Rick Wianecki's velomobile project
Velomobile 6

A project by Rick Wianecki

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My understanding of bump steer is as long as the steering tie-rod swings in the same arc as the suspension swings there will not be any changes in the relative length of the steering rod so there should not be any toe changes over a bump. That being said there is 1.5 “of travel in this design and I do not have the steering rod shown in its final position.

In order to get started on doing the modifications to the frame and front suspension I needed to make some room in the Manufacturing Facility (garage). So I purchased 2 bicycle lifts and installed them to the rafters. Each lift has a capacity of 55 lb. so this setup will hold the completely assembled vehicle.
Here is the complete vehicle on the lift. It took several minutes of alternating each lift to get the vehicle raised.

Here is the vehicle raised up enough to walk under get the one of the cars in.
After I knew it would work I removed the frame from the body and hoisted just the body out of the way untill I finish the mods to the frame.

The strut will be mounted at the top in rubber bushings on the top of the 3/8 rod. This will provide some rotation. The two aluminum pieces will be bonded together and the suspension travel about 1 inch will be along the 3/8 rod at the top. I should have most of the pieces finished this weekend.
Well I was able to get most of the strut parts fabricated yesterday and today even though it was -12F this morning. The heater was working overtime!
I started out by cutting some 1" 6061 T6 tubing to length and one 1 1/4 solid bar stock.
Here are the cut pieces of aluminum, a piece of 1" delrin rod and 2 pieces of 3/8 stainless steel rod.
I then proceeded to male a bunch of parts for the struts. Here are the struts parts so far.
One of the last things to do is drill and tap the bottom piece of the strut for the 1/2-20 axel bolt. I did that in a drill press.
Here is a picture of the top and bottom pieces of the strut mounted to the wheel. I still need to make brackets to hold the backing plate for the drum brake and for the steering rods.

Next on to modifying the frame to accept the new parts

Being the first one of these I am doing, I went heaver rather the lighter in the strut parts.

I am also interested in how the drive-ability of vehicle will compare to the original suspension set up. Time will tell.

Well I was able to do some work on the frame mods over the weekend. I did not get as far as I hoped to because I had the lathe motor die as I was trying to finish up the parts for the struts. I need to check around town to see if I can get a new one at a good price.

So I did some cutting and brazing on the frame instead.

I tacked together the sliding boom tubing that will raise the crank up 1 1/2".
I then Mounted the frame in my bench vice after I pulled the bench away from the wall and used my tube mitering jig to cut the the frame to accept the new boom.
I printed out a drawing full size for the front swing arms and brazed them together with some coupler nuts and 3/8x 0.035 tubing.
I then took the frame and set it up on a straight flat table and measured where the new mounting points needed to go. This is when I discovered that the front mounting point of the swing arms needed to be where the steering arm was. So I redesigned the swing arms with a bend in the front tube to move the mounting point forward 2 inches.

Here I am bending the swing arm tube.
Here are both swing arms ready to go.
I then mocked up the mounting points for the swing arm on the frame checking alignment and placement a dozen times or so.
Once I convinced my self that the mounting point were aligned. I tacked them in place and then moved the frame back to the vice for the final brazing.
Here is a picture of the swing arms assembled to the frame.
Last thing I did was epoxy the two parts of the strut body together and clamp the while they cure.

So next I need to fix my lathe motor and finish a couple of parts for the struts and then mount them to the frame. Oh yea shovel some snow!

It takes 3 times longer to make modifications then to do it right the first time. I am going to take the lathe motor apart and see if It is fixable. I did some checking and it just may be the capacitors.

Well I did some digging into the lathe motor problem and it seems I blew up the run capacitor in my motor. It is a strange size hopefully I will be able to find one in town.

It has been a little while since I have been able to work on the modifications to the velomobile.
I got the motor issues worked out and started by machining some brackets to mount the drum brakes on the struts.

I used a boring bar to cut a 1 1/4" radius in the side of a 1/2" aluminum plate. This will be mounted to the struts to attach the brake back plate.
Here are the struts the one on the top is assembled and the one on the the bottom shows all the parts. I still need to make a bracket for the steering arms.
This picture shows the brake drum and the wheel mounted to the strut.
Next thing was to add the strut brackets to the frame. I mounted the frame to a flat piece of countertop and added some 1/8" thick steel brackets to the top of the existing frame.
This picture shows one of the struts mounted to the frame.

Next I will work on getting the steering connected and reinforcing the strut mounts.

I was able to get a little time to continue to work on the modified front suspension this weekend.
I mounted both struts and front wheels and set the alignment as best I could.
I noticed that the top of one of the strut mounts was misaligned with the steering angle of the strut.
I took this side apart and heated and bent the top of the mount to get it aligned a little better. This will do for now but I think I will adjust some more next time I take it apart.
Next I redid the steering arm and mounted it to the frame.
I then Mounted the tie-rods and bent up some brackets to attach the tie-rods to the struts.


Next to do is mount the brackets to the struts and start assembling the rest of the frame.

I also want to find out if this in an improvement over the sliding pillar suspension I had on the frame before. Also I increased the track by about 2 inches so the vehicle should be more stable at high speed corners. I hope to have the frame together and out for testing soon.

So I drilled and taped some holes in the side of each of the front struts to mount some aluminum brackets for the steering tie rods.
Here is a picture if the brackets mounted to the struts.
I mounted the struts and steering to the frame and installed the front boom and the chain ring. I need to sort out the chain line next.
I was able to get the chain line and the Idlers worked out. Changing the front suspension and raising the bottom bracket meant that I had to totally reroute the chain.
This picture shows the revised chain line. Everything is just tacked together
I made the chain tensioner from a piece of old derailer I had in the old parts box. This will allow me to fine tune the bottom bracket position without adding or removing chain links.
Here is a view from the bottom of the frame showing the suspension and steering rods and the chain alignment.

Next I will assemble the trike and do some road testing before I try to stuff the frame back into the body to see what mods will need to be done to it.

I found that with the old sliding kingpin suspension the steering was very sensitive and I had to place the tie rods at very steep angles to try and eliminate the bump steer. I was never happy with how the trike handled at speeds over 25 mph. I am Hoping the new design will be better.

Well I got the frame all assembled and did some adjusting alignment of the front wheels.

I first adjusted the rod ends so the wheels were vertical and had no camber in or out. Here is one of the front wheels before I adjusted the camber. You can see it is leaning outward. Then I adjusted the toe in to 0  degrees.
Here is a picture of the lower A-Arms and steering rods. With all the rod ends there are allot of adjustments possible.
Here is the completed frame ready for a test ride. Just as I finished it started snowing and raining. Guess I will wait for another day.

Next is to refit the frame in the body and sort out the mounts and start on the electrical.


We finally had some nicer weather today so I was able to trike the frame out for a shake down ride for a couple of hours. I am very happy with the results the front suspension and steering are greatly improved and by raising the bottom bracket up the back of my legs do not rub on the front cross tubes. The steering is light and responsive and the trike is stable at all speeds with no bump steer.

I took some pictures of the completed frame outside, I think they show things better then the pictures in the garage.

Here is a front view of the frame siting in my front yard
Here is a close up view of the front suspension
Here is a rear view looking at the battery box.

I am still going to ride the frame around to make sure the drive train is bulletproof and I do not have any I issues with chain derailments. I am going to move my focus back to the body and the electrical system.


I have been able to put some miles on the frame. I am very happy with how everything is working out. I had to do some tweaks to the chain-line and idler placement but that is now working great.
I was really pushing the electric assist hard and the electric motor would loosen and I would drop the chain so I made a better mounting.
Here you can see the top mounting bar had a slot for adjustment. I could not keep this from moving and adding slack to the drive chain.
I made a mount that I can adjust the tension by turning the coupler nut and then locking it in place with a jam nut. This works much better and I have not had any more trouble with the drive chain.
Another thing I did was make some delrin clamps that will allow the seat to rotate forward.
Currently I just have some hose clamps but they scratch and mar the paint.
I do not want that to happen when I repaint the frame so I made some delrin inserts that will go around the tube that will allow the seat tube to rotate without marring the paint.

Here is the delrin insert and the thumb screw clamp I am using.
Here is a picture of the assembled clamp. I made 2.

Next project is remounting the frame in the body.

Finally found some more time to continue on this project. I have been riding the bare frame and it appears everything is working well. I decided to try and refit the frame into the body.

First I lowered the body from it's storage location.
I then removed the wheels and battery from the trike frame.
Next I tried to fit the frame into the body. It took some pushing and I finally got it in place. It became obvious at this point it was not going to just go back the way it was. The new front suspension overall is taller and slightly wider.
I fiddled around for a while to get the frame and front wheels centered in the wheel wells. I then used my vibratory saw to enlarge the openings where the frame sticks through.
What I discovered is the new wheelbase is slightly different then the old wheelbase so none of the mounts lined up. This is one of the problems with modifying the existing frame.

So I modified the rear mount to use the same mounting points on the frame and the body by adding some extensions and a shim.
I then decided to make new front mounts that would support the body at the top of the wheel wells and be bolted to the top of the strut mounts. Here are the mounts brazed up.
This picture shows the new front mount in place.

Next step will be to reinforce the mounting locations with fiberglass and finish the mounting of the lights and turn signals. And of course paint everything.

Before I remove the frame from the body I decided to make the rear wheel enclosure. I decided to use some coroplast I have here Hopefully it will be fairly waterproof . I started by making some cardboard templates to try and get the pieces worked out to clear the rear wheel and suspension. I also wanted a back shelf to hold my water bladder .
Once the Patterns were made I transfered over to the corroplast and cut out the pieces. I decided I would work on the top piece first.
I ordered some box rivets on line to assembly the pieces. Drill a 1/4 inch hole and snap them together. Worked good.
Here is the top piece in the vehicle
I started to sort out the parts for the lighting on the Velo. I am going to use some motorcycle marker lights for the turn signals. They come with double sided tape to stick them on but I wanted to do something different. I wanted to be able to bolt them on.

Here is one of the lights the cardboard pattern I made for the mounting plate and hollow threaded lamp stud I got at a lighting supply store.
I cut the threaded lamp studs in half so they were 3/4" long. You can also see the mounting plate pattern and one of the mounting plates.
I laid out and cut 4 mounting plated from 0.032 in. steel sheet.
I then brazed the hollow studs to the backing plates
Here is what the final turn signal assembly will look like. I will clean and paint the mounting bracket and glue the turn signal to the mounting plate.

Next I will a add the tail and brake lights to the body.

Today I started to install the rear taillight lens on the tail of the velomobile.
I first took one of the two plastic lenses that Garrie Hill formed for me and taped it to the body and drew the outline of the lens.
I then cut the shape out.
I taped the lens to the body and traced the outline.
I then used my vibratory saw and careful cut the fiberglass body.
Next I used a wood rasp and contoured the foam on the inside of the body so I can place a fiberglass lip that will support the edge of the tail light lens.
Once the foam is shaped the lens is taped back on so that it lines up with the fiberglass. This will be the form for the glass and epoxy that will be added to the inside. Additional tape will be added all around the lens to keep it aligned with the body.
When I do the glassing at the tail light lens I will also reinforce the new front body mount locations and the area around the front suspension openings that I has to enlarge. Here are these areas ready for epoxy and glass.
I was able to do some fiberglass work on the body.

First I taped the tail light lens even with the body cut out all the way around. This will allow me to add some fiberglass on the inside and this will create a lip to attach the lens to.
I then laid the body on its side and added a layer of glass cloth over any exposed foam. I also added 2 layers of cloth to create the tail light lens lip. You can also see the ledge I created to support the rear tire cover and shelf.
Here is a picture of the fiberglass in the inside of the tail light lens.

I also added some carbon cloth to reinforce the front body mounts and made sure I attached the inner fiberglass skin to the outer wherever there was an exposed edge at a cut out.

I think I am headed down the home stretch on this project.

So the next thing I did after the epoxy cured is remove the tail light lens . I used a thin putty knife and worked it in slowly around the edge of the plastic. One thing that would of helped would have been to of waxed or use some mold release on the inside of the plastic.
I then Marked a 1/2" wide lip and cut it off with my vibratory saw.
I then had to decide on what the tail light assembly would actually be. I decided to use 3-30 bulb LED Tail/Brake light bulbs. Spaced vertically and mounted on a polished metal plate. I developed a cardboard/foam template that I will use to check the fit and alignment.
I then put together and wired the tail light assembly.
Here it is mounted in the body. There is a protective plastic coating on the polished side of the metal and I do have a another plastic lens that I will use when everything is finished.
Next I determined where I will be placing the LED turn signals and drilled holes for the mounting. Here is the front signal placement.
Here is the rear signal placement.
Lastly I bonded some aluminum stops in the floor to support the bottom of the rear fender enclosure.

Next step will be doing the final body work and paint. Still have not settled on a color. Green? Yellow? Orange? Red? White? Blue? So many colors Might have to flip a coin.

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