Yeah, I’ve had a few. With a few hundred miles on the new trike, it’s becoming clear that I and the ICE design team have made some poor choices. Nothing too serious, but annoying nonetheless.
The problems are best framed by an overriding principal of mine: When paying multiple thousands of dollars for a high performance recumbent trike, it should not squeal and clatter down the road like a $50 Huffy purchased at Walmart. Demanding, I know. Yet that’s about the situation I’m in, particularly surprising when you consider that I enjoyed more than ten thousand miles of silent performance on what is essentially the same trike, my 2008 ICE Q. With one exception, all of my initial problems with the new trike involve excessive, unacceptable noise. Following is the prioritized list of culprits.
More quiet than my trike?
- Tektro hydraulic brakes. Up until a few days before placing the order, my plan was to go with Shimano brakes. These Tektros are horrible, the consequence no doubt for making a snap decision. Sometimes they squeak, sometimes they squeal, but they’ve yet to be silent. If the Shimanos on my $750 mountain bike sounded like this I’m sure I’d be kicked off the mountain. Releasing the brakes offers little relief because as soon as my fingers aren’t touching the handles, they rattle incessantly. Noise for all time. Awesome.
- Rear rack. Another snap decision. I’d originally planned to go with an unsuspended rear section that allows for a non-cantilevered, presumably more solid rear rack. Then I got sucked in by the sexy new cantilevered rack with optional top section. I only need the top section when touring and thought it would be pretty cool to cruise around town with just the low-profile side pieces. Until I saw how much they vibrate side-to-side, and immediately attached the top section. This helps, but not enough (see below). Perhaps a bigger problem is that the chain hits the rack when not pedaling, requiring me to reintroduce a chain tube and its associated noise. To me this rack design (and probably the design of the rear section) is a big step backward—I have none of these problems with my 2008 Q cantilevered rear rack. The two racks are not interchangeable.
- Taillight. With all the aforementioned vibration inherent in the rear rack, something was bound to rattle. First up, my Busch-Muller Toplight Line Brake Plus taillight. Awesome dynamo-driven taillight. Outrageous rattling, amplified by the rack itself, when traveling over anything but absolutely smooth pavement. I tried many things to knock down the noise, to no avail. The source seemed to be the two mounting studs that are loosely affixed to the back of the light, so I attempted to open it up to see what was going on inside. All I achieved was a mangled light and a screwdriver-sized hole in my hand. In a last-ditch effort that in hindsight should have been the first ditch, I returned to the place of purchase for advice. Jim at Bike Touring News was as perplexed as I, but insisted on mounting a new unit. I was reluctant—on the bench, a new unit rattled in exactly the same way as mine. But on the rack? Completely silent. Then Jim went one step further, way above and beyond—he swapped me the new unit and took the one I’d hacked up. Talk about standing behind what you sell.
- Internal cable routing. This one’s partially on me. Since my initial Di2 install I’ve been nervous about cable rattling inside the tubes. But it wasn’t until I routed a run of the Schmidt coaxial power cable inside a tube in the rear rack that I noticed any noise. When you see how much this rack vibrates, it’s obvious why. I think I solved it by installing a Di2 E-Tube wire holder—essentially a zip tie that attaches to the wire and presses it against the side of the tube. I hope this continues to work because I have no idea how I’ll get the holder out of the tube to try something else.
- Trouser guard. Finally, a problem that isn’t about noise. Not at least until the chain drops off the chain ring. When I ordered the Schlumpf from Utah Trikes I asked them to install a trouser guard. I guess I thought it would be self-evident to an experienced trike dealer that the purpose was not protecting my pant leg—that’s pretty far from the chain ring—but rather to keep the chain on the chain ring. Unfortunately they spaced the guard about a chain’s-width away from the chain ring, just enough to allow the chain to come off and then get wedged in-between. I think the solution will be as easy as using narrower spacers. I’ll also look at installing a second guard on the inside.
So what’s a hyper-sensitive boy to do? Well first-off, my $100 replacement right-hand non-mirrored kingpost is on its way, required to mount a non-mirrored brake caliper upside-down on the right wheel assembly. Unless the Tektros suddenly become silent, allowing inertia and laziness to prevail, I’ll replace them with Shimanos per the original plan. I’m so glad I never wanted front suspension because the fact that the Tektros are the only compatible disc brakes would have been a deal-breaker.
My dealer had the same noise problem with his Tektros and eventually worked through them. His advice to me was to perhaps smooth the edges of the punched section of the rotors by sanding them and to work out the noise like he did by periodically squirting water on the rotors while riding and braking until the noise stops. I have a different philosophy. As with the rattling SRAM DualDrive hub, if I have to go to great lengths to fix a factory-new component, something is fundamentally wrong. Maybe a manufacturing defect and the part needs to be replaced or a design problem and I need to find a new manufacturer. I’ll admit I don’t understand what kind of voodoo makes Shimano run silent while a comparable Tektro is unbearably noisy; it’s possible I’ll wind up with the same problem. We’ll see.
The rack is a tougher problem. Replacing it with something (perhaps) more solid would require replacing the rear section with an unsuspended design, a pricy proposition. And ICE only offers it in blue, leaving me with a black and blue trike. Yuck. So… I can make peace with the chain tube even if I can’t knock the noise down any more. I have a solution for the rattling taillight, either the new one that currently doesn’t rattle or by switching to the Toplight Line Small if it ever does. Without the mounting studs it should be inherently rattle-free. I think I’ve solved the rattling of the internally-routed taillight cable. Now I’m left with just a little bit of rattle, from who knows where. I’ll continue to track down the source but may have to live with that one.
It’s interesting to speculate that the design of the suspended rear rack was dictated primarily by the desire to fold the trike without removing the rack. This adds to an already large list of undesirable trade-offs to accommodate a trike feature– folding– that I don’t even want.
E-Tube wire holders also work on Schmidt coax
Taillight, loose studs
Taillight, mangled. Blood and body parts removed from the scene.
Sexy until the noise begins