Since Kurt is heading in the same direction, as far as LA, we will encounter each other along the way….the recumbent is a cool machine….
When you put 300 seasoned cyclists in one place with their bikes, you are going to meet all shades of the cycling spectrum. From cool sleek carbon frames to ‘sit-up-and-begs’ with electrical assist….it is all there.
There are three-wheeled recumbents, two-wheeled semi-recumbents, a tandem trike that has been customized according to the owners wishes, conventional tandems, and solo bikes that have been specially adapted to the owner’s physical condition.
Take a glance around one of the two bike storage rooms and you are looking at most of the possible permutations that can be applied to the cycling machine.
Today’s route took us down to Haughton, Gnossal and Norbury Junction, the point at which two canals cross each other. And two excellent cafés en route…..what other reason is there for riding a bike?
I met Chris recently in our village churchyard, resting mid-ride, consuming forbidden carbohydrates, with a complacent smile on his face. When I see a fellow roadie, I like to stop by and check him/her out, ask the usual questions (where from/to, how far, which club…….) and study the machine that stands close by.
Chris was sporting a new two-wheeled recumbent, recently imported from Taiwan, and he told me of the ups and downs of familiarizing himself with the riding style, which had taken him several weeks to master. He’s now got to that stage of being a ‘born-again’ cyclist, charismatic about his new-found cycling perspective on the world, and happy to proselytise anyone who passes by and is open to the message.
When I asked him what had prompted him to convert to a recumbent, he simply said: “Oh, yuh know, usual things, back problems, and certain difficulties in the under-carriage area”.
I say no more……..
As we glided along the empty lanes of the fens, past Grunty Fen (among others), the lack of hedgerows gave us frequent views of Ely Cathedral in the distance. When you are in the prone position of a recumbent trike, you normally get to see very little on either side of the road, but you are in a prime seat if the Red Arrows just happen to be flying overhead! Drivers seem to show you a little more respect, but then that’s because you are only one step away from doing wheelies on your mobility scooter. They probably think you are old and venerable…….well, some of that may be true.
You not only get to inspect the undercarriages of passing vehicles, but under your own carriage, you really get to feel the camber of the road, which frequently has you leaning towards the verge. And the avoidance of potholes causes interesting manoeuvres. On two wheels, you can weave in and out of them, but on three wheels, you may avoid them with the front two wheels, but that back wheel may experience the depth and breadth in all its fullness…..
Fun to ride and sociable, if you get to ride side by side on quiet roads. Will we invest in one?…….Well, watch this space.
You might ask…..what brings a cyclist and a non-cyclist together……and for them eventually to get married? Well, it’s obvious that other points of attraction expanded the equation and, anyway, I had decided that I was going to teach my new wife the ‘simple art’ of balancing on two wheels…….or so I thought. Thirty seven years later, well……… she still can’t balance on two wheels…..so where did I go wrong?
Ah yes…..I nearly forgot…….we found alternative forms of bicycling transport……..you know, tandems and adult trikes. Doing this, perhaps, let her off the hook, even made her a little blasé about the importance of learning the skill. But once you introduce the idea of “Well it doesn’t really matter…..after all, we can look for an adult trike……or even check out the market for a tandem”, then there is no way of backtracking and renewing the resolve.
When we bought our current house, 34 years ago, there was an American adult trike in the garage going with the house. I like to joke that we took out a mortgage on the first trike, and added the house to it……. But now, in 2014, and two further trikes later, Jenny’s thoughts are turning towards something with a bit more comfort and efficiency. Her current trike started its life as a bicycle, and was converted into a trike using a conversion kit. Very clever and very serviceable, but it makes for a heavy, cumbersome machine.
So………we went a-hunting one day recently, and ended up at D-Tek in Little Thetford, a one-man business that eschews the internet, and which deals only in alternative bicycles……. mainly recumbents (more succinctly known as “bents” amongst enthusiasts). And here she is trying out the first of two machines, and the second even more laid back than the first.
During the test ride of the latter, I jumped into (onto?) the former, and off we went together cruising the local estates, riding beneath radar detection. A very cool experience.
The decision to buy one will, undoubtedly, be a lengthy one. You’d be surprised at how many different makes and styles are on offer from across the world. And I’m sure that all, or nearly all, will have to be checked out.
I was finally persuaded to join my cycling club’s annual winter training week in Mallorca. One of the membership runs training camps for cyclists throughout the winter, and St Ives CC (which is primarily a racing club) make a pilgrimage out there every March and immerse themselves in calculating wattage, pulse rate, optimal cadences, latest ‘tricknology’, carb intake measured against power output……..C’mon guys, lighten up a little………..this is all about riding a bike…….just enjoy it!!
Apparently some 60,000 (yes, sixty thousand!) roadies head to Mallorca every winter from northern Europe to get in their base, or pre-season, training. The roads are filled with packs of multi-coloured, lycra-clad mile-eaters, legs turning at optimal speeds to give all the ‘right readings’ on their electronic monitors, so that they neither over nor under train. Instead of simply enjoying the ride or the wonderful surroundings on either side of the road, their eyes are locked onto the readings of their Garmins, pacing themselves according to a pre-planned schedule.
I (along with a few others) am going simply ‘for the ride’. My cycling goals and objectives are to enjoy the hard riding in the mountains, be intoxicated by the long descents, and have fun…..then more fun……..and enjoy the post-ride carbo-loading (ie. eating and drinking ;0)). If you happen to be on the island at the same time, you may see a lot of the red kit of St Ives CC……… and before you make any comments about the leg-warmers……yes, I’ve heard them all!! But you’ve got to admit, they could become cool fashion. But I have noticed that I am the only one of the membership that dares to wear them. I wonder why……………. .
One day, when I get tired of the hard saddles and the semi-crouched position of a road bike, I may invest in one of these……….. this is a Trice three-wheel recumbent. It’s the closest thing to a bed-on-wheels you are likely to get!!