towing a smart on an A-frame

Discussion in 'Motorhome Chat' started by gazznsam, May 20, 2009.

  1. gazznsam

    gazznsam Read Only Funster

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    Years ago i towed a beach buggy on an A-frame all over england, so i know how they work and how usefull they are.

    we recently bought a new smart diesel, we also have a motorbike, scooter and the motorhome, and now we are back out in the van want to be on the road more,

    so i'm thinking of selling the bike, and using some of the money to buy an a-frame for the smart, then we can take the smart with us, or the scoot if the weather is gonna be good.

    i like the idea of the A-frame at the newbury show, that uses a lightweight frame and a vacuum braking system in the car, provides vacuum to the servo, and uses a vacuum cylinder to pull on the pedal, uses the brake light signal and inertia to apply the brakes, which allows for auto reverse braking.... something the overrun braked frames cant do, so this system is a little more legal than the others, and i know they are still not 100% legal.

    Anyone use one of these systems? i know they are new, but someone must own one by now,

    i know the smart has no problems being towed, the american ones are even sold with an option of an A-frame tow package,
    the gearbox is a manual box which is electronicaly controlled (electric servo for the clutch and 2 motors to change gears) no oil pump in there or owt, so no dammage whilst being towed... most people think it's a slush box, and they cant be towed.

    The thing that worries me the most is peoples descriptions of how they use it... leave the key in position 1, doors unlocked, handbrake off and gear stick in neuteral.

    the last 2 are 'well duh' points, but the first 2... why the key in position 1?? there's no steering lock on a smart to unlock, the lock is on the gear lever... which gets locked in neuteral or reverse, depending on where you put the stick, so put it in N, and lock it again???

    and why leave the doors unlocked.... other than to be able to get your key out again,
    i can just see us towing through some dodgy area, someone at traffic lights seeing the key in the ignition, and jumping in, either nicking the key or trying to reverse the car off.

    The imobiliser is on the engine, so stops it being started if the key is not near the ignition barrel to pick up the rfid signal, maybe the optional alarm is why the doors must be left unlocked, but surely putting it in garage/valet mode would de-activate it whilst towing??
     
  2. itexuk

    itexuk Read Only Funster

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    I have mine in neuteral, hand brake off and shut the doors. ( take keys with me)
    If I lock it the alarm goes of as soon as I start to tow.
    Not worked out yet have to lock it without setting the alarm.
    If we stop at services we lock the Smart.
     
  3. scotjimland

    scotjimland Funster Life Member

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    Thousands of people tow using regular braked A frames .. the legals have been debated on every forum, this information from Car A Tow satisfies me that it is legal and safe to do so..
    You can download this info from the link at the bottom..

    THE LEGALS!
    For those who like the idea of towing a car behind a motorhome - the good news continues.
    For those who've always been against it - the continuing good news is probably not so good.
    Over the years there has been a great deal of rumour and misunderstanding concerning the legality of towing frames.
    As the proprietor of CAR-A-TOW and designer of the Car-A-Tow Towing Frame System, I, along with stalwart motorhomer actually think that Terrier Nash would be more appropriate), managed to bring the controversy to a satisfactory He (Terry) had eloquently badgered every government department associated with motor vehicles and trailers, answers back in Jan/Feb 2004.
    The Department for Transport stated :
    " When an A frame is attached to a vehicle (e.g. a motor car) and towed by a motor vehicle (e.g. a motorhome) single unit and as such are classified in legislation as a trailer "
    " We believe the use of A frames to tow cars behind other vehicles is legal provided the braking and lighting requirements At that time, The D f T expressed concern about a car's braking performance without its engine running.
    " if the braking system has power assistance (i.e. servo or full power) it is likely that this assistance will be required braking efficiency"
    At CAR-A-TOW, we are only concerned with small cars, suitable for towing behind a motorhome, generally up to with servo assisted brakes, (vacuum assistance).
    CAR-A-TOW carried out braking performance tests on a broad range of modern small cars, he results have proven the required performance for trailers - 50% braking force in relation to its maximum weight - but in most cases far vacuum assistance from a servo.
    An important point to consider:
    On a small car, a Vacuum Servo does not increase braking effect at the wheels, it is designed to make the brake sizes of driver - less effort to achieve the required performance. A 6ft 6inch weightlifter would have no problem without the assistance of a vacuum servo.
    Trailer overrun braking (inertia brakes), as fitted to the CAR-A-TOW system, relies upon the momentum of the weight overrun coupling to activate the simple lever to pull on the brake cable to operate the trailer's brakes.
    If the motorhome brakes gently the trailer brakes are hardly required, if the motorhome brakes hard the weight overrun and brakes hard - proportional braking without the vacuum servo assistance.
    A further point raised by The D f T ; the ability of the motorhome/car combination to be reversed without operating Contrary to common belief, the regulations do not state that braked trailers must be fitted specifically with " auto The D f T remind us :
    " From 1st October 1988 the inertia braking system (overrun) is required to allow the trailer to be reversed with sustained drag and such devices used for this purpose must engage and disengage automatically "
    Although we understand the meaning, the regulation does not state specifically 'auto reverse brakes', as commonly but requires a system to enable a trailer to be reversed without the need to manually operate a mechanism.
    There are specific regulations concerning this requirement and the Car-A-Tow frame system can meet the requirements No. 13, Annexe 12, Page 137, Paragraph 3:4 and 3:5, providing the system is fitted and operated correctly and The D f T state :
    " Where technical requirements are mandated then the burden falls to manufacturers to ensure products meet We are happy that the Car-A-Tow system does comply and does meet the requirements as stated, this has been be repeated as often as required.
    Yet another misunderstanding is that 'trailers' may not be fitted with hydraulic brakes, the correct regulation is that brake. Cars are fitted with a mechanical parking brake (handbrake) and providing this handbrake lever can be operated ground, this handbrake conforms to trailer requirements and is completely legal.
    The D f T have also stated :
    The Legals! http://www.caratow.com/legal.php
    1 of 2 14/5/09 15:20
    " The trailer would not have to be tested to establish that it did meet the requirements - no test facilities are available
    The D f T has reminded us continually over the years that they do not have the final say. Whilst they have now (after years of suggesting it was illegal), they also remind us:
    " it is for the courts to make definitive interpretations of the law"
    We are not aware of a court expressing a view either way. The main point here, in relation to towing a car behind statement from the D f T that they believe a car on a towing frame is in legislation etc etc a trailer providing it conforms trailers.
    If a British court was forced to question the basic principle of whether or not a car is considered to be a trailer, when towing frame, it is our understanding that a court would look to the relevant government department - The Department opinion, that department has already stated they believe it is classified in legislation as a trailer and it is legal.
    We rest our case !!
    So……. After all those years of batting this backwards and forwards with the D f T (formerly The D of T), where The D f T have confirmed they now believe that towing a car with an A frame is legal provided etc etc
    We have proof that we can meet trailer braking requirements and performance although
    The D f T have stated that testing is not required and
    The D f T have stated that no test facility is available anyway
    We have a conforming parking brake
    We have a conforming breakaway system (for cars below 1500kg)
    The lighting conforms
    We carry the registration plate of the towing vehicle (covering the rear plate of the car)
    That's it then, can we now stop all the nonsense both spoken and printed, about the so called 'A frame debate', your holidays !
    Alan Bee
    CAR-A-TOW
    Anyone who wishes to challenge any points made here, is invited and welcome to contact TOWCentre Ltd with they consider is not legal.
    Creation and design by Exphor web design. Copyright 2007. Click here for the web designer.
    The Legals! http://www.caratow.com/legal.php
    2 of 2 14/5/09 15:20
     
  4. gazznsam

    gazznsam Read Only Funster

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    tar, really bugs me all these A-frame people keep using 'we believe'
    but i guess they have to, if they say they know for sure, then one day someone causes the courts to rule against a-frames, everyone would be asking for their money back, the 'we believe' bit lets them say 'sorry mate, we thought it was ok to sell em at the time'

    just dispelled the myth that the smarts gearbox will be dammaged if towed, someone on a smart forum who's taken lots of smarts boxes appart confirms they are splash lubes, not pumped at all, that's both the older 6 speed boxes in the 451 smarts and the new 5 speed in the 451 smarts.

    so it seems the main reason to not lock the car is the alarm, which i dont have, so i can just lock her up and tow,

    i'll ask on the smart forum about tempororaily disabeling the alarm for towin, i read on there that there is a service/valet mode to put it in, but that might be the version that auto locks the doors and activates after 2 minutes of leaving the car.
     
  5. scotjimland

    scotjimland Funster Life Member

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    Hi ..

    the D f T also believe it to be legal , not just the manufacturers..

    and NFU also insure A frame cars, good enough for me..
     
  6. monaco

    monaco Read Only Funster

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    A frame towing

    I first used A frame on my Landrover in 1972 and continue to do so

    we have been using A frame for 6 years mainly behind our RV when I tow I leave the
    key in the ignition but lock the doors with the spare key just in case any body tries the
    doors when you stop .

    VOSA told me recently that they are going to check that the brakes on motorhomes
    are in working order.
     
  7. gazznsam

    gazznsam Read Only Funster

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    this nfu insurance for the car on the a-frame, is that the car's insurance or the motorhomes??

    i can't insure my motorhome with nfu because it's a self build... well they could insure it, but for the standard 10k max value of self builds, where that dosent even cover the base vehicle and body on my conversion.

    but i can insure the smart with anyone (with a loss of some premium, only insured it 3 weeks ago, as that's when i got it)

    i did have an interesting conversation with a motorcycle insurer about cover whilsts it's on a trailer, most insurers say no cover, your tow vehicle should cover it, but my motorhome insurance wont.

    so i found a insurer that's run by bikers, and he told me that fully comprehensive insurance is just that, covered for all risks, you could be stood next to your bike and knock it over, and can claim, could be parked in the middle of nowhere and it get landed on by a space ship, it's covered (well, if you get the space ships rego number :)
    and when it's on a trailer, it's covered, whether the trailer is parked up on it's own with the bike on it, or it's being towed down the road,
    unless there's a specific clause in the insurance that says no cover when being towed/recovered/transported.

    He said i could have that in writing if i wanted, but he said the whole convo is recorded anyway,

    Anyway, now to sell me bike so i can afford an A-frame and pay off a bit of the price of the smart car.... anyone want to buy an immaculate Blue Honda Transalp 650, 57 reg, 4k miles on the clock, FSH, autocom, HID headlight, desert crash bars, 2 lid capacity honda topbox, gps mount for a HP gps pda.. included in price... gives sat nav instructions and music thru the autocom headphones.
    £3800 ono.
     
  8. gazznsam

    gazznsam Read Only Funster

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    Havent seen a landie on an A-frame since i was in fred dibnah country and saw his being towed by a newer landie.

    i am 120% for A-frames, bloomin great concept, no trailer to store at home or on a campsite, no worrying that the trailer is a highly desirable prize for a thief, no getting charged for 3 items on some commercial sites, not to mention being made to park the trailer in the remote carpark.

    Just carry a small fold up frame in the boot of the car or a belly locker in the motorhome, park the car behind the motorhome, clip the frame on, hook up to tow hitch, and away you go,

    mind the A-frame i used for my beach buggy didnt fold up, looked like a klingon ship from startrek...so the postie said when he delivered it wrapped in brown paper,
    but it did store under my van on a site,

    The buggy didnt have a steering lock... or doors to lock up, heck it didnt even have an ignition key (hidden main power switch and push button start)

    The smart has no steering lock, hence my question as to why people leave the key in the ignition, your more likely to accidentily leave it in drive that way... which will release the clutch at 14mph as that's the bump start mode (actually i believe you have to hold the stick forewards, then get someone to push it and it'll bump start)

    the smart locks the gear lever in neuteral or reverse, so as long as you dont pull the lever backwards, check the display to see it's in N, then lock it there.

    I'm all for vosa roadside checks, too many dodgy vehicles on the road,
    my motorhome always maxes the brake testers dials out at MOT time, discs all round, but only 2 piston sliding calipers, it'd prolly bend the needle if i fitted the 4 piston calipers from the 5 ton iveco's,

    I always make sure my brakes are in good order, slightest hint of a problem, and i'll replace anything that is slightly wearing... only a few pipes are origional anyway, the master cyl and servo, all hoses (including the ones between the cab and chassis most people dont know about) re-con calipers and new discs n pads were all replaced within 3 years ago,
    i change tyres at 5 - 6 years old, never wore a set out yet (goodyear cargo G26's are brilliant, 4.3 ton van, dual rear wheels, done over 50k miles and still got around half tread left)

    used to work for a recovery company, seen too many totaled cars due to using a spare that was old, usual thing, get a puncture, fit the spare that was origional with the car, 20 miles later i'm there scraping the bits up off the road, due to the 'as new' spare blowing out violently.
     
  9. 45eEver

    45eEver Read Only Funster

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    Gazz'nSam, from what I make out from a conversation on the subject with a top man at the DfT, all of whose statements weren't the DfTs is that the: -

    A-Frame ain't illegal.

    Trailers must have brakes that don't work in reverse.

    Towboys, or your vacuum system aren't part of the vehicle, and aren't subject to rules that apply to vehicles.

    From which I guess the CPS aren't likely to risk a prosecution.

    None of which seems to get Brit motors off the hook abroad.
    However, none of the other countries in Europe seem to have tried to persecute anybody since the Spanish police came unstuck.

    The bit that I feel leaves A-frame users vulnerable to a cop having a bad hair day is that A-frames must carry a data plate telling the gross weights of the trailer and individual axles.
    I daresay some lazy-tow A-frames carry the data plate, but I haven't seen one.
    Can anyone list the lazy-tow A-frames that carry the data plate please?
    If there's an exclusion clause for lazy-tow A-frames, please would someone point me to it?

    What's the name of your vacuum servoed lazy-tow please?
     
  10. vindiboy

    vindiboy Funster

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    I have a feeling that A Frame towing is soon to be a no no because of regulation and laws and the DISLIKE of the system in E U countries, I know all the arguments for them being legal etc. but I would think long and hard before I got the system myself, I wouldn't want to be stuck with expensive kit I couldn't use or sell,I think a good pointer is the demise of Bull bars that were very popular on Motorhomes a few years ago, Insurance companies did not like them and I remember a friend having a loaded Policy because of Bull Bars on his van and the potential extra damage to people and property the bars could cause in the event of an accident. Just my opinion for what it's worth.:Blush::Blush:
     
  11. Braunston

    Braunston Read Only Funster

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    Hi,

    While we are on this subject of "A" frames,

    I noticed the other day an AA/RAC van pulling a broken down vehicle on what I think are called "Dolly's" i.e. the 2 front wheels of the broken down vehicle are lifted up on to a cradle which itself has wheels and it is pulled along,

    From what I have always been given to understand these "Dolly's are only suitable for recovery and are not for general towing etc.

    However my point is that from what i have read the general consensus is that these dolly's make it easier to control the towed vehicle so i assume that means in both forward and reverse, now here is the problem from what i could see the dolly's wheels are held parallel to the towed cars rear wheels there doesn't appear to be any movement in terms of turning.

    If I am correct could someone please tell me what the difference is in terms of controlling the direction of the towed vehicle if you just locked the towed cars front wheels facing directly forward, as that appear to be more or less what the dolly is doing and if they are correct and the dolly can be reversed why can't a toad with its wheels locked straight,

    If its tyre wear that's the problem i know of a number of lorry trailers that scrub the tyres at every turn, and yesterday i followed a empty boat trailer that had 6 wheels on 3 axles which made the outer wheelbase bigger than some of the small cars that are used as toads.

    Hope that all makes sense and I would be interested in non-legal replies.

    Thanks
     
  12. vwalan

    vwalan Funster

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    hi braunston. i have a harvey frost towboy here that u pick the car up with chains n winch . its on its own little trailer (like an aframe on wheels) i have in the past used it for recovery work for the local police . also dragged cars all over uk. never ever been stopped questioned but maybe i was lucky. my son uses it now quite alot n he never gets stopped . its own wheels are braked. we would always say we were on recovery if stopped . never looked at rules 25 yrs ago when i bought it. similiar winches were put in back of landrovers at the time. every garage had something like it. see heartbeat on telly. i understand rules have been issued about all these tools of the trade.tme as moved on recovery now is usually only by trailer or truck if long distance aa /rac work. we will still use it locally . a frames great peices of kit ,mine is only good on old cars as it chains to car frame n rests on front bumper (only to front of it). no good on plastic bumpers etc. may change it to modern style one day .also have iintertrade tow poles . (aframe by intertrade)i think intertrade are the ones the aa/rac always used. i like the american turntable chariots that we used to see around but very expensive. :thumb:
     
  13. scotjimland

    scotjimland Funster Life Member

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    Hi

    I would think it's down to the steering geometry, the distance from the tow ball to the first axle on the three axle boat trailer is far greater than that of a toad car .. thereby making it possible to steer in reverse .. albeit with some scrubbing on tight turns..

    just a guess.. maybe an expert will be able to explain better ..
     
  14. Braunston

    Braunston Read Only Funster

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    Hi, Jim

    If I can find a quiet space sometime I may give it a try as it would be very interesting to see if its possible to control the direction of the toad in reverse if the front wheels were locked.

    Albeit I'm not sure if my cars wheels actually line up parallel when the steering locks on, has anyone actually tried to reverse with the steering lock on.

    I know there may be substantial tyre wear if you have the lock on all of the time, I'm more interested in the principal of whether it is controllable when reversing

    Would be interested to here if any of you have tried it already.
     
  15. vwalan

    vwalan Funster

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    very dificult to get the wheels to stay straight .tried it years ago tieing steering wheel in the end made up a bar like a fixed tiebar yes you can do it but not worth the effort .try it with someone holding the wheel its incredibly hard. you can with practice kind of reverse anyway . we used to have reverse competions in the garage.yard. good fun. i think the best toad is a trike with just its front wheel in a frame, intertrade sold them for towing bikes. makes good toad very light seat 3 or 4, lots of fun. :thumb:
     
  16. 45eEver

    45eEver Read Only Funster

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    Multi axle trailers scrub their tyres off summat rotten.

    As you guessed, the same will apply to a car with locked steering on a lazy tow.

    There's a simple solution to steering a long wheel base trailer (aka Toad on a tow-frame) when you are reversing.

    Ouboard motor boats use a cable to link the steering wheel movement to the outboard.

    If a similar cable is used to enable the angle between the A-frams and the tow-bar to control the angle between the steering wheels and the A-frame the towed car will steer.

    Fitting the gadget to the rig will be pretty complex though.
     
  17. 45eEver

    45eEver Read Only Funster

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    VWAlan, the problem with lifting the front end for your average European M/H is load it puts on the axle.
    Nice idea for a 7.5 ton conversion or a Yank leviathan though.

    A friend used a square tube that slid in and out betwen frames mounted to chassi cross members.
    He had a simple winch under the chassis.
    When he towed, he pulled the tube out.
    When he wasn't towing, he pushed it in.
    A bit of rod connected the winch to the handle at the side of the wagon.
    It shouldn't be too much difficult to fit attachments enough to carry the weight of the towed car to prevent damage to the toad car..

    For your average European M/H.

    Take a say 10' wheelbase M/H, with a 6' overhang, plus 2' for the jib.

    400 kg on the jib, puts around 750kg on the axle.
    The 400Kg on the jib transfers around 300Kg from the front axle to the rear axle.
    So around a ton on the rear axle.

    6' overhang on a 10' wheelbase is the extreme case.
    But most M/Hs have that sort of ratio.

    2' for the jib is pushing things in terms of jack knifing.
    A 3' jib would more weight on the rear axle.

    If you want a simple graphic.
    The M/H is a sort of see-saw balanced on the back axle.
    The fat kid sits on one end of the see saw.
    A normal kid sits half way along the other side of the see-saw.

    A skinny kid climbs on the end of the long end of the see-saw.
    The fat kid's feet come off the ground.
     
  18. vwalan

    vwalan Funster

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    hi 45er. you dont quite understand how the harvey frost towboy works. you pull what seems like a boat trailer with a tower above the dollies wheels, the winch rope goes over a pulley at the top of tower. as you lift the car it also lifts the rear end of tow car slightly. it has caught me out on steep hills in the rain as you can loose traction. normaly its not a problem but steep hills here in cornwall. its not the best way to tow but its been around for years. easy on breakdowns. not too smart on new cars too much plastic. :Rofl1::Rofl1:if its the towing of trikes you are on about there,s hardly any weight at the front wheel, if its a vw trike . probably less than a conventional trailer.i have a frame that fits tow ball n has a support below to stop it pivoting, it turns on the headstock of trike .front wheel is fastened to frame very easy to use.
     
  19. gazznsam

    gazznsam Read Only Funster

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    lots of good replies,

    never liked dollies my self, used them a little bit doing recovery work, but when i got me spec lift we got rid,

    and if i had to use a dolly, i may as well use a trailer, ok for something larger than a smart car maybe a dolly would be better, but a smart trailer isnt much bigger than a tow dolly :BigGrin:

    the A-frame with the vacuum brake system is by smart tow (half moon leisure) they are for the micro cars... smart, toyota aiygo thingy etc it seems.... but i think that's just the company have only been selling them since april this year,
    the braking bits should fit any vehicle, and are sold seperately... 800 quid, 400 for the smart 451's frame, so a bit more than a trailer (but i'm trying to see if i can get the discount on the frame i was offered on the trailer, as i'm in the smart car club he advertises on)

    with the changing laws, yup the day after i buy my frame a law could be passed to make it illegal, that's life, i'd have to sell it to a dutchman with a smart then (the one EU country where it's 100% legal to use A-frames)

    i remember a while back spain passed a law saying no bikes or scooters on the back of motorhomes, i believe that law has been overturned due to the ammount of people who were affected, at least i had no problem with my scooter on the back of the motorhome when i went to barcelona (did get pulled for riding it with the dog trailer, that's not allowed, no animals in trailers in spain)

    anyway, i cant do owt untill i sell me bike, would love to sell it before the stratford show, but will take it to the show with a for sale sticker on it, will have to include the trailer if a motorhomer buys it, only had that 3 weeks, but i can buy another for sams scoot.
     
  20. 45eEver

    45eEver Read Only Funster

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    Thanks Alan.
    I've used Towboys in various guises.
    I think I prefer the system with a wheelbase wider than the towed car.
    With a couple of ramps so you more or less drive on.

    I picked up on your bit about winches in the back of LRs.

    Trikes sound much more fun than Toads to me ALan.
    Trikes on a monocle (one eyed spectacle) are a wonderful idea.
    Free, fresh wind in your hair, whoopee, and you don't even need a helmet.

    Harley's Servicar was designed with something similar in mind of course.
    It came with a tow frame that clamped on a car's rear bumper.
    It was designed and made to sell to garages so that a mechanic could hitch it on the back, deliver a customer's car, and then ride the Servicar back.
    Servi-Car Homepage-First HD Servi-Car Brochure!!
    [​IMG] [FONT=&quot][/FONT]

    I tried to work out something similar for a combination.
    A tow frame is out of course, but a monacle should be OK.
    I chickened out over the problem of flying your chair.
    I wasn't sure if the hack's front wheel was strong enough to resist the loads on it when centrifugal force tried to fly the chair.

    Any constructive ideas on that one please Alan?
     
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