16 Aug 2010

Late August Diary

August 16th 2010 62-66F. Warm, humid, light winds and overcast. Set off into fine drizzle, expecting forecast early rain, but it soon petered out. Only 25 Miles before coffee. Knees fine but legs a little tired. The real rain came later when I needed to go out again. 13 miles later for 38 today.

I'm trying to cut down on my junk food, biscuit intake. So now I'm eating large nuts and jumbo raisins on my morning trike rides with only a couple of biscuits. At home I'm having a daily lunchtime pudding of organic bananas and black grapes with organic fruit yoghurt poured over the top. After dinner I'm having lightly stewed organic apple slices with organic cream. Any time I feel peckish I'm chewing organic sunflower and pumpkin seeds instead of biscuits. The number of my lunchtime wholemeal sandwiches have risen to four large slices. Usually with mature cheddar cheese and sliced tomatoes, organic liver pate and organic honey. Luckily I never tire of these same sandwich fillers. My weight was sneaking back up towards 11.5 stone. 161 lbs or 73 kg. Though my mileage and speed have fallen recently because of my knee problem. This has probably reduced the energy I am expending on the trike.

I'm rather chuffed to have finally found a soap box for my camera. The fit is an absolutely perfect size to go snugly over the soft vinyl case. It also offers a high level of waterproofing. Though not physical immersion, of course. The snap over catch is also very secure ensuring the camera cannot escape form its protective shell. You might sneer at the use of a common, plastic, traveller's soap dish for a £300 camera. However I see it as the perfect solution where no camera case manufacturer offers anything remotely as good. 

It acts as a tough hard case to protect the camera within its soft case. Thus avoiding potential damage to the large and fragile LCD focussing screen when the camera is in my saddle bag. Being such a good fit the plastic container is no larger than it needs to be. Though apparently brand new, it cost me small change in a flea market. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Now my knee problem is (seemingly) over I am trying to rebuild my daily mileage without risking a recurrence. Ideally I need lower granny gears to match my higher pedalling rates. Hopefully to avoid loading my knee on steeper hills with low revs and high torque. Once my pedalling rate falls off I have no choice but to pedal at that cadence until I reach the top. Accelerating in an attempt to achieve higher pedalling speeds simply adds to the load on my knees.
My present lowest gears are 28 front x 21 and 23T rear sprockets. I ought to find a new 8 speed (?) cassette block with 14-28T. This would hopefully offer low gears of 21-24-28T. For those times when I'm tired and not feeling strong enough to climb the steeper stuff at a high cadence. At present the (Continental offside) one wheel drive makes it hard to climb steep hills without the front wheel skipping hard towards the kerb. Lowering the gears would only make matters worse. Which is why I only rarely use bottom gear at the moment. So I have to slog up in a higher gear.

Mr Higgins loitering in the harbour.

17th  56-63F, overcast, still. I went in search of an adjustable, right side, bottom bracket cup. No luck at the two  nearest local bike shops.(LBS) 24 miles.

Mr Higgins at the sharp end.

 Mr Higgins chats with a train of  railway cycles while we wait for the shops to open. These trolley cycles can be hired in several towns and the tracks run for a considerable distance out through the countryside. One presumes payment of the hire charge provides at least one saddle! Mr Higgins wonders how one can overtake slower traffic if one really needed to. :-)

18th 58-60F, torrential rain all day. Rest day rebuilding the trike with a new larger, 8 speed 11-28 cut down to 7sp. cassette. 13-28T. I didn't need the 11T sprocket so I put a packing ring behind the largest sprocket and fitted a 13T in place of 11-12. The rain finally stopped at 6pm so I was able to do a 10 mile ride to test out the new gears. They felt very natural with a full set of wide ratios on each chainring and all gears usable despite overlaps.

The good  thing is that I still have the same step down, or up, by changing to another chainring. So I already know exactly what effect this has and don't suddenly start spinning like mad or pedalling too slowly. The 28-38-48 triple chainset matches my needs perfectly. With the wider ratio block I don't need to change to another ring unless I really want to. The granny gears are much lower than before so now I can spin up any hill. The former chain jumping on the middle gears is also cured by increasing the chain tension using the rear changer, body angle screw. The bottom bracket bearings are rather noisy so I ought to get a sealed axle set with journal bearings.

A unique LongJohn with front box carrier and fat front wheels. Being used as a roadside display stand at a garden centre. It has drum brakes and a form of Ackerman steering.

19th 64-66F, windy, sunny periods. Tour de Cornflakes. The shop wasn't open on arrival so I had to kill some time by shopping in different villages. The wind picked up as the morning wore on and I was being blown all over the place. 45 miles. New, wider gear ratios an improvement. Back axle bearings making odd noises. Plus 15 miles later.

A newly-thatched house for sale in a rural village which I passed through.

20th 58-68F, breezy, sunny periods. Cool start needed a windproof jacket but not for long. The axle bearings are making a racket to add to the clonks from the bottom bracket. The 531 tubing of the Higgins frame is so thin that it amplifies every sound the bearings make. Today it sounded like I was dragging a bucket of bolts along the road.

I nearly bought a sealed bottom bracket axle set from an LBS but it required a specially splined "Shimano" spanner. Which the shop could not supply! So I would have to cough up £30-40 to have the axle set fitted. From then on I would be dependant on bike shops for any adjustments. No thanks!

I have never paid a bike shop  to do anything in my entire life and have no desire to start now. I have a large tool collection from my various hobbies and mechanical skills from decades of hands-on activity. I will favour a bike shop with my purchase when they can provide the special spanner, or socket, as well as the bottom bracket set.

I could not believe the friction of the one whey offered me to examine in the shop. I can only hope that the seals polish away to provide a smooth but free rotation. As sold, I would need a lower gear, or longer cranks, just to turn the bottom bracket axle in its bearings!  

Only 25 enjoyable miles today. The lower gears are working out nicely.

A picture taken while turning round on the trike, after overtaking, with the camera in one hand and steering round a sharp corner with the other! These two were not "Just Married" as advertised on the back of the carriage but were merely "the staff".  

Another Holdsworth trike conversion set has come up on eBay: Item no. 330462691048

I strongly urge you to read the sales blurb if you like self-deprecating humour. Hilarious! :-)


I have just discovered another triking video on YouTube.  Wayne 'Pink Panther' Baker as he appeared on his local TV news programme. Sadly the video quality does not do justice to Wayne's incredible skills on blind corners! Well worth watching:

21st 62-65F, gusty wind, overcast. Rain arrived though none was forecast. Heavy drizzle quickly soaked through my hastily donned jacket. 23 easy miles snaking around the lanes keeping up a high cadence. Having lower gears means I can spin up any hill. And do! :-)

The post brought Dave Hardy's limited edition (of 100) booklet: "Tricycle Racing on the Isle of Man 1960-84. Well packed with photographs, maps and results, the period covered my own  cycling youth. So I enjoyed seeing the smart clothing, black shoes with white socks and skinny wheels. Toe clips and straps and arching brake cables are all clear indicators of another time.

The crowds of spectators were truly remarkable. No doubt enticed by the sight of athletic young men hanging precariously off the side of such unstable and flimsy looking machines. Cornering at unbelievable  speeds on narrow tyres on sparkling wheels. It was just like being  there. I recognised a number of names from amongst the TA stalwarts even of today.  Thank you, Dave, for going to the trouble of sharing a unique piece of tricycling history. See the TA website for details if you want to get a copy before they are all gone. 

18 miles later. Still blowing a gale. 69F, 15m/s, overcast, light showers.

Just another photogenic, timber-framed farm house spotted on my travels. It ought to be thatched but the corrugated, fibre-cement roofing sheets, have weathered to match the period of the house. The roofing is made by the Danish company Eternit and once contained asbestos. Eternit is still sold in a variety of profiles and colours but now uses polyester for reinforcement. A huge proportion of Danish houses are covered with this roofing.  It has the valuable properties of lightness, relative cheapness and long life.

22nd 64-68F, breezy, overcast with light showers. Still taking it fairly easy. 36 miles before coffee. I'm going to make a work stand for the trike. So I can work on it without it moving about. Or having to support it when the wheels are off. I tried hanging it from ropes and pulleys but the trike moves about too much when I am working on it. Some Danish bike workshops have rope lifts for bikes but the pulleys are probably well separated to keep  the ropes in tension. This avoids for and aft, pendulum effects. I'm not sure how lateral forces are resisted when cranking hard on a spanner. One shop even used an electric motor to lift the bike being worked on.

With charges of £40 an hour for repairs every second counts. When one can go to a superstore and buy a new bike for around £100-150 the economics of major repairs begins to look a bit daft. When older bikes are so cheap a repair can easily exceed the machine's secondhand value. Kit is sold online cheaper than the LBS can even buy it in for. High end kit is now so pricey that few dealers can afford to stock it. It's no wonder so many bike shops are closing down during the recession!

Before lunch I lifted the trike on rope and pulleys in the workshop to bring the axles to about waist height. Then stripped the outboard back axle bearings. After cleaning, re-greasing and refitting them I took a 13mile ride to check them out. Much quieter now but not perfect. It probably means the inboard bearings need attention too. With the working height being so comfortable it only took ten minutes to remove the wheels, clean, grease and replace the outer bearings. I can't believe how heavy my bag feels with just the most vital tools, cable lock and a windproof and a waterproof jacket in there!

I had a nice chat with a couple of young chaps who were very interested in the trike. They seemed impressed with my mileage too: 6,000 miles or 9.660km so far this year. Which isn't bad considering the endless problems with months of snow and ice, saddles, clothing, food, shoes, chains, gears, pedals and knees. Not necessarily in that particular order. ;-)

I passed Brahesborg, a stately home, on my travels just as it struck 8 o'clock on the tower clock. The apertures in the gable are for the large bells to sound across the countryside. The house sits at the corner of a large lake with a moat on the third side. A huge, walled and cobbled yard closes the fourth side. The associated farm outbuildings are vast. The cobbles could be used for testing denture adhesive! ;-)

23rd Aug. 60-65F, mostly sunny, light winds. I left a little earlier today determined to rebuild my daily average. So I added the Helnæs peninsular loop to a pleasant run along the coast. I disturbed hare and deer and umpteen birds as I pottered along the empty rural lanes.

Helnæs peninsular is spread out before me across the water as I crest a gentle hill. Yet more hare and deer scattered as I approached this spot and felt compelled to take a photograph of the view. The orange lenses in my sunglasses cut through the haze far better than the camera. The view was absolutely stunning to my eyes with the Helnæs lighthouse clearly visible.

The back axle decided to start making odd noises on corners so I had to perform some delicate surgery using Fred Flintstone techniques. As I was on the coast I borrowed a suitable (clean) stone to use as a hammer. Then I used my tubular spanner (which fits the crank holding screws) as a drift to unscrew the outboard locking ring where the bearings were very loose. I had to loosen the road wheel to make room for another tool to tighten the bearing cup.  Then I rotated the bearing cup using the spike of the chain extractor tool to perfect adjustment. Followed by re-tightening of the locking ring again. No further problems ensued.

I'm guessing that I failed to seat the inner cone of the idler side axle when I re-greased it. That will teach me not to wear my reading glasses while working on the trike! I should have been able to see the cone surrounding the inner axle end in the aperture in the inner bearing cup. I knew that the outer cone was properly seated but had obviously withdrawn the axle too far to check this. So the inner cone had been pulled off its seating on the axle.  Fortunately the ball bearing remained safely contained  between the cup and the cone. 41 miles before coffee with several stops for photography and shopping.

The entirely thatched, Helnæs windmill hasn't changed its appearance since I first saw it. Though the thatch must be slowly turning to compost. The sails are long gone with only the cross tree visible where they joined the axle. The buildings now belong to an outdoor centre with sea canoeing offered.

No ride in the afternoon. I went to the city to buy some bike bits. Starting with a new 117mm Shimano sealed bottom bracket and the matching Park tool. Thankfully the axle turns nicely compare with the one I tried locally.

Lidl provided winter cycling gloves with gel, a new pair of wrap-around convertible goggles/sunglasses and a bike work stand at ridiculously low prices.

I can lift the trike effortlessly onto the stand using the block and tackle then clamp it firmly in place. Which is exactly what I did before swapping the old cup and loose ball, bottom bracket for the new sealed one. (using plenty of grease as advised b the bike shop) ) I may take the unit out again and add a 1/8" (3mm) spacer ring behind the right side flange just to centre things up properly. The clearance of the inner ring of the triple chainset from the chain stay is fine. The magnet for the cadence sensor is just a little further away than recommended now. I could use a bit of rubber packing but it would make the sensor even more vulnerable.  Removing the cranks again and packing the bottom bracket unit with a spacer ring is hardly the work of ten minutes.

I hate it when a bike or trike makes any unwanted noise while being ridden. The Higgins rear axle is usually silent when properly greased and adjusted. This despite the slight wear to the cones and their looseness on the rear axles. The clonking bottom bracket was awful and needed replacement for my own sanity. How am I supposed to enjoy the wildlife if they can hear me coming from miles away?

24th Aug  60-62F. Stormy gusts and heavy rain showers as a series of lows cross Denmark. Despite this I decided to try a ride to the shops. With the wind roaring in my ears I thought the trike was now silent. Until, that was, I entered the quieter leafy tunnels beneath the trees. The new bottom bracket seemed to be knocking and rattling as much as the old knackered cups and balls. I wondered why the Shimano box and instructions were covered in black, oily fingerprints when I got home! Every time I stopped pedalling the trike fell quiet. This needs further examination! I managed a sunny window in between the showers but the gusts were really vicious at times.  Riding back into the wind was a low gear crawl.  Only 13 miles so far.

I tried spinning the cranks without the chain and the BB seems fine. (A Shimano UN54 118mm) It was very fast spinning, smooth and absolutely silent. Then I took the cartridge BB out again and fitted a spacer ring behind the right hand side flange. The chainset is now back where it was, laterally, as when I had the loose balls and cups BB. So I won't have to adjust the gears now. The cadence sensor seems to be working as well as ever. The noises I can hear when riding must be the rear axle inboard bearing on the drive side. It only seems to make a noise when I pedal. I'll just have to see if I can last out without stripping the back axle again.

The wind is supposed to drop a little from the present gusting to 17m/s (35mph) but showers are still forecast all day. I'm not sure I'll get out again today but will try. 12 miles later along lanes littered with leaves, twigs and branches brought down by the gales. I came over the brow of a hill to see a hare "haring" towards me at high speed. It didn't seem to notice me until the last moment. Then froze, dropped into its stealth position and then ran like hell straight back down the way it had come! It is definitely the back axle which is clonking.

Isn't it amazing what you can get from Lidl for £20? (equiv) The shelves are a bit of a nuisance when supporting a trike if one needs to turn the pedals. On a bike probably no problem as they can be turned away.  The main upright conceals a long, telescopic, alloy pole. Strong clamps all round and rubber protected jaws. It's pretty heavy too so stability is not an issue even when supporting a 40lb, loaded trike at full height and offset. I'd really like a second clamp to hold the trike frame's seat or down tube when loosening bottom bracket cups. With the single clamp the machine moves away from the forces applied. I used a handy bit of wood, as a brace between the trike and the stand, to stop this happening. This needs care to avoid paint damage.

25th Aug. 58-62F, mostly sunny, gales with furious gusts. The first leg was almost into the wind. It was raining out of a clear blue sky! The second leg was with the wind and I hit just over 30mph for a few hundred yards on the flat! I even managed 138 pedal rpm for a while. The last leg was straight into the wind. Only 28 miles but I was feeling quite tired by the end. I was even using the 28t chainring just to maintain 90rpm at one point where headwind and incline combined.

A pretty scene at Gamborg Fjord on the coastal lanes leading to Middelfart.

26th 54-64F, light winds, mostly sunny. I did a shopping trip to a  town over 20 miles away and brought back a 1.4m x 25cm x 150cm x 7kg package. Once safely perched vertically on the rear end reinforcing loop, I lashed the package onto the rear stays and saddle frame then set off back home again. Unfortunately I couldn't sit properly on the saddle because I was being pushed forwards by the box. By the time I reached home I felt as if I'd been cut in half! :-( I should have stuffed a jacket behind the saddle to give myself a bit more room to sit comfortably. It had taken me so long to make the package totally secure that I couldn't be bothered to undo the ropes and start again.  45 miles listening to the back axle bearings clonking away like a pair of ponies pulling a trap. 7 miles later, pm, and feeling much stronger again. I was cruising effortlessly at 20-25 mph most of the way. Thank goodness the gales have subsided!

I see Alan Schmidt has won his second bronze medal at the UCI Para-cycling (Trike) World Championships in Canada.  He claimed Bronze in both the time trial and the road race. Alan is the Danish Correspondent for the WTU.  (World Tricycle Union) Well done, Alan!


BTW: The Holdsworth trike conversion set on eBay made £128.01 after nine bids.


27th Aug 52-63F, mostly cloudy, light winds. Clonked my way around the roads and lanes for 25 miles.

I spent the afternoon assembling a video of my stills from the Tour of Denmark evening Time Trial: :-)

It's a bit clumsy but was good fun. The images had already been cropped and downsized so they don't stand full screen viewing.

The fully laden, Higgins shopping trolley pauses for a breather beside the sea near Assens.

28th Aug 58-60F, breezy, sun and cloud with occasional showers. 24 Miles in the morning. 14 more in the pm.

I don't know whether you can see this in the picture but there was a deep, broad band of rainbow across the horizon stretching right up into the ragged clouds. I don't remember ever having seen this effect before. There was no obvious sense of curvature typical of a rainbow. More of a wash of spectral colour. My dark, coated sunglasses brought out the colour rather better than the camera managed. This is looking roughly north into the stiff, gusty wind. With the sun behind clouds behind me and to my left. A shower passed over soon afterwards. Rather oddly, it was still raining big droplets, just there, half an hour later when I passed that way again.

 29th Aug. 52-60F, breezy, building to windy, with sunny periods. Enjoyed a pleasant window between showers. Pushed myself harder today to see if my knee complained but no problems at all. Harvesting almost over with roads and lanes now liberally covered in mud, gravel and potholes. 36 miles. The noise is making me so ashamed that I cannot put off stripping the Higgins back axle yet again. A chance to use my new work stand. Lifting the trike onto the stand at full stretch was easy with the heavy shopping bag removed. I wanted to work out of doors in the sunshine and have room to move all around the trike. Things are a bit cramped in the shed due to the width of the trike. It is nice to have plenty of light too.

Mr Higgins goes up on the Lidl's £20GBP, work stand for a rear axle rebuild.  
Warning! 400kB enlargement!

Naturally, I used a tray to catch the loose ball bearings as they fell out. A small screwdriver helped the last few out without loss. I tried a stethoscope on the bearing housings while spinning the wheels. They all sounded so awful that I decided to clean and re-grease all four bearings! Lifting the trike onto the stand was easy without the extra weight of the bag and tool kit.

When reassembling one should ideally be finished with the right, idler axle side before working on the drive side. Remember to tie off the chain to the upper reinforcing loop. Or you will have to split a link to refit it back around the sprocket block. The long nut on the Trykit freehub cassette adaptor will not allow a chain to pass. Other, original Higgins and Rogers sprocket adaptors may be different. With a two wheel drive it will be impossible to fit the chain around the sprockets afterwards unless you tie the chain off. So that the axles pass inside the chain loop during assembly.

On a Higgins axle, an 11mm ring spanner is handy to turn the axles by hand via the hub drive hexagons. The bearings can be greased and brought together with the loose cones as nested pairs to aid refitting. A narrow bladed pair of pliers can be nipped gently onto the outer cones to ensure they are properly seated on the stepped spigots as the axle is turned. The sprockets can be turned to seat the inner drive side cone. The inner idler cone is a matter of trial and error. Withdraw the axle slightly, turn and reinsert until the end of the axle is flush with the cone when viewed through the inner cup aperture. Only then is it safe to fit the outer bearing.

If you fail to seat a cone properly on the axle flats you may find a great deal of slop on the next ride. Then you have to tighten the cups to take up an extra 1/4" of axle end-play while out on the road! Where you may not have suitable tools to do the job.

A 7 mile ride later, to check for improvements, suggested the noise was much reduced but still not completely silent.

 I have an earlier, illustrated chapter on Higgins axles with more detail:


30th Aug  52-59F, cool, very windy with sunny periods. Feeling strong but my legs were tired. (if that makes any sense)  It was exhausting when I turned into the wind. So I curtailed my usual meandering route and took a short cut along the main road instead. The trike axle was quiet  today. As was the traffic.  I saw my very first thrushes of the year. A young pair on my own lawn! Only 25 miles today.

31st August 2010 54-60F, cool, still at first, with bright sunshine from a cloudless sky. A perfect morning if a little chilly. 30 miles including climbing some nice hills.

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