub which contains magnets and other gadgetry to power my front headlight).

I didn’t try very hard to remove the wheel as I didn’t want to damage the trike before the tour. However, upon my return it was time to try again.

The problem was that I had last removed the wheel in September 2012 when packing the trike into the car for the journey back from Koblenz. Subsequent to that I had ridden all winter without taking the wheel off (you don’t need to in order to fix punctures). It was highly likely that some corrosion had got in there and caused the problem over the preceding seven months.

Option 1 – give the axle a whack with a hammer

To remove the wheel you first need to take off the disc brake caliper (which is easy enough, just removing two bolts) and then you have to undo the allen bolt and a little metal hoop which allows the cable for the dynohub to escape. So that’s unscrewing the silver bit on the right and then removing the cone-shaped stopper and the silvery metal bit inboard of that as well.

trike 1

When these extra bits were removed you are left with simply the wheel on its axle going through the bottom of the kingpost and the cable dangling free below.

trike 2

I had disconnected the cable from the other end which leads to the light. I had also liberally applied GT85 oil over the previous couple of days to try to make things a bit slipperier.

Generally speaking I’m not one for hitting my trikes with a hammer but it seemed the obvious thing to do – we put a block of wood against the metal end of the axle bolt and tap it with a hammer to try to push it through without damaging the end of the axle bolt.

No joy.

Time to phone ICE.

Option 2 – give the axle a whack with a hammer following the manufacturer’s advice

So I got on the phone to ICE (Neil Selwood) as usual. They are very familiar with me ringing up for different issues.

Neil said they had had another stuck SON dynohub and had managed to free it using the hammer method but rather than hitting a block of wood, which would distribute the force rather widely, they recommended screwing in a sacrificial bolt and hitting that – the shock would hopefully break the corrosion and dislodge the axle bolt from the holder.

He also commented that ICE think the SON Dynohub axle is just fractionally larger than ICE’s own axle bolt and that they recommend reaming out the axle a little.

So James and I found a sacrificial bolt of the right size (which took a fair while as it’s larger than the usual zillions of spare bolts we have lying about the place), screwed it in to the end of the axle bolt and hit it sharply with a hammer. Many times.

No joy.

It made a nice mess of the head of the sacrificial bolt though so we were clearly doing something. Unfortunately that ‘something’ did not involve releasing the wheel which was as firmly stuck as it had been before we started thwacking the axle bolt.

Option 3 – Send it back to ICE?

In my phone conversation Neil had said that if I had no joy with the hammer then I could send the wheel back to ICE (I’d have to disconnect the kingpost and trackrods which I had never done but I assumed wasn’t too tricky).

This would clearly involve being without the wheel for a few days and as the weather was nice at the moment I decided I’d put this off until we had a weather forecast of rain for a few days.

Option 4 – find a friendly motorcycle mechanic

However, another option appeared rather unexpectedly.

A year ago I had got chatting to some people at Boxted Airfield (a World War 2 American airbase six miles from my home) after my husband and I had visited the museum there and had a good look around. They had asked why I had a German flag on my trike and I told them I’d just cycled from Berlin to London. To cut a long story short, they asked if I’d do a talk on my cycle ride for the Boxted Airfield Historical Group. Which I said I was very happy to do, but which ended up being scheduled for mid June 2013, well over a year after my Berlin to London ride.

Anyway, I went ahead and gave my talk a couple of weeks ago to a very friendly group of people at the Airfield. My trike was with me, of course, and I talked to lots of members of the Historical Group after the event. I must have mentioned to someone about my problems removing the wheel as a chap came up to me, gave me his card and said he was an experienced classic motorcycle mechanic and might be able to help. I took his card, thinking I might contact him if I couldn’t fix this myself (this was before I had tried option 2).

So anyway, having failed to remove the wheel after several days of trying it and with the probability of having to send the trike wheel to ICE (and thus a 3-4 day stretch with no trike thus no cycling, not good) I thought it worth phoning Mick Whitnell, this motorcycle mechanic chappie (who also turned out to have been a very decent time trialler some years ago before ill health ended his cycle racing).

Mick said he was very happy to have a look at Alfie the trike and see if he could sort this out for me and we fixed up for me to go over there on Thursday morning (yesterday) with Alfie in the car.

I rang ICE the day before to see what they might suggest someone with a garage full of tools could do to release my wheel and they said basically just the hammer on the bolt option. If that didn’t work for ICE then they’d cut away the axle around the bolt and provide a new one. They thought it unlikely a motorcycle mechanic would be able to sort this for me.

So I have to admit a certain element of doubt that my trip to Tiptree (where Total Traction are based) would be successful.

I was clearly wrong in one respect as when James and I arrived in the car (with Alfie in the boot), we were greeted by Mick and his wife and they had provided us with some cakes!!!!!

trike cake

This is because my Berlin to London talk made lots of mention of nice cakes and both Mick and his wife were there. It was extremely kind of them to provide cakes for James and I and we enjoyed eating them, drinking tea and looking at Mick’s Kirk Precision bikes (magnesium ones).

After the cake was all gone it was time to have a go at Alfie’s wheel. We lifted him up onto Mick’s workbench and chocked up the relevant side so the wheel spun freely.

trike on workbench

He had a quick look at the wheel after I removed the brake caliper and other items, trying to explain with my lack of technical terminology the problem, and said “I have just the tool for that!”

ball joint remover

A ball joint remover!

He fitted another sacrificial bolt on the end of the axle bolt and then fixed the tool in, slowly turning the bolt to open it out and ease the bolt through the axle.

trike wheel 1

trike wheel 2

We were chatting away as Mick was doing this, discussing his time trialling and talking about his Kirk Precision bike, at which point he commented “that’s working OK”.

Lo and behold, indeed it was – the axle bolt was definitely not sticking out as far as it had been!

trike wheel 3

Mick had to use longer and longer bolts screwed into the axle bolt so that the tool could grip it OK without crimping the electrical cable from the hub.

When I saw it was at this point I asked if I could just pull the wheel out but Mick said no, it’d still be very difficult to pull (although I think it was because he was worried I might fall backward with the wheel in my arms into his shelving racking with various motorbike bits on it).

trike wheel 4

You can see the corrosion and the remnants of some kind of dried grease on the axle there.

Mick kept on, slowly but surely easing the axle bolt out, until – success!

trike wheel 5

And here is a view I wasn’t expecting to see for a while – the inside edge of my dynohub wheel! Showing very much the result of two winters of riding through bad weather.

trike wheel 6

Mick cleaned up the wheel a bit and then it was time to have a look at the axle.

trike wheel 7

You can see that the ball joint remover has slightly bitten into the metalwork on the outside of the axle but this is no problem at all.

There was a lot of roughness and grot in the axle so Mick found his dentist’s drill (that wasn’t what it was called but it sounded rather like one) and the right size cleaning head and did a bit of dental surgery on Alfie.

trike wheel 8

trike wheel 9

When everything was all clean and tidy Mick used some special brake grease stuff to lubricate the axle bolt and fixed the wheel back on (he also gave me a couple of packets of this grease to use in future. And it was made by the company Würth and I remember cycling past their huge factory one day during my Konstanz to Koblenz ride).

I refitted the brake caliper and rejoined the dynohub cable and we were good to go.

Mick had a little ride around the cul-de-sac where he lives to experience the fun of a trike, which was all the payment he would accept for doing all this work on my trike. We were there for two hours in total although we were probably chatting rather than doing bike maintenance for a fairly significant portion of that time!

Huge thanks to Mick (and his wife) for their hospitality, the cakes and, of course, for removing my stubborn wheel for me! If you need your motorcycle serviced, repaired, prepared for racing or anything, I can recommend getting in touch with Total Traction in Tiptree at

There’s always something else to do though…

My dynamo headlight was being a bit flaky on my ride home from Tiptree and eventually stopped working. It had worked at Mick’s (although had been a bit reluctant there) so it was likely to be a problem with the connector which is usually left entirely alone but had been detatched a couple of times over the last week.

Sure enough, when James my husband (conveniently an electronic engineer) took the cable apart to have a look it we discovered the pins from one side had snapped off into the sockets on the other side. No surprises really as the visible cable, when we unscrewed the housing, was an unfortunate green colour! The connector was past it – too much water ingress I suppose, and then I’d been undoing it and snapping it together again over the last few days trying to remove the wheel.

cable 1

cable 2

We clearly needed a new connector but as I wanted to use the bike that evening in the dark (and we didn’t have a spare connector in stock) James decided to just solder the cable together for me for the time being.


He soldered the two bits of cable and, after that was done, wrapped them in insulating tape for the time being.

soldering 2

Then it was time to find a replacement connector. They have to be pretty thin as they must thread through the axle (which is 12mm in diameter, I believe). I did a few internet searches with no success due to not knowing exactly what I was asking for. Then it occurred to me to email the manufacturer of the dynohub, Wilfried Schmidt Maschinenbau.

I fished out my very comprehensive German dictionary and looked up the word for “connecting widget” (“Verbindungsstecker”) and “connecting pins” (“Steckerstifte”) and fired off an email to them in German asking for advice on where to get these.

The response came within twenty minutes:

vielen Dank für den schönen Bericht in gutem deutsch!
SON XS-M Stecker sind in England über SJS Cycles lieferbar. Schau mal bei
sortiere nach Preis von unten nach oben. Danke!
Die Stecker haben innen jeweils 4 Pole: immer 2 zusammenlöten und mit jeweils einem Leiter aus dem Koaxialkabel verbinden.
Viel Erfolg dabei!

I had a look and you have to buy both a male and a female plug at £7.99 each (plus presumably P&P) so James is thinking he might cobble together his own connector using some spare phono or mini-jack plugs as long as they are narrow enough to fit through the axle. That’s his next task. We will also move the connector area to the top of the crosspiece on the trike, so further away from the wheel and higher up/away from floodwater. If we can’t get it to work then we’ll buy the official Verbindungsstecker but this is much more fun!

With a two year old trike that is used daily and has covered 15,000 miles, much of it in bad weather, I do expect maintenance issues, especially as I’m not one to mollycoddle or pamper the trike, but overall everything seems to be holding up very well under the punishment I dish out with my riding/maintenance style. We now know that we should remove the wheels every couple of months to make sure the axles don’t corrode inside again but hopefully that won’t happen again now Mick has cleaned out the axle and given me the magic grease for them too. The front left hand side wheel came off fine when I tried it the other week – but if it has a slightly narrower axle bolt then that may be why.

Thanks once again to ICE for the advice (and the offer of a repair) and of course to Mick for actually fixing this for me. And double bonus that my 12 mile ride back from Tiptree was downwind on a gorgeous day so I had a great bit of cycling too!


Filed under Alfie the Trike, Recumbent Trikes, Trike maintenance

Alfie gets a new chain tensioner

I have mentioned on previous blog posts the problems that I have with the Sora derailleur on my Alfine-11 trike.

You may, of course, ask: “Why does someone with an internal hub gear need a derailleur anyway?” The reason is that I have a triple chainring at the front of the trike and thus need a chain tensioner to take up the variation in chain length when changing these gears (plus when folding the trike as well).

When the trike was originally supplied, ICE felt that, as the Alfine-specific chain tensioner wasn’t rated for a triple chainset like mine, it would be better to fit a derailleur which could handle the different chain lengths, so they fitted a Sora derailleur.

This is how ICE explained fitting the Sora (when discussing it last week):

We used a Sora because it was a reasonable quality and price with sufficient capacity for the clearance needed (by adjusting the B screw)… Shimano also make chain tensioners for the Alfine but they say that the capacity is only for 16T total difference on the front chainset.

I have a 21 or 22T difference on my front chainset which is why they didn’t go for the Alfine chain tensioner.

However, I’ve had trouble with my Sora derailleur over the time I’ve had the trike. One problem is that the clearance isn’t quite right in some cases so the jockey wheel cage rubs against the plastic chain guard (carrier) that keeps the chain around the hub. You can just see the problem at the bottom of this photo.


There was also an appalling tendency, when removing the back wheel, for the jockey wheel cages to grab onto the chain guard and not let go. This was a problem for me when fixing rear wheel punctures or doing other maintenance that necessitated removing the rear wheel.


And this was ICE’s comment about the issue of the jockey wheel cage rubbing on the chain guard/carrier:

Normally the position of the top jockey wheel cage is set by the B screw and winding this in would move it away from the contact point (or away from sprockets). The Sora is designed for a largest sprocket of 27T. The plastic chain guard is less than that equivalent so the Sora should clear OK normally. However, that normal capacity is based on the biggest sprocket position on a cassette whereas the Alfine guard is in roughly the position of something like an 18T sprocket so the parallelogram action may be putting the cage too close.

What this means is that, on a normal bike, as you go to the higher gears at the back – the outer edge nearer the derailleur – there are fewer teeth. My alfine has 18 teeth at the back which is a lot more than some of the smaller chainrings at the rear and as the derailleur doesn’t move outward (doesn’t need to) it isn’t able to clear the chain guard/carrier properly. The Sora derailleur works OK but not brilliantly.

But the biggest problem, and the one that caused me to completely change the chain tensioner, was that my Sora derailleur completely seized up. These things, when on a usual bike, will be almost constantly moving, up and down the gears; on Alfie I cycle 95% of the time in the big ring and the other 5% in the middle ring, I don’t use the granny ring at all. This meant that the derailleur moved only a few times per ride. Combining this lack of movement with me cycling all through a snowy winter when our roads were well salted and by early February the derailleur was completely seized. No matter how much we oiled it and leaned on it, it wouldn’t move. The gear hanger that attaches it to the trike started bending ominously, too, and we were unable to separate the derailleur from the hanger, so it became clear I needed to do something about this.

This was the situation earlier today with the Sora derailleur. I have three photographs of its positioning with the front chainring in the large, middle and granny rings. The Sora derailleur should swing to the left of the photo as I ran down the gears – as you can see in the pictures below, it stayed put and the chain just got slacker and slacker. (The jockey wheel cage section did take up some of the change in chain length but could not cope with the full range of variation).

This is the Sora derailleur when the chain is in the big ring at the front
1 Sora in big ring

This in the middle ring
2 Sora in middle ring

And this in the granny ring – the chain hangs very slack to the right of the photo.
3 Sora in granny ring

Here are all three together (click to enlarge):
3 photos Sora

As mentioned above, I contacted ICE when I realised I was going to have to do some major maintenance on the derailleur to see what they suggested. Neil replied:

Not sure about taking it apart at the pivot for service. I think it may not want to come apart and we have never had a close look to see if that is possible. It is a relatively low end unit and may be riveted up for life. Soaking it in oil should free it up if it was going to but sounds like you have tried that.

He suggested that I buy a replacement Sora from any bike parts shop and fit that, taking careful note of how the original Sora was locket out (by ICE) when I bought the trike.

The next day I telephoned to order a replacement gear hanger and spoke to Neil at ICE (who had sent me the email with info about it all) and he had clearly been thinking a bit more about it all and wondered if maybe the Alfine tensioner might work better for me. Knowing that it didn’t have a wide enough range for a triple chainset is less of an issue if I only use two of the three chainrings (big and middle), and am only ever likely to use the granny ring when going up a colossal hill whereupon I would be going so slowly that a slack chain isn’t the end of the world.

We talked for a long time (Neil is excellent like that!) and he gave me lots of information about what to buy (there are two types of Alfine chain tensioner, I need the CT-500 and not the CT-510) and where to get them from (not currently available in the UK but were available from various German bike shops). He said they were just assembling another trike with an Alfine 11 and were putting a Sora derailleur on it but he would be interested to hear how I got on with the Alfine Chain Tensioner.

I ordered the gear hanger from ICE for just over £10 and the next day it arrived. I also ordered the Alfine Chain Tensioner CT-500 from Bike24 in Germany and it arrived two days later. It actually cost less than a replacement Sora Derailleur, 15 Euros.

And here is the chain tensioner – note that it comes with three shims to help align the tensioner to the chainline. I went for black rather than silver in the hope that it doesn’t show the dirt and oil as much!
4 new alfine chain tensioner

Before we started on fitting the chain tensioner I dealt with something that would probably have caused us lots of annoying splinters – a slight fraying of the gear cable on the Alfine 11. You can see a tiny bit of metal sticking up here. It seems impossible to have your hand anywhere near the back of the trike without that thin metal shard puncturing your finger!

5 alfine cable dodgy end

I had bought some smart red ferrules from eBay so, after trimming the spare cable (it was always too long) we put a nice smart red stopper on it.

6 new red ferrule

I had also done a major service of both brakes including cables (which also got smart red ferrules on, although I will need to replace both cables before next winter as they’re pretty grotty inside).

Anyway, time now to remove the old derailleur.

James was on hand to help me with this as I never seem able to undo quicklinks on the chain. He was able to separate the chain very quickly.

Next task was to take off the right hand side axle bolt and washer so that we could get to the gear hanger. The gear hanger is held on with a small screw.

7 removing gear hanger

Fortunately this undid very easily and wasn’t corroded like most other things I am servicing on the trike seem to be at the moment!

8 removing gear hanger

Off it comes, with its permanently-attached Sora derailleur.
9 removed sora

We fitted the new, shiny gear hanger and put the axle bolt back on (it helps hold the hanger in place).

10 new gear hanger

It was a very simple job to screw the alfine tensioner onto the end of the gear hanger. We squinted a bit at it and decided that the narrow shim (probably 1mm wide) might make things line up marginally better so we put that on, tightened everything up and then James started threading the chain through.
11 alfine CT added

James joined the chain back together and we pedalled the trike, going up and down the front chainrings to see how it worked. “Very well” was the answer!

What was nice was that there was no adjustment of the B screw (there isn’t one!) or any other things to line up – it was just a case of attaching it, re-joining the chain and all is done!

Despite Shimano’s recommendation that 16T is the maximum range, this tensioner seemed perfectly able to cope with my 22T range and in fact had even more movement possible at both extremes of its swing. It was also interesting to note that it doesn’t have any springs involved in the top pivot (where it is screwed into the gear hanger), the only springs are on the jockey cages to tighten those up. The pull of the chain is plenty to move the tensioner as necessary and the forces from the jockey cage springs move it if necessary.

Here you can see three photographs of the tensioner position when the chain is on the three chainrings at the front.

This is when the chain is on the big ring.
12 Alfine CT big ring

This is when the chain is on the middle ring.
13 Alfine CT middle ring

And this shows the position with the chain on the granny ring.
14 Alfine CT granny ring

And here are all three positions for the front chainring (click to enlarge):
3 photos Alfine

After another quick task (tightening the friction shifter on my front chainring bar-end shifters which was also looking rather corroded) Alfie’s fettling session was complete!

After a cycle ride of 24 miles I can report that the new chain tensioner works really well! It makes a slight noise when in the big ring (probably related to the fact that the chain is probably a little bit short) but in the middle ring and granny ring it is completely silent. It holds the chain much tauter, which is good, and the shifts all seem to work well. Overall I am really happy with this change and think it was well worth it!


Filed under Alfie the Trike, Trike maintenance

Alfie gets new teeth – changing the Alfine-11 sprocket

A couple of weeks ago my chain snapped whilst out riding.

After being rescued by car by my husband I changed the chain and did some general trike fettling, after which it became clear the chain was skipping over the rear sprocket (the sprocket had done 11,000 miles and was therefore probably rather worn).

Clearly I needed a new sprocket but had no idea how to go about changing it or whether any old sprocket would do.

So I sent an email to the ever-helpful Huw at Madison and he replied:

Basically, it’s a very easy job, you don’t need any specialist tools, just a few spanners and a screwdriver, you will need to remove the cassette unit (the plastic device that the cable routes into).

After taking the cassette unit off (part CJS-700 on the exploded view) you just need to prise a circlip off with a screwdriver, there should be a few notches in the hub where you can get purchase on the circlip.

Once the circlip is off (the circlip will be very tricky to get off) it is just a matter of taking the sprocket off and replacing it on it’s splines, then re-fitting what you’ve removed.

I have attached the exploded view for your hub and the Service Instructions which briefly explain the task, if you’ve done the servicing I’m sure you will find this an easy task.

So, fortified by the knowledge he thought I’d be fine, I went ahead and ordered a new 18T Alfine Sprocket (part number CS-S500, the Shimano Alfine Single Sprocket with Chain Guide 18 Tooth Black/Silver) which was just £7.99. Not a bad price at all!

The part arrived but I held off doing the sprocket change until a day when my husband would be around to help me. Mindful of Huw’s warning about the circlip I thought trying to do it myself with one weak arm might be a bit risky.

So today was the day – James had a day off work, the sun was shining and it was time to do a bit of trike maintenance!

So this is the view of the trike hub attachment in the lowest gear.


In order to remove the rear wheel you need to first disconnect the cable attachment for the hub gear. You can see here how the cable is attached to the hub – a notch in the hub assembly traps a metal widget.


And from the side.


The trigger shifter shows I am in the lowest gear.

5 Shifter low

In order to disconnect the gear cable and remove the rear wheel you have to first put the hub into top gear (11th). Fortunately with an Alfine you can change gear whilst stationary.

6 Shifter high

And this is what the cable now looks like going into the hub – the rubber bellows have extended and the cable is wrapped right round. The widget holding the cable is now right underneath the hub.


Here is the view from the back.


As the cable is so long it’s easy to grab it and pull and so rotate the gear innards upward, leaving the cable slack. I tend to find with my finger the place where the widget is attached and rotate it round, rather than pulling the cable, but either way works. This way is oilier though!


I’ve rotated the cassette unit right round now (as if it’s in first gear) and you can see how much slack there is in the cable.


It’s easy to pull the cable out of the guide area and disconnect the widget so it’s all loose.


Here is the hub now unattached to its gear cable. I try to put the gear cable out of the way but it has a terrible tendency to get in the way whilst you’re trying to remove the wheel!


Next thing to do is remove the blue and green axle washer thingies so that the wheel can be removed. Green for the right (starboard), blue for the left. You can see on the photos that they have a notch that is what stops the axle turning when you put the wheel in – the central hole is not round but shaped and this keeps the wheel in position. Blue and green washers are for vertical dropouts (which is what I have on my trike).


And here is the axle without the bolts. Note that the bolts are chewing away at my gear hanger!


And the other side (I forgot to clean this side before the photography!)


And now the job I hate – removing the wheel. I find this is always difficult for me, on a trike with a normal derailleur or with a hub gear. There’s something about trying to work your way round a derailleur/chain tensioner that just doesn’t work well for me!

However, on Alfie there is a more significant issue which causes more of a problem – my chain tensioner/Sora derailleur always instantly grips the carrier (the plastic guide either side of the rear sprocket) and won’t let it go.



I struggled with this for five minutes before calling James to help me. He was able to sort it out for me as he’s more adept but this is something that worries me about getting a rear wheel puncture when out on my own – will I manage to get the wheel off on my own? Fortunately I’ve only had 3 rear wheel punctures in 37,000 miles so they aren’t that common (and only one was when I was on my own and I managed).

Part of the problem is that my Sora derailleur has partly seized. When we changed the chain two weeks ago James spent ages freeing it up but once again it doesn’t want to rotate at all – you can see here a photo of the offending bit with an allen key stuck in it (I was hoping to remove it to give it a bit of a clean but it was not possible to undo it).


This bit should swing forward and backward to help tension the chain; it’s stuck in its mostly forward position which means it doesn’t get out of the way properly when trying to remove the wheel (plus the chain is a bit slack when in the granny ring).


And the main reason we’re pretty gentle with it? The gear hanger that it is attached to isn’t as strong as I’d like (I have previously broken one) and I don’t have a spare. I shall get on the phone to ICE and order one before I have a proper go at removing this part but I think this chain tensioner doesn’t like not moving very much.


So I now have a trike minus its rear wheel and after a spot of lunch and a cup of tea it was time to attack the hub.

Here it is in all its glory.


First job is to remove the topmost bit which has the large yellow dot on it.

outer widget

This was dead easy – just rotate it anticlockwise and it undoes.


The next bit to remove is the cassette unit (the thing with the sticking-out arm).

cable arm


This just lifted straight off!


This was all seeming rather easy so far.

Next item is a little rubber ring thingie.

rubber widget


There were warnings on the Shimano info document to put this on the right way up so I carefully placed it on my bit of cardboard so I knew which way up it should be.

And this is what we now have. The sprocket and its carrier are now just held on by the Circlip Of Doom.



Right at the bottom you can see the notch in the circlip. This was all we had to help ease the thing off.

26 second one

James attacked it with a screwdriver.


And then with two…


Success! The thing was removed in just a couple of minutes.


Now the old sprocket just lifted straight off.


Here’s the mucky hub without the sprocket.


Old sprocket (on the left) and new on the right.


We cleaned the spindle etc of oil and gunk and random bits of hair! Much better.



The new, very clean sprocket and its carrier slotted straight on.


And now, the Circlip of Doom.

Taking it off wasn’t as bad as we had feared, putting it back on was a bit of a struggle.

We got it started OK.


And then you get to this point – we had to nudge it down so that it was on the very bottom of the pile of things on the spindle. You can see the two ends of it indicated by the arrows – not there yet!

37 with arrows

And here’s the pic without arrows.


Almost there!


Did it!!! Only took about ten minutes.


So now it’s easy putting it back together – first the rubber ring thingie (that I had kept the correct way up). I cleaned it up a bit before replacing it.


Before I put the cable cassette thingie on I decided to give it a clean.


Couldn’t get all the gunk out so we took it apart (two tiny screws) and that helped a lot.



Once screwed back together again, we just had to line up the red dots on the carrier and the spindle and it all went in place. Then it was lining up the yellow dots for the outer metal widget and everything clicked into place beautifully.


A side view of the lovely clean sprocket!


Now all we had to do was put the wheel back on the trike. This went better than I had expected (well, I got James to help me from the beginning).

The difficulty (apart from fighting with the derailleur/chain tensioner and lots of mucky chain) is ensuring the arm thing is in the correct place. It has a real tendency to twist itself into the wrong position and get stuck. We managed to overcome its perversity this time without too much hassle.

Once the wheel is firmly in place we add the green and the blue non-turn washers either side, then tighten the bolts each side of the axle.

And then the last thing – to attach the gear cable! This involves once again sticking my finger underneath to rotate the top widget thing (with the yellow dot on) to bring it round so that the hole for the cable widget is there and I can slot the cable in. Then it is slowly released and all is done!



I haven’t had a chance to test my new sprocket except for cycling across the front lawn (about 10 metres) but the chain didn’t skip for that distance so it looks like it’s been a success!

[EDIT] All works very well! Took it out for a 26 mile ride today and the new sprocket works excellently [END EDIT]

All in all this was a pretty painless task and not as mucky as I suspected either.

The entire kit that I have removed is available to buy separately for under £14 so I think next time I’ll treat the trike to a new one of these too.

all parts


Filed under Alfie the Trike, Trike maintenance

Alfie – a winter service

It’s 25 January 2013 and I’ve cycled 610 miles this year through snow, rain, slush, mud and more.

The chain on my Sprint (three KMC X9 chains joined together) was looking a bit sad and, when measured, had clearly stretched a fair bit. However I tried to keep it running as with all the salt on the road any new chain would rapidly get very mucky.

I originally bought the replacement chains in September 2012 (at 3000 miles for the old chain, the previous distance they lasted on my Trice Q with rear derailleur) but this chain was clearly lasting a bit better (presumably because of the Alfine hub gear at the back which meant the chain wasn’t continually moving up and down a cassette).

It was looking worse and worse, however, following two weeks of cycling in the snow, 25 miles per day, then putting the trike straight back in the shed covered in muck and going inside for a nice cup of tea.

So it was no great surprise when today the chain started feeling very rough on my morning ride and then it suddenly jammed. I’ve had this before – a broken link – so I stopped beside the road and had a look. This time I could see the chain tubes had disconnected from the mount by the idler and pulled back along the chain in one case and into the idler in the other.

This is a pic of how the chain tubes should be attached to the idler – with clearance between the end of the tube and the idler (this is after I’d repaired it, and without a chain on the trike at the time of the photo).

What had happened is that both chain tubes had moved position; the one at the rear had popped out of the holder and gone towards the rear hub gear. The one at the front had been pushed against the idler and was rubbing against it.

I fixed these (getting impressively oily in the process) but the chain was still not running well. I used a bit more pressure and – *ping* – what I had suspected was the case, a link must have partially broken and got caught in the chain tube, disconnecting it from the idler, and my pulling a little harder meant that it gave up.


Clearly this is a very broken chain!

Although I had hoped to make the chain last until the worst of the cold weather was out of the way, that was clearly not going to happen. Rather than fix this chain with a quicklink and then change it when I got home, I rang for the Broom Wagon (my husband) who came and picked me up.

We removed the old chain and James measured it – it had stretched almost 0.75% according to the Park Tools Chain Checker tool. Pretty past it!

As I was going to have to do the chain I thought it worthwhile to give Alfie a full winter service. It was way too cold outside so I decided to give him a big wash down and then bring him in the kitchen to work on.

So Alfie was duly washed – it’s chilly work when it’s -1 degree outside!


While I was waiting for him to dry I decided to do one of the other little jobs I’ve had for a few weeks – put on my nametag.

Some cycling acquaintances (Loadsabikes and Mr Miggins) had tried Alfie out on a group cycle ride many months ago. Mrs Miggins wondered about turning to the darkside and wanted to try one out. She loved it and in due course bought a second hand Trice Q and I think is enjoying it very much.

As a thankyou (entirely unnecessary!) Mrs Miggins embroidered me a name tag for the seat and Loadsabikes made me an extra long rear mudflap, which I decided to fit today.

But first, the nametag on the seat!



Looking good! I wonder how long it will stay white, though!

After I’d had my lunch it was time to bring Alfie into the kitchen.


I had a handy piece of cardboard in place to catch all the little drops of oil and grot which seem to be part of this kind of job.

I decided that the first job was to put the new rear mudflap onto Alfie. This requires removal of the back wheel and it’s much easier to do this without a chain.

So I disconnected the Alfine gear cable, undid the two axle bolts and attempted to remove the wheel. Which really didn’t want to come out. I called for James to help me and between the two of us we eventually managed to remove it but it was weird that it had been so difficult. We later on discovered why.

So here is Alfie’s back end minus a wheel. I did some wheel cleaning whilst James found his tools to fit the mudflap.


The first thing we needed to do was remove the old mudflap which required us to drill out the old rivet. This took a surprisingly long time and lot of force! However we eventually managed it.

Here is the new mudflap ready to be fitted.

Note that it has two holes instead of the original one which ICE use for their normal mudflap. I am a big believer in two mudflap mountings to prevent rattling so this was very handy. Obviously we needed to drill an additional hole in the mudguard, so James did that.


We then had to find some bolts to fit it but were able to find some previously-supplied-by-ICE bolts.

I took this picture before fixing the mudflap on (we fixed the mudflap to the inside of the mudguard, this is just laying it against the mudguard in readiness). You’ll see it’s much longer than the usual mudguard which is good – should cut down on annoyed comments from people cycling behind me during rainstorms.


The next task was to give the drivetrain a good clean whilst the chain was off. We very quickly realised that the chain tensioner (a derailleur system) had seized up – it’s supposed to move slightly when I change from the middle ring to the granny ring but was completely solid – this presumably accounts for why the wheel was so hard to remove.

James removed the entire gear mech hanger from the trike and spent ages cleaning it, lubricating it and eventually got it moving again.

Here’s the trike minus gear hanger.


And here is the offending chain tensioner. The bit above James’s thumb is the bit that wasn’t moving – but we eventually got it freer so it could move.


I now know that it’s important to change into the granny ring now and again to keep that part moving.

We put the chain tensioner back on and here you can see a shot with the new mudflap as well.


I had originally planned to service the brakes and take off the front wheels and clean them up but everything was taking a lot longer than I had thought so we decided to just finish up with the chain.

Firstly I decided to release and re-tighten the idler. This is something I learned is necessary from my Trice Q – the idler completely seized on that and it took us several days to loosen it enough to change the idler. We ensure we always unscrew and then tighten it every three months or so.

When cleaning the idler I noticed part of the broken chain quicklink – no idea how it got there! It was really embedded in the muck too!


Normally when we replace the chain we don’t remove the old one first; instead, we attach the new chain to the old to pull it through all the chain tubes etc. This time we had of course taken the chain right off so we had an interesting ten minutes trying to push the new chain down the chain tubes. I had to hold the trike upright so that gravity assisted. In the end we managed it (James did the difficult stuff, I just held the trike up!)

The chain was fixed, the alfine cable was put back on the gear mechanism and I was ready to go!


I took Alfie out for a short ride (15 miles in the dark!) and everything felt lovely and smooth and much quieter. The Alfine hub gear was slightly protesting at the sudden change in temperature (from our warm kitchen at 19 degrees to the outside at -1) and I had to adjust the cable a little to stop the gears slipping. Fortunately you can adjust the cable whilst cycling along using the little rotary knob thing on the trigger shifter so it’s not too big a deal.

As it was dark I wasn’t able to take a photo of the mudflap in situ and the addition to the seat so the following morning I took Alfie out for some photography.


Here is the mudflap in situ.




And here is the cross-stitch on the seat.

I then went out for a longer, hillier ride (25 miles).

I noticed that the Alfine hub was being a bit pernickety. It seemed reasonably OK when using the big chainring at the front but when I switched down to the middle ring it kept slipping/going into neutral. I adjusted the cable length (using the rotary knob thingie on the trigger shifter) but if the gears were OK in the high numbers they slipped in the lower gears, and vice versa.

This had only started happening since I changed the chain so I decided it was probably something to do with the cable run. I had cleaned the whole area whilst the back wheel was off yesterday but maybe had mucked something up a bit.

I checked the cable was running free (which it was) but then had a closer look at where the cable is directed onto the arm for the hub. It’s hard to see from this photo (which isn’t entirely in focus!) but the cable runs under the mudguard stay and that is quite a tight join.


I decided it might be worth seeing if I could route the cable above, rather than underneath, the mudguard stay to give it a bit more freedom.

Seen from the side (before I adjusted it) you can also see that the metal end to the arm (the left hand side black thing) has slightly pulled out – there’s a silver ring at the end and there was a couple of millimetres space next to it. You can also see this on the previous photo. Once I had undone the cable I pushed that bit in.


It was relatively easy to change the routing of the cable to pass over the mudguard stay.

I’m hoping this might have cured some of the hub gear’s tendency to jump into neutral. Before my chain snapped the hub gear was behaving exceptionally well so it’s clearly been upset by something I’ve done in the servicing/chain replacement. If it’s still fussy tomorrow then I’ll do an oil change in the hub in case some snow/grot has got in there and is causing it annoyance.

Anyway, once again maintenance on my ICE Sprint was pretty easy. And I love the new mudguard and my name tag!


The gears were still badly slipping, particularly in the middle ring or granny ring (not too much in the big ring). After trying various things (checking the chainline, shortening the chain by two links) I got James to run alongside the trike while I rode it in the middle ring so he could just check the chain wasn’t slipping over the sprockets at the back – and it was! Why I hadn’t thought of this before I don’t know; putting a brand new chain on a sprocket that has done 11,000 miles and has got quite worn (especially as the previous chain had done 6,100 miles) is a recipe for a slipping chain. In the middle and granny rings there is more torque which I suppose makes it worse (plus the chain tensioner isn’t maybe pulling as hard).

So I have emailed Huw at Madison for his advice on whether I will be able to change this sprocket myself and where to get one from. I am relieved it’s not a problem with the hub itself!


Filed under Alfie the Trike, Recumbent Trikes, Trike maintenance

Mudguards – a possible anti-rattle modification?

Those who have read my previous blog post 10,000 miles of slow sprinting will be in no doubt that I get irritated by rattling mudguards.

Tony Collins posted a couple of comments on my blog suggesting a possible fix for this. So after procrastinating for ages (mucky mudguards and annoying rattles are just a pain and it’s never quite the right moment to sort ’em out!) I finally decided to get round to it on the penultimate day of the year. I had already reached my year’s cycling target of 8,000 miles so had no excuse not to fiddle with the trike.

Fortunately for me in my several years of trike ownership I have become on very good terms with ICE and, having previously destroyed a couple of mudflaps and complained to ICE about them, they had sent me a little package of replacement mudflaps and nuts and bolts. I had used one of this package but still had three left (clearly they had already decided I was going to continue in my mudguard-destroying ways). Tony Collins had sent me a parts list of the required nuts and bolts but I was just able to fetch my little parcel from ICE from the shed – bonus!

So here are the three mudflaps and three sets of nuts and bolts


A close-up of the nuts and bolts.

As it happens I have managed not to tear off any of the mudflaps in annoyance this time (I learned my lesson when I did this on the Trice Q and ended up covered in mud the next rainy ride – those flaps do make quite a difference!) so I didn’t need to use the replacement flaps. What I was planning to do was to put a second bolt through the flap lower down to keep it in place (they are currently able to rotate from side to side a little).

Undoubtedly there’s a reason that they are not bolted firmly in place; however, they do tend to get rattly over time and the only way I can stop the rattle is by wrenching the flap to the side so it’s jammed tight and doesn’t move and then it’s quiet. So a second bolt ought to hopefully help. We also decided to liberally apply some glue in the hopes that that would also quieten things down a bit.

Now, before I started the job I needed to give the mudguards a good old clean, so I had them in the shower with me after my morning’s cycle ride and made sure they were as clean as I could get. As you can see from the picture below, I have already had to replace one mudflap (which was torn off when wheeling the trike up a kerb) which is why ICE sent me the parcel of spares. However, it’s also clear that the nuts and bolts are less keen on their watery environment. This one has rusted in place now (it’s been on the trike for about a year) and it’s impossible to undo with an allen/hex key as the top has all just crumbled.


This is the other side which still has the original rivet. that looks much better visually but this side is much more rattly.


Here you can see a previous modification I undertook to reduce the rattle slightly – a small piece of plastic milk bottle stuck around the inside of the rivet to reduce the space. It worked surprisingly well – and indeed has lasted several months just jammed in place like that!


However, plastic milk bottle bits don’t quite have enough oomph to overcome a determined mudguard rattle and seeing as it’s winter and Alfie has to wear his mudguards all the time (it’s been rather wet in England!) I really needed to do something more permanent and functional.

Here was the operating table set up ready to go!

My husband is a handy chap to have around as he has a lot of DIY equipment and, more importantly, a significant amount of common sense about how to do these things.

He gathered a bit of kindling from our log pile, clamped that to the table and then started to drill a hole through the rubber of the flap, through the metal of the guard and then the other side of rubber. To make things less prone to move around we stuck some masking tape over it all.


Here it is after the first hole was drilled.


Without the masking tape – you might just see daylight through it!



At this point we decided to put some glue around the mudflap to hopefully keep it in place more effectively when on the bike. James found his tube of Evo-Stick glue and, after a bit of a battle with it to unblock the nozzle, we managed to squirt glue around the mudguard and generally over my fingers (I’m still picking bits of dried glue off my hands two hours later!)

We then tried to push the nut through but the hole was a bit too small. Should have checked that one beforehand!! Time for some more drilling (spot the glue oozing out of the mudflap/mudguard interface!).


The hole was now big enough and I just had to put the bolts through (with a washer each side).

It was difficult to know how much to tighten the bolt up. Too much and the rubber all gets twisted, too little it might all shake loose. As it was the mudguard was deforming and the glue was becoming quite obvious so this isn’t as attractive a solution as I had hoped.


Anyway, I did it up to what I thought was a reasonable tightness and then we dabbed some threadlock on the exposed nut head of the bolts. This is where lots of water will be flying around so it’s a pretty hostile environment overall.


It looks better on the outside, although you can still see where the bolts have deformed the rubber (and our glue is very evident). I might put a bit of insulating tape or something over this little pocket once the glue has dried.


So after the glue had mostly dried I re-fitted the mudguards to the trike.



So, does it work? Do my modifications, which have made the mudflaps less attractive (glue-filled pockets for the whole world to see), pass the “Does It Rattle Test”? I don’t know, I haven’t been out cycling yet, but here’s hoping! I shall report back tomorrow…

It works! No rattling!

I’ve now cycled 25 miles with my newly-furbished mudguards and it seems that the rattling issue has (at least temporarily) been fixed. Hurrah.

I can now hear the rattling of my bell and the noise of the chain through the chain tubes seems louder…

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Recumbent Trikes, Trike maintenance

10,000 miles of slow sprinting!

Today Alfie the ICE Sprint passed a very significant milestone:

Alfie's Mileage Anniversary

So I thought it would be worth writing about how he has survived the last 17 months and what sort of maintenance he has needed in that time.

Statistics for the first 10,000 miles
Firstly, some statistics and information (for those of you who like that kind of thing). This also shows that I rather nerdily keep a track of lots of info about my cycling.

This is what the expenditure on the trike has been over his first 10,000 miles
Trike costs

And this is how long the various consumable parts have lasted. Those items still on the trike don’t have a mileage beside them. Also note that I changed the supplied Marathon Racer tyres to normal Marathon ones that I already had (and had used for about 1000 miles) after about 500 miles as I got two punctures on the same day. I’m not a fan of the Marathon Racers, they are too puncture-prone for my liking. The Marathons seem much better. Marathon Pluses have too much rolling resistance for me and I don’t mind fixing the odd puncture.
How long do things last

And of course I have kept a record of the punctures I’ve had since I got Alfie – more than I got with the Trice Q but I think it’s a fairly random thing, although I’m surprised to have had two rear punctures in 10,000 miles as I only had one in 25,000 miles on the Trice Q.
Puncture log

You’ll notice that five of those punctures have been discovered when getting the trike out of the shed at home. This is a good reason to have a spare trike for those times when you’re in a hurry and you need to take alternative bicycle transport!

How does Alfie look after 10,000 miles?
So now all those statistics are out of the way, how has Alfie survived generally?

The main thing to note about my cycling is that I go out for about two hours per day every day, whatever the weather. He gets washed down now and again, a bit of chain oil every few months or so, but that’s about it. This is not a trike that is kept in a nice warm house and serviced regularly, it’s an everyday workhorse that has to survive the worst of living in the countryside with mucky roads, deep puddles and an owner that’s often in a hurry to put him back in the shed and go and have a shower/cup of tea.

As I passed my 10,000 miles milestone today I decided to take some photos of Alfie as he looked when I got home (at 10,015 miles, 16,117km).

Here he is outside the shed waiting for a clean.


I took a lot of photographs of the various bits of the trike that do tend to get mucky in the rain. Here is the axle which has the dynohub cable and also the cable for the bike computer (wrapped around the bottom of the king post).

This is a view from the top of the left hand side disk brake. This brake is on top of the wheel, the other brake hangs underneath and gets muckier (thus I have already had to change the pads on the right hand side brake but not the left one).

Front chainring still looking pretty good although the cranks have had the odd scrape and have some marks on them.

The Alfine trigger shifter is still working well, with just a slight scarring of the plastic on the down shifter after 10,000 miles of lots of clicks! You can see the gaffer tape wrapped around the cable where it disappears into the bar end stopped is wrinkling up where the cable tries to pull through. That was my repair on my Berlin to London ride so it’s survived six months OK!



A lot of muck gets thrown up onto the handlebars when you’re riding in the rain. The screws holding the brake and gear systems in place on the handlebars are getting quite rusty – it will be interesting if I have to undo them in the future!

A mucky logo. Sorry ICE!

My Alfine hub gear gets more attention than the rest of the trike as it has its service every 4000 miles or so. When I wipe it the metal comes up lovely and clean whereas the dynohub has dulled in the last 10,000 miles. A better quality of stainless steel on the hub? Or perhaps it gets less road grot thrown up at it.

A side view of the hub. Where the mudguard is screwed to the frame is a fantastic little pocket for bits of mud and grime that is very difficult to clean.

The rear parking brake which hangs off the bottom of the back wheel gets the worst of all road conditions, periodically having a bath if I go through a big puddle. It doesn’t work as effectively as it used to but is enough to lock the bike in place when I pop into a shop or something.

Now this is the only real problem that I foresee at the moment. This is the little mount for the bike computer on the front right wheel. You can see an allen/hex key socket in the centre of the picture – however this has completely rusted in place and it’s impossible for me to loosen it. I wanted to do so when I accidentally bent the arm of the mount and hoped to take it off and flatten it out. In the end I had to bend it back into place in situ and I hope there’s no other reason I ever have to undo this bolt as I think it may be Mission Impossible.

Another view of this completely stuck section – the bottom bit of metal is the right hand track rod which is how the trike steers.

EDIT: One of the people who left a comment on this blog told me that the allen bolt at the top is not meant to be undone, you should instead undo the bottom bolt. So I had a go and lo and behold it worked! So this isn’t actually the problem I thought it was.

Here are some pics of me undoing this bolt.

Firstly I had to scrape out some bits of mud and rust from the allen bolt hole (the trike is lying on its side so I can access this area; the brake cable rather gets in the way though!)


After some scraping I was able to get the allen key in and after a bit of effort it started undoing.


And here it is undone. I was able to move the cycle computer mount as necessary.


I did it all straight up again – at least I know now what to do if I ever need to remove the bike computer mount. Thanks to Dan Dickson for his comment below!

This is the back of the seat. Can you spot the difference? Within about five months I’d lost the little plug for the hole which stops the mounting for the seat slipping too far either side. At the moment it is theoretically possible for the seat to slide to one side but in reality the fixings at the bottom of the seat stop this happening (mostly). You can see that the plug on the right has been fairly squashed as well.

This is the base of the seat where it fits into the curved frame (see photo below). This looks OK on this trike, on my Trice Q this area has no paint left and has really suffered. It looks as though this fits slightly better on Alfie than my Q.

Here is the trough that the seat fixes into. That little silvery slash in the middle of the picture is a paint scratch, probably from the bolts that I have to turn to tighten the seat up. The right hand side bolt has a tendency to undo itself fairly quickly and I think it can then rattle around a little and scratch the paint. I usually tell eventually that this has happened when I do a fast corner and feel the seat move slightly…

And here’s another scratch in the paintwork. I did this one within the first couple of weeks of owning this trike. It is a result of flopping the handlebars forward when folding the trike, not backward (i.e. the brake lever was touching the frame and made this cut in the metal). As soon as I realised what had happened I got into the habit of folding the handlebars towards the back of the trike and then folding the back wheel inwards and it was fine.

You may have noticed that the frame looks a bit wet – that’s because I decided, after taking the previous photographs, that I really needed to clean Alfie a bit if I was going to post lots of photos of him on the internet. So I gave him a quick wash down – the freezing weather outside and the fact that it was nearly dark meant I had to do it quickly so he’s still pretty mucky, but hopefully you can see a bit more!

Here is a freshly-washed front left brake. Notice the little rubber top for the cable slides up and gets stuck – that’s probably because I have my brakes set for not too much travel before they work. This is the side with my weak arm and I want to be able to use the brakes without too much movement. The fact this rubber cover isn’t in place means (presumably) that water will run down the brake cable and I imagine when we have more cold weather I might have some exciting braking sessions when it’s freezing outside!

This is a side-on view of the brake on the right hand side (the one that hangs under the trike). You can see that the nuts for the wobble washers are pretty much rusted into place but I don’t think I will need to adjust these so I’m not too worried. The nuts that I need to undo to remove the brake (if I am removing the wheel) work fine still.

Here’s the Alfine hub still looking quite mucky. It’s very tricky to clean this without removing the wheel which I didn’t feel like doing. The carrier (the plastic bits that sit either side of the chain as it goes around the hub) tends to collect bits of grass and grot and I have to scrape thick chunks of goo out periodically. I also find that if there’s too much muck where the gear change cable goes then some of the gears tend to slip a bit – looking at this photo I really need to sort that out else I’ll have some weird gear changes over the next week or so.

Note lots of small spaces for bits of muck to get caught.


I’m still on the original jockey wheels for the chain tensioner (the Sora derailleur). Although the jockey wheels have worn a bit, they don’t have to do any work except keep the chain in a straight line so I can keep them until they are virtually toothless. Which is a good thing as they aren’t as cheap as you might think!

This is a view of the idler, which is a little pulley/wheel thingie that guides the chain from the front of the trike to the back. I learned a lesson with the Trice Q when we were unable to loosen the bolt that holds the idler in place (when we wanted to change the idler) and so every few months we just release this bolt and then tighten it again. It’s at pretty much the lowest point of the trike and gets no end of water splashed up at it.

And here is my SON (Schmidt) dynohub. This is one of my favourite things about the trike but, as mentioned above, the metal has not survived the last seventeen months as well as the Alfine hub’s metal. It’s gone quite dull, presumably as a result of the salt on the roads last winter. It’s impossible to clean the gunk out from the spoke holes, of course.

You can also see a darker mark in the middle – this is actually a gouged bit of metal where I miscalculated the width between two metal pillars. CLANNNNNNNGGGGG! Going from 5mph to 0mph in record time, I left a small piece of my dynohub metalwork at the gates of Essex University.

This is the previously-mentioned bolt holding the bike computer sensor to the top of the track rod. The bolt that is immovable. Oh well.

And this is the part of the trike that is absolutely my bete noir. And there are three of them! Three on both trikes! Yes, the mudguard flaps.

The mudguards always seem to be the weak spot on these trikes in my experience. The front guards rattle like billy-oh, the back mudguard tends to be a bit better behaved but only if you have normal small tyres and not Big Apples. But all three mudguards have these mudguard flaps which are great when you first get the trike but after a few thousand miles start to rattle. And rattle. And rattle. And rattle even more.

The rattle is caused by the rivet (which you can’t see in my photo as I have gaffer taped over it to try to stop it rattling). The problem is that occasionally the mudflap gets twisted to the side (if someone walks too close to the back of the trike, for example) and the twisting gradually grinds away at the rubber and soon it is all loose. And then the rivet starts rattling, if you go really fast round a corner the mudflap slides across and starts rubbing, and you get a very annoyed Auntie Helen who tries to gaffer tape it within an inch of its life. Which works until it rains and the gaffer tape gives up.

On my Trice Q I got so fed up with it a couple of years ago that I ripped the mudflaps off. Much quieter, hurrah, but on the first rainy day I discovered that the wheels now flicked 90% of the water into the trike rider’s face (and the rear mudguard, without mudflap, flicked 100% of its water into the face of my husband riding behind). A quick email to ICE, with me feeling very abashed for being destructive on my mudguards, solved this issue as they sent me three new mudflaps with some fixings screws (I don’t have a rivet gun) but these replacements still rattled.

So I have learned not to rip the rotter off on Alfie but I am still really cheesed off with the rattling. This means if I think it’s going to be a dry day I take the mudguards off so I can ride in silence. This does mean there is the occasional issue with unexpected rain/puddles…

Overall thoughts about the trike after 10,000 miles
Regular readers of my blog will know that I am very happy with Alfie and find him a very comfortable trike. Issues with the mudguards aside, he still feels as well put together as he did the day I first rode him, without lots of mystery squeaks and noises that the Trice Q tends to suffer from. He still goes in a straight line and the brakes work well.

Alfie was not an off-the-shelf ICE trike option as I specified the hub gear and the hub dynamo which weren’t standard. I am very happy with both of these items and would definitely choose them again if I had to buy a new trike. The German trike assemblers in Willich were trying to convince me the other day that the Adventure is a better option (it’s higher off the ground) but I like the Sprint’s speedy feel and the fact that it always feels very stable and safe. I suppose something I might have considered a bit more is the larger rear wheel which might make some of the gearing a bit easier (I have a whole set of low gears I never use but do spin out on the high gears above 30mph).

This trike is much kinder on chains. The Trice Q got through chains every 3000 miles, this trike seems to manage double that. I assume that’s because I don’t have a derailleur at the back to twist the chain, just the front derailleur (which doesn’t get used all that much each ride – I usually just stick it in the big ring and leave it there). However the hub gear built into the rear wheel does mean this trike feels a bit heavier at the back, particularly when you are starting off. Not a problem but it is something I notice when swapping between this and the Trice Q with its standard derailleur system. I absolutely love the fact that I can change gear when stationary on this trike, though, and I tend to use that feature all the time – which makes for some amusing high-gear starts when I swap to the Trice Q and forget to change down when approaching traffic lights/a junction.

Alfie was an expensive bike but it’s well worth it for me and my usage, particularly with regard to the build quality (I’d be interested to see what a KMX is like after 10,000 miles, if it could actually be ridden that far in fact!). Once again the service from ICE (Inspired Cycle Engineering) is fantastic; I haven’t had to ring them recently but whenever I do call them they always give excellent advice and are really helpful. It’s good to know they are continually developing their product range and bringing in new features for the new trikes. If they could sort out the mudflaps someday I would be a very happy customer for some new ones!!!

So, 10,000 miles of slow sprinting – slow because I average less than 11mph over that time; sprinting because Alfie is a sprint (although I am definitely a more touring kind of person). But I have enjoyed every one of those 10,000 miles and I look forward to the next 10,000!


Filed under Alfie the Trike, Recumbent Trikes, Trike maintenance