RARE VINTAGE HIGGINS ULTRALITE TRIKE FRAME AND WHEELS on eBay (end time 19-Aug-10 20:16:52 BST)
The vendor has very kindly provided some superb images of the Higgins 'Ultralite' trike which he has for sale by eBay auction. This trike frameset is a lugless model. Which was the usual form of Higgins trike and lighter than the optional lugged version. It has a single speed fixed sprocket carrier and eccentric bottom bracket assembly. The latter to allow chain tension adjustment with a single speed. Just like a typical tandem bottom bracket, in fact, but smaller, neater and lighter.
A general view from the side showing the original paintwork, transfers and brazed-on saddlebag carrier.
The uniquely tasteful Higgins 'Ultralite' transfer. (decal) Ultra light the Higgins was too! With its careful design and perfect construction using only the finest materials.
The view of the rear end from above showing typical wear and tear to the paintwork of a well-loved trike. The longevity of Higgins trikes is legendary and strongly suggests excellent workmanship and materials. A fastidious owner could match the paint and make good where the paint has worn. Or a skilled re-refinisher could duplicate the original finish in its entirety if so desired. No doubt the carrier adds its own contribution to the overall stiffness of the trike's rear end. It is smaller, lighter and neater than many much larger, and lower, trike carriers.
The rear view with the brazed on carrier in the foreground. The reinforcing loops of the rear axle and the grease nipples for the axle bearings are clearly seen. The split rear axle is carried in four pairs of cups and cones just like the bottom bracket axles on normal bicycles. I'm not sure if the blue badge, on the left axle housing, is brass and just needs a good polish. My own badge was impressed brass and the 'Higgins' script infilled in red. It "lit up" to a high polish with a cloth and Solvol Autosol.
The front view showing the Higgins head badge. The forks carry the typical, hexagonal extension for a normal front brake and cantilever bosses lower down for the second front brake. Most British made racing and touring trikes have two brakes on the front wheel. Rear brakes are likely to cause the lightly-loaded, rear wheels to lock instantly. Particularly in wet or icy conditions. Though heavily laden tourist trikes carrying camping gear, in mountainous countryside, may well take advantage of a rear brake on long descents. I imagine they would lead to rapid rear tyre wear.
I can vouch for the effectiveness of two front brakes from thousands of miles on all surfaces including sheet black ice and hard-packed snow. It proved perfectly possible to reduce the trike's speed safely in a perfectly straight line, even downhill. I was regularly confronted with unexpected sheet ice under snow on the undulating Danish lanes last winter. Melting snow regularly coated my local lanes with inch thick water ice. This went on literally for months on end. It was quite impossible to stand up on this ice but perfectly safe on a trike even with rock hard, skinny, 23mm tyres on 700C wheels. Before I became used to the incredible stability of the trike on ice I tried to put my feet down a couple of times. They immediately shot out from under me! Ouch! When safely seated back on the trike I discovered that I could roll slowly, stand still or even shoot cross the ice at 20+mph.
In my youth I fitted two side-pull brakes to a rear crossbar on my old touring trike. I quickly found these so worthless that I removed them after just one ride! The wheels would lock with the least pressure on the brake lever which made the trike very unstable in its direction and steering. The front brake was perfectly safe in all conditions. Duplication of the front brake makes it doubly safe even on a sand, snow or ice covered road.
The front end showing the superb fillet brazing of a master craftsman. Another grease nipple allows the owner to grease the headset bearing without dismantling. The original Higgins transfer (decal) is present. The beautiful Campag. Record headset bearings are offered by the vendor for an extra charge.
I believe Chris Hewitt can still supply complete replacement transfer sets for Higgins machines. These would allow a complete respray without losing the unique and original identification marks of the Higgins frame-set. Such skilled work is best left to the experts though.
The gentle curves of the Higgins forks provide stability and comfort on rough surfaces. Trikes are unique in their steering requirements and need their own angles and geometry to ensure stable steering. Bicycles are very different. The bike rider's and builder's ideas regarding frame and fork angles, trail and castor cannot be simply carried over to the trike. Particularly where steep road camber is the norm.
These look like plated, forged, front drop-outs. The vendor has confirmed they are Campagnolo. Italy's legendary cycle parts manufacturer for many decades and still going strong. Small, neat mudguard eyes are provided for the comfort and protection of the tourist or commuter. The trike rear wheels safely throw their spray past the rider. No matter how wet the road. Though one can get a bit wet hanging over the rear wheels while cornering fast on tight corners. It would be more prudent to slow down and avoid the spray by remaining safely upright in the saddle. Or wear waterproof trousers.
The delta trike front wheel is no different from a bike. Particularly with regards to providing wet feet and legs on wet roads. A mudguard and attached mud flap are very desirable in winter. The rear wheels can be left naked to take care of themselves. The trike rider can smile knowingly at the common racing bike rider with their dark stripe of wet mud and filth right up their backs. Rear storage on a trike is also (usually) safe from rear tyre spray since it lies between the bright arcs of water thrown up by the tyres.
The clamp-style bottom bracket shell intended for an eccentric bottom bracket assembly. Note the neat fillet brazing and braze-on cable stops taking the rear changer cable over the bottom bracket rather than under it. Chris Hewitt lists remarkably affordable, lightweight, alloy, eccentric, bottom bracket sets for the weight conscious. Note how the trike can use a low bottom bracket since pedal contact with the ground on corners never happens.
The colourful "Built by Higgins" seat tube badge declaring that the famous Reynolds '531' butted tubes are used.
A Higgins differential? It certainly matches the illustrations in Chris Hewitts' "Register of Higgins Cycles". The vendor hasn't mentioned it but it must add to the interest. The odd thing is that the illustrations of differential models show very wide, axle reinforcing loops. Not the semicircular ones on this particular trike in the auction. I'm guessing that this is the single gear model and it would require more space for a multi-gear, sprocket block. It should be noted that screw-on sprocket blocks fit the same thread as fixed wheel sprockets. Only the sprocket locking ring (shown) is a left hand thread. This vital locking ring stops the fixed sprocket from unwinding when back pedalling. A freewheel has no need of the locking ring because the internal pawls ensure there is no backwards torque.
A decent pair of rear wheels are provided with Mavic MA40 rims.
Chris Hewitt is an expert on Higgins and has produced a number of inexpensive booklets, over the years. Listing details of literally hundreds of Higgins trikes (and fewer bikes) by this great maker. (373 Higgins trikes and 118 bicycles in the 2006 edition including their original owners) He can answer any questions the new owner might have about this trike. Hopefully the new owner will contact Chris to add yet another machine to his unique "Higgins Register". Given the frame number (stamped under the bottom bracket and hidden away on the fork steerer tube) Chris can provide the date of manufacture and other details which would be completely impossible to obtain elsewhere.
Should the new owner be bent on trike racing, or time trialling, then brand new parts can be obtained from Geoff Booker at Trykit. Two wheel cassette drives, replacement or lighter axles, Conversion axles to change the type of wheel hub fitting, new trike hubs to fit any axle pattern, complete wheels and bearing options are all available. If the new owner wishes to fit a modern Shimano or Campag cassette (up to 10 speed) he should talk to Geoff Booker at Trykit. Geoff can provide two new axles and his incredibly compact, well-proven, two wheel drive, double-free-wheel, freehub system.
Any Higgins trike can be restored to full working order and enjoyed for many hundreds of thousands of miles with the expert knowledge and spares readily available today. Modern groupsets can be just as home on a trike (of any age) as they can on any bicycle. On the other hand the owner who values tricycle history and desires to build a period machine, can fulfil that dream as well.
Once riding the tricycle is mastered one can have enormous fun. The really energetic can ride at speed and hang off the trike on every corner displaying their fearless daring and smooth control. Showmanship and fluid acrobatics become a part of every ride. While the more sedate can remain firmly on the saddle and enjoy the relaxed stability on all surfaces at more modest speeds. The trike is the perfect ice breaker wherever you go. Whether trundling down the high street with many wary eyes upon you. Or cruising the byways you cannot avoid the attention of others. Curious strangers will come up to you when you stop outside a supermarket.
On a trike one is always acutely aware of movement and forward motion. The changing camber and road surfaces are constantly and intimately fed back to you in all three dimensions. This adds enormously to the pleasure of a trike ride in comparison with riding a bicycle. A bike is for getting from a to b. A trike is ridden to enjoy every movement and moment. Tractors will take to the fields to avoid you. Cars will take to the verges to avoid the terrifying unknown. Lorries will use the opposite lane to give you room to play. And when you finally stop, exilerated from your ride, you can just sit there. Completely relaxed in your leather armchair with your arms folded.
While lesser mortals, on bicycles, must try to balance in wobbly track stands wondering whether they can unclip before falling sideways. Or must unclip immediately and put an unprepared foot down in the cold, water-filled gutter. Then have to regain their balance, clip back in and accelerate up to a safe speed, all in the throng of unsympathetic traffic. All just to avoid falling off! Meanwhile the tricyclist is well under way. In perfect balance. In harmony with the world and a hundred yards ahead. ;-)
Well, after days of slow bidding the auction ended excitingly. With new bidders coming in towards the end and a final bid of £275 with only seconds to spare. A decent and fair price, I think. Trikes haven't been coming up on eBay so often recently. Congratulations to Tom, the seller, and many thanks for sharing your images with a wider audience.
I hope the new owner is happy with his purchase and will remember to contact Chris Hewitt to register the trike frame number and details for posterity. You may even discover new and interesting information about your trike.
The Higgins Register form:
If the trike's new owner isn't already a member of the Tricycle Association now would be a good time to join. :-)
Click on any image for an enlargement.