Questions and Answers Regarding CycleKarts

How do I get a CycleKart?

You have to build one. We have had many years of experience watching builder-drivers as opposed to guest-drivers, and have listened to builders as they are amazed at the different attitude they have after having finished their cars. Proper appreciation of the machine and this sport requires one actually get one's hands dirty and build the car.

Are there plans?

No. The CycleKart Specifications page has information on sizes and weights, etc. Also some general sketches on car size.

Are CycleKarts dangerous?

Emphatically yes! As Capt. Eddie said, "Anything that moves is dangerous" (or something like that), and he's right. There is a very high probability that you will get hurt if you build these. In fact, if you even are thinking about this question, you shouldn't build a CycleKart. They're too risky.

There are some of us still left in the world who believe in the dignity of risk, however, and feel that this is acceptable fun. We have all reached points with these cars, though, where we realised that maybe we should back off a bit in order to not have to ruin our afternoon. A healthy self-preservation instinct combined with the willingness to take risks makes life more worthwhile we think.

What's the most important thing to remember?

I'm afraid there are a few ways to answer this: The main objective is FUN, so remember to have that (and don't get so competitive that you start limiting other people's fun—this is more for sport that competition).

As far as designing your car, the most important criteria should be the aesthetics: Make it look good. Performance is secondary. Perhaps even tertiary, as you should make sure the car is well-made so that the embarrassment of nasty gashes or broken limbs can be avoided. So, make it pretty, not dropping parts and breaking things, and they all will end up pretty competitive anyway, as the engines, wheels, tires, transmissions, and brakes all should be the same.

Are there any CycleKart builders in my area?

Satistically, no. Seeing as how there are only a handful of people willing to do this, and they are spread out across the country, you're most likely on your own. Don't feel bad though, as everyone ultimately is anyway. Don't buy into that whole "No man is an island" codswallow. Do what you want, and hurry up about it. Mortality is our destiny.

Why don't you put in a bigger engine?

Congratulations! You've thought of the very first thing everybody else asks. The reason we don't put a larger engine is that then the brakes would have to be more effective, the structure would have to be stronger; everything gets scaled up. We've tried this and the fun starts to get harder to find. We're going for visceral sport, not speed. Most people don't really understand this, so don't feel bad if you still think speed is the ultimate goal.

Don't forget: We've already tried making larger and smaller cars. From pedal cars up to full-size cars with gearboxes and hydraulic brakes and all those other concessions to progress. They're nice, but they are not what's called for in a CycleKart.

What about front brakes?

What about them? Once again: Creeping-meatball-ism (to quote Mr. Deeds) Lots of complexity added (and some weight); not much gained. Certainly one would have a faster machine in some ways, but it would not be safe to mix cars with and without front brakes (we've seen the results of even subtle improvements in the single rear brake have problematic effects on the track).

A very important consideration is that with these very skinny wheels and tires, you will certainly lose almost all of your steering with front brakes, and just when you don't want to lose it.

Shouldn't you use different wheels and wider tires so they have better traction?

This is original. I can't imagine why we didn't think of this before...These wheels and tires are such a fundamental element of what makes these cars appealing that we're not even going to answer this one, aside from directing you to seek a local go-kart club.

One thing: The 17" diameter wheel is very important. We tried 16" and they're just too small. The scale of the car approaches pedal-car size. 18" begins to be too close to Austin Seven size machine, which is nice, but the car is no longer small enough to throw around and one begins to take things too seriously again.

How fast do these go?

Wrong question. You'd do better to ask how fun they are. If speed is your criteria for motoring sport, CycleKarting is not for you.

What about driving both rear wheels?

Not a bad question. We've tried this, and it certainly improves traction. It also reduces steering to a dangerously low level. The two rear wheels can drive the fronts right out of a turn (complete under-steer), and braking is similarly bad. Better stopping, but entirely without control.

Besides, CycleKart drivers get to where they use the steering input generated by accelerating and decellerating.

What about braking both rear wheels?

Pretty much the same answer as above. You lose more control in steering than you gain in braking. Once you learn how to deal with the limited braking, you get to where you use it to your advantage. Heck, more than one member of our family has taken full-sized cars out on the road and into traffic with little or no brakes other than handbrakes. It's do-able, you just have to think ahead.

How strong are these wheels?

They do look light and spindley, but they stand up remarkably well. We have literally peeled the tires off the rims while cornering hard without collapsing wheels. We have bashed these six ways from Sunday and they stand up better than expected. We have found broken spokes after a few outstandingly hard drives, but only on older wheels which were rescued from someone's trash fifteen years before we used them. We have had a hub develop cracks after a lug bolt snapped (the builder used Grade 2 bolts without anyone noticing; the cars with Grade 5 and 8 bolts have never had trouble). Even when the lug bolt snapped, and the car was still driven for a hard lap before being flagged in, the hub did not fail. We're very comfortable with our wheels. I would not trust them to slide into a curb though: They can undoubtedly be driven hard enough to fail, so don't try to see what the outer limit is!

Where can I find the 17" Honda wheels?

VERY GOOD question! This is the single hardest part of the car to track down. The correct size is 17", preferrably 2" wide rims (measuring over the outside; I don't know how they're measured officially.) The Honda wheels look the best, but we've used Yamahas in a pinch. Front wheels look nice, but either will work.

If 17" wheels are so hard to find, why not use 16" or 18" wheels?

See the note a few spaces above again. The car size doesn't work out right. 16" wheels result in a kid-sized machine, or a CycleKart with ridiculously small looking wheels. Conversely, the 18" wheels create a nearly full-sized car with far too skinny looking wheels. Keep in mind that many real 1920's and '30's racecars can have 18" wheels. It doesn't work out for CycleKarts.

Where do I get the front springs?

These are horse-drawn buggy seat springs. We use 1 1/4" X 24", with two leaves, which we get from our friendly horse-drawn buggy supply store.

What is the AMCK?

The AMCK is The Association of Moto-CycleKartistes, the group which created the first CycleKarts, and the ultimate authority as to what constitutes a true CycleKart. Decisions are made by the Ruling Junta of the AMCK, comprised of a select few members of our friends and family who have been involved in this for many years...