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Thread: Light system for recumbent trike

  1. #1

    Default Light system for recumbent trike

    TL;DR version:
    Assembling a bright LED lighting system for a recumbent trike, providing nighttime navigation lighting and daytime conspicuity; soft edges on the nighttime navigation beam; power source flexible.


    As I stated in my introduction, I am in the process of designing the lighting system for my use on my recumbent tricycle. I’m documenting it here to harvest ideas from others ... and on the chance that some element of the discussion might be useful to someone else in their own project. I certainly won’t be trying to convince anyone else that my choices should match theirs. My system may use components designed as bicycle lights, or it may use lighting elements not originally intended for cycling.
    For several years, I have been using a “iBlaast” headlight from Night Lightning in New Zealand. It is an excellent light except that it is not well cooled during low speed riding and it often auto-dims, and I want something with a different beam shape (more about that later).


    Background: I ride a Catrike Road, built in 2006. Photos of the current model Road can be seen here; the general configuration is the same, though mine does not have suspension.
    My nighttime riding is minor, and usually consists of 1-2 hours in the early morning at the beginning of a long ride, and/or perhaps an hour or so in the evening at the end of a ride. My rides are seldom longer than 100 miles, and can usually be completed during daylight hours.
    When riding in the day, I use lights front & rear for safety, along with vertical flags attached to the rear rack. My new system will continue to provide daytime conspicuity lighting as well as nighttime navigation lighting. Although I can ride (and have ridden) off-road, my preference is for paved surfaces.


    While I’ve been planning my new system for many months, and have tried several ideas regarding both front and rear lights, I’ll limit my initial discussion here to the front lights and will take up the issue of rear lights later. I do know now that power for the lights can come from a self-contained battery, from a dedicated remote battery, from 5 volts via USB, or from a shared 12-volt battery, as long as the battery life supports my time needs (~ 2 hours nighttime plus 12 hours daytime). I will have a 12 volt battery on the trike for other purposes, and it can be tapped for lighting. I do not envision using a dynamo hub. I do want bright LED lighting.


    Many recumbent trike manufacturers (including mine) provide an “accessory post” on the front boom, just behind the bottom bracket. However, mounting lights on that post puts the light short of the rider’s extended foot during pedaling. That causes the foot to be brightly illuminated as it passes through the edge of the beam — a phenomenon known as “foot flash.” Some riders are less-tolerant of that than others. I am on the “very intolerant” end of that spectrum, and will not mount lights on the accessory post. Instead, I have improvised an extension to the boom which gives me a platform extending out several inches beyond the bottom bracket, and that keeps my feet out of the cone of light from my headlight. That does put the light at only 19-20” above the ground, so the lighting of the road ahead tends to exaggerate road textures and imperfections. I am currently considering using a small bracket on top of my boom extension platform for the light itself, that will make the light 21-22” above the ground.
    My line of sight is from a position about 35” above the ground.
    I have tried a light on my helmet in the past, and did not care for it, partly because of my feet-forward, recumbent seating position. If the light(s) I select need(s) an external switch, I will probably mount that switch on the accessory post.


    One characteristic I want that is, perhaps, unusual, is a headlight beam with soft left, right, and bottom edges but a hard limitation of the top of the beam to prevent the brightest portion from shining in the eyes of drivers or other cyclists. While I understand that many people want a sharply-defined beam with knife-edge borders all around, I find that to be distracting and I want something that makes a very gradual transition from light to dark on the sides and bottom of the beam. I have looked at several very good lights that might have worked well, were it not for the shape of their main beam.


    Another requirement I have is for a light to serve for daytime conspicuity, with at least some portion of that light to be flashing. That light need not be extremely bright, but it should be visible over a broad angle; something approaching 180° along both horizontal and vertical axes. (I understand that others disagree with the use of flashing conspicuity lighting but I am going to use it.)




  2. #2
    Flashaholic angerdan's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis McKim View Post
    Assembling a bright LED lighting system for a recumbent trike, providing nighttime navigation lighting and daytime conspicuity; soft edges on the nighttime navigation beam; power source flexible.
    As I stated in my introduction, I am in the process of designing the lighting system for my use on my recumbent tricycle.

    For several years, I have been using a “iBlaast” headlight from Night Lightning in New Zealand. It is an excellent light except that it is not well cooled during low speed riding and it often auto-dims, and I want something with a different beam shape (more about that later).

    I do want bright LED lighting.

    Many recumbent trike manufacturers (including mine) provide an “accessory post” on the front boom, just behind the bottom bracket. However, mounting lights on that post puts the light short of the rider’s extended foot during pedaling. That causes the foot to be brightly illuminated as it passes through the edge of the beam — a phenomenon known as “foot flash.” Some riders are less-tolerant of that than others. I am on the “very intolerant” end of that spectrum, and will not mount lights on the accessory post. Instead, I have improvised an extension to the boom which gives me a platform extending out several inches beyond the bottom bracket, and that keeps my feet out of the cone of light from my headlight.

    One characteristic I want that is, perhaps, unusual, is a headlight beam with soft left, right, and bottom edges but a hard limitation of the top of the beam to prevent the brightest portion from shining in the eyes of drivers or other cyclists. While I understand that many people want a sharply-defined beam with knife-edge borders all around, I find that to be distracting and I want something that makes a very gradual transition from light to dark on the sides and bottom of the beam. I have looked at several very good lights that might have worked well, were it not for the shape of their main beam.

    Another requirement I have is for a light to serve for daytime conspicuity, with at least some portion of that light to be flashing. That light need not be extremely bright, but it should be visible over a broad angle; something approaching 180° along both horizontal and vertical axes. (I understand that others disagree with the use of flashing conspicuity lighting but I am going to use it.)
    The Night Lightning AftaBlaasta seems very interesting. Unfortunately the only tell the price, not the luminous flux, wattage or runtime.

    How do you define bright leghting (>1.500lm)?

    The accessory post can be used as a base for post extenders.
    bikeforums.net/electronics-lighting-gadgets/1126857-minoura-spacer-light-gadget-mount-di-light-fender-hole-mount.html

    Cutoff-beam shape is good to reduce blinding of incoming traffic/persons.
    Do you know the Outbound Lighting Focal Series?
    outboundlighting.com/
    kickstarter.com/projects/outboundlighting/high-performance-lightweight-long-lasting-bike-lig

    Bright front light with very wide beam angle is the Cateye Rapid X3 (TL-LD720-F)!
    cateye.com/intl/products/detail/TL-LD720-F/

  3. #3

    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Quote Originally Posted by angerdan View Post
    The Night Lightning AftaBlaasta seems very interesting. Unfortunately the only tell the price, not the luminous flux, wattage or runtime.

    How do you define bright leghting (>1.500lm)?

    The accessory post can be used as a base for post extenders.
    bikeforums.net/electronics-lighting-gadgets/1126857-minoura-spacer-light-gadget-mount-di-light-fender-hole-mount.html

    Cutoff-beam shape is good to reduce blinding of incoming traffic/persons.
    Do you know the Outbound Lighting Focal Series?
    outboundlighting.com/
    kickstarter.com/projects/outboundlighting/high-performance-lightweight-long-lasting-bike-lig

    Bright front light with very wide beam angle is the Cateye Rapid X3 (TL-LD720-F)!
    cateye.com/intl/products/detail/TL-LD720-F/
    Thanks for your comments.


    The Night Lightning AftaBlaasta is good, and I may keep mine as part of whatever rear light I assemble.


    Regarding the headlight: I do not have a specific objective brightness level in mind, and any specification for lumen output would depend on the beam shape. I am, of course, more concerned with lux at 10 meters than I am with raw lumens. A quick web search shows cycling lights with claims ranging from 22 to 100 lux at 10 meters. Is there any consensus on desirable lux values for cycling lights, or is it another of those highly subjective (and highly contentious) aspects of cycling?


    When I first started lighting my trike, I did use a Minoura extended mount. It did not meet my needs on two counts: it was unsteady (especially in yaw), and it was too short. The trike’s accessory post angles backwards, and the actual mounting stub is 6” behind the vertical plane of the bottom bracket. It would then require another 6” to get to the front of the arc of the pedals. It is probably asking too much of any mounting system (except something welded in place) to provide stability on a 12” reach. I attempted a triangular bracing of the Minoura but could not eliminate the yaw movement.
    My homebrew extension is slung under the boom and bottom bracket (clamped tightly to the boom with two bands) and is of sufficient thickness and cross-sectional shape to provide a firm platform.


    Thanks for the link to the crowdfunding for the Outbound Lighting campaign. If the Road version will have the same 110° left-right spread as the Trail, but just with a vertical cutoff, that might work well. The February timeline for delivery is also acceptable. I will continue to explore their website for further details.


    I have owned a couple of Cateye lights in the past and was not favorably impressed by their quality but I will look again at what they currently have to offer. Thanks also for that link.


    I have also considered the possibility of using a rather broad-beamed light from the automotive aftermarket world, and simply fashioning a shield or baffle extending forward from the top of the light, to eliminate adverse upward glare. I should mention at this point that I am very much in the “form follows function” school of design, and am much less-concerned than many people might be about the usual aesthetics of my lighting system. If it works well and meets the criteria I have set, then I will not care if others think it resembles a warthog.

    Thanks again.

  4. #4
    Flashaholic angerdan's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    40-80lx should be, 100-150lx are better. Everything about 150lx is more comfort/safety.

    Here's a rendered comparision of the beam shapes:
    http://forums.mtbr.com/lights-night-...l#post13445418

    The cateye safety lights are very good. Also use the fixed mount with quick release function.
    http://cateyeamerica.com/Spacer-X

  5. #5

    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Thanks for the mtbr link

  6. #6

    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    After reading here and on other sites, I have narrowed my choices for my nighttime navigation light to just three. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, of course, and I’m still weighing those. Fortunately, I am not in a hurry, since I do not anticipate resuming outdoor riding until March or April, depending on the weather.
    My final three, in alphabetical order: Busch+Müller’s IQ-SX, Outbound Lighting’s Road, and RAKC’s Raceman CR900. All three have the top-of-beam cutoff that I want, and all seem to have sufficient power. In the beam photos posted on their website, the B+M IQ-SX has the least-consistent pattern, with several spots of unevenness or ‘blotchiness.’ The RAKC CR900 has the softest upper limit, and I need to see more beam photos to judge that. The OB Road has the best beam shape and evenness of lighting; their use of the phrase “carpet of light” is quite apt.

    Alas, the B+M IQ-SX is described on their website as suitable for only dynamo power, and I prefer to not have a dynamo on my trike. I do not want the parasitic drag, and a dynamo is incapable of supplying the power I need for my other accoutrements. The dynamo would be used for only the nighttime navigation headlight, and I dislike uni-taskers. B+M does have other lights, but all of them have their own disqualifying problems. The RAKC CR900 uses USB recharging for its internal battery, and I have a USB power source on my trike. The OB Road is the leader in this element; it uses a separate battery pack but can be purchased sans battery and powered with one’s own source.


    Although each of the three has the ability to flash for daytime conspicuity purposes, I prefer to keep my navigation light aimed down at the road (and I want it to not spill light upward), and use a separate element for daytime conspicuity (for this important purpose, I will forego my uni-tasker restriction). So far, the best I’ve seen for that is a non-cycling-specific product: a four-LED flat strip surface mount light from SpeedTechLights, their Z-4 Linear. It operates from 12 volts (which I have already in place), and has the built-in ability to select multiple flash patterns and brightness levels.


    I am continuing to read about these three nighttime navigation lights (and I have emails out to a couple of the manufacturers to clarify some issues for me). I hope to make a decision by the end of January.

  7. #7
    Flashaholic* Steve K's Avatar
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    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis McKim View Post
    [FONT="]My homebrew extension is slung under the boom and bottom bracket (clamped tightly to the boom with two bands) and is of sufficient thickness and cross-sectional shape to provide a firm platform. [/FONT]
    Have you decided how high to mount the light?
    I've got a couple of high-racer 'bents, and have spent some time thinking about where/how to mount a headlight without causing too many problems.

    Ultimately, I ended up mounting a headlight to a fork blade. It's low enough that my foot won't hit it. It would be nice if it could be higher, if only to reduce how much light ends up in the eyes of oncoming traffic. It's a homemade headlight with a circular beam pattern. For a conventional light with a cutoff, I imagine that the beam pattern would be impacted by being mounted so much lower than it was designed for.



    With a bracket attached to the boom, there is the option of mounting it far enough forward to not light up your feet, and relatively high (but probably want to keep it no higher than your eyes).

    As far as aesthetics.. I have the same philosophy as you, for the most part. Function is a higher priority than form, although there are times when I should probably raise my standards for the form!

  8. #8

    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve K View Post
    Have you decided how high to mount the light?I've got a couple of high-racer 'bents, and have spent some time thinking about where/how to mount a headlight without causing too many problems.Ultimately, I ended up mounting a headlight to a fork blade. It's low enough that my foot won't hit it. It would be nice if it could be higher, if only to reduce how much light ends up in the eyes of oncoming traffic. It's a homemade headlight with a circular beam pattern. For a conventional light with a cutoff, I imagine that the beam pattern would be impacted by being mounted so much lower than it was designed for.With a bracket attached to the boom, there is the option of mounting it far enough forward to not light up your feet, and relatively high (but probably want to keep it no higher than your eyes). As far as aesthetics.. I have the same philosophy as you, for the most part. Function is a higher priority than form, although there are times when I should probably raise my standards for the form!
    Thanks for your input. i just sketched out a new version of a mounting bracket this morning, and I think I can get it to 23-24” above the ground without sacrificing stability or sightline. Later this afternoon or tomorrow, I will make a mock-up out of stiff cardboard and see how it looks. I am concerned about deviating too far from the lights’ designed height. Obviously, if one takes it to the extreme, it will adversely affect the pattern the light can throw. I’m just not certain at what point that adverse effect will become evident or troublesome. It may become a factor in determining which light I select.
    Last edited by Dennis McKim; 12-29-2017 at 02:05 PM.

  9. #9
    Flashaholic angerdan's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis McKim View Post
    My final three, in alphabetical order:
    Busch+Müller’s IQ-SX

    Outbound Lighting’s Road

    RAKC’s Raceman CR900
    .
    All three have the top-of-beam cutoff that I want, and all seem to have sufficient power.

    B&M IQ-SX:
    Only 70lx, that's not much. I would recommend the IQ-X E with 150lx and DC instead of AC.
    https://www.bumm.de/en/products/e-bike-beleuchtung.html

    Outbound Lighing Focal Series:
    Great light, only disadvantage compared against the direct competitor Specialized Flux Expert is the missing remote control.

    RAKC CR900:
    No cutoff-beam, its justa simple lens which archives exactly the opposite. Also the Luminance is extremely high because of the missing reflector and the direct visible LED.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis McKim View Post
    B+M does have other lights, but all of them have their own disqualifying problems.

    Which are?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis McKim View Post
    Use a separate element for daytime conspicuity (for this important purpose, I will forego my uni-tasker restriction).
    So far, the best I’ve seen for that is a non-cycling-specific product: a four-LED flat strip surface mount light from SpeedTechLights, their Z-4 Linear. It operates from 12 volts (which I have already in place), and has the built-in ability to select multiple flash patterns and brightness levels.

    I would recommend the Orfos FlarePro, it's even better than the Cateye Rapid X3.
    https://www.orfos.us
    Last edited by angerdan; 12-29-2017 at 03:57 PM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Thanks for the link to the other B+M light, but B+Ms don’t sift to the top of any of my lists. They are good, and have made my short list, but I really don’t expect one to come out on top. Mostly because of the irregularities in the ground coverage of the beam, though some also don’t have the battery life I desire (when on their brightest setting).
    Re: the remote control. I don’t regard that as an issue of any import. I have never had use for a remote control for a bike light in the past and don’t anticipate a need for one in the future.
    I am not finalizing my decision yet (by any means) but, if I had to guess, I would say that I’m currently favoring an OB Road lighthead, running off my own 12 volt battery with a buck converter to supply 7.4 volts.
    Re: the Orfos FlarePro. While the concept is interesting, I find the idea of “surrounding” myself with light from such a flare to be very off-putting. I think I will do better with the daytime conspicuity of the surface mount light strip as I mentioned in my last post.

    I would also reiterate a point I made in my first post: that my choices may not match what others would choose for themselves (and vice-versa). You may not always understand why I make the choices I do ... and that is okay. I may not always take the time to justify my decisions and that doesn’t mean I am ignoring the suggestions of others; it is simply the case that — for myriad reasons — I may arrive at different conclusions than you or others here do.

    Thanks again.

  11. #11
    Flashaholic angerdan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis McKim View Post
    Mostly because of the irregularities in the ground coverage of the beam,
    though some also don’t have the battery life I desire (when on their brightest setting).
    I wonder about that, sine i'd posted the link to direct current (DC) lights. So you can connect them to your 12V battery. Battery life can't be a issue with that.
    But i can show you a more dedicated link, whre you can see exactly what i stated before (input 6-60V DC).
    https://www.bumm.de/en/products/e-bi...r60ts7-01.html

    Even the internal battery powered Ixon IQ Premium has a runtime of 5h at 80lx (20h at 15lx) with just 4x AA.

    Since i use B&M Lights since more than six years, i do know the beam pattern of older and newer models.
    The light comparision shots on their website doesn't show everything, since the surface is extremely bright (grey colored beton).

  12. #12

    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    @Steve K:
    I constructed a mock-up bracket yesterday, but then re-thought the height issue while I was riding (indoors on rollers) this morning ... and realized there is no problem from a forward vision standpoint with having the light just as high as the end of my shoes are when pedaling. Thanks to my Brobdingnagian feet and the mid-sole position of my cleats, that is 30” off the ground. I feel much better about that as it relates to the height that light designers used when they shaped the beam patterns. It is still not “handlebar height” of an upright bike, but it is a lot closer than was my old bracket at 19”. I shall construct a new mock-up.


    @ angerdan:
    You may well have posted a link to B+M’s DC light but you are not the only person with whom (nor is cpf the only venue via which) I am discussing my new lighting system. I may occasionally cross your suggestions with those of other people and I may occasionally mention lights which you have not recommended.


    Two specific questions:
    1.
    You said “Since i use B&M Lights since more than six years, i do know the beam pattern of older and newer models. The light comparision shots on their website doesn't show everything, since the surface is extremely bright...”

    Are you saying that the new models do not have the dark crescent-shaped band, as shown in their photo at about the 10-meter mark, and don’t have the left and right spurs of light at about the 7-meter mark?

    2.
    A few days ago, I asked if there was any consensus regarding lux values for cycling. You replied “40-80lx should be, 100-150lx are better. Everything about 150lx is more comfort/safety.” Are those descriptions *your* numbers, or are they from some published consensus? If they do represent a broad consensus, do you have a link for the source?


    Again, thanks.


  13. #13
    Flashaholic angerdan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Hi, the lux values are from my experience what is needed when you drive with >20kmph during night on a unlit, paved and dry way. If the way is rainy or the sight is reduced through weather conditions, double lux values may apply.
    Also in areas with street lights lux values can be lower.

    The biggest difference on the comparision shots is the impression of the brightness. In real conditions light will be much less bright, so choosing 2 steps higher at least may be recommended.
    ALso the beam shapes can differ with several 80lx lights, the beam pattern of the Ixon IQ Premium for example isn't shown. But is (very) good (wide).

  14. #14
    Flashaholic* Steve K's Avatar
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    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis McKim View Post
    I constructed a mock-up bracket yesterday, but then re-thought the height issue while I was riding (indoors on rollers) this morning ...
    wait.... I gotta ask... are you riding an upright bike on rollers, or is there a way to put a trike on rollers??!!
    I'm expecting the answer to be the former, but would love to see a photo of the latter.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve K View Post
    wait.... I gotta ask... are you riding an upright bike on rollers, or is there a way to put a trike on rollers??!!
    I'm expecting the answer to be the former, but would love to see a photo of the latter.
    A legitimate question with an easy, if unexpected answer: I ride my recumbent trike on rollers specifically designed for that purpose:

    https://www.sportcrafters.com/produc...-trainer-mr110

  16. #16
    Flashaholic* Steve K's Avatar
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    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis McKim View Post
    A legitimate question with an easy, if unexpected answer: I ride my recumbent trike on rollers specifically designed for that purpose:

    https://www.sportcrafters.com/produc...-trainer-mr110
    that was unexpected!

    I was expecting something like conventional rollers, but this is like a tiny roller for one wheel. Seems pretty reasonable, since one feature/requirement of conventional rollers was that you had to balance. Balancing isn't a requirement for trikes, so the single wheel tiny roller makes a lot of sense. It even includes a resistance device! Very clever!

    My assumption was that conventional resistance units would be used, like a mag trainer, etc., but I hadn't thought through the difficulty of fitting it to the odd wheel sizes and configurations of trikes or 'bents. These tiny rollers do a great job of being suitable for about any configuration possible.

    Pretty cool! I learned something new today!

  17. #17

    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    I didn’t document all of the tiny intermediate decision points but I just wanted to wrap up by thanking those who proffered suggestions and links, both publicly and privately.
    After considering many lights, and after multiple email exchanges with various representatives, I have placed a preorder for a Road lighthead from Outbound Lighting. Matt Conte was very professional in his communication with me and he graciously answered all of my questions. I am confident that it will meet all of my nighttime navigation needs.


    I have also determined the front and rear conspicuity lighting elements, which I will purchase from SpeedTech Lights: a 4-LED or 6-LED surface mount white-light strip for the front (it will be mounted vertically under the Road lighthead and set to an alternating flash pattern) for daytime use, and a 3x6 red LED array in the rear. I will recycle my old AftaBlaasta taillight as a steady-on focal point in the rear, with the 3x6 array set to a conspicuous flashing pattern — and the 3x6 array will be wired with a brake switch that will interrupt any flashing pattern and go to solid red “on command.”
    I will endeavor to post a video or two after I get everything installed.
    Thanks again.

  18. #18
    Flashaholic angerdan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Good choice

    I wonder about your rearlight strategy (flashing light only), i do recommend to use flashing lights not during nighttime or at least in combination with an solid mode red rear light.
    I already did recommend the Orfos FlarePro for this case.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    Quote Originally Posted by angerdan View Post
    I wonder about your rearlight strategy (flashing light only), i do recommend to use flashing lights not during nighttime or at least in combination with an solid mode red rear light.
    I’m not sure how you interpreted what I wrote as saying I will have a flashing light only. I said, “I will recycle my old AftaBlaasta taillight as a steady-on focal point in the rear, with the 3x6 array set to a conspicuous flashing pattern.” I thought that was pretty clear: the AftaBlaasta will not be flashing.

  20. #20
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    Post Re: Light system for recumbent trike

    I can vouch for the Night Lightening AftaBlaasta myself... I have been a user myself and they have never disappointed me .
    .

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