KMX Cyclone Kart

We ordered this Cyclone direct from KMX Karts for our son's 10th birthday. The thinking was that anything that gets him outside and active is good and that anything that encourages him away from computer screens and games consoles help justifies the outlay. The Cyclone model is aimed at children aged 10 to 14 years and despite him being quite tall (~5 foot), it should last him a decent length of time.

The kart comes in a surprisingly compact package and is well wrapped and protected from transit damage, though there were still a few chips to the paintwork found on the frame. It requires some construction to get it to a rideable state and this took less than an hour, including a thorough check over. The kart comes with some tools and instructions but I found I also needed an 8mm, 13mm and 14mm spanner to fix everything. A Philips screwdriver is also required.

The instructions are well produced, logical and clear. They start with the back end of the kart and progress towards the front wheels and steering elements. The brakes on the kart are not like anything we have seen before and the design looks like it is engineered down to a price. They employ a friction band operating on a steel drum and only time will tell how effective and reliable this approach is. We would have preferred to pay more for a proper disk and caliper solution, as found on many mountain bikes.

Kingpin and steering geometry

The kart employs quite small diameter front wheels with an angled kingpin, to provide centre point steering. The uprights also employ Ackerman steering geometry to improve cornering and handling. A decent castor angle also ensures good self-centering too. This well thought through design and the low centre of gravity should result in a kart that is a lot of fun to ride.

Another obvious cost cutting measure is in the use of plastic wheels but these look rugged and use inset bearings, of the type used on skateboard wheels. The front rims are also slightly too deep for the tyres allowing them to be mounted off centre, if not positioned carefully before pumping them up. Care also needs to taken in torqueing up the front wheel nuts, to ensure they rotate smoothly and cleanly.

The seat frame fixes to the bike easily enough but, the instructions for the seat cover left us slightly confused and thinking we had some missing bolts. A call to KMX Karts quickly cleared this up though. To simplify the fixing of the seat padding, tie-wraps are supplied instead of bolts (the instructions have yet to be updated). We didn't think this a very good way to fix what is essentially an engineering tolerance issue and used some stainless-steel 6mm x 20mm bolts and nylocs to fix the seat padding as it was originally designed at the top and bottom edges. We had to use tie-wraps on the other mounting points as the holes didn't quite align well enough :-(

The last construction job was to align the front wheels by adjusting the rose joints on the steering bar. The goal is to set the wheel tracking with the front wheels both pointing dead ahead. This job requires a 13mm (nut) and 14mm (rose joint) spanner. The left-hand end of the bar has rather rough cut left-hand thread and is best left alone. Do any adjustment on the stronger right-hand side thread. To be honest, this could have been done with normal, righ-hand threads only as a 180½ rotation of a rose joint gives fine enough adjustment of the tracking.

Chain and frame clearance is tight

Having completely the construction and testing of the kart, one concern we had was the proximity of the chain to part of the frame in the higher gears. Over even slightly rough terrain, the chain and frame are going to meet and scratch the paint (and make sdome noise). To prevent this some dense 3mm thick foam strip was stuck to the frame.

Riding It

KMX Cyclone Kart
As expected, our son loved this kart. In fact, it was a real struggle to get him off of it for the first few days. The front brakes needed a bit of balancing to avoid the kart turning on heavy braking but, that was about all that needed adjusting in the first few hours. The brakes are perfectly adequate and the range of gears seems ideal. Make no mistake, these karts can be ridden very quickly and the decent castor angle and associated self-centering steering makes it feel safe and stable too.

Having let our son loose with his Cyclone kart, our initial impressions of the build quality seem about right. 10-year old boys are not mechanically sympathetic and combined with little sense of fear means that if something is going to break then it probably will. After two days of hard riding, everything was still running smoothly. The rear wheel bearings were tightened up to remove a little bit of slack but that was all. If we are being really picky, the kart could do with a full rear mud-guard to keep the dirt of the frame and cables.

Overall, this is a fantastic trike and there is pretty much nothing to compete with it in this price range. We are fortunate to have an excellent network of cycle paths on which our son can ride it. We'd be wary of using something like this on the road. It's not that it is any less safe than a normal bicycle but, more that you are less visible and being so low down you also feel much more vunerable. As a semi off-road trike it also works well but, traction from the rear wheel is lower due to the weight distribution and the smaller diameter front wheels don't provide the same level of isolation from the ground surface. It can be a pretty rough ride compared to a normal bike which allows you to use your legs as shock absorbers.

Updates

Sept 2012 - This kart is still going strong. My son is now approaching six feet tall and has outgrown it, so we sold it on eBay.

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