Monthly Archives: May 2015

“What do you call that?”

Following on from my longer training rides, I decided to look into alternate means of cycling.   Some time ago I bought a Challenge Mistral SL recumbent bicycle.  I was looking for a more comfortable riding experience, and I ordered one from Angletech Cycles in the US.  They are specialist recumbent dealers and I had worked with Kelvin in the past when buying an Alex Moulton bicycle.

ch mistal sl

I never connected with the Mistral.  It had under seat steering which I found twitchy, and worse, it had no mirrors.  Why is this an issue?  On a recumbent you can not really look over your shoulder, so, without a mirror you have no idea what’s happening behind you. That induces a lot of nervousness, which just makes the twitchy handling even worse.

What is a recumbent?  It’s a bicycle where the crank (the thing the pedals are attached to by arms) is ahead of, rather than under, the rider.  There are many variations of this theme, from very fast, low, high speed recumbents, to nearly conventional looking ones.  The other common element is that the ‘seat’ supports your butt and your back, spreading out the load.

But, why a recumbent at all?

  1. They are comfortable; there is no pressure on your wrists or hands, no neck pain as you are not looking up, and no pressure on your privates.
  2. They are better in a head wind; recumbents are more aerodynamic and less effected by headwind.
  3. They create the possibility for connecting with the environment around you; you can lookup at the clouds and birds, and you are at eye level with car drivers.
  4. They can carry loads of stuff without a detrimental effect on handling, the centre of gravity, especially when loaded, is low to the ground.
  5. They are comfortable, really comfortable.

So, I thought maybe I should consider using one for my JOGLE attempt.  On the 16th of May my wife and I went to Bikefix to have a look at some recumbent bikes.  I bought my Tout Terrain Silkroad there, and I knew that the proprietor, Stuart, was a keen recumbent advocate. I tested a trike (a three wheeled recumbent) and an HP Velotechnik Spirit.

IMG_3169

The trike was too low and too wide for me.  I also did not fancy the idea of giving up on the steering ‘feel’ of a two wheel bike.  So, I decided on a short wheel base, above seat steering, mid height touring recumbent.  Like the HP Velotecknic Streetmachine GTE below.

smgte_obenlenker_silber_rac

So, I ordered one from Bikefix.  At this point my ride date was 7 weeks away.  So, lead time was key.  Recumbent riding uses slightly different muscle groups, and requires a different sense of balance.  If I was going to be ready to ride a recumbent 1400km in 7 weeks time, I needed to get on it asap.  I called HP Velotecknic in Germany and explained the situation.  They said that a bike ordered on that day would be shipped around the 3rd of June.  Not great.

Enter Azub…

More training for JOGLE

I’ve now completed two additional 140km rides as part of training for my end to end ride in June.  I’ve learned a lot by taking these long rides, and my fitness level is certainly improving.

Me on arriving in Kirby Le Soken:

IMG_3015

However, there have also been problems…

In January I had a professional bicycle fitting done for my Tout Terrain Silkroad bicycle.  I found that I was sliding forward on the saddle, and that I had neck and wrist pain.  The fitting did help, and I think it also made me faster, but some of the pain remained.  When you are on a bicycle for 10 hours, there are pressure points that no bike fitting will likely resolve.

I found that on these long rides I would lose feeling in my pinky and ring finger.  It appears this is common for bicyclists.  As i understand it, this is caused by the constant long term pressure on the Ulnar nerve in the tunnel that runs below from the wrist into the hand.  Prolonged pressure can cause damage that could require surgery.  Not great.

I also have neck pain and upper back pain from looking up all the time while riding.  Maybe other cyclist get used to this, or just shrug it off, but that’s not going to cut it for long.  While my Brooks saddle does a great job supporting my sitz bones, I still get numb in my privates which is also less than ideal.

As a Buddhist I try to practice ahimsa (non-violence) and the collection of pain I feel when riding long distance on a traditional bicycle was not going to cut it.  Enter the recumbent bicycle…

Training ride 1

Since November I’ve been commuting to work by bicycle, each week adding a bit more to the ride.  I’m not up to 35k a day, 10 in the morning and 25 each evening.

Now I need to put in more time for longer rides, and this is the first of those.

Riding from London to Kirby Le Soken in Essex.

The ride can be tracked:  https://spotwalla.com/embed.php?id=cac0551e3b4ee81cd&scale=on&zoom=default&refresh=no

And this is the plan:

Total distance: 136.82 km
Max elevation: 108 m
Min elevation: 1 m
Total climbing: 954 m
Total descent: -978 m