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Building One Less Ute

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Bike completedAugust 2002
Bike failedSept 2003 the frame cracked at both ends of the main tube
One Less Ute is my second attempt at a Long John style bike. The first one was stolen. It worked well as a prototype and did pretty much everything I wanted. So this is intended as the successor to it, and called "one less ute" after the Critical Mass slogan "one less car".

My main design criteria here were that it should carry at least 150kg, preferably 200kg (440lb), and that I be able to ride it around Sydney loaded up. That meant the Mt Drive and Hayes disk brakes (a truly ugly web site), since I have both available after dismantling my tandem.

Design Notes page 1
Design Notes page 1
The first design sketch was basically a recap of long bike 1, with minor rethinking of the rear end. I was working out overall sizing and comparing the new idea to other designs. Trying to make the riding position work better was a lot of work.
Design Notes page 2
Design Notes page 2
Here looking at the seatpost angle and where the pedals go in relation to the seat and rear wheel. Bringing the rear wheel forward shortens the wheelbase, but clearances start to get very tight between the cranks and chainstays (or it needs a very wide bottom bracket). Moving the BB forward puts my feet very close to the load space, and makes standing on the pedals hard (the handlebars hit my thighs). This is where I worked through those ideas. 74° is a traditional seatpost angle.
Design Notes page 3
Design Notes page 3
Unboltable handlebars and a short seat tube to make it take less space when being shipped. Also easier to store. The idea is that it's the same height as width, so if I cut it in front of the handlebars the back bit will sit on the load platform. Front end dimensions for cutting the main tube.
Design Notes page 4
Design Notes page 4
THe front rack - the idea is to gain more load space by putting stuff directly over the front wheel. This rack needs to sit above the top of the head tube, hence the spacers shown.
One Less Ute - A full size drawing of the rear end on coroplast. This turned out to be surprisingly useful, but I'm not fully convinced that it's enough to compensate for the difficulty of producing it. Paper ones don't seem to be as good as more rigid ones, but it depends on your workshop I suspect. Ken's is small so the plan has to be a bit rugged to cope with being in and under the working area. Ian uses paper and keeps the plan in the living room, just carrying measurements through into the workshop. Note that this plan has the BB in the old position and the seat tube is cut to the new one.
One Less Ute - The initial cutting and TIG welding done. Note the cut across the BB support where I put it on slightly crooked, cut it off and welded it back on. The BB shell is brazed as I don't want to risk trashing the threads completely by getting a little too much penetration with the welder. Also note that the front end is up against the wall, the bike is already bigger than the workshop is wide (it goes in if turned 90° left).
One Less Ute - Ready to braze the head tube in place. Vertical, to avoid the front end dropping when the wheel turns.
One Less Ute - Butchering a set of steel front forks to put new dropouts in (26" to 20" conversion). I also bent them straight in line with the head tube and added a Hayes rear disk mount. The idea is that I play with these forks until the bike handles ok, then build a proper set out of 4130 CroMo.
One Less Ute - Adding the bracing member to the front end. Note the reinforcing rings added to the head tube (the Filibus bikes used by couriers in Sydney had big problems with head tubes cracking when the bike was overloaded). I'm still deciding whether to add reinforcing to this bend - there's butt brazed joints under tension in there, and that's not ideal. I'll probably wait and see if anything gives way...
One Less Ute - Jigging up the rear triangle. The thing coming up from the floor is a dropout jig Ken made, but oddly it doesn't fit any bike I've ever built. I use it because it's square and the threaded rod means I get the dropout spacing right if nothing else. I also wimped out and made the chainstays about 400mm long rather than the 280mm I planned for. Just to make the clearances easier.
One Less Ute - Ready to braze.
One Less Ute - Chainstays tacked in place, check the wheel location and alignment. Note that this is the dished wheel off tall bike too, and I'll have to cold set the back when I get a non-dished disc brake wheel organised.
One Less Ute - THe back end mid-process. The structure is there, I need to add all the detail bits that make it actually go. Big question is where I try to put rim brake mounts on it, or just leave it unbraked until I get the disc wheel.
One Less Ute - The front end after it's all brazed up.
One Less Ute - And with the front wheel in place. Note the very vertical look of the headset and fork, and the lack of trail. There's actually about 5mm there, but it doesn't look like it in this photo.
One Less Ute - In at Cheeky Monkey Cycle Company to have the BB re- tapped. This was one design consideration for tall bike too - it needed to carry long poles and other things under the pedals. So the rear fork has an odd, squared off look that provides a shelf to sit things on.
One Less Ute - Front fork with steering cog and brake mount installed.
One Less Ute - Matching drive cog for the steering. This is actually slightly larger than the one at the front of the bike, as they both came from one cluster. If that turns out to be a problem I will have to install a smaller one. Note the bearing sittdng on that cog. The steering shaft is an 18" socket set extension part, cut just past the cup end. That lets it undo easily if I remove the handlebar assembly and gives me a nice shaft to put through the bearings.
One Less Ute - Mass production - these are the load platform struts that run from the pivots on the main frame to the side runners. Eight of them. The galvanised bits are the pivots that braze onto the frame. Making this lot was very boring.
One Less Ute - A bit of stainless steel strip used as a jig to hold the pivots in place over the main tube when I brazed them on. And a scrap bit of 50mm tube I used to get the holes in the stainless at the right spacing.
Midway through building the bike I spent a couple of months in Christchurch. When I left there was no stand, the cable steering had to be installed and tweaked, the brake filled with fluid, the load platform cables made and installed and final details attended to.
One Less Ute - cable attachments on load platform The load platforms are attached to the bike by bolts at the pivot points, and steel cables at the outer ends. These run through wee loops of wire (half chain links) to keep them in the right place, but the load is held by the tube itself at the bottom, and by 5mm diameter chain links at the top.
One Less Ute - The front of the bike, showing the cables on the load platform and the routing for the hose that operates the hydraulic disk brake on the front wheel. I initially used 4mm pneumatic tubing (shown here) but the expansion of the tube under pressure meant that the front brake was fairly ineffective - more of a drag brake than something that will stop the bike. So (as of October) I'm looking for a better solution, probably involving further modifications to the Hayes brake.
One Less Ute - The brake hose as it runs to the front fork. The electrical terminal block connects the front light up. That's the prototype front fork still as I haven't put a disk mount on the proper one.
One Less Ute - The Schlumpf Mountain Drive installed.
One Less Ute - First test ride! Steering in place, saet too low and I fell off a few times while getting the hang of it. But the slight gearing up in the steering feels fine, and I could ride it pretty much straight away. no major gear failures
One Less Ute - Painted and loaded up, outside Cheeky Monkey bike shop.
One Less Ute - More Monkey shots. Yes, they are my favourite bike shop. They cater for load bikes, you see.
One Less Ute - Critical Mass , October 2002 in Sydney. Loaded up with my sound system and a stall of about 100 T shirts as well as some other stuff. I seem to end up pushing about 100kg through most Mass's, which leads to comments from some people about how much I eat afterwards. On Bram's video of that Mass was interesting - you could see me just sitting on the bike as usual, but as I hit a wee rise the muscles on my legs bulged quite visibly. And people hassle me for using the mountain drive on gentle hills...
In 2007 I got this email:
I`m Rocco from Milan Italy, your site was a big inspiration for me, after I saw it I built a long bike too.

I'm a member of an association to promote the use of bike, it`s so hard to promote bike in Milan, everybody LOVE car and traffic... This is our site www.piubici.org I'm sorry but we have not an english site.

Rocco's version of One Less Ute
Rocco's long bike More photos from Rocco:
Rocco's long bike Rocco's long bike Rocco's long bike