Thunderbug Trike (yet another project)

With a fair bit of trepidation, following my abject failure to finish the Midge project, I have decided to announce my latest and probably most absurd project to date (probably not as absurd as the Mad Max Volvo Pickup I was building which ended when I broke my back running out of talent whilst mountain biking on Cannock Chase)IMG_0048

So without further ado, here is the future of urban personal transportation, The Thunderbug Trike


All right I will be the first to admit it looks like a box with three wheels magically suspect in a vertical position but it is a start.

I have been tinkering with the idea of building a trike for a number of years but was always put off by the fact that using steel would make the trike weigh around 40lb and that aluminium was just too difficult to work with without specialist equipment. I have also been tinkering with the idea of using bamboo as a frame material as I have the tools to work with wood (or grass) and just about enough skill to get me through. Some may remember the plywood recumbent me and Connor built two years ago whilst I was convalescing from my road accident. Indeed the seat and rear wheel have been salvaged from the back of the shed as temporary props for the Trike.


Whilst the bike made very interesting riding, it did prove that wood would work and that I would be able to ride a bike again as up to having my second operation riding an upright bike was out of the question.

So fast forward to the present and the urge to have a go at a trike had reached the top of the pile of things I wanted to try and build. In the intervening years it appears that composite materials are now readily available in the home user environment. There is a wealth of information out there and a number of suppliers happy to provide no minimum quantities to enthusiastic amateurs. There is also a growing number of people building bamboo bikes and whilst the knowledge required is generally more guarded by those in the know, probably because there is an abundant number of hipsters willing to part with loads of money for their ‘boo bikes.

After researching what is out there and buying a number of books (including the excellent “The Cycling Zoo” by Steve Nurse and “Bicycle design” by Mike Burrows I decided on doing away with the typical bike frame in favour of a monocoque chassis, after all in my mind a trike has more in common with a car (or a three wheeler) than a bike and with the use of composites it made sense to build a monocoque utilising the inherent strength of the materials, the weight saving benefits and the simplification of the build by bolting the components to the tub. The more I thought about it the more it made sense and would allow me to dabble with new skill sets.

The design has come along and will be an amalgamation of natural and man made fibres, bamboo for the front wishbones, pedal boom, rear arms and seat, carbon fibre for the tub and supports, aluminium for the brackets and links. I have incorporated four link shock absorption on the rear ( I wouldn’t dare call it suspension but hopefully it will take the pain of the bumps away) and I have ovalised the bamboo to utilise more substantial poles without adding to the bulkiness on the lines. I haven’t seen this done before and there is probably a good reason for it but naivety is the mother of invention, probably.


So far I have manufactured the tub from plywood, the plan is to manufacture the rest of the parts onto the plywood model making any alterations required until it all looks right, then to use it as a plug for a mold to form a fibreglass chassis. This chassis will be used on the road to see what breaks and what doesn’t work before finally committing the design to carbon fibre. The bamboo parts will be well tested and if they prove satisfactory will make it onto the final product, if they don’t they will be replaced by readily available carbon fibre tube but that is all months down the line.

This afternoon was the first opportunity to mount things in situ on the jig (offcut chipboard) and already I like how it looks although I have let to puzzle out how to mount the front boom and wishbones in the narrow space available, it looked wider in Sketchup than it is in reality.

The build costs so far …. edit… I was going to put the build costs down but I just scared myself totting it up. I will keep a record and decide if I dare report it as the project develops..


“Roads were not built for cars” – Book review. Essential reading for cycle campaigners and a chance to unravel some myths and legends

I Do Not Despair

I have written this review in two parts. The first is what you might call the “official review” which I have given to the ECF web site for our cycle campaigning community. It should appear on shortly. But reading it I discovered some interesting content relating to my past role at CTC, the UK cyclists’ charity which prompted me to add some additional reflections which I have added here in my personal blog.

The “official review”

Anyone wanting a comprehensive review of how our roads entered what we might call the “modern era” should look no further than this highly enjoyable read from British cycling journalist Carlton Reid. He has taken an investigation of the role cycling played in road modernisation in the late 19th and early 20th century and extended it to cover the origins of road construction, the engineering of cars and how this period…

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Sorry is the hardest word to say

Two weeks ago I was involved in an incident whilst cycling home from work. It was way to close for my liking and forced me to act to avoid a collision with a single decker bus operated by National Express on the 997 route. The Driver was wholly in the wrong after completely misjudging the situation. He chose to overtake me with the full intention of immediately pulling in to the kerb to allow passengers to board. There was also standing traffic at the roundabout ahead and oncoming traffic approaching at a point where the road narrows. I suppose if you are going to try the impossible you should be applauded for your efforts and this chap deserved an ovation.
Due to the conditions mentioned above he wasn’t able to make a getaway and I drew along side his cab to express my dissatisfaction. To be honest I would have been happy with an apology there and then, we are human, none of us are perfect. ” Sorry mate ” would have made things fine, hopefully we would have all learned a lesson ( obviously when I said  we I meant him)
Instead of “Sorry Mate ”  I got told to “Fuck Off”, I then got treated to further abuse using the medium of mime.  I recorded the event which is very crudely edited here link The full version remains in case anyone wanted it.
To be fair my first reaction to this would have put me in the wrong, so my second reaction was to complain to his company. I believed that this would help the driver gain an understanding of what it like to be assaulted with a deadly weapon and that arrogance is a very unlikeable character trait. I also believed the person best placed to deliver these valuable lessons should be the ones who paid his wages.
Sadly this appears not to be the case. There will be no apology, I will never discover if the 997 bus route is a little safer or that temerity is no longer a requirement for operating a psv. I don’t know if I am a marked man in an “On the buses” style with every bus overtake  being accompanied with a fist shake and a wail of “I’ll get you Biker” 
I finally received a reply from National Express complaints department after numerous emails and after throwing my Twitter toys out of the pram last night.
It appears the complaints department is very busy and is running days behind. I was informed I wouldn’t be told of the outcome to protect the driver but they did at least know who he was. So let’s get this straight, his incompetence nearly caused an accident, his reaction was to abuse me and I don’t get my apology to protect him. That is utter bollocks. I don’t need his name, although he is licensed and should be prepared to state both name and number when requested. I just wanted an apology from him and an undertaking from the company that he would be retrained, briefed as required to bring his standards up to those expected in his position.
I don’t think I am unreasonable, after all I saved him from attending an inquiry or making statements to the Police and all that nasty stuff with the Press and the years of counselling. Mind you I am only a cyclist, I don’t count. I suppose he and his Manager had a good laugh at my expense whilst having a swift half in the pub before the afternoon school run.
As far as my complaint I hope it provided some entertainment as they tried a few three pointers from the printer to the bin.
I have learned a lesson here, don’t bother complaining to National Express just go straight to social media. Public image is everything. In fact don’t go straight to Twitter just ring the Police, although in my experience their system was based on the National Express set up, but at least the Police apologise when necessary.

My name is Aiden and I am a Cyclist.

There are very few situations in normal society where you are expected to look out for the incompetence of others and if someone else gets it wrong you are responsible for the result.

The victim is usually a very normal person going about his lawful business, cruelly interrupted by the inconvenience of killing, maiming or injuring a cyclist. After all cycling is an outdated mode of transport, only weirdo’s and perverts ride bikes (unless winning the nation a bag of medals at worldwide sporting events). Despite lip service being paid to cycling as a viable, healthy and sustainable transport method, these lips disguise a forked tongue. Getting more people on bikes without providing a safe infrastructure and legislation is akin to feeding Grouse in July.

How can it be right that you can use the sun as an excuse for running someone down? How can it be right that you can use the dark as an excuse for running someone down? How can it be right that you can confuse a cyclist with a pot hole? How can it be right to not stop because you thought you hit an animal. In fact it seems less politically correct to not stop after hitting a defenseless bunny that squishing a cyclist. Last year, or was it the year before, a taxi driver got away with killing a cyclist who was mounted on his bonnet. The taxi only stopped after colliding with a tree, no doubt the cyclist obstructed his view therefore causing the tree unnecessary duress.

Of course there are answers to the growing problem of the popularity of cycling. One would be to spend some money on the infrastructure to allow two differing societies to co-exist, after all a white line is scant protection when compared to 42 tonnes of lorry, even more ridiculous is allowing 13 tonnes of public transport to share that protective white line but it is pretty cheap when compared to concrete bollards or even a couple of courses of bricks.

You could scare the motorised road user with the prospect of getting bummed in the showers of a detention centre but in reality, there is a long queue for the soap on a rope in her majesty’s hotels and let’s face it killing or injuring a cyclist is pretty low down on the list of important stuff like bunnies and kittens (unless it is a policeman, or a saint, or someone who counts). As cyclists, by virtue of being on the road we are asking for what we get. Mr Clarkson (an employee of the British Broadcasting Corporation) is allowed to use taxpayers money to prove how worthless we are as a sub class but to be fair, he is also a racist, a sexist and a xenophobe at our expense, so at least he is a balanced bigot. However, even if his big fat tongue is firmly in his big fat cheek in his big fat head, there are people out there who swallow his bile, I know this for a fact, I have to use the road with them on a daily basis. We are told to set an example to our children, wear your helmet or your child won’t, eat your greens or your child will die of bursting, Pick on cyclists so that you can reign over the metalled surfaces on the United Kingdom.

The real issue is that cycling went out of fashion for a couple of decades, in those years the car came to the fore utilising a largely Victorian network which was never going to cope when cars caught on for real. At the same time important people realised there was a niche to exploit, with minimal outlay they could fleece “hard working families”, centralise industry, reduce public transport and all the support systems they relied upon. People had to travel further to earn their money and those earning the better money were better than those staying local and earning less. Pretty soon those working locally threw their bikes away and got cars to prove they weren’t shit. Soon after that parents decided that they would look cheap if the didn’t take their children to school in their motorised status symbols.

Of course the less spent on that road network the more money the important people made. Instead of investing in integrated systems, they did what they could to disintegrate them and increase their wealth. Then the gridlock, lack of freedom and general unhealthy nature of sitting in a box, bit them on the arse, this coupled with gold medals and national pride resulted in a resurgence of cycling for a reason. Suddenly commuting and cycling were cool and healthy and hip and the governments couldn’t really dissuade people from partaking or they would look like knobs. However as it is better to be a rich knob that a poor dude.They tacitly agreed with cycling but without actually doing anything to assist it. Therefore it is far better to demonise those that do, rather than vilify those that don’t. Rather than stumping up the cash or legislating to enforce improvement they choose to pillorise the victims of their inaction. How difficult would it be to force any new developers into providing a safe network as part of their planning proposals, or for any road renewals to include separate infrastructure for non motorised use? It wouldn’t be difficult it just wouldn’t be as profitable. There isn’t any money to be had and a healthier lifestyle and would reap less profit from the heath service, aside from in major trauma industry.

Anyway, tome over, This week appears to be road safety week, and it is working. The A34 wasn’t closed at Perry Barr, neither was the M6,. Those nice chaps at the West Midlands Police decided to tweet some helpful tips and Her Majesty’s Press at the West Midlands Beeb did an in depth report on cycling, worthy of Tom Heap from Countryfile, . Stay safe, stop and give way, wear your helmet, use your lights, not small ones mind, they don’t count. Not big ones mind, they blind law abiding road users, Use Goldilocks lights, they are the best, not too bright, not too dim, just right.  When you have finished, have a little nap, you are well safe in a bus lane, nothing nasty will happen as you have a white line to protect you.

Helmets; I wear a helmet, I regularly change my helmet and I have an expensive head, so I wear an expensive helmet. I have smashed two into oblivion. Well I smashed one and a Mondeo driver smashed the other but that is being obtuse. I am a fan of helmets, mine is a limited edition as used by a few of the world tour teams, It looks ace and makes me look amazing but I am the first to admit it would be fuck all use if my bus lane sharing 13 tonne mate decided to run me over. My first destroyed helmet didn’t save me from a broken back and my second didn’t save me from a destroyed elbow. Helmets don’t save lives, not having incidents saves lives. Not being put in situations; saves lives.

I will tell you another thing that saves lives, sticking as best you can to the laws of the road. This includes not jumping red lights, this includes stopping and giving way, it also includes using not mobile phones, not wearing seatbelts and not speeding. However these issues don’t count because decent law abiding citizens do them. Politicians, Police Officers, Solicitors, Media stars, Footballers, they all transgress these stupid outdated laws. Some even manage to tweet about these matters whilst driving, now that is proper multitasking.

I ask any of you who have got this far, to take notice of how many cyclists jump red lights tomorrow and how many car drivers blast through on red. It is the same offence, committed in a different manner and just as wrong in both instances. I ask you to observe how many cyclists ride without lights and how many cars drive on sidelights in a 40mph or above, or with fog lights on. How many bike riders are on their phone compared to motorists at the wheel or even those without seatbelts compared to those riders without helmets. Finally compare how many cyclists are breaking the speed limit compared to motorists, whilst also considering the prospective damage they could individually do. We all break the law so don’t get prissy when someone breaks a law you care about, this is called hypocrisy, so suck it in and lets get on with all arriving safely where we wanted to get to.

In this last paragraph I wish to announce that my omission does not absolve a wrong doing. If my lights aren’t bright enough, this isn’t an excuse to kill me. If I am not wearing a helmet it doesn’t give a reason to run me over. If I am not wearing hi visibility clothing it doesn’t absolve you from driving in a responsible manner. For reporters in the Coventry area, if you are hit from behind, you didn’t collide with a car, it HIT YOU and the burden of guilt isn’t on the cyclist for having lights, considered by an expert, to be a bit small, it is on the driver for being negligent. If the road narrows and you can’t overtake me, it isn’t my fault for your misjudgment. If you are really late for work and I am only doing 25mph in a 30mph, it isn’t my fault the important people didn’t provide a safe infrastructure for us to use or that you failed to set the appropriate time on your alarm clock. Get over yourself and leave me alone.

I promise to pay the bearer

The Plastic Hippo


Like hearts, dreams, ambitions, mobile phones and the best wine glasses kept at the back of the cupboard for special occasions, promises are easily broken. There is a long and contemptuous tradition of politicians promising all manner of goodies to a gullible electorate without ever having any intention of coming up with the goods. When challenged to explain the failure to deliver pie-in-the-sky promises, the rulers with more ambition than heart usually ignore the awkward questions or sometimes talk of a change in circumstances or trot out the tired excuse that the promise was misunderstood by stupid voters.

The hilarious shambles in the House of Commons over the vote to have a vote on not having a vote to vote to enact a bill to re-adopt the European Arrest Warrant is just the latest farce in a long line of duplicitous wriggling that stretches back to the Stone Age. This…

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