Friday, November 25, 2016

A visit to AVD, builder of the Windcheetah recumbent tricycle

As we reported earlier this year we visited SPEZI, the annual special bicycle exhibtion in Germersheim on Rhine - see our blog dated  26 April 2016. We chatted to a number of exhibitors and had a long conversation with Karl Sparenberg who runs Advanced Vehicle Design Ltd. (AVD). Towards the end of our discussion I asked him where he was based. He replied that I would not know the village where his workshop is based. "It's in Abbey Village." We could honestly reply that we had been through the village a number of times on our way north from Bolton, my home town which lies 10 miles away. We said that when we were in Bolton we would try to visit the workshop. In October we rang Karl and made an appointment for us both and two friends to have a look at the production workshop.
The workshop is in a former small cotton mill to the west of the main street of Abbey Village. If you wish to visit the workshop, take a mobile phone with you when you go so you can ring Karl when you arrive. The mill is used by a number of small companies as workshops and storerooms. When we were there, there was no bell and we had some difficulty making ourselves known, because we, of course, didn't have a mobile phone with us. Matters were not helped by an early autumn rain shower,
We then enjoyed a fascinating hour's discussion about castings, carbon fibre tubes, quality control and giving road men and women on on expensive bikes a surprise by passing them on hills and pulling away on a trike. We were impressed by the care the company takes both to ensure that the customer buys the correct trike for their needs and that the trikes are built to high standards. The trike frames are constructed by bonding together cast and turned connection components and tubing, either aluminium and or carbon fibre. If the last connecting piece in spite of quality control checks is shown to be faulty then the frame is junked and a new one built.
The traditional sandcasting method proved difficult to control. This frequently led to manufacturing faults in the castings. AVD moved onto the modern investment cast method with the use of wax formers which means that the frame components can be manufactured from both aluminium or magnesium depending on Windcheetah model. We suspect that three-D printing of components is on the horizon.
We would just like to stress that none of us has a financial interest in AVD nor were we offered payment to write this blog. It is unlikely that we will buy a trike either from AVD or one of the other manufacturers, worldwide. Our interest is and was in the manufacture of tricycles and bicycles. To us Karl’s ideas and skills seem to represent the best of ‘the Northern Powerhouse’ ideals, quietly working away to produce perhaps small but useful engineering marvels.

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