Monday, December 29, 2008

Playing in the Mud

Another mild winter thus far means lots of riding. We did ride on one truly cold day- it was about 16F with winds gusting up to 45mph. Now that was an adventure!
But otherwise it's been mild and rainy.

The other day we went from cold weather and ice to about 60 degrees F. This made for alot of muddy fun as the ice melted. Being on the trike low to the ground and with no front fenders I became covered in mud from head to toe. But I'm of the school of thought that suggests you got something done and had alot of fun if you're covered in dirt or mud. ;)

There was even a rotten tree lying across the bike path for the fair weather fans to scramble over.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Google Lively To Shutdown

Well, it looks like Google is giving up on their experiment in virtual reality. Pity. I thought it had potential. Rough around the edges but then it was a beta.
Lively will shutdown at the end of 2008.

Press release here.

And my own keepsake of Lively.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Addiction Begins

Trike owners, whether homebuilt or commercial, never stop at just one. Not content to just mod one trike forever, soon trike enthusiasts have entire "stables" of trikes. Now it is true of me as well. While I still get a thrill whenever I sit on the giant 60 pound homebuilt Cadillac of trikes, I felt a need to try a commercial trike with a few less pounds on it.

In large part due to monetary constraints, I went for a relatively inexpensive aluminum trike from RecumbentUSA, being sure to get it via eBay. I paid $672 dollars plus shipping. The trike, a budget one, normally sells for about $1400. There are better $1400 trikes, but no better $672 dollar trike (except possibly a homebuilt made by someone with TIG welding skills ;p). I can always upgrade components, and could do a fair bit of that before reaching $1400.

I won't bore you with the common endless debate of cost versus quality. Suffice it to say that "You get what you pay for" works both ways- $3000 plus dollars will get you quality, but how much more? At some point you're keeping up with the Joneses. Somewhere inbetween is what we call a bargain.

So did I get a bargain? Let's take a look.

So I won an eBay auction for a "Trike II" non-suspended trike from
In about a week it arrived via UPS. Let's unpack the box and assemble it:

The trike came semi-assembled and was really quite easy to put the few large sections together. Ah but it is in the adjustments that time is consumed. There were some nice inclusions I didn't expect for a budget trike, like touch-up paint and SPD compatible pedals which also had toeclips and straps. The tyres are nylon Kenda tyres I'm sure I'll replace. The disc brakes are Tektro, not the most respected name in brakes. As such upgrading the brakes to Avids is going to be my first real (actual money) upgrade.

I like that the tie rod ends have grease nipples. I'm not sure the somewhat small ball joints have the full range of motion I like though, so a simple and cheap mod in the future may be to replace the tie rod and ball joints with bigger ones.

Here we have the mostly assembled trike.

The rear derailleur and cluster. Bargain but not no-name (Shimano and SRAM). 11- 34 tooth. I'm quite happy with the performance so far. The derailleur has a very nice range of motion and shifting once the drive train was adjusted is easy and flawless.

The adjustable boom with 30-42-52 tooth rings and three piece crankset.

Now here we have a wee bit of a problem. Where the cross beam attaches to the main boom with 4 large bolts, the main boom and cross beam don't quite seat flush against one another. It's still rock solid attached, but if nothing else it is a cosmetic scar I'd rather do without, and a symptom of less than ideal craftsmanship. Six hundred and seventy two dollars. So long as it stays rock solid I'll take it. Maybe add a rubber shim. Am I worrying too much about that? Do other trikes not have the cross beam and main boom absolutely flush against each other?

The sturdy mesh for the lightweight seat is strapped on with large zip ties. Clearly a budget choice over the sort of webbing straps and fasteners other trikes have, but have you ever tried to break a zip tie? Also moddable for a few bucks.

Here we see how the mesh slips over the adjustable joints of the seat frame.

The assembled trike next to it's bigger and older (and more stylish) cousin.

The trike is so much more lightweight compared to the 60 pound homebuilt trike. It is more nimble too (perhaps to a fault), and I can ride alot further before running out of steam. Uphill is certainly more easy. I can actually coast uphill on very small grades. That would never happen with the big guy. The turning radius is worse though. The big home-perfected trike's steering is impeccable for it's size- it parks like a tourbus, huge but can almost go sideways. Further adjustments will hopefully improve the turn radius. There's significant brake steer as well which I hope to correct with more tweaking.

As of now I'm very happy with my purchase.

I'll update my satisfaction with the trike over time, and maybe upload a video or two.

More importantly, how am I going to adorn my new trike? I can hardly leave it budget-boring and modern. Not a fan. Besides I just have to be different. When Alan and I were first going to make the Brass Lion the other idea we had besides decorating it in a Neo-Victorian style was to go with Art Deco. As you might imagine all things cycle and Art Deco go quite well together. Some bicycles and accessories are Art Deco by default. Why every trike most be decorated in the same colour schemes and with logos I don't know. But you don't see a fourth the variety in appearance of trikes as you do in the larger bicycle world. So I'm thinking a wee bit of Art Deco. Bullet headlight (the guts can be any budget) and appropriate tailight, probably mounted on a very sweet shiney fender. The Honjo French-inspired aluminum fenders are very easy on the eyes. Check them out at Velo Orange. But we're talking chrome instead of brass, nice rounded aerodynamic shapes, appropriate colours (the already flat black trike is a good start). Maybe a pin stripe.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Every Anniversary Is A Brass Anniversary

We celebrated our eighth anniversary recently, and here are the shinies!

The principle gifts were an engineer's lensatic compass and a very see-thru pocket watch, respectively. We also dined at the reincarnation of the original City Tavern of Philadelphia (a recommendation to all Steampunks), and purchased there some pewter tankards and cookbooks. Note the pocket watch still has the clear plastic protective sheets.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fuel For The Boiler: Steampunk Cookbook

What a capital idea!

You can buy it online from Lulu as either a pdf file or a hardcopy.

Fuel For The Boiler

Since time out of mind, food has brought man together. Over meals laws have been made,lover discovered,and families bonded. It is no wonder, then, that a community of people could and would create their own recipe book. What started as a simple idea on a forum (Brass Goggles)has become an all out literary project.

We received our copy:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Google Lively Steampunk Chatroom

I've created and embedded at the bottom of this page a Steampunk virtual chatroom using Google's new Lively 3D chat application. Hopefully over time more Victorian and Steamy objects will be added to the library.
Meanwhile give it a try!

Friday, July 4, 2008

In Defence of Shiny

William Gibson reportedly said when asked about Steampunk which some argue he helped inspire * (the punk anyway) that among other things he wished Steampunks would make things look more aged and distressed instead of shiny new.

One thing wrong with that idea is that Steampunks do indeed often make things look distressed to varying degrees of plausibility. Distressed Steampunk stuff tends to make the rounds less than the shiney new brass stuff. Which leads to my argument in defence of all things shiny:

Look at all the beautifully preserved historical objects and machinery in museums or private collections. From hand mirrors to steam tractors and trains, they look NEW. They looked new and were very much purposefully shiny and gilded when new, then a long series of people lovingly preserved them in near new condition. Sometimes a worn part might be replaced, especially in the case of machinery, so that in fact the parts of a given object may vary in age but the goal has been to keep it like new both in terms of working order and appearance.

There is a concept called "Beausage", a combination of beauty and usage referring to the natural, slow longterm wear or patina that can develop on a given point of contact. A key, knob, corner, a leather seat or handle. Whether the material be brass, wood or leather.
Even in this case it is not the intent of the manufacturer and often the end user for the wear to purposefully be there- it is a natural consequence and in fact can develop from the very act of polishing an item for a century. I'm guessing this is the sort of wear Mr. Gibson would prefer.

I have yet to see the artificially aged item that looks this way. It's an old trick of fakery and is a way to spot fakes for a reason- it doesn't look right. New looks like both new and well preserved old. Fake doesn't look like old, it looks fake. A mistake I've seen fairly often is to age the area or even the whole item too much- as if it was dropped whole into a swamp. All the common ready made faking craft supplies achieve the dropped-in-a-swamp effect.

In a very real way patina, rust etc certainly does not show loving use but neglect.

The easiest way to make your craftwork look like a well looked after museum piece is to leave it looking as new as when you made it. With a slight bit of work you can age a corner with a few light scuffs then polish again as someone would. But the single best way is to let it happen naturally from actually using your item for a few decades.

Perhaps someone a hundred years from now will cherish a certain brass keyboard complete with naturally worn keys from actual use. But an artifically aged item will be appreciated a hundred years later in the same way it was when it was new- as a poor substitute.

* The word Steampunk in the sense someone felt a need to marry an appreciation of Steam Age technology with Cyberpunk, but Victorian age inspired fashion and other creative outlets that have grown to become "Steampunk" would have happened anyway regardless of what we called it.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Full Steam Ahead

Okay, so the Brass Lion still isn't steam powered. There are certain legal requirements regarding the bike path that prevent that. But! Here's a short video of the Brass Lion passing by at a decent clip.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sexy In Black

The white show tires are great for well, show. I still much prefer the look of white tires on the trike. Like a certain rug that brings the room together, the white tires help bring home the old school feel.

Saying that, these new black tires I bought for a faster ride are easy on the eyes are they not? The front tires are Primo Comets. The 1.3 and 1.5 Comets are in common use but Primo also manufactures the Comet in 1.95 and 2.1 sizes. The 1.95 is shown on my sweet sweet trike. The rear tire is a Schwalbe Big Apple. I may eventually try the cushioned ride of the Big Apple on all three wheels. Even with centerpoint steering the fat Comets make turning slightly more effort. All three tires are considerably heavier than the white tires, but at the same time provide a faster ride.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

NuVinci Lust

I so want one of these. At about $350 it's no $1400 Rohloff hub so maybe for Christmas. ^_o

The gear ratio changes smoothly. You can shift while standing still and shift dynamically for the smallest of road changes. It seems to me those qualities would be ideal on a trike.

The idea stems from some plans Leonardo DaVinci cooked up in about 1490.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


For every squirrel I run over I put one of these on my fender.

I kid I kid.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


We rode a bit this past weekend on a proper trail instead of our usual testing grounds. The Brass Lion had a flat at one point ( I suspect a pinch flat with the front tires being only 35 psi), but that afforded an opportunity to get some experience fixing a flat on a 7 foot 7 inch 60 pound trike. We received many offers of help though we didn't need it. The local bike club patrols the trail with zeal, which makes a geezer very happy indeed.

Average speed was 10 miles per hour. Eight mph uphill, and I topped out somewhere over 17 miles per hour (the person with the gps was going 17 mph and fell behind me).
Not exactly record shattering but I'll take it. Ten miles per hour is pretty much where I want to be on a relaxing jaunt through deer country (or is it hawk country? We saw about a dozen).

Spore Creature Creator

Here's my first attempt at creating something resembling a tadpole trike in the Spore Creature Creator.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Brass Lion: The Essential Collection

Here is the essential collection of images of the Brass Lion, including photos which debuted in the Steampunk Workshop coverage of the Brass Lion.

Conspicuously missing are photos of me riding the trike in period dress. I'll post those together with one or two additions in a day or two.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Here are a handful of photographs taken at the same time as the photos on Steampunk Workshop.

I will soon be including all the photos on Steampunk Workshop here for completeness.