1 Jan 2015

January 1st 2015 HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Thursday 1st 42F, 6C, heavy overcast with wind building and rain on its way.

A Happy New Year to my many followers and to all my more casual visitors. I have decided not to radically change my blog format for this year. The cloudy sky background suits the cycling theme to perfection without being too intrusive or boring. It feels like an optimistic sky. Typical of the cyclist travelling in hope of remaining dry. Well, I like the clouds for the moment. I have tried using my own photographs as backgrounds but failed to find the right balance compared with the present sky.

I am still amazed how many people find my blog interesting. Over 1/3 million page views according to Google. My wife says it is because I am completely mad and add a lot of my own photos. I prefer to think of myself as slightly eccentric but with a good sense of humour. I am certainly not afraid of laughing at myself. You will have to be the judge of who is right. I do tend to spend a lot of time perfecting every entry and picture to the best of my limited ability.

Do try to remember that even when I am ranting it is always with a broad smile. I do get cross sometimes but I am usually cheerful about it when I get around to writing about it. I will not hesitate to criticise kit which does no meet my expectations. Cycling accessories are often ridiculously expensive for what they are. They should at least offer some intrinsic value without falling to pieces in a short while. I often have ideas for including in the blog while I am pedaling along but they usually pop like a bubble in the next instant. I have a lifelong, poor memory. But at least every day is a surprise. ;ΓΈ)

In case you were wondering I am a 67-year old Englishman. Now retired and living in rural Denmark. I now ride a lightweight, hand-built 'sports' trike. A stainless steel,  R931 racing/touring Trykit made by Geoff Booker. It uses full size, skinny, 700C wheels, lightweight, racing kit and 30 gears.

Performance trikes are very rare machines indeed in Denmark but still quite popular in Britain. Where some 500 other members of the Tricycle Association enjoy their sport by racing, touring, pottering or commuting. A few other trikers are dotted around the globe. Though not exclusive to the elderly the majority of tricyclist are mature. Many raced trikes in former times when they [the trikes] were far more popular than today. Some trike riders continue to race and time trial as veterans after decades of competitive riding.

Each triking generation has had the services of solitary, trike builders. Higgins was replaced by Rogers, then came Longstaff and now Trykit. The overall designs are basically the same but each builder brought new ideas and increased sophistication. Geoff Booker, of Trykit, is highly skilled and has made more progress than earlier builders. He offers a whole range of building materials and options. His own 2WD [two wheel drive] modified cassette system is popular. It can convert a 50-year old machine to take the latest racing bicycle gear technology.

It should be remembered that trikes need far more parts than a bike. It is not simply a matter of brazing a few tubes together. Special axles, hubs and cassettes must be machined to a high standard. Then assembled into precision axle casings with high levels of alignment accuracy before being attached to the trike's main frame. The investment in skill, jigs and machine tools has always made a new trike an expensive purchase. Fortunately the use of steel tubing means that they can usually be repaired, in the event of a crash, and then continue on exactly as before.

The advantage of purchasing a new machine is that it can be built and tailored to exactly suit the rider's own dimensions and personal tastes. While older machines regularly turn up on eBay[UK] for those who cannot afford to buy new. Though the cost of updating with all new parts, including stronger axles, new wheels and transmission will make a serious dent in any wallet. Even if the frame does not receive a professional repaint at the same time it will not be a cheap exercise. The really impoverished can take advantage of a secondhand trike axle conversion set. Which also come up secondhand on eBay[UK]. Bolted onto a bike frame the machine instantly becomes a trike. Though at the cost of some extra weight, duplication of seat stays and extra complexity.

Adding another brake to the front wheel of a trike conversion may involve a new pair of forks with suitable bosses. Two independent brakes are a legal requirement and vitally necessary. Most strikes have two front brakes where they can have maximum effect. Rear brakes can easily cause a wheel lockup in the wet because the tyres are so lightly loaded. Though rear disks are sometimes added for descending mountain passes when loaded with camping gear. Trykit offers conversions to disks and new trike axle conversion sets as well as new trikes. Rear brakes are a requirement for racing to official handicap racing rules. As is a rear bumper. Trykit components and trikes feature heavily in this sport right up to Paralympic and World Championship standard.

Tricycle riding is far, far, FAR more difficult than it looks. Very few bike riders can manage more than a few yards on a trike before heading straight for the weeds! Or the kerb. It looks so incredibly easy to ride but looks are very deceiving. A trike seems to have a mind of its own. It will follow road camber downhill until the trike and its rider crash into something. Yet it is the rider's mind and sense of balance which are confused. The sporting trike is incredibly unstable in the wrong hands! While cornering fast on one is easily the best thrill to be had in any form of cycling. It is intoxicating to hang right off the side to balance the rider's weight against the centrifugal forces. As one overtakes cars around a mini roundabout or at a sharp junction. [Always with road safety in mind of course.] Cornering like this takes lots of practice for most riders.

The agile acrobatics required on a trike easily make up for the extra weight of having three wheels, two rear drive axles and all the other, extra components. All those axle bearings add extra drag and weight compared with a bike. Yet top trike riders regularly time trial and race their machines to almost similar speeds, distances and times to riders of the latest carbon fiber bicycles. The latter often weighing half that of even a really lightweight trike. The lower limit for trikes seems to be about 10kg but that is a rare example built by Trykit. 15kg+ is much more likely with a stripped down, but still road legal, racing trike.

When touring, the trike offers huge capacity for camping gear fitted on a rack between the large rear wheels. Or, as in my case, loads of shopping fetched from rural village shops and supermarkets spread right across the island of Fyn. Where I now lucky enough to live. Fyn is the central landmass of Denmark and is about 40 miles wide by 50 miles high. With lots lots of dangly bits jutting into the sea around the edges. Odense is the only large city, by Danish standards, on Fyn. [Pron.Fewn]

The traffic in the countless rural lanes of Fyn is still only a fraction of that in the UK. Despite my regular moans about them, Danish drivers are far more self-disciplined than the typically brutal, UK anarchists behind the wheel. This is probably due to the very high cycling participation of Danes at 85%. While the British just think it is a continuing class war when it comes to pedestrians and cyclists. British drivers are incredibly hierarchical. A battered, completely unroadworthy, rust bucket, driven by an unemployed, teenage drunk driver, beats a £20k racing bike with the knighted, Tour de France and multiple Olympic Gold medal winner aboard any day! I kid you not!

Being cut off by a Dane at a junction really is as rare as hen's teeth. Even pedestrians have absolute right of way when crossing junctions. Just as they do on zebra crossings. Danish pedestrians also respect light-controlled pedestrian crossings. They will stand patiently in the snow, wind and rain if the crossing lights are at red. This is also true when there is no traffic in sight!

Sadly, many cyclists show little respect for red lights at junctions. Few cyclists bother to signal either. Which drives me mad when I wait patiently for a cyclist to cross my junction. Or I come up behind them to overtake. Only to have them suddenly turn off without warning. On the other hand, Danish cyclists make most British cyclists look like complete beginners. Their relaxed skill at all ages, on the busy but narrow cycle lanes, is incredible! If only they wouldn't ride two abreast while both using their mobile phones to talk garbage to each other! There are only a few chances to overtake on a trike on most cycle lanes and paths in cities. Making it a frustrating business to get around really quickly.

Odense is a large area to cover if all the best bike shops on the outskirts must be visited. Taking to the roads, however briefly, to overtake selfish cyclists, will draw the ire of some drivers. They will sometimes go absolutely berserk! If a cycle lane or path exists then it ought to be used. How else will the typical Danish driver manage to exceed the speed limit if cyclists get in their way? Speeding is Denmark's national [participation] sport and very popular with all ages and all sexes. Holding up illegally speeding traffic by keeping to the speed limit is considered very bad form. Overtaking, regardless of conditions or speed limits an absolute right.

One very strange cycling behaviour caught me completely off guard at Danish traffic lights. When turning across the opposing traffic a Danish cyclist will never follow the traffic in their lane. Instead of following the traffic they will ride straight across the crossing or junction as if going straight ahead. They will then swerve over to the right. Do a sharp U-turn and then stop in front of the waiting, right hand traffic queue. They will then wait patiently for the lights to change before proceeding straight across the lights. The equivalent of having turned left but with a very long delay in between. It is not unusual for a large gaggle of cyclists to be waiting at the front at busy city traffic lights.

At first I just followed normal UK behaviour in cities and just followed the traffic on my trike. I easily had enough speed to sprint and follow the turning traffic without much effort. This quickly drew the ire of several drivers in the city. With repeated blasts of the horn and shouting obscenities to remind me of my transgression. Can you imagine a British cyclist waiting twice at every single traffic light where they just want to turn right? At other times it is quite rare to hear a car horn used in anger in Denmark. Remember that the Danes ride on the Continental [right hand] side of the road when turning left at crossroads. The opposite side from British, Japanese and Australian driving habits.

Resolutions for 2015: I have added my default resolution of a 100 mile ride as my goal for yet another year. Last year I managed only a 66 mile ride. While my best of 88 miles was a couple of years ago. [When I got very, very lost!] I started carrying maps after that.

I also intend to eat and drink much better on my longer rides. At least that is the plan. I still haven't tried 'energy' bars and drinks. Usually making do with a cheese roll [or two for longer rides] and a banana. For drinks it is always just tap water in summer. With a small box of unsweetened apple juice if I remember to drink it.

I had a rather windy morning walk up to the woods in light, misty rain under a leaden sky. It was already becoming quite windy with heavy gusts. Promising to gust up to 45mph later. Strong winds and rain forecast for overnight and tomorrow. Not very promising for a ride and there is still a high risk of drunk drivers being out. Wet and windy all day! So a rest day. Not a good start to the year!

Click on any image for an enlargement.


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