archival and resource material for human powered recumbent tricycles

Chain Guard for ICE Full Fat

After learning of Larry’s Full Fat dilemma with the chain being so filled with mud that the chain tubes became totally clogged, I initiated a conversation with Patrick Selwood of ICE. He is an exceptionally conscientious fellow who aims to please. I asked him if a chain guard of some type might be fashioned for my ICE Full Fat trike. Well, Patrick set to work and put together a nifty little unit that now resides on Bigfoot, which will keep all that nasty dirt, grime, mud, and snow that the rear tire flings around off the chain.

This solution, which he says is a prototype for Rohloff equipped Full Fats, will not work for riders with standard rear derailleurs on their Full Fats because with a derailleur system, the chain must move laterally in a significant manner, which this solution does not allow. But on a Rohloff rear end, the chain never moves laterally, thus this will work. Patrick indicates that depending on customer demand response, such a prototype has the potential for becoming available to other riders (the number of trikers worldwide with Rohloff equipped Full Fats however is relatively low).

Also notice in the photos that I have upgraded my rear elastomer system to green/red rather than red/yellow. This will allow me to carry loaded panniers on backcountry trips without the rear of the trike sagging from the additional load, as it did with my load on the Mojave Traverse expedition. Elastomer strengths are as follows: yellow = soft / red = medium / green = hard. The combination of red/yellow came stock on the trike, which provides a softer ride unloaded, but is too soft with full panniers.

Here are some photos showing the customized chain guard and the elastomers:

Full Fat Chain Guard 09 Full Fat Chain Guard 08

What the chain looks like without mud protection (on Larry’s trike):

Larry's muddy chain

Click HERE to read Larry’s backcountry adventure story and see more photos! Hopefully Larry will soon have his new ICE Full Fat rear fender, which will also keep the goo off his seat, shoulders, and head. ICE has developed a nice fender solution for this trike:

Full Fat Mudguard

The ICE fender moves up and down with the tire and swing arm, independent of rack.

3 responses

  1. Kimball Rasmussen

    Steve: I really enjoy your articles and admire what you do to help and inspire others. I recently bought my first trike – an ICE VTX+. I read your articles meticulously before making this purchase. I actually ordered a Catrike 700 initially, but I wanted serious upgrades. By the time I was done changing components, etc., the price approached the VTX+ and I basically was specifying a Catrike that was equipped more like the VTX. The VTX+ comes standard with the upgrades that I wanted. So I was able to order a stock VTX+ and get the setup that met my expectations, I thought. And also recognizing that your site has a cover photo of the VTX, I converted my order to the ICE. In general I am enjoying this new world (I am converting from DF). However, I have two complaints, and maybe you can help. The most serious complaint is this: if I let my hands off the steering for a second or so, the front end goes into a “resonant” wobble, and then the trike shakes violently. I queried the dealer, and they asked ICE. The response blamed me, attributing this to my pedaling style. However, it happens even when I am coasting. If anything, it might be less pronounced when pedaling. I wonder if it is a problem with tikes in general? But I have no other tricking experience to compare. I also wonder if it is a simple alignment problem. Do you have any ideas> The second complaint is that the trike is much more harsh than I anticipated. At least one of your bloggers talked as if the VTX seemed almost like it had suspension. In my case their is so much vibration transmitted from the road that my vision goes shaky, almost like leaning my forehead on a vibrating Harley and then trying to focus. I have mostly cured this by running the seat in the most upright position and then adding a very soft, thick neck rest. I have wondered about adding some sort of damping isolation to separate the seat from the frame. I took a mini step in this direction by putting a slice of old inner tube as a gasket where the seat bolts secure the seat to the frame. I am wondering if I could procure some longer seat bolts and then use elastomers for even better isolation. Maybe the red “medium” would be just the ticket. I would really appreciate your observations. Kimball Rasmussen PS: I am very interested in also getting an ICE full fat. I devour your articles about this ride.

    Sent from my iPad


    March 30, 2016 at 6:41 am

  2. Hi Kimball,

    Hey, thanks for the kudos my friend! It’s folks like you who keep me excited about typing out the words to the unknown multitudes online. You bring up some interesting points in your discussion. Here are my thoughts, for whatever they are worth, regarding your questions. Having owned and ridden a Catrike 700 on tour and day rides, I have a bit more experience on it than on my limited time on the ICE VTX, but I’ll try to vocalize my brain on the matter.

    Both the 700 and VTX present a harsh ride when the pavement is less than smooth. This is due to several things, including: 1) no suspension, 2) very thin high pressure tires, 3) designs that clearly optimize pure speed over human comfort. They are specialized trikes for riders with an extreme need for speed, of which I am one. My speed need has tempered over time however, and the comfort found on the Full Fat is very welcomed, not to mention the fact that it’s no slug when it comes to speed either (of course, it doesn’t stand a chance against the 700 or VTX, but then again, I didn’t get it to go fast).

    After my 700 ownership, a trike with direct steering, I would not opt for direct steering again on a trike designed for ultimate speed. This realization came to light on a descent down one long, curvy, and particularly steep mountain on the Oregon coast, where I was actually passing diamond framed riders. At these speeds, regardless of steering type, full concentration is mandatory if the rider wishes to remain upright on three wheels. Even on my former ICE Q, it always got a little scary around 50 mph. But my thoughts are that indirect steering, such as the VTX has, is the more stable of the two types, and at wicked fast speeds, stability is something I highly prize. On that Oregon coast hill, I did make one small movement with the handlebars at one point, and man, it really spooked me. Not only that, but with direct, the rider must move the hands from side to side to steer, rather than pushing front to rear as with indirect. After that scare, I just kept the bars locked in as tightly as I could. This is just my opinion of course, but for me, direct steering is clearly much more “squirrelly” than indirect. The only advantage I see with direct is the cost savings to the trike company, not to mention less of an engineering need to get steering dialed in as with indirect. ICE has it well under control.

    And this brings me to your resonant wobble. This is not a problem with trikes in general. I have never felt it in my riding, and certainly not in my limited time on the VTX. Something like you are describing sounds like it could sent you off the road into a crash scenario if you got going really fast downhill. That is not normal, especially for an ICE trike. I am not an engineer, so I must be careful here because I am just proceeding on gut instinct. My first thought is that the steering has something out of adjustment on your VTX, perhaps the tie rod not adjusted properly. Again though, I am only speculating here. My suggestion is that you contact ICE directly, if you have not already, because those folks are really excellent about helping customers, and my experience is that they truly go the extra mile to make sure their trikes are safe, and are meeting all the needs of the riders. Patrick Selwood, who fashioned the chain guard for my Full Fat, is the son of co-owner Neil Selwood. Patrick is very conscientious, and will listen to you. Is there any way someone could take a video of you riding along with the wobble? A VTX should be rock solid at any speed, and remain so even if the rider’s grip is loosened on the handlebars. If this wobble is occurring even while coasting, then it seems the pedaling is not the culprit. It is true that on the 700 and VTX if a rider is really putting the power to the pedals to achieve maximum speed, the trike will move laterally to a certain extent, but what you are describing does not seem to meet this description.

    These speed trikes are lightweight, and rider movement certainly does affect them, especially if the rider is heavy in body weight. A lighter rider will notice less lateral movement because there is less weight on the seat to intensify the issue. A heavy rider’s weight begins to oscillate laterally under hard load, and all that extra body mass tends to build itself into a vicious cycle, further exasperating the problem. If I had some time on your trike, I would start from a standstill at the top of a long steep (and STRAIGHT) hill, and just coast, with no pedaling whatsoever, and as speed increases, loosen my grip now and then to see what happens. This would absolutely take pedaling and lateral movement out of the equation. Keep in mind also that the more reclined the seat, the less tendency for lateral movement because the rider’s weight is lower to the ground, making the vehicle more stable, kind of like a formula race car – very stable laterally – versus an off-road Jeep (very unstable laterally). Give Patrick a shout and see what he thinks – if he doesn’t know, he’ll pursue it amongst the ranks until he finds out (at least, that’s my experience with him). One way or another, I believe ICE will get this figured out for you, with your help of the description.

    Regarding the ride quality, what you are experiencing is quite normal. Speed trikes are not comfort machines. Of course, this is all relative. A rider out for top speed realizes that a compromise in comfort is part of the equation. ICE has really mitigated this issue with their VTX seat, which keeps the spine suspended in air due to the lateral seat cushions riding vertically down the sides of the back, supporting the spinal erector muscles. This design innovation was pure genius. The spinal erectors are large muscles that keep our backs erect, and when cushioned against deep padding, as on the VTX seat, keep much of the vibration from reaching our senses. Also, even the ICE neck rest is suspended, which further helps. As a comparison, the Catrike neck rests are compression style rests, meaning that the cushion bottoms out against metal, a major factor when on rough pavement. On my 700, I always had to make sure my neck was not on the neck rest, else my head would jitter quite uncomfortably. The ICE neck rest does not bottom out on metal – the pad is suspended in air, thus the rest is considerably more comfortable – more engineering involved to design, but definitely worth it for the end-user out on the road!

    The VTX also has the special rear frame assembly that flexes more than standard tubing, another plus. But even all this when taken together, does not make a speed trike the consummate comfort machine. When I ordered a VTX right after they were introduced, I requested Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. ICE initially thought that the Marathon Plus would not clear the rear frame assembly, but they got one to try, and discovered that it did. I am mentioning this because the tires make a noticeable difference in comfort, and truly a minimal difference in acceleration.

    Case in point: On my Catrike 700, I told the dealer that I wanted Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires all around. He requested that I try the Schwalbe Durano tires first, if nothing else than to compare them later to the Marathon Plus. I went with his suggestion, but after several rides on the 700 with the Durano tires, I had had it with the extreme rigidity of the ride, and decided to get the Marathon Plus tires. After I swapped out the tires, it became very clear to me that tire type is a major factor in human comfort, even on a speed trike, where the Marathon Plus tires are still relatively narrow compared to a standard trike. I was immediately impressed with the Marathon Plus tires the first time the pavement went from smooth to chip seal. Sure, the trike still transmitted a lot of vibration through the neck rest, but hey, it was significantly less than what it was with the Durano tires. I just learned that when the road was less than perfect, I would lift my head, thereby keeping my spinal neck off the neck rest, and this would take care of most of the discomfort. A huge added plus to this switch is that I have never had a flat tire with a Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire, so, I got comfort and tire reliability all in the same deal.

    My recommendation is to switch your tires to Schwalbe Marathon Plus, the largest size that will fit. This is what I did on the 700, and I never looked back. Now, there are those folks out there who will try to tell you that putting Marathon Plus tires on a speed trike destroys its wicked fast acceleration capabilities, but that has not been my personal experience having done just that myself. That 700 would still accelerate like lightning even with the Marathon Plus tires. Even if an unnoticeable acceleration hit had have occurred, it still would have been worth the comfort gain I received. The Marathon Plus tires do not equate to a suspended trike, but they do help the rigidity of the ride quite a lot, enough so that you will clearly notice the difference. These guys that talk about minuscule differences in acceleration that are not discernible are splitting hairs, an intellectual exercise that may provide amusement to some, but not quantifiable out on the road, head to head with another trike. The real irony in all this acceleration talk like you hear on one of the large forums is that rider fitness and body weight are not taken into consideration. Most trike riders I have seen and known are visibly overweight and out of shape, so using a Durano tire over a Marathon Plus tire to eek out an acceleration gain that is barely measurable with the finest scientific measuring technology is only a game for the human mind to keep it occupied or to keep forum posts lively.

    With my Marathon Plus tires on the 700, I would gladly welcome all comers on speed trikes to match my performance. This mostly boils down to rider fitness level, not tread patterns or tire stiffness. So for me, I wanted the most comfort I could get out of my speed trike, and thus my decision to switch out my tires. Don’t get too wrapped up in all this tech talk that some folks offer. Base your riding experience on your own time out there on the road and what works for you, not for some “weight weenie” that claims Marathon Plus tires are too heavy for a speed trike. Sure, a rider can run the thinnest hardest tires to gain a perceived advantage and boost the ego in discussions, but he also will be enduring a rough ride on less than perfect pavement (of which there is plenty in the real world). The best scenario is one where you, the rider, is happy the greatest percentage of the time, and clearly, comfort is something that cannot be overlooked if one wishes to ride a lot, rather than finding excuses for not getting on the trike. This Full Fat is so unbelievably comfortable that I relish riding it. It would also make a totally awesome road trip trike with VEE Speedster street tires (26×3.5 inches). Of course, with a high sitting trike, cornering at speed and going really fast downhill are not advisable like on a low-slung speed trike.

    Regarding seat incline angle, I always prefer my seats at full recline. The 700 was a fixed recline of 25 degrees, so I could not alter it, but I didn’t want to because it was heavenly, especially when I toured on it. The VTX is adjustable to a maximum of 25 degrees, and that is where I would run it. At this incline, the dreaded “recumbent butt” is no longer an issue. The more upright one sits, the less time in the saddle before the old butt needs a stand-up break at the side of the road. Be happy that your ICE neck rest is a suspended neck rest, because the other trike manufacturers take the least costly way out, using compression neck rests. The neck rest on my 700 was not very comfortable on anything less than glass smooth pavement. The neck rest on my Full Fat, which is like the one you have on your VTX, is awesome. I almost put an ICE neck rest on the 700, as it appeared it would fit, but by that time, the new Full Fat was available to the public, so I sold the 700 to finance the new monster, which, as you are probably aware, is quite costly (I have considerably more invested in the Full Fat than I would had I acquired a new VTX+). Keeping a speed trike and a backcountry trike at the same time was not an option for this financially challenged trike hobo.

    To sum up: Contact one of the ICE boys about your resonant wobble, as my speculation is probably of no value since I have not ever experienced such an issue, and have thus never had to seek solutions to it. My steering has always been quite solid, especially on ICE trikes. Lift your neck off the rest if the pavement gets rough, and replace those Durano tires with Marathon Plus – this won’t end your rigidity issues, but will surely help. My thought about rubber between the seat and the frame is that it may help, but I am leery about how much (probably not much), and since that was not designed into the trike, it may make the seat stability an issue, worsening your wobble – if the seat is raised on flexible mounts, the more energy put into pedaling, the greater the lateral movement of the seat and the trike. The seat should remain fixed in my opinion. One issue could make the other issue worse.

    Okay, hope all this ranting helps some. There are those who think my thoughts are off base, so take it all with a grain of salt. Then, go watch this video:

    See ya’ …


    March 30, 2016 at 9:07 am

  3. Alonzo Savage

    Hi Kimball, this may sound daft but could your problem be something as simple as an out of balance tyre? i.e. is the white line on the tyre set evenly to the rim? As Steve will verify any offset on the tyre can cause a vibration. Good luck with sorting the problem and as Steve advises do contact ICE, they’re a superb bunch of folks.

    March 30, 2016 at 12:59 pm