Kingpin Issue and Alignment

edited August 2013 in Tour II
Got a new Tour II directly from TerraTrike in January of 2013 and have a few hundred miles on it. Yesterday I was about to air up the tires, picked up the front to rotate the valve to a convenient location, and noticed that the wheel was flopping around a bit. On closer inspection I found that the top bolt on the kingpin had backed way out. I took the kingpin out and found that not only was the top bolt loose, but the bottom bolt had also backed out a bit and I was able to unscrew it easily with my fingers. Both bolts had blue thread lock applied, but it didn't matter. I was able to easily screw the bolts all the way into and out of the king pin with my fingers. I'm glad that I noticed the issue before the top bolt backed out all the way, allowing the king pin to drop out the bottom while riding, which would allow the wheel to come off and possibly do great damage to me and the trike.

Today I cleaned up all the threads on the kingpin bolts and kingpins. I applied Locktite Red (strong) thread locker to the bolts on top of the kingpins and tightened them like crazy, then I applied Locktite Blue (medium) to the bottom bolts and tightened them for proper steering feel. I figure that if any bolts loosen while riding then it will be the bottom bolts. Even if they drop out, the top bolts should still hold the kingpins in place so the wheel would be less likely to fall off.

What I would like to see instead of the current configuration is a step bolt and Nylock nut. Or even an old school castle nut and safety wire. Loosing a kingpin at speed could be devastating. If I ever detect loosening again, then I'm going the step bolt route.

While I was at it I decided to check and adjust the alignment. The trike has always seemed rather unstable to me at speeds of 20 to 25 MPH, and checking the alignment has been on my list. I have no trouble at speed when not pedaling, but if I try to pedal downhill, then I wiggle all over the place. It feels like I'm riding a rubber bike. At first I thought it was pedal steer, the flexing of the frame while I pedaled, or maybe I was pulling on the steering while pedaling. However, I have ruled both of those causes out. The trike starts to wiggle at speed even if I'm pedaling in a really low gear while going down a hill, with only my finger tips on the bars. It appears that it's the shifting of my weight while pedaling that causes me to wiggle side to side at speed.

I did some quick measurements before starting but didn't look too close. I believe that the trike as delivered to me from TerraTrike was near neutral, but possibly a little toed out. I watched the TerraTrike video on how to align your trike, and took note that neutral alignment is for an average weight rider. Once the rider sits on the trike, the alignment should change to 1/8th inch toed in due to frame flex. An "average weight" rider's weight was not specified, but I will assume average to be around 170 pounds. My take away from the video is that no matter what the weight, the trike should be toed in 1/8 inch with the rider sitting in the seat.

With the knowledge from the video in hand, and knowing that I'm probably heavier than the average rider (245 lbs), I figured that I might need to toe the unweighted trike out a bit. I figured that maybe 1/16 of an inch would be good. However, I found it maddening to get the trike aligned. First issue was that when tightening the lock nuts on the tie rods, the tie rod would turn and change the alignment. I messed with it for a while and was able to minimize the change, but it would be far easier to adjust if there was at least a flat spot on the tie rod to hold while tightening the nuts. The bigger issue was that alignment numbers were not making sense. The ratio between the front and back measurements wasn't always the same. What I found is that the center line on my Schwalbe Marithon Plus tires could not be trusted to be right in the middle. Depending on how the wheel was turned, I could get different measurements. I compensated for the issue by making the tires near the valve stem with a Sharpie, and rotating that spot to the front or back while measuring to take variances of the tire out of the equation. This greatly reduced the variances in my measurements.

After getting the trike setup with 1/16 inch toe out, I sat on the trike and had my wife do some measurements. What I found is that even my weight of 245 pounds, which I consider to be higher than the average rider, did not cause a 1/8 inch deflection of the alignment as sated in the TerraTrike alignment video. In fact, even with neutral alignment, my weight will not even cause a 1/16 inch toe in.

My trike is set to as close to neutral as I can get it, which is maybe one millimeter off, and I'll see how it goes once the rain stops. If the trike still wiggles at speed, then I'll try greater toe in just for fun. I'm not sure what's causing my "riding a rubber trike" feeling at speed, but playing with alignment and tire pressure are on my list of things to try in an attempt to minimize it.

Anybody else been down this road and have some relevant advise?



  • Rob
    My wife and I both have new tour II "s about 250 mile. After reading your post I went out and checked My king pin bolts and fond
    them good and tight. thanks to you I fill much safer
    I too have the steering wobble at high speeds. Please let use now how you make out with your alinement.
    Thanks four your post
  • Hey Jim, I too found my upper King Pin bolt to be loose and the bottom bolt was also a little loose. I tightened the top bolt and found that I had to hold the bottom bolt with an allen wrench in order to get the top bolt tight. I now check every time I air up the tires but they haven't loosened up yet. I will have to try the Red threadlocker the next time they come loose. That find had me so paranoid that I checked every bolt and nut on the trike. I think that Terra Trike should take a look at a redesign of the King Pin Bolts on the Tour II.
    Good luck with the alignment, I weigh 230 and get the wobble also, so if alignment straightens up the wobble I just might have to try that also. Bob
  • Hi Bob I don't think weight has any thing to do with it I'm 170 and have the problem.Is it peddle steer ? are we just peddling to hard ? do we need it shift up a gear and spin faster? maybe we should try tightening the handle bar pivot bolt so it is not so sensitive ?
    Lots of options, lets see how Rob makes out with his alignment. on the king pin issue I got my trikes form peddlers trikes in heath Oh.
    maybe he add red loctight when he set up the trikes .I will keep experimenting and posting .

  • One of the issues with starting to ride a trike, is high speed steering, which takes some practice to smooth out. Very gentle corrections and a light touch are necessary at any speed over say 18 mph. That and a bit of toe-in, should eventually smooth things out.
  • Rode 25 MPH downhill today for the first time after aligning the trike, and it's better behaved now. Thing is, I'm not sure which did the most good, the alignment, or fixing the loose kingpin bolts. I can now pedal downhill with far less wiggle than before. Using too high of a gear and pushing too hard on the pedals still causes pedal steer, but that's just a characteristic of the frame design. Flexible chromoly tubes give a softer ride, but they also flex under heavy pedaling loads. Steering at speed is rather sensitive, but based on comments that I've seen in various forums, it's a normal characteristic of this trike. I've found that steering by gently pulling a single brake to work better than using the bars. Currently alignment is set neutral, within 1 millimeter, with no weight on the trike. I'm going to leave it that way for a while and grow accustomed to the handling characteristics, then I'll toe it in 1/8 inch just to see how the handling changes. I'm not expecting much of a change at speeds of 20 to 25 MPH, but I could be surprised.

  • Hey Rob, I get the high speed wobble when coasting down hill at above 20 Mph. I tightened the steering bolt below the handle bars but still have enough wobble to get your attention quick. I just try to keep the trike going straight by using the brakes and stay under 25mph.

    Got to admire your Trike stand. I made mine the same way except smaller. I made the height so the tires are only two inches off the ground. I usually put mine on a work table I have and it fits fine, guess any design that works will save the strain on your back. I actually made mine to work on a Rambler and Rover. Sold my Rambler and got the Tour II Pro, which only had less than a hundred miles on it for $1500.00. Encluded Fenders, Bar-end-shifters, back rack with Top Peak bag ($125.00) the double wall wheels (black rims), seat pad, mirror mount bars (which I modified to fit by the king pin), Catrike Chainring Guard. Hell of a deal, I couldn't pass up, Swalbe Marathon tires ( with Mr. Tuffy tire liners). It came with Presta Valves and would rather have Schrader Valves but because I changed the presta's out on my Rambler to Shrader's I have three spare Presta tubes, guess I will stay with presta untill they get too many patches on them.
  • Which trikes did you ride at the rally? Any TerraTrike Tour IIs that handle better then yours? Or were they different brands and models?

    I've given up trying to make my Tour II more stable and have learned to live with it. I think it's just part of the design.

  • How much toe in do you have?
  • I can say that my stability issues have nothing to do with alignment. When someone talks about instability at speed, the "go to" conversation is about alignment. Well, in my experience, alignment has little to do with stability in the 20 MPH range. In an alignment video TerraTrike talks about alignment effecting high speed handling, but they also mention speeds of around 50 MPH. ... GQdw#t=505

    That's an extreme and nowhere near the range of speed that riders are complaining about. I've adjusted my alignment to various angles of toe out, neutral, and toe in. Each time testing on the same section of downhill, without pedaling, and I've not been able to detect any differences in handling based on alignment.

    A lot of people have complained about stability on the Tour type frame, and they have received tips about alignment and riding technique, but I've never heard or read about someone that was able to solve their stability issues based on that advice. In fact, I've never heard from a rider on a Tour type frame that said their trike was rock solid at speed. That's why I believe that it's just inherent in the frame design and can not be fixed with adjustment.

    With that being said, if a rider experiences stability problems at speeds near 20 mile per hour, then a few things should be checked. First off see if there's any play in the front end from loose wheel bearings or kingpins. Also check the rear hub to make sure the bearings aren't worn. Play in bearings or the kingpins can easily cause a wiggle. Also check the tightness of the steering. If the kingpin bolts or the steering pivot is too tight, then it will be difficult to give the trike small amounts of steering input which are needed at speed. What will happen is that the rider will want to steer just a tiny bit in one direction, but lightly pushing the bars doesn't work since the steering is too tight. So more force is exerted until the bars move, but then they suddenly move more than desired.

    Very small amounts of steering input are required at speed, and I sometimes find it easier to steer using the brakes. I can touch a brake on one side and steer in that direction more easily than pushing the bars.

    Even with the stability issues I'm still happy with my Tour II overall. It would be nice to be able to blast down a couple of hills on my ride, but I can live with dragging the brakes a bit to keep my speed down. If the wiggle ever bothers me enough then I'll pull out my TIG torch and weld some tubes between the outriggers and the main tube to firm up the frame, as is done on the Rover, Rambler, Sportster, and Tandem. Or I'll go buy a Catrike Villager if I have some money to spend.

  • The instability issue seems to come from the frame flex.  Give your a front wheels a neutral alignment for maximum wear, then when you must go 20+, be very still and pedal with your knees in, like you're trying to hit your chin.  If you pedal knees out, your leg weight helps the pedal steer and frame flex and next thing you know, you're drunk driving all over the road/shoulder/etc.  Highest speed I've hit is 44mph.  The Tour II is no racer, but it's controllable if you don't try to control it.  Just think about turning it at that speed and it will start to turn.  Or, lean a little in the opposite direction you want to turn and the frame flex will move you over.  Next time you have to take a rough shot to a wheel, be thankful you ride a flexy trike that doesn't may you pay for every little bump in the road.
  • When talking about high speed downhill instability with the Tour II you also need to check the seat mounting bolts. Are they tight? All 5 under the seat. You can also tighten up the flexing by using nuts and bolts on the seat recline adjustment rather than the hitch pins. Use stainless metric bolts with elastic stainless nuts so your multi-tool is usable if necessary. Stainless? You can get rust even in Florida. Maybe especially in Florida.
  • edited August 2016

    After reading this post I thought I'd do a little investigation by removing the kingpin and checking tolerance.  Before doing so I checked the bolts to see if they were tight (they were), but there was quite a bit movement in the joint on both wheels.  This would normally indicate well worn kingpin, but my trike only has about 500 miles on it.  After taking the pin out I discovered there was .005" (.127 mm) tolerance between the pin and the bushings. There should be no noticeable movement in the joint if it's properly done.

    This could also explain instability issues at higher speeds.

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