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Evolution of the Windcheetah- a guest post by Karl Sparenberg

Guest Post, HPV / Recumbent 4 7221

 I am a big fan of Mike Burrows, and have mentioned his work quite a few times over the years at Bicycle Design. In 2012, lifelong “cycling fanatic” and engineer Karl Sparenberg of Advanced Velo Design took over production of Burrows’ Windcheetah recumbent trike, and has been working on improving the materials and manufacturability of the original design. I think it’s a pretty interesting story, so I am letting Karl tell it to you directly in the guest post below.

Windcheetah recumbent trike, designed by Mike Burrows

Having taken over the production of Windcheetah’s a couple of years ago the design and manufacturing has taken a different tack.

Many people are already aware of Windcheetah’s so I’ve decided not to rattle on with all the historic detail… but it goes without saying that Mike Burrows did a pretty good job 30 or so years ago when he designed it!!

But please do note that the modern iteration of Windcheetah is now a more cutting edge speed machine, incorporating advanced materials including Carbon composites and Titanium that were still prohibitively expensive in years gone by, and with that we have to move with the times and produce a ‘better’ machine.

When I took over the manufacture Windcheetah, to my alarm there was an Achilles heel, not with the design but the castings. These are the components that make up the frame, by bonding the aluminum and carbon tubes together onto spigots, these sand cast aluminum components could come from the foundry with flaws or voids in them.

If you could imagine ordering a ‘set’ of castings to make a Windcheetah frame and then having to go through the whole long winded process of post casting heat treatment, machining, drilling, tapping, powder coating and then the final finishing, only then can you proceed onto the bonded assembly with the tubing.

CAD image of Windcheetah recumbent trike, designed by Mike Burrows

At any stage in this manufacturing process, from the rough sand castings to the finished component can the dreaded ‘flaws’ or ‘voids’ be discovered. Even worse, if the frame has been fully assembled and the sand casted part fails during testing, not only would the whole frame have to be scrapped, but it would also take out any of the other perfectly good components and tubing to the scrap bin with it. A very expensive and time consuming process as I’m sure you could imagine… there had to be a better way to manufacture these components!?

You may be interested to know, why were the sand castings failing at such an unacceptably high rate? Well, a few things really, but predominantly the foundries in the UK had to compete with the far east for business and as a consequence many of them had to shut down, leaving in short, foundries that were not tooled up for small production runs, or the necessary skills to cast such intricate shapes, as you find on a WIndcheetah. The foundry would simply credit the customer if any of the components failed. But this gesture didn’t really help, when what was required was a full set of components to build a machine, not the hassle and cost implication of trying to manage the ongoing balance of the failure in certain components, while the ‘perfect’ odd parts sat on the shelf.

Top: CAD model screenshot and a 3d printed part (used to produce the soft mold needed for wax production).

Top: CAD model screenshot and a 3d printed part (used to produce the soft mold needed for wax production).

The solution became apparent after considerable research into an alternative method of manufacturing and with massive investment into the tooling for a process known as ‘lost wax’ or ‘Investment casting’, the two terms are interchangeable but in essence the same thing

So what you see below is the result of numerous hours of redesign and CAD drawing to be able to 3D print the parts ready for soft mould production that manufacture the waxes. Now we can produce waxes this opens up the possibilities of alternative materials to Aluminum. Shortly we will be bringing to market a Magnesium version as soon as Beta testing is completed. The advantages of Magnesium or Aluminium are instantly a weight saving of third the weight.

So watch this space for an even quicker, lighter and more performance orientated Windcheetah.

For further detail contact me directly


Cast lugs for Windcheetah recumbent trike

Wax parts for aluminium investment casting


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  1. AP August 26, 2015 at 6:12 pm -  Reply

    If I remember correctly Magnesium is highly reactive … has Karl and his team come up with a way to avoid the potential inflammability/corrosion issues of a magnesium frame a la KIRK cycles?

  2. Karl Sparenberg August 28, 2015 at 10:40 am -  Reply

    You are correct AP magnesium is very reactive, after all post casting machining has taken place the parts are chromate coated before the final powder coat, this gives very good protection from the environment. I believe the Kirk cycles were just wet painted, hence the white oxide visible after a few years.

    The flammability of magnesium is over hyped, realistically when was the last time you saw a magnesium fire on plane, helicopters, racing cars etc during normal operating perimeters… don’t worry your Windcheetah will not spontaneously combust as you ride it.

    Advanced Velo Design – Windcheetah

  3. Kevin October 16, 2015 at 1:44 am -  Reply

    Hey Karl,

    I work at a place that does tons of machining. Seems crazy that you are considering casting these parts as most of them seem easy enough to do in just a couple setups on a mill… potentially a horizontal. Once programmed, batch size of one!

  4. Brandon Fouts November 6, 2016 at 9:24 pm -  Reply

    I trust you are keeping an eye on 3D printing as well?

    3D printing

    Watching aluminium alloy and other alloys for each type must take a lot of time.
    Greenspeed going to 7005 Aluminium and rectangular center tube may have been for welding reasons and finding the most successful combinations to help insure good results from Asia job shops. (of course you shouldn’t listen to me, but talk with Ian Simons(?) directly.
    And have you considered square or rectangle center tube vs pipe tube you use now?

    Then the bigger picture, as I suspect that a full fairing (velomobile) might well be faster (all speed records are full fairing bikes). Which opens the door to monocoque (i.e. no frame).

    And as Lithium Ion batteries continue downward trend, electrification more and more reasonable in price. Tony Seba big picture of disruption of solar and electrification of transport future of batteries Stanford University , CA, USA

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