16 Feb 2011

February Part 2

16th February 2011 28F, -2C, overcast, wind strong but very slowly reducing. Four inches of new snow overnight driven into drifts by the strong winds. I seem to have spent hours clearing snow today. The roads were much narrowed by the snow banks and wet with salty water. I decided that common sense was better than foolhardiness. 0 miles.

           Wind sculpted snow (again!)      

17th 28-30F, -1C, windy, overcast, clearing to sunny periods. It was bitterly cold on my hands as I tried  to take a photograph. The road was much worse than this further on. Two to four inches of crumbly, packed snow was a real struggle in combination with the roaring head wind and rising incline. As soon as I turned out of the wind I had to take off my second jacket. I was getting quite a bit sideways on descents as I hit deeper stuff. Provided the handlebars are pointed straight ahead it seems completely safe. The trike seems to correct itself. Perhaps I am just becoming too used to riding on snow.

I spent an hour just wending my way along winding lanes without any particular goal. Just clearing away the cobwebs and testing my knee. It hurt on the stairs just before I left but I didn't feel a thing while out on the trike. I really don't think there is anything to be gained by lowering my saddle any further. It worked like a miracle cure on my knees to lower it last spring. No harm in trying another centimetre (1/2") I suppose. 

The wind made it too unpleasant to go very far today despite the sun struggling through towards the end. I made the effort to climb a long, local hill but only to avoid an uphill head wind on the usual leg home. Despite the front mudguard my legs were plastered with snow from knee to toe from the front wheel. Only 10 miles.

The bike shed had lots of spindrift inside it this morning. Hardly surprising with the constant, high wind and the air full of fine snow. I spent a lot of time sealing the ridge and eaves last year but the fine stuff can pass through the eye of a needle!

It would take roofing under-felt to seal it completely. That would mean removal of the corrugated, roofing material. (Onduline) As this product is nailed onto the roofing battens this is not going to happen. Trying to get the special nails out would destroy these rather soft and fragile boards. I know, because I have tried using all sorts of packing pieces, crowbars and claw hammers without success.

I could staple building paper inside the rafters... Anybody out there seriously considering Onduline should use a roof lining. The same with any corrugated roofing material. Whatever the manufacturers may claim!

18th 28-29F. -2-1C, winds lighter, overcast. Drifting in places onto the main road. 12 miles.

19th  20-28F, -7--2C, light winds, sunny. A cold start, under a cloudless sky with the wind. I was feeling quite strong and cruising at up to 25mph on the first leg. Then it was mostly into the wind all the way back with a load of shopping. Once the saddle bag was full to the brim I loaded a carrier bag right up to the top. It was tied onto the saddle frame and fortunately it stayed there.

The main roads were clear, though narrowed by snow banks on the verges. The minor roads were rather mixed with lots of hard-packed or crumbly snow. The ease of going varied enormously. My knee didn't give me any problems today.

Disaster strikes! Metal fatigue in the most stressed bend of my computer bracket. I should have used a softer radius but chose to make a smarter, sharp bend. It took only ten minutes to drill a new hole and make a new bend in the same strip so I could put everything back on the crossbar again. I shall have to remake the bracket later because the computer heads are now rather too near my gloved fingers when I'm on the centre of the bars. It is very likely that I shall touch the buttons accidentally.

Later I pottered into a bitterly raw wind at 25F, -4C, to finish the shopping. My knee started hurting straight away so I lowered the saddle slightly. It didn't feel any different. The lanes were still snowed over in quite a few places but caused me no problems. A bunch of joggers were using a lot of road at the same time as motorists wanted to get past. Just the usual mayhem on a narrow route  of outstanding natural beauty. (or rather a race track for impatient rat runners) 14 more miles.

20th 24F, -4C, sunny, easterly breeze. Brrr! Another raw day. I dropped the saddle another half inch before leaving. I felt like a kid paddling his kiddies trike all flat footed along the pavement. My knee was still aching a bit so I took it easy. Keeping it in the 90s rpm. I still managed one big, long hill I have never climbed before. I'm usually descending it at 30+mph pedalling hard. I saw a shopping trike for sale for £50 but wasn't tempted. It was too crude and heavy for my tastes. I didn't even bother to stop and take a photo.  Only 20 miles.

21st 22F, -6C, overcast, breezy. I had to work different hours today so no morning ride. By the time I reached home it was bitterly cold and getting dark. So I'm taking another rest day. I spent the morning repairing the kid's recumbent, banana trikes for a school. I have updated the Higgins axle removal chapter with images of the Higgins sprocket carrier.


22nd 24F, -4C, overcast, light easterly wind. Late, cold, afternoon ride. Surprising amount of snow sill lying on minor roads in the towns and villages. Both knees aching now! Though not too badly. My nose felt so cold it was like holding a lump of ice to it. 17 miles.

23rd, 23F, -5C, blowing a gale, heavy overcast. Bitterly cold into the wind with hands and feet freezing. Knee still aching. Drifting on the back lanes from lying snow. I was on the 28T chainwheel a lot of the time. Only 10 miles.

24th 29F, -2C, partly sunny, easterly wind. Late afternoon ride again. I found a pair of leather, Thinsulate gloves reduced to a fiver. They worked well on the way home too. Despite it hovering just below freezing it was another cold day thanks to the wind. Right knee still aching on the inside. Kept the revs as high as possible. 14 miles.

25th 29F,-1C, blowing, sunny periods. With my knee aching, the cold and strong wind I couldn't summon the will drag myself out today. 0 miles.

26th 33F, +1C, overcast, cold, easterly wind bending the trees again.

I was just going to get ready to go out and my copy of "A history of the Tricycle" has arrived in the post. Authored by Roger Alma., Cyril J Hancock and Derek Roberts. Copiously illustrated with pictures of countless machines in 116 B&W, glossy, printed pages. Leading up to a very full and technically competent description of the work of more recent, lightweight trike builders. All wonderful stuff and a "must have" for upright trike fans everywhere. Available through The Veteran Cycle Club. Here's the cover for a taster.


The VCC Order form:


Well, that's enough recalcitrance and procrastination for now: There's no putting it off. I have to go out shopping.

A mostly white buzzard flew parallel to me for quite a while. Probably hoping I would fall off and provide an early lunch. Fat chance! :-)

I was ripped off by two supermarkets who had raised their prices before the expiry date of their offers. (Sunday to Saturday inclusive according to their weekly, company newspapers) A crook is a crook is a crook! You ether are or you are not. You can't be a semi-crook. Dishonesty is not a gradation of immorality. A petty thief is not somehow better than a bank robber or a crooked banker.

My knee felt a bit better provided I changed down early and kept the revs up on hills. It still can't cope with pushing. I do not like the lower saddle position, at all! It puts more of my weight on the saddle. And, I'm getting pains in the backs of my thighs from using different muscles. 14 hilly miles. Time, now, to get back to my trike history book.

27th Around freezing and still blowing a gale. The promised sunshine never broke through the overcast. I have a cold so didn't see any point in going out. 0 miles.

28th More of the same. Coughing, sore throat, snotty nose, blowing a gale and freezing. What's not to like? Null point! (to be read in a French accent)

Click on any image for an enlargement. Back click to return to the text.


14 Feb 2011

Higgins conversion on Claud Butler


A Higgins trike conversion has come up on eBay:

Higgins Tricycle Conversion on 1950s/60s Claude Butler on eBay (end time 23-Feb-11 16:41:47 GMT)

While the images weren't razor sharp they were well taken and avoided untidy backgrounds. So it deserves to be recorded for posterity. Without which no record would exist beyond the end of the auction. I own a similar Claud Butler myself. Though its badging and original transfers are long gone. I have resized the images to a larger 800 width and increased gamma and contrast to crisp them up as usual.

This is more of a trike than a conversion but not quite the full Monty. The bike seat stays have been removed and the Higgins trike stays substituted. This saves the weight of the Claud Butler seat stays and looks much neater for it. The front forks have been modified to match standard trike practice. Only a reasonable expert would recognise this as a conversion. Rather than a complete trike frameset.

If desired a skilled frame builder could tidy it up further by removing the rear drop-outs. Then brazing the CB chainstays direct to the Higgins axle. A reinforcing loop would save further weight over the solid steel, cross bar and heavy attachment brackets. This would lose the original paintwork of course so I only mention it as an option.

As I have said so many times previously: Chris Hewitt Cycles could smarten it up in the correct period with a restoration. A more ambitious (and wealthier) sporting rider could take advantage of Geoff Booker @ Trykit's wares. By using his frame building skills to bring it right up to date with all modern, alloy kit, wheels, indexed gears and even 2WD if the rear end was fully converted to a trike. From memory, I don't think the Trykit 2WD fits a conversion set.


General view from drive side: 27 x 1.25" wheels all round.

Head tube and fork crown showing typical brake extension stem.

 Nearside. At a wild guess I'd say it is somewhere around a 22.5" frame size.

Front brake arrangements. Braze-on callipers and side pull on forward extension.The CB head badge extant.

Rear cluster and 5 speed sprocket block. It looks as if the axle clamping bolts have almost escaped from the donor bike, rear drop-outs. This should be checked before riding it. The chain wrap looks a bit odd. Higgins brass badge still in place.

Suntour rear changer on gear hanger on brazed-on boss.

Bottom bracket and steel, cottered Williams chainset. Cotter pin is loose and lacks securing nut.

Chrome on original Higgins seat stay.

The only thing I miss is the straight-on rear shot. Also confirmation of the Reynolds 531 butted tubes transfers. Usually visible on the upper seat tube an forks. Though brazing may have removed this evidence of pedigree. 

Starting bid is £140. It will be interesting to see how this one goes.

Well, it finally sold for £140 with only one bid.


1 Feb 2011

February 2011


 Colour coordinated and trying hard not to roll away downhill. The hazard stripes are not there for nothing! Somehow they knew I'd be along eventually.

 1st February 30-32F, -1-0C, overcast, windy. It felt bitterly cold as I headed into the wind. Forecast to gust over 30mph. I still had to take my heavier jacket off because I was getting too warm on the hills. Coming out of the shops it was freezing again. The bungee is keeping the big bag completely under control and I'm glad for the extra storage capacity. I didn't notice my right knee once today. I saw a Green Woodpecker in the hedges of a quiet lane. 20 miles.

2nd 34-36F, +1+2C, windy and increasing, overcast, misty. My clothes were soon covered in white dew and the trees raining huge droplets. The last 8 miles were into the wind. I was tempted to take to the lanes to get some shelter from the hedges but resisted.

As is traditional, the farmers were out spraying today as it was judged to be the first really windy day this year. A lot of trees and hedges are being removed everywhere I go. Even the council workers are getting in on the act. Taking two men, a van, a tractor and a load of motor driven machinery and two weeks (so far) to clear a run of roadside brush. Which my wife would have cleared in just a few hours using just a pair of secateurs and a bow saw. 22 hilly and muddy miles.

3rd  41F, 5C, gusting wind, mostly sunny. Just a quick shopping trip so far. Being blown all over the road by side winds. Even windier tomorrow (20-25 m/s gusts = 45-50mph) with rain forecast all day. So I may have my first rest day tomorrow. 13 miles. Plus 13 miles later.

4th 41F, 5C, roaring overnight gales, sunny periods, dry but turning wet. You wouldn't believe how soft gravel drives can become after permafrost gives up its iron grip. First rest day this year.

5th 43F, 6C, gales, overcast. Two nights of fierce gales have left me tired. It was still blowing hard when I left mid afternoon. My jacket was too warm with a tail wind adding 10mph to my normal speed. The roads were littered with crushed twigs and dead leaves. There were signs of fallen, rotten trees having been sawn up and moved off the road. Only 10 miles. I didn't feel like doing any more in that wind. Forecast still tomorrow.

6th 40F, 4C, overcast, misty, light head winds. I saw a lot of (mostly) mountain bikers in pairs and groups out in the lanes. Upwards of a hundred at a guess. They seemed to be going in all directions so it must have been a map reading exercise. A chap out training caught me up and overtook. Despite a bag load of shopping I used the opportunity to get some exercise and held his wheel for a mile or so. I went to the front and he paced behind me for another couple of miles. Finally I had to turn off and he pressed on, panting like a steam engine. I spent the rest of the ride waving at all the cyclists going the other way. 24 miles.

7th  41F, 5C, overcast, windy. Storm 30m/s (65mph) gusts forecast tonight.  Only 13 miles.

Uprooted root ball.

8th 38F, 4C, overcast, windy. Well, we survived the overnight storm, unscathed, but some trees hadn't. Some tall beeches had fallen across the road. Leaving a nasty dent and piles of sawdust where the emergency services had cut them up into moveable lengths. The whole root ball had tipped over in the wet soil. They had left one tree up and it was leaning across the road alarmingly. I put the trike in a low gear and sprinted under the danger zone. :-) The road was covered in broken twigs and branches. Not to mention the shredded foliage of a run of conifers.

Only 10 miles today. I had to go to the city to collect my new/old car. Just in time too as the biennial test was due on the last old banger in a couple of days. A certain failure, it is always nice to upgrade to something slightly less embarrassing than the last. We paid a bit too much, for the year, but it was a one-owner, non-smoker, rust treated and tidy. (the car, not the previous owner)

It only took us twenty minutes at the pumps, using a Danish version of the owner's handbook, to find the petrol flap release. In truth, we gave up in the end and asked the young chap behind the counter at the petrol station. We would have been there all night, otherwise. The release was under the driver's seat and the tank was completely empty! Whoops!  

We put out some sunflower seeds and fat balls in dispensers last week and the word is going around. We have had Nuthatches, Bramblings, whole gangs of smartly dressed Great tits, Blue tits, Coal tits, Sparrows, Blackbirds, Chaffinches, a Robin and several cats so far. I hope I haven't left anybody out.

9th 41F, 5C, overcast, calm. No time for a ride today. We saw a couple of slow moving, recumbent trikes holding up the traffic while we were out in the car. The occupants look terrifyingly vulnerable to me. Their uniqueness may make them highly visible but I'd rather be knocked off my trike than squashed under the tyres of a rat-running, 12 wheeler reading his car model GPS! My rarity probably protects me too. Though I hope I don't suddenly become an endangered species! Few drivers pass me, going the other way, without at least a glance in my direction.

I'm amazed how powerful, diode, bike lights are falling in price. The Danish, coop supermarkets have 1W front and half watt rears for about £6 each now.

0 miles today. So they were safe from my traffic impedance today. And I from them. :-)

10th Feb, 39F, 4C, winds light but increasing, rain, overcast. Only 12miles.

11th 39F, 4C, sunny periods becoming overcast, wind increasing to 15m/s gusts, 30 mph. There was a beautiful, pale, golden light on the fields when the sun came out briefly. Only 10 miles.

12th 22F-29F, -6-2C, sunny, windy.  A gorgeous, cold morning with quite a strong, steady wind. My right knee was aching most of the way. Probably handling winter fuel rather than cycling. I haven't been doing much in the way of mileage recently. Still managed 20 miles.

 It is rather hard to see from these downsized photographs but the owner of this field hedge has used dozens of wheels as a unique fence. For well over a hundred yards there are large, identical, spoked wheels, standing upright, rim to rim. Probably from light agricultural cultivators these all steel wheels were probably quite light for their ~4' diameter. They look as if they should have been shod with solid rubber tires. Though no tyres are still visible. A gearwheel decorates the hubs suggesting a drive  to the cultivation mechanism back in horse-drawn days.

The hedge has become rather overgrown now. Largely concealing the wheels in the undergrowth. I used to pass this way over ten years ago and the wheels stood tall and proud back then. It is amazing how long they have survived without rusting away. Perhaps there was a local factory making these wheels. Or even whole machines, in the dim, distant past.

13th 29-31F, -1C, rather breezy, cold, overcast with snow. 2" fell overnight with light drifting in the strong winds. It was quite slippery and I managed to lock the front wheel a couple of times. The snow was smoking across the roads to side winds in places. High winds and more snow forecast. 14 hilly miles without any real problems. Though my right knee still complaining.

14th February Around freezing, overcast and blowing up to 40mph gusts. The Danish weather forecasters are warning about wind chill.  I'll take a rest day to see if it helps my knee. It's ironic how I used to question why runners still ran while wearing knee supports. Regular exercise is certainly addictive. I pass a few joggers and some serious runners out training.  It may sound odd but I don't even know if I can run. I don't even own any trainers. 

Why run when one can travel far more comfortably at three times jogging speed on a bike or trike? That's not just a time saving but also a really serious increase in range!

The upright trike offers a seat. Though comfort is a relative term one can simply come to a halt and remain seated. Even a bike with a prop stand is highly unstable and the rider must dismount. They will usually return to find their bike reclining on its side in windy weather. I see literally thousands of "dead" bikes on my travels. The domino effect is commonplace at bike parks. Instead of using the galvanised ironwork, usually provided, they insist on using the stand. So when their bike topples it takes a lot more down with it. Not so with a trike.

A trike provides a clear view over most hedges and cars. It offers a constant challenge just to stay on. Many corners have the potential to provide a real test of courage and riding skill. Every change in camber is a reminder of one's careful balance between perfect safety and complete disaster. A bike rider misses much of this. They may enjoy slightly greater speeds for effort expended. But, they miss the sense of floating on an endlessly changing road surface in all three dimensions.

Those who dislike the effect of camber will never appreciate the benefits of trike riding. They will stay on two wheels and remain upright until ice and snow intervene in their happy relationship. The 2WD trike continues regardless of weather conditions. At least, that is, until walking through deep snow would be even harder work than tricycling. Four inches of snow is usually doable. Anything deeper and the tyres are trying to climb a vertical wall of resistance. There is no escaping this geometry with standard-sized wheels.

If the tyres cut through to the ground below then narrower tyres are much preferred. How wide must your tyres go to ride above the snow base? You are almost bound to suffer greater rolling resistance under most circumstances. With two wheel drive (2WD) there is no need for knobbly tyres. In fact they will offer further impedance going on my past experience with MTB tyres.

Upright trikes are not ideal for off-road use due to their limited lateral stability. It can be done, but usually requires low speed and violent acrobatics. Many off-road trails are deeply rutted by motorised traffic. If one places the trike's front wheel on the central ridge then the low slung pedals can strike the ground. Bridging between the verge and central ridge can be difficult because of the constantly changing level of the different surfaces. A bike would sail through all this without a qualm.

Finally, a trike offers remarkable load-carrying capacity. If the load will fit between the back wheels, without sideways movement, then that is the only real limitation. The load can be as high as the distance between the saddle and the vertical, axle reinforcing loop. Provided ones legs are free to flail around then the load can be almost any reasonable weight. I have carried loads in the past which were almost impossible to lift by hand. Such loads make the trike feel strange and heavy but they can be managed on any reasonable hill. Though a lightweight, trike frame may not survive such severe abuse.

The following is an interesting insight into "needs must":


The damned car wouldn't start so I had to ride in the gales anyway. Seven miles in bottom gear including downhill!  Twenty mph, coasting, coming back.

15th 28F, -2C, overcast, still blowing a gale with snow in the air. Wasted the morning driving to the city to have a new battery fitted by the dealer. Free of charge but they should have swapped batteries before parting with the car. 0 miles.

Tricycle on eBay (end time 16-Feb-11 20:06:32 GMT)