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Trigger-shifters alternative for shifting with limited hand strength

An alternative to twist shifters for riders with limited hand-strength

Twist (grip) shifters are an inexpensive and reliable technology common on recumbent trikes. They have two main drawbacks:

  1. They are ergonomically mal-positioned for most vertical handlebar situations as they are intended to be gripped with the thumb and fore-finger, but, instead, are positioned at the heel of the hand.
  2. The twisting action to shift gears can affect the steering.

Due to the first drawback, people with limited hand-strength can have difficulty operating grip-shifts mounted in a vertical position.

We have been experimenting with alternatives to conventional grip-shifts on recumbent trikes and have mounted trigger / paddle shifters in several different positions with the intent of serving the needs of people with macro-movements, but limited hand-strength. Causes of limited hand-strength include stroke and other forms of full or partial paralysis, neurological conditions, and age.

The shifters shown worked well for some clients and potential clients with low hand-strength. The position seemed to be the best of all the positions we tried when used with macro push movements.

It would be relatively easy to re-arrange them to work in pull-only situations.

These shifters are quite reliable and almost as inexpensive as grip-shifters so the investment cost of this conversion is low.

People with stroke, Parkinsons, Ataxia, ALS, MS, and cerebral palsy could have improved shifting by using these shifters as shown.

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Day-6 semi-recumbent bikes now available in Sacramento

AlphaBENT has added Day-6 bikes to its lineup of recumbents.

Day-6 bikes are known for their excellent handling, ease-of-use, and comfort. All Day-6 bikes have excellent lumbar support and an integrated carrying pouch.

"We're excited to have these bikes on the floor.", said AlphaBENT owner, Hugh Kern, "Not everyone who walks in here needs a trike, and recumbent bikes can be difficult for some people to ride. The Day-6 gives people an option that is well-dialed in, and won't break the bank."

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AlphaBENT open on Fridays in 2016

For a long time, we have been open 6-days per week and closed on Fridays.

This has raised many eyebrows and questions, and had absolutely nothing to do with religious beliefs, but rather with personal obligations.

IT WILL CHANGE IN 2016!

As of the beginning of 2016 (other than New Year's Day which is a holiday,) we will change our day off to Monday.

Please note: we will be open on Fridays moving forward, and closed on Mondays!

Our regular hours will be 11-5, every day but MONDAY.

We look forward to seeing you

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Gearing calculator updated for Pinion P1.12 and P1.18 gearboxes and single-speed

We have updated our online gearing calculator to do calculations for the Pinion P1.12 and P1.18 gearboxes.

Rohloff Speedhub, Schlumpf Speed-drive, Highspeed-drive, and Mountain-drive, and most internally-geared hubs such as Nuvinci N360, Shimano Nexus, Inter-8, and Alfine are already supported as well as more conventional front and rear derailleur systems and the SRAM Dual-Drive and 3x7 hubs.

Find it at: http://alphabent.com/article/recumbent-gearing-calculator

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Neodrive 250W electric-assist system on HP Gekko FX26

We have just finished putting together an HP Velotechnik Gekko FX26 folding trike outfitted with a Neodrive 250W electric-assist system.

This is a very nice system and hard to find. The first test drive in front of the shop was on level ground, but the system seemed quite powerful.

If you want electric assist, but still want to get exercise, the Neodrive is a good choice. It features a strain gauge that detects when you are pedalling and then magnifies your effort.

If you don't pedal, it doesn't either. If you do pedal, you feel like a bionic person.

This system has taken almost a year to get together. We have procured the drives and the batteries. We have also sourced locking brake levers with built-in cutoff-switches. We have also designed a new mounting system.

We've set up two systems on ICE trikes and one on a Catrike to work out the kinks.

Technical notes:

For anyone looking closely at the pictures, you will note that the battery is mounted on the left side and this will cause difficulties when trying to fold this particular trike. Our battery mounting brackets work on either side, but, the electric harness is not long enough to connect to this particular battery when mounted on the right side. As soon as we get an extension or a different harness, we'll move it to the other side.

The price of this trike and assist combination is less than $5000, and this includes a very high-capacity battery.

We'll be doing some testing with this system and posting a more detailed review.

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Bionx electric-assist system on HP Gekko FX26

We will have an HP Velotechnik Gekko FX26 folding trike outfitted with a Bionx 350W electric-assist system in the shop and available for test-riding on 27 August 2015.

This is a very nice system and hard to find.

If you want electric assist, but still want to get exercise, the Bionx is a good choice. It features a strain gauge that detects when you are pedalling and then magnifies your effort.

If you don't pedal, it doesn't either. If you do pedal, you feel like a bionic person.

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United States

Day-6 semi-recumbent bikes

Day-6 has a long history of making great easy-to-ride bikes.

Owner, Kelly Hutson, believes strongly in the product and has worked tirelessly to get this innovative design into the market. The product speaks for itself: most people who can ride a regular bike, but not a recumbent, seem to do quite well on a Day-6 bike without the pain of conventional bikes.

Shipping and service are centrally located in Iowa where Hutson and his crew serve the entire U.S. market.

AlphaBENT proudly stocks, sells, and supports Day-6 bikes in Sacramento and serves all of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Bike show 2015

ICE shows Fat, racks, apparel, and support for electric-assist at RCC

ICE owners Chris Parker and Neil Selwood both came in person to the Recumbent CycleCon show in Cincinnati (Sep 25-27, 2015). They brought one of their surprisingly popular Full Fat all-terrain trikes and a representative lineup of ICE models:

ICE has spent its R&D time working on the "niggly" things -- fixing things that could be better. They also make their first foray into apparel developing a much-needed jersey for recumbent riding.

New cycling jersey for recumbent trike riders

In the words of Chris Parker, they have obsessively over-designed and engineered a cycling jersey for recumbent trikers.

  • high-tech fabric stays dry
  • windproof front material
  • maximum ventilation on the back
  • soft non-chafing material on the inside of the collar
  • light-reflective accents on the sleeve sides
  • front gather to keep it from scooping air
  • zippered pockets to keep change and sundries

Manufactured in Spain and Poland. Expected price will be near $90.

Rear carrier / rack redesign includes optional top-mounting capability for 26" wheels and battery attachment point

ICE rear racks have been re-designed to NOT attach to the back of the seat. The new racks have a nice pannier hook point at the bottom and attach to the trike at the suspension pivot.

A solid battery mounting point is integrated into rack for electrified ICE trikes.

A new optional racktop structure will be available for 20" wheel-sizes and an ultra high structure for 26" wheels. The racktop structure is intended for lighter-weight top-mounting packs rather than heavy stuff.

Structurally, the sides of the rack are independent of the top, so full-weight panniers are supported without the top-structure.

Pedelec electric-assist convertability

With an eye toward the future of pedelec recumbent trikes, ICE has incorporated a battery mounting point at the bottom leg of the rack.

The attachment point is perfectly designed for ICE trikes in order to allow the chain through without interference and so the battery will not interfere with the folding of the trike.

This year (2015), ICE offered its first pedal-assist models equipped with the well-engineered 250W Neodrive electric-assist system from Germany. However, due to international battery shipping restrictions, the only dealer in the U.S. who actually sold Neodrive-equipped ICE trikes in 2014 and 2015 was AlphaBENT.

Until ICE works out a supply-chain to other dealers in the United States, this will remain the state of things.

Redesigned suspension pivot

An integral part of ICE suspension trikes is a pivot pin or axle.

When it was originally designed it was seen as a rather mundane item and not thought about much. However, as time as progressed, it has become apparent that the pivot pin is an ideal solid spot at which to mount other load-bearing structural members.

This idea was pioneered by HP Velotechnik years ago. Unfortunately, HP Velotechnik designed their original systems such that the pivot had to be disconnected in order to attach things like racks. This made installation and removal of racks a dealer-only proposal. [Newer HP Velotechnik designs have an innovation that circumvents this issue.]

ICE has redesigned the suspension pivot to have a thicker, compression-bearing sidewall and it incorporates a 45-degree chamfered edge at the ends. The chamfered edge allows racks and battery-mounts stay in place with compressional friction. This is the same principle pioneered on certain Mavic bottom-brackets long ago and then integrated as a fundamental design of most Schlumpf-drive installations.

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New GT20 folding recumbent trike with 20" wheels by Greenspeed

Greenspeed is developing a new trike platform to replace its GT1, GT3, and GT5 series of folding recumbent trikes for 2016. The new platform (currently known only as "GT20") was shown publicly complete with test rides of a prototype at the Recumbent Cycle Con convention in Cincinnati.

Greenspeed's GT20 borrows its design from GT1, Anura, and Magnum trikes which have all been in production for several years now. In common with the Magnum are:

  • 20" front wheels and possibly an interchangeable 20" / 26" rear drivewheel
  • 90mm Sturmey-Archer drum brakes
  • detachable seat with clamping seat-stays
  • variable seatheight adjustment
  • cambered wheels for maximum width at the point of the contact patch

The new trike borrows the Anura's rectangular square tubing for the main structural backbone, and uses the Anura-style moveable clamp meaning that the length of the frame can be cut down to size for shorter-legged riders.

Further, borrowing from the GT3 (and more lately the Magnum, as well) it features:

  • over-the top folding with central hinge
  • bar-end shifting and locking parking brake levers as standard equipment
  • crossover indirect steering tying to forward-aiming steering arms

The GT20's design improves rider ingress and egress with the swept back cruciform design pioneered by HP Velotechnik as a backward V and then improved upon by Azub with a graceful backward arch. The swept-back cruciform puts the standing position of the rider closer to the seat minimizing fall-back when sitting down.

The new trike will use Greenspeed-signature seat mesh with bungee strapping. Also, the wheels will use a specially modified Sturmey-Archer hub which is much narrower than the standard hub width and an innovative Greenspeed outer spoke-hole / flange system. Greenspeed first used this design more than 10-years ago, but has standardized it on this model to minimize the material in the hub while having very strong flange at the spoke interface. The narrow hub-width and standard drum-brake specification allow the GT20 to have a solid axle with minimal penalty for packability and no penalty for wheel removal.

The lowest seat height seems to be in the range of the Magnum, so it is relatively high as trikes go. However, this relatively high center of gravity is offset or stabilized by the afore-mentioned wheel camber and wide effective contact width. The GT20 has a lower weight-limit (estimated at 300#) than the highly-spec'ed Magnum's 400# limit, and the seat width is correspondingly slightly smaller, so it will fit average-sized riders better than the Magnum and should be lighter.

There is a possibility that Greenspeed will depart from its long-standing aversion to larger wheel-sizes and offer a large drive wheel for the GT20.

Greenspeed has been a leader in the recumbent trike industry with founder Ian Sims receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award due to his influence in designing the ground-breaking GTO touring trike which lent its design lessons to all of the later Greenspeed models and the recumbent industry as a whole.

Some dealers such as AlphaBENT owe their start in the recumbent trike industry to working with Greenspeed in bringing GTO trikes into the American market many years ago just after the turn of the millenium.

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Sun-Seeker full-suspension "Fat" trike

Sun-seeker showed a new full-suspension "Fat" trike at Interbike.

The display model was just that. We did not get a chance to actually ride it, but did spend some time examining it and asking questions.

  • Wheel size is nominally 20". However, due to the size of the tires, the overall wheels are comparable to 24".
  • Seat is a mesh on frame with adjustable angle. Seat stays are held with pins.
  • Components include conventional disc brakes and derailleurs.
  • Rear shock spring on the display unit was extremely hard. This can be either because the spring rate is very high, or because the preload is set high. Either way, a 160 lb downward force seemed not to budge it.
  • The front suspension employs elastomers. The ones on the display model were quite stiff. There seemed to be more give from the pneumatic tires than from the shock.
  • Overall weight was reported as 57 lb.
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Catrike introduces full-suspension folding trike with 26" drivewheel

Catrike has introduced a new trike to compete head-to-head with the ICE and HP Velotechnik full-suspension folding trikes.

This trike, dubbed "Dumont", is full-suspension with Catrike-style. It melds the

  • rear suspension design of the Road,
  • seat-height of the Expedition,
  • back-adjustable seat-style of the Trail, and
  • folding system of the 559

all into one trike with Catrike's unmistakeable design -- meaning it has direct steering, USA-made aluminum frame, the rigidity of the peace boom, high-end SRAM components, and a raft of accessories that might otherwise cost more.

New to the Dumont, though, is a nifty little anti-dive front suspension spindle to take the edge off the road. "Anti-dive" refers to properties of a suspension when it does something other than compress when braking. Antidive front suspension are used in many BMW motorcycles. The system used on the Catrike spindles is similar to the front suspension of a Birdy folding bike and is a time-tested solid concept.

The actual travel of the front suspension is less than an inch.

The Dumont sports two idler pulleys, including a fancy new big one fresh off the Terracycle machines, to route the chain from front to back.

The hinge is fastened with a quick-release and angled at 45-degrees as pioneered by ICE on its compact flat-twist Sprint and Adventure trikes.

Folding the Dumont occurs downward similarly to Catrike's 559, Trail, and HP Velotechnik's Gekko FX-20 and Gekko FX-26 trikes. Once folded, the Dumont, like the 559, stands up straight and can be rolled about on two trundle-wheels.

The rear swing-arm, though similar in appearance to the swing-arm of the Catrike Road, has been re-designed to handle the higher twisting forces that accompany the large drive-wheel. The rear shock is a sophisticated gas shock with adjustable spring and compression / rebound characteristics.

The unit shown at Interbike appeared quite almost ready for prime-time, so Catrike's estimates of a possible March 2016 timeline for production seem plausible.

Pricing is still indeterminate but likely to be higher than the 559.

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Workshop, Long-term wear

Foam grips solutions

Catrikes, Greenspeeds, and other trikes using bar-end shifters get major upgrade at AlphaBENT

Foam grips are one of the most under-reported problems in the bike and trike industry. The conventional foam grips are ubiquitous and comfortable, but they are almost guaranteed to fail. Failure of these grips reflects poorly on your fancy, expensive trike, and is surprisingly expensive to fix. We have sourced a durable solution for any trike using foam-grips (which generally includes trikes with bar-end shifters such as Catrikes and Greenspeed) sold at AlphaBENT.

What happens?

On most trikes employing bar-end shifters, the cable housing passes down the handlebar underneath the foam grip. At the bottom of the grip, the cable-housing generally has to rise away from the handlebar to pass over the brake lever clamp. 

 This rise is a stress-point, and, over time, that stress causes the foam grip to split at its lower edge.  The split then travels up the grip (getting stressed by usage of the handlebar and by time) until the grip rips free. 

This happens even on trikes that are hanging on the wall waiting for purchase! This happens even if the cable housing is anchored to handlebar with a cable-tie / zip-tie.

How to fix ripped grips

Fixing this problem is not rocket science and it doesn't require special training. However, it does require time and patience and ends up costing trike owners unnecessarily.

The reason is that it is quite difficult to fit a new foam grip over the shifting mechanism. Therefore, we usually find it necessary to pull the entire shifter and cable and then we have to put it all back together and then re-tune the shifting. Sometimes, the cable is compromised and we have to reach for a new cable.

What is irritating is that this is a mere parts sourcing issue and it costs us all unnecessarily...https://www.alphabent.com/node/569/edit

Furthermore, the solution is only ever temporary. It WILL happen again, and a lot sooner than anyone wants it to.

Solutions

At AlphaBENT, we've experimented with different approaches to resolving this problem.

We have tried anchoring cables tightly with zip-ties. This works better than not having any zip-tie anchors, but the stress point at the bottom of the grip still exists and the grip will still fail.

For the past year, we have settled on the solution used by ICE. This solution involves passing the cable housing into the handlebar and then back out again below the brake lever. To that end, we have painstakingly drilled holes into the handlebars of all the Catrikes in the shop. Frankly, it's a pain in the neck, and it makes assembly and disassembly more difficult. Once the cable housing is threaded into the handlebar, you really don't want to pull it out again unless you have to. This means that reconfiguring brake levers, etc. is much more involved that it really should be. Furthermore, the grip still has a stress riser at its top-point where the cable housing emerges from the shifter.

Our efforts to resolve this problem pass largely unnoticed by our customers. No one notices that they have lower maintenance costs!

The main people who notice, are us -- the workers in the trenches who actually get out there and pull things apart, and drill holes, and re-assemble, and re-tune the shifting.

Our solution

This year, we have gotten in some test units of a fancy new silicone foam material. We've installed it on several trikes and put some into real use.

The results have been very good. None of the grips has failed in use.

Now, we know that it's still too early to tell. However, it seems that the silicone foam grips are handling all the use that has been thrown at them with aplomb.

Because these new grips are stronger and handle wear better, we can go back to anchoring the cable housing at the bottom of the handlebar. This is quicker and easier for us to set up initially and later on allows easy reconfiguration or replacement of the brake levers without simultaneously requiring a bunch of shifter work.

It seems like such a small thing, and yet, you wouldn't believe how much needless maintenance we do with this "small thing". And, in order to be most efficient with our time and energy and provide our customers with the best product possible, we have spent a fair bit of time and energy developing this solution to a ubiquitous problem.

Another great reason to buy a trike from AlphaBENT.

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