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.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sunday, April 1 - Sunday, April 8 the factory's closed.  Penni and I are headed to Portland.  

We're sending Travis off to frolic with his buddies at Avalon Doggy Daycare, and we're taking the Screamer.  A bit of luxury at the White House B&B and hopefully an occasional rainless day to do some riding.  We do have rain gear so we could ride no matter what, and I've got a load of local bike maps so we're pretty well set.  But just wandering on foot together on misty days sounds just fine too...its been a while since it was just the two of us with time to play.

I'm expecting a load of embroidered covers to be in the mailbox when I return and will try to get all outstanding orders out the week we return.

Have a great week.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lots of activity at the factory, and I can feel change in the air.  The good news is that I'm sticking with my boundaries about shutting the factory on the weekends...well almost.  

On Saturday I cut and filleted 18  aluminum tube sets - "L's" and "T's" for Catrikes, ICE, Trident and TerraTrikes, and a bunch of Sidemount kit "L's" for Cats.  I took them over to John's and by Sunday he had 11 sets welded.  Now I just need to polish them and install the end caps...and I have some inventory!  I also got an order in to my supplier for more neck rest and sidemount kit stems, and some of the PDW Danger Zone 1 watt LED tail lights for the kits.  Look for a great price on those tail lights.

Sunday here was for tuning up the lawnmower, fixing the flat on the tractor and getting it running, mowing the pasture, tossing the ball with Travis in the pasture and hanging out with Penni as she got the first garden beds ready and the first batch of peas, spinach and lettuce planted.  Being outdoors now that the season's clearly changing has the most profound effect on my disposition...must be the smell of the earth and cut grass, but whatever it is, it's exactly what I've needed.
On Saturday a bundle of finished covers arrived from Zubin so I have a small supply of plain ones in addition to the embroidered covers she sent.  And this morning Deana sent me a scan of the three latest embroidered fabric pieces that are now off to San Francisco and Zubin to be sewn into covers.  

There are a bunch more embroidered covers in the works at the moment, either with Jason (the digitizer) or at Deana's getting embroidered.  Here's one I just sent off to Deana...it's Kirk's, for his new monster-electrified Expedition.

Momentarily I'm off to the shop to fabricate CURVEs, and this will ultimately be the source of real change.  I enjoy making all these parts, I love the process of designing and testing new accessories and I really appreciate all the friends I've made along the way.  What I'm getting pretty weary of is that this has become a more than full-time business where once I pay everyone else, leaves very little income for me.  It's a crazy business model for any enterprise that isn't non-profit by intent.  On top of this, in most cases I never seem to be able to respond quickly enough to inquiries, or because I'm sitting in front of the computer I'm not in the shop making parts or on the ferry for the mainland to pick up aluminum, foam, pvc or hardware.  I've become way too practiced at making apologies.

So I'm researching still-local alternatives for automating the fabricating of more of the parts and then deciding how the pricing would have to change so the business generates some income for me.  I still consider this micro-enterprise a case study in learning about manufacturing successfully, so I'm not angry but I am clear it's time to move to making some changes and then letting the market decide if I still offer a desirable product.  

Noah and I have some preliminary designs for a new product that'd be fun to make and a total game-changer for us.  But I need time to work on it, and the way the Finer Recliner runs now there just isn't any to spare.  So stay tuned for the next chapter.

In the meantime, The week beginning April 2 the factory will be closed.  It's Penni's birthday present and we're taking the Screamer to Portland for the week to do some riding, sightseeing and just general wandering around.  Most likely any inquiries won't get responses until we return.  Travis is also going on vacation and will get to do his all-dog thing by boarding at Avalon Doggy Daycare.  I'm sure he'll come home with a load of stories.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Florida was fun, and the tumult waited until I returned.  It was so nice to get away from the cold, drippy weather for a week.  Arriving at West Palm Beach Airport, even though it was pouring it felt delightfully tropical, not like the cold downpour dripping down my neck as I stood outside in the rain waiting for the bus at the ferry dock in West Seattle the night before.

Now that mom’s living with us on the island the bittersweet process of cleaning out her home in Delray Beach has begun.  So I stayed there a day before heading off to Hampton’s Edge in Floral City to meet up with Larry Varney, deliver his CURVE kit for his new 700 and complete our transaction for the GLO, then off to my cousin Lewis’ in Gainesville to re-assemble the GLO, share some good beer and pizza, and then head off to Winter Garden and the Catrike Rally the next day.  Actually I never did get to meet Larry…he was off at the Catrike factory getting his 700, so after a quick ride on the GLO, and a quicker disassembly, Regis helped me cram it into the back seat of my mom’s Accord and I was off.  I left Larry’s neck rest with Regis.

“Lost in Space” could easily have been the theme for the next two days’ rides.  I’d already lost sight of Lewis by the time I departed with the crowd for the morning ride in Winter Garden.  Very quickly it seemed like I was working a whole lot harder than anyone else and I was soon muttering to myself that I was in a whole lot better shape than some of the folks who were passing me effortlessly so what the hell was the deal?    

So I pulled over in the center of town to see if it was just because of my winter legs or maybe I was riding with a broomstick through the spokes.  I discovered the right front wheel was locked down pretty tight and that was the cause of my sweat.  The GLO has hydraulic brakes…new to me, with none of the easy adjustability of the mechanic Avids on my Expedition.  I fiddled around pointlessly with my multi-tool as the crowd rode past me, individuals occasionally asking if I was okay and if I needed help.  Geeez…I hadn’t even gone a mile yet and there was no way I was gonna ask for help.  Of course nothing I did trying to move the pads apart did any good and it wasn’t long before the crowd of riders was a distant memory.  Then in a forehead-slapping moment I discovered the problem wasn’t the brakes at all…the back end of the fender was flat down against the tire.  I guess that happened when we put the GLO into Lewis’ Honda Element…musta bumped the fender.  So a quick adjustment and I was finally off in pursuit.

I caught everyone at the snack stop, and finally found Larry.  Turns out his embroidered CURVE was quite a hit and he kindly introduced me to a whole lot of folks who wanted to know about them.  In one of my rare moments of pre-planning I’d made about 15 extra neck rest combos, thinking I’d take them with me and maybe sell a few.  But a flurry of orders right before I left gobbled all of them up save a couple, and then there was no room in the overstuffed suitcase to take them anyway.  But Larry’s turned out to be a fine piece of marketing.  It was especially fun, whenever I saw one of my neck rests, to go up to the person and ask how well s/he liked it.  Gratefully I only heard positive comments and it was a treat to say, “Well, I’m the person who made it for you.” I even saw some Catrikes tricked out with side mount kits as well as CURVEs.  What a truly fun way to meet people.

 I headed out with a group of folks who were taking the 30 mile route and it was such a delight, riding along, to meet someone new, chat for a bit, ride on and then hook up with someone else for a while.  Sadly I’m a nightmare with names…I’m thinking I’ll soon need a tattoo that says, “If found please return me to…”  I rode for a while with the young fellow who welds some of the Catrike frames.  Since a big part of my consulting practice is working with people who dislike their jobs, their co-workers and/or their bosses it was a treat hearing how proud he was of his work, how much he loves working for Catrike and how lucky he feels being given the opportunities to learn his craft there.  It gave me a whole new personal connection with Msafiri, my Expedition and a first-hand appreciation of the good karma that’s been welded into that frame.

After a quick stop at the turnaround point Lewis and I headed back…we’d found each other at the refreshment stop.  We rode with about 3 other folks who supposedly knew where we were going…after all, it’s seems like a bit of a challenge to get lost on a rails-to-trails route.  Well we rose to the challenge just fine although I admit riding further and being clueless where I was didn’t bother me in the least.  It was warm (hot actually), the moss on my body was finally drying up and flaking off, and I was in cycling heaven.  What the hell, I’d flown 3000 miles for this adventure and was having fun.  Everyone else in our small group was getting kinda anxious about being lost, particularly since everyone had cell phones, maps and gps devices.  Too bad you can’t buy a ‘sense of direction’ on Amazon.  By the time we made it back to the parking lot in Winter Garden we pretty much had the place all to ourselves…everyone else had loaded up and headed off to the Catrike factory.  Somehow it looked like I was going to be last throughout this entire experience.

I did have a few moments of near-terror on this otherwise sunny, gentle ride.  On a couple of downhills I just the GLO go, no brakes, and each time the steering got worse.  It felt really twitchy, and I was afraid if I didn’t hang on tight the trike would swerve violently to one side or the other and might even roll over.  Even hanging on tightly to the handlebars I didn’t feel like I was in control.  At first I thought perhaps the toe-in on front wheels was wrong, but whatever it was I wasn’t a happy camper with my new purchase.  Then just by chance, while I was riding I reached under the seat to feel the S&S coupling and noticed the main tube was flexing noticeably at the coupling.  Since I thought the coupling was actually supposed to be even stronger than the tube this flexing didn’t make sense…until I gently tried twisting the connector with my thumb and forefinger and realized that it turned easily.  The coupling was loose…way loose, and with a few turns on the coupling the frame would have parted!  Luckily I had the S&S wrench with me to lock down the coupling, and then everything changed.  The trike felt rock-solid and the steering was predictable…and downhills were a rush without the terror.  So a new rule #1 – make sure the connector is tight.

The Catrike factory tour was fun…I definitely covet their very cool tools…especially their bender.  It was actually one of the few events we not only found, but we also arrived on time to see the unveiling of the new Catrike Road. 

It was also more time for meeting folks in person I’ve only known on line, and a chance to thank Mark for the great service I got from him when I got my Expedition.  I’m Msafiri’s second owner and I’d heard that much of the warranty coverage applied only to the original purchaser.  When I had problems with the headsets and told Mark I wasn’t the original owner he said, “But you’re the one riding the trike and the person people talk with about it.  We want you to be happy.”  And then Catrike sent me two new headsets gratis.  And finally I was able to say “thanks” in person.  

Larry went out of his way to introduce me to loads of folks wanting to know about the neck rests.  I think he's pretty happy with how his turned out.

Lewis and I spent that night at the Edgewater Hotel in Winter Garden.  The 1920’s restored hotel was an unexpected treat.  There was a jazz festival a block away in the town park, and the whole downtown was alive that night – sidewalk cafes, and people out enjoying the nightlife, the music and the food and crafts in the park. It's a neat little town and an unexpected surprise stay.

The next morning we drove down to Hampton’s Edge in Floral City to join the crowd riding the Withlacoochee Trail.  Of course we arrived about 5 minutes after everyone left but were assured we’d catch them.  Right.  Since the trail crossed a road and made a slight jog to the left we assumed the handwritten sign pointing to the left meant we should stay on the trail.  So we did…all the way to the end and never caught sight of the 40+ people who’d left before us.  Turns out the sign actually meant we were supposed to actually turn LEFT and ride the short distance to a restaurant where everyone was gathering for lunch and general carousing.  So in the end the group rode about 15 miles and Lewis and I rode about 37.  It was a much more beautiful trail than the one we'd ridden with so many folks the day before, and since somehow we'd lost everyone we pretty much had the entire trail to ourselves...not how we'd planned it, but a great ride none the less.  And it was a perfect day to try out the GLO.  That picture of me and the Greenspeed is not a trick of the lens...it fits like a glove.

 When we got back to Hampton’s Edge it was just us, Larry, Regis and Cindy…and they were anxious to close shop and go home.  Regis had kindly saved me a Greenspeed box and a load of bubble wrap packing, so after some friendly conversation and more forehead slapping about our inability to follow simple directions we loaded up the bikes and the box and headed for Gainesville.  I’m sorry to have missed being with so many nice folks, and yet I loved the beautiful ride.  Next year.

The next day Lewis took me on one of his favorite Gainesville bike trails for about another 35 miles and a perfectly beautiful day.  The foliage of live oaks, Spanish moss and pines is very different from what I see in the northwest, and the bird songs are different as well.  It was a day rich with new sights and sounds.   

As we were riding along a raptor literally exploded out of the underbrush, right at eye level, just out of arms’ reach.  It happened so fast Lewis just saw a blur, but I saw it’s golden chest and beautiful black and white wings as it took flight.  Amazing...and I still don't know what it was.  Then there was my classic slow speed crash.  I was riding his Stratus, and in a moment when I wasn’t paying attention I rode right off the trail into some sand.  Long wheelbase recumbents don’t like sand, and in an instant over I went.  Funny.  Another reason I love my trikes.

Three days the box I’d packed with the GLO arrived.  ShipBikes.com is a great deal and based upon my experience I highly recommend it.  I did the arranging on line and even printed out the shipping label.  Then I took the box and the label to a FedEx in Gainesville, they attached the label and it was done.  For about $100, the same as it would have cost to take it on the flight home with me, the bike traveled from Gainesville right to my front door on the island…not even an extra charge for the ferry.  I avoided the inevitable hassle at the airport check-in, and then having to pick it up at baggage claim and load it into Penni’s car to bring it home.  I’d use ShipBikes again in a heartbeat.

I came home to a load of inquiries and orders, totally out of PVC stock and one size of aluminum tubing, practically no inventory of CURVEs and towers, and Travis who sits patiently and stares at me with his doe eyes and a ball in his mouth.  This is a good hard lesson about boundaries and how tough it can be to set them.  This little enterprise can easily take all my time and energy, leaving nothing for Penni, Travis, my family and friends, building projects, riding…absolutely everything that was fun and enriching before I let making neck rests gradually take over more and more of my time.  It was particularly telling when someone wrote to me and said he was glad I was making the neck rests so he wouldn’t have to make his and could spend his time riding.   So I’m trying…even though at the end of the day on Friday there was still a load of emails to be answered, embroidery designs to get done and ordered, fabric to cut and mailed to Deana, and orders to fill, I turned off the smokestacks for the weekend.   

And even though the weekend has been mostly rainy its been fun…CERT training on Friday night, Saturday date night with Penni, plenty of ball-playing with Travis, the GLO’s out of the box and mostly cleaned, lubed, shined and re-assembled, and with the exception of answering only one or two emails I’ve kept the factory closed.  It seems strange that at my advanced age when most folks are probably retired that I’m having to learn to make these choices intentionally.  I was infinitely better at this with my consulting practice, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out it’s definitely not the money, so I guess I’ll see if I can find a new balance or maybe I’ll get clear that it’s time to walk away.  I don’t know…we shall see. 

Shortly after I got home one of the boxes I'd packed at mom's place in Delray arrived - I'd loaded it with a couple dozen of her favorite photographs which will soon be hanging in her room here on her picture wall.  She spent a day sitting at the kitchen table, lovingly unpacking each one and telling a lot of the old stories again.

Oh yeah...before I forget...some more really neat embroidery finished...and some pretty cool new ones in the works. But they're for next time.