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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...

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


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.

More information...

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.

More information...

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.

More information...

Debut: HP Velo Gekko FXS first to be seen at AlphaBENT

The new Gekko FXS designed for children and adults up to 5'-11" will make its debut appearance at AlphaBENT's Northern California shop in Sacramento.

Apparently, the young lady is not included with the trike, but there will still be plenty of good reasons to come and see this hot little trike.

  • the seat is adjustable for different body sizes,
  • the trike folds
  • the standard setup is a complete package ready for real-world commuting

The first Gekko FXS trike in the US should be available for test-riding on the weekend of 9/25-26 of 2015.

Come see it firsthand!

More information...

700c rear & 26" front wheels on an ICE Sprint 26

This trike has already been heavily customized. We put a 700c / 29'er rear wheel on with a road tire. It often sports a TerraCycle fairing.

But, big feet are now the problem. With the 700c rear wheel, the bottom bracket is a bit lower to the ground, and its owner, MK, finds that his generously-sized feet sometimes hit the ground. We have examined all the possibilities we could think of to solve this problem, and in the end, settled on larger front wheels.

26" was chosen as a size that would be relatively strong and still have a reasonable selection of tires.

The results are good. There is a bit larger turning radius, and MK reports having to think a bit longer about how to avoid the wheels when getting in and out.

However, the ground-heel clearance is impressive. The handling is good. It's smoother on the rough roads. And, according to MK, there has been no change in overall performance. Perhaps, the better rolling resistance is cancelling out with slightly higher weight.

[Note: the handlebars are folded back in preparation for folding it to put in the back of a Toyota Prius.]

More information...

Push brakes and paddle shifters on ICE Sprint 26

We are putting together a trike for a gentleman with a neurological condition that inhibits "pulling" action with his hands.

He has settled on an ICE Sprint 26 recumbent trike and we have determined a configuration that will allow him to operate his trike with "pushing" actions.

The pictures show a prototype solution. We intend to mount the brake levers backwards so they operate with pushes rather than pulls. Trigger shifters mounted upside down and on the "wrong" side allow the paddles of the shifters to be actuated with pushing action using the palms of his hands.

The cost to configure this is nominal.

More information...

Patterson Metropolis on Terratrike Rover

The Patterson Metropolis is an economical way to extend the gear range of an 8-speed Terratrike.

This morning we put one of these on an 8-speed Terratrike Rover. The drive installation went smoothly. Then, a Terratrike front light mount was used to reposition the front water bottle cage to a much more vertical angle -- much improving its ergonomics.

Simultaneously, a cable stop was positioned on the end of an attached bracket. The bracket was custom fashioned in the shop.

Shifting is via a Microshift twist shifter with the cable run along the mainline of the frame.

The result looks great!

More information...

Trigger-shifters on Gekko FX26

We have converted an HP Velotechnik Gekko FX 26 to use trigger shifters as an experiment. It seems to work well.

Trigger shifters offer full thumb control and have excellent ergonomics for regular horizontal handlebars. On recumbent trikes, they present some logistical difficulties, with the primary one being the cabling must go up into a loop and then get routed through the handlebars.

The main downsides are:

  1. a mounting point (the top of the handlebar) for the sideview mirror is lost;
  2. the shifting mechanism is somewhat vulnerable.

On the positive side:

  1. there is no twisting input into the steering when shifting;
  2. they use the parts of your hand that they are designed for, so the ergonomics are good.

The converted trike is available at its original price, and can be tested while it lasts.

More information...

Patterson Metropolis on a Terratrike Rambler

Patterson Metropolis 2-speed geared crankset extends gear-range of 8-speed Terratrike Rambler

Using the Shimano Nexus internally-geared 8-speed hub on any trike gives you the enclosed reliability of planetary-geared hubs, but it's a bit slim on gear range -- particularly with a small 20" wheel on the back.

We installed a 2-speed Patterson Metropolis geared crankset on an 8-speed Nexus-equipped Rambler and economically extended its gear range up and down from the OEM spec while satisfying the owner's desire for internal (rather than derailleur-based) gearing.

There are several options for geared cranksets in the world, but the premier one is the Schlumpf drive. Schlumpf drives come in three flavors -- Mountain, Speed, and HighSpeed. They all have a 1:1 gear setting and a geared setting. They all shift by pushing a button across from one side to the other with your heel. As the dominant brand in the market, the Schlumpf drive is priced above newcomers.

The Patterson drive is a cost-effective alternative. It lacks the extensive options of the Schlumpf for satisfying all permutations of possibilities, but weighs in with a solid 28T integrated chainring and a 160% upwards gearing mode. Best of all, by just concentrating on one permutation, FSA is able to get the Patterson Drive into the marketplace at a lower cost. The Patterson drive uses a conventional shifter and incorporating a satisfactory cable stop is sometimes a barrier -- particularly on a recumbent trike.

We used a Minoura Water bottle mount on the front derailleur post for a cable stop. The mount is still useable as a front light mount.

For shifting, we used a 9-speed Microshift shifter. We had the choice of left (front) or right (rear) shifter, and decided that the rear shifter mounted upside down would give good tactile and visual feedback, so the rider can monitor the shifting position.

The gearing of this trike went from approximately 17.5-54 gear-inches to 15.4-78 gear-inches.

Our gearing calculator is quite handy for quickly doing these sorts of calculations.

More information...

Bluebird tests Catrike 700

In a sight that's becoming quite common at the shop these days, some bluebirds tried out a Catrike 700. [In reality, only one bluebird tried the trike while the others watched.]

He liked the color and the lines, but found it too difficult to shift. Also, the headrest was too big.

Meanwhile, the young'uns zipped their mouths shut, abiding by engrained maxims to speak only when spoken to and to be seen and not heard.

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Light mount for recumbent trike boom with no derailleur post (HP Velotechnik)

On trikes with no derailleur post we are often challenged when mounting a front headlight.

A simple bracket mounted on the boom has limited light visibility (light to the right is blocked by the chainrings) and suffers from "foot flash" -- as your foot passes in front of the light, the light reflects back at you with a temporary flash. This limits your night vision and is downright irritating.

We have resolved these problems with a two-part light mount that extends forward far enough to avoid foot-flash issues.

The light-mount is made with sturdy aluminum and is well-triangulated for strength.

The pictures show this light-mount on an HP Velotechnik Scorpion with no derailleur post.

More information...