IF IT AIN’T BROKE DON’T FIX IT

am sure most of us have heard that saying before. I am a firm believer in it along with some other well known sayings such as “Design should follow function rather than trend” … “A place for everything and everything in it’s place” … “A clean shop is an efficient shop”, and on and on the list could go. When it comes to our trikes I definitely don’t believe it is wise to mess with stuff when everything is working okay. It doesn’t take much to totally mess up some things such as derailleur adjustment. One thing for sure … if we are going to mess with something it is best that we know what we are doing. Otherwise we will likely mess it up … and probably not be able to fix it.

Even professional mechanics sometimes mess stuff up and aren’t even aware of it. I once took my trike in to a local bike shop (LBS) to have the rear shifting cable changed. I usually do this myself, but I decided to hire it done that time as I just didn’t feel like messing with it. Upon getting my trike back from them and back home I took off for a ride on it the next morning. I rode it about an eighth of a mile and while pedaling along I noticed something which didn’t seem right. I had some noise and some resistance as I pedaled. It felt like the chain was rubbing on something. I stopped and got off to take a look to see if I could discover the problem. At first glance I did not spot the problem so I decided to take a closer look. I tipped the trike over on it’s side and it didn’t take long to see what was going on. The chain had been “broken” (taken apart) and when it was put back on the return portion of it was routed on the top side of the idler pulley instead of on the bottom side so the idler pulley wasn’t doing anything … wasn’t even being used. DUH!!! I could not believe a professional mechanic could possibly do something so dumb. The chain had been rubbing on the bottom side of my frame and cut into it a ways. I rerouted the chain placing it where it belonged so I could ride on. When I got back home later I emailed the LBS about this letting them know what they did and the damage it had done to my frame. I was not a happy camper. They denied that they even had the chain apart and messed with it, but when I pointed out that there is no way for the chain to change to that position without someone taking either the chain apart or the idler pulley assembly they said that I should bring my trike back and they would do whatever is needed to satisfy me. (They never did admit to being at fault however. They continued to deny that they had done this.) They filed/ground the frame where the chain had rubbed and cut in to smooth everything back out and repainted the area. It looked very good when I got it back. I could barely tell anything had happened. I could have pushed for a new frame and to tell you the truth, in hindsight, I wish I would have since this little incident did weaken the frame somewhat. I would have been within my rights to do so, but I was trying to work with them and let them off easy. Now, I told this story to you because it ties into what I am addressing … if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. There was no reason for them to have taken my chain apart which caused this to happen. I had my trike in there for replacing the rear shifting cable … nothing else. Yeppur, I am a firm believer in …

it it ain't broke

as that helps us to …

KEEP ON TRIKIN’

FREE GIFT awaits you!

CHAIN WEAR & REPLACEMENT

chain anyone

Sooner or later it happens … the chain wears out and needs to be replaced. On a bicycle this happens much sooner mileage wise than it does on a tadpole trike. That is good news for the tadpole trike owner, but wait … there is bad news as well. The bad news is that a tadpole trike takes 2 to 3 times as much chain as a bicycle. Yeah, that’s bad news, but wait … there is good news in the midst of this. Because the chain is much longer it takes longer to wear out. “They” recommend replacing the chain on a bicycle every 2000 to 5000 miles. That is quite a variance, but the actual wear is dependent upon various factors such as rider weight, riding style, amount of shifting between gears, how the chain is maintained as far as lubrication and cleaning, etc. I have never read anything about how long a chain of a tadpole trike should last, but I got about 9,400 miles out of my first chain. I just recently replaced it again and this time I got about 12,400 miles out of it. I admit though that it was over due. There is danger and concern in continuing to run a chain which is worn out. A worn chain will wear out the sprockets prematurely. Normally the ratio between sprockets and chain replacement is 2:1. That is, you will go thru two chains before needing to replace the sprockets. And as far as sprocket replacement is concerned it may not be necessary to replace all the sprockets on the front if you don’t use one or more of them much. Many people just pretty much stay in the center chain ring (sprocket) so the smallest and largest sprockets may not need replacement when the middle one does. The rear sprockets (cassette) is sold as a set of sprockets normally so you most likely would have to replace all of them even if some aren’t worn much. By the way, I am talking about a machine with multiple sprockets front and back. If you have a different setup than this not all of this will apply.

chain pin wear

Chains stretch as they wear and grow in length. Actually they don’t really stretch but we say they do. The side plates of the chain don’t change in length. What happens is that the metal wears off in the pins and rollers allowing the chain to become longer so we say it stretches. In the image above you can see worn pins vs. new pins. When a chain stretches it will wear the teeth of the sprockets quicker as it no longer “fits” them properly.

sprocket wear

One quick test to determine chain wear is how it “fits” on the sprockets. It should be a snug fit and not able to move around much at all. Below is an image of a sprocket illustrating a worn chain. You can see how the chain no longer fits and can be easily pulled up off of the sprocket and moved about.

chain stretch on sprocket

chain stretch

Standard bicycle chains measure one inch between the pins of the side plates of the chain. This is called the pitch of the chain. They make tools to measure chain wear, but you really don’t need one. All that is needed is to take a measurement between pins with the chain “stretched” tight so that all worn parts are as far apart as they will go and displaying whatever elongation has occurred. Place a tape measure or ruler on a pin and go 12 inches out onto the pin at that link. A new chain without any wear should measure exactly twelve inches. A worn chain will be longer. Anything more than a 1/16 of an inch past the 12 inch mark is worn too much and should be replaced. In the image above you can see that the elongation is more than a 1/16.

Because a chain stretches as it wears it is important that one doesn’t use the worn chain to determine the length of the new replacement chain. Instead one should count the links.  Assuming you will be using new master links to connect the chain together you should count the existing master links in the old chain in the total link count. That is a lot of links to count, but a standard chain comes in 116 links.  A chain on a tadpole trike takes 2 plus chains so you can safely eliminate counting 232 links, but remember to include the master link needed to connect the two sections. (Be sure that your new chain is 116 links. One person reported that the chain they bought was only 114 and this messed him up.) The overall length of the chain will be dependent upon two major factors … 1) the boom length and 2) the wheelbase of the trike. Of course, another factor in determining the correct length of the replacement chain is whether or not the chain being replaced was the correct length. If it was never set up correctly to begin with or if the boom has been adjusted in or out after the chain was installed then it might very well be off. That happened to me recently when I replaced my chain. I had extended my boom out just a little farther awhile back. When I counted the lengths and made my new chain the same as my old chain in link count I discovered it was too short when I installed it. I added two links and it was still too short so I had to add two more making a total of 4 additional links. Anyway, knowing you have 232 plus 1 master link totaling 233 you can simply count up to however many more links you need on the third chain before “breaking” it to length. Keep in mind the master link needed to connect the chain together. If you find you are coming out on the wrong place to break the chain it is usually best to go one more link longer rather than shorter. Technically a “link” is not what many think. A link is what many might consider two links. Here is an image demonstrating this:

chain link

For counting purposes to determine the length of the replacement chain I personally think it is easiest to count each section shown as “pitch”. You can do what you want but just don’t get “corn-fused”.

Determining whether or not the chain is the correct length is a matter of shifting between the various gear combinations. One needs to be careful when doing this as damage can be done if the chain is too short (which mine was). When you attempt shifting the chain onto the largest sprockets front and back  you can run into big time trouble if the chain is too short. There are those who say you should never use this combination nor the combination of smallest in front to smallest in back. This is called “cross chaining” and many years ago this was a serious matter. With today’s chains it is no longer a concern. Also on a tadpole trike it really isn’t a concern anyway since the chain is so much longer than on a bicycle. It doesn’t really make much sense to use these gear combinations but if you do you system should handle it as long as everything is adjusted properly and the chain length is correct.

chain breaker tool

One thing I want to mention is that when adding or removing links in a chain and putting the chain back together using a chain breaking tool you need to be careful to push the pins back thru stopping in the right place … equally centered in both inside and outside plates. You may need to push the pin back from the opposite direction if it goes too far. If you fail to do this you might find yourself sitting alongside the road/trail with the chain “broken” at that link. I know this from personal experience. I carry a chain breaking tool and several inches of spare chain and master links so I can make a roadside repair if needed, but not everyone does. So be aware that this will leave you in a bad way if it happens to you.

Also, when adding or removing links in a chain you should check the chain at that link to be sure it moves freely and is not bound up. If it is too tight I recommend simply taking the chain holding and flexing it sideways from one side to the other to loosen up that pin in the link.

The final thing I want to mention concerning adding or removing links is that one needs to be careful when pushing a pin thru the side plates. It is important to get a “feel” for doing this as well as visually determining how far to push it. If you go too far and the pin comes all the way out of the far outside plate it makes it quite difficult to reassemble the chain as those pins are difficult to get back in place. If one does come out I usually use a pair of needle nose pliers to squeeze it back into the hole. I have found this to be about as easy of a way to accomplish it as anything I have tried. Just be sure the pin is going in straight.

Chain Connector Link

The connecting link most common nowadays are called “missing link”. They are quick and easy to use to put the chain together, but when it comes to taking these connecting links back apart they can be a nightmare. I have struggled long and hard dealing with them. Personally I much prefer the old type master links with the retaining side clips,  but they can no longer be used in today’s multiple speed sprockets. They make a special plier tool for this purpose. I modified a pair of pliers I already had, but I still find these links hard and frustrating to take back apart.

chain connector link 2

I mentioned the tool to use for taking these links back apart. Here is one popular one:

chain connector link tool

Another very handy tool I highly recommend is called a third hand chain tool:

chain tool 3rd hand

It makes working on a chain so much easier and less frustrating. It is maddening to have your chain routed thru tubing, around sprockets, derailleurs and pulled together trying to put the connecting link in it when suddenly you lose one end of the chain and it takes off in retreat undoing all your hard work routing it. This tool will prevent this. You can make your own but these are not all that expensive and well worth buying.

As much as I like supporting  local bike shops I sometimes purchase items online as I find so much better deals. For instance, the chain for my trike at a local bike shop cost $35 plus sales tax for each one.  That’s $37.45 apiece. I found the exact same chain online for $15.40 apiece and free shipping. Guess which one I bought. 🙂

I hope this helps others in knowing about chain and sprocket wear and replacement.

KEEP ON TRIKIN’

WORK STANDS FOR TADPOLE TRIKES

Sooner or later a tadpole trike needs maintenance performed on it. Having a work stand can be quite handy and practical. The only drawback is lifting the trike up and down in and out of the work stand.

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car hoist

Just like our cars and trucks are lifted up on a hoist so the mechanic can work on the vehicle a trike work stand makes the job much easier. There are only a very few manufactured work stands available to purchase and they can be costly. Many choose to make their own. Some make them out of metal while others use wood. One of the most popular means is PVC pipe and fittings. I have made two such work stands myself. One I made for my Catrike Trail trike and the other I made for a friend’s ICE trike. Of course, unlike the car hoist a trike work stand is usually not adjustable in height. Depending upon the individual person who will be working on the trike using the work stand the height of the work stand may want to be made different from one person to the other. As I already stated, lifting a trike up and down in and out of a work stand can be quite challenging so keep in mind that the higher the work stand is the more of a struggle it will be to accomplish the lifting.

bike work stand Some use a regular bicycle work stand, but I think this is very impractical. First of all, you would no doubt have to have the help of another person to do so as it would be most difficult for one person to lift up the trike and get it positioned and then secured into the clamp. These bicycle work stands are designed for bicycles … not for tadpole trikes.

When fabricating a workstand keep in mind that you may not always have the same trike. If you make the work stand to “fit” a particular trike you may not be able to use it on a different trike should you replace the trike you made it for. You have the option of making the work stand adjustable. It will cost you more money and more work involved, but you would probably not have to ever make another one which can’t be said if you don’t make it adjustable.

To my way of thinking a work stand which adjusts vertically (independently front and back) in addition to length, width and angle of holders is the best design as it will accommodate any trike. Again, I personally think the wisest design is for the rear holding bracket to be on the main frame tube away from the chain run. As you can see in the image below this workstand has the rear holding brackets on the outer pieces of frame … right where the chain is. I think they built this thing backwards. Either that or they have the trike sitting on it backwards. 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I just mentioned the matter of keeping the work stand frame away from the chain run. Another thing to keep in mind when making your own work stand is to make sure no part of the stand’s framework interferes with other parts of the trike … things like turning the front wheels both directions (including the steering parts … tie rods, handlebars, etc.) And yet another consideration is keeping the work stand frame far enough away from any area where you have to get your hands and arms in to perform work. Having the front support far apart on the crucifix will help with stability but it will also greatly reduce the area available for you to do the work on the trike.

 aluminum trike rack on wheels  VS.   FlyingKatzStand

A simple basic PVC work stand like the one pictured above can be made for approximately $25 to $35 for the materials involved. Notice the red lines I have added about half way up the vertical legs of the stand. I will refer to this further below in this article.

In making a trike work stand a practical option is to make the base so that is comes apart … a lower section to add on to the upper section to increase the overall height. The upper section can be used by itself and in doing so the trike can be much lower to the ground. The red lines I added in the image of the PVC stand is for the purpose of illustrating where to cut the legs and add couplers pvc coupling to connect the legs together and take them apart so that the upper section can be used by itself. If a large enough “table” is available the work stand could be sat on the table to obtain additional height such as pictured below although this work stand has no additional base to add to it. If you have the setup and space available in your work area this might be a practical approach as this work stand could be used on the floor as well.

table top work stand

Here is a work stand made of PVC which as you can see is quite low … just lifts the trike up enough to work on it.

low trike work stand

Some work stands we see have the legs come straight down vertically while others come out on an angle making for a wider base.

straight leg trike work stand

slanted out legs work stands

A wider base provides more stability but those legs sticking out beyond the trike also can be troublesome getting in the way while trying to work on the trike. Also they greatly complicate the two section concept I mentioned above making it pretty much impossible to do. The strongest base is one with vertical legs although it won’t be quite as stable. Never the less, stability should not be an issue as long as the base isn’t too small in size.

To help protect the trike’s frame it is a good idea to place some sort of soft non- abrasive material on the contact points of the work stand.

TrikeStand_Open_Position

I mentioned using individual lifting devices which only lift the trike up enough to work on it. This image shows some made of wood. However, they are considerably taller than what I am talking about. Of course, the height is optional … whatever one is comfortable with and fits the bill for them.

To be most honest I seldom use my work stand anymore as I don’t like the lifting and hassle involved. The older I get the less I like using it. 🙂 Instead, I use another work stand I made which is small and much lower to the ground and therefore much easier and practical to use. I can lift just one end up at a time if needed or both ends (which is rare). Sitting on the mechanic’s stool I can easily roll myself around the trike to work on it.use a similar stand for the front of my trike. It lifts the wheels up about 6 inches off of the floor making it ideal to work on while seated on the stool. This small work stand was quick and easy to make out of some scrap wood I had laying around.

my front work stand with trike front view

mechanics stool

For lifting the back of the trike an indoor trainer can be used although it can get in the way of some work one might want to perform so I don’t think this is very practical.

trike on trainer

Another option is to simply use a rope, bungee cord, strap, etc. to suspend the back end of a trike up in the air to work on it. I usually use a couple of bungee cords to accomplish this. It is fast and easy with minimal effort involved lifting the trike. And using this method there is nothing in the way down around the trike frame where you will be working. The only downside to this is that the trike easily moves about since it is being suspended with rubber cords which stretch. Of course, you have to have some place up above the trike to fasten the other end of the bungee cord to. I use my garage door opener to hook a third bungee cord to the opener making a place to hook the other two to. The two bungee cords are hooked to the rear luggage rack.

black rubber bungee cord  back end of trike bungee cord suspension

 

Speaking of getting in the way … I want to be sure to mention that one needs to be careful when building a work stand not to have any of the framework positioned where it interferes with the chain run including where the chain moves to when shifted between the various sprockets. There is one factory manufactured work stand I have seen pictures of which did this. I don’t know what they were thinking of but it obviously would be a big problem if you are trying to work on the shifting.

Another work stand which some might find useful are the small portable type. As you can see in the picture below it lifts the trike up quite sufficiently so that work can be accomplished. They can also be used alongside the road/trail when something goes wrong and requires maintenance work.

small trike stand

portable trike-stand     small portable stand

This one above a fellow triker, Gary Bunting, designed and built. It will pivot to accommodate alignment where it is placed and  is quite portable as it comes apart in sections to fit in panniers or whatever else one chooses to haul it in. It also has an extension which can be added for additional height.

Here is a video on one of the manufactured work stands which can be purchased:

http://www.trikestand.com/

original model is $169 plus shipping

Their premium model which is fully adjustable is currently $449 plus shipping.

TrikeStand Magnum OS

Another excellent work stand comes from Sportscrafters and also sells for $449.

SportCrafters trike workstand

As you can see it adjusts all directions horizontally to fit the trike as well as vertically to adjust the work height. It also has built in tie downs so the trike can’t fall off.

SportCrafters trike workstand 2

And it folds up for storage …

SportCrafters trike work stand folded up

Additional articles and resources:

BROL article

Utah Trikes article

Trike Asylum article on Gary Bunting’s portable work stand

Trike Asylum article on aluminum work stand

stand for Catrike Villager

Here are some work stands for specific trikes, namely the Catrike 700:

pvc work stand for catrike 700

straight legs above and slanted legs below

pvc work stand for catrike 700 2

same as above showing dimensions

pvc work stand for catrike 700 3

Lastly, since a PVC work stand is relatively lightweight one can fairly easily hang it up on a garage wall out of the way. Obviously they are rather large so they take up a lot of space sitting down on the floor. Mine just hangs on the wall anymore as I don’t use it and probably won’t anymore.

Most of these work stands made of PVC use 1.5 inch diameter piping and fittings.  The fittings vary according to the design needs: 90 and 45 degree elbows, Tees, 4 ways, 3 way corner,  etc. Here are some examples:

pvc fittings

The fittings which cradle the frame have to be cut and shaped to fit the frame. I personally would smooth out the cutout and round off the corners some so that they were’t sharp edges.

pvc fitting cutout

And here is another website which has an article on trike workstands:

http://www.williambenedict.com/bikes/trike-stand.html

FREE GIFT awaits you!