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Rail Bike + Side Car

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  • Tone
    I have been on this RootsRadical list for many years and I read every post, but I do not think I ever heard anyone discussing rail bikes. Basically what I am
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 7, 2011
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      I have been on this RootsRadical list for many years and I read every
      post, but I do not think I ever heard anyone discussing rail bikes.
      Basically what I am referring to are bicycles or bicycle-adapters built
      so a person can ride on rail road tracks… abandoned tracks of course! I
      have never tried it, but I live in York, PA now and besides the 41 mile
      Heritage Rail Trail heading south toward Baltimore there are some unused
      rail lines, and the city seems some what “land locked” to cyclists due to
      expressways, shoulder less roads, and other geography. It would be nice
      to figure out an alternate way of riding out of town. Rail lines tend to
      also run through more-scenic less-developed areas as well, so with a
      typical low elevation grade of a rail line it would seem a pleasant idea.
      Anyway, I found a couple of Google/YouTube related links and I thought I
      would share them to maybe start up a discussion about this sort of thing:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTJ_o_WyvgA
      ...and...
      http://rrbike.freeservers.com/

      You will notice that almost every rail-bike has an out-rig stabilizer
      connecting to the second rail. Before I saw any rail bike links I thought
      it would be easy enough to simply attach roller-blade or skateboard
      wheels as guides to ride single-track, but apparently every site I
      visited suggests single-track riding is a bad idea. That is because when
      you are riding a rail there is no room for any minor steering
      adjustments, so a soft breeze can pretty easily blow you over.
      Considering the rails add a seven inch drop onto bumpy timbers and metal
      spikes/ties, the avoidance of a derailment fall is extremely desired.
      Apparently with that added seven inches of height it is also very
      difficult to simply get going in the first place, especially without a
      step-through frame.
      With all that in mind, I was thinking an Xtracycle or Big Dummy set up
      would make the attachment of an out-rigger quite simple. Perhaps bent
      conduit/pipe can be used instead of a wide loader on one side. Although
      ideally in my mind, it would be better to be able to keep wide-loaders in
      and have the out-rigger de/attachable while loaded with cargo. I perceive
      the rail-rig as something that can be storable in the wide/free-loaders
      when riding off the tracks, most likely when touring to a remote site
      when your wide-loaders are loaded with camping gear. In that situation
      you would not want to have to unpack everything every time you are
      switching from tracks to roadways. I imagine it would be simple enough to
      run two lengths of conduit/tubing parallel and under each end of the
      wide-loaders, then simply fix them into position with hose clamps or
      similar attachments.
      On my own Big Dummy I only see the spring for my Kick-Back being an
      issue, but I do not see why the tubing could not run above the spring. It
      is not like either would be in frequent motion while touching each other,
      like some people’s drive chains and kick backs might be. Speaking of the
      Kick Back, I am wondering if it might even be possible to attach the
      guide wheels, which would roll on either side of the rail, to the kick
      back feet. It would obviously be necessary to develop a method to lock
      the kick back down from springing back up, but on my Big Dummy that looks
      easy enough to do by attaching some sort of cable or wire between the
      already-existent spring attachment bolt and the seat post just above the
      bottom bracket. From the looks of it such a cable should not interfere
      with the path of the crank arms.
      Another benefit to using an Xtracycle Rail bike is the out-rigger can be
      used as an extension for cargo loading. Since you might already be
      inclined to haul stuff on your bike, a simple deck or hammock-like
      extension between the out-rigger tubing would allow for extra cargo or an
      additional passenger when traveling to a remote site, which might not
      otherwise be accessible by car. Carrying a load specifically on the
      out-rigger side would be recommended anyway because wind coming from the
      out-rigger side might tip you over if you lean toward the outside of the
      rails, so having a load as a counter weight between the tracks up to 20%
      of the total weight of the bike, rider, and cargo is ideal anyway.
      I recall a number of years ago someone on RootsRadicals building an
      Xtracycle side-car of sorts or linking to someone else who did. That kind
      of side-car would be a good start to designing a rail-rig. Is that person
      still on this list and/or are there any links to their set-up? I just
      found a “Side Hack” link on the Surly Blog, which is probably what I am
      thinking of:
      http://www.surlybikes.com/2006/09/it-has-been-long-3-weeks-since-i.html

      I do not have welding capabilities, but I do have a drill press and metal
      cutter/grinder. For a project like this investing in a pipe-bender might
      be a good idea too. I think the trickiest part for me would be mounting
      the third wheel. Ideally I would think it would be great if the third
      wheel is the same size as the bike’s other wheels. That way if you were
      in a remote location and your wheel or tire got completely wrecked, then
      you would already be carrying a spare for emergencies. Whatever the size
      of the wheel, I believe a single-sided quick-release mounted hub/axle
      would be utilized, but I am finding it difficult to google exactly where
      a person could purchase/find one. Does anyone know if a special
      reinforced drop-out is needed, or can some one simply retrofit a normal
      rigid front fork or rear drop-out hacked for one side? Maybe all that
      might be really needed is a spacer on one side of the axle. That Surly
      blog and another bike forum I found seem to suggest using a
      downhill/stainless steel 20mm axle and equivalent wheel. Alternately
      someone on that forum also suggests using a hub/axle from a wheelchair. I
      have no knowledge of or experience with single-sided wheels, so I do not
      know what might be appropriate.

      One thing that is pretty apparent is that the Surly Blog “Side Hack” has
      a spacing of 36 inches between the rear wheel and side-car wheel, which
      is referred to as the “tracking width.” However, a Standard rail road
      track has an inside gauge of 4 feet and 8.5 inches. That is about a 22”
      difference from the Surly Side Hack, or a total of 58.5”, if also
      counting an additional 2 inches to roughly center the tires on top of the
      rails. It would be pretty cool if a rail-rig could also double as a
      side-car on normal roadways, but I am not certain if the tracking width
      would be suitable for a bicycle. Apparently a typical motorcycle side-car
      combo has an over all width of approximately 69”, while its tracking
      width, measured at the center of the tires, would be about 45”. It would
      be interesting to see if the width of an Xtracycle rail-rig would also be
      suitable for riding as a side-car.

      Ride safe,
      _TONE_
    • Andrew Kreps
      ... Three words: don t lean right. That thing scares the crap out of me for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is that a several-hundred ton object
      Message 2 of 3 , Apr 7, 2011
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        On Thu, Apr 7, 2011 at 1:00 PM, Tone <tone@...> wrote:
        >        I have been on this RootsRadical list for many years and I read every
        > post, but I do not think I ever heard anyone discussing rail bikes.

        Three words: don't lean right.

        That thing scares the crap out of me for a number of reasons. Not the
        least of which is that a several-hundred ton object with no choice but
        to take the right of way can appear at any given time. Aside from
        that, you stabilize your bicycle by subtly swaying from side-to-side
        as you ride down the road. You balance out the uneven forces you
        exert on the pedals by counter-balancing the bicycle below you.
        Driving your balance from the road(rail)-up goes against that type of
        natural balance.

        It isn't my cup of tea. That said- more power, or outriggers, to you.
      • David Backeberg
        ... So I imagine two profound problems: 1) on truly abandoned rail lines, the overgrowth is awful, and you will be running into brush, or crooked rails, or
        Message 3 of 3 , Apr 7, 2011
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          On Thu, Apr 7, 2011 at 4:00 PM, Tone <tone@...> wrote:
          > is referred to as the “tracking width.” However, a Standard rail road
          > track has an inside gauge of 4 feet and 8.5 inches. That is about a 22”
          > difference from the Surly Side Hack, or a total of 58.5”, if also
          > counting an additional 2 inches to roughly center the tires on top of the
          > rails. It would be pretty cool if a rail-rig could also double as a
          > side-car on normal roadways, but I am not certain if the tracking width
          > would be suitable for a bicycle. Apparently a typical motorcycle side-car

          So I imagine two profound problems:

          1) on truly 'abandoned' rail lines, the overgrowth is awful, and you
          will be running into brush, or crooked rails, or need to whip out the
          machete so much that you'll never get anywhere

          2) for rails that are less 'abandoned', you don't know whether a train
          is coming unless you have an inside connection at the railroad or at
          least monitor the radios. However, if you knew that kind of stuff you
          would also know that railroads are known for enforcing their property
          rights against 'trespassers', and ummm, especially in the middle of a
          rail line, you are unlikely to have a way off the railroad property
          that doesn't require you to trespass on somebody else's property.

          So I count the risks as:

          * it might work, but good luck finding somewhere to use it
          * it might get you arrested / shot for trespassing
          * it might get you killed / your rig smooshed when you can't get it
          off the rails in the way of a live train

          All that said, I have to admit it looks like fun.
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