Archive for September, 2008

PALMER INDUSTRIES

September 23, 2008

Recap:  November 24, 2008.

Several problems cropped up right out of the box .  You’ll be paying a lot and receiving a bike with problems but this will help:

Don’t buy this for grandma.  It takes upper body strength to control the tricycle at speed (about 11 mph).  If the rider is going to travel at slower speeds it will do but why spend this amount of money unless you’re going to use the power?

The trike has a wobble in the front wheel which shows up with any disturbance in the road.  The slightest bump of a rear wheel will start it up.   Of course this means its almost always there.   The bigger the bump the worse the wobble.  The bike is usable its just disconcerting.  It disappears as speed is increased.

Ask why the extended range package costs so much.  When I asked what I was getting for some $800 I was told they would give  it to me  for free.

Tell them you’ll buy your own RV/marine deep cycle batteries which can be purchased at any automotive or RV battery store.  Make sure they discount the price and the shipping.

Get a seat belt.

I found the arm rests to be worthless and in fact get in the way.  See if they’ll keep them and reduce the price (maybe a “free” seatbelt).

The aluminum wheel upgrade design you see in the picture has been replaced with a “plain wrap” model.  Make sure you see a picture of the actual wheels if this is important.  The spoke wheels work just fine and the front brake system on them is better.

Buy the heavy duty springs for the seat.

Buy the shock absorber for the front wheel and ask for the “soft” brake pads if you buy the aluminum wheels.  However the front aluminum wheel is offset from center to make room for the brake mechanism.  This may be the cause of the front wheel wobble.

Try 35/40 PSI in the tires or less depending on your weight.  The softer ride will be worth the loss of range, speed and tire wear.

Don’t turn on the trike while the charger is running.  I believe I ruined a charger that way.

Buy the stretch version if you are of the normal height (I’m 5′ 8″) and the standard version if you are under 5″.  Of course a longer trike takes up slightly longer storage room if that’s important.

If you’re going to buy the flashing amber light (don’t) you’ll have to remove the bulb from the front headlight.  When any light is on they’re all on – headlight, tail lights and flashing amber.  The headlight sucks as much power as the trike itself.  By removing the bulb I can turn on only the amber light  and the tail lights.

The turn signals are always on.

Better to buy standard internal battery operated bicycle tail and headlights.  The ones that blink seem to draw the most attention.  For daytime use, which for most of us is most of the time,  seriously consider a lamp with 140 lums or more.  I’ve followed the advise of serious bicyclists and purchased a set from DiNotte Lighting at 400 lums.

The automatic parking brake is a pain in the butt.  If you are going down a incline and wish to stop it will get down to perhaps 1/4 mph and jerk to a dead stop.  This happens if you’re trying to go down the slope such as your driveway.

I removed the rear wheels and eliminated 3 of 6 spacer washers.  I did this because the wheels were slightly wider than the fenders allowing water and debris to fly off the tires.  This does make the trike easier to tip over.  You shouldn’t be going that fast around corners anyway and its not a problem I’ve encountered.

Reinstall the tail lights and turn signals so they face rearward instead of upwards.

If you read the full story you’ll see the frustrations I experienced in getting the trike into a usable condition.  I was never able to eliminate several problems:  A dry metal squeek remains and can’t be found.  That wobble in he front at slow speeds.

With a 200# payload (me) I’ve radar clocked it at 11 mph and have traveled 17 miles roundtrip with the gauge showing about 1/4 full at the end of the trip.  I travel at full speed with jackrabbit starts so you can do a lot better by not doing that.  But why bother?  🙂

Its a heavy duty machine but with standard parts.  Someone told me the motor is a automotive starter motor.  You should be able to get repairs at any electric mobility device repair facility but I’m not sure about the controller.  You may have to get it from Palmer.  Here’s hoping they survive the recession.

THE FULL STORY:

Most of this stuff has been repaired except as noted above.  My point in leaving it here to read is that I should not have had to go through this experience.  For the money paid the quality control should be 99+%.  When it was all over and I decided to keep the trike I asked Jack Palmer twice for a partial refund of an amount he choose and was ignored both times.

This is what I went through: 

I purchased the Independence model which is the basic three wheel electric tricycle built for one person for almost six grand.  As I open the battery boxes I notice that they are standard RV/marine deep cycle batteries.  These  can be easily purchased nationwide but I ignorantly paid Palmer to ship them via freight from New York as a part of their package.

On my first ride I found the front handbrake won’t hold the trike still on a standard downhill driveway grade without a lot of squeezing.   I’m not particularly strong but I could lock up the front brake on my old pedaled tricycle if I needed to.  Not this one.  Its worthless as of now but I’m hoping it can be made to work.

Then I start up the street to the sound of squeeks, wrumps, clacks and whines all coming from the drivetrain.  Nothing alarming but its not what a well oiled, engineered and built machine sounds like.

The front wheel pulls to the right as if the wheel or brake is warped and hitting its pad with each revolution.  When the front tire hits a bump it often sets up a shimmy which makes the trike difficult to control.

The charger thinks the empty battery is full and won’t charge it.  I have to disconnect the two batteries and charge them individually as you would a car battery with my automobile charger.

In their pictures of the trike you’ll see that the handlebars instead of flaring out like a normal bike are bent inwards.  The ends are about two inches apart right in front of my stomach about 9 inches away.  That might be a foot away if my weight was where the Docs want it.  To reach the speed control and handbrake you place your hands directly in front of you almost like a Buddist monk praying.  The result of all of this is that you use arm and wrist strength to steer the trike.  There is little leverage to work with and the slower you go the more muscle it takes as tricycles oversteer.

I consider the brake and steering shimmy as dangerous enough to limit the speed of the bike down to the equal of a man trotting.  I’ve taken a video of these symptoms and sent a DVD to Palmer with a covering letter on Sept. 12, 08.  I’ve put in a dispute on my credit card account on the 19th.  As of today the 22nd I’ve had no response from Palmer.

If I was to order one today I would pay extra to get the “stretch” version.  I’m sitting in the vehicle like a prim and proper spinster.  Legs together and directly below my knees.  I’m 5′ 8″ which is very close to average height for my generation.

I ordered the flashing amber light which is mounted on a sturdy bracket in the rear.  Unfortunately the only way to turn it on is to turn on all the lights.  This sucks power from the batteries at an alarming rate.  If I keep the bike I’ll put a switch in the headlight which next to the motor is the highest draw.  More on lighting later.

The parking brake is a dream under normal conditions.  I.e. horizontal.  You come to a nice slow stop using the throttle and just at the moment you hit zero on the throttle the trike stops and the parking brake locks.  As long as you don’t touch the throttle its not going anywhere.

But if you come to a stop on a slope the bike will still be moving forward slightly when the parking brake engages and “slam” the bikes stops and throws you forward.  I guess my head moves 4 inches when I’m not expecting it.  As you get used to it you can brace yourself but this is not what you want granny doing.  A parking brake is nice and if the front brake was working with the parking brake engaged manually I could use the front brake to bring the trike to a stop.  Then the parking brake could be engaged manually and only if needed.

I really do hope all of these things can be resolved and I’ll keep you up to date.

On the upside I do find the frame and components to be very heavy duty.  They claim it will climb a 45 degree upslope andI believe it.  I just don’t want to go back down.  With two batteries I’m very satisfied with the distance I can travel.  My guess would be 20 miles without worry carrying a 200# person at full speed.  Their claim of 50 miles is perhaps close if you go at 1/2 speed and carry a 100# person.  This is a reasonable advertising claim.

The  rear wheel braking system is created by regenerative braking and works very well.  Better than a normal brake system in my opinion as I believe its impossible to skid or skid any distance.  It does get a little getting used to as the bike will not coast as you normally think of it.  You are either under accelerating, braking, or by manipulating the speed control maintaining speed.  Of course you can maintain the speed as fast or slow as you want and slow down very slowly as if coasting to a stop should you desire.

The torque of the motor, as with all electric motors, is quite high.  The tricycle will creep along at almost literally a snails pace should you desire or accelerate up to top speed in a couple of seconds.

As time goes by I’ll update you as to my dealing with Palmer hopefully to a conclusion satisfactory to all concerned.

And some things that are a matter of opinion:

The headlight is relatively huge, its a standard after market fog light that you would install on a car except its clear.  As a headlight its excellent, throws a nice beam out and as long as you don’t overdrive it you see things in time to stop.  But boy does it suck the power.  Its just a guess but I think your mileage would be cut in half.  When the headlight is on the tail lights are on also.  The tail lights and rear turn signals are positioned on the side fenders.  The turn signal points upwards at a 45 degree angle with the tail light just below that.  Both sould be positioned lower on the fender.  The lights would then be facing parallel to the ground.

*Oversteer means the rear wheels are pushing the front wheel and any slight movement to the side, even a tiny pebble, will be magnified and push the wheel even further and harder to one side or another.  With normal or standard handlebars you have leverage and easily overcome this.

*Regenerative braking means the motor used to drive the wheels is now pushed by the wheels causing the wheels to slow down.  Some electricity is generated back to the battery but this is not a significient amount of electricity.  The primary purpose of the system is braking

October 1, 2008

Having heard nothing from Palmer I fax a copy of my letter to Palmer asking them if they’ve received it or do they need another copy of the DVD I made.  I know my credit card company has my dispute forms and “are working on it”.

October 2, 2008

I receive and return a mailed inquiry from my cardit card company asking when I asked Palmer to pick up the tricycle.  I haven’t as I hope repairs can be made and told them so.  My fear now is that they have contacted Palmer and Palmer has fallen back on their guarantee which basically is return it and we’ll refund it.

October 3, 2008

I picked up the phone and talked to the owner a Mr. Jack Palmer.  He has not seen my DVD so he was completely unaware of my problems.  He promised to ask his staff about it.  He did say he would send me softer brake pads which should increase the effectiveness of the front brake.  He explained that the front brake was not intended to stop the vehicle but stabilize it when getting on and off.  Huh?  That’s what the parking brake does.

We agreed it might be better if I used the standard spoke wheel witha bicycle type caliper brake as opposed to the aluminum one with a automobile type drum brake at the axel.  We discussed the noises, the sudden locking of the parking brake and the shimmy in the front wheel.  I’m to jack up the trike and give the wheel a spin to see if I see any anything amiss.

The parking brake seems unsolvable.  When going downhill the bike will continue to travel and when the power level is below 8% according to Mr. Palmer the parking brake engages.  My assumption is that or above 8% the trike was thought to be at a standstill.  He admitted right off the problem and agreed that it might be possible to use the caliper brake to overcome the downhill motion while still applying power to keep the parking brake from activating.  This seems complicated and doomed to fail when going downhill.

I still have in the back of my mind to explore the possibility of manual activation of the parking brake so it won’t engage unless I actively tell it to.  Just like “Park” on your automobile.

His attitude was very positive and was willing to try and solve the problems.  When he finds the DVD and I’ve spun the wheel we’ll talk again.  I’m cautiously optimistic now.

October 15, 2008

I spoke with Jack Palmer again and described what I found.  The front wheel seems normal after he explained that the front wheel is offset about 1/2 inch due to the size of the drum brake.  He said this does not effect handling.  I’m suspecting thats why the front wheel wobbles so much.  I described a rear tire which was bulging.  If you held your finger supported by the fender and touched the tire the tire would come into and go out of contact with your finger.

He asked me to reseat the bead of both rear tires which I did to no avail.  After telling him this he said he will ship three wheels with tires installed.  The front wheel will have softer brake shoes in it and he is sending a replacement charger.  Hopefully this will solve the following problems:  charger, front brake, wobble in the rear and shimmy in the front.  He decided to ship all three wheels when I complained again about the “plain wrap” wheels he furnished as opposed to the more sporty design in the pictures.  He apparently had at least one set in the back room.

I’m impressed with his willingness to work with me on these matters.  Of course none of it should have happened, I paid BMW prices here.  But sometimes things go wrong.

October 18, 2008

I had previously returned the charger and a replacement was received from Palmer along with two brake pads.  The new charger won’t charge the batteries either.  Its made by a well known company and I sent them a email to see if I’m doing something wrong.  I’ve been charging the batteries with a automobile type charger which means I have to isolate or unhook the batteries from the trike.

November 8, 2008

The new charger works fine.  My conclusion is that turning on the tricycle while being charged will burn out the charger.  Fortunately there is no damage to the vehicle.  I had previously found out that the vehicle will not move while the charger is connected.  Apparently a circuit in the vehicle controller prevents this.  But it didn’t prevent a burn out of the charger.  So don’t do that.  I hang the keys next to the charger now.  Back to the original story:

I drove the trike 17 miles today according to Mapquest and went through a unmanned radar check which displays your speed.  With no other vehicles approaching it read my speed twice at 11 mph.  The battery gauge read a little over 1/4 at the end of the run so I believe I can go 25 miles.  That’s a round trip of course.

November 8, 2008

I received all three wheels along with softer brake shoes and two mirrors I had ordered.  I had hoped my bicycle mirrors would fit but they didn’t.  I tried to install the mirrors but it appears that a foam rubber covering of the handlebars precludes having both the foam rubber and the mirrors.  I’ll not remove the foam rubber until I’m ready to keep the trike.

After replacing the rear wheels but not the front one I took several test rides.  The “wobble” in the rear is gone but the shimmy in the front wheel remained.  I replaced the front wheel and found no change to the shimmy problem.  After some further test rides I believe that the wobble of a rear tire, not wheel, was making the shimmy in the front worse.  With the wobble gone the shimmy is no longer something I fear can cause me to lose control.  Upon hitting a bump the front wheels shimmys a short time and then runs true.  The pulling to the right is gone except at very slow speed and the wrump sound has not returned.  I believe it was caused by the amber light pole swaying in time with the wobble of the rear wheel.

It’s my opinion that the front wheel has a natural tendency to shimmy.  The web site advertised a weight capacity well in excess of my 200 pounds but I’m wondering if someone less heavy would still have the problem.

The softer brake shoes definitely helps but if the trike was coasting down a reasonable steep hill and the regenerative braking system failed it would not stop thetrike.

I’m not done yet as I hope I can eliminate the front wheel shimmy.  More to come.

November 24, 2008

The end of the story?  At my suggestion Mr. Palmer gave me the name of a individual who owned another trike and he was good enough to let me take his for a ride.  It seems to have the same problem with the front wheel shimmy.  I believe its the shifting of my weight as a trike hits a bump.  A small bump has a small effect and the large one has more effect.  Its not enough to be concerned about controlling the vehicle its just doesn’t feel right.

Since my vehicle is no better or worse than any others I’ve written Mr. Palmer and told him that I was releasing the dispute with my credit card company.  I did request a discount in view of the labor I had to perform in switching out the wheels.

May 24, 2006  I never got a response.

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