Raymond Gage - Orion Speedtrike

Orion Speedtrike

Casa Grande 2007 Race Report By Raymond Gage
Latest Trike Fairings Frame 2 Integration CasaGrande
Raymond Gage launching at Casa Grande 2007, April 8, 2007.
This Panorama is a collection of frames from video of the launch by Karen Gage. 

All images on this page by Karen and Raymond Gage unless otherwise noted.

I will get back to the build report shortly, but thought I would write up a race report from Casa Grande (CG) while it is still fresh in my mind, and people are still interested. In short, we finally got the Orion rolling! It certainly was not a painless birth however, and we learned some good lessons for the next event in Battle Mountain in October.

My philosophy throughout the build has been to never intentionally do anything to the machine that will ruin or damage it for future racing. This approach can be difficult to live by as race day approaches, but we were able to adhere to it. I had a lot of help from friends and family in the months preceding CG, and it was a good thing as I always seem to underestimate how much time is involved with making new stuff for a new bike.

Two weeks before the race, as luck would have it, our rider, Sean Costin, had a layover here in Phoenix on his way to Mexico which allowed for some fit checking, tinkering, and composites work. 


Sean realizes he will have to help finish it if he wants to ride it.

Sean cuts reliefs in the inner skin for knee clearance while Greg Ockenfels, and my son Ethan assist. 
Still, it was close all the way, as to whether we would finish in time. Many long, late hours were put in by the team, and in the end, we had to leave many important features off of the vehicle so that we could at least race it. This made me a little sad, because at the top of the list of items left behind were the wheel and wing fairings, as well as the finish of the outer surface and gears. All of these omissions, seriously hurt the speed potential, but we felt it was better to race a slow version of the trike rather than not race a theoretically faster one.
Shell gets a break from spot puttying to check Sean’s fit. Yes, he is inside, and yes that is my living room. Special Thanks to the Balfour’s for the tip about getting streamliner grease out of carpeting.
Another shot. I like this angle. It doesn’t look so big.
First flight! Note the huge schoolboy grins on Sean, Greg, and myself. 
Packed up for the short drive to the Nissan Proving Grounds. Our friends Adrian and Trish very graciously offered the use of their full sized van for transport. Photo by Adrian Allan 
Sean got to do the initial honors, riding one lap fully faired on Saturday, April 7. The speed was slow, as expected, averaging between 32-38mph. He pulled into the pit area at the end of his lap, and let us know all that was wrong, and at the top of the list was the monitors going out. So we wheeled it back into the work area and tried to figure out what was wrong. After an hour or so of fiddling, the camera system still wasn’t working, and then the batteries popped. They didn’t really explode, they just fizzled, spilling juice inside the fairing. That was when we decided to call it a day, as there was no way we would be able to find and fix an electrical short in the hour left to the day’s event. So we packed up, had dinner, poured some margaritas down Sean’s throat and set him on his flight back to Chicago.
First time with top on. L to R: Race director Al Krause, team members Greg Ockenfels (back to camera), Sean Costin (in bike), Patrick Flynn, Raymond Gage, and Adrian Allan 
Greg and I walk Sean to the line for his lap. Photo by Adrian Allan 
A nice angle with Greg and Sean. Photo by Adrian Allan 
Ready to start. Photo by Adrian Allan 
We are finally launched. This baby is born! Photo by Adrian Allan 
The cameras were clicking. Very cool, wish we had got some video. Frank Geyer is the tall one. Photo by Adrian Allan 
Meanwhile, I went to an electronics store and picked up a new camera and monitor. I didn’t really like what I saw, but when I asked the sales clerk what time they opened in the morning, he looked at me and said, “We’re closed tomorrow, it’s Easter.” Oh yeah. I had completely forgotten. Racing will do that to you. So I bought the camera and monitor just in case I would need them. At this point I realized that probably nothing would be open the next day, so I would have to make do with what I had at home, and I was pretty wasted. I went home and went to bed, deciding, that I would just have to trust to luck that I could fix the camera system in the morning. I got lucky. In the morning, it took about two hours to get the system rewired and working reliably. Or so I thought. So we packed it all up and drove the 45 minutes back to the course to install everything.
Very nice shot of most of the participants on the last day. The Orion sits in some very fast company.

Photo by Garrie Hill

My own ride was pretty eventful, and revealed some surprise strengths and weaknesses. I was a little concerned about having a team, as being Easter, most of my help had other commitments. At the last minute, Larry Lem and Eric Ware volunteered to help with launch and chase, so along with my wife, Karen, and son, Ethan, we had our team. We were all ready near the start, and only had to wait for Rob English to finish what would be an exciting new UK record 50.105 Miles, and then we would have the track all to ourselves for what would be the last run of the event. I tried not to let my anticipation make me too nervous, but it was difficult since this run would be the next big step in a very long process.

We finally received word that Rob’s run was complete and that we could proceed onto the track. I was able to avoid getting too nervous by staying focused on the start. Ethan, Larry, and Eric wheeled the trike to the line while I got my cleats on. Then it was time to get in. Your first ride in a streamliner can be pretty stressful. First there is the fear of claustrophobia. Not the fear of the actual enclosed space, just the fear that you might get claustrophobic and make a fool of yourself. Fortunately that wasn’t really a problem.

Son Ethan, Larry Lem, and Eric Ware about to close the lid on Raymond. The Varna 2 team is in the background recovering Rob English from his windy UK record run.
The lid is on. Again, I like how small it looks. 
As the lid closes, the Camelbak spills ice cold water all over me, which feels pretty good at this point. It spills all over the ground though. Really.
I laid down in the vehicle, and we waited for the official go ahead. When that came, then it was the moment to put the lid on. So I am lying in a very cramped space in the Arizona sun, and a lid is put over me, and then I can hear Larry taping me in. I am now completely sealed inside and cannot get out without help. There is a small nagging voice telling me that I am being buried alive, but I ignore it and concentrate on breathing regularly and trying to find more head room. There isn’t any.
Sean brought a nice cooling system for us to use. It featured a small bulb type hand pump, a water jacket for our heads, and an ice chest. The idea was to fill the chest with mostly ice and some very cold water, then pump it through the water jacket which we would wear on our heads. Sean had used it the day before, and now it was my turn. Sean had complained that his head was very cramped in the shell during his run. I am taller than Sean.
When it came time to test fit me in the Orion, we found that with the water jacket on my head, I was extremely cramped in the fairing. We could get the lid on the vehicle, but my chin was pressed hard into my neck, making it difficult to breath. Then I gave the system a little pump, and it felt like someone had tied a blood pressure cuff to my head! I yelled for the handlers to pull the lid off, and then next thing I did was pull the whole cooling system out of the trike. This left me with the Camelbak full of ice and water as my only cooling source. Fortunately, it was laying across my chest and right arm and felt great.
Sean modeling the cooling system shortly before his inaugural run. Note the ice chest, tubing, and head ‘cuff’. Photo by Adrian Allan 
Back on the starting line, I am thinking that we got rid of the head cuff, so why isn’t there more room. The truth is that the vehicle is not really finished, and there is a design aspect I have not had time to implement before this run. To make the whole skin more rigid, I added a layer of foam, carbon fiber, and Kevlar to the original fairings. This approach yields a drastically stronger and more rigid lid, but also effectively takes away about ˝ inch of clearance all around my helmet. The net result was that I could barely move my head from side to side, and could not move it up and down at all, which was what I was really needing. Even without the head cuff, my chin was pushed way down into my throat, making it difficult to breath, not a good thing in the already cramped space of a streamliner. I knew at this point that it would be very difficult to make any great exertions, as I would not be able to get enough air down my throat if I started needing to breath hard. I tried moving my head a lot in the fairing, but nothing seemed like it would work. If I hadn’t had that nice Camelbak full of ice water laying across my chest and arm I might have given up right then.

While all of these thoughts are going through my head, I hear through the body that we are ready to run. So I decide it’s better to get started, than to sit on the line worrying about my head clearance. I look at the video monitors, and see that everything looks negative, so I very carefully thread my arm through the limited space and adjust them. The resulting images are not very clear, but are at least now positive. I can tell that it will be difficult to see much of anything, but at least the road lines are visible, and I decide I will just try to straddle them to stay on course.

I hear the muted voices of the officials tell us we may start. A peculiarity of the sport is that most streamliners are bikes (i.e. have only two wheels) that need to be “launched” by handlers, launch carts, or landing gear, since they will fall over when still. A byproduct of this situation is that the rules allow a small distance for team members to guide and push the vehicle until it can balance on its own. Being a trike, I need no such help, however, the handlers can give me a very welcome push. And they do.
When we start, the front wheel trips a timer. Larry and Eric gave me a huge push, which was really helpful as I had only a single gear. I guess I should digress about that too. In the weeks leading to the event, I performed many fit checks. One revealed that I had no room in the new chassis to mount a derailleur where I had previously. It would rub badly against my knee. So I decided to give the trike only a single gear, and hope I would have time before race day to figure something out. I never did.
I line up at the start facing something like a 20 mph head wind, and I have a gear that is the equivalent to about 2 speeds harder than a Tour de France rider would ever use. So Larry and Eric pushed, and I think we hit close to 20 mph in that tiny little space (well, maybe 15). After that I was on my own.


On Turn 1.

The first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t really that hard to push into the heavy headwind at whatever speed I was pedaling my single gear. According to my chase vehicle I was only going about 20 mph on that part of the course pedaling easy (well, not too easy, remember the huge gear). I had no idea what speed I was going, though, as that was another last minute disappointment. I bought a nice wireless cycling computer so I could have the sensor on the wheel, and the readout on the control panel, along with my heart rate monitor and the video displays, and no wires to connect between the two halves of the vehicle.
When we rigged the whole thing up, we discovered that the wireless range was about 6 inches shy of where we needed to mount the display. So we had no speedometer. That was ok though because I had already decided that I would go easy into the headwind, and use the time to get comfortable in the trike. This plan worked really well right up until the primary video monitor decided to quit about halfway through the first turn. This is when I discover that the backup monitor is so bad that all it would really do was let me know if I was leaving the state of Arizona. With no visibility, I decided to hit the brakes. Right about then the monitor slowly fades back in.

Halfway through the turn, and I already have had an ‘almost’ abort. But with monitor back in action I decide to keep going. The monitor goes out again. I brake. The monitor slowly fades in again. I keep going. This pattern repeats itself several more times. I noticed that the first two times the monitor went out, I didn’t really stray off course, so the third time, I don’t brake, but keep pedaling. Sure enough the monitor fades back on, and I haven’t strayed off my line. This makes me very happy, since handling was one of the things I was worried about, but seems to be a non-issue.

The Nissan course is a beautiful piece of asphalt, and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to ride it, but if I have one complaint it is the tar sealing though the turns. The track is almost glasslike on the straights, but in the turns, there is an enormous web of cracks sealed with tar. Now for an automobile, this is probably just fine, but for streamlined bike or trike with no suspension it is murder. In short I was really being beat up in the turn, while trying to steer with an intermittent monitor, and having trouble breathing because my chin is jammed into my throat, and no air seems to be coming through the vent, while mashing a huge gear. I told you this last bit so I can tell you this next one.

When I came off the turn, the track was so smooth, I felt like I was flying. Finally, a smooth fast patch of track. This was what I got into streamliner racing for in the first place. So while a major part of my brain was telling me, that I couldn’t really see or breath, a small primitive part just wanted to go fast. Needless to say the primitive part won. I started to put some actual force into the pedals for the first time in the whole ride, and I could feel the speed picking up. I pedaled harder still and the speed continued to rise. Chase later tells me I hit about 35 mph, slow for the sport, but pretty good all things considered.


On the backstretch, about to pass under the bridge. Note the speed limits for my lane.

The little primitive brain was saying something like, “Oh Yeah Baby!” about the time my higher brain functions started saying something like, “If you couldn’t breath before, what makes you think you will be able to in about 10 seconds when your respiration rate spikes to handle the extra exertion?"
Primitive brain says, “Huh?” Higher brain says, “Back off, things are about to get a little scary.”
And they did. Right on cue my breathing takes off, but I’m not getting any air. I start to slow down, weaving across the course to let the chase vehicle know something is up. I slow down slowly, so that some air can come in through the vent, but none is. I stop the trike. I try pushing on the lid, but my $25 per roll tape does its job, and it doesn’t budge. I’m still not getting enough air and I start to panic. Where’s the chase. Still on the verge of panic, I hear I think Larry ask what’s up and I yell, “Get me out of here!” So the tape comes off and the lid goes up, and there is air!

Riding home. Not as nice looking without the lid, but I really wanted to complete at least one lap.
My run was essentially over. I know I will not be able to get enough air to make any serious exertion, and fear that the monitor could fail permanently at any time. But I have a little pride and decide to ride the second half of the lap with the lid off. Needless to say it is slow, but I got to complete an entire lap of the Nissan track in my new baby. I am happy. I am disappointed. I am thinking of what went right, what went wrong, and what I can do to fix it. I am wishing that somehow the vehicle could have been finished in time to really have a go at it, but that will have to wait until the next event. I feel badly that that was the best we could do after so many people put in so much work to get us there. That’s racing.
Ethan and Orion back in the van at the end of a long hard weekend of building (mostly) and racing (partly).
After the long weekend, the Orion ended up back in the living room briefly as that was the only place we had room until we could clean up a little. Now it’s back in the garage waiting to be worked on some more. Next stop, Battle Mountain. Now all I need to do to get ready is…..
 
I am looking forward to Battle Mountain in October, and what I bring there will be far more complete and evolved than what I just raced. This trike is far from finished, but we have birthed it now, and I feel that is the hardest part. Now I need to finish installing all the parts that I didn't have time to get going for Casa Grande, and implement the lessons learned. I think that once I can see and breath, the rest will be easy.
I wish to thank all the team for their help. Sean Costin was our primary rider, and also put in a huge effort to get the final work done so we could race. My friends from work, Greg Ockenfels, Patrick Flynn, and Adrian Allan, all helped on many various jobs, including some late nights. My wife Karen, son Ethan, and daughter Sarah, all helped throughout the project and on race day. Karen is now a very talented composites tech! Lastly I wish to thank the Berthet family.
One team member who could not make it was Alex Berthet, my teammate and build partner from Battle Mountain 2005. Alex died in a tragic accident three weeks before the event. His parents Andre and Jane came to Casa Grande and we got to share his memory and our sorrow. If you have read through the rest of this site, then you already know the extent of his contribution to this project. I will miss you Alex.

Au Revoir,

Raymond Gage

Copyright Raymond Gage and recumbents.com 2007, all rights reserved