20 Mar 2010

Winter of discontent

Well I have punctured my newest tubular tyre inside 200 miles and to be quite honest I have completely lost faith in tubular tyres. By sheer luck I was only a 10 minute ride from home on my way out. Which translated into 30 minutes brisk walk to get back but denied me my promised, longer, Saturday morning ride. Which I was really looking forward to after a daily run of 25+ miles all week. Just when the weather was finally being kind too. With early morning sunshine and almost still after a dreadfully windy week. Including a 50mph storm.

I must have well over 1500 miles on the Higgins by now but have already punctured three times. I lost one computer into the shrubbery at nearly 300 miles. Reset another twice at 850 miles and 330 and am well on my way to 200 again.

My habit of staying within ten miles of home is beginning to wear a little thin  despite deliberately choosing a different route every day. It means I can walk home inside a couple of hours (if necessary) but I'm growing tired of seeing the same scenery so regularly. Though it is amazing how I can get about now on the Higgins compared with my time on the Longstaff conversion. My weight has dropped by a stone since I started riding the Higgins daily. I'm still slightly over 12 stone but I can't believe the difference in my level of fitness. When I see a cyclist ahead I always try to catch them to overtake. An often exhausting habit I have retained from my youth. Perhaps I was a bike-chasing dog in a past life? It certainly gives one a measure of one's fitness and increases the pace temporarily well beyond my norm. I don't need interval training with so many hills to contend with. 

A few months ago I had a painful lower back and couldn't reach my shoes even from a low seat without putting myself through agony in my legs, hip and back. I needed steps or stairs just to reach my shoe laces. Though I couldn't lift my leg or even my foot and had to back down the steps one at a time leaving one foot within easy reach. Then repeat the action for the other foot. I was becoming regularly paralysed by sudden, crippling pain in the right hip and buttock. I often woke at night to feel a constant ache in my right hip. I suspected sciatica or arthritis but it was only a wild guess. I could not even take a single step forwards when the really vicious pain struck out of nowhere. Not even to sink to my knees. I just had to stand still in agony because I knew I would never be able to get back up from the floor again. My right wrist was becoming so painful that I had started wearing a full wrist support with a reinforcing steel strip. The left wrist was beginning to hurt so much it was already spoiling my daily ride round the block.

Only two months ago I would sit almost bolt upright on the Longstaff with my hands resting on the tri-bar elbow pads. If I leaned forward I couldn't pedal properly because my saggy stomach got in the way of my knees.  I told myself that I wasn't particularly fat at 13 stone. (184lbs) I was getting a beer belly without any of the fun of drinking beer. I used to get breathless just going up one flight of stairs but still thought myself reasonably fit for my age. I have always avoided lifts and escalators as a matter of pride and only ever use the stairs. My wife accused me of shuffling everywhere like an old man. The floor began to seem even further away than my shoe laces.

On the 40lb Longstaff conversion I used to manage my daily 3 miles in 12-15  minutes on the rural loop around the nearest village. I always pedalled as hard as I could and kept my cadence as high as possible. When I was feeling really fit I could do the longer circuit of 5 miles in about 20 minutes. My cycle computer told me I was averaging 12.9 mph. Nothing I tried doing to the trike made me ride any faster. Or any further. The tri-bars were merely a poser's handy pair of elbow pads in exchange for the same poser's dropped handlebars.

Quite unbelievably, I still thought of myself as a serious cyclist/tricyclist. Simply because I deliberately rode as hard as possible every single day and had collected a few junk bikes and bits to mix and match. In retrospect it was covering no distance at all. Commuters would have to live very close to their work to travel less distance than I did each day. I once had to ride 10 miles to pick up my car. I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got there and had to have an hour's rest in bed when I got home again! Now I pass the same garage at speed, sometimes out of the saddle, going rapidly uphill on my daily ~25 mile ride.

My back, wrists and hips no longer hurt. (at all) I never have the agonising pains which had brought me to sudden, crippling paralysis at work. I can easily reach my shoes even while standing up. My daily nose bleeds seem to have stopped too. I always refused to take medication for my worrying high blood pressure but haven't measured it since I got the Higgins. My stomach is literally down to "pinch less than an inch" proportions and still shrinking so I can reach the handlebar drops effortlessly and still pedal. Amazingly, my belly no longer sags even when my nose is resting on the handlebar stem. My wife complains my arms and legs are getting skinnier by the day and I have lost at least 3" off my waist. The clothing which had been set aside as impossibly tight, is now much too loose on me.

I try to do at least 20 miles every day and can do so in reasonable comfort now with regular 25-28 mile runs as often as possible. Over thirty miles is still a bit tiring though getting much easier. I always try to ride hard with a constantly high cadence. Usually I'm hovering around the pain barrier on the flat and digging much deeper on the countless hills. This is quite demanding for somebody of my age still building stamina and cardiac condition from such a low point.  I'm presently halfway between 60 and my pension.

I owe it all to the Higgins Cure. I had been made redundant after nearly a decade with the same company. Buying the Higgins was an act of defiance. With uncertain future income and doubtful job prospects I saw purchase of the Higgins as my last hope of ever owning one. Once I had ridden it for a few miles I found I had the incentive to do more than my daily thrash around the block. The Higgins was just so much fun to ride. It had the status which the conversion simply did not provide. (I'm strangely fussy about these things) So I immediately began to push up my daily mileage. I was still pedalling hard from the first turn of the pedals but was soon doing ten miles every day. Then twelve and then fifteen.

I had decided that I had to earn my right to owning a Higgins. No matter how much it hurt at first. The saddle problems I went through were purely muscular. It was me who needed breaking in. Not the saddle. Though in hindsight the saddle which came with the Higgins was indeed fortuitous. It was flatter across the back than all the others in my collection of recycled bike stuff. The strongly curved saddles tried to split me like a log before I had any muscles to sit  on.  The Vetta SL was almost flat and allowed me to build solid muscle to pad and support myself properly over much longer periods. Rather strangely it feels completely different on the Longstaff to which it has been temporarily moved pending a new set of rear wheels for the Higgins.

Many keen cyclists will scoff at my very low mileages but I'm only two months into taking my cycle training seriously. I was in far too much pain and discomfort to do more miles before now. Yet only more miles will make me fit enough to increase my distances in relative comfort at the same speed. This is the main problem with cycling. It needs to be done a lot before one is fit enough to do more of the same. Firstly, the weak, fat-loaded muscles have to be stripped of their impeding mass before they will allow pain-free, demanding exercise for any length of time. The heart-lung system has to be tuned to a much higher performance level. Panting is inevitable as years of relative inactivity demand greater oxygen levels than are physically available. One has to learn to breathe efficiently by drawing down the diaphragm to increase the intake of vital air with each lung full. Then push it back up again to clear the CO2 rich exhaust gasses from the lungs. The shallow chest-only breathing of the unfit rider is completely inadequate to the task of hard cycling. Thank goodness I hadn't let myself gain so much weight that improving my fitness took literally years rather than months. Even the comfort levels on a sports/racing, bike/trike must be related to one's weight and its effect on tyre pressures over rough surfaces.

I had an incredibly lucky start with fine, warm autumn weather with remarkably little rain. Now I have the more severe challenge of  rain and wind constantly forecast for the week ahead.  I have tried a cycling  cape and fully waterproof nylon clothing but neither worked except as a mobile sauna. It was just the same when I used to enjoy scrambling and walking in the mountains. The secret is not to stay completely dry but to stay comfortable. Every ride ends in a warm shower so why worry about being wet? My clothing goes straight into the wash when I get home so I have even even less reason to worry about getting wet.

Above all, one must avoid getting the clothing next to the skin really wet from hard physical activity and then getting cold. This a thoroughly miserable experience and very risky if you are far from home or warm shelter. Returning to a tent in winter after getting really sweaty, then chilled, is absolutely no fun at all. Thankfully it is a very far cry from returning to a warm home, hostel or hotel room without a long delay. I remember my winter camping in the mountains not for their excitement but for being cold and wet after the exertion of climbing a couple of thousand feet as rapidly as possible. There were only so may hours in a day to cover an entire range of mountains by the shortest and steepest route. Anything remotely waterproof would soak one's clothes from the inside out as condensing sweat from the exertion of the climb was instantly chilled by the winds on the summits. The race was always on to get back down to the camp site before dark to change into dry clothing. Before one literally had a cold shower in one's own sweat. 

I have rediscovered the secret to staying comfortable on the trike is to strip off my warm outer clothing at the very first sign of my warming up. The moment I feel extra warmth in the small of my back the jacket or jumper come off and into the saddle bag. I deliberately stay cool but not cold. The slight discomfort of cold air passing through the thinner layer of clothes is soon overcome by pedalling harder on the next hill to get warm again. With temperatures averaging a breezy 8-10C I do not need leg protection. I tried to persevere with the thin, long, ski pants worn as tights or leggings with racing shorts but I found I was always far too warm. So now I'm usually wearing just a pair of padded racing shorts and a jumper (or windproof jacket for higher visibility in poor light) over a thin, long-sleeved, ski underwear vest. Note the emphasis on windproof. Not waterproof! Waterproof clothing is only useful for standing around in the rain. It is worthless when any physical activity is taking place. As is clothing which is too warm. 

Only once, when it turned suddenly cold and windy, have I ever needed to put outer clothing back on during a ride. I find if I get too warm that I lose all my energy. Not to mention the discomfort of a wet back and the risk of it turning to icy cold. A tail wind is the real danger. I can heat up very very quickly if I turn out of the wind to head home. The same with the longer hills. I try to remember to remove my hat before I get too hot. My Thinsulate tea-cosy hat is literally too warm most of the time but gives a nice, but probably false, sense of head security. If I fall off so will the hat but it just feels safer and more comfortable than my bare head. Luckily I haven't needed to test its crash proofing abilities. I always liked the look of the old leather-barred track helmets but can't stand the plastic and foam things everybody wears today. I just hope they don't make cycling helmets compulsory to protect psychopathic motorists from their usual inattention and dreadfully poor driving skills. "Sorry mate.. didn't see you." "I was adjusting my Sat-Nav, lighting a cigarette, eating a Big Muck, reading the paper, tuning the radio and typing SMSs." "You should have worn something brighter!"

It is interesting how my last remaining fat feels cold to the touch when I strip off for a shower when I reach home. I feel warm all over except for my thin apron of fat on my stomach. My hips still have about an inch of fat left to burn off but that shouldn't take too long now. I haven't even needed to change my diet as we have always eaten fairly sensibly. Never any sugar in the house and no fizzy sugar bomb drinks or cakes either. Organic, home-mixed muesli is the best start to the day one could wish for. Allowing a decent, hard ride without the slightest feeling of hunger. Not once have I suffered from the dreaded "knock" where the blood sugar falls below optimum and one feels completely exhausted. I used to get the "knock" regularly as a keen cyclist in my youth. Back then I used to eat a huge pile of mixed breakfast cereals with ladles of white sugar on top. What utterly, worthless crap masquerading as food! Particularly the sugary varieties. Now you'll find they put sugar in everything if you check the ingredients. Even oven-ready chips have sugar! For heaven's sake why?  

Now I have the twin challenges of maintaining my mileage increases just as bad weather becomes the norm and my tubular tyres are proving too unreliable. The irony is that I have a spare pair of hubs for the Longstaff conversion but only the sprint rimmed wheels for the Higgins. Neither hub fits the other's axle by a mile. So it's either back to the conversion set until I can build some Higgins wheels with new hubs. Or build some HP wheels for the Higgins now. The double butted spokes are very rusty on the Higgins wheels and the 28 hole rims cosmetically tired. Perhaps I should scrap the spokes and rims and buy some 28 hole, HP,  small aero track rims like those on the Longstaff? That should be fun to ask for in a Danish cycle shop! I'd better look online. Despite my steady progress to remarkable cycling fitness (by my own standards compared with my very recent past) the tubs and sprints are proving purely ornamental.

I've been running a Bontrager "Racelite" HP wheel on the front recently. The idea was to reduce the risk of puncturing again but I really haven't noticed a serious increase in rolling resistance. I'd be quite happy to run around on these "Racelites" for their apparently bomb proof resistance to punctures. Though they are surprisingly noisy at speed and over rough surfaces regardless of how hard they are pumped up. Still, only a small price to pay for reliability on the road. Carrying a spare inner tube and alloy tyre levers would be no hardship at all as extra insurance if I should ever puncture at a greater distance from home.

So now I need to find a pair of affordable 28-hole, HP rims and some stainless spokes.... None of my spare wheels have 28 holes so I can't use those as donor rims. Or, I could buy new 36 hole Trykit hubs but then all my existing rims would be old and ugly. There is a far better chance of finding gold than finding a spare pair of Higgins clincher wheels over here. There are only three tricyclist in Denmark, including myself, of whom I am aware. One of these three rides a Longstaff. So that reduces it to only one person whom I have never met. I know they are a member of the TA but nothing more. I wonder if they have a shed full of spare Higgins/Rogers wheels? :-)

For the moment I have rebuilt the Longstaff conversion into a ridable machine. It will keep me mobile and able to easily reach the shops as an extra incentive to go out in bad weather. It's a six mile round tip with the inevitable hills. Or ten if I take the scenic route through the forest. Either route will avoid my being reduced to using the car until I do something about new wheels. It should be interesting because I haven't ridden the Longstaff conversion since I obtained the Higgins. I weighed the donor frame and forks at 10lbs bare with just the bottom bracket set fitted. Ouch! No lightweight then despite the steep angles and pretensions of sporting heritage in forged rear drop-outs. The forecast is for rain and wind all week. I dreamt of brazing the Longstaff axle to a bike frame, again, last night.

 Now my ride is looking like this again but with dropped handlebars and a better saddle.

I managed only about 8 miles on the rebuilt Longstaff conversion this morning before the rain started coming down like stair rods and I headed for home. The wind felt like a steady 15meters per second rather than the gusts to 15mps they promised. Mps x 2.23 = mph for those unused to these metric units. The wider Longstaff felt quite lively, very smooth running and remarkably stable after the narrower track of the Higgins. The Higgins seems to sense every bit of road camber change, drain cover and pothole. By comparison the Longstaff ignores them all.

Those lucky enough to be selecting a track for their new trike should really consider 30" as a minimum in my humble opinion. The 2" difference in track between my two trikes really feels like night and day. Geoff Booker of Trykit uses an even wider track on his racing trike and seems to enjoy the higher cornering speeds this allows. The small increase in weight and drag die to longer axles is no real hindrance provided you have a wide gate or door to get the trike safely stored under cover when not in use. The difference in comfort and sense of security is worth every inch on the track. I imagine a taller rider would also benefit from a wider track since their centre of gravity will inevitably be higher. I'm about 5'10" and really noticed the difference in track width.

The extra weight and rolling resistance of the Longstaff was difficult to judge on so short a ride. Particularly in such high winds. Which reinforces the point that the rider 's fitness and commitment are usually more important than the machine. Except in competition where everybody has lightweight machines and everybody is committed to winning. The Longstaff was not as heavy as I remembered except for getting it out of the shed. The difference in static weight is very obvious indeed as the Longstaff is moved about by hand. Naturally I pumped up the Bontrager HPs rock hard before setting off. The wind was far too noisy to even notice road noise compared with the tubs. The wind was literally roaring in the trees (and my ears) as I tried to maintain progress.  The return leg, with the wind almost behind me, was quicker and easier despite the rain. I didn't have a computer fitted to measure speed or distance. At least I need have no qualms about riding the Longstaff conversion until I have found new HP wheels for the Higgins. Though it will still be a real pleasure to get back to the much lighter and livelier machine again. It just feels so responsive on the hills and hairy on the corners. Demanding much greater athleticism to stay safely on three wheels. The narrower track may appeal to those who value excitement and exploring the limits of cornering ability. The wider tracked Longstaff feels almost tame in comparison. The Longstaff is the GT to the Higgins Fi racing car.

Another 20 miles on the Longstaff conversion today suggests that the differences are small compared with the Higgins. The Longstaff feels generally smoother but more prone to lifting the front wheel on steeper hills if my cadence drops. Hills feel a little slower but nothing to worry about. I was surprised how well the heavier machine performed. Probably my memories are badly skewed by my being much less fit at the time I rode it daily. I had the saddle much too high yesterday and have strained my right knee.

No knee pain today and yet another 20 mile day starting in fierce head winds under a leaden sky and spitting rain to look at potential new rims at a couple of bike shops in the nearest town. The proprietors were very interested in my trike. One suggested that he could build trike wheels on his wheel building machine since he had lots of practice building new wheelchair wheels. He would true the bare hub on a mandrel and go from there.

Other than that it was a wasted journey because there were no Mavics to photograph or admire except an old MA3.  The Longstaff is really rolling along rather well now. I freed the return spring on the front changer to avoid having to find a gear change lever and new cable in a hurry. So it was the 36 chainwheel only and pedal like mad uphill and down dale on a wide ratio block.

In the afternoon we went off in search of Mavic rims in the shops in the the city. The CXP22s look most like the Alesas in silver on the Longstaff. Not in black though. They'd just make the old Higgins look dowdy without a modern repaint. The Open Pros are a little slimmer, lighter and rounder (flatter?) in profile. The 33s have quite a nice spear cross section and are a little deeper and sharper on the spoke line but unnecessarily more expensive for what is on offer. I took a few quick snaps in the various shops to have something to remind myself later. I do wish Mavic would drop the bright silver braking surfaces. They might get away with it in silver but the black versions look too flashy for an older bike. I wanted rims without any braking surfaces at all but only disk brake rims offer paint to the edge. All seem to be much heavier or not always available in 700C.

Mavic CXP22 in silver. Best match to the old Higgins I think. Small areo profile. Not too extreme. Not too heavy. Being all silver the depth of the aero section is more exaggerated than the black finish below.

Mavic CXP22 in Black. Looks modern. Same profile as silver. High contrast between black and bright aluminium when new but would look shabby as the braking surface turned grey. 

Mavic Open Pro Black (slightly used).  Not as boringly square as I had imagined from the countless manufacturer's image profiles all over the internet. The low black profile emphasises the broad, bright braking track. In plain silver it would probably look rather old-fashioned. Twice the price and tougher than the CXP22 but 2 oz lighter per rim. 

Mavic CXP33 in Black (used) My other images of this rim weren't sharp enough over large enough an area to post here and were rather unflattering to the finish. Another reason I'm not keen on black rims. Being lazy I'd never keep them clean enough to look smart all the time.

I discovered in the bike shops today that one can pay £170 for a pair of cycling sunglasses. I consider this obscene beyond words. There is no excuse on earth for spending this sort of money on personal adornment  just to ride a bike. It is bad enough that racing bike parts are so ridiculously expensive. A pair of expensive sunglasses won't add 0.0000001 mph to your speed. As I left one shop I saw a doting father waiting to spend more money on an ~8 year-old boy clad in enough cycling gear to have been a top professional. On a leaden day with sheeting rain the kid was sporting a fitted racing jersey, covered in advertising graffiti, cycling shoes and shorts and (yes you've guessed it) expensive sunglasses propped on his hair.  I just hope he doesn't disappoint his father by smoking behind the bike sheds at school.


I had been running the back wheels over smaller potholes on the Higgins recently. By applying a timely twitch to the handlebars one can easily lift a rear wheel to pass safely over a small hole or sunken drain. A useful skill when a vehicle overtakes on poor road  surfaces when one cannot ride wide around an obstacle. Very few drivers bother to read the road properly or make allowances for other road users. Particularly for cyclists.

Even after I punctured I was able to coast some distance downhill with an almost flat tub with very little weight on the "poorly" wheel. That is until all the air had completely escaped and the valve stem was banging hard on the road on each revolution. Riding with a flat rear tyre required leaning well away from that particular wheel. Which was an interesting exercise in ignoring the serious road camber. It is practically like riding a bike with the two wheels parallel but out of line by 15". Such moments increase one's skill and repertoire for more normal riding.

Every mile of road offers countless changes of camber, corner radius and type of obstacle. Those who stick to smooth main roads will never learn all the skills of the rider who must use the rougher lanes with their more violent cambers, inclines and sharper turns. Often with opposite camber turns to add to the fun. Sharp junctions between narrow lanes into a rising incline with opposite camber can be quite terrifying in the first few miles. Soon to become a trial of willpower after a relatively short time of practising such obstacles on a daily basis.

On a  bike you wouldn't notice anything at all. This  is what makes trike riding so fascinating and such enormous fun. One is constantly being faced with tests of skill, bravado or bravery. Balancing the forces depends so much on three dimensional, subconscious calculation rather than the bicycle's mere two. Too fast and you tip on a trike. One a bike you merely rely on lean and tyre adhesion. Too tight a corner and you tip on a trike. Bikes have a much greater sense of security. Allow for every combination of corner radius, velocity, road surface, camber and incline and no two corners are ever the same on a trike. Only practice will increase your speed and your skill. Anybody can pedal down the straight and crawl round the corners.

It gets even more fun when the corners quickly change to the opposite direction. You have to move from hanging off one side of the trike to the other in rapid succession at high speed. Perhaps it is the feedback you get from the trike which makes it such a fun form of transport. Every corner taken well is a personal achievement. The grace and balance of hanging off the side of a lightweight machine is both challenging and rewarding. Practice does not dull the pleasure. It merely offers a broader pallet of well-rehearsed skills. The challenges remain but the speeds and elegance of cornering should increase steadily over time.The ballet dance of the rider on this unlikeliest of machine hopefully becomes smoother and ever more accomplished. With my present low level of skill I cannot even imagine myself in a massed start event for trikes. Not without two big rear view mirrors and a flashing warning light on my hat to warn those lapping me of my presence.

The infinite variety of corners remain to be negotiated but you cannot escape from the hard physics of inertia and miscalculation. Here lies the greater sense of danger of riding a trike. The mature adrenaline junky can exchange outright speed from a motor driven vehicle for the far greater rewards of hard physical effort and delicate balance. Billions can ride a motorbike or drive a car too fast and most get away with it despite the instant thrills and perceived danger to other road users. The triker, on the other hand,  is only ever one corner away from disaster and indignity. Testing yourself constantly against nature is intoxicating and addictive enough without having to dose yourselves with damaging, artificial stimulants to lioven up your dull and pointless lives. I imagine trying to ride a trike while drunk would be a rather foolish and short lived experiment but I haven't tried.

Trike riding will not appeal to all because it requires a minimum level of cycling fitness as well as a finely tuned sense of humour. If you can't laugh at yourself then you have no place on a trike. Clown or ballet dancer? The answer lies within. Who cares what the rest of the world thinks of your daft antics? The pure elegance of the riderless trike, with its large skinny wheels, is usually lost on the bike rider. He automatically sees a disabled rider and is blind to the possibility that the skilled trike rider made a very deliberate choice of mount. The ultimate badge of individualism is writ large on the back of the triker. You can hide in the lanes but you can never escape from your own awareness of what you are doing.

Exhibitionists should queue outside the trike builders workshop even if it means camping on their lawn. No finer steed was ever offered to the determined attention seeker! The obvious downside is that you have to pedal the damned thing yourself. You have probably already written off trikes as hard work and only for  the elderly and the handicapped. Blinded by your ignorance you fail to spot  the glaringly obvious: A trike is such good fun just to sit on and be seen. You hardly need to move to be noticed by all. Why make do with only two wheels when you can sparkle with three? Why put a foot down at the lights when you can sit back with your arms folded and enjoy your raised, armchair view? Track stands on a fixed wheel bike at the lights? They haven't a clue about true poise. 

Cost need not even enter into it if  you are a chronic but impoverished attention seeker. Your ego need only be slightly diminished by a used trike conversion. While those who can afford it will go to an expert like Geoff Booker of Trykit. Here you can have a handmade machine assembled to your own, individual ideas in every detail. Aided and abetted, of course, by the expert advice from someone who actually rides a trike themselves.

Secondhand Higgins and fewer Longstaff trikes are appearing regularly on eBay now. The auction price will depend on what is being offered but most will find something reasonably affordable. The accessories can be changed at will because everything from the bicycle catalogue fits straight onto the trike. Except of course for the back axle and the special, one-sided, rear wheels. Even these are only an expert wheel builder away from fitting almost anything exotic on your newly purchased trike.

If you want a multi-thousand pound, ultralightweight trike with carbon fibre wheels and a full Campag boxed groupset then by all means melt your plastic. You can have a complete machine under 20lbs at a price. You still have to pedal the thing to go anywhere and stay on around the first corner. This is what is so intoxicating about trikes. Once your three narrow tyres hit the open road you have to do it all yourself. Nobody can pedal it for you. Nor lean over on the corners to stay in contact with the road. You have the stabilisers fitted but they aren't much use for anything much above 15 mph if you don't get it right. Just reaching 15mph may tax your present levels of fitness. Not because they are much slower than racing bikes but because you thought it was a free ride once you'd bought it. Better get an electric hub and a battery while you're at it! :-)

Today's measure of a man (or women) is their expenditure on toys. Any show of skill very rarely comes into it. You admire the BMW and Audi because you have been taught by advertising hype that high price means guaranteed quality. It doesn't matter if the owner drives like an old woman on her way to her own funeral. The image is the thing. Expenditure means quality and good taste and .. what? Usually obesity, poor health, poor fitness levels and poor eating habits? They don't mention any of this in the advertising. Nor the obvious fact that most roads are heavily occupied by mullions of other vehicles also at a complete standstill.

So a trike can cost a bomb too but you are only a BMW/Audi poser if you don't push your trike to the limits. Both yours and the machine's physical limits. You are the engine, the navigator, the side-car passenger and the pilot. They all depend on you. The trike can't fall over until you get on. It can't move without your help. Not unless you park it carelessly on a hill. Your expenditure means nothing the moment you step astride it. Smart wheels will not get you more admiring glances from the ladies. No lettering on the bum of your racing shorts will produce a knowing grin on the faces of the brain-washed, motorist consumer following impatiently. Or the acned, car-less, immature watcher of "Top Gear".  In fact the triker may produce a grin of ignorant derision. Or even a grimace of hatred, because their wheels are totally ignored as you plod slowly past on your trike to turning heads. A trike is a show thing whether the rider intends it or not. If you travel fast enough they won't notice a shabby machine but they will certainly notice it's a trike. It still surprises me how many times somebody is looking back if I should happen to glance at a pedestrian.