The new owner of this Higgins 'Ultralite' trike has kindly sent me some excellent pictures of his rebuild progress. I have downsized the images slightly to avoid large downloads for my blog readers. Some images have been slightly cropped to emphasise some details. Steve is a competent and very experienced restorer of period bicycles, tandems, and now trikes. He already enjoys riding fixed wheel on his superb, classical track bikes.
I've just remembered that my first trike was fixed wheel to start with. On the first real ride into town I nearly ended up in a posh hotel via the revolving doors! Ouch! Fortunately I was fended off by the burly, uniformed doorman as I snaked across the road, jumped onto the pavement, all on two wheels and completely out of control! Ah, the overconfidence of (idiot) youth. :-)
Real trikes lack adjustable rear drop-outs. Though my first trike had telescoping, adjustable chainstays with nickel-plated, screwed sleeves for altering chain tension. Small clamps underneath the stays then kept everything tight and secure. I can still remember the struggle to keep the clamps tight with rather small and poor screws of the day. Today they would be fitted with much tougher Allen, hex socket screws. Back then these screws weren't yet in the public domain. Though specialist Allen screws were certainly being used on alloy chainsets.
A very pretty Campag Record chainset has been fitted. I think it wise not to learn to ride a trike with toe-clips or even clip-in pedals. You rarely has time to remove a foot to save yourself if the trike should tip over. Not even when at a complete standstill! This is when it usually happens in my own experience.
Detail of the wonderful artistry of the Campagnolo Record single speed chainset. The new, eccentric bottom bracket assembly can be seen peeking through the chainwheel.
The period "cockpit" is fully in keeping with the age of the Higgins frameset. When this trike was built I was a 17 year-old, bike-mad teenager but still a couple of years short of a trike of my own.
It was a time of great change. With teenagers suddenly being recognised as a new economic species. To be catered for with wage increases to match their new-found needs and responsibilities. Bikes and British motorbikes were being scrapped in vast numbers. Everybody wanted the newly affordable, family cars. Hire purchase (credit) was a new phenomenon. Completely bypassing the former tyranny of the local bank manager. He who would only lend to those who already had money and property. Nobody realised it at the time but many manual skills would soon become only a very, distant memory. The computer had already arrived. Albeit in a space the size of warehouse. I worked on the peripherals of a couple of these monsters myself. Only the "boffins" in white coats could actually touch the machine itself.
Detail of the dual front brakes. Which are a typical combination of cantilevers on the brazed-on, fork bosses. With a centre-pull brake mounted on the hexagonal extension bar in front. The extension bar is essential to keep the brake blocks from overlapping when using two brakes in front of the forks. It is internally threaded for the brake fixing screw.
An unusual view of the brake arrangements with the forks turned sideways. I note that Steve chose to use the beautiful Campag Record headset bearings. Another real touch of high class cycle componentry.
Cornering on a trike at high speed with fixed wheel is a very difficult matter indeed. It takes a lot of the fun out of "hanging off the side" of the trike and drifting at high speed if one must keep pedalling. One learns to take a corner fast by free-wheeling and then start pedalling as soon as possible. Small roundabouts are enormous fun and one can get 3/4 of the way round without pedalling or losing speed. The trick is to use one's body weight well inboard on every corner. It feels strange an d dangerous at first but soon becomes the most enjoyable par of triking. IMO.
Here are some new images of the Higgins differential:
The Higgins half axles, without the differential, showing the actual distance between them in use. The trike is inverted here nicely showing the Higgins gear hanger boss. A small, right angle bracket is fitted here with a suitable thread to take the gear changer pivot directly.
Now with the trike the correct way up with the diff. carrying a five speed, screw-on, sprocket block. Only a single gear being used at present due to a lack of gear hanger. (Chris Hewitt usually has a choice of three different hangers)
From memory, it pays to tighten the sprocket well before tightening the locking ring. This avoids any free play in the sprocket which is very undesirable. The fixed sprocket can be tightened by standing on the pedals with the front wheel pushing against a wall. Or with the front brake(s) applied hard. Only then should the locking ring be tightened really well.
The bare Higgins Differential. Note the two different types of thread on either end of the casing. Long, continuous, gear thread on the right. Shorter fixed wheel thread on the left. Opposite hand, locking ring thread on the extreme left.
Higgins differential end view. Note the hexagon socket to fit the half axle. This hole will probably be in the back of a large bevel gear. The large headed screws on the outside of the casing no doubt support the four, small, bevel gears within.
Riding a 72inch fixed gear was once considered the best way to get fit again after a winter lay-off. The gear was low enough to force rapid pedal rpm. (twiddling) Yet not too high for steep hill climbing. (Often out of the saddle) Nor was the gear too low to allow reasonable speeds downhill or with a tailwind. Time trials were once held for 72" fixed gear. I tried everything from 40" to 153" fixed in my youth. The latter with a 68T TA chainring was for pacing intercity buses but proved totally impractical. Particularly on the very long hills where I lived. I had a silly habit of trying to go as fast as possible downhill on these long drags. Which is where the (borrowed) 68T chairing came in. Not a good idea at all. :-)
Note the large flats on the casing ends to take a very large spanner or vice jaws. (the latter used carefully and preferably fitted with protective slips on the jaws) These flats hold the casing still as one unscrews sprockets or gear blocks from the other end. Often requiring considerable toque and a long chain wrench! The use of a common machinist's vice with typically rough jaws will probably damage the casing permanently if only cosmetically. A couple of small lengths of angle iron, brass angle, alloy angle or even strip steel bent at right angles, will protect the diff. casing from the roughest of vice jaws.
Yet again my thanks go to Steve, the Higgin's owner, for providing all of these excellent images.
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