It is apparent when one reviews the various trike forums that wheel alignment is an acquired skill... and in the meantime, the bike tire companies are making $'s for every mile traveled on poorly aligned recumbent trikes.
Honestly, a trike can be way off in alignment and all will feel just fine. So you work a little harder... that is why we ride anyway, right?
Today was again the norm for the Pacific Northwest... rainy, so I became industrious and checked the alignment on the 2 trikes in the family. This will be a photo shoot for PhattKatt... she's not shy!
First... do you have a spare tape measure lying about... in reasonable condition? Does it happened to have a small level indicator per chance? Well, if you do you have the perfect tool available for aligning your trike... with a few modifications, of course.
Second... are your wheels true? Do not continue if your wheels are a bit on the wobbly side. If they are, go down a lot of posts to see how you can set up a poor man's truing setup.
Third... I use the wheels to insure alignment. Most bike tires are not perfectly true once mounted. Tire Wows and Wobbles will throw off your measurements.
Please notice the setup of the trike. This is important; you need to know that you are level and that the trike is facing due-forward... meaning dead-ahead. I use the planks of the porch. The porch is reasonably level and the boards are consistent in width and spacing. This is perfect to making sure the trike is *square* when you do the adjustment:
Also notice the destruction of the tape measure. I cut the measure up in 4 length about 3 feet each. Each is in good condition without kinks or warps. Here is another distance shot [PhattKatt showing off!]:
In order to make this setup correct, remember a few *important* things about aligning you trike wheels: you *HAVE TO* remember to measure the same distance from the ground, front and back. That is what the lengthwise length of tape measure are for... and you *HAVE TO* find a place that you can measure unobstructed between the wheels. This understanding will give you a starting point for using the crosswise length of tape measure.
Take a careful look at this following image; notice the spokes are either inny's or outy's front and back. Same is true on the opposite side. This helps to make sure the lengths of tape measure sit flat and level. Also note the use of the bubble level to know when you are actually measuring level front and back as you should be. The level needs to be set on both sides to know you are fully squared up.
Also notice that a brake lock will come in quite handy to keep everything still while you're moving things about. If you haven't found a comfortable place for you to take the measurements on your Catrike, maybe this shot will help:
Now take a reading. The Sun rims have a nice tell-tale ridge right next to the spoke holes. I measured 71.8mm on both front and back against this ridge. This meant the trike was aligned.
But wait... you're not done. Now you need to check that putting your weight in the trike doesn't change this measurement. Some trikes change as much as much as 1/8" with the rider in the seat. If your trike does this, it is advisable to take the measurements with someone in the seat or at least a weight representing someone.
Although this setup uses a Catrike Road, all that is revealed here applies to all recumbent trikes. At this point, you need to go to your manual and determine how the alignment is changed. Every trike has a different method for making changes. And it goes without saying... remember to check that everything you loosened is tightened up again.
Disclaimer: This is only one of a million ways to set the toe on your trike. If this works for you also, great. If you have another way... also great.