5 Apr 2010

Ice age 2.

February 2010 has started off even worse than January! The roads were atrocious yesterday but far worse today. Yesterday was just possible. Today was completely impossible with inches of new snow lying, falling continuously and with high winds causing drifting.

Feb 1st. Main roads poor but ridable. Just below freezing. 10 slow miles.

Feb 2nd. Roads impassable from new snow and heavy drifting.

Feb 3rd. Main roads poor. Back roads 2"-4" packed snow on old rutted ice. 10 very slow miles. A van driver stopped to chat about the trike.

Feb 3rd: Higgins shopping trolley going off-road. Here I have pulled the trike off the road to let a bus pass on the narrowed road. You can tell at a glance how poor the roads are. The problem is that the snow ploughs can only go so low before they start to damage the roads and rip up drain covers. So they always leave some snow on the road. Would you believe this is a bus route?

With one wheel drive progress can be agonisingly slow on this sort of stuff.  I quite often have to lean over and push the idler wheel around with my hand just to get going again after running into deep, soft  snow. A high gear helps to get more grip provided one can actually pedal the thing up steep inclines.  I have had to walk up a couple of steep, ice-covered hills in the last week because of a complete lack of traction. Normally, nothing would induce me to get off on any hill. Two wheel drive would really help but so would fat, knobbly tyres.  Perhaps I should set up the Longstaff with fat tyres for winter weather to save the Higgins from the increased risk of damage.

Other problems with this wintry weather include thick ice sheets and ruts hidden under the snow. These can easily derail the front or even the back wheels unexpectedly. This feels incredibly unsafe at any reasonable speed. Though relaxing usually gets everything back into shape again. I really can't recommend this sort of thing above 20mph going downhill! I thought I had lost it completely a couple of times on fast downhill runs over hidden ice but thankfully the trike straightened itself up again. Lifting off the saddle seems to help by letting the trike run as lightly as possible over the hidden ice. Perhaps it's just psychological but it feels safer to let it float over such obstacles rather than just sitting there like a sack of  spuds.

Feb 4th Main roads still banked high at the edges. Lanes still covered in thick ice and snow. 30F. -1C. Sunny with light winds. Completely overdressed for the conditions. 15 miles.

Feb 5th. 34F, +1C! Sun and strong winds (15m/s) brought the first signs of a thaw and highest temperatures since well before Christmas. Main roads clear tarmac with high snow banks. Minor roads thawing but still a lot of snow, slush and ice. It didn't take long for the car drivers to get back to their daily rat runs. I'm not doing enough miles to maintain my fitness but the roads just aren't up to higher mileages. The main roads are awful with the traffic struggling to get past with the cycle lanes still under four feet of snow. Chose to ride into the wind first then risked a circle round the slushy back lanes for just 12 miles.

Feb 6th. Shopping:  30F, Windy, raw. Minor roads clearing at last. 10miles.

7th Feb Sunday. Still, overcast,  -3C, 27F. Saw literally dozens of cars carrying mountain bikes with competition numbers affixed. I had quite an audience with the occupants all staring at me. I said that trikes were rare in Denmark! I had to make a bit of an effort not to look too old and slow. Breathless, heart pounding and chest pains. The best I can manage, I'm afraid. :-) Back roads still covered in frozen stuff so only 13 main road miles today. I might go out after lunch to try and lift my daily average. Added another 17 miles. Was going to go further but the lanes were iced up and impassable. So I had to backtrack and then head home. It felt raw this afternoon and my hands were freezing.

I gave up at this point and turned the trike round. Beyond where I am standing the tarmac disappeared under thick, hard ice. There was nowhere left for the back wheels to run properly. I took the opportunity for a photograph back towards the way I had come. The sky was leaden but it looks brighter in this image. I'd just been forced off the road by a girl driving a car. She was determined to get past just where it was icy and the camber was at 45 degrees. I ended up having to put my feet down to save myself from falling right off the side of the road into deep snow!

Feb 8th. -4C 25F Still, overcast. 10 miles. My bike computer is freezing overnight and runs in slow motion. I'm very lucky I have such a range of villages to choose from to go shopping. It gives me an excuse to go out when it would be so much easier to stay at home. There are half a dozen villages with at least one  supermarket (usually from different chains) within ten miles of  home each offering a different route to maintain interest in the journey. It is a shame that most of the minor roads to reach them are still in such poor condition for cycling. Those that were almost cleared by the (one day) thaw, the road salting and the traffic have frozen up again. The poor old trike is taking a real beating from all the salt. The chain, gears and changers are all orange despite daily application of bicycle oil. The forecast is still around -5C for the next week. Is there no end to this winter?!?

Feb 9th. Horribly sick! A virus or food poisoning? Who knows? Never felt so bad in my life. Luckily my wife was unaffected. I won't bore you with the gory details. Feeling a bit better this evening. 0 miles.

Feb 10th. Still weak from yesterday's strange bout. Cold (-2C) and very windy today. With snow drifting and blowing in clouds across the fields and roads. So having another rest day to avoid the risk of a recurrence of yesterday. Windy tomorrow and Friday are forecast. 12m/s+. (25mph) 0 miles. Grrr!

Feb 11th. -3, 25F, sunny, 10m/s and still the snow is drifting across the roads in the strong wind. I was feeling up to a ride today but it was so cold I just did a quick shopping trip and straight back home. The back lanes were snow covered all over again so I couldn't be bothered to take a detour. Wore two fleece jackets, lined wool waistcoat, scarf, vest and Norwegian jumper and I could still feel the cold wind through my clothes. I shall have to trim my beard to save the weight of accumulated ice. 8 very cold miles.

Feb 12th. -2C 27F. Overcast. High, blustery winds with snow "smoking" across the landscape like something out of a film. Even the main roads had up to 6" of drifting on them in places where the field hedges were missing. I just pointed the front tyre at the darkest strip of road and kept pedalling. Every time a car or lorry passed I had a free sand blasting. The thick peak of my fleece cap was literally fluttering in the wind but thankfully I was wearing skiing goggles so I could see where I was going. It was a  bit daft to go out in these conditions but I made the effort not to have another rest day and to try and keep my average above the totally abysmal of last month. I noticed I am finally beginning to develop a slight shadow under my quadriceps. (the muscles just above the knee) Until now my legs were just getting thinner and the muscles ever more clearly defined. It must be all those headwinds. :-) Only 8 miles again. (there and back for some shopping) Surely it can't go on much longer on like this? I want a proper ride!

Feb 13th. -4 25F. Strong wind blowing snow about. Took a detour back from the shops and fell foul of a couple of inches traffic crumpled snow. I had to walk one long slow hill because of wheelspin and drag. When I finally hit clear tarmac several miles later it was like having a motor. I couldn't believe the difference. Still only 10 miles but it all helps.

Feb 14th. -3, 27F. Bright sunny periods. Two inches of new snow overnight had to be cleared first. Left after morning coffee onto wet main roads from thawing slush. All side roads still blocked by snow. I had to follow the main roads just to manage a reasonable mileage. I don't like out and back routes on busy main roads. So I did a triangle for 17 miles.

There is the tip of a very bent, blue, cycle route sign buried in a high snow bank just to the right beyond the trike. Hardly a low level road sign has survived without damage from the constant snow ploughing. The snow bank on the right must have been there for at least six weeks by now. The road plunges down and then rises just as sharply just around this blind corner. Great fun on a trike in better conditions than this. I was a bit wary of stopping to take this photograph but thankfully the traffic was very light on this road today. Unlike the constant roar of the nose to tail convoys to nowhere on the main road which I had left behind a few miles earlier.

Feb 15th. 32.4F 0C. Quite still. A couple of inches of new snow overnight. Signs of thawing on the main and minor roads. Many still impassable on a trike. I passed the 1000 miles on my bike computer today but I'd already reset it twice before. 20 miles mostly by main road.

Here's the absolute proof that I actually exist and am not a figment of your imagination. ;-)

Guess who? Caught in a wonderfully-distorting, wayside mirror miles from home. And no, I'm not the invisible man. I have deliberately smudged my face using PhotoFiltre to maintain some shred of anonymity. It always surprises me how small my trikes look with me perched on them. I look about seven feet tall and as thin as a rake here. Pictures of me on my trike taken back in August make me look more like a gorilla despite having lost only about a stone in the interim.

It might have been a better picture if the house wasn't behind me but beggars can't be choosers. The mirror was put there to help the owners escape onto the main road on a completely blind junction. Notice how the reflection makes me look as if I'm on the left side of the road as if in the UK. Another odd thing is how the top tube seems to slope down to the headset like a TT machine. The blue and white pendant on my chest is the GPS logging device. It has been very handy for recording my routes and mileages. I am wearing my favourite cycling jacket which is very tightly woven to aid wind resistance. I had already removed my outer fleece jacket at this point to stay cool. 

Feb 16th 30F -1C. 10m/s. Cold and breezy with occasional sunshine. Minor roads still snow and ice covered. Snow shrinking back to the verges on the main roads. A hilly 18 miles.

Fantastic snow sculptures fashioned by man and nature.

Another, less dramatic, view. The lane was impassable on a trike.

Feb 17th. 30F -1C. Gusty wind driving snow off the fields onto the roads. I cleaned the trike because the road salt was making everything discoloured. The slope of the saddle is less than 1/8" tipped back when a board is placed over it and checked with a level (on a level floor of course)  I managed several miles at a steady 25mph on the bike computer but it was all down to the tail wind. My chain kept slipping when I was using the the big chainwheel. Not enough wrap around on the rear cogs and the salt and ice have probably worn the chain out prematurely. Minor roads still blocked to the trike by snow and ice which makes flexibility in choosing routes rather difficult. I tried a different route today but it still didn't add up to more than 20 miles by GPS. I'd hoped it would be longer. 

I see the Ken Rodgers trike conversion set ended on £94 on eBay(UK): 230434987925

A similar concept to my own Longstaff trike conversion but this one has an adaptor for a screw-on gear block. Trykit can supply superb new alloy hubs (or complete new wheels) if desired. Since new wheels will have to be built for it anyway it seems a shame to battle with rusty hubs unless originality is sought. A Trykit freehub adaptor and gear hanger are also available to provide more modern gears if necessary. 

Hopefully another convert to tricycling will soon be on the road. For an affordable price too compared with buying a whole new trike frameset at nearly 20 times the price. The 24" track is quite narrow so I hope they don't live in an area with too many sharp, narrow corners. It should provide quite a "lively" ride in the country lanes. I wonder if this auction will produce a few more trike conversions sets for sale? There was quite a run of trike auctions around the time I bought mine. Though it has gone a bit quiet now.

Feb 18th Around freezing. 10m/s. Wet snow falling all day for another 2". Left it as late as possible hoping it would clear up but it didn't. Short shopping trip ended in a nice chat with a mountain biker who had dropped his bike lock key right beside his bike outside a supermarket. I'd taken it into the shop and given it to the checkout operator. Then I saw him through the shop window loading his bike with shopping and the sudden look of worry when he couldn't find his key. The two were quickly reunited.  

There's something odd about the steering today. It feel slightly stiff occasionally but is perfectly free when I check at a standstill. I've checked the frame for cracks so have no obvious explanation. It is actually looser than yesterday after slight adjustment. I may have to strip the headset to check the bearings. Only 8 wet miles but I was properly dressed for it. No need for extra warmth so I wore a shower proof jacket instead of fleece. Felt comfortable and went like a bomb on the way home, thanks to the light tail wind, despite all the shopping. Chain still slipping like mad while I'm on on the big (46T) chainring.