26 Mar 2010

Winter blues

16" (42cm) of snow in slightly more than one day brought the tricycling to an abrupt halt. It took three days just to dig out the drifts on the drive to reach the road to go shopping for food. The irony is that when I was younger, and lived in the city, I always cleared the snow on the footpaths for my neighbours. Nobody else could be bothered. I imagined I was building a form of goodwill insurance for my own old age.

I was wrong if I hoped my present neighbours (from hell) would help. Even though they use our branch of the drive far more than we do to reach their storage shed. They think nothing of leaving their engines running and banging their car doors repeatedly outside our house all day and (literally) all night. It's rather like living next door to a 24 hour supermarket without the benefits of a shop. We have racked our brains but cannot explain this strange behaviour. What is it that draws them to the shed so often? They have direct access from the house over quite a short path across their lawn. Yet drive the 60 yards from the front of their house at least ten times a day. Totally inexplicable.

Day one when there was still only a foot of sticky snow and no wind to cause drifting. Day two added another 4" and filled the garden and drive and roofs with 3' drifts. That's quite a big Horse Chestnut! Check the red sack truck beneath it for scale. (bottom, centre right)

More snow plastered onto a hedge. Much of it is still there. It proved difficult to knock it down without damaging the hedge itself.  More twigs were coming down than snow.

Another neighbour noticed me digging and came over to help clear the last few yards to the main drive.

When I tried to photograph the snow I discovered my Panasonic Lumix TZ7 LCD viewing screen was broken! It was perfect when I put the camera away in its pouch after photographing the circlip pliers. Less than three months of very careful use. I am told that it will take a fortnight for the camera repairers to assess whether I get it fixed under guarantee. Judging from the countless videos on YouTube showing broken LCD screens being replaced in two minutes there's a certain amount of wasted time involved here. Built-in obsolescence? There doesn't seem to be any data online about LCD survival rates. At least I can still use the camera for wide angle 'snaps' until I return it to the shop after the holidays.

Prior to the snow I was still doing 25-27 mile daily rides with the air hovering around freezing point. I was easily warm enough but my feet were very cold in the Shimano shoes. This despite wearing thicker wool socks. Now even the main roads are covered in hard packed, corrugated ice so no hope of trike riding for the foreseeable future. Global warming?  Hmm.

Despite touring many bike shops, finding new shoe plates for the Shimano 550s proved impossible. I may mill out a pair on my lathe if the temperature ever rises above -5C in my workshop. I may try Tufnol first which I have in various thickness. Failing that it will have to be aluminium. I could line the pedal  slot in the aluminium plates with something softer to protect the pedal plates. Or I may not bother using the 550s at all.
The unavailable, obsolescent(?) Shimano PD64 shoe plates.  This image was originally posted on a cycling forum.

The forward facing 'wings' on the shoe plates are supposed to fit under the backward facing wings on the delta shaped aluminium pressing at bottom left. The large points on the shoe plates are for guiding the foot to the proper location. Once the toe is safely located the heel is then allowed to drop. Placing the slot in the shoe plate firmly on the raised rear pedal plate.

I hope this triking blog isn't turning into too much of a personal diary. This was never my real intention. It started out as an illustrated trike blog and then moved onto an illustrated journey of the rediscovery of the joys of triking and my slowly improving fitness. I hoped that by illustrating the mechanics of trikes and the exercise of triking it would form a useful resource in a world rather thin on such information.

Now I'm getting cabin fever and all my aches and pains have returned following three days of digging snow. I'm really missing riding the trike every day. It feels as if I've lost something. I'll update this when I get back on the trike and I am feeling more cheerful.

Boxing Day and at last the roads were clear enough to ride on again. It was odd how high my saddle felt at first. I didn't notice any discomfort at all on the Vetta SL.  On a ride, previous to the snow, I had felt as if I was riding inside the trike rather than perched high on top so had added a 1/2" to the saddle height. The riding position feels much more natural than it did and my knees are hardly bent at full stretch. This should reduce the strain on my quadriceps. (the muscles on the front of my thighs) I had noticed some discomfort here after my longer rides.

I only did a loop of 8 miles today to clear away the cobwebs. The roads were flooded in many places as the melting snow from the fields poured across the tarmac. Or sat in large, deep puddles dammed up against snow drifts. The water was four inches deep at one point turning the lane into a real ford. Anybody trying to pass on foot would have needed Wellingtons.  I noticed all the lakes and ponds were still solid white with ice. A flock of Redwings took off as I rode down one lane. There seemed to be an equal number of blackbirds mixed in with them.

It was quite a struggle to escape from the drive because the rain had left thick, hard packed ice behind where cars had driven on it. I sat there with the drive wheel rotating uselessly a few times. My slim Nike trainers were easily warm enough despite the temperature hovering just above freezing. The slippery-soled cycling shoes would have been difficult to manage if I'd needed to walk on ice or snow.

My new cycling glasses proved up to the job at a mere fiver (equiv) from a chain of large department stores. I chose the yellow lens option today and was amazed how bright and clear everything looked  in spite of the overcast sky. I used to get quite depressed when I wore my previous, rather dark sunglasses when it wasn't actually sunny. A blustery, icy cold  headwind was uncomfortable until I warmed up. Then off came the windproof jacket and I rode most of the distance in a light jumper over a t-shirt in perfect comfort. Even the lanes were clear of lying snow so I should be able to get back to my previous riding schedule from tomorrow.