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Workshop, construction/design, ICE promotional video, In-House News, Recumbents, rider comfort, Road bikes, Videos

ICE Air-Pro carbon fiber seat

Inspired Cycle Engineering is reknowned for blending comfort and efficiency in their hardshell carbon-fiber seat for the speedster VTX model.

In this series of time-lapse videos, you get to see the workmanship, engineering, and skill that goes into the backbone of the AirPro carbon fiber seat.  In their own words,

The ICE Air-Pro Carbon seats are handmade composite hard-shell seats that provide exceptional stiffness with minimal weight, weighing in between 1.1-1.4kg with the carbon saving approx 0.38Kg (0.84lbs) over the GRP version. The Air-Pro shell is an anatomically contoured shape which is available in two sizes (medium & large). The shell supports the rider through aggressive cornering and provides a firm brace to pedal against while flexing where appropriate for comfort. The shell has incorporated wings unlike most of its competitors which reduces weight and increases efficiency. Fitted to the shell is a custom composite fabric cover made from carefully selected foams and surface materials for ultimate performance. Max rider weight 230lbs (104Kg). The technical pad system is arranged to provide maximum comfort and support while riding, incorporating natural ventilation channels to maintain a cooling airflow across the back. Recognising that the shape and riding style of every rider is undoubtedly different ICE have also designed a personal padding system that is provided separately, these pads allow the rider to place extra pads directly to the shell and under the cover for added support in areas they deem necessary....

Every ICE Air-Pro Carbon Fibre or GRP seat is designed and fabricated in the UK at ICE HQ, Falmouth. Each seat is made using the highest quality design processes, raw materials and craftsmen. Designed in house using the latest CAD technology, the moulds are CNC routed for precision quality seat after seat. The seat itself is fabricated by a small team of professional and passionate craftsman; each seat is subject to the same reliable method of production within our small controlled environment. The seats are then finished by eye to ensure the highest quality finish time and time again. Each seat takes roughly 4-5 hours to produce from start to finish over several days.

Go to their website. Read all about it. Watch the videos. And, when you feel the need for speed, call us.

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recumbent bike

Bacchetta Giro 26 modifications

The Bacchetta Giro 26 is a great all-purpose bike. At $1700, qualifies as "entry level". It is quite similar to the ATT Giro 26 Bacchetta bikes, but it has a cromoly (CrMo) steel frame and cromoly (CrMo) fork.

The stock seat for this model is called the ReCurve with the key features of a mesh backing and perforated foam seat pan. It can be swapped with the lighter EuroMesh seat at no added cost. The Giro models come with pivoting steerer so the handlebar-knees distance is adjustable.

These are several changes we made to this Bacchetta Giro 26 and the reasons why:

Short (155mm) cranks

The stock crank is an FSA Tempo. It is big, ugly, and heavy and it has a conventional 170mm length. We put on a nice 155mm crank. This one single change saved ?? ounces of weight.

Since the main physical conflicts on a bike like this have to do with heel-strike and knee-handlebar interference, the shorter cranks give you a bit more breathing room.

Finally, the shorter cranks give a 10% faster cadence and 10% higher gearing for higher speeds.

We used our stock Durabi 400 cranks. We've been using these for years because they are a well-made, inexpensive, and consistent.

Front disc brake

As a matter of personal preference, some people prefer disc brakes over rim brakes. The main downsides to disc brakes are added cost and weight.

Because most of the braking force ends up on the front wheel, we balanced the cost-weight penalty by putting a disc brake just on the front wheel and leaving the stock rim brake on the back.

The Giro 26 come disc-ready from the factory -- meaning that the fork has disc brake tabs to mount the caliper and the front wheel uses a disc hub which accepts a disc rotor with no changes.

This all means that putting on a front disc brake is almost no more work than screwing in 6 bolts and swapping out the cable and housing for longer ones.

Clipless pedals

At AlphaBENT, we are self-confessed Pedal Snobs. Almost no bike seems complete without our X82 pedals. These pedals are a lot like the Shimano M324 double-sided pedals with one side dedicated to clipping in and the other side using a cage for regular shoes. However, the X82 has the following features and improvements:

  • extremely light. There is no comparison with the M324 with regard to weight and the X82's are lighter than most SPD pedals of any brand or style
  • sealed bearings: The sealed bearing cartridges require no maintenance and last a long time.
  • SPD standard: like the M324, the X82 uses standard SPD-compatible cleats.

Rear rack

For any longer trip, commuting about town, or getting groceries, a rack is quite useful.

Bacchetta has solved the rear-rack problem with a general-purpose, highly configurable rack that seems to fit most of their bikes. We opted for a different rack for the sake of simplicity, lightness, and strength.

We started with an ICE Sprint 26 rack and fashioned a curved front anchor bar that bolts onto the caliper brake mounting point for the rear wheel. Given that the rear brake of this bike uses side studs, the caliper brake mounting hole is free and rated to a high strength so it makes an ideal anchor point.

All it took was to bend a sturdy piece of aluminum stock and drill three holes in it and we were done.

Light mounts

We are big advocates of bike lights. A rear flashing light seems light an indispensable safety feature. We fashioned a rear horizontal mounting bar using a piece of PEX tubing and bolted it to the inside of the back plate of the ICE rack. This allowed us to put on a Cateye Volt 50 with its massive battery for all-day flashing.

On the front, we used the tried and true Minoura Space grip, but the Bacchetta One-Armed Bandit has many advantages over it and would make a better choice for the long-term.

Kickstand

This bike does not like to stand up resting against a pole. Against a wall, yes -- pole, no. A kickstand is essential if you plan on standing it uphere and there.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to mount a kickstand on this bike. Bacchetta makes a kickstand mounting bracket and we have found that it works well with a Pletscher ESGE kickstand on models like the Corsa. However, it is a challenge to get it to work well with this model in conjunction with a rack and / or fenders.

Steer bar flip

The fact that Bachetta is able to make the handlebar and steering work with so little interference with rider's knees is a wonder.

However, the presence of a conventional bicycle handlebar stem is a real head-scratcher:

  • stem -- It is not clear why this bike has a stem. Given that it has a tilting steer bar with an adjustable angle and length, you can already place the handlebar position wherever you like. If the steer tube had a handlebar clamp at its end instead of a stem for a conventional bike, it would function just as well and there would be considerable savings of weight, parts, and cost.
  • safe area -- When the handlebars turn, there is a central "safe area" where your knees have the most clearance. The further out from the center that your knees exist, the more likelihood you have to hit the handlebar with them. Therefore, it makes no sense for the stem (that doesn't even belong on the bike) to exist in the central safe area where the rider's knees move about.
  • the bolt head -- There is a bolt head (on the stem which should not exist) and it is easy to hit that with your right knee.

The resolution to these problems is simple: flip the handlebar around. With the stem (which should not exist) elbow forward instead of backward, all of these problems went away other than the needless weight of the stem.

[It turns out that the ability to flip the stem around is dependent on the geometry of the bike, and this technique will not work "out of the box" with the Giro 20 since it takes the stop-bolt of the steering pivot beyond its intended / designed range.]

Mirror

We found that the Busch and Muller Cyclestar mirror mounts easily on the handlebar of this model and can be looked at while keeping the road in your peripheral vision.

Computer

The Cateye Urban wireless computer is pretty easy to install and handles the distance from the wheel sensor to the handlebar when place just so.

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Workshop

Caution! Sharp! Schlumpf chamfering tool

What do Swiss bike gearing systems and American solar-lit bongs have in common?

In Chico, CA, it seems to all make sense, as, after a good 16 years chamfering bottom-brackets for Schlumpf installations, our old chamfering tool just wasn't cutting the metal like it used to. After searching high and low in Sacramento (unsuccesfully) to find someone with the tooling to set a new keen edge on the cutting tool, we finally found the right guy in Chico.

Clearly, searching low was not the right approach, but Tom took a break from marketing his latest (patented) invention in order to rejuvenate the Schlumpf tool.

Thanks, Tom, and good luck marketing your invention.

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Long-term wear

ICE Adventure FS checks out fine -- after five years

After five years and thousands of miles, Ron's ICE Adventure FS is still looking sharp.

It got a new pair of silicone grips for its handlebars, and a shiny new chain, and it's ready for another go.

Memo: Motorcycle chain-lube on a trike chain leaves strong residue inside chain-tubes -- beware!

See you in another four or five years, Ron!

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Build-ups, Safety

ICE Sprint RS-26 build-up

We build up trikes every day.

Live vicariously...

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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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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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