Steering Upgrade

I don't know if any of you folks follow the TerraTrike Owners group on Facebook. I find it an interesting group of folks. Yesterday during a discussion of a fellow's question regarding stiff steering on his Rover I posted the solution I found and Gary Greenway posted the thrust bearing upgrade that he implemented. Seems to me that it would be quite worth the while since it used bits readily available from McMaster Carr and the cost is only about $33 plus shipping. The necessary parts are....

2 ea 5909K15 Thrust needle roller bearing for 20mm shaft diameter
2 ea 5909K75 1mm thick washer
2 ea 5909K87 2.75mm thick washer

These are sandwiched together with the thick washer on the bottom then the bearing and the thin washer on top. The assembly then replaces the existing flat washer at the bottom of the kingpin. Suitably lubricated, of course.

Combined with the very good lateral support offered by the plastic bushings in the headset the needle bearing assembly should significantly improve wear resistance.


  • I don't know why Gary went with a thick washer on the bottom. I'll try to PM him to find out. I went ahead and ordered the parts from McMaster Carr this morning because... why not?

    Debating now whether I should bother to order a set of BB7's since I will have to take the front wheels and brake assemblies off to do the upgrade anyway.... not that there is any problem with my Alhongas.

    Definitely would be nice to have someone like @goldmember chiming in here from time to time.
  • Goldmember moved on to other pursuits some time ago. I think he went back to school.
  • Haven't heard back from Gary yet but ran across this on Timken's website...

    "Thinner washers may be out of flat due to distortion in hardening in the free state (expected to flatten out under load)."
  • I also thought about possibly needing a longer capbolt. I'll see how it goes once I have the bits in hand.

    I had Phil Woods hubs on my DF back in the day. In fact, they were the second set of Phil Woods hubs in Hawaii. Supposedly lower rolling resistance and better reliability. I didn't notice any change in rolling resistance... in fact the wheels didn't spin quite as long with them as before. They did, however, stay very, very clean. No problem with dust or water getting into them.

    The bushings on my Rover are the same top and bottom. They are both black "plastic" and have quite a hard, smooth surface. The 2016 TerraTrikes with exception of the Rover are supposed to be getting an upgraded lower bushing which rumor has it will be bronze.

    For a steering application such as this I also think TerraTrike's solution is the more robust. I have never had a great deal of faith in ball bearings in cups where the forces that act on them tend to drive the cups and balls into compression. Needle and/or roller bearings... we shall see... we shall see.
  • Hokay.... the Rover steering assembly bushings are Nylon according to the TerraTrike online parts catalog. Not too expensive with current price at $4.95/ea.
  • I would be tempted to use an old steering spindle or similar 20mm diameter metal rod that had spent a night in my freezer. Insert it into the bushing, heat the outside of the headset with a blow dryer and then tap the bushing out with a suitable drift.
  • Anyone - is there an exploded diagram/picture of the entire assembly? I will be ordering a new Rover in 2 weeks.

    This is a great forum!!!

  • I'm the one who posted on facebook about the tight steering.  Jamesr, you're right, I'm kind of stupid.  That's why I posted the question.  But fortunately, there are some very helpful trike owners out there who are willing to help people like me, and I'm thankful for them.
  • RoverArtist, good you got help, ignore the others.
  • Yo, RoverArtist.... wasn't but a few weeks back that I was asking the same question. I ain't no expert... at most I'm probably only a half step ahead of you.
  • Wow! That was quick... my friendly neighborhood UPS man, John, dropped off my package from McMaster Carr a few minutes ago. Looks like I'll be doing my steering head upgrade tomorrow. A quick check with the stacked washers and bearing under pressure on my desk shows very little resistance to rotation. We'll see what tomorrow brings ;-)
  • Elrique, et al....

    My camera up and died on me... I'm reposting here what I just finished posting on the Facebook TerraTrike Owners group page...

    the cosmoline(?) off the bearing and washers with some alcohol. Laid my
    trike on its side, removed the steering cap screw and upper washer,
    loosened the steering arm bolt then lifted the steering arm off and let
    it hang out of the way. Pushed down on the kingpin until it slid out of
    the bushings, removed the lower washer then cleaned the kingpin and the
    bushings with alcohol. Assembled the new parts onto the kingpinwith
    thick washer on the bottom, then the bearing (after a liberal coating of
    lithium grease on both sides), thin washer on top. Liberally coated the
    kingpin with lithium grease and pushed it up through the bushings. Set
    the trike back upright so its weight would pre-load the assembly. Put
    the original top washer back on, cleaned the excess grease off the top
    of the kingpin, reinstalled the steering arm, put the cap screw assembly
    back on and snugged it down. Set the steering arm position the way I
    like and tightened the clamp bolt good and tight then loosened and reset
    the cap screw to "thumb tight" plus a couple degrees snugger. Repeated
    the process for the other side. There was no need to remove the wheels,
    mess around with the tie rod or the brakes. Took Honu for a test ride...
    steering a liitle bit heavier than before probably due to the amount of
    preload I put on the assembly. Still much lighter than when I first got
    my trike and absolutely no trace of "stickiness" when steering left or
    right crossing dead center straight ahead. On the way back I did a
    "hands off" test at 12mph for almost 1/4 mile. No peddle steer, no
    tadpoling, no twitchiness, no wander... straight arrow all the way. The
    cap screws tightened down about 3 1/2 turns so getting longer ones would
    be a good idea. The stock ones are m5-20. McMaster Carr has m5-22 p/n
    92095A482 at $10.69 for a box of 50 or m5-25 p/n 92095A216 at $5.60 for a
    box of 25. Sorry no piccies... the cellphone I use as a camera up and
    died on me last night. Hopefully my description of the procedure is
    adequate to any who may want to do their own Rover steering upgrade.
  • MichaelHebert
    What did you find for bushings in your Rover? Were they metal or plastic? Just curious
  • squirrelpie0,

    The bushings in my Rover were some sort of dark grey composite(?) material. Nylon, delrin, something else I don't know... but definitely not metal. I didn't change them... I just replaced the stock lower washer with the bearing assembly I described.
  • James,

    I like the way TerraTrike is going about upgrading their lineup. Address those things that can significantly enhance the rider experience on the current products. I have a suspicion that the Tour II will be upgraded or redesigned for next year... maybe with suspension(?).

  • I have not received the longer cap screws yet. They will be arriving sometime on Monday. In the meantime a couple observations since doing the bearing upgrade. The steering is somewhat stiffer than before and that is probably due to the amount of pre-load I created during reassembly. When I get the longer screws I will address that issue. Other than that.... progressively increasing effort required to rotate toward the full lock position either left or right and more pronounced tendency for steering to self center after a turn.
  • Hardware arrived from McMaster Carr arrived today... I ordered the wrong size. I ordered m5 instead of the necessary m6 cap screws. McMaster Carr shipped the order UPS Priority Overnight. The shipping cost me more than the hardware. I have re-ordered the appropriate size hardware but this time through eBay which is what I probably should have done in the first place. Price of overeager senility, I suppose :-(
  • Well now... if you are familiar with Glenn Frank (dregerclock) on YouTube, his videos prior to about 2014 were made when he was riding a Tour-II. Glenn certainly didn't seem to have problem with downhill runs. Speedbumps I can't say since they seem to range from ripples to dead bodies in size.
  • Repost of the steering update I just posted on FB...

    things have bothered me since doing the bearing upgrade to my Rover.
    One - progressively stiffer steering the further one goes from straight
    ahead. Two - a more pronounced tendency to self-center when rolling.
    Some research showed that these are both charactistics of strongly
    positive caster. What would cause it... the roughly 5mm increase in
    height between the steering knuckle and bushings due to the new bearing
    stack. Combine that with the fact that I am running Schwalbe Big Apple
    tires on the front which have a much larger tire contact area on the
    pavement due to their 1/2" greater width than the stock tires... it's no
    wonder the effect was so noticeable to me. Today I took the headsets
    apart again, removed the 2.75mm thick washer at the bottom of each stack
    replacing it with the original TerraTrike washer that is about 1mm
    thick. Everything wiped clean and regreased upon reassembly. Took Honu
    out for a test ride and now it is much better. I can still detect some
    off-center resistance and some of the self-centering behaviour (the
    latter being a good thing if it's not too pronounced) and my steering is
    once again able to go lock to lock. I would have to say that it is not
    as sublimely light as before the bearing upgrade but still pleasantly
    light and precise.
  • Gary Greenway confirmed that the additional positive caster created by the stack height of the bearing upgrade is the cause of the more pronounced self-centering effect and the progressive stiffening of steering action as one approaches lock in either direction. Those are attributes that he likes. Different strokes.

    The impression I have of my Big Apples at 40 psi vs the CSTs at 40 psi is that the Big Apples don't reduce the initial impact all that much... they simply extend the time it takes for the impact to transfer to the frame. IOW, they act more like dampers than absorbers.... or maybe I should liken them to being slow absorbers. They also feel like they offer better traction than the CSTs. That's to be expected. I don't plan to put my CSTs back on just for comparison sake.

    There is a big difference in the shock absorbing and damping characteristics of the Big Apples at 40 psi versus at 60 psi. The ride at 40 psi is much more comfortable than at 60 psi. OTOH, I think pedalling effort required to accelerate to and maintain speed is less at 60 psi. I'm running at 40 psi now but I think I will be going back to 60 psi. There is an additional advantage to running the higher pressure... if I forget to check pressure before a ride it's less likely that I will be under-inflated.
  • I agree, Michael.  The ride is smoother, even with the tires full.  Mine are rated at 40 psi max.  If they lose some air, there is less bounce but it's harder to pedal.  Too much tire on the road.  On the other hand, if they are full, my feet tend to bounce off the pedals while going over bumps.

    Not quite sure which I prefer but, I am sold on the wider tires.  I won't go back!
  • Get some type of foot restraint. Foot suck sucks.
  • James,

    The only thing that I changed was the stack height which was reduced by about 1.75mm. All other parameters remained the same... tires, tire pressure, assembly procedure, using trike weight to pre-load the bearings... all the same.

    Serendipity smiled on you with that heel strike. Glad to hear you were'nt hurt.
  • jamesr, when I went from the stock 1.75 tires to the 1.95s, I didn't feel a difference in steering.  But, I never tried t take turns with any amount of speed.  I'm riding down sidewalks and through subdivision. Handling overall was so much nicer.   How large are the Big Apples?
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