Ice road truckin’ on the Paisley tricycle

3:4Sleet overnight in central Illinois. Perfect weather for a shake-down ride on the Paisley trike–and to take a few pictures of my new/old machine.

Riding a tricycle on ice-covered roads is an exercise in the preservation of momentum. Because the rear axle was designed with English roads in mind–only the left rear wheel is powered–it’s easy to break traction on icy roads, especially here in the States. Same thing with hills. Make sure you build up speed before the climb. You’ll need it.


Welcome to the business end of the Paisley. I haven’t looked at the paperwork in a long time, but I believe this is a Ken Rogers axle set.

The two loops of frame around the freewheel connect the left and right axle housings. A third loop, in line with the chainstays, completes the axle housing assembly.

The Shimano Megarange freewheel is screwed down on an adapter that is bolted to the hexagonal end of the left axle. The right, unpowered, axle terminates in a blind end under the lockring to the right of the small cog in this picture. Note the Shimano derailleur–it bolts to an L-shaped bracket that, in turn, is bolted into a braze-on under the right inner bearing-cup assembly.

I used duplicates of this freewheel and rear derailleur on the Schwinn Sports Tourer rebuild. And, just as on that bicycle, both of the trike’s derailleurs are motivated by Sun Tour bar-end shifters.


One nut secures the alloy hubs to the ends of the axles. These are the only hubs I own that don’t have bearings in them. Instead, like the freewheel, they are pressed over the hexagonal ends of the axles, which are supported at either end by bearings running in bottom-bracket cups.

This is the only human-powered vehicle I own with three pairs of bottom bracket cups.

Take another look at that rear end. You don’t get better protection for a derailleur than to position it approximately halfway between two wheels. I just ran out to the garage to measure the width of the rear end from the center of one tire’s tread to the other: 23-1/2 inches.


The frame tubing came from England, too: Reynold’s 531. The big “P” stands for Scott Paisley, who built this tricycle at his shop in Ohio. Follow that out-of focus chain back to the freewheel: there’s the third loop around the freewheel. I believe Scott cut away part of the British loop to artfully curve the right chain stay all the way to the right inner bearing housing.

I remember driving a Subaru from Illinois to Ohio to see Scott’s workshop and get measured for this machine. The car was old enough that the spare tire was mounted over the engine. Some months before, the key had frozen in the ignition, and the only way to kill the engine was to stop the car and let out the clutch with the transmission in gear.

Because 1) that was an inelegant solution, and 2) Subaru dealer John Bearce wanted $84 for a new ignition switch, I ran the ignition wire through an 89-cent on-off switch from the hardware store. Of course I first had to find which wire under the dash was the right one. So I turned the car on and cut the leads one by one until the engine shut down. I tell you this so you understand why I never became an auto mechanic.


I’m running 700x28c tires all the way around. Hope I never get a flat; it took a lot of muscle to get the last bit of Bontrager bead onto the original Mavic MA-2 rims.


Love the adjustability of this two-bolt Sun Tour XC seatpost. The delightfully incongruous saddle–I seem to require titanium saddle rails for that extra performance boost–came from the parts collection I took over from the Les Siegrist estate in 2012. Note the frame lug cut-out ahead of the seatpost, super clean seat stay attachment and, below the binder bolt on the left seat stay, the braze-on for the frame pump.


Let’s take a look at the other end of the Paisley. The original front office was based on a beautiful set of Cinelli bars and stem. However, this equally attractive Nitto stem allows me to raise the Modolo-styled SR bars a scooch, and it will not ever–ever–squeak.


Okay, I agree, this is a little different. Ahead of that investment-cast fork crown: a pair of Shimano cantilevers in their usual position. Behind the fork, the tricycle’s second brake: a Universal sidepull from Italy running Scott-Matthauser pads. Note that the Universal is attached by a drop bolt.


Here’s a look at the brakes from the left side of the trike. I’m playing around with a noodle housing from a linear brake as a way of changing the entry angle of the sidepull’s cable. Right now, I’m optimized for tight right-hand turns; while the sidepull itself will never engage the downtube, the noodle will hit the front derailleur’s cable housing if you turn far enough left. This is more of a problem in theory than in practice. When contact is made, the noodle simply pivots on the housing stop. A shorter noodle with a tighter radius might solve the contact issue altogether.

trike_frontHere’s a picture of the trike in its original paint. (This and the following pictures are also posted at the Classic Rendezvous website.)

If anything, the original brake configuration was even more unusual. I matched a front-mounted sidepull with a Phil Wood disc brake. Within the first few months of ownership, I decided my early adopter status was secondary to having adequate stoppers, so I trashed the Phil, had Scott install cantilever bosses and reset the dropouts to 100 mm, got the bike repainted and installed a reversed sidepull. (Corrosion has since taken its toll on the original Universal, so I sourced a duplicate from eBay.)


I’m still using the Specialized alloy headset, but everything else in this picture has changed. Those are indexed downtube shifters, but the original Shimano 600 rear derailleur worked more reliably in friction mode, most likely because the design of the L-bracket derailleur attachment dates to, as far as I can figure out, 1945 (I am not kidding). A little file work made quick work of the braze-on that supported the Phil’s cable housing. Miss that paint job.


Kids, this is why you shouldn’t pay attention to trends. A white saddle? Handlebar tape? Brake hoods? It’s a dirty world out there; don’t pretend it’s not. Note the seatstay-mounted pump and early (white) Look clipless pedals. And look what happens when you decide to design your own trike: the front end geometry of a Trek 720, the seat angle of a Guercotti and a 16-inch chainstay, shorter than a modern-day Trek Madone 6.5. If my feet were any bigger, they’d hit the back axle.


The Kirtland handlebar bag was mounted on an Eclipse seatpost adapter. The bag’s long gone, and I haven’t seen the adapter in a while, but I do have a second set of mounts for my Arkel Big Bar Bag; I could bolt them and the bag onto a short handlebar section attached to a tandem stoker stem. Behind the saddle and over the axle is a great place for your stuff.

Not sure if I ever carried bags on that front Blackburn low-rider rack (by the way, you can’t use this rack, still sold today, with the Arkel pannier attachment system). Water bottle is from my employer in the 1980s, Vitesse Cycle Shop.

If I remember right, I took these early pictures with a Nikon FM (hey, look Pops, film!) when I was living on East Illinois Street in Peoria. Those were the days: a shared bathroom between two apartments, and the other tenant always forgetting to unlock my door when he left for the weekend.

One night, during an especially entertaining rainstorm, the ceiling plaster fell on me while I was sleeping. I don’t remember being particularly surprised. Or annoyed.

Six months after I moved out, somebody, maybe the city, tore down the house. I don’t think it was my landlord. He had already closed his TV business on North Wisconsin Avenue. I always imagined he gassed up the car for a late-night trip out of town with the missing half of my rental deposit. With my tricycle under me, I fancied myself as a considerably more stable fellow.

I still do.

Note: Scott Paisley continues to roam the Earth on two wheels. He recently ascended the podium at the 2013 USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships in Madison, Wisconsin, placing third in the Masters 55 to 59-year-old class as a representative of MVC/Blue Wheel/Monticello Velo Club. He co-owns Blue Wheel Bicycles in Charlottesville, Virginia.

About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
This entry was posted in Equipment, History, Other bicycles, Report from the road and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Ice road truckin’ on the Paisley tricycle

  1. woo says:

    still a looker i like the v brake noodle on the front . bring it on winter

  2. LARRY DAVIS says:

    Ah, all set to tackle Grandview Drive again?! Great article – pictures and description, both.

  3. Craig Burgess says:

    Funny you should mention the Kirtland handlebar bag and Eclipse Seat Post Thing (I think that was what it was called). Just last night I dug mine out of the parts bin to see if I could cobble them together with the handlebar bag sidemount kit Carol got me for Christmas for the Catrike (said kit offered by Krispy Steve at I need more carrying capacity on the trike than the little underseat pockets provide, and I’m hoping to get that capacity without going the rear rack and trunk bag route. Since the mounting area of the sidemount bar is nowhere near a stem, the Kirtland’s steel “longhorn” rack seemed problematic, since it was designed to loop under a stem and then over the handlebars (a system so retro, even aero brake cabling gave it fits). The main body of the SPT, when attached to the seat post, takes the place of the stem, and its couple of stubby little arms act like the handlebars; I wondered if it could be made to work on my new setup. Problem is, the Krispy Steve bar is horizontal, and the SPT was made to work on the near-vertical orientation of a seat post. I did finally figure out how to loop the Kirtland rack over it and catch the SPT to hold it in place. It’s just dumb luck that it works, and it isn’t pretty – but the bag itself obscures most of the view of it. We’ll see how well it holds up – it isn’t the most secure thing in the world. If it doesn’t work, I’m not out any cash, and I’ll just buy a more “modern” bag and mount, though an Arkel may be out of my price range.

    • If you decide to abandon the Eclipse solution, I stand ready to partially fund your next experiment in exchange for it.

      You know something else I’ve got in the shop somewhere: a never used set of Eclipse grocery bag carriers. For a future project, perhaps.

  4. Micheal Blue says:

    Well, all this is peachy, but how does it ride? Is it noticeably slower than a normal bike? (It looks like it could be a relatively fast machine.) How’s the handling?

    • Thanks for asking about the ride. Between the Subaru and my first landlord, I may have gotten off track. So, here’s the report:

      On the ice roads I dealt with this weekend, comparing the tricycle to a bicycle would have been a moot point–nobody on a bicycle (at least without tire chains or spikes) had a prayer of remaining upright. You might as well compare the qualities of a space ship and a broken lawn mower. I remember when I first got the tricycle in the 1980s: I went from a middle-of-the-pack rider at best on a warm day to way off the front (or the only one on the road) on icy days in the winter.

      As to the ride, the trike rewards a smooth pedal stroke and riding style. If you have that, you can easily ride with people on bicycles without feeling unduly burdened by the extra weight that comes with a third wheel. I rode my tricycle with members of the local touring club quite often in the 1980s.

      If you have a low-rpm pedaling style and tend to rock your bike side to side, or you have a passion for speed or the ultimate in lightweight machines, the tricycle will be a disappointment.

      Everything else being equal, on smooth roads on a warm day, the person on a bicycle will beat the person on a trike in a race. But since I don’t race, I enjoy the “don’t worry” charms of the trike: 1) You don’t think about balance–to keep a bicycle upright, you’re always correcting a fall to one side or the other, 2) You don’t concern yourself with changing position and putting a foot down at a stop sign, and 3) You don’t worry about scraping a pedal through a turn.

      I’ve always felt the potential of added rolling resistance was a wash–each of the tires carry less of a load than the tires on a bicycle. However, the place to really get rolling is a well-paved road. The rougher the going, the less I enjoy the trike. Since it describes three tracks to the single track of a bicycle, it’s more difficult to avoid road imperfections.

      The handling is quite different from a bicycle. I don’t believe the front-end geometry makes much of a difference when you’re riding the trike straight ahead on a flat road. You just point the handlebars and pedal. It’s more like riding an exercise bike than a bicycle. That means if you like to sprint for stop-ahead signs, you don’t take the trike.

      Everything changes when you come to a corner, especially at speed. On a day without ice, you put your inside foot down (not up, as on a bicycle), move your inside hand to the handlebar drop or brake hood closest to the inside and your other hand to the top of the bar just on the other side of the stem, move your butt off the seat and over the inside pedal, and lean your upper body as far into the turn as you can. Think about motorcycle sidecar riders at Isle of Man races: you hang it all out, as far as you can. I remember really enjoying tight, twisty downhills, hanging off one side and then the other, even better if there was some washboard: the trike jumping up and down while I was flying smoothly off to one side, my arms and legs turned into loosely cantilevered shock absorbers.

      On a day with ice, you perform a more sedate version of the same maneuver, content to being mobile and upright when all the carbon-fiber wunderbikes have been sidelined. Because my tricycle is one-wheel drive, on ice I tend to spin the left rear wheel when accelerating. I also lose traction on icy uphills and, in the fall, on roads covered by wet leaves, especially if the road is strongly cambered.

      That’s a big thing you’ll notice on a trike: the camber of the road. In fact, if you’re an experienced cyclist, the first time you ride a tricycle, you’ll probably ride it straight into the ditch. You have to turn the handlebars; leaning has no effect on a tricycle’s steering.

      I have my eye (if not my wallet) on a two-wheel drive upgrade from England to eventually obviate most of the traction issues.

      Operate within the design parameters of the machine and I think you’ll have a blast on a trike. But it’s no Cervelo.

  5. Pingback: Running fixed gear with vertical dropouts: the Trek 2300 | 16incheswestofpeoria

  6. lardavis says:

    Even my recumbent trike has “issues” with camber, and you never leave it parked un-braked on a slope unless you like running after it.

  7. Pingback: Day 16. 30 Days of Biking | 16incheswestofpeoria

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