Certificate of Grant of Patent

It’s really tough, finding any cheery news these days as I’m sure you’ll agree.  So imagine our pleasure on only the second working day of 2021 to hear that our application to the Intellectual Property Office, (more often referred to as the patent office), has been granted under the title of “Steering Centralisation Device”.“What might that do for me when it’s at home,” I hear you ask!

Well, if you’ve ever been coming into land and the plane is bucking and swerving and vibrating in an alarming fashion, and you’re beginning to suspect that Shakin Stevens is at the flight controls, then I’m sad to say that a lot of low sitting trikes tend to steer exactly that way, particularly at speed.

The problem is the steering geometry!  Low sitting trikes like our Bullet, Arrow, Dragon and Dragonfly ranges are long in the frame, which is good for access and stability but requires a lot of rake on the front forks to bring the handlebars within reach of the rider.  This angle is called the “Castor angle” and when its high, gravity acting on the trike and rider, cause the steering to flop to left or right whereas ideally, you want the steering to stay straight ahead.

There are geometric reasons for this reaction and geometric design ways it can be corrected, but the end result can look odd, and takes some expensive engineering to achieve, so it’s not straightforward.  The common way to attempt to solve this problem is elasticated rubber bands or springs, so arranged to keep the steering straight, but these still tend to have a mind of their own when the rider gets aboard because, with these methods, the anti-swerving force is very weak in the straight-ahead position and only becomes effective on tight turns.  This is not the place to go into detail on how “Self Centralising Steering” works but I can tell you that it is housed in the distinctive bell-shaped device just above the front mudguard on all our “Low sitting” trikes.

When a rider sits on the trike, the SCS adjusts itself to a comfortable, but positive force that is always trying to return the steering to straight ahead in a very similar way to the steering of a car.  Furthermore, this “Self Centralising” tendency automatically increases as speed rises just as it does with a car.

The power of the correcting force and even the steering alignment can be adjusted but that detail is similarly unimportant to this blog, but what is important is the effect it has on the confidence of the rider and the ride itself.

We first realised how much better out SCS system was when we delivered the first Dragon trike to the Sutton Coldfield Midland Mencap Cycling Project.  This excellent facility works in partnership with Cycling Projects, a national charity dedicated to the setting up and ongoing mentoring of cycling centres and projects, for the benefit of the disabled communities, throughout the UK.  Both organisations are recognised experts in the challenges and obstacles to cycling, fitness and health, faced by the disabled or mobility challenged community and we were very excited to get together with them in 2019 to design a trike that would be ideal for their purposes, and ideal for their multi-user, track and off-road application.

The main features of the new design would be the ironing out of certain shortcomings of the then-available products, and two factors that featured prominently were stability and steering wander which were falling far short of perfect on trikes that were suitable in other ways.  We thought the addition of our SCS was exactly what was needed to sort both problems, and so it proved to be.

The beauty of the first trial was that everyone who tested the Dragon was well used to the alternatives and so could give an expert critical comparison of the new design to the old.  Whilst no one said, “Your Dragon is far more stable and positive to ride as a result of the inclusion of your SCS system”, they did ask if the wheelbase was wider because it felt more stable or that it seemed to go far faster.  In fact, the wheelbase was no different from most other trikes, but what was different was the positive nature of the steering.  It soaks up bumps and ruts, without any alarming disturbance and the smooth and positive steering, that always sought to bring the trike back to a straight line, gave the speed merchants the confidence to up their pedalling rate, and corner with confidence.

We have learnt over the years that if you can create confidence in a machine, its safety and predictability, it will win hearts, and vulnerable riders will forget their anxiety and just get on with enjoying themselves.  Surely that is the best reason of all for going cycling.

So SCS may not be a feature of our low sitting machines that gets immediate attention, as some other more dramatic features do; but we know that when they ride with SCS they will unconsciously enjoy and appreciate the part it plays in our tricycles.  As the saying goes, “Tomcats – Self Centralising Steering System – is not just for New Year, it’s for every single trip”.   Enjoy your cycling!