Paper, Proto, Plan, Precipitation!

A tandem tadpole trike sketch

I was really hoping to have the Transporter Cargo Bike ready to show off for this morning’s blog, so far this year has turned our area into a rain forest. Sure, it’s great for the garden and berry trees, but not great for getting any welding or building time in because my shack has no doors or windows and leaks when it rains. Add to that the 2 foot tall grass and I am starting to wonder if perhaps winter would be more productive after all! OK, enough complaining I will save that for the end of the blog!

While searching for something else to blog about, I thought of what it takes to turn an idea into a working project. I divide the process into three steps: paper, prototype and then plan. Most of the time, an idea never leaves the paper stage. I currently have 43 full spiral ringed notebooks of bike ideas that I have collected from over the last five years. Sadly, I never kept notebooks before that time, so a lot of cool and crazy ideas ended up in the recycle bin.

I usually start with a few pages of rough sketching just to get my head around the basic idea and how it might look.  It takes only a few minutes to sketch up a bike. The sketches offer a decent view of many of the difficulties in designing a bike or trike such as chain line, seating position and steering. I can usually determine if an idea is viable within a few pages worth of sketching, and by the 10th drawing often the bike or trike is radically different than the original idea. This tandem tadpole trike sketch seemed workable, so it was one of the few drawings from several thousand that moved to stage two – prototype.

The Viking Tandem Trike

All of the AZ plans go through a prototype stage so that ideas can be tested in the real world and then either modified or scrapped. Having a rough prototype means I can beat the hell out of the vehicle and see what it can take, making any adjustments that may be necessary. This tandem trike proto was made of electrical conduit and BMX wheels and took about two weekends to put together. We tested this trike at a campground for three days, beating it up over trails, down rough gravel roads, and even off road at times. It held up, even though there was no frame trussing and many of the welds were only half finished. My thinking is that if a poorly build proto can hold up to abuse, then a properly built final design would certainly hold up to just about any conditions. So, the next step was to turn proto into plan.

Turning paper into prototype

When I built the Viking Tandem Trike based on the original prototype, I made it a lot more durable and added many new features such as an unlinked transmission system, adjustable bottom brackets, dual disc brakes and under seat steering. The 1.25 inch conduit was replaced by 2 inch square tubing and the frame was properly triangulated for supreme strength. Building a plan from a prototype is a much longer process because every step has to be meticulously photographed and documented, but it is worth the effort when I see completed projects based on our plans being posted in the gallery.

So I am 95% into the plan stage on the Transporter Cargo Bike and only need to add the brake and shifter cables to complete the plan. But, the rain-man seems to have other plans, keeping me indoors as of late.

This is a typical site out here lately

The weather report has been practically the exact same for more than a month – a 40% chance of thunder showers and high humidity. What that means is that it spits rain once every few hours and dumps rain once a day. The grass is constantly wet, and my bike building shack smells like the back of uncle Jeb’s cabin…ack! I am at the point where I need a nice dry sunny day to get the final photos done, even if the rain holds off for four hours, I would be happy. Oh well, the apples and berry trees are sure enjoying the new rain forest, but the lawn is getting so tall it may take three days to hand mow the yard the next chance I get! I wonder, is there such a thing as an anti-rain dance?

~ Brad

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Painting under the stars

Yesterday I managed to get a full day in on the latest project “the Transporter Cargo Bike”. It was a hot one, but now that I have power running down to the old shack, I was able to stay somewhat cool by aiming a huge fan at myself as I welded and grinded away on the almost completed frame. My goal was to complete all of the welding and have the frame painted before the end of the day, but with all of those round tube trusses to weld and the fact that I had not yet figured out the kickstand, I knew it would be a late one tonight.

Since the Transporter was really turning out nicely, I decided to go all the way and add a front disc brake. Actually, this worked out well for the plan because I could now show the steps needed to remove the brake studs from the front fork and install them at the rear and then show how to make a disc brake mount for a front fork that had none. Since most of the stopping power is needed at the front of a bike, the disc option was a good one for a cargo bike that may see loads topping the few hundred pounds mark.

The cardboard template method of making a front disc brake mount went well, and was easy to do thanks to the “weld it in place” method of aligning the brake hardware. I will probably make this into a separate mini tutorial for the main page, since disc brake hardware is becoming very common and inexpensive these days, and is fairly easy to install.

Now, I was faced with how to design the kickstand. A good kickstand is a key feature on a cargo bike; it has to hold the bike stable while the heavy loads are moved on and off the platform. Obviously, a flimsy side kickstand would be pretty useless, so I worked out a stand that would raise the front end slightly off the ground and level the bike on both sides for maximum stability. This type of kickstand is called a “center stand”, and turns the bike into a trike, with three points hitting the ground (two stand legs and the rear wheel). After some testing, the stand proved to work very well and was made out of nothing more than some tubing and bits of flat bar.

When I finally finished all the welding and did a little sanding on the rough spots, the sun was already setting. I decided to paint the bike under the moonlight and brave the mosquitoes that were now coming at me in large waves.

I decided to use brush on paint this time since this bike would be taking a beating and living outdoors mostly. Instead of a perfect paint finish, I opted for a slathered on thick coat that would be easy to retouch as the bike was used like a piece of farm equipment. Under the dim light of the moon, I slopped on the paint as thick as peanut butter, painting the bugs right in as they landed on the tacky paint! I could barely see what I was doing, so I figured the paintjob would be less than pretty in the morning, but yellow is somewhat forgiving and the goal was durable paint, not a showroom finish.

Next morning, I took the frame out for inspectio, and wadda-ya-now, the yellow paintjob wasn’t all that bad! There were a few spots needing a bit of retouching and some runs near the joints, but at a distance of 6 feet away, it looked as good as a spray on paintjob. I may use brush on paint a lot more in the future since it requires no primer, and costs only $10for a can that would paint 3 bikes.

The only drawback to the department store rust paint is the selection of colors: black, white, grey, red, green, blue, orange and yellow. Knowing that I can make any color imaginable by mixing red green and blue, I have a cunning plan for my next brush paint job – mix ’em and see! By using the color picker in Photoshop to get the RGB values, I “should” be able to concoct a similar color by converting the decimal value to a volumetric mixing value.

Well, that completes the first official plan of 2013, so if the weather holds out today I may get the chance to assemble the Transporter Cargo Bike and show it off in tomorrow’s blog entry. I am looking forward to hauling that old freezer out of the bush and then loading a few hundred pounds of firewood onto the cargo bed to make some fun videos of the bike in action. Type y’all tomorrow.

~ Brad

Bike builders news – May 3

bike builders news

Feature article by RadicalBrad of AtomicZombie.com:

Build the HighLander Chopper – Part 2

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Head tubes and bottom brackets for your bike projects – now on sale
Hub flanges and axle adapters for your bike projects – shipping worldwide   
Chains and brake cables – we want your input
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Spring Special – Save 10% on all bike parts
Washington students strut their stuff 
 
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Bike builders community chat – hot topics of conversation
Bike builders gallery new additions – recumbents, trikes, motorized bikes, choppers & more
Builders Feedback – we love to hear from you.

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Free DIY tutorials – most available in PDF format
AZTV webisode – There and Back Again: A Zombie’s Tale
 
This and archived newsletters are here.

Bike builders news – Building a velo: Part 8

 Feature article by RadicalBrad of AtomicZombie.com:

Building a Velomobile – Part 8
Cutting the side panels. Challenges of building in the basement.
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Bike builders community chat – hot topics of conversation
Bike builders gallery – new additions:
recumbents, trikes, choppers, cargo bikes & moreBuilders Feedback – we love to hear from you.***

Hub flanges and axle adapters for your bike projects
now shipping worldwide 

Free DIY tutorials – now available in PDF format

AZTV webisode – There and Back Again: An AtomicZombie’s Tale

This and archived newsletters are here.
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Thanks for your feedback, and keep those suggestions coming.
See you in the Builders Forum.
      
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Show us your workshop!

Take a look at one bike builder’s workshop. “My son Jesse’s black and yellow powder coated 20” bike frame, orange buckets, work bench, air compressor, Clarke 110 wire feed welder.”
Share pictures of your workshop in the AZ builders gallery. More >>

Bike builders news October 26

Feature article by RadicalBrad of AtomicZombie.com:

New Tutorial:  Using a chain link tool to modify chain length
Table of Contents
Introduction
Opening the chain
Joining the chain
Opening on a bike
Around the derailleur
Stiff link problem
Stiff link repair
Optimal chain length
 

Hub flanges and axle adapters for your bike projects
Bike builders community chat
Bike builders gallery – new additions:

recumbents, trikes, choppers, tall bikes, kids’ bikes, cargo bikes & more

This and archived newsletters are here.

Gallery pics – Tadpole Trikes

 *** Bicycles from around the world ***

More than 150 tadpole trikes migrated from the old gallery to the new one.

Here’s a sample of some of the handmade bikes submitted by bike builders just like you:

Check out these and other handmade bikes in the Atomic Zombie gallery.

Submit pictures of your own bikes, too. It’s free!