Sunday, November 4, 2007


TIM HEIST (seated) and son Louis Jasinski of Reading, Pa., with their front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel steering trike at the Michigan Recumbent Rally - West Sept. 9 2006 in Kalamazoo.

By Mike Eliasohn

Timothy Heist and his son, Louis Jasinski, came all the way from Reading, Pa., – 627 miles each way – with their two homebuilt trikes to participate in the Michigan Recumbent Rally - West Sept. 9, 2006, on the Western Michigan University campus in Kalamazoo.

The following day, they rode them in the Vineyard Classic Bicycle Tour that starts and ends in Paw Paw. As of then, Tim said they had built five recumbent trikes. “It’s just a hobby,” said Heist, who does steel fabrication for a living. Although a hobby, their creations have a name, Scorpion Trikes.

He said he first got interested in building recumbent trikes after his 86-year-old father saw a photo of one in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper. “My dad showed it to me and said, ‘Maybe you can build one of these.”

He started building his first a couple of years ago. Before then, he said, he used to drag race motorcycles and built his own drag bike (”drag bike” as in “motorcycle.”) “I enjoy the fabricating and design process, learning what works and what doesn’t.”
Trike No. 5 has been a real learning experience – propulsion is via the single front wheel, which Tim straddles, and the rear wheels do the steering.

That’s not a new concept, and some lean while cornering. The Heist/Jasinki rear-steerer doesn’t lean, but apparently does solve a problem many of them don’t – instability at higher speeds.

Moving a lever changes the ratio in the steering. At slower speeds, it’s 1:1. At higher speeds, it’s less than that – that is, moving a lever changes the ratio so moving the steering a given amount changes the direction of the rear wheels a lesser amount. “I’ve only had it up to 28 (mph), coasting down a hill, but it seemed okay,” Tim said. “What happens after that, I don’t know.”

The other Scorpion trike at the rally is more conventional in that it’s rear wheel drive, and the two front wheels do the steering. But instead of using hubs that require building special wheels for the front, the frame supports two head tubes and two regular front forks, so regular front wheels can be used.

Each trike at the rally weighed about 70 pounds. The frames are made from regular 1-1/4-inch square tubing (not thinwall chromoly) and 1-1/2-inch wide steel channel. The wheels and components come from bikes bought at Wal-Mart.

Tim and Louis are now working on tricycle number 6 and hope to bring it to the Michigan HPV Rally in June. The two front wheels will be in a fixed position. The single rear wheel will do the driving and steering!

Thanks also to Breakaway Bicycles in Portage for bringing several recumbents to the rally on Sept. 9 for people to test ride – and hopefully buy.

LOUIS JASINSKI rides the “conventional” trike they had at the rally. Notice use of steel channel for the rear stays and interim freewheel and deraileur, in addition to the rear wheel freewheel and deraileur. There’s also a deraileur for the chainrings.

THE FRONT-WHEEL-DRIVE TRIKE. Shifters are at the sides of the seat. What looks like handlebars above the front wheel is the mount for the rearview mirrors.

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