Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gear Talk: TerraCycle chain tube

My Lightning Phantom is now my daily commuter, which makes Scotty one happy rider.  Our county transit service eliminated my usual bus stop, so now my run is almost 5 miles each way, hills in both directions, usually headwinds coming home, and these can occasionally be severe as I live in a mountain pass at the southern tip of California's Sierra Nevada range.  So my commute in the morning runs about 20 mins., and in the afternoon can easily reach 30 min.  That's enough saddle time for me to justify using the bent, my preferred pedal transport mode.  I bought a very heavy chain and beefy lock, which I double up on with a U-lock and heavy cable, and leave my rig in front of a store with the seat and handlebars covered to protect from UV damage and, later in the season, rain.

Currently the days have been running pretty hot, with my short days giving me riding temps in the low to mid 80's.  I'm sweating hard by the time I get home.  So these days, it's shorts, even at school where the dress code is casual.  But once the temps start to drop--quite soon, I hope!--I'll be in long pants.  The Phantom has a fully exposed chain line, which means it's easy to get the dreaded "weenie" marks or chain lube tats.  If it's a smudge on my calf, no biggie, but getting that on street pants?  Not so much.  So how to attach a chain tube, a common feature on so many recumbents?

Enter TerraCycle from Portland, Oregon, to the rescue.  Pretty much all recumbent enthusiasts are familiar with the company's exquisitely engineered and manufactured accessories, which I believe started with idlers (the rollers used for recumbents' complicated chain lines), but the line of offerings has exploded.  Now the company sells fairings, bags, and all manner of truly excellent bike gear, most of it targeting the nerdy world of recumbents, although many products have a more universal cycling application.

For my problem, Pat Franz, the owner and chief engineer/fabricator, developed a brilliant solution: A floating chain tube mount constructed of two small aluminum brackets and a short length of bike chain between, which is flexible for up and down + in and out movement (exactly what's needed to follow the chain line) but move very little fore and aft.  Fabulous!

Here is a closeup of the unit mounted on the Phantom.  Cool weather commuting, here we come!

In all, I'm out about $26 + shipping for this mod.  The chain tube was about $8 for this length, but that includes pre-flared ends for smooth running.  I had it installed in about 10 minutes.

That's all for Gear Talk today.  Now get out and ride!

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