Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sidehack II

When not conscripted into the necessary if unsavory task of logistical support, the Hack has moonlighted on numerous occasions as a shuttle for the walking wounded of C.H.U.N.K. 666, transporting its gimpy passengers to the local public house to convalesce and feel sorry for themselves, including myself at several junctures, for which I am grateful.

The Hack, c. 1998 – present.

The Hack is constituted of two near-identically sized frames, with a multi-colored panoply of bicycle tubes and stays bridging them. Since the Hack is essentially a single-track bicycle with an outrigger wheel, its steering is asymmetrical. It can turn on a six pence to the left (turning towards the sidecar), with the single-track bicycle rotating around the outrigger wheel, which, depending on the severity of the orbit, can remain completely at rest. Right turns (away from the sidecar) are decidedly unnatural at any reasonable cadence, as the single-track bicycle feels like its dragging the outrigger wheel through the turn (or at least this is what it feels like to me). If there is no passenger or cargo in the sidecar, one may alleviate the dragging sensation by popping the outrigger wheel up into the air, and "flying the chair."

Tricycles have it rough in the modern sprawl of asphalt. Paved roads are, after all, graded to better drain rainwater, motor oil, spilled beverages, and urine. On a bicycle one does not notice this (the grade, that is), since a bicycle may be balanced upright on an angled surface with as much ease as on a perfectly level one. Tricycles do not require balancing, of course. They stand on their own. A tricycle on a high-crowned road will lean with the road, and instinct is to lean as if balancing a bicycle, which puts torque on the wheels and frame. Keg Trike's frame has a slight twist to the front of the frame from riders leaning to the left to unnecessarily "correct" its balance, and requires its front fork and wheel to be exchanged for less hoopty ones on frequent occasion.

Which brings us to the error of the Hack: the sidecar shouldn't be on the left side. When riding on a road with a significant crown to it, the sidecar should really be on your right to prop you up. But since the sidecar on the Hack is on the left, unless you are going at a very controlled and slow speed, or gravitate to the center of the road as much as possible, the Hack's steering will exhibit a hard pull to the right into the curb. Examine the photo above: the Hack is up near the center of the road, where the grade is less severe. The chopper riding escort with the Hack, however, is hugging the curb where the grade is most significant with no impediment to speed or ease of riding.

When CHUNK 666 visited the Rat Patrol in Chicago, I spent a day riding their sidecar tricycle around. Being used to riding with the sidecar on the left, I was duly impressed with how much more pleasant the Rathack was with the car on the right (made more enjoyable by Chicago's incomprehensible flatness), and I decided to construct a second CHUNK Hack with the car on the right side.

Back in Portland and a short time later, CHUNK 666 was invited to root through a collection of bike frames, wheels, and parts. Included in this haul was a Columbia 3-speed with 24-inch wheels. Recalling Johnny Payphone's deduction that smaller wheels can carry more weight; this bike seemed as good as any to hack.

There was exactly one tricky weld, which was the first. I stripped the Columbia down to the frame, and searched the pile for another frame sized for 24" wheels. The only one I could find was the remnants of the Spirit of '76, a tall bike I built back in about 2000 along the lines of the Organ Donor, but with 20-inch wheels (it was so-named because one of the donor bikes that went into it bore that name on its chain-guard). That bike had a healthy career, but the extended steer tube broke, for the fourth time, I believe, at the 2002 Chunkathalon, and I didn't care to fix it again, and had been resting and rusting in the chronic pile ever since.

I put the Columbia and the Spirit in a make-shift jig to align their dropouts parallel to each other, and so the frames where roughly equally level to the ground (employing liberal "eyebology," naturally). Once the first spanning piece of rectangular steel tubing was in place, the remaining welding was very easy. Better yet, once the remains of the Spirit entered the equation, I was inspired to do my best to employ as many orphaned pieces of steel from old, broken-down CHUNK bikes as possible.

The sidecar of the Hack II is thusly comprised of the aforementioned Spirit of '76, gazelle forks of the second iteration of Biscuit, the original steel tubes from the forks of Denk's chopper, and the neigh-ancient gazelle forks of the Stars and Stripes Forever (another bike christened for the inscription on its chain guard).

Construction was prolonged over a month and half period, as other CHUNK 666 obligations preoccupied me (idle hands and all that), but I managed to finish the last welds and install the floor boards, made entirely out of junky pallet wood, about three weeks before the Chunkathalon. I took the finished product to the Friday Night Rink, at which many people took turns riding their friends around in the sidecar. Considering the Hack II now thoroughly rated for cargo duty, I used it to run numerous errands for the Chunkathalon, after which I swore off riding it for about a week and enjoyed the simpler joys of riding old fashioned two-wheeled creations instead.

The Hack II is 95% welded with coat hangers.