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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Testing the limitations

This ride wasn't planned but became exploratory in nature. I initially heading off through Bartley Green where I took to a track through to Woodgate Valley Country Park. This track was a combination of dirt and grass with a little downhill and uphill. The trike handled it well. After another short road ride, I again took to a gravel cycle track through to Harborne Lane and the University of Birmingham. A quick run through the university and along Bristol Road to Priory Road and Edgbaston Road. Following National Route 5 through to Digbeth where I found the beginning of the Grand Union Canal. I followed the canal taking a short detour on the Birmingham and Warwick Canal to Yardley Road. The early part of the Grand Union Canal tow path was paved and easy riding but by the time that I got to Yardley Road, the path was almost single track with mowed edges. With one front wheel on the grass and the other on the track, the rear wheel settled on the track and I was able to keep the drive on. The worst riding was over a couple of heavily cobbled bridges. These were so rough that it was difficult to maintain grip. Even with the rear suspension, the down hill bounced me around considerably. I navigated back through Spark Hill and Moseley to Canon Hill Park and followed national Route 5 back to Wychall Lane where I exited onto the road to head through Northfield for home.

A total distance of 38.4km in 2 hours 35 minutes 45 seconds of riding. An average speed of 14.8km/hr and a top speed on on of the downhills of 58.2km/hr. What was pleasing was that without trying and with negotiating quite a stretch of rough canal path, I had achieved a reasonable average speed.

Only once did I get off to get the bike up one of the slopes. I had gone onto the slope in too high a gear and the wheel spun when I tried to put the power down. Other stops along the way were to talk to people who were fascinated by the trike. It certainly gets people's attention.

Really rough terrain is only difficult to ride because of being bounced around. On smooth roads, the trike glides along with ease. Hill climbs aren't a problem if you are in the right gear. Admittedly, I seem to have the leg strength to use higher gears but I believe it is more comfortable riding if I use a lower gear and spin my way up the climbs. I suspect that I climb slower than on a conventional bike but I am not feeling as tired after my ride.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A trial trike ride

This ride was about becoming familiar with the trike and also seeing whether I could ride it to Friday night track leagues for the rest of the season. In the car, the journey is only 4.1 miles (approx. 7km) and should take about 13 minutes. The return journey is slightly different because of the way the roads are set up around the track.

For this ride, I tried to follow the same route although I did take one wrong turn on the way out that added slightly to the distance. The outward journey was predominately downhill and on the longest and steepest of these I managed to hit 50km per hour (approximately 30 miles per hour). I have gone faster on two wheels but I am not convinced that I would have achieved this on two wheels at least not with the same comfort. The trike sits firmly on the road and so far has negotiated corners even at speed with little difficulty.

The only difficulty is some of the bumps. The trike tends to bounce around a lot over rough road and since you are not strapped in, you also bounce around. The rear suspension does take a certain amount of roughness but the front has no suspension and is important for maintaining control over the trike. Smoother roads are preferred over rough.

The ride back was primarily a hill climb with a slight downhill near the end. According to MotionX-GPS, the maximum gradient was 7.7% so in some respects is not too steep. However, I have had a lot of people contend that trikes are poor hill climbers but I am not finding that. OK, I am not trying to set hill climb records but I don't want to climb up hills at a crawl. The heart rate monitor tells me that I wasn't working as hard as I might have on two wheels. My maximum heart rate was 156 bpm. Last time, I rode two wheels with the heart rate monitor, the heart rate peaked at 172 bpm. The average heart rate at 119 bpm was also lower than what I normally have after two wheel bike ride. Maybe I am more relaxed on the trike.

At 16.9 km per hour, the average speed wasn't much down on what I have been achieving on the Avanti but I have no direct comparison since I haven't tried this ride on the Avanti. My last ride to work and return (12.5km each way) was at an average of 17.4 km per hour and has similar characteristics.

This ride was 15.1 km and took 53 minutes and 43 seconds. With the outward journey taking a little over 20 minutes, it compared favourably with using the car. The homeward journey with its hill climb was closer to 30 minutes and over double the time of the car journey.

Was the journey safe? Manor Way past the Halesowen track is a busy road but on a Sunday morning, the traffic was reasonable. All vehicles gave me plenty of room. On the road home up the hill, cars waited behind me for clear road and when they passed me, they left plenty of room. Most gave a friendly wave. Pedestrians also took second looks as I went past. My confidence in the safety of riding the trike is increasing and I am looking forward to longer rides as I become more comfortable with riding it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Why attempt a long ride?

This blog has its origins in a conversation that I overheard while commissairing closed circuit races. It centred around completing the Lands End to John O'Groats ride and the way people perceive the challenge of that ride. A web search reveals a range of different options from fully supported group rides to individual rides.

The journey is approximately a 1000 miles and can be completed in nine days but some riders want to take an easier pace. The question raised by the discussion was what makes the ride a challenge? One voice clearly believed that if it didn't push the rider to do at least a 100 miles (160 km) a day then it really wasn't a challenge for a cyclist. But is that a fair assessment?

My daily commute used to be 50km a day. To turn it into training, I often pushed it over 100km. That is nothing compared with professional cyclists. For the last two years, my commute was only about 15km per day. It has now gone back up to 25km per day.

If you have read this blog, you will see that my exploration of the National Cycle network has involved rides of over 100km but the distance hasn't been the issue. If I was interested in the fastest time between two points then I wouldn't follow the National Cycle network. Instead, I wouldn't be looking for the fastest safe route that took in roads that were easy to maintain a good speed. I would be looking to average close to 30+km per hour and I would ride a good road bike.

But that isn't my objective. I am out to explore the National Cycle network and the places that I pass through. I want to have a photographic record of the journey and along the way, I would like to be able to find time to dialogue with people. It isn't easy to achieve those objectives if you are on a time a distance schedule.

I want to do a John O'Groats to Lands End ride but as part of my National Cycle Network exploration. I would like it to be part of a ride that took me to the extremes of the National Cycle network (i.e. Shetland Islands to Lands End, Dover, Isle of Wright, Isle of Man, and Londonderry (Northern Ireland)). You could say a circumnavigation of the UK coast line but there is also plenty in the central UK to explore. There are even some routes that don't seem to appear on the National Network. Of course not all of this will be done at once but there will be some major journeys taking in a week or two of riding.

My mode of transport won't be a road bike (I don't own one any more). My preferred transport will be a recumbent trike however, I will also have available a mountain bike for some single track riding. This is a journey of exploration and hope research. Not only do I want to see this country, I would like to explore how people deal with the economic conditions and whether they see any alternative economic strategies. How would people survive if the banking system collapsed? I believe they will some more easily than others.

The point that I want to make in this blog is that the objective that someone sets themselves will determine whether this ride is a challenge for them and whether they will achieve what they set themselves as a goal but then life is a lot like that. Each of us has different objectives with different levels of difficulty. Just because your objective to me doesn't make it challenging, it doesn't mean that it will not be a challenge to you.
If you see me triking around then don't be afraid to stop me and have a chat. You never know we might both learn something and that is what I believe life is about.