Review on the Cycles Maximus Trike

The new Cycles Maximus trike is a technical marvel of engineering and is especially adept to meeting the requirements of the cargo carrier, passenger puller  or even the mobile food caterer. It’s uniqueness comes from the ability to be a specialist but retaining flexibility through both its modular design and the bespoke services that the Cycles Maximus team will offer to their clients.  The design has been painstakingly created with such thought and care to detail to improve and build on the heritage of the revered  design that has been adorned by so many but neglected over the past few years. 

Cycles Maximus  Flatbed Trike

Cycling for the first time on the new Cycles Maximus or trike even, was one of those first time experiences that matches riding your first road bike or driving a car – unforgettable.

The inaugural launch of the new trike was held the  Birmingham Cycle City Expo on the 25th-26th April. The event itself attract a myriad of cycling opportunities for businesses and the general public alike; even at one point sparking the curiosity of the Lord Mayor of Birmingham to get on a pair of wheels. Having finished a week filled with University assignments, the 25 Mile cycle to Birmingham was a well deserved break to witness the launch of Cycles Maximus’ new trike.

First impressions matter:

Upon laying my first glance at the new trikes with their yellow livery, it was apparent quality, robustness and detail was built into the design from the drafting stage to the working prototypes shown on the day. Emphasis was given that these aren’t just bikes, but real work horses that are built for performance without compromise on durability. Most of the frame and components including drive train are bespoke to serve the real needs of customers under all circumstances – whether it be delivery and distribution, passenger carrying or catering.

Technical Specification:

The full specification can be found on their website and I will only highlight some important areas.

Modular Tubular Frame:

What exudes strength is the size of the steel tubing used. Photos do not do it justice, and once seen in front of you, there is a guaranteed feeling of reassurance that the frame can handle the 250kg payload with ease. The guys hinted that the tube sizing atleast for the prototype was probably over-engineered.

Cycles Maximus Modular Approach

If you look just behind the head tube, a gusset featuring the Cycles Maximus’ emblem which is features as the company logo. This is another example of the pain staking attention to detail the designers have incorporated.

What eventually struck me as a very important design feature is the modularised frame sub-section. In terms of manufacturing it’s a unique approach which can often complicate the design, in the case of Cycles Maximus’ the design looked simple elegant with a rubber shock component which proved to work on the test ride later on. The benefit of a modular allows for more compact shipping.

The rear assembly like before provides the capability to be multi functional, offering customers the ability to change from a delivery vehicle to pedicab with ease. I was told that the rear mount system will pivot and can be easily removed by solely one person and swapped with another. The reasoning was explained clearly by the Director – less time stuck in the garage is more time on the road making money.Modular Design of Rear Compartment

 Wheel System:

The wheels are 17 inch and use moped tyres with several wheel options are available. Haven’t not seen the previous design, I had heard that this design had a known problem repairing or changing wheels which was difficult and time consuming.

Wheel attachment and hydrualic disk brake

It was a surprise to hear these are manufactured by Cycles Maximus. Unlike competitors, who use off the shelf spoked bike wheels, the custom wheels present pros and cons.

Pros:

  • The wheels will provide greater rigidity and support over counterparts meaning there is a lesser chance of breaking down.
  • Moped tyres offer greater lifespan, are less vulnerable to punctures and will offer greater grip and ride quality over rough roads which I will encounter for the high loads.
  • A standard tyre size allows easy replacement.

Cons:

  • Bespoke nature means it may become difficult to replace or repair if the worst happens.
  • Moped tyres will have a higher rolling resistance.

I need to find out whether aluminium or steel rims as steels rims despite their increased weight would allow welding to be used if repair is needed.

Braking:

The hydraulic disk brakes I believe are taken from a moped or motorbike and during the test run offer superior braking. The prototype didn’t include a parking brake, but the guys said this will be included in the final revision later in manufacturing.

Drive-train and Electric Assist:

The drive train is custom made and there are only a few components taken from bikes (namely the front crank set and pedals. Sprockets are custom made including the differential drive.

NuVinci CVT:

One the unique features is the NuVinci 360n CVT (continiously variable transmission). This is a sealed unit offering continuous gearing whilst stationary offering improved starts.

Nuvinci CVT

CVT systems are becoming more common place in hybrids in the automotive industry for offering greater efficiency and driveability. The same analogy is applied to cycling where the benefits are just as significant. CVT allows higher efficiency pedalling so that the cyclist can generate the required torque at an optimal cadence – typically 80-120RPM. Fully sealed, it offers maintenance free operation.

NuVinci uses toroid spheres and a visco-elastic fluid to transmit power at variable speeds. Systems using fluids have their drawbacks with efficiency over mechanical counterparts (95% efficient) and it is very likely there will be a loss in efficiency. Also the stated weight of 2.45kg is on the heavy side.

These problems are negligible and the benefits in the context of the trike outweight them by far.

Electric Assist:

This is offered as an option. A CrankDrive Torque assist is used to mechanically assist going up gradients. The CrankDrive assist is mounted just below the front chain ring and drives the chain directly instead of a hub incorporated motor found in conventional e-bikes. Their system uses a battery mounted on the down tube of frame which can be easily swapped.

The CrankDrive Assist will detect automatically when additional torque is required for inclines and can be governed to provide different levels of power needed.

One of the limitations I discovered was that it wouldn’t be self-charging, which has its draw backs but simplifies the design. For a day to day business, this wouldn’t present a problem, but in my case travelling without guaranteed power it may do. Fortunately, I’ve been told the battery does charge relatively quickly.

The Test Ride:

Having explained some of the key features of the trike, it comes down to the test ride. Being my first ever ride on a trike or rickshaw, it’s impossible to draw comparisons  but makes it easier to draw conclusions that would be maybe overlooked by a seasoned owner.

Taking my first ride, was a overwhelming joy of ecstasy  This can only be matched reliving the moment of the first time cycling on a road bike when I was seventeen. To my surprise  although the trike is a heavy beast ~ 75kg it was fairly easy to accelerate but also very manoeuvrable. The upright position and handle bars offer complete confidence of being in control over the motion of the trike.

Travelling down the first street, I saw glass fragments on the road. The Cycles Maximus Trike made no quandaries and ploughed through with brute confidence. Going downhill at a significant speed, applying the brakes, the vehicle retarded with gentle application of the brake handles. For those unfortunate like me to have never  used hydraulic brakes – as being a road cyclist and cycle tourer, it was a surprise at how care free it is in comparison.

Stopping at the first corner I had a slight hill and it would be my first experiment with the new NuVinci Gear System. The ability to shift gears on the spot is quite indescribable. It’s something I can envisage being taken for granted very easily. The gear shifting was smooth and positive, and offered enough flexibility with the ratios. This time was without the electric assist. The first time riding a heavy trike up a hill to be honest seemed slow, but it’s an unfair comparison to make giving the  overall vehicle weight.

Reaching the last corner of the route, pulling up to some traffic lights, pedestrians turned their eyes and is something that is definitely captivating to my surprise  Maybe it’s just that they are not common place on roads (YET). However, later on it we found that some school children really loved the thrill of sitting in the rear compartment.

On the prototype we agreed that the ratio on rear sprocket was too low but could be changed accordingly. The only other criticism I had at the time was the length of the crank pedals, but again could easily be changed.

Riding Comfort:

Positioned on the trike, the upright position promotes a very comfortable posture which with the stresses of travelling through a bustling city will be worthwhile to mention. The stock saddle felt comfortable aided by soft springs. Controls were well within reach and were simple to operate.

I definitely agree with one of the guys who said this – the trike makes riding feel like you’re in a meditative trance.

Test ride with two passengers:

Although the pedicab model hasn’t yet been made - design is finished I’ve been told, we tested out the ride with two passengers – an intern and one of the directors in the back of the cargo box.

Baring in mind they were sat of a duvet, they appeared happy and comfortable even to their suprise. There was an increase in effort required but it was more than manageable on the flats. Even forgetting to use the electronic assist the incline didn’t prove a strenuous task, but arguably we were moving at walking speed.

The final test was a very short circuit with three of the Cycles Maximus directors squeezed into the back. We just did a small loop of a level fenced of test area carrying three average people is atleast 210kg – although we chucked at this being more. At a modest speed was comfortable and having to manoeuvre tightly around cones and other cyclists was not a problem.

It was an excellent day to test ride the new Cycles Maximus trike. Being my first experience with riding a trike but with so many new features – Nuvinci CVT, Hydraulic Brakes, Mechanical Electrical Assist, was definitely a memorable one.

Summary:

The trike is a marvellous piece of engineering. As a Mechanical Engineer, I can both understand and appreciate the thorough thought and detail that went into their trike design on many levels. It would serve its users with good performance over a very long life time without the ailments of maintenance and considering my inexperience it was reassuring to ride.

Cycles Maximus only started up last September and I find it incredible that they’ve reached this point in such little time. Clearly this shows the guys clearly know what they are doing and are working hard to not disappoint their customer-base.

The trikes will be manufactured in the UK and offer a great flexibility to deal with customer’s specific requirements. Their position to offer their trike worldwide will be one its many successes and I personally hope that it becomes an iconic sight within cities over the next decade.

[Images taken from the Cycles Maximus Website, Will include photographs when available]