31 Mar 2010

Newton Trikes

"Proper" Ackerman steering with inclined kingpins and optimised steering geometry has been adopted on the so-called "Welsh trike": The Roman Road Cycle's very own: Newton trikes and trike conversions:

Roman Road

The inclined kingpins ensure far better handling than with earlier, so-called Kendrick trikes. (see earlier chapter)  A line extended through the kingpin should point at the centre of the tyre contact patch. This minimises bump steer. Avoiding the tendency for the wheels to change direction when subjected to bumps. The true Kendrick had a very poor reputation at higher speeds and on rougher roads. There are all sorts of other steering geometry details which must be optimised of course. Such as caster and trail.

Here is an expert's web page on trike steering geometry. Aimed more at recumbent trike builders but just as relevant.

Peter Eland's site: Ackermann steering spreadsheet

There are some advantages to the Newton common to most other upright tadpoles. Under hard cornering the tadpole should be more stable than a delta. Under heavy braking the delta tends to tip forwards across a hinge line between the outer rear wheel and the front wheel tyre contact patches. A combination of braking and hard cornering will reinforce the forwards and outwards tipping tendency. A tadpole can only tilt backwards on a similar line but between the outer front wheel and the single rear wheel. Making it likely to be much more stable if a corner is overcooked and the brakes need to be applied. On a delta it may already be too late to apply the brakes if a corner is overcooked because the trike will tend to tip even more. Or run even wider on application of the front brakes. This requires considerable skill, experience and a lot of body lean on the delta to overcome this potentially, very dangerous situation.

The single rear wheel of the Newton offers considerable simplification over the single, two wheel drive or differential of the delta trike. No heavy half axles, housings and bearings capable of resisting the complex driving and road forces are required. The tadpole trike enjoys a universal bike type of rear end. It is uncaring of the camber regardless of which side the road is the national driving norm. Since braking throws the rider's weight forwards onto the front wheels there is no real need for a rear brake. Though a tandem Newton might well benefit from a rear drag brake in hilly country.

I have no data on tadpole trike traction despite claims of advantage over the one wheel drive delta. When hill climbing the rider's weight would tend to be over the back wheel ensuring excellent traction when it matters most. How it copes in icy conditions one can only guess. I know that recumbent tadpole trikes suffer a severe loss of traction in snow and icy conditions. The two freewheel drive delta may well score over the tadpole here. The traction of the one wheel drive delta is pretty hopeless on ice and snow. As I discovered for myself when we had 3 months of snow and ice here in Denmark this winter. (2009/10)  A number of local hills became impassable at times, except on foot, no matter how hard I tried to lean over the driven wheel.

A further advantage for the Newton (or any tadpole) design is that the position of the front wheels can be easily seen on the road. This must make it easier to avoid potholes, squashed hedgehogs and other debris. Or even to follow the edge of the road much more closely than on a delta. (if desired)  Which, even after considerable experience requires considerable care and constant attention with a delta. The edge of the road is often the first part to suffer  damage from heavy traffic. Or farm machinery pulling onto the verge to allow frustrated traffic to pass.

Examination of the image below suggests that the front end of the Newton is rather lower than a conventional "racing" bike. Or even a specialist Time Trial machine. This must make it easier to achieve a horizontal torso to reduce drag when equipped with tri-bars. (low profile handlebars with elbow support pads) The tadpole enjoys (and suffers) no real difference in drag of the framework as far as one can judge by eye.

A Newton Race Trike sporting disk brakes. Earlier examples of the Newton had drum brakes. The brakes would need to be carefully balanced on any tadpole to ensure the trike stops in a straight line when the brakes are applied. Perhaps independent, dual, brake levers allow the rider to apply the brakes to taste depending on the conditions? I really have no idea.

I will probably burn in hell for borrowing this image from the http://www.3wielweb.be/ website without permission. Roman Road makes some unique and fascinating tadpole solo trikes and tandem trikes. Though I don't, personally, feel their website sells the product as well as it might. I like this picture better than anything on their website. Why isn't it on their website? Perhaps they need a running blog linked to their website with much better pictures and up to date information. Longstaff's website is much the same with nothing to whet the appetite of a would be triker. Even their overpriced, secondhand trikes seem to sit there for years without moving. My contacts with them (Longstaff) have been quite appalling. Pay several thousand up front, or don't bother us, is the clear message. Conversely, Geoff Brooks TRYKIT website is an excellent example of how to show one's products to the widest possible audience.

Here is a Newton trike on eBay(UK) in early May 2010.  Item no. 190393831568  Only the second Newton to come up since I have been following trike sales on eBay(UK).  Since it is not usually possible to save eBay auction images I photographed the enlarged images on my LCD computer screen using my digital camera. So don't expect perfection. Since these trikes come up for sale on eBay so rarely I took the opportunity to share much more detail than is visible on the Newton website. They certainly look well thought out.

Update: The Newton was re-listed on eBay due to bidding not meeting a hidden £750 reserve! 20 bids ending at £722 unsold. It's looking a bit expensive now at £750 with four bids close to the auction ending. Cheaper than new but I'm certainly not tempted to bid at this price level. I'd lose that fancy rear Rohloff hub on day one for something much more lightweight!  Well, I just watched the end of the auction and it sold for the reserve price of £750!

Just to see what it feels like to see two wheels in front I sat backwards on the top tube of my Higgins today. :-) The wheels actually looked rather close together when seen from this unusual perspective. I believe the wheels are a bit further apart on the Newton. I am still waiting for a YouTube video of the Newton trike to appear. If anybody has any better pictures to share of of these fascinating machines I'd be most grateful to have them as email attachments to post on here.

I found this image online quite a long time ago. The oval cross axle is a nice and very neat touch  to reduce drag a little. It shows care and a willingness to go the extra mile with the design. Adding a sleek and professional touch to the appearance. This image seems to have disappeared from view since I saved it. Note how the tubes bracing the front axle cross tube to the bottom bracket are widely splayed to triangulate the front of the trike frame to the maximum. This triangulation resists twisting forces in the axle produced by the front wheels. Naturally toe clearance must be provided when pedalling. Though the advantage here is that only the toes overlap the pedals. On a delta trike the entire shoe behind the ball of the foot requires clearance. This severely limits the amount of chainstay splay possible unless the wheelbase is considerably extended. Large shoe sizes can be a real embarrassment on a delta as the heels may literally strike the rear axle housing. (this has happened to me with the Longstaff axle conversion on a short wheelbase donor bike!)

The stiffness of a delta rear end cannot possibly match the Newton's front axle assembly thanks to the arrangement of these carefully designed stays. The near parallel chainstays of the delta cannot possibly compete with the Newton's beautifully triangulated front end. The delta's seat stays are duplicated here in the downward sloping stays on the Newton. Again a wide splay ensures perfect triangular bracing without adding extra weight.

I must say that I personally prefer the cleaner looks of the diamond "men's" frame of this machine to the bifurcated top tubes of the later Newtons. It's probably an age thing. I just don't like the look of sloping top tubes on any bikes. (or trikes) That said the twin top tubes are probably vastly superior for stiffness and bracing value on any pedal driven machine. Made of suitable materials these need be no heavier than a single tube of similar stiffness. The infamous Pedersen and Norton motorcycle featherbed frames are legendary for their stiffness and lightness. All thanks to duplication of the frame tubing. 

Newton trikes and trike conversion sets are also offered in tandem form for that even rarer beast. The, probably unique, Newton tandem, tadpole tricycle. A combination of tricycle and tandem with two wheels forwards. Delta tandem tricycles have always been around but are still very rare. I think I have knowingly seen only one tandem trike in my entire life with my own eyes. That was decades ago in my youth. Though there are examples illustrated on the Tricycle Association website.

Here are some nice images of a Newton tandem trike. It has been modified with QR frame couplings to allow dismantling for more compact storage or carriage:

Googles billedresultat for http://www.sandsmachine.com/p_mst_t1.jpg

In case you missed it earlier here is Roman Road's, Newton trike website:

Roman Road

I have just discovered a nice picture of a Newton trike on the wooljersey part of the Gallery image website. 

I have tried to register in the hope of contacting Bob Freitas to ask permission to use his image. I left a comment as a visitor but still no response from my registration attempt. In the meantime I'll link to the Newton image:


The question remains why a supposedly superior machine to the "standard" delta is not seen in far greater numbers? Tadpoles are supposedly much easier to ride than a delta. Yet the only machines one sees (in time trial or massed start) competition on the TA or Belgian triking website are deltas. The price of a Newton is close to that of a new delta from Trykit or Longstaff. (or the Supertrike of Beligium?)

I can imagine one slight drawback of the upright tadpole would be road shocks to the front wheels as a result of hitting a pothole, drains or road debris. My own delta experience is that one can get away with hitting almost anything with the back wheels but never the front. Practice allows the delta rider to lift a lightly-loaded rear wheel over any obstacle with a deft and timely twitch of the handlebars. This can be managed at almost any speed. The tadpole's front wheels are more lightly loaded by the rider than the delta's single one of course. This may allow a quick lean combined with a twitch of the bars to lift one front wheel over potential dangers. However the front axle and stays must add considerable mass at the front end. Making lifting the front much more difficult than a simple pair of forks and one lightweight wheel. I wonder how they could cope with the steep pavement ramps outside many supermarket car parks? One can't so easily lift the front wheels off the ground as one can so effortlessly with the delta in a low gear.

I'm not sure how a tadpole upright would cope with my pothole-littered, rural lanes. Being able to judge the track of the front wheels may allow easier avoidance of the worst dangers. Though many of the lanes I travel are now in such poor condition that no safe route is possible even in the complete absence of traffic! Not even using the entire width of the road! One can but aim the single front wheel of the delta and hope to find a clear path. Letting the back wheels take care of themselves. Lifting off the saddle momentarily really helps to reduce unsprung weight on the rear wheels on the worst stuff. Provided, of course, that the trike isn't too heavily laden. Though the rider is the major load on any normal trike.  I'm not sure the tadpole is so forgiving. I do wish somebody who has managed considerable mileages on an upright tadpole would share their experience of riding one.

The weight of a suitably equipped tadpole machine is not too dissimilar to a reasonable delta. Perhaps the bias towards the delta is simply conservatism on the part of those who choose to be tricyclists?  I wish I could have a ride on one just to see how they handle.

I have been planning to build an upright tadpole, for some years, but it still hasn't happened. (not yet anyway) I still have the lightweight, aluminium alloy track/tie rods and spherical joints sitting patiently in a box. These were bought from an online store dealing with racing go karts so should be more than strong enough for a trike. I have the steering tube and front axle cross tube already. I made a neat cross joint (thinned for lightness on my lathe from a high quality, iron plumbing joint) to form a tidy crossed lug. No great strength would be required here since most of the loads are taken by the stays. I just need to obtain some more brazing rods and get building. I shall be using the tubes and stays from the donor bikes I have collected for this very project. It won't be as light or as sophisticated as a Newton but will at least give me the experience of riding a tadpole, upright trike.


30 Mar 2010

Google's tandem trike

  Has anybody noticed that Google is using a tandem trike to produce 360 degree image surroundings where their "Street View" camera vehicles cannot go?

Nice triangulation! I wonder what that lot costs?

How do Google advertise for this job? Tandem tricyclists with good sense of balance required? That thing looks very top heavy! Imagine the cost of overcooking a corner or misjudging the camber? And only one front brake? Ouch! Perhaps there is a hub brake hidden away at the back somewhere? I think I can see two brake levers. One of which may be hydraulic.  I also see they went for toe clips and straps rather than some more modern variety of pedal system. Compound gear reduction must be handy for such an obviously, heavy device. It looks very like it has a solid axle. Haven't they heard of Longstaff and Trykit's double freewheel, two wheel drive?

I wonder if the tandem rider gets danger money for fighting off irate locals? What next? Camera tandem trike racing? Sorry the wheels are cut off by the photographer in this Google image. Most of the online images of this trike are identical. Ironic indeed that the inadequate photographer was photographing a high-tech automatic camera operator. Perhaps they should have used a trike camera to photograph another trike camera to ensure they got it all in? ;-)

I'm glad they didn't ride down my drive instead of passing by on the main road. I doubt their turning circle was up to the task anyway. Google, the multi-billion tech-iest company on the planet is using a tandem trike? Perhaps this rarest of beasts has qualities and characteristics previously unrecognised? I often notice how my go-anywhere trike can pass unnoticed where a vehicle would have curtains twitching.

More images in the link below:

Googles billedresultat for http://blog.dk.sg/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/DSC07542.jpg

Somebody at Google must have been a keen cyclist to even have known about tandem tricycles. Presumably this was prior to such a device even being considered for this important task. "Street View" is something I only discovered for myself today. Amazingly many minor roads in the the most rural parts of Denmark have been well covered by this camera technology.  I was able to follow a cyclist for miles just by clicking on the next camera symbol up the road. Quite fun really and suggestive of a relatively low road speed for the camera vehicle. The cyclist was no boy racer. Sadly, many of my previous haunts in the UK are still without the little camera symbols on Google Earth.

Videos I have seen of  the trike camera in action show that it sways considerably in use. Almost taking on the qualities of a compound pendulum. They must have some really serious image stabilisation solutions! This explains why they didn't go for independent rear suspension. Though the fat tyres are definitely showing their pneumatic qualities. I would imagine that doubling the rear wheels/tyres would have greatly reduced swaying. Swaying obviously didn't bother them enough to try.  I wonder why they didn't fit the camera trike with rear view mirrors?

29 Mar 2010

Keep on trikin'

Mon 18th Jan 2010: -2C and almost calm. I spent the morning helping my wife to clear a new 2" fall of snow. When I left after 3pm I had the winter training trousers on again after being so cold yesterday. Though  I was soon too warm again. So I removed the thin padded waistcoat at the first opportunity. I was fighting an inch of mixed slush, ice and packed snow on the minor roads. Main roads mostly clear on the carriageways with banks of snow in the cycle lanes. I chose to take a meandering route to yet another village with supermarkets.

Quite amazingly, five different people spoke to me outside the shops. Three asked specifically if I had made the Higgins myself. At  this rate I shall have to have a story ready for enquirers. Or bilingual leaflets ready to hand out. They all seemed genuinely interested in the trike and recognised its sporting pretensions.

Later I saw a cyclist tootling along at a good pace a few hundred yards ahead and thought I'd try and catch them. Just to get some idea of my fitness level. I was averaging 16-18mph before I finally caught them. I was panting like a steam engine and my legs were on fire. They had eased off to about 14 mph on a long incline so I had no choice but to to go past and then try and stay ahead. The young rider had a sporty bike with skinny tyres. I put quite some distance on him on the flat but then a steeper hill intervened and he caught me as I dropped back to 12mph. I tried to use the cycle lane in town but it was too just narrow between the snow banks for a trike and I had to use the road again. The last time I checked in my my mirror he had disappeared.

It was dark by the time I finally headed for home but the traffic was light enough to avoid problems with the narrowed roads. I really have begun to hate the main roads with the lorries and their matching trailers brushing elbows with me. It's not so bad when the cycle lanes are clear and they have more room to overtake safely. Only 21 miles today and legs a bit achy in the evening.

 A picture is worth a thousand words. This sums up the present conditions nicely.

Tues 19th Jan 2010. -1C with light northerly - north easterly winds. I chose a village 9 or 10 miles to the north as my target for today.  Lots of hills but avoided the worst main roads.  Roads still mushy in places with banks of snow on either side. Had a chat with a Danish chap who had lived near London in his youth. He was interested in the trike and mentioned somebody who kept tipping a trike over on the corners. (in England) Tried to keep my speed up (as usual) for 22 miles today.

Wed 20th New snow + cold + windy + shoulder pain from snow clearing = rest day = 0 miles today.

I found a superb, time trial video from a really talented film maker on YouTube: BTW: The trike is at 6.40-6.55. It looks like a Longstaff judging by the hubs. The rider (Adrian Perkin)  is moving along nicely. The film maker (M.E.Carroll) deserves far higher viewing figures. Sadly the average YouTube audience would need naked cyclists falling off every few yards to begin to watch this sort of thing in larger numbers.

And another great TT video by the same author. By  coincidence the trike appears at at 6.40 and again at 6.50 (later confirmed as Adrian Perkin on his Longstaff) These videos stand full screen viewing at higher resolutions.

Thursday 21st Jan 2010. -3C, 27F, light winds. Minor roads covered in packed snow and frozen slush. The narrow tyres break through the crunchy stuff and act as a brake. Then I get wheelspin trying to get the speed back up. Lots of recent drifting and wind sculpture of snow banks beside the roads. Very hard work making progress in places. Very quiet on the way out with no traffic at all. Headwind on way back made my toes very cold and slowed me down. I didn't need a handkerchief. I needed a whole bed sheet for my nose! Saw Fieldfares in the hedges and two large (Great Spotted) woodpeckers foraging together in birch trees.  Only 19 miles today but at least I made the effort.

How much longer is this ice age going to continue? The forecast is even colder for the next ten days. I was promised AGW! Where do I queue for my refund? :-)

I saw a great little toy online: A GPS logger. It records one's route and then shows it on Google Earth when one gets home. The GT-120 for 400DKK [£46][$76US]equiv  @ only 20 grammes and smaller than a matchbox looks quite interesting for monitoring my training progress. MobileAction Technology - i-gotU Official Site. I always forget to record my daily mileage and then forget to check the bike computer before I leave each day. Ain't senility wonderful? Every day is a surprise! Toy-toys-toys. :-)

Friday 22 Jan. 17.5F, -8C. 10m/s South Easterly breeze. When I got the trike out of the shed my chain was frozen stiff into zig-zag wiggles! Presumably the moisture from previous rides had frozen the links. It is so cold in the bike shed that snow, which I bring in on my shoes lasts for a week.  I had to oil the chain and run it backwards for a while just to make it behave normally before I could leave.

Taking no chances on clothing this time. I'm fed up with being cold. Skiing goggles. (very sensible today after several days of streaming eyes) Windcheater over fleece jacket, all wool jumper and thin polyester vest. Winter training trousers over polyester tights. Longest and thickest wool socks in the cupboard over polyester socks.

My windcheater became saturated by the time I returned as was my fleece jacket. (interstitial condensation forcing a dew point within my clothing) I knew I was a bit too warm most of time but had little choice once I was out. The wind chill without the outer jacket was just too unpleasant with the headwind + my forward speed being additive. I did five miles at 12mph plus unprotected from the head wind. Wind chill factor below -20C! My beard was literally a solid mass of water ice but thankfully my nose didn't run nearly as much today.  25 miles on mostly clear main roads and snow packed/icy minor roads. I may try wearing a second fleece jacket instead of a wind cheater. The fleece will breathe better. Allowing the moisture to be carried away without allowing the cold to reach my skin. As it does with my single (densely matted) fleece jacket.

Perhaps another jumper would be worth a try? If it proves too warm I can always put it in the bag. My theory that a raised core temperature would keep my extremities warmer was not really born out in practice today. My left hand became very cold (for a while) until I started climbing. Then having descended into a headwind wind my feet gradually became colder and stayed cold for the entire ride. Not painfully so but hardly comfortable either.  

I climbed this long hill today. Managing an average of only 12mph. Google Earth tells me it is 2.5 miles long with a bend near the middle where it disappears out of  sight 1/2 mile beyond the footbridge. The hill continues behind the camera for another 200 yards. Some local recumbent cyclists used this hill for coasting trials to prove the speed and wind resistance of their various steeds.

Note the unusually wide bicycle lane just here. Normally I have one rear wheel running along the dashed line of most bicycle lanes because they are so mean with the width. To add to the irritation the width of the dashed line ensures I must have both the front and one rear wheel running along the line if I try to bridge it. A wider track on the trike might help but I might need a "wide vehicle" sign embroidered on the back of my shorts. :-)

Saturday 23 Jan 2010, -7C, 17.8F. Stronger SE wind moving the trees and smoking snow across the roads. Tailwind going. Really nasty headwind back.  I could feel the cold on my arms and chest through all my clothing on the way back. I had a stripe of frost up the back of my outer fleece jacket when I got home. It was painful to remove the ice from my beard because it was frozen so hard. 20 miles of slow, biting cold on frozen roads.

Do you call that a cycle path? I knew I should have put the snow plough on before leaving!

Sun 24th Jan 2010: A roaring wind overnight had produced yet more drifts from old snow. 21.5F -6C with the trees still bending to gusts when I left. A horrible headwind. I couldn't get much over 12mph on the way to the shops. Not even pedalling downhill! My fingers were cold even in my thicker gloves. The main roads were an ugly concrete grey from dried salt. Tried to  take a detour on the way back but the road was impassable as far as the eye could see. So I ended up with a miserable 9 miles on the clock.

BTW: I have a new hat! A thick, felted, peaked,  fleece cap with ear flaps and neck protection which matches the colours of my trike. I am now the colour-coordinated, foreign legionnaire of the tricycle brigade. Very good it is too with the skiing goggles in place. The first time in weeks my ears weren't freezing cold. With the tailwind I was cruising at 20mph uphill and down dale. I wasn't out long enough to get cold feet.

28 Mar 2010

Ever onwards

11th Jan -2C with snow drifting in a strong NE wind. I have swapped my usual soft Thinsulate fleece gloves for a stiffer pair with a tough nylon shell. Another cheap special offer from a local supermarket. These gloves have a rubberised palm extending right up the fingers and thumb. So they offer plenty of grip as well as warmth. No more cold hands! I was quite surprised to see how well Thinsulate scores against home insulation.

The main road wasn't too bad as I headed for the shops but my decision to take a detour back found a weakness in one wheel drive. Wheel spin! Lots of it. The lanes varied from 2-4 " of hard packed snow which had been crumbled in places into a mush by the traffic. Very little tarmac was visible. Every time I hit a deep soft patch it was like jamming on the brakes.  I was trying to keep my speed up around 15mph on this rutted, loose stuff but kept losing momentum. The trike seemed sure-footed in a straight line but the 700 x 23 smooth tyres are not ideal for forward progress in these conditions.  In some places the snowploughs had lifted banks of snow six feet high onto the verges where the snow had been blown straight off the fields. I couldn't take any pictures because my broken (Lumix TZ7) camera screen is still being assessed. Or, hopefully, repaired free of charge.

It was quite hard work on the lanes but a huge relief to escape from the enforced captivity of the house. I think others felt the same because several people have spoken to me outside the supermarkets. The trike seems to act as an ice breaker where an ordinary bicycle is so commonplace in Denmark as to attract no attention. They are mostly pensioners who probably miss having a daily conversation in the bad weather. They recognise something different from the usual adult trike and this sparks their interest.

One of several bike parks near Odense bus and railway station.

Toes a  bit cold despite two pairs of socks and trainers. 12 miles today. Not bad considering the terrible conditions. Riding the main roads, made worse with snow covered bike lanes, just to find clear road surfaces, is really no fun at all. So I didn't persevere. It is supposed to snow all night so I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Snow for a week is just about acceptable but this winter has been going on for far too long already!

Rund om Danmark: The bunch slowing for a village with a blind turn. This image is a scan of a print from my Olympus SLR then downsized for the blog. Photography of such races is best avoided. One misses the action and excitement while concentrating on the camera. It's best to avoid fast stretches too. It is all over before one has time to blink. My wife has saved a drinks bottle hurled towards us by one of the bunch as they roared past but she won't let me use it!

12th Jan: 6" of new snow overnight. Instead of wasting my time trying to ride in it I spent three and a half solid hours clearing the snow from the turning space and the drive. It is quite hard work pushing snow for 50 yards with a curved plywood scraper on a wooden broom handle. No rest (at all) for the wicked! Even after I had pushed it to the place I was going to dump it all I still had to lift  it onto the pile using the scraper like an oversized shovel. I really got some serious exercise clearing those 60 metres (yards) of drive with a good 6" of snow from end to end. Last time it was 16" deep and took us three whole days! This time I pushed it all back to one spot where it could be dumped without blocking the drive. Probably quite a few miles of walking backwards and forwards involved too. I could lie and say I was inspired by all the YouTube videos of Lance Armstrong exercising with weights. Actually, I felt tired just watching him! No triking today then.

A city council sorting yard for lost and stolen bicycles. Less than 1/4 of the total number of bikes are shown here. I believe the usable ones are sent to Eastern Europe by the Fredericia city council. The green container to the left held the scrap bikes. I was not allowed to make an offer on either of the usable tandems which the sorter threw in while I was standing there. "Jobsworth" or just following policy? He certainly wasn't pleased to see me in his territory.

One 1/8th of the stock of a rural village, secondhand bicycle dealer. These stand outside deteriorating all year round and are piled high right to the back of the building on both sides. 

14th Jan 26F -3C.  Cold easterly wind made my eyes water for the first time while wearing the cycling glasses. Overcast, so I'm still using yellow lenses. Only to the shops and back. Just 8 Miles. Bicycle paths, side roads and lanes still covered in snow and ice. Only main roads fairly clear. I wore my winter cycling trousers with the strategically placed rubberised patches and was too warm on the way back. Still good to get out though.

I had my TZ7 camera back from the repairers today. Panasonic accepted LCD screen repair under guarantee. I had 300 images and videos to download and delete. I haven't been able to format the card until now due to a lack of screen menus.

15th Jan 26F -3C. Cold SE wind. The usual detours back from the shops still iced up so I did another loop for 11 miles. Fingers and toes cold and anything above 15mph was very uncomfortable while heading into the wind.  Then I was too warm climbing with a tail wind and had to unzip my jacket to cool off. I'm sick of the sight of snow and ice and having to overdress!

Another 1/8th of the stock piled outside the used bike dealers. The building is similarly packed from floor to ceiling on two floors. It is almost impossible to push through the narrow corridors left for access. A large shed behind the building is also packed from floor to ceiling. The secret behind his massive collection? He charges a minimum of £50 per bike and on upwards into the hundreds of pounds equivalent.

16th Jan Saturday.  -2C. Stronger SE wind and light freezing rain falling. 15 miles on main roads with the cycle lanes still blocked by banks from snow ploughing. Cold headwind all the way back without any shelter from hedges. The white rain felt like needles on my face. My fleece jacket had turned white by the time I came home. Feeling rather tired today.

I nearly ran into the back of a car on a roundabout when the driver suddenly braked hard without warning. Apparently to slam his door shut properly. I grabbed the brakes and just managed to steer between his car and the central island.

17th Jan Sunday.  -3C and overcast. A raw, viciously cold day with the wind 10m/s (25mph)  from the SE. It felt more like -15. Drifting snow lay thick in places even on the main roads from yesterday's gales.

With salt crystals popping under my tyres I headed for a village 10 miles distant to do some shopping. The idea was simply to have a more distant goal to reach despite the awful conditions. To try and increase my daily mileage without being within easy reach of home if I should bottle out. Not a good day for it with the headwind cutting me in half. It seemed to manage to do so for most of the way round.  I should have worn my ski goggles. My eyes watered so much that the yellow plastic lenses were constantly wet and rippling in small waves just below my field of view. They still have the tide mark of salty tears. My hands and feet were really hurting too. Every time I rode downhill it was agonisingly, achingly cold. The wind was blowing straight through my clothing, through me and out of the other side. Leaving my meagre warmth trailing in a thin wake of my own making.

Thank goodness for a tailwind home by a minor road away from the roar of traffic. My nose was still running continuously and the drips freezing in patches on my polyester clad knees. My beard was solid with water ice and frozen snot.  The best bit of the whole trip was thawing my feet out as I walked round in the supermarket at the halfway point. As well as the shopping, I was hoping for a small, plastic food container with a firm, snap-on lid for my camera.  I had decided I needed a bit more protection than the padded vinyl case offered alone. Particularly after the LCD screen had cracked spontaneously. I noticed my toes were purple in the shower.

So, all in all, I enjoyed 23 miles of nearly constant misery and pain. Repeat after me: "I am not a victim. I choose to do this. I am not a victim. I choose to do this." :-)

And now for something completely different: From a past summer to remind me of warmer, sunnier days. An English couple with assorted kids were on a tandem tour and I just happened to arrive in the same car park as they did. There are some long and steep hills at this particular high point of their tour.

Tragically, the best hill (for miles around) has several blind bends on it making it is impossible to capture its full majesty in a single photograph. It has a rather bumpy, paved cycle path alongside to allow cyclists to exhaust themselves without danger from the speeding traffic. The steepest part of the climb is just  below the summit. Just as oxygen debt robs one of all reserves of energy and one's legs are burning in a self-made hell. One emerges from this tree-lined canyon onto an open plateau. To find a fairly level shopping street with several supermarkets. Rather an anticlimax for the tortured cyclist as they gasp for air with leaden legs. I do like a good hill though. Even if I am no longer a suitable match for them all. 

27 Mar 2010

Wind chill factor


 A seasonal scene still lingering in a village garden.
Despite a bitterly cold, westerly wind, 2-3C temperatures and frozen slush in the lanes I managed a 28 mile circle today. The saddle was fine once I had overcome the initial muscular pain from trying too hard from the off.

I returned to find my feet and belly were deep red and stinging but not particularly painful.  I had removed my windproof jacket very early on and was riding in a medium weight jumper over the thin polyester vest. I should have taken a light fleece jacket for a little more warmth. I wore the slim Nike trainers over thick woollen socks and didn't notice cold feet this time. A shower soon warmed me up again but I really must be more flexible about clothing during these cold winter rides. I have plenty of room in my bigger bag and should carry something warmer than a jumper for my top half.

I'm still wearing padded racing shorts over the thin polyester tights. This seems an ideal balance between comfort and overheating. Every time I've tried heavier trousers I quickly became too warm. Leaving me with the problem of stripping off when I'm already sweating. The forecast is for it to remain below -2C all week so I shall have to dress accordingly.

I am enjoying my new cycling spectacles. I shall have to try the darker lenses for bright, sunny conditions like today. I was quite blind at times from the glare of the wet roads reflecting the low sun. All the lenses block UV but the yellow ones don't reduce the glare at all. Quite the reverse. The winged lenses seem to stop my eyes watering no matter how cold it is.

I wonder why the manufacturers don't silver the tips of these wraparound, lens wings to provide rear view mirrors when one glances right or left? It seems so obvious that such a modification would increase cycling road safety quite dramatically. Such mirrors would be handy for racing too. To save turning round to check for chasers or passing cars or motorbikes. Just overtaking parked vehicles would be so much safer for most cyclists if one could glance behind without physically twisting round.

Only 22 miles in two hours today but I was hindered by a great deal of solid water ice and frozen slush on the minor roads. Eventually, after a couple of scary moments  I found I could ride safely over almost anything if I lifted off the saddle and took the shocks in my legs. It saved the wheels from a beating too. I was glad for three wheels where the road was iced over the entire width with refrozen melt water. I came across a  frozen lake completely blocking the road and had to walk round it on the left on the semi-frozen field to save a long detour.

Another blind, point and shoot, wide angle image because I haven't returned the camera for a new LCD screen to be fitted yet.

I wore a fleece jacket over a thin, woollen  jumper to reduce wind chill without overheating. Two pairs of thinner socks and the slim Nike trainers were comfortable with no foot problems at all today. I find it almost effortless to do 20 miles these days. I'm deliberately getting out of the saddle a lot more to strengthen different muscles. When I first started training seriously I couldn't manage a few yards standing up on the pedals without serious pain in my legs. Now I can honk uphill for several hundred yards without strain. My nose is still purple and I'm wondering whether it is the cold weather. No discomfort or numbness is evident though. Overcast and even colder tomorrow.

Only seven miles today on an errand. -2C, heavy overcast and 10m/s from NE. (m/s x 2.2 = mph)  Threw a jacket over my normal clothes and set off wearing a balaclava. Quickly overheated, stripped off hat, gloves and two jackets but was still sweating buckets waiting at the supermarket checkout. Put everything back on to ride flat out to get home, out of my wet clothes and into the shower. I've never climbed that hill at such a speed until today! :-)  Wind forecast lighter tomorrow but still overcast and down to -5C for much of the day.

New Year's Eve:  Hard frost overnight. 27F (-4C) and light winds as I left. Did ten mile errand to the shops and back. Punctured on frozen rutted ice on minor road detour back through forest! Probably a pinched inner tube despite pumping tyres rock hard before leaving. You probably won't believe this  but this is the very first time I have ever had to repair a puncture on the side of the road. This is in well over 50 years of cycling! I took out the punctured tube. Removed the tyre completely to check for thorns with my fingers. Replaced tyre half way. Fitted brand new inner tube and was on my way again in under five minutes. It felt very strange working on a wheel fixed solidly to a trike. Very cold on the hands too but the tyre went on with thumb pressure alone. Two people stopped in their cars to see if I needed help or a lift! I declined of course but thanked them very politely for their kindness. Never spoil it for somebody else who really might need help. A woodpecker kept me company while I worked with his tapping echoing loudly through the woods. As usual there were lots of large birds of prey out in the fields and perched on the hedges.

After coffee I went off to another town for some organic cream for the remaining mince pies. Still -3C and bitterly cold cycling into the 10m/s head wind. My face felt prickly at times and my feet were cold. So were my hands for the first time in these Thinsulate gloves. I took it in turns to tuck each gloved hand under my armpits. The rest of me was warm enough in a close-fitting, fleece jacket, medium weight woollen jumper and long sleeved polyester vest. My nose ran copiously every inch of the way. When I blew it on a handkerchief, while still pedalling along, my hands got very cold within seconds.  I'm still wearing cycling shorts over the thin, polyester tights which were comfortable for my legs despite the cold. The sun came out but I couldn't feel it at all.

The trip back was almost pleasant and my feet and hands were warm enough now after recovering in the supermarket queue.  There is a very fine line between being cold, comfortable and too warm. Hill climbing can quickly mess up my clothing plans. Jackets must have a full zip to allow rapid adjustment of ventilation on a big hill. Taking my hat off usually works well if the open jacket doesn't cool me rapidly enough.

I wore a polyester, pudding-basin, knitted hat on the first trip but it was far too cold for my ears. So I wore my trusty Thinsulate "tea cosy" for the second trip. Thinsulate is far more windproof than the knitted hat and is deep enough to cover my ears completely with doubled material. The cheap cycling glasses are still ensuring no watery eyes. A great success for a very small investment. I really like the yellow lenses for the normally overcast conditions. Another 12 miles for a total of 22 miles today all at below 27F or -3C.

There were very few cyclists out today but lots of shoppers in their cars stocking up for the New Year festivities. Fireworks are on sale in lots of different shops  at this time of year. The Danes are firework mad at New Year and the racket usually goes on to 3am. With so many thatched roofs everywhere there are distance rules but nobody seems to follow them. Not even the owners of the thatched roofs!

A Happy New Year to all of my readers. I had no idea that reading about trikes and tricycling could prove so popular with so many people all around the world. I hope I can continue to hold your interest. My only resolution is to keep adding more miles on my trike. Weather permitting I hope to build up to around 40 then 50 miles per day, every day and still in reasonable comfort. If I can get my camera LCD screen fixed under guarantee I shall also have more pictures to share.

New Year's day: -3C overcast. A rest day, sitting at the computer, pigging chocolates, cake and mince pies. Legs felt stiff, but not painful, all day.

2 Jan 2010: 27F -2C, overcast, light snow flurries, light variable winds. Only 15 miles on icy minor roads. Hardly anybody out walking. Wore a light, woven wool, lined waistcoat under my fleece jacket for a little extra warmth. Fairly comfortable but not feeling very energetic. Probably yesterday's sugar and fat intake. Feet felt a bit cold at times despite two pairs of medium thick socks in slim trainers. I'll be glad to get back to stiffer cycling shoes. Will have to look at the Higgins head bearings as I'm getting a shimmy on the steering. 

3 Jan woke to 19.6F -7C. Set off after coffee into light falling snow. Wore my usual clothing plus thin waistcoat under my fleece jacket. As usual I could feel the cold wind on my forearms through my clothes. My face felt tight. Managed to keep my fingers warm by holding them tightly together in my gloves but they warmed up after a while anyway. I felt colder every time I went above 15mph so decided to minimise wind chill by maintaining a high cadence on the middle chainring. My toes gradually began to complain of the cold and finally set today's comfort limit of only 10 miles. I could have gone further but I was too near home to resist the temptation of putting an end to the discomfort in my feet. Returned to find the temperature had risen to a toasty 21F or -6C in the watery sunshine.  My beard was solid with ice from my breath. I'll have to increase my protection for my feet and hands if I am to continue riding in this cold spell. I can't make my body any warmer than it is already or I risk sweating. Which will soon turn to ice on my back on cold descents.

Though I have certainly ridden bikes in similar conditions the extra security of three wheel stability is certainly no hindrance to going out. Had I been limited to a bike I seriously doubt that I would have the same desire to risk the icy lanes as often as I have on the trike. It seems completely safe on almost any surface. Even when the front wheel is suddenly "derailed" by a change in a rut in the iron-hard, frozen slush. In fact I have regularly had to run over glass smooth, water ice without any apparent loss of steering. I made the mistake, early on,  of hesitantly putting a foot down on one such road-wide, skating rink. Then nearly fell off  when my foot shot out from under me! It has proved far safer to remain firmly seated on the trike. Even the brakes seem to stop me safely when standing up on the pedals has produced instant wheel spin. I'd hate to have to rely on rear brakes under these slippery conditions!

Jan 4th: Woke to fresh fall of snow, windy, overcast and 30F. 0 miles today. Went to the city in the car. Lots of spray on the windscreen as it rose to ~32F. Took my broken Lumix TZ7 back to the shop for examination under guarantee. Why aren't shop people as happy to see returns customers as buying customers?  Thinking about toe shields. I can't let the cold weather interfere with my already-low mileages. Niggling problems like cold toes are just easy excuses not to go out. Must make the effort tomorrow even if it means wearing polythene bags over my trainers. I could always do my old 6 mile loop a few times so I can easily come in and warm up instead of riding past. Lots more snow forecast. 2009 ended up 8th warmest in Denmark since records began in 1874. If it hadn't been for the cold end to the year it might have scored 5th highest. I can't understand why the DMI keeps forecasting sunshine and we never get any. Day after day. Week after week. Always wrong. Their forecasting seaweed must be completely worn out.

Jan 5th and 6th. Yet more snow. One day at a time.

Jan 7th 25.5F, -3.5C, only 8 miles. (to shops and back) Main road surfaces clear but much narrowed by snow ploughs and light traffic not clearing to edge. Minor roads best avoided. Air felt cold but I was fine except for my ears stinging. My beard froze solid on the way back. A definite increase in wind chill over 15mph. Subjectively 18-20mph felt twice as cold and unpleasant enough to make me to drop a gear and increase my cadence. It was good to get back on the trike.

Jan 8th.  -8C, 18F. Light breeze with bright sunshine. The air felt bitterly cold outside while clearing another 2" of overnight snow.  The slightest breeze was very unpleasant. Hands cold despite gloves. Roads partly frozen slush with very little traffic.  Even colder, but grey, forecast for tomorrow.  Whole week ahead well below freezing. Buzzards and smaller birds of prey floating across looking for lunch. 0 miles today I'm afraid.

9th and 10th of January and it has been cold and very windy. I crunched through the crisp snow for the 200 yards to the road. To see deep drifts across the road where the farmers had ripped out the hedges. The road was completely clear where the hedges remained. No point in going out in this.

The trike was standing with its back to me in the shed when I entered looking for a screwdriver in the cold, half light. It was waiting almost expectantly. Like a horse dreaming it had the freedom of the fields. It deliberately ignored me as I glanced in its direction. We had enjoyed a mutual bond which had been broken only by the bad weather. It had carried me for so many miles. Always uncomplaining, no matter what I asked of it. Along empty lanes and alongside roaring traffic going nowhere in particular. There were moments of complete symbiosis when I felt I was riding within the trike. Pure imagination of course but that was really how it felt at times.

It is odd how one's relationship with any machine changes over time. One goes from perching on a strangely awkward device which is trying to hurt you. To a familiarity which makes it go where you point it as if it had learned your own idiosyncrasies. The gear levers fall to hand and change instinctively to the mere desire to be in another gear. The rehearsed  gymnastics of hanging over the inside wheel become second nature. Though sometimes I do find myself leaning out too far and wonder why I did so. The corner and my speed did not need this overreaction to its difficulty. Almost as if a bad habit had become a learned routine rather than a necessary manoeuvre. Though naturally fear probably enters into it.  There is a long, steep downhill run, not far from home, with a smooth but fierce curve at the bottom. Often I would brake too early but eventually it left the brakes alone and it became pure exhilaration. Provided of course nothing was coming the other way so I could choose my own line to skim the inside verge.

It has almost begun to feel as if the trike knows more about cornering than I do. It can manage well enough with a simple lean on my part. Our cooperation is  not perfect but we are learning from each other's mistakes. I just hope it forgives me for the hiatus when we both head for the open road together again.

It was getting a bit too easy for both of us. Just a bit too comfortable. Distance had become not a matter of survival and the toleration of pain and discomfort but more a problem of elapsed time. My average speeds hadn't increased. I just lasted longer out there without serious effort. Going round in ever bigger circles. I had overcome the psychological barriers of leaving the comfortable nest but had yet to spread my wings. In retrospect this is more to do with the awful weather. My toes and fingers were cold and my face felt as if it was being drawn tight by the ice in my beard. It really wasn't the time to stray too far.

I was rather amazed how well I coped psychologically with that puncture. I should have been far more deflated because I thought my HP tyres were bomb proof until that moment. I quickly forgave the tyre and blamed it on the vicious frozen slush which had been hammering me for a couple of miles. It wasn't kind at all to ride on that stuff. I should have turned back as soon as I saw the terrible condition of the road surface. Though turning back would have meant a very short ride home and I was almost desperate to stay out that day. Anything to add more miles.

Miles had become precious to me as it became ever colder and my extremities kept asking for relief from the pain. It is so easy to give in and head straight home but very bad for one's self-discipline. The drive to keep pushing harder and longer must be nurtured and protected like a small flame against a headwind. I shall keep going out when conditions are sensible. I have not lost the yearning to be master of my own destiny for the hour, or two, ahead.

Eventually spring will come again and I will find the measure of  the empty lanes with renewed vigour and far greater stamina. To take off with that urgency which only that wonderful freedom of cycling can bring. The effortless flight uphill and down dale accompanied by the sound of one's breath and the roar of the narrow tyres. All for the sheer pleasure of it. To hear the startled blackbird and sparrows in the hedge and the tumbling water in the roadside drains.

Dogs barking furiously at my passing because they wish they too could run alongside their master's steed. As do many Danish dogs run along beside with their owner's bikes. Often stretching effortlessly ahead on a long leash to supply extra speed or a little help on the familiar, tiresome hills. I thought it cruel at first but quickly realised that dogs are built for loping tirelessly for hours. Wide awake but still dreaming of the hunting pack as their bright eyes are fixed steadfastly on the open road ahead. Only occasionally do they glance up at their master. For reassurance and to show their love for being allowed to be so alive. They run and they run because they can. I know that feeling but I have no master to impress. None to obey except my own instincts to travel as fast and as far as I dare.

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.


25 Mar 2010


There is a definite element of masochism in cycling. Why would anyone repeatedly do something which hurts (a lot!) for no other reason than competing with one's own pride? Why would one suffer the pain of a saddle which fails to support with any degree of comfort? So that one has to repeatedly stand up on the pedals in a desperate bid to end the pain. Why put up with the fire in the thighs on every single hill simply out of pride in climbing more quickly than a geriatric on an upright roadster? What drives one to seek out and climb the steepest and longest hills within easy reach of home? Why add the extra miles when one is already tired and one knows full well one will suffer with stiff and sore legs for the rest of the day? Answers on a postcard, please, to:  The daft old masochist on the Higgins tricycle.

Yesterday was a case in point: I had been busily averaging 27-28 miles every day but then had to be in two places in opposite directions from home. Both appointments must be concluded before 1 o'clock. It would have been very easy just to have taken the car but the opportunity was too good to miss for the trike. First came the very hilly twenty two miles round trip to the north east. I returned home for a quick shower and coffee before setting off for another run to the south west. Total distance for the day of 45 miles. My longest daily mileage to date. Nothing much at all by real cyclist's standards. Or even by my own standards of only a decade (or two) ago. Still, another milestone on my journey to greater fitness. (Yes that was milestone. Not millstone) :-)

The change back to the Vetta SL was a wise one. I probably couldn't have done it on the Brooks B17. I had some discomfort at 35 miles but eventually it passed. I was pounding the miles along the rough cycle lane alongside a busy main road. Driving into the wind, bent low over the bars and cursing the passing traffic. They say if you are saddle sore you should pedal harder. Well it worked for me. Thankfully the last stretch was with the wind behind me. My legs hurt for the rest of the day but I woke this morning without serious discomfort.

I have just ridden a circuitous, ten mile scenic/hilly route to the village shop in the pouring rain and only noticed my legs when I tried to twiddle downhill in the wrong gear. My windproof cycling jacket was soaked but amazingly my jumper was still dry. I left the coated nylon waterproofs in the bag because I hate the clammy feeling of being stuck inside a mobile sauna. It really is no better than being wet through. Except in an emergency if you get stuck out in the wilds somewhere. Where such clothing could easily save your life. I probably looked like a drowned rat but felt comfortable the whole time. Knowing I would soon return home allowed me the luxury of  getting wet without consequence. Yet I remained remarkably dry despite the lack of real waterproofs. My Thinsulate hat and gloves were sopping wet on the outside but I didn't notice any wetness on the inside. These inexpensive items of clothing have proved remarkably comfortable and flexible in use.

The temperature is only 4-5C (40F) and the sky leaden again but I didn't feel the least bit cold. These long, thin, black, skiing underclothes are amazing! The moment I go into the lee of a hedge they instantly make my legs feel warm. Thermal underwear companies have been bragging about this virtue for as long as I can remember but it was never true in my experience of over 30 years of enjoying outdoor activities. I found that, in practice, heavy thermal vests were no better than cotton t-shirts. They always felt cold and wet when they were wet. Then took hours of heavy exercise to warm up again.

The secret seems to be how thin this new polyester underwear really is. It lacks enough material to hold much moisture. So it really does carry sweat away from the body rather than holding onto it.  Yet it seems much too thin to promise much warmth. The complete opposite is true! It feels warm and dry almost all of the time provided I remove my over clothes when I warm up too much. This requires the discipline to stop and peel off a jacket or jumper when the wind still feels just as cold. The short term discomfort is well  worth it in the long run because I stay dry and comfortable.

The cold wind blows through the thin material on my legs but it seems not to matter. This stuff provides much more protection for the bare skin than one would ever imagine. Wearing a  cotton t-shirt over the top of the thin polyester vest would be hypothermic suicide. I  tried it only once and the t-shirt got sopping wet and felt as cold as ice all down my back. I stopped and took off t-shirt, put the jumper back on again and quickly returned to normal comfort levels. Real wool jumpers work superbly well for me over this thin underwear. I choose the thickness of the jumper carefully to suit the day's weather conditions before I leave home.The windproof nylon jacket goes over the top until I feel the need to remove it. Sometimes, if it is windy or cold, it stays on.

My Shimano cycling shoes are proving much more comfortable than my slim, smooth-soled, Nike trainers. (which I bought for cycling when I was doing more walking home than pedalling) The Shimano shoes also make my pedalling feel much more powerful. I'm still not using cleats but the stiffness of the Shimano soles works far better than the smooth, but flexible rubber of the Nike trainers. It helps that I'm using old fashioned rat trap pedals and toes clips and straps. Though I cannot imagine using cycling shoes without toe clips. The soles are far too slippery.

This reminds me of my youth when I first had proper cycling shoes and cleats. The difference in being able to pull up on the pedals while sprinting and climbing was sensational. Back in those days cleats were simple, slotted, rectangular plates nailed onto the smooth, leather soles of racing shoes. I liked a pair of asymmetric Lyotard  platform pedals with Christophe chromed steel toe-clips and leather straps before discovering cleats. Later on, after the TA Professional chainset had broken I used Campag, rat-trap, quill pedals with Campag chainsets.
Image borrowed from: http://www.bikeville.com/pedals.html

Cleats made track balancing decidedly perilous on a bike! At one set of lights the council had foolishly fitted a drain cover with the slots running in line with the road! Right in the gutter where all the cyclists would sit waiting patiently for the lights to change. Or simply to ride past on the green.  One day I dropped straight into the slots with my front, 5oz wood insert, sprint rim on Campag large flange Record Q/R hubs and stainless, double-butted spokes. Then I fell slowly over sideways like a tree with my feet still firmly clamped into the pedals! The rim was bent into an L-shape! I was livid but got no sympathy from the city council. Fortunately the bike insurance paid for a new wheel. 

 I might fit the triangular plastic shoe cleats and a pair of my old clip-in pedals despite their being rather out of fashion these days. I have a couple of pairs of Shimano 550 "Aero" pedals knocking about in the shed which look quite promising as far better quality, modern replacements for the Lyotards of my youth. They need a strip down, clean and re-lube but I took a quick snap to remind myself what they look like.

I tried the Longstaff trike owner's SPD pedals and matching MTB shoes on my recent visit. But will probably resist the temptation to take that route just yet. I suppose one must get used to SPD but the struggle to get the shoes locked in  for the very first time (I should add) was not conducive to my investment in this technology just yet.  At least they were very easy to un-clip when I had to get off his trike. His Shimano MTB cycling shoes were wonderfully comfortable and very easy to walk in. Some of these tiny SPD pedals must make stealing a bike or trike much more difficult for the casual thief. An extra layer of insurance but certainly not one to rely on alone.

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24 Mar 2010

Freezing saddles

Hi, I'm Chris and I'm a masochist tricyclist.
One day at a time. ;-)

A former partnership between the Longstaff conversion and another recycled frame. Fanti? A search suggests it may be an SCO product. The B17 saddle has since been restored,  re-riveted, oiled and retensioned  but it was still the saddle of choice back then.

I really can't recommend the drooping brake cable idea. It collected water and made the braking muddy. The idea was to avoid contact between the cable of the side-pull brake and the down tube at full lock. Proper trikes have brake extension bars or use alternative stirrup designs. The Tektro R725 range looks promising for a lack of vertical protrusions, is relatively inexpensive and has side cable entry. It looks much sexier in black: There are a number of different product names associated with this design but I believe the original manufacturers are in Taiwan.

I wish I had a smarter chainset. I have ridden so many miles that it is has become grooved from the toe straps rubbing against the cranks. All my recycled, cotterless chainsets seem to have tooth counts around 52/37. Okay for racing but not much use to me on the local, roller coaster roads. I have always preferred a triple with a comfortable, rather than wide ratio, sprocket block. Triples keep the chainline tidy and avoid having 9 or more sprockets and expensive chains (and rings and changers) for exactly the same ratios as the much cheaper triple set up. None of my ex-mountain bike, triple chainsets would look the part on an old trike. I could look around for a better combination of rings to fit one of my crank sets. Or find a small inner ring to make a triple? Now there's a thought. Except for the even wider tooth count for the rear gear changer to manage.

Having exceeded 20 miles per day for a whole week (stop laughing at the back!) I found another saddle problem. The Vetta SL was biting back for suffering the indignity of my presence. So the Brooks B17 medieval leather throne was restored to its former place and I set off with high hopes. On the first day (24 miles) it felt like a badly shaped rock. One picked from a field completely at random. It made my nether regions numb! It didn't help that I got lost in the back lanes of the Empty Quarter. Next day I remembered to drop the nose by one click and, thankfully, the numbness did not return. I must be a fully qualified masochist by now if only for doing the course work. The written exam must surely be a formality?

I really fancied an old, but beautiful, Brooks Professional saddle on eBay(UK) but several vendors would only accept UK bids. Parochialism is so "yesterday"! Haven't they heard of the www? Don't answer that! Prices seem to hover around half (or more) of new UK prices. It must be the vintage bike fans trying to build something original and willing to pay for it. The Pro is slightly narrower than the B17 and looks just a bit more curved across the back. I shall have to find a new one in the shops to see whether it would suit my own sitting geometry. There must be some secondhand ones knocking about here in Denmark if I look hard enough.

Yesterday was the first serious frost of the year. Denmark had somehow avoided a frost during November for the first time since records began. (1874) Instead it chose to set a new record for wettest number of days. And there I was wondering why it rained all the time. 29 days of rain in one month raised the umbrella tally by two whole days from the previous 1944 record! If this is AGW then I want a refund!

The icy wind was blowing straight through my windproof jacket, Norwegian jumper and polyester vest yesterday. Though my knees didn't even notice the cold. I had decided to put off my daily ride until after morning coffee and toasted rolls with marmalade in the forlorn hope of a thaw. The extra hour seemed to have hardly affected the ice on the puddles. One village was full of slush from the earlier passing of a tractor through the ice covered, road-bridging puddles of the previous days. Thanks goodness for the built-in stabilisers! The trike crosses ice as if it were dry road. Though I do remember in my youth sliding slowly but inexorably down the camber on black ice into the kerb as I rode to the local shops. I also vaguely remember that snow was also a  bit difficult with only one wheel drive.

Those of you shocked at the sight of two large, galvanised nuts can rest assured that they are precisely the width necessary to fit assorted frames without springing the donor bike chainstays apart. I could turn a smart cylinder out of brass or aluminium in the lathe but the nuts get the job done well enough. The two heavy rectangular bars and chromed reinforcing bar all add to the weight of the conversion. A "real" trike frameset is lighter and probably stiffer without them. Requiring only light, tubular steel, semicircular hoops for axle casing reinforcement and no duplication of the seat stays.  

Bright sunshine from an almost cloudless sky has finally taken the place of the former leaden skies. Despite my superb, wraparound sunglasses my eyes were still watering. With bright red plastic frames, these sunglasses were a good buy at a fiver from the local supermarket and have served me well. This, despite being dropped a few times as I fumbled in thick gloves outside supermarkets on forced shopping trips. I feel no extra drag or discomfort over the dress designer prices of the bike shop wares.

The Longstaff has a different geometry to the Higgins and it can be felt through the saddle thanks to the more upright position. I think this is why the Vetta saddle is complaining. It had an easier life on the Higgins since more of my weight is on the 'bars. The Higgins definitely makes saddles feel more comfortable. Rotating the pelvic girdle forwards may present a broader surface of the sit bones to the saddle top. The trike shown below has the handlebars set too high and is from a time when I was much less fit than I am now.

I have been temporarily stuck on the 36T chainring and this has been an interesting rediscovery of the art of twiddling. Despite the dangers of trying to read the seconds hand of my watch, sandwiched between gloved wrist and jacket cuff,  I found that I rarely drop below 80 rpm on the cranks. 100 rpm feels comfortable and I can go much higher without strain now. I have long forgotten the gear inches of the 36T chainring so don't ask for numbers.

The bike computer is staying on the Higgins until I get some new HP wheels. So I'm using Google Earth's Path measure option to check my daily mileages. Despite the kilometre reigning supreme over here I still stick to miles as my yardstick. Miles are what I know. They have a familiar feeling born of decades of painful exposure on foot and on a bike saddle. 

On the Higgins, with 3 chainrings to choose from, I deliberately snick it up a gear every time the pain in my legs eases off slightly. Bringing back "the burn" is the only way to improve my strength and level of fitness. My quadriceps seem to suffer the most.  I could easily go twice as far, at much lower speeds, but what would be the point? I wouldn't lose more weight or increase my stamina. It would  also take four times as long! My only worry is damaging my knees if I start to push instead of spinning freely. I have even started to climb hills out of the saddle! Not always easy with gravel and farm mud to cope with. Wheel spin is a problem on wet roads and there isn't much one can do about it. Except to sit down and pedal harder to maintain one's impetus.

I have an old Monarch exercise bike in the shed but the slightest friction applied to its massive, cast front wheel feels like very hard work! I don't put in that much effort even burning up the steepest of hills as if my life depended on it! I have a turbo (fan) trainer as well but have never even tried it.  Buy on a whim. Repent at leisure.

The last two days have been rest days with only 16 mile runs. (stop sniggering) I wore my supermarket ski goggles today and avoided the watery eyes but still needed a gutter and downpipe for my nose. There's not much difference between a tricyclist with cheap red sunglasses or cheap ski goggles in  my book. I attract no more admiring glances in either guise so it's not something which will keep me awake at night. I wore the thicker version of my many ski long Johns too and was warmer than yesterday. A bit to too warm on the uphill slogs on my meandering route back from the shops. I've got into the naughty habit of doing figures of eight lately to add a few more miles and then arrive back home half an hour late. I wonder why I have to keep clearing my throat when I'm out on the trike. One would hope I am clearing out decades of muck but I'm not sure the lungs work quite like that.

By the way; I have rebuilt the Higgins rear axles. The cups and cones fit together and hold the grease and the loose balls trapped while reassembly takes place. One just has to be sure  that the cones are sitting on the axle flats before tightening the cups. The idler axle side was easy but I had to back out the drive side axle to fit the sprocket block (cassette) on its freehub and the tubular fixing nut. A ring spanner on the hex at the wheel end of the axle made short work of tightening the tubular nut. IT saved fitting a wheel to accomplish the same task. A little experience is worth a thousand words of instructions.

A sky full of promise. It lasted less than two days and now it's overcast and leaden again with rain forecast for more than a week ahead. The front mudguard is on the Higgins.

I am delighted to say that my new Mavic CXP22, clincher rimmed, rear wheels have arrived from Geoff Booker. (Trykit Conversions) Very pretty they look too with their Sapim double-butted, stainless steel spokes. The polished, Higgins-fit, Trykit hubs are true works of art! Geoff was very quick to build and supply the wheels from my first placing my order. I've already fitted new Bontrager Racelite 700x23 and new inner tubes to them. I was very tempted to step up to 25mm but couldn't get a pair in blue. The complete wheels weigh almost 3lbs each against 2.5lbs for the sprints and tubs. So about the same as my Longstaff wheels with Alesa rims with the same tyres. As I have said before; I really like these tyres because I have not had a single puncture on them to date. Tomorrow will tell if they are a drag compared with the sprints and tubs. I'll take some pictures of  the wheels tomorrow in daylight:

I didn't quite line up the tyre name with the rim label. The Mavic label is opposite the valve position on the rim. Which makes it very easy to find the valve simply by rotating the wheel so that the label is near the road. Some people don't like these bright labels but I can't see them when I'm riding the trike.

The pretty TRYKIT hubs and Sapim, double butted spokes. [2/1.8/2mm] These stainless steel spokes are subtly "waisted" by stretching rather than having obviously thick ends and a thin middle. I'm not particularly heavy and hate camping so I went with 32 spokes. These wheels are a great visual improvement on the rusty spokes and battered Rogers hubs on the sprint rims. They should last for years. I tend to divide such expenditure by the number of years of ownership. Which make things very good value compared with bus journeys. Moreover, I should get an extension of useful, personal lifetime if I am lighter and fitter. Thankyou Geoff! I will try and live up to the new wheels' true potential.

I have been doing the rounds of every cycle shop I can find for a used Brooks Professional. Sadly they don't seem to be at all common over here. Few shops bother to keep old saddles. Though there are still plenty of shops left to try. I was offered a very dull and dry B66 for a fiver (equiv) and couldn't resist it at that price despite the weight of the three pairs of rails and coil springs. I was also offered a used lady's B66S in good condition in another shop. However, I decided I really had no use for it so didn't enquire about the price. The B66 has now been dismantled and the leather well soaked in some expensive (horse) saddle treatment to see if it can be revived.

It is amazing how many different suggestions and dire warnings there are online for treating dry leather saddles. I shall be more patient with this one than I was with the B17. It is much broader across the back than my <150mm B17 Narrow but still has the same family features. It's certainly not a fat, shopping bike saddle. Once it has recovered a little I may try it out. Though it won't be easy to find a saddle pin  to fit the tiny clamp and the modern micro adjusting pins are impossible to fit.

I found a brand new Brooks Professional, in black, in one shop and was stunned by the light weight compared with my old B17. It was unlabelled but I can only assume that it was a Titanium framed model. It really did look superbly shaped and finished but likely to be horribly expensive judging by the prices I've seen online. (~£160 for the Ti) The standard Brooks Professional is anywhere between  £80 and £100 (equivalent) over here.

Higgins Ultralite trike with smart new Trykit /Mavic back wheels. (400KB enlargement if you click the image!)

I set off on my new wheels with an over-the-shoulder, tail wind and averaged an exhilarating 20mph for the first 10 miles. Even the local big hill was taken on the 46T chainring and I crested it effortlessly still somewhere in the middle of the gear block. I could have continued like this until I reached the north coast of Fyn. However, common sense prevailed and I turned across the wind for few miles before being forced straight into the wind by the road options left to me. Even pedalling into the teeth of the wind I was still averaging 15mph on the computer. Ten miles later I turned right and curved gently back towards home. Thirty one miles is my highest mileage yet (without a pause) on either trike and my route formed nearly a perfect circle.

The Higgins with the new Trykit-built rear wheels seen from the Continental offside. (400KB enlargement!)

After twenty miles I was becoming acutely aware of the saddle but still able to continue. It gradually became more and more uncomfortable from then on. The problem seems to  be the raised rear end of the saddle where the rivets run across the back. My weight is putting a bow into the saddle making it hollow relative to its nose and back. I just don't have enough muscular padding left to avoid feeling the back of the saddle. The sensation is one of sitting on a hard triangle pointing forwards in a delta. I may benefit from increasing the tension to flatten the saddle more to give it a flatter backbone.

The new wheels feel quick and lively. Within only a few yards I had noticed the narrower track of the Higgins. It seems to rock  and roll much more from side to side on the undulations of the road surface compared with the wider Longstaff. With the new tyres pumped up hard I could feel every bit of gravel but it certainly wasn't uncomfortable. Cornering is quiet, smooth and stable. The 28 spoke sprints wheels used to be quite noisy and flexible on corners. Sometimes giving the impression that they were about to fall to pieces on rough, tight corners. Hitting a typical larger piece of gravel was often jarring.  I felt very secure the whole time I was out on these new wheels.

The gravel moraines on most rural junctions offered no real problems either. Allowing me to maintain my line instead of having to use far more of the road. I wonder whether any of the brains in government have calculated the long term costs cost of losing a single cyclist to a road accident due to gravel and litter compared with sweeping the roads regularly as they used to? How many commuting cyclists give up in the face of mounting obstacles, appalling road surfaces and cycle lane debris? All of which seem to remain untouched for literally years on end. Often causing dams which collect rainwater to form deep puddles or slippery strands of twigs and leaves to add to the cyclist's misery.

How do these pompous clowns stand up at the Copenhagen Climate Conference knowing that the roads and cycle lanes are completely unfit for cycling? All due to their endless cuts to council expenditure. The council workers now cut the hedges with their specialised tractor flails and don't even bother to sweep the road-wide scatter of thorns, twigs and branches! The debris is often left to compost and (eventually) to be swept aside by passing traffic and the weather! Unemployment is rising fast but there is nobody available to clear the cycle lanes and rural junctions of detritus? It's odd how the politicians of every land can find the funds for endless salary increases, wars and open ended "defence" contracts for new and completely unproven armaments. Not to mention their rafts of inflation proof, personal expenses and gas-guzzling limousines.

But I digress: Hopefully I now have the insurance of puncture resistance allied with the lightness, cornering fun and greater liveliness of the Higgins. Being able to push out my safe radius from home will allow a much larger circumference to my daily routes. Meaning more miles and fresh sights to see. I just need to solve the problem of the uncomfortable saddle to be able increase my endurance significantly. My legs were still in good shape yesterday apart from a slight soreness just above the knees.

I'm now just under 12 stone. (about 168lbs or 76kg)

After several days in a row of 28-30 miles the B17 has been replaced by the Vetta SL again. I managed 28 miles on it today without discomfort. Though it is far too firm to be considered comfortable. I intend to stay with the Vetta SL now until I can find a Brooks Professional at a tolerable price. Or get used to the Vetta. It is certainly very light. I'm not really sure which model it is. There seems to a road and an ATB version and even a ladies model. Mine has sharper geometry to the plan view which suggests it is the women's saddle. According to one website both men's saddles are smoothly round at the back. I don't really mind as long as you promise not to tell anybody else. ;-)

BikePro.com / Buyer's Guide / Vetta Saddle - Bicycle Parts at discount prices / the Buyer's Guide / Bicycle Parts at their finest! / Professional Bicycle Source / Bike Pro
I also wore my Shimano racing shoes for the first time in ages. (without cleats) In preparation for their more likely use I had been stuffing the toes hard with newspaper to make them more roomy. I used a broom handle to compact the newspaper as  much as possible and left it in there overnight. Since these shoes are so strongly built I doubt it helped much. Now I'm looking for some old fashioned shoe trees to try and get more toe room for the longer term. The very pointed toes of these shoes used to make my toes sore on much shorter rides and it was difficult to walk any distance in them. Which is why I stopped wearing them altogether when I began to get lots of punctures. Though today's experience with them was really quite favourable. (Apart from clopping about like a stray pony in the supermarkets) Now I have high pressure tyres I can carry a spare inner tube and lightweight tyre levers. This will add a further level of insurance against having to walk back if I should ever puncture.

I have adapted a new lightweight nylon bag for shopping trips. It is easily roomy enough for a large loaf, water proofs and several cartons of milk. In fact the bag can expand considerably more than it appears in the picture below. The second handle is  easily slipped back over the saddle to allow easy filling via the large, zipped, top panel. Then the handle goes back over the saddle to pull the contents together so they don't move about.

The 'Winterized' Higgins 'Ultralite' three-wheeled shopping trolley with Vetta SL saddle. The magnet driven, diode lights flash continuously while I'm in in motion. Anything which helps to warn others of my presence is good  news. Fit and forget. Batteries not included. Nor needed. I really ought to have a look at the handlebar tape but haven't settled on the final choice of fittings yet so didn't want to waste new tape. As my fitness improves I feel the need for lower handlebars. I quite often feel too upright as I'm riding on the brake hoods into the wind. It's odd how much the saddle looks tipped back. It isn't really.

It doesn't look much but the new bag is very practical and can be removed from the trike in seconds if necessary. The secret to success was allowing the bag to hang much lower using its own carrying handles for support. I was inspired by the bag position of the red Longstaff in the previous chapter. When I tried to fit the bag up high, like a normal saddle bag, it swung into the wheels on almost every corner. I have tied one carrying handle to the seat stays with a shoe lace and this stops all sideways movement even when the bag is stuffed full of shopping. A very thin plywood board has replaced the original (and completely useless) vinyl-covered cardboard insert. This new board is very light but helps to stiffen the bag and support loads much more evenly. Of course I carefully smoothed all the edges of the plywood insert to ensure it did not rub through the nylon bag material over time. A trike has enormous advantages over a bike in carrying loads between the rear wheels. Normally the back wheel of a bike forces compromises on bag size before it rests on the tyre or mudguard. Or requires a strong and  heavy metal carrier to support the bag.

This bag cost only a couple of pounds (equivalent) and finally allows me to stow unwanted clothing and a good load of shopping. Yet adds almost nothing to the weight of the trike when empty.  Which saves me worrying about removing it when it wont be used to its full capacity. I'm not sure about wind drag since it isn't far behind my legs. Which aren't likely to get any more streamlined than they are at present. Such flexibility of capacity is invaluable in cold conditions when I warm up and need to shed a jacket.

I have a classical, British saddlebag somewhere in the shed but it is foolishly heavy. The stiff leather straps were a pain to buckle up and undo despite treatment with saddle oil. Being cotton canvas duck the bag was also very prone to mildew as I was much too lazy to proof it.