June 2006

The GNAT now has its own dot.com address. This site should soon be moving to www.the-gnat.com - if not there already.

A few days ago I was fixing some supports in the wall of my workshop conservatory when the bit of my pneumatic drill slipped into a void between two blocks, and jammed. The heavy hand-tool flew round nearly wrenching my arm out of its socket and causing the side-grip to hit me in the eye, breaking the lens of my safety glasses and knocking me off my ladder. Fortunately, I have not broken any bones - my vast experience of falling off bicycles must have paid off! But the present seems a particularly good time to sit at a desk and update my website.

I have been banned from riding my trike in my home town, for no reason at all, by a policeman. In response, I mentioned something about my trike being legal, so far as I was aware, not just in Ireland but throughout Europe. Since then, I have wasted a lot of time triking through town - without being pulled up. Now I have stopped until I get some new glasses: my remaining pair are too flimsy to carry my rear-view mirror, and I am reluctant to ride without rear vision.

The last time I had a brush with the law on my trike was many years ago, in quite different circumstances. A large dog had gone for me on my way to work, jumping on top of me at one stage. My injuries looked worse than they were, owing to a scratch on my neck that bled a lot. I was a university researcher then, and had put on a white shirt that morning to give a presentation of my PhD research. This happened in England at the time of John Major's government, when dangerous dogs were, briefly, top priority. The police insisted on sending an officer to my house to interview me; his interest seemed to vanish when he realized I was not only a cyclist, but a tricyclist!

In the last update, I promised some pictures of my renovated workshop, so here they are, only a month late, which is early by my standards!


I bought the delivery bike (above) from Mike Burrows. Apart from my GNAT (and my own two feet) it is my favourite transport. Burrows claims Mike Nelthorpe, the GNAT's moulder, was responsible for the box on the front; Nelthorpe says Burrows did it! Made in cardboard, glass/polyester, wickerwork and Giant sticky tape, it takes the concept of composites to a new level. But it comfortably carries two laptops or 50kg of cement (not at the same time!). If you think the front wheel looks wrong, it is because I need a new tyre: something like a 20x2x13/4 (34/400) Raleigh carrier (right); please let me know if you have a spare as I am presently using a 20x13/8 (32x451) wheel. With rod braking, I cannot use a modern rim, and the brakes at the moment are .. even worse than when Burrows was cycling it round the Norfolk flatlands. If I can't get a tyre, I will probably fit a modern 406 rim with hub or V-brake - sacrilege!

While looking through my files I found two pictures, which show the upper and lower limits of the suspension travel. I think the shots appear somewhere else on this site, but here they are again. The thing to notice is that the wheel is pointing in the same direction in both photos, but is several inches further from the ground in the second photo!

If you are designing your own trike, you need to get this sort of thing right. It is much easier for you to buy a GNAT chassis and front wishbones from us, and make whatever else you can!

As well as working on the GNAT, I spend a lot of time writing a computer program used by people in offices. Because of this, my building activities, and various other reasons, the GNAT has been delayed so long that most people have probably given up waiting for one - or in one or two cases, died! But Alan currently has three kits - less a few small bits; we hope to have people building them soon. After that, I expect to be able to make around one set of parts a month, given the demand, at least while I am here in Ireland. (barring more accidents!)

I went to the CTC York Rally late June, hoping to get a tyre for my delivery bike. I did not find one, but I did run into Mike Burrows. He mentioned a method for joining a pair of cranks in the middle of the crankshaft, using tapered castellations pulled together by left- and right-hand threads, that I had used on a two-wheeler in the 1990s. I published the design (which was my own idea) not long after, in the (American) Human Power journal, and I think the BHPC reprinted it. If I still have one I will post a picture here. Mike told me he had patented my idea (adding in the next sentence that he made a minor change from my design!) but that he had not managed to get any manufacturer interested in it. Later, the idea was adapted for making joints in conventional cycle frames, and now, Mike informed me, Campagnolo has brought out a crankset which uses the method.

By a strange coincidence, my previous conversation had also been about patents. I was looking round the exhibition tent and stopped at what I thought was the Brompton stand. I know what a Brompton looks like because I have one. The bikes on the stand were a copy of the Brompton. The saleswoman told me that Brompton's patents had expired. Fortunately perhaps, the real thing was not represented at the show.


previous update March 2006