Most likely you're visiting to check out Finer Recliner CURVE neck rests, side mount handlebar bag kits, embroidery, tail lights and other recumbent accessories.

I make neck rests mainly but not exclusively for recumbent trikes. Each is 2" thick memory foam fill on a gently curved PVC base. The covers are breathable and water-resistant. Embroidery options are nearly limitless and allow you to truly personalize this part of your trike.

If you're interested in more information about Finer Recliner accessories, pictures, prices and how to order, you can reach me at stevesussman@earthlink.net.

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Perfection is elusive…or maybe “illusive” is a better word.  Everything, even good news, seems to come with qualifiers,. 

A couple of days ago I got an email from a customer who’d been waiting patiently for his order and was just checking to see if I’d died.  This has been a year where just about everything that could have happened to disrupt production and slow delivery did happen.  Its been a bit of a nightmare.  But then just in that moment when I was thinking this really isn’t fun anymore and I’m worn out from apologizing and trying to control the uncontrollable, I got a note that said, “Thanks for the quick service.”  And then I got another, “Your package arrived today!  It works great! Your check is already in the mail. I hope you get it as quickly as your package came to me. Thank you.”  Perhaps there’s hope after all. 

The TerraTrike project has been another example of both elusive and illusive perfection.  It took a while, but about a month ago I finished the first batch of powdercoated TT adapter brackets.  At last I could offer a CURVE kit that fits TerraTrikes…or so I thought.  Here’s the kit (without neck rest cover), along with the new adapter bracket, mounted on a Rover.  It fits really well and leaves plenty of room for adjusting the recline angle of the seat back.  So what was elusive? 

Well Dave McDonnell lives not far from Seattle and wanted a CURVE kit for his TerraTrike Tour.  He was down here during the Thanksgiving week so we met for coffee in Seattle, had a great visit along with Penni and Dave’s partner Jim (honest, that’s her name) and I gave him the first kit to try out.  

A couple of days later Dave sent me some pictures of the kit installed on his trike...he said he was really happy with it, but looking at the pictures it was clear that on his Tour the bracket design definitely limited the amount of seat back recline.  So I went to the TerraTrike website and checked the dimensions of the different models.  My “duh” moment was when I realized how different the Rover dimensions are from the other models including the new Rambler.  Unfortunately the only model easily available to me for testing had been the Rover at Angle Lake Cycles.

Embarrassed, I immediately made a new bracket by moving the cross tube from the bracket back to the top, and sent it off to Dave to try.  From Dave’s comments and the new pictures he sent it looks like it works just fine…no more limiting the amount of seat back recline.  So I’ve just finished fabricating 15 of the newly re-designed brackets that are also a bit smaller than the second one I made for Dave.  The cross tubes are at John’s being welded now and then are off to be powder coated.  Then hopefully finally the elusive TerraTrike CURVE kits will be available…with the first one going to Dave and the second to Renie for her new Rambler.   
Renie’s will be a special joy to deliver since her CURVE cover has been sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks and it’ll be great to finally send it home.  So anyone with a TerraTrike interested in a CURVE kit, this is a good time to get your orders in for delivery in about 3 weeks.

And so the year draws to a close at the Finer Recliner micro-industrial complex. 
Its been quite a ride – I’ve met loads of wonderful folks and delivered CURVE’s, CURVE kits and side mount kits to new friends around the US and Canada and as far away as Uruguay and the Netherlands.  The learning curve remained steep, but wonderful and unexpected gifts arrived often at exactly the right moment…generally when I was just beyond the end of my wits. 

A very special thank you to the folks who each make this small business run –  my friend John on lives on this island and does all the TIG welding; Zubin, a former islander now in San Francisco who sews the great covers; Deana who’s in Bellingham, a hardcore recumbent enthusiast and is doing the beautiful embroidery; John and Micah who own Tacoma Iron Work and do our powder coating; Jason, in China, who digitizes our original art; and all the wonderful folks at our suppliers who keep us in ‘stuff.’

A couple of weeks ago I got a note from someone saying he was glad I was making these parts because he preferred to use his spare time riding.  Well two days ago I turned 70…and it’s a bit of a stunner to associate that number with MY age.  What he said got me thinking. I’m dreaming of trying out that new DualDrive with a long bike trip next summer.  I want more time with my kids and grandkids…and most definitely with Penni.  I’m itching to return to building my own recumbents and building gates.  And there are loads of maintenance chores calling at our place.  Its lucky the Finer Recliner has been both fun and a great manufacturing learning lab because the way it works now is a lousy model for earning any money.  And it takes a lot of my time.  With so much else calling there’s a lot to think about this year and I’m excited to see how 2012 unfolds.

Penni gave me an iPad for my birthday.  I think it will be truly spectacular once I learn how to make it work...hell, once I can turn it on.  And then there’s my cell phone and monster iMac – I can’t even scratch the surface of their potential which is magnitudes greater than my ability to even imagine.  It took me a week after I got the cell to just figure out how to answer a call!  Well it’s my wish for 2012 that the human brain does NOT surpass my cell phone, computer and iPad as my least used mega-creation and gift. 

I don’t believe in waiting for judgment by a higher power because it doesn't take a genius to see how we are doing.  Just look around…and take a good look inside.  So I’m hoping that 2012 is a year for awakening - turning away from ideologues, religious and political self-righteous hypocritical extremism, group-think and sound-byte opinion-forming, us-versus-them justifying, selfishness and greed.  We don't need everyone to take their heads from where they currently seem to be stored and bring them out into the light - we just need each other...and a critical mass.  With some attention and some work we can begin to really use our brains, and 2012 can be a year for mindfulness, compassion, curiosity and informed choices.

Best wishes from Penni, Travis, Gomez and me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A lot's been going on.  I finally found a good spot for my latest gate.  Turns out that finding a place to put them is actually more fun than making one to fill an existing opening.  Hanging this tree gate meant planting a 30' hedge row and sinking posts...kinda backwards I know, but with no location constraints it's definitely more fun.

Because we all needed a break, the three of us, P, T, and me, drove down to Cannon Beach for 4 days.  Last year when we were there the weather was wild.  Day and night - high winds, freezing temps, sleet and rain.  The weather didn't keep us off the beach, we just bundled up in all our rain gear and went out.  Travis could have cared less...regardless of the weather he just wanted to play ball.  It was funny...facing south on the beach I could throw the ball about 20' when I really tried.  Facing north and using the same effort, I could throw it about 20 miles!  
All the required gear - ball, thrower, poop bag.
 This time, though, the autumn weather couldn't have been more beautiful.  Each day was warmer and sunnier than the one before.  The Hallmark Inn is beyond dog-friendly...when we arrived in our room there was a basket of goodies just for Travis - treats, a frisby, special towel and a water bottle with fold-out drinking trough.  We had a great time - long walks on the beach, exploring tide pools, spectacular sunsets, lots of ball-chasing exercise for Travis, good food and fun wandering around Cannon Beach, the best company, cozy evenings by the fire...
Truly a dog with a one-track mind

Is it possible to love a dog too much?
The only thing wrong with our time away was that it was just too brief.  But we came back to some other bits of good news...3 dozen mtb stems that'd been back-ordered for 6 weeks finally arrived, and I finalized an agreement with a new embroiderer, The Salem Emblem Shop in Salem, Oregon.  Turns out they did our great-looking TOT patches the past two years and are willing to take on the neck rest embroidery.  They do really wonderful work, so I'm excited to see the first batch of covers that'll be arriving soon from Zubin.  

One of those first covers will be this one.  It'll be fitted to the first TerraTrike CURVE kit, and should soon be on its way to Las Vegas and a new orange TerraTrike Rambler.  I sure hope Renie loves it.

It's true...I Photoshopped the extra length of the "T" tube to make it shorter.
And speaking of the TerraTrike CURVE kit, I recently fitted the powdercoated prototype on a Rover Dale has at Angle Lake Cycles.  The "T" tower was too long (I Photoshopped it shorter in the first picture,) and I'm changing out the 75mm mtb stem for one of the new shorter 60mm stems.  I just finished the first batch of 8 adapter brackets that are now at John's to have the tubes TIG welded on; then they're off for powdercoating, and as soon as they return they're ready to ship.

Even without posting on BROL that the kits are in production (ha...that's a fancy over-stated way of saying that I'm making them,) I've already got orders for half the first batch.  I've tried hard to make the adapter bracket as simple as possible in part to make producing them relatively straightforward, and also to keep the kit price low.  If you see one of the adapter brackets you might reasonably ask what took me so long to make them.  And the truth is I've procrastinated...I didn't believe it was fair to have to charge more for the TerraTrike kits than for the kits that fit Catrikes, ICE, HP and  others.  In the end I just decided that I didn't design the double-tube seat braces on the TerraTrikes that require the adapter, so I'll just make the kits and let the market decide.  The bracket adds about $20 to the cost of the kit, so the TerraTrike CURVE kit (adapter bracket, "T" tower, CURVE neck rest, mtb stem and end caps) will be about $110.

Now I'm hoping I can find a fabricator to produce the brackets inexpensively so I can stop making them myself, and I can get on to a couple of other projects about which I'm really excited.  But that's a story for another time.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I must get at least one email a week about fitting a CURVE kit on a TerraTrike.  And it was probably almost a year ago that Jim and I made a couple of day trips up to Mike's Bikes in Sequim to take TerraTrike seat frame pictures and measurements.  

Getting this relatively simple bracket right has been quite an exercise.  The first prototype looked neat, but involved multiple individual pieces that had to be welded and holes to be tapped.  The quote to fabricate the bracket was $64...I thought it was a typo.  So I started over with prototype 2...no bending, no tapping holes, no seam welds.

Now that Dale at Angle Lake Cycles is a TerraTrike dealer life's a lot simpler.  He's just a short ferry ride away, and he stocks plenty of TerraTrike, Catrike, ICE and HP Velotechnikit trikes in addition to a goodly supply of Rans and Bacchetta 2-wheelers.  So it's no longer an expedition to try fitting my prototypes and new accessories.  

Yesterday I hopped on the ferry and headed down there to try out prototype bracket #2 on a Rover.  Three pieces of good news - the bracket's a very simple build, it works perfectly and version #3 (the final item) will be about 1/3 smaller.  I should be able to get the new one made and be sure it works within the next week.  

With some luck the TerraTrike kits can be available by mid to late October, just in time to bring the trikes indoors and use them as lounge chairs while watching tv.  

I realize that speed hasn't been my greatest strength, and not just with these brackets.  Back-ordered parts continue to be a nagging problem.  And the worst of it is that I never know when, for example, stems will be out of stock for a month.  

Since I'm mostly doing all this for fun I try to look at this micro-industrial complex as a great learning experience about manufacturing.  I have most of the same challenges I'd have if the business was 1000X larger...just with less to lose (or gain) financially.  Size aside, I hate having to explain delays to customers, and I don't want anyone to think I'm not grateful off the charts for their patience and understanding.  In some ways being small presents more challenges - one in particular is trying to find providers of certain services consider doing work for me as fill-in for them...something they'll get around to at some point when they have time between large jobs.  I understand their realities, but that doesn't help me.  Still, I'm pretty sure I'll figure all this out.

Recently a couple of folks asked whether the side mount kit would fit on the new Catrike Villager with the adjustable seat.  Well it fits just fine.  Dale has a great selection of Villagers in stock, and my toughest decision was choosing on which color Villager to try the kit.

Time to get some orders filled.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The sun's out and it's still warm but the season is clearly changing.  It's getting darker about an hour earlier than just a month ago, there's that scent of Autumn in the air, the alders in the pasture are beginning to lose leaves, and while there are still caches of plump blackberries to be found, the island is beginning to look kind of berry-picked-over.

I finally got around to mounting my new neck rest, and now that how I see how great it looks I'm not sure why I didn't do this a long time ago.  The nut on the embroidery  matches a burn scar on my arm that's a perfect image of a 1/4-20 nut...something I did to myself trying to make a jam nut with a pair of vice grips and my belt sander.  As the red hot nut landed on my forearm I remember thinking, "This is gonna be a great scar!"  Right.  A perfect metaphor that says a lot about me.

This is the first "L" tower using different size vertical and horizontal tubing.  By using 1.125" OD tubing for the vertical arm there's no longer a need for a shim.  Plus the extra 1/8" in diameter makes the tower even stronger.  Jim (jimali) was right...the mount is rock solid enough to lift the entire trike using the neck rest as a handle.  

Also, all the new "L" towers have the extra 1" stub on the short end so you can mount a pair of tail lights if you choose.  Being the tallest spot on the trike, mounting the lights on the tower should make you even more visible.

And speaking of tail light mounts, someone recently asked for a bracket like the one I have on my rear rack for mounting a pair of lights.  I made him one and he sent this picture.  If anyone else is interested let me know.  The bracket will fit any rack having a plate with two side-by-side mounting holes underneath the rack top.


Mom's 89th birthday present - her first-ever bike
On a totally different subject, my mom, who's about to turn 97, has been spending the summers here on Vashon with us for the past 5 or 6 years.  This has been her escape from Florida summer heat and a chance to hang out with her family (both my sisters also live on the island.)  Summers here have meant a lot of time spent outside in a comfortable chair reading, and enjoying the service around here which is pretty darned good.  She's been a local fixture as she takes her daily walks and often parks herself down at the mailbox, sitting in her walker and reading the mail.  Folks driving down the road often stop to say hi and to chat with her.  A few years ago I remodeled one wing of the house so she has her own room, bathroom and entrance, and while she's no great fan of the cold season this really has become home for her.  Well about a month ago she decided that this year she's not going back to Florida and will be staying here with us.  So a part of my life has now come full circle.  Blessedly mom's totally present, so even though the conversations can be awkward this has been an opportunity for some relationship re-negotiating.  Lucky for me Penni is incredibly welcoming and caring...and seems to have a wonderful relationship with "Syl."  So along with trying to help my mom work out closing up a life 3000 miles away, I've also been busy building ramps and extending steps.  Just inviting another person to live with us would be tumultuous enough...that person being my mother increases the tumult potential exponentially.

As for what's in the works, here's prototype #2 for a TerraTrike neck rest mount that will allow installing a CURVE kit on just about every TerraTrike model including Rovers and Ramblers.  I've had a lot of requests for neck rests from TerraTrike owners, but I've really dragged my feet on designing an adapter bracket.  For a long time I've thought it unfair to TT owners that because of the way TerraTrike makes its seats I'd need to add an adapter bracket to CURVE kits to fit their trikes...and as a result making their kits more expensive than the ones that fit Catrikes, ICE, Tridents, Bacchettas...  I've toyed with making an entirely different neck rest mount, one that didn't involve using a mtb stem or tower tubes, but that mount is so simple and solid I just kept going in circles.  Finally I decided that I wasn't the one who designed their seat frames so if CURVE kits are going to fit their double tubes then there was no avoiding an adapter bracket.  Now the challenge is to make it as simple, and therefore inexpensive, as I can.  I think we're close with this one.  I'll post pictures once I've tested it, probably at Angle Lake Cycles.

By the way, loads of neat new embroidery on the way - I'll post pictures next time.  The flaming trike image has gotten quite popular, with a number of folks requesting the trike frame embroidered in a color that matches their trikes.  Looks great!

Well, time to go play ball with Travis.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I just got a nice note and some pictures from Al deMoya.  Thanks to his collaboration we can now add Bacchetta's with recurve seats to the list of bikes we can fit with Finer Recliner CURVE neck rests.  Great job, Al!

And then there's the news from Catrike that they're stopping production of the Musashi.  That means anyone who has one or gets one soon will have a true American classic.  While I'm sure I'm not that influential, I do hope the Musashi's demise didn't have anything to do with the art I posted last week.  So if any Musashi owner would like one, here's what's available especially for these great bikes.

Finally, John posted this picture on BROL to show his new embroidered CURVE...it matches the tattoo on his leg.  Scots on trikes!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Here's a new embroidery image for Musashi owners.  

We'll gladly personalize it to match your frame color.  Neat, isn't it?  Maybe I should add flames.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

We seem to be in an embroidery cycle lately.  It's funny - we go along for a while with people ordering un-embroidered covers, and then all of a sudden folks want to add a bit of personal bling.  The process can be fun...like when I wrote to Robert Crumb for permission to embroider Mr. Natural, and the results are really nice.  Here are some of the latest.

Here's the famous Mr. Natural, courtesy of Robert Crumb, and now off with the rest of a CURVE kit to Soldatna, Alaska.

You can get just about any image you want because if we can't find it somewhere amongst the thousands of embroidery stock images we can always digitize your original art.

This lighthouse cover and CURVE neck rest kit is a gift from Russell (Mt_Top), John (enumclaw) and me in Thomas' memory to Denise, the person with the winning bid for ROA...Thomas' Catrike Road.  Lighthouses were a Thomas favorite.

This pair is a "his and hers."


This cover's for dragon lovers.  The photograph doesn't do it justice...the colors are vibrant.

I'm not sure why this looks gold because it's really a brilliant candy red.  It was chosen to match a tattoo, and it's a near-perfect match.

I like this image so much that it's now a permanent part of our library.  Now anyone can have it, and we'll match the trike color to yours.
It's about 80 degrees on a perfect sunny and cloudless summer afternoon.  Travis is lying in the shade under a tree with a ball in his mouth just in case someone wants to come out and play.  I'm gonna go turn on the hose and soak us both down.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Training wheels begone!  I've always believed that training wheels are one of the first really bad bits of advice adults give to kids.  Ever seen a child turn a corner on a bike with training wheels?  S/he's always leaning the wrong way!  When Josh and Noah were little we built 2 wheelers without pedals out of wood.  So long as they could put their feet flat on the ground they could learn to balance in just a matter of minutes. 

I took the cranks off a Granny's Attic recycle bike to see how long it would take my grandson Henry to learn to ride on 2 wheels.  I don't think I've ever laughed so hard...but I didn't laugh long.  In about 10 minutes he was riding.

It's all in the concentration.
Okay, the helmet's not a perfect fit, but it's a helmet.

We're off!!!

Uh oh...something's caught.
Good thing it's just his tee shirt (no laughing.)
Without the damn helmet this is easy!

And here's my last bit of evidence...Maya, my 2-year old granddaughter having her first Laufrad experience.  

Why couldn't bike shops use these pedal-less 2 wheelers as loaners?  You put down $50 to borrow the bike, and as soon as your child can balance on two wheels the shop puts the $50 towards the purchase of a new bike.  And training wheels can go the way of Edsels.

Last tidbit for today...the embroidery learning curve continues.  Turns out that blending is one of the most difficult challenges for embroidery, and it's expensive.  The Flaming Trike art looks great, but it's really hard to get the color blend to work and it takes thousands of stitches, meaning it's expensive.  So I re-did the art, and I hope you agree that the finished product looks terrific.  And for only half as much.
I'm taking Travis and we're going riding.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

First an order update.  All orders I have as of yesterday - all CURVE kits, Catrike replacements and side mount kits have either been shipped today or are made up and waiting to ship as soon as two things occur.
  1. Shims.  All the kits (neck rest and side mount) use a 1 1/8" to 1" shim that are in notorious short supply.  I bought just about all the stock my supplier had about 6 weeks ago and am down to just a couple left.  Today they got a new supply and I just ordered 20 more.  They should arrive here Monday or Tuesday.
  2. Zubin has finished all the embroidered covers and mailed them to me yesterday from San Francisco.  They should arrive here on Wednesday.
So, if you've ordered a CURVE to use on your Catrike with the original hardware, and the cover is embroidered, it'll ship from here on Thursday.  If you ordered a CURVE kit or side mount kit I'll ship the minute the shims arrive...that is unless your order has already been shipped.

It's pretty clear that while my customers just want their stuff, they've unwittingly (and possibly unwillingly) signed up for this micro-enterprise experiment.  Don't get me wrong, I love doing this, am having a great time and am learning more every day.  My biggest challenges all relate to production and delivery, not (I'm sure hoping) product quality...that is since I stopped using the adhesive that put people into orbit and dissolved about 20% of my brain cells.  

Two major goals for next year (to keep me from going nuts) are, first, to be able to order from the source and in quantity for more savings, and to be able to manage inventory and production better so I can fill orders more quickly.  Trying to manage parts inventory, make all the pieces, oversee my friends who weld, sew or embroider, respond to inquiries, then do the accounting, work with the companies who fabricate the brackets, powdercoat parts, digitize original art and supply images, do the accounting, design new accessories and develop new mounts for more manufacturers...and respond to special requests all seems like a lot for one person who's also trying to keep three relationships alive (Penni, Travis and Gomez), make time for my kids and grandkids, keep my consulting practice going, and make sure there's time to play. 

The other day someone posted on a Catrike forum thread that they were having a problem keeping the stock neck rest hardware adjusted and free from movement.  I posted pictures of Jim's Catrike kit.  It's adjustable up and down, fore and aft, side to side...and the CURVE's face can be tilted as well.  And when it's set to your sweet spot it will stay put.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I apologize.

It's really embarrassing getting so much practice saying this, and I wish I could figure out how to avoid what has been happening.  

This time its been mountain bike stems for the kits.  Being a small business (if there's a size smaller than small then that's what probably applies to me) I can't afford to buy in the quantities that would guarantee me always having a parts inventory.  I have a good source for quality stems at an affordable price, and so I've kept a small inventory of stems...enough to enable me to fill orders in a reasonable time.  

Until about a month ago all was well.  Then the lethal combination of more orders than inventory, and the supplier out of stems occurred.  Its taken about 5 weeks to hear from the supplier that my order of stems has finally been shipped.  With luck they'll arrive early next week and I'll be able to ship out orders that some of you have been patiently awaiting for far too long.

It's really disappointing to have really nice finished neck rests like these sitting here waiting for the stems to complete the kits.  So...I apologize.  Kits should be on their way within the next few days.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

After posting the pictures of Cornell's and Jim's beautiful trikes I began wondering why it was that I had a completely cobbled-together, eternally loose and un-embroidered neck rest...in fact I'm still using the original prototype.  Sure it says something about durability, but it's not very good advertising.  
So I'm removing the stock neck rest hardware with its bored out spacers and oversize fender washers and replacing it with one of the Jimali-inspired kits.

The embroidery is inspired by a scar on my forearm...a reminder of one (of many) of the stupider things I've done in my life. I tried making a jam nut by gripping a regular nut in a pair of vice grips and then holding it against the belt sander. When the nut was red-white hot it popped out of the vice grips, performed a slow arc through the air and then settled neatly on my forearm, searing a perfect image of a 1/4-20 nut...and a reminder that thinking isn't necessarily a time-waster. 

One piece of really good news is that I should finally be able to clear up my backlog of orders very shortly.  The mountain bike stems I use in the kits have been out of stock for more than a month, and one drawback of being such a small business is that my sources for parts are limited.  I just can't afford to order inventory in the quantities many suppliers demand.  Today I got notice that my parts have finally been shipped.  This means I should be able to ship kits within the 7-10 days to some really nice folks who have been waiting patiently...actually more than patiently.

Here's a new image just finished today that's ready to go off to be digitized and then embroidered.  This will be one beautiful neck rest!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Boy time sure moves with ever increasing speed as I get older.   Even though I swear to hang on to each precious moment time just seems to race by. Now it’s mid-July, this weekend is Strawberry Festival on the island, TOT2011 is history, and lots has happened since my last post.

Thomas’ unexpected passing has been widely reported on BROL. His tenacious will to live and continually test himself in the face of a horrendous traumatic brain injury was a marvel to all who knew him. And since he was such a prolific forum poster, his passing has left a huge empty space. He was thoughtful, friendly, inviting…and at times for me, abrasive.  But even in THOSE moments it was hard not to admire the intensity with which he lived, and all the time and effort he put into being a friend to others. He is most definitely missed, which in my mind is how people live forever. Jim is tuning up ROA, Thomas' trike, and at the request of his brothers it is being auctioned off with the proceeds to be donated to BROL. I'm donating a new CURVE kit embroidered with a lighthouse, one of Thomas' favorite images, to mark his Catrike Road's special history.

TOT2011 was a blast...definitely the best one ever for Pen and me. Good weather, fun rides and great times gathered under the portico outside the hotel. Dave Hansen grilled some outrageous grub one evening, and people brought enough food to the potluck to feed most of Kellogg. The day we all had lunch in Wallace the dozens of trikes and velos were a gawker’s paradise. “What’s it like to ride one of these?” “How hard is it to pedal?” “Is it comfortable?” “What’s one cost?” and a dozen or so other questions were answered over and over with patience and grace. Everyone was a super trike ambassador, and I think that for the couple of hours we spent having lunch there and clogging the streets we were the talk of the town.

While Penni and I enjoyed the riding and laughter with friends, Travis especially loved the ice cream shop in Harrison where, according to the owner, dogs ate free. He had a huge dish of homemade vanilla ice cream…his favorite. A bunch of us rode from Kellogg to Enaville for our annual dinner at the Snake Pit. It was dark on the ride back, and with our wild assortment of lights all on, we snaked back along the bike trail like an electric Chinese dragon.

I wasn’t sure how well my back and knee would hold up to the riding so the day 15 or 16 folks decided to ride Dobson Pass I elected not to go. It was a tough decision…I’d been looking forward to doing the climb all year but I was afraid I’d blow out my back or knee and that would be the end of riding for me. But on the last day…which was overcast, cool and threatening to shower, I decided to try the Pass on my own. When I got to the pass I took the required, "I made it" photo, and spent a nice half-hour talking with a couple of guys from the county road crew. They were both curious about the trike, and one of them tried riding it all geared up in his heavy boots and jeans. Then there was the rocket ride downhill back into Wallace. What a rush! Definitely a whole lot faster than the climb up! The road from the Pass all the way to Kellogg was into the wind. It didn’t matter much on the rocket ride down into Wallace, but from there to Kellogg the downslope was gentle.  Because of the wind I missed out on would have been a nice coast and ended up pedaling back to Kellogg. I’m proud of myself for waiting till the end to try climbing the Pass, and even prouder that I made it up. I felt smooth and pretty strong, and delighted I’d decided to leave Travis with Penni.

As for neck rest news, here’s Cornell’s BlueCoyote, a Catrike Expedition…definitely elegant in its simplicity. Cornell supplied the original art for the embroidery and we had it digitized – meaning it was converted into language the embroidery machine understands. So if you are interested in embroidery for your new neck rest, remember you’re not restricted to stock images. Give me some ideas and I’ll search our stock image sources and offer you some choices. Or if you have a piece of original art, the digitizing is only a small extra charge.

Jim’s two Catrike Speeds sport the optional stub on the “L” tower allowing him to mount a pair of tail lights alongside the neck rest in a high and visible location. If you’d like the extra stub on your tower just ask…there’s no extra charge. In fact I may start making them all like that. Folks who don’t want the stub can simply cut it off.

If you’re looking for tail lights, we have the PlanetBike Superflash Turbos at really great prices when you order your neck rest. Don’t forget to ask. These 1 watt tail lights are definitely for riders who want to be seen.

From Virginia, here’s Henry’s new kit on his ICE.  The "L" tower's a great place to mount Topeak bottle brackets.

And from the Netherlands, here’s Roelof’s new CURVE on his Catrike Speed.  I looked up his address using Google Earth so I now have a pretty good idea where this Catrike lives.  It looks like great riding!
I've had a number of questions from folks having a problem with stripping the threads from either one of the two spacers in the stock Catrike mounts, and also with struggling to keep their neck rests from moving once they'd found the sweet spot.

Regarding the stripped threads, one choice is to contact Catrike and see if they'll just sell you a new spacer.  A second relatively easy fix is to remove all the threads inside the spacer by drilling clear through it, then inserting a 10-24 threaded rod with two lock nuts in place of the original two cap screws.  A third choice is to replace the stock neck rest tower with a kit - mtb stem, "L" tower and shim.  This a strong and rigid mount, and I can pretty well guarantee that it will not move.  In fact I've seen Jim lift his Speed holding the neck rest.  Keep in mind that the brackets on the CURVE for the stock Catrike mount are not interchangeable with the circular clamps on the CURVEs that fit the kits.

Here's an update regarding CURVE mounting systems for TerraTrikes, including the Rover, and for the ICE hard shell seat.  I know I've said before that a prototype for the TerraTrike is done.  I've been kinda stuck at this stage for awhile.  It didn't seem right that TerraTrike owners would have to pay more for a CURVE kit because they would need an extra mount adapter in order to attach the kit to TerraTrike's unusual double seat tube brace.  Those two seat brace tubes coming together means a standard mtb stem can't be directly attached, so an additional mount adapter is required.  But as more TerraTrike owners have requested neck rests I've decided to make a few of the mounting adapters, keep the cost low, and see if people like them.  At the same time I'm working on an new mount that would eliminate the mtb stem and "T" tube entirely.  It'll be a while before I know if this will actually be as sturdy as the current kit.

As for the hard shell seats, I made a mount using a drawing (actually a rubbing) I got from Izzy a while ago.  I took that bracket to TOT figuring there'd be some ICE hard shell seats on which to test the bracket.  What I discovered is that Izzy's original seat back, the one I used for the prototype, is flat.  The new carbon seats have two deep ridges running the length of the seat...and a result, the bracket is too wide to fit between the ridges.  Arrrrggggghhh.  For such a simple product, the learning curve seems at times extreme.  Or perhaps I'm just an idiot.

Speaking of learning curves, for a long time I've been interested in learning how to do simple machine fabrication.  I'm a moderately skilled woodworker and metal worker, but in NO WAY am I a machinist.  I've a friend who is letting me use his old hand-operated mill, and he has been pretty helpful with learning tips.  What I'm discovering is both exciting and frustrating.  It's exciting to be learning something new...a craft I greatly admire and skills I covet.  What's frustrating is that even the simplest things are difficult at the start.  I imagined I'd immediately be able to cut slots in aluminum that were smooth and as slick as a warm knife cutting through butter.  My first slots look like they were nibbled by metal-eating termites...and then I snapped off the cutter.  So now I'm watching YouTube milling videos.  My hope is that before very long I will at least be able to produce reasonable looking and working prototypes.  Before long...I hope.

Here's something that's working really well...the side mount kit for Catrikes.  I've  been using it for a couple of months and like it more all the time.  What a treat to be able to get to stuff like gum, lip balm, a snack, phone...even my gloves, while I'm riding.  The kit will accommodate just about every handlebar bag.  

The side mount kit includes a 130mm stem, shim and "L" tube of 6061 aluminum with end caps.  I have it on Msafiri (my Catrike Expedition) but haven't tried it yet on other Catrikes.  What's especially nice is that the kit is adjustable so the bag can be raised both up and down, as well as its distance from the seat.

I found the Avenir bag on Amazon.  It was well-reviewed, and since it was less than $40 I figured I'd try it.  It has a lot of nice features including a built-in map case, and for the most part I'm completely satisfied.  The mount's quick release is a great feature that allows me to take the bag off easily while not disturbing the mounting bracket. 

The one feature I'm not thrilled with is that the Avenir mounting bracket is plastic.  In tightening the clamp it didn't take long to drive the cap screws through the top of the bracket.  A couple of stainless washers solved the problem, but it'd be nice if the clamping mechanism was a bit more sturdy. 

And finally, to wrap up this entry, here's Travis in one of his favorite TOT poses - hanging out in the cool tall grass on those sunny and very hot days.