Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Ridekick Power Trailer Project Is Completed!

It amazes me sometimes or should I say I amaze myself sometimes when a project comes together quickly and better than I had hoped.  This has been the case with the little power trailer that I have been working on over the past few weeks.  Another big smile on my face is the order of the day with this project and how it all turned out.

If you have been following along throughout the weeks that I have progressed with this project you will appreciate the transformation that has taken place on the little trailer and the vision that was in my head from the start. I got a real taste of what it is like for the guys that build custom cars or motorcycles that you see on TV.  They build up the design and then take it all apart to have it painted or chromed and them put it all back together again.  This is exactly what I went through only on a much smaller scale.

I had to post these photos again to show you the difference of how the trailer looked when I started the project compared to how it looks now.  A great looking little trailer from the start but you cannot deny that my conversion is just a step or two up from where I began. 

The whole purpose of the Ridekick power trailer is to make it easier to ride a bicycle up hills (or a velomobile in my case) for older guys (like me) or ladys of course.  The trailer has a LIFePO4 30Ah lithium battery that is capable of traveling 35-40 miles at a speed of 20 miles per hour.  This will be a huge plus for me to use with my velomobile that I built a number of years ago.  Velo's are very fast on level ground but are notorious for being slow going up hill.  Mainly because of the extra weight of the body which makes for slow hill climbing.  But on level ground a standard bicycle does not have a chance against a streamlined velo because of less wind resistance unless you are an Olympic bicyclist.  Not many of them around here where I live so I am safe.

I really like the look of the little trailer after my conversion.  The fenders with the reflectors and the black painted bottom tub work very well together.

I was able to make my own decals for the trailer using my vinyl cutter and the stripes were a simple matter of using some white pin striping tape that I had stored away for just such a project.

With the LIFePO4 30AH lithium battery pack installed into the trailer there is still 41.8 liters of cargo space available to haul whatever I want to pick up (groceries?) or take with me like something cool to drink, camera gear, or a jacket.  So the trailer serves several purposes all at the same time.

Here is a good look at the battery pack that is in the trailer.  It is held securely with a Velcro strap and is plugged into the controller located at the back of the trailer.  I charged up the battery that was completely dead for the first time and it took around three hours to bring it up to a full charge. This is nice to know as I am sure I will never run it completely flat again so charging times will be less when the time comes.

With the new trailer being planned for use with the velmobile I had to design a trailer hitch to make it all work.  The little trailer is designed to be connected to a bicycle or recumbent trike at the rear axle.  The problem with the velomobile is that the body covers up the rear axle so I had to figure out how to make a hitch to get the mount located more rearward.  I started with an arm for the hitch that was simply made with 1/4 inch plywood layers.  I cut one to the shape I had worked out and then traced a half dozen more on to my plywood panel.  

After cutting the parts out on my bandsaw and sanding all of the pieces of the trailer hitch arm into the exact same shape I fiber glassed the assembly together in layers to make up the arm you see pictured above.  The arm had one layer of plywood, then a glass layer, another layer of wood, then another layer of fiber glass and so on until I got the thickness that I wanted for the arm.  I was more than happy I had enough clamps to secure everything while the fiberglass cured overnight.

Once the sandwich layers of wood and fiberglass had dried I was then able to sand the new arm down to get a nice smooth shape so it would be proper for several more layers of fiberglass on the outside of the arm.

I then drilled the required holes into the arm for the mounting tubes that would tie it all together in the final assembly that would mount to the frame of the velomobile.

Once I had gotten the arm fiberglassed  I then smeared on a layer of epoxy/micro-balloon mixture.  This is like a putty that I mix up to fill the weave of the fiberglass cloth.  Most of this is sanded off smooth to prep it for priming and painting.

Here the arm has been sanded and primed ready for paint.

After the primer had dried I was able to lay down a couple of nice coats of black paint.  The arm at this point is ready to be assembled to the velomobile and is strong enough to run over with a car and not break.  Simple, strong, and an easy trailer hitch arm assembly.

This image above shows how the trailer hitch is attached to the rear mount of the velomobile frame.  The black fiberglass arm is mounted to the frame using 1" aluminum tubing that is connected to 90 degree steel mounts that in turn are mounted to the rear axle arm of the frame.  All the mounts were then secured using locknuts.

 Here's a good look at the new trailer hitch arm assembly mounted to the velomobile.  The larger black portion on the end of the hitch needed to be added to the hitch to keep the male end of the hitch from rotating on a single mounting bolt.

This mount looks and works good but still was not correct at this point.  I had to replace the bolt you see here with an eye bolt.  (See the next photo). The cylindrical protrusion is the male mount that connects to the email mating mount that is on the trailer.

Here is the reason for the eye bolt.  On the trailer hitch is a safety strap that works just like a car trailer using safety chains.  This strap gets fed through the eye bolt  and then back through to the trailer to add a bit more safety in using the trailer.  In the photo above you can see  to the left of the eye bolt a cable connector.  This connector is for the accelerator cable.  A variable speed thumb switch is mounted on to the handlebars of the velo and then connected with the accelerator cable to the little trailer at this point.  Makes it easy to attach or remove the trailer from the velomobile.

Here you can see the safety strap in place running through the eye bolt.  To connect the trailer to the velomobile  all that you need to do is slide the female mount that is on the trailer over the male mount on the trailer hitch.  Then a small locking pin is inserted into a mounting hole to secure the trailer in place. Then attach the safety strap and connect the accelerator cable.  That's it.  Takes less than a minute and your ready to go.

The overall look of the little trailer with my velomobile was a real eye catcher as I cruised around my little town this week.    It was a real rush to drive the velo now with power for climbing hills.  I was doing 19 mph going up one hill and had power to spare.  On one level stretch I hit 22 mph. Pretty impressive for my first test run. Curious to see what the top speed of this set up will be. Mainly because the velomobile is so aerodynamic it slides through the air very easily.  Much less wind resistance than a standard bicycle or a recumbent trike. Amazing to say the least and a real rush to drive!  

So now I can put some real miles on the velo when I go cruising and enjoy the ride along the way.  This was my goal from the start and now with the help of the little Ridekick trailer it has made it all possible.  I think my mission with this project is finally complete and has been an overwhelming success.  Enjoy the photos!  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Ridekick Power Trailer Painting Is Completed!

Well another week has passed by and I managed to get some work done on the Ridekick power trailer project. I thought it best that I get everyone caught up with the latest news.  As the title of this posting says the painting of the trailer has finally been completed.  I am happy with the results and even happier that it has not been a major pain in the process.  As with most of my projects I learn as I go and get better in the long run.  This has been the case over the years in learning how to paint different projects.  This project was one of my smaller jobs to paint so I was happy that it turned out as well as it has.  

After having spent a good deal of time preparing the fenders of the little trailer for paint with sanding, primer, resanding, and more primer over and over again the end result after painting the fenders was worth the effort as you can see in the photo above.  

I once again pulled my work table spray booth out of storage and put it to good use for this project. The simplest way I found to paint both fenders inside and out was to bolt them together using threaded rods.  I then rested them on a couple of blocks of Styrofoam which made the job much easier.  I was able to pick up both fenders at the same time, spray them on the inside and then rest them back down again on the blocks of foam.  With the turntable in the little spray booth I then could rotate the fenders to spray them properly and get the results you see here.

I like this shot of the fenders with the bottom of the trailer.  It gives you a little bit of an idea of how well the fenders will look with the black painted tub of the trailer along with the tires and rims.

This series of photos starting at the top is how the trailer lid looked once I started laying down the very light five coats of paint.  I had to keep reminding myself as I was spraying each coat to only put down a very light coat.  The lid of the trailer only started to look good after about the third or fourth coat.  I also must remind you that this was done with a can of spray paint not a spray gun.  So I am rather proud that I could this nice of finish to this part.  Most of this result is because of all the prep work I did before hand.

Another couple of good shots of the trailer lid after the paint had dried.  Pretty as a picture seems to fit the description perfectly.

After the paint had dried for a couple of days I was able to start mounting the reflector assemblies on to the new fenders.  As you can see from the photos above the mounting is held on to the fender using one 10-24 half inch bolt and nut.  I was sure to add Lock-tite to the threads so that the reflectors would not let loose after some time using them.  The orange and red reflectors were then inserted into the mounts using the supplied double stick rubber mount that is sandwiched between the reflector and the mount.  Very sticky to say the least but luckily not a problem to get set up.  The look of the completed reflector on the left I am very happy with especially because of the mounting matching perfectly with the fender shape and color.

Finally here is the end result of the painting on the project.  I still want to put some pin stripe on the lid and a couple of other decals that I have already made for the trailer but this I will wait with until the paint cures for a couple more days and I can reassemble the trailer with the new fenders.  Once I have the trailer put back together again I will post the final details of the project and get some photos taken again of the trailer along with my velomobile that it will be used with.  Until then enjoy the pictures and have a good day in your shop as well. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ridekick Power Trailer Fenders Are Mounted!

This week brings another round of great progress to the Ridekick power trailer project.  I wanted to get this out a couple of days ago but with the project moving forward more rapidly than I expected I wanted to press on and see what I could get done.  So I thought it best to get this out before the postings either get to far apart in time or the project is completed all together.  So let me show you where the project is at now.

Here the fenders for the trailer are set up to mark the mounting locations for the small 3D printed mounting spacers that go between the fenders and the lid of the trailer.  

I taped three small foam spacers to each tire so that I could locate the fenders correctly and line up the fender spacers on the lid.  At this point all I needed to do was slip the fender over these spacers and measure the distance from my work table to the rear bottom edge of the fender.  This worked out to be exactly 6 inches.  So it was an easy task to get the fenders matched up perfectly.

I took a Sharpie and marked where the spacer mount touched the lid of the trailer. The center mark on the spacer was matched to the center line of the tracing and the outer perimeter of the part.

To hold everything in place I used a couple of clamps to hold the spacer securely while I drilled the holes for the 1/4" bolts.  I drilled the center hole first then slid a bolt through the hole.   Then I double checked my alignment with my marks and drilled the second hole and so on until the job was done.

I then mounted the spacer and fender to the lid using one inch long  1/4-20 bolts, nuts and large fender washers on the inside. This secured everything nicely and still gives the interior of the trailer a nice finished look. 

I was amazed how well everything fit and looked at this point.  This picture was shot just after I mounted the parts on to the lid.  Sanding will come next to smooth things out and get a nice finished look for painting.

With the fenders securely in place I was then able to check the alignment and operation of the fenders on the lid.  The fenders do look a bit strange being mounted to the lid with it's open but it was the simplest way to put fenders on to the trailer without having to jump through flaming hoops to get to the job done.  

The real point of the project was to get functional fenders that actually looked good when the trailer is rolling down the road.  So I could care less as to what the fenders look like when the lid is open just as long as the design and function turns out the way I planned I'm happy.

Next comes the custom rear reflectors that I created for the trailer.  I had been trying to find some small reflectors but the ones that I had came across were much to large to use with the small fenders.  So I designed these after finding the small orange and red oblong reflector inserts that you see here.  I really like the look and they will fit in nicely with the fenders once I get the mounts painted to match the fenders.

I could not resist showing you the fenders at this point in the painting process.  Here they are in primer after I spent a couple hours sanding them smooth for paint.  Already they are pretty impressive looking.  To say I am tickled pink at this point is an understatement for sure.  I did more prep work on the fenders today and am very close to spraying paint on the parts.  Very close.

I wanted to show you this photo of the front of the trailer so you know what I am talking about when it comes to painting it.  The lower portion of the trailer body which I call the tub I wanted to paint black instead of the tan color that you see here.  I was able to easily remove the tub from the trailer so that I could prep it for paint.

Here is what the tub looked like when it was sitting in my little table top spray booth.  I was lucky enough to have the part fit so that I could spin it around to get the painting done and have it turn out as well as it did.  I like the nice glossy finish. Another job well done.

With the tub painted and dry it was an easy task to reinstall it back into the trailer.  The look of the tub being painted gloss black really improves the look of the trailer a great deal.  I am looking forward to having the lid of the trailer painted and remounted to get the full effect.  The lid will be painted red with white graphics.  The graphics I have planned for the trailer I will make on my vinyl cutter so hopefully I can get this all accomplished in the next week or so.  Just will have to see if I can make as much progress with the project as I have in the past couple of weeks.   I will have to take my time with it all and hope for the best.  Stay tuned for further progress.  Have a good day in your shop!