Jeff Bales builds a speedbike streamliner - Lunatic Fringe

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8/26/03
All the NACA ducts were laid up with small carefully cut strips of chopped strand mat. I very carefully applied the strips after wetting them separately on a board with vinylester, ooh, very touchy! The wooden dowels helped with placement.
Extreme close up of vent lay-up.
Underside of fairing showing all ducts. This is lookin' wicked!
The seat pattern got quite heavy, so I won't use it for the actual seat. I found time to make a mold for it! I slicked up the pattern with some Bondo and then glazed it with a layer of resin to make it shiny and smooth.
The mold is just a quick one with putty and three layers of chopped strand fiberglass. I'm so rushed for time, that I pulled it from the pattern
while it was still curing and began the lay-up process of the seat. I took care to not tweak it out of shape.
I prepared the carbon fiber by cutting it using tape and paper templates for guides. Each layer alternated directions of fiber for extra strength. Spray paint made for a good visual as to where to cut, just make sure to cut on the clean side of the line, or you'll end up with paint stripes in your finished seat!
I wetted out each layer with vinylester, making sure to overlap the top and bottom sections. I used 5 layers of carbon fiber, plus some carbon fiber strand around the edges. The mold has a 'mold-to' line in it
which will allow me to trim the part nicely after it is pulled. Ugly molds don't matter if the parts are nice!
The seat was pulled this morning after curing overnight. Yowser! It sure is light... too light. At about 1 1/2 pounds it needs to be a touch
stronger. No big deal, though, I'll add a few more layers to the back tonight along with two narrow strips of honeycomb. It will probably end up
around 3 pounds. This was definitely worth doing. If I was a lightweight kind of guy, the seat would be done. At 215 pounds, I can change its shape
too easily with my weight. It supports my neck really well and my back fits in it perfectly. Oh, so comfy!
8/27/03
Well the seat is at 3 to 3 1/2 pounds (my scale is kind of vague). It should work well.
I did some Bondo work to the NACA ducts as well inside and out. They'll get sanded tomorrow night. I just couldn't help myself, though! I put some powder in the rear ducts and blew air through the others to see how well it would work. Zonkers!
If I put my hand just rearward of the inlet ducts, hardly any air passed over it. Most of it went right on in. Evidently I'll have enough air to work with. If need be, I can tape over them if it's too much.

Justin is on board to help me finish the bike frame over this long weekend. Yeah!
8/31/03
Justin aligns seat for chain/seat stays. We've checked and re-checked. It's time to braze them on!
With an 81" wheelbase, you need a high-tech custom bike jig to make sure all is nice and straight as you build. A pair of huge square tubes found sitting in the factory yard clamped around the wheels will suffice! This thing is straight, straight, straight.
PoolRock.com's (where the bike has been built) operations manager, Frank, points at the frame and I declare, "Yes, it's a bike!" Frank helped me with some of the creative thinking at the beginning phase of the project.
This is how easy it was to use the tubes as a jig! Just clamp it up and double check with levels and squares... perfect. Seat height to ground is 6 1/2", giving us 4" of ground clearance with the fairing in
place.
Here's what Justin did at home for me. He took the laminar foil camera support that I'd made earlier and turned it into the camera pod. He custom fitted the cameras using putty and made a cap with pins (nails) that can be taped on. This makes for easy access to batteries and cameras. Cool!
Here's what it looks like with the angled openings for the cameras. The angled cut-outs prevent anything from obstructing the view.
Easy as that, the cap fits in place.
I'm going as fast as I can! There isn't much left to do! We only need to braze on the bottom bracket shells and the remote steering head tube.

My big, huge, gigantic chain rings came in from Warhawk Industries. Colin and crew did a great job on them! I'm geared for about 104mph. Everyone has told me to gear higher than I think I'll need. Pics will follow in a few days during install.

I'm going to win this freakin' race... the race to get done and get to Battle Mountain, that is! Bring it on! Throw some more challenges my way! I'll work all night long! You *can't* stop me! Aaaaaaaaah, aaaaaaah, aaaaaaah!

9/1/03
This is a picture of the nearly completed frame, seat and wheels resting inside the main body fairing. It is very important to align the frame within the fairing for everything to track straight. It lines up very well.

Wood is used to hold the frame in alignment as measurements are taken for exact placement of the bottom bracket shells. This measurement is critical; it will determine clearance for my feet and will determine maximum length of the crank arms. So far, it looks like I'll be able to use 185mm cranks. That's the size that I ride with on my regular recumbent. If they're a little too tight, 175mm may bring it into clearance. After BB shell location, Sorbothane vibration isolation mounts will get attached, then it's "off to Ajo Bikes" to have their mechanics install the equipment! The bike is very comfortable with the form fitted seat and Pantour suspension hub wheels. I can't wait to go for a ride! Just a few more days!
9/3/03
Here's the butterfly for the front wheel. I even took away the honeycomb at the sides to get maximum turn, just a few degrees. This bike is for high speed runs only, not going around cones in a parking lot. I'll probably build a version with wheels sticking farther out for better turning next year so that I can compete in other events, or maybe that bike will be shorter wheelbase.
This rod acts as a stabilizer for the sides. With this in place, there's no way the sides will flex in or out. The top drops on and aligns easily. The rod is removable with bolt and nut.
Well here it is... the world's first clincher seat! When we located the bottom bracket, we had to go with 140mm cranks to get the best heel/toe clearance. Longer cranks would have required large bumps on the bottom of the bike. I still needed to get rid of about 1/4" of knee  interference, though. The solution... move the seat back to maximum and lower it a touch... beyond maximum! I can certainly tell that the frame is aligned. Instead of calling the small reinforcing tube a gusset, I think I'll call it a goose-it. Is the seat still comfortable? Yes, but I don't like to admit it.
9/4/2003
The bike frame has its main bottom bracket, intermediate drive bracket (now geared for 96mph after a gear change), seat mounts, drop-outs, fork, etc. Tomorrow morning the chain idlers get mounted under the seat and the remote steering is installed. Saturday the isolation mounts go on. Sunday is now
looking like the day for taking it to the bike shop for component installation.

We took a little extra time to refine the fit of me inside. I still had a very minor amount of knee strike unless I worked at keeping my knees close together which is more uncomfortable than I want to do for a five minute run down the highway. Instead of installing minor 'clearance bumps' on the canopy, I've slightly increased the height of the main body. This has solved all kinds of problems and may even negate the need for the custom cut-out in the infamous 'clincher' seat. The work to raise the height is already done.
Slightly raising the height of the main body protects the laminar foil shape across the top which I feel is more important than the increase in surface area. It's either that or remove my knee caps. =)

If my inseam was shorter, say, 27-28" I would have been fine. My inseam is 30". I'm 5' 10" tall with a 38" waist. 215 pounds. I thought I'd barely fit, but that's OK, it was an easy fix! You never actually know about personal fit until you get inside and squirm around. I've got an inch to either side of my shoulders. The new height will give me 2 inches over my head. It was about 3/4" before. My helmet would have been going rat-a-tat-tat on the fairing, which I could have put up with, but this will be more comfy. From
what I've learned, the laminar foil shape is more important than reduced frontal area and a lot more turbulent air. Racing over the next few years with modifications along the way will tell. My first year out is going to be an exciting learning year.

I look to go for my first ride on Tuesday. We'll get more pics uploaded of that and more, but we're rockin' and rollin' right now with time for nothing else.

Hopefully, I'll report a successful ride! Wish me luck! Oh, yeah, the outriggers are super simple!
9/11/03
Brazing the mid-drive in place. It overlays the main chain ring a bit with no interference problems.Teeth are: 72t main ring to 22t drive side on mid-drive, then 72t on hub side of mid-drive to the rear casette (13t-34t).
Here's how I raised the main body 2 inches! Simple aluminum sheet with fiberglass against it. The metal peeled right off, then I body worked the result. Very simple.
Oh boy! This is just the right size now.
We checked clearances everywhere to make sure the fit works. I ground away material at the sides to eliminate minor contact.
Here's the first time sitting on the frame with wheels.
Justin can even ride it!
Here's the nearly completed frame. I've ridden it now and it's incredibly fast... 40mph on the flat, no problem.
Simple scooter/skateboard wheels on chromoly tubing and fiberglass brackets. Handle will be added in the morning.
9/12/03
Well, we're off to Battle Mountain! It's been tough, and full of surprises, but well worth it. I've got to get back out there and do some small stuff. More pics of the other final steps will be sent in shortly, plus a big "Thank you!" for all of the sponsors.
Look out Battle Mountain! Here we come! Wa-hooooo!

Jeff Bales

Tucson, AZ
11/13/03 - Post-Battle Mountain Notes: 
Jeff did make it to the 2003 WHPSC event at Battle Mountain, and did compete. Unfortunately there were a couple problems which caused the bike to be a bit slower than he had anticipated.

Pictures from the 2003 Battle Mountain WHPSC event.

Jeff discovered that his camera navigation system didn't work as anticipated, so he removed the camera fin, cut a hole for his head, and added a scrounged canopy.
The Lunatic Fringe approaches the catch area. Jeff's bike has dual outrigger wheels, so he could stop on his own without being held. The catchers did un-tape his canopy.
Jeff's top speed was 37.12 MPH on Thursday, but he did a run at 33.537MPH the next day without any fairing. Issues effecting his speed were:
  • The fairings flat bottom caused handling problems. Even though the races at BM are in a straight line, you need to lean to steer, and lean into any wind to stay on the road.
  • The bike was a bit heavy. I think I saw that it was over 100lbs. This makes it hard to accelerate.
  • The remote viewing camera system has some delay, which makes it had to correct for wind gusts. Also the relatively small monitor makes it hard to judge when you are actually straight up. When you are leaned way back your vision is used more for balance than your inner ear. With the small monitor both those faculties are diminished.
  • Gearing was too high and he finished his first run at 30.21 MPH run in first gear.
  • Jeff switched to a clear canopy, but was not able to integrate it well with the bike due to limited materials and tools at the races. 
  • He was still working on the bike when he arrived at the races, and hadn't had a chance to test ride it before the races. There are always a lot of bugs to work out in a new design. 

Jeff notes that he is planning on building a new bike for next year that will be lighter and will have a curved bottom. Those two changes alone should drastically improve his speed potential.

-Warren.


10/28/2004 - Update
Jeff says: "I've had a few discussions with my teammate, Justin Mace, about refining a linear drive system for use in next year's race.

It was pretty frustrating to not be able to use the linear drive system that came in during the construction process. It threw off everything! My cranks had to be tiny 140mm, and my custom gearing was way too high. The back-and-forth motion of a linear drive system requires much higher gearing. During the race in 2003, it felt like I was doing a 700lb leg press (the most that I've lifted) as I started to go down the road.

The system that Justin and I are going to try next will will use levers 14-16" long, powering a pair of freewheels. The bike's frame will be all new with a SWB layout. I'm looking for a good front wheel drive design as well. Anybody have some design specs or close-up pictures of a system that they recommend?

The fairing will probably be the same as before, but with the upper fairing reproduced on the bottom as well. It will be a little taller and I'll look through a front windshield and side windows like in the original renderings.

We're shooting for a 2005 run, but it might end up being 06. When I get a chance to make any headway, I'll forward photos. The original Lunatic Fringe bicycle that was used inside the fairing is actually being ridden by a friend of Justin's. 

Coming soon, Lunatic Fringe 2.0. Ah, the adventure continues!"


8/22/2006

Lunatic Fringe Fire!

Here is a pic of the fairing after a neighbor's building caught fire, sending the flames down the alley to my building. Insurance companies on both sides say it was caused by an 'act of God'. Lunatic is dead for now but is being worked on! We're looking at an '08 re-birth for another run at Battle Mountain. In the meantime, a new bike is being built. It's a low-racer splitter-bike called the Kraken.
 

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