Recently, well actually since I built it, I’ve had a lot of questions about the steering system on my tall bike. Hopefully, this will offer clarity for the inquiring minds. Due to the length, I am going to break it up into multiple posts.
The idea was suggested by Erok of BikePGH. Both he, and Brad Q. of Urban Velo were familiar with the Frances Cycles Smallhaul–it’s a beautifully hand-built cargo bike that features an extremely elegant cable actuated steering system. At the time, it was the only bicycle I had ever seen with cable linked steering. After a little research, I found another builder built a similar bike and utilized the pulleys from Frances Cycles. Perfect for my tall bike–the only issue was the pulley cost $175 for the pair.
To me, I thought this was a little too much to spend on the bike a had in mind.
I guess I should explain that. I had built my first tall bike last year, and it was built like most of them–frame welded on a frame with an extended steerer. This posed two problems: transporting the bike was extremely difficult and the extended steerer’s would resonate at multiple frequencies making watching the steerer flex going down a hill quite scary, and the vibration would numb my hands after long rides.
After I road that bike on the Bike MS 150: Escape to the Lake, multiple people (jokingly) told me I had to build a taller one for 2011.
I took the challenge with two design concepts in mind: the first, a sliding adjustable frame that allowed for dis-assembly and sync chain tension, and secondly, cable steering.
The siding frame was easy, but designing the steering system without utilizing pre-built pulleys or machining pulleys myself posed a few issues. My first idea was to cut three circular metal plates, one slightly smaller than the other two, and weld or bolt them to form a grooved pulley. It was a solid idea, but without a plasma cutter, mill, or hole saws capable of cutting metal that thick, I was kind of stuck.
Two weeks before I was supposed to ride the bike 150 miles through Western Pennsylvania and North-East Ohio to Lake Erie, I have an epiphany–washers!
Straight to McMaster-Carr. After two nights of finding the most economical combinations of steel washers, I had it.