14 Sep 2011

Higgins mudguard stays!


In an extraordinary example of generosity Steve offered me a pair of mudguard stays for Mr Higgins. A pair of Bluemels mudguards were also included. Naturally I accepted with gratitude.

The stays and mudguards fitted. 
Try to ignore the worn paint on Mr Higgins' own stays. The result of rather soft paint and many thousands of miles of heavily laden bags rubbing away.

The back wheels of a delta trike do not spray directly onto the rider when the roads are wet. However, water droplets are very prone to being pushed about by the least bit of wind. Any acrobatics by the rider, on tight corners, will inevitably provide a ready target for the bright arcs of spray. The effect is instantaneous and most uncomfortable! On a cold, wet day one's shorts may never dry out! Salt spray from winter roads is not conducive to improving one's discomfort.

Steve had done an excellent job of packing into a large box with lots of screwed up paper. It was fun to see some British carrier bags for the first time in 15 years.

The stays are amazingly light and stiff! Suggesting high quality, thin wall, tubular steel. Complete with plastic mudguards they weigh exactly 2.5lbs. The finish appears to be tough, gloss black, stove enamel in remarkably good condition. The Bluemels Olympic mudguards are of a sturdy gauge of plastic while remaining amazingly light. Smart, original reflectors are present. The stays and guards are held together with copper rivets. I haven't attempted to polish them to confirm this but they certainly look like copper. Similar in colour to the Brooks saddle rivets.

The hollow, pressed, shell clamps save weight over solid.
The odd bits of rust are easily taken care of. 
These stays could be decades old if originally made by Higgins.

Having had a trial fitting on the rear axles I decided to drill out the original holes in the stay's axle clamps. Only by an insignificant 0.5mm. This would allow the use of readily available metric screws. Obtaining any other screw sizes is all but impossible here in Denmark. I also had plenty of plated screws and Nyloc nuts in the correct size.

5mm stainless steel, socket head screws and Nyloc nuts are readily available and would avoid rusting in typically salty, winter road conditions. I shall look for some next time I'm at the builders merchants.

Side view showing a 3- legged stay per wheel.
Being slim and close fitting they look very smart indeed!

With new 5mm screws and Nyloc nuts I clamped the mudguard stays onto the trike rear axle casings. Fitting them as far as out as possible. When I'd had new axles made by Geoff Booker at Trykit I had requested an extra bit of length. Which had pushed the rear wheel track out slightly more than a standard Higgins. Only about 1/4". (6mm per side)

At first this resulted in the tyres rubbing on the outside, inner ends of the mudguards. I tried bending the stays (very carefully) by hand but they appeared to be remarkably stiff and springy. Possibly Reynolds 531? The stays were purported to be Higgins originals. So thin wall, Reynolds steel may not be too far fetched.  Mild steel tubing would have easily bent in this diameter and much heavier in regular gauges.

Rear view showing the mudguards now centrally positioned over the narrow 23mm tyres.

Having failed to bend the stays by hand power alone I tried looking at the problem from another viewpoint. I moved the mudguards onto the top holes in the stays. This helped but gave rather a lot of tyre clearance. This would increase spray leakage and was not so pretty as a closer fitting. So I moved all six fittings back to the lower holes in the stays again.

Optional hole position on the tips of the stays.
Note the bronze, domed nuts. Pure quality!

It was then that I discovered that the metal straps holding the mudguards were soft steel. Simply rolling the mudguards gently outwards (by hand) at each stay and strap solved the clearance problem perfectly. The mudguards were now nicely snug to the tyres and perfectly parallel and aligned from end to end. Happy days! Mr Higgins was now ready for whatever a Danish winter would throw at us.

The remarkable stiffness of the stays suggest that they will help to keep my oversized shopping bag safely in place on corners. I was completely unaware of any increase in weight or drag as a result of fitting these mudguards. I was shocked at how heavy the bag was when I had to remove and then replace it. I shall have to see if I can't prune some weight from the contents.

I had a trial ride and the mudguards really are excellent. Completely silent in use even over hungry cobbles. The mudguards provide a much safer ride in wet conditions. Because I no longer have any need to ride wide around big puddles. There were plenty of these today with regular cloudbursts and almost constant rain falling all morning! There was also a fair bit of run-off from the bare fields.

With my bare legs (in my racing shorts) I certainly felt some spray from the front mudguard, at speed, but nothing at all from the rear wheels. I deliberately rode through some long, deep runs of standing water without a problem. Naturally one must keep an eye out for sunken wrecks and abyssal trenches. Despite carrying everything but the kitchen sink I have no desire for a gaudy life raft. It would clash with Mr Higgins' understated, mauve paintwork.

I intend to add flashing diode lights to the tops of the middle stays to aid safety in poor visibility. Mist is quite commonplace here in winter. Particularly in the mornings. The upper holes in the Higgins stays will offer a secure fixing for plastic, light brackets. Allowing easy light removal for security.

Diode lights are incredible value for money in the local supermarkets. Even 1W and 0.5W are now available for around a fiver equiv. (£5). These can be seen from a mile away! I bought some posh, diode lights at a LBS and then discovered the cheaper alternatives afterwards. I have no idea if the quality is the same. The cheap lights might eat batteries!

Trike seat stays aren't ideal for lights. Not if one wants to warn of the greater width of a trike to a bored or inattentive motorist. The tops of the seat stays are too close together suggesting a common, or garden, bicycle in poor light.

A large bag forces the lights right down to the axle. Where they are almost hidden by the bag and much less likely to be noticed. Lights in this position are also much narrower than the full trike width. The wheels rims and tires also block the light over quite a wide angle to the rear. (Where it really matters!)

Lights immediately over the rear wheels would be at full trike width and raised further into the eye-line of following drivers. They would not be blocked by the large bag either. While one could fit a light alloy or tubular carbon fibre crossbar to support lights they might be vulnerable to damage. Possibly interfering with the tricyclists legs. A trike rider needs much more room on his machine to hang off on corners than a cyclist. Protruding objects can catch you unawares when you least want distractions!

Grateful thanks, again, to Steve for his generosity.

Click on any image for an enlargement. Back click to return to the text.


  1. Chris,
    You are most welcome. Reading your blog it simply became very clear to me that the mudguards should be on your Higgins rather than in a box in my shed. The world is now more in harmony and therefore a better place!
    Enjoy a less damp winter.
    Best wishes

  2. Hi Steve

    We are most grateful. The mudguards are proving excellent for the wet, rural lanes I usually frequent. A superb bit of kit! Light, stiff and completely silent in use. Even my wife is grateful that I'm no longer coming back covered in dirty spots all over my cycling clothes. :-)

    Thanks and best regards