Freedom Track Mods

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gpraceman
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Freedom Track Mods

Post by gpraceman » Sat Feb 14, 2015 4:23 pm

I've run many Cub Scout and Awana races over the years using Micro Wizard Freedom Tracks and have implemented a few things that have greatly sped up setup and tear down as well as operation of the start gate.

Mod #1 - Too many tools required to assemble the track. I replaced the phillips head screws, that secure the crossbars to the track legs, with wing screws. This eliminates the need for a screwdriver. I believe that I found these at Ace Hardware.

Mod #2 - Still, there were too many tools required to assemble the track. I replaced the lock nuts that secure the start gate with wingnuts. You hold the start gate in place, align a wingnut under the track mounting hole and then put the screw in. A wing of the wingnut will hit the back of the start gate as you tighten the screw with a hex wrench. This eliminates the need for a socket or crescent wrench.

See post #5 below for how to use a self-clinching nut to make mounting the start gate even easier.

With these two mods, you now only need a 5/32" hex wrench for setup and tear down.

Mod #3 - Joining the first two sections can be a pain, since the sections must be on their sides and floors can be uneven. Being on their sides makes it harder to correct any lane misalignment between sections. This mod allows you to join the first two track sections with them being flat to the floor.

Here’s basically what I did to the start section:
  1. The front legs and the joining bracket that is just uphill from it were swapped. The front legs now fold back towards the rear legs.
  2. The crossbars that attach to the legs had to be modified, as the legs are now a bit closer together. These were modified on the rear leg end of the crossbars with my jig saw and a metal cutting blade. With the front legs turned around (folding towards the rear legs instead of away), I did have to elongate the holes on the front end of the crossbars, as the holes did not quite line up.
Below is a photo of the modified rear leg mounting of the crossbars. I do intend to cut off the excess from the crossbars, to clean things up. You can also see the wing screws in that photo.

Image

Now, both sections can be secured together while they are flat to the floor. With the front legs folded back and the start section flat to the floor, the joiner plate can be slid under the end easily. The next section can then be quickly set in place and everything secured together. If any of the lanes are not perfectly in alignment, from section to section, those can be easily tweaked.

At this point, the two joined sections are put on their side, with the track legs extended out to keep them on their side. Now one of the crossbars can be attached. The first two sections can then be stood up and the 2nd crossbar attached.

With the front legs moved back a bit, I was concerned that they would not sit down on the floor, even when the weights were added. That ended up not being an issue. The new front leg position does increase the slope of the start section a bit. I guess that you can consider that giving all the cars a little extra speed boost.

I ran a race on Wednesday with the track in this new configuration and it was definitely easier to setup.

I have passed on this information to Micro Wizard, in the hopes that they implement these easy changes to make setup easier on their customers.

Below are some more mods that I implemented.

Mod #4 - The foam strip to cushion the snapping open of the gate doesn't do a very good job of that. That vibration can actually affect the running of the cars. So, I thought of trying to use some memory foam, as it doesn't bounce back quickly like regular foam. I first tried memory foam shoe insoles, but they ended up being too stiff. After seeing bracketracer use a memory foam ear plug to dampen the shock of a solenoid, I thought that I would give them a try. They certainly do make the opening of the gate more gentle. Removing the old foam was made easier by using a heat gun and a putty knife. The ear plugs are adhered with some double stick tape.

Image

Mod #5 - The trip lever should be easier to operate. Long ago, I ditched the rubber piece that goes on the end of the lever, as it just seemed to drag along the metal of the gate. Metal on metal rubbing still wasn't an ideal situation either. So, I found a nylon peg and mounted it into the end of the lever. Now, the lever moves smoothly along the underside of the gate. The one I used was a stem bumper glide from Rockler. I saw something similar at Ace hardware, called an arrow clip that would also work.

Image

Mod #6 and #7 - There are times when I get the kids to start the heats, but I wanted to make it easier for them to operate the gate. So, I added a handle to the end of the trip lever. Rockler does have a shorter handle, but I thought that I'd try the longer one out. The other issue is that often the kids would pull the lever instead of pushing it. While you can trip the gate that way, it really isn't the easiest way to do so. So, I put a stop on the gate to prevent moving the lever the wrong way. It is just a screw with a couple of nuts.

Image

Image

Mod #8 - Improve the stop section. Pretty soon after Micro Wizard bought the track company from Piantedosi they got hit with a patent infringement lawsuit on the stop section design. Piantedosi was the one that had designed that stop section. Well, I guess to settle lawsuit, Micro Wizard did a bit of a design change to make it more of a ramp style stop section. Unfortunately, the current design can have issues with cars that have low hanging weights. Weights can hit the front edge of the tab or even the front edge of the foam stop tape. I have seen cars pop up when they hit that. I am fortunate to have the original style stop section and it doesn't have that issue. Well, you can modify the current stop section to be like the original.

Here's what you need to do:
  1. Move the lane joiner plate at the end of the finish section a few inches closer to the finish line. That means drilling holes in the center of each lane. Though, I would start out with a smaller drill bit before finishing with the larger bit.
  2. Cut back the "fingers" on the front of the stop section to make new securing tabs. Drill a hole in the end of each securing tab. The tabs should fit between the lane guides and attach where the lane joiner plate was originally positioned at the end of the track.
  3. Order a new lane joiner plate from Micro Wizard so you can secure the stop section to the track. The stop section gets put in place on the end of the track, with the tabs sitting between the lane guides. Slide the joiner plate under the end of the track. Then line up the holes and add screws to secure the stop section.
Below is a photo of the original stop section design. Cars gently drop off the end of the track and onto their bellies, instead of up a ramp. There are no edges for any low hanging weights to catch onto.

Image

Mod #9 - Adding a solenoid start gate can help reduce vibration from the start and make starts more consistent. There are commercial solenoid gate triggers available, like the one below which is part of a combo light tree and solenoid gate from Micro Wizard, or there is a DIY solution.

Image


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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by knotthed » Sun Feb 15, 2015 11:09 am

:goodpost:

Thanks, I will definitely do the first two for our pack this year!



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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by gpraceman » Sun Feb 15, 2015 11:26 am

Below shows the start section in its new configuration (left) and the original configuration (right). There is plenty of room for the front legs to fold back towards the rear legs. The large joiner plate is stowed where the front legs used to fold down to.

ImageImage


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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by gpraceman » Sun Feb 15, 2015 11:53 am

For anyone ambitious enough to do Mod #3, the crossbars can be cut down to 60-3/4" overall length. Measure that from the front end of the crossbars (the end with the weight bar hole). Then cut back the side flanges by 5/8" so that end will fit over the rear legs. I was able to just make the cut to the side flange with a jig saw and then with a set of pliers, I was able to wiggle off the tab pretty easily.

Then you can drill the new holes for mounting to the rear legs. The holes on the front end of the crossbar do have to be elongated to line up with the holes in front leg due to its new flipped around orientation.


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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by gpraceman » Tue Mar 10, 2015 2:39 pm

Here's my latest track mod. I've added self-clinching nuts to the start gate. So now, it will be even easier to mount the start gate. No nuts to fumble with aligning to the hole in the gate and track.

I got the 1/4"-20 self-clinching nuts off of eBay and used my one ton press to attach them. I did need to do a little banging on the handle of the press with a mallet to get them fully seated. Fortunately, I had a drill bit close to the desired hole diameter of 0.344".

If someone doesn't have a press, they could always use some J-B Weld on the backside of the nut to hold it in place.

Image

Image


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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by asatxj » Fri Mar 13, 2015 4:08 pm

I have the same track. Can you provide a pic from the side of the new slope? I'm interested in doing that mod but not certain. Also, I like the start gate mod. would a rivet nut do the same thing? I have access to those. I may have to run down to Fastenal on lunch next week!


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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by gpraceman » Fri Mar 13, 2015 4:27 pm

Those are the only photos that I have right now. When I run the next race, I can take some more.

I don't know anything about rivet nuts, so I can't help you there. If it is 1/4"-20 threaded, I would assume so.


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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by knotthed » Fri Mar 13, 2015 5:33 pm

Randy,

Idea!

Just drill 4 new holes in the track for the front hinged mount and add a piece of 1/8" aluminum flat with holes in it to go under the hinges as a track plate. Then you wouldn't need to old/existing track plate in that position.

I also believe this would keep the slope the same - perhaps beneficial for those who want to keep times closer to the same on each setup to it's original configuration?

Drilling a 4 holes should be easier than notching 4 places of the side braces and drilling 4 holes.

Thoughts?



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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by gpraceman » Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:05 pm

knotthed wrote:Idea!

Just drill 4 new holes in the track for the front hinged mount and add a piece of 1/8" aluminum flat with holes in it to go under the hinges as a track plate. Then you wouldn't need to old/existing track plate in that position.

I also believe this would keep the slope the same - perhaps beneficial for those who want to keep times closer to the same on each setup to it's original configuration?

Drilling a 4 holes should be easier than notching 4 places of the side braces and drilling 4 holes.

Thoughts?
I'm not sure that I really follow you on that. Personally, I'd rather modify the crossbars than go drilling into the track, as it is easier to just replace the crossbars, if something gets screwed up.

The way it shows in my photo above is not how I would go about it if I had another track to mod. I did it that way, just in case I decided to revert back to the original configuration. For another track, I would cut down the overall length of the crossbars to 60-3/4" from the holed end and go from there.

If someone is concerned about the change to the slope, they could always place an appropriately sized spacer under the front legs.


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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by gpraceman » Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:17 pm

knotthed,

You did get me thinking! If you made a spacer that is the same height as the lane joiner plates, you could put the spacer under where the front legs now mount. You would still need to flip the legs around so they fold towards the starting line, but the spacer would allow the legs to fold flat over the lane joiner plate. That spacer would only need to be about 3/16" thick. The hinge side would now be on the uphill side, instead of downhill, but the height of the spacers would help to compensate for that so the track slope would maybe only have a miniscule change, if at all. The crossbars may still need to be shortened, but by just a bit.

Even easier than a single spacer spanning the width of the track that you would have to drill holes in, would be to use thick washers. Knowing Ace Hardware, you might be able to find nylon washers that are the correct thickness.


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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by gpraceman » Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:25 pm

asatxj,

I do have one photo of the front of the start section, if it helps you any. I can get some more photos, if you like at my next race, which is March 18.

Image


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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by asatxj » Sat Mar 14, 2015 7:11 pm

I can tell there's a difference already. My next races are in April so I have some time to tinker. I'm sold on the start gate mod and the wing bolts. Do you happen to recall the size of those? I could just grab one at church tomorrow I suppose.
Hey how much is your rental fee and what do you include? I have scouts ask me all the time so I'd like to be reasonable.


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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by gpraceman » Sat Mar 14, 2015 10:19 pm

asatxj wrote:I'm sold on the start gate mod and the wing bolts. Do you happen to recall the size of those? I could just grab one at church tomorrow I suppose.
I don't remember the size of the wing screws, however, the online assembly instructions for that track list them as #8-32 x 1/2".
asatxj wrote:Hey how much is your rental fee and what do you include? I have scouts ask me all the time so I'd like to be reasonable.
I am a part of the track ministry to Awana clubs in the Denver and Colorado Springs areas. We do not charge any fees to help run a race. Some clubs choose to make a donation, which we put right back into the local Awana ministry. Sometimes the clubs will give a bit to the track custodian to cover gas and a meal.

When my boys were in Cub Scouts, our pack would do races for other packs. They charged $250 normally, but for the really small packs they would charge $200. Our pack would bring in the track, set it up, run the computer and the start gate, print out the final standings, and do the tear down. The packs would do the rest. This subject has come up on this forum and others before and it seems that the going rate for any particular area can really vary. You might want to check with your district office, as they may know what the going rate is for your district.


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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by asatxj » Sun Mar 15, 2015 3:57 pm

Thanks for the size tip. I forgot to get one this morning.

I guess I'm pretty generous! we show up with 3 guys, run the race for them and generally get $50.


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Re: Freedom Track Mods

Post by knotthed » Mon Mar 16, 2015 8:30 pm

Randy,

Sorry for not describing it well enough and I get your not wanting to drill in the track, but it is in the center and chance of messing is up is not that great if you exercise some caution.


Ok let me try again.


Remove the track plate that keeps the tracks together - take it out of the discussion for now.

leave the side supports the same length - just turn around the front hinged piece. The new hinge mounting holes would need to be roughly 1/2-3/4 farther down the slope and that would really be your only modification needed.

Now if you want to bring the track plate /strap that keeps the tracks together there are 2 ways to accomplish it.
1) drill new holes farther down the slope
2) make a new piece out of 1/8" flat stock that uses the same bolt holes as the new hinge location holes


Hope this is a better description



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