Trip 2.0 to Milwaukee in July proved much more enjoyable than Trip 1.0 to Milwaukee in May. Reasons? Presence of warm weather, sun, lots of people... and a complete absence of teeming swarms of tiny black Lake Michigan flies of a pernicious and pestilent variety not known to ISWE's home roads of central Indiana. In July, with nary a bug in sight, the sights of Milwaukee unfold. Above, we see the ISWE Brommie at Stop 1 on our trip, admiring Santiago Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum's Quadracci Pavilion in fully unfolded form.
Next to Calatrava's wing/bird/ship thing (actually attached to it), we discovered a bit of an Indiana connection in the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center (WMC). The WMC was designed by Eero Saarinen. Americans probably know Eero Saarinen best for his design of the St. Louis Gateway Arch, but fans also know Eero and his father, Eliel Saarinen for their architectural work in Columbus, Indiana (featured in a past ISWE ride). We've ridden circle after circle around Eero's amazing North Christian Church and Henry Moore's Large Arch sculpture, which perfectly frames Eliel's equally amazing First Christian Church. Eliel is especially admirable for having somehow convinced a bunch of conservative Indiana farmers and factory workers to go along with his plan for such a innovative, contemporary design in 1942! As ISWE persistently endeavors to convince people to go for innovative, contemporary, small-wheel and folding bikes, we always hold Eliel in high esteem.
Stop 2: Shop visit at Crank Daddy's Bicycle Works. On ISWE rides, we always like to stop at an indigenous shop or two to check out the small wheel stock. Finding? No small wheels at all. This came as a surprise because Milwaukee is packed with urban apartments. Small apartments, small bikes. Perfect match. Hmmm? I'd think they would sell quite a few. But what's this? Not only did they have no small wheel bikes, they had a couple daunting, big-wheel behemoths instead, Specialized Fatboys. Holy cow were these things big! Those are whopping 26" x 4.6" tires. Who would want such a beast? The guy working at the store, that's who. Apparently, these things are actually fun to ride and can "go places other bikes can't," e.g., snow, sand, or mud. Points conceded, but there is one place they can't go that the Brommie can and that's inside the trunk of the VW Jetta :)
People often think of small wheel bikes as oddities. How could you ride that? Normal bikes have 26" wheels, right? Wrong. Small wheels are just about everywhere in the form of BMX and Freestyle bikes. This is proof positive of the durability, practicality, and usability of small wheels. Perhaps no other bikes take more abuse than BMX and Freestyle bikes. Ride down stairs, jump them off a wall, or pound them into the concrete of a skate park and they just keep on rolling. More later on this topic!
When you least expect a small wheel sighting, expect a small wheel sighting. Refilling my coffee cup in the 8th-floor kitchen when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but what seems to be a top-of-the-line raw lacquer titanium Brompton M6L with a hub generator, Brooks leather saddle, after-market leather frame protector, and Brompton cover bag. Wow, the works. But... what's with the walking?
Let's speculate. It could be an important call and the conscientious rider is wisely walking rather than attempting to talk and ride. Or, it could be a flat with a call for help. Speculating further, it could be a new bike with a pinch flat. Always deflate those tubes, massage the tire, and slowly re-inflate, to let the tube move into the correct position. Why the phone call instead of just making the change? Could be a rear flat, which, for someone unfamiliar with a Sturmey-Archer hub, presents a confusing scenario--how the heck do you get that darn wheel off of the bike? Internally-geared hubs are becoming more popular every day. Here's a link to one video and another video explaining flat repair with a three-speed hub. Watch them, give it a try, and save yourself that embarrassing phone call (not that that's what's happening here). And, do remember to pack a few disposable gloves in your repair kit. You'll be glad you did.
Over the weekend, the ISWE Brompton, in rockin' Spinal Tap fashion, invaded yet another Bikeshare rack to pretend for a moment it is a rental. Maybe it's looking for a faster rider? This time, it was Milwaukee's BikeShare program. This is their prototype rack at Discovery World. The location is right on the lakefront, adjacent to Santiago Calatrava's famous Milwaukee Art Museum ship/building.
The Milwaukee BikeShare program plans to have up to 30 stations and 250 bicycles up and running in 2014. Milwaukee has chosen the B-Cycle system from Wisconsin-based Trek. This is the same system that ISWE headquarters, Indianapolis is using for its Indiana Pacers BikeShare program. Like Chicago's Divvy bikes, Milwaukee and Indianapolis' steeds feature Brompton-like internally-geared hubs for weather resistance and hub generators for reliable battery-free lighting.
Presumably, Milwaukee will be charging $8 per 24-hour period of "unlimited" 30-minute trips. This is $1 more than Divvy. 30-minute trips means that you need to check in at a station every 30 minutes in order to prevent a $2 charge for taking up to 60 minutes to check in. The Brompton cruised for three hours on the Oak Leaf Trail and downtown Milwaukee streets. That would have cost $8 and required 5 intermediate stops, assuming we could find a rack when we needed one. Lots of math, maps, and head scratching with these BikeShare bikes. Much easier to ride the Brommie for free and bike right into the hotel lobby :)
To be fair, for an alternate opinion on small wheel vs. BikeShare, check out this article.
Weather in central Indiana is a little difficult to describe. IU East Professor of Psychology, Duane Lundy, probably said it best when, reflecting on relocating from Canada to Indiana after having lived a decade or so in Kentucky and South Carolina, he opined, "I was excited about living in a place with seasons again, I just was expecting them all in the same week." Indiana, we've got it all: rain, freezing rain, snow, blistering sun, tornados, blizzards, sleet, drought, flood, and straight-line winds. Our specialty is quite possibly slush.
Few cyclists dare to tackle the fluctuating forties on a year-round basis, Indianapolis cyclist Jeff Barnd is one. Jeff is a devoted daily commuter who has ridden in all varieties of Indiana weather, including cold weather that would make the abominable snowman call a cab. Although not yet a small wheel enthusiast, Jeff has generously agreed to share his cold-weather riding tips for any small wheeler ambitious enough to give it a go.
An Interview with Jeffrey Barnd:
How did you become a bicycle commuter? Did you work up to it? Was it a conscious decision? Did you lose a bet?
I began the biking adventure about 10 years ago. My workplace was 11 miles away. There was not a bet involved in starting to bike. I started in the summer when the weather was good and started cycling a couple of days a week. I had noticed a locker room in our office building and thought it would be an opportunity to augment my running with some daily cycling. The fitness boost was very noticeable.
What are your limits for cold weather commuting? How cold is too cold? In the fleeting moments of any given morning, how do you decide to ride or drive?
For cold weather commuting there really haven't been any temperature limits. I've biked in -5F weather. With the wind blowing, the temperature feels like -15F. My gear is good to -20F. As long as no skin is exposed to the air, the temperature isn't a source of trouble. My biggest issue occurs with fog/frost obscuring my vision since I wear glasses. Once the biking routine is established it's not a decision in the morning as to drive or bike, it's simply a matter of deciding what to wear.
Tell us about your bike. Do you use the same bike all year round? If so, what changes, if any, do you make to it to prepare for cold weather?
I normally ride a road bike during good weather and when the trails and roads are snow and ice free. My ice bike is a Cannondale hybrid. The tires are changed out in early December with studded tires produced by Kenda. The metal studs provide incredible traction advantages. Ice is not a problem. In addition to the metal studded tires I have Moose Mitts that attach to the handle bars. The Moose Mitts act as a wind breaker and keep my hands warmer. They also keep hands drier when it rains.
Note: Cannondale does make a small wheel urban bike! Feel free to substitute as needed. Jeff suggested the possibility of making your own studded tires for small wheel bikes, but be careful if your tires come in contact with the frame during the fold, as they do on the Brompton. A protective frame wrap could save some excruciating scratches.
What about clothing? What works? What doesn't work? How is it that you can ride through things like freezing rain and oily roadside slush and still show up at the office in slacks, button down shirt, and tie?
Clothing options change based on the temperature, wind, and precipitation. I wear polypropylene thermal layers. They are lightweight, space saving, and very effective at keeping one warm. Two thermal layers and a light wind breaker is more than effective at 20F. Keeping the body core warm is very easy. Hands, face and feet can be challenging without the right gear. The best footwear to keep warm is waterproof boots. Regular running shoes are fine over 40F but below that waterproof/wind-breaking boots are best. For my office appearance, I have some nice shirts from Jos. A Banks, Traveler Slim Fit, as they do not wrinkle.
Cold hands can be crummy, so I recommend for the best experience cycling that insulated lobster-style gloves be used. I have two pairs that I find effective. I also will wear a thin glove inside the lobster gloves when the temperature is under 20. I also might use lightweight waterproof glove covers to add more warmth to the lobster gloves when it's around 5F or below. At 0F three thermal layers and a light windbreaker works fine. Waterproof travel bags from Ortlieb are a great way to carry clothes to work. They attach to my bike’s rear rack and I’ve had the same set of pannier bags since I started biking.
The head requires some creativity at times, but I have experienced some great rides when I use my ski helmet on rides under 30F. Ski goggles are also a necessity under 30F. Balaclava face masks are great to keep the skin from chilling. I'll wear a lighter one when the temperature is over 30F. When the temperature is 15F or lower I'll wear a mask produced by RU Outside called the Fog eVader. It works great to keep my glasses from fogging/frosting over. Ski pants work great when it’s 20F and under. In the future, I'd like to try a snowmobiling helmet with a full face shield. I think this will reduce the fogging and the amount of gear needed to stay warm and make negative zero temperatures more comfortable.
What are the some of the particular risks or safety concerns associated with cold weather commuting? Do you have any rules of thumb in terms of addressing them?
A flat tire would definitely be a bummer when cycling under 20 degrees. I've been very lucky on this issue, but it has happened once when it was two degrees. It was too cold to change the inner tube, so I resorted to leaving my bike behind and walking the final mile to work. When it's icy on the roads, studded tires are very much a requirement. In any weather, most cyclists seem to have very poor rear-facing lights. This is a big safety issue. Really bright rear lights are really important. I use three, with one on the back of my helmet because batteries can go out at any time and with three, at least one should always work.
Also, commutes to work are normally pretty enjoyable but I have found that in the afternoon that the commute home can be crummy when the temperatures are 15F and below. Cold handlebars easily suck the warmth from hands/gloves. In the future I'd like to try heated handlebar grips produced by AME.
Understanding the risks, what are the benefits or rewards of bicycle commuting and particularly cold weather commuting?
The daily routine created by cycling to work is a very effective way to stay fit and with the right clothing even moderate temperatures in the 30's and 40's can be enjoyed by anyone.
If the streets and trails are covered in deep snow, I may drive to work because the effort of biking in snow can be very tiring and exhausting. The city does not clear the bike trails, so I may lose a week or two of biking due to the snow. Light snow falls of 2 to 4 inches are manageable and even fun to ride in.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in taking up daily bicycle commuting?
Safe and comfortable cycling in any weather requires a really good head light. Lights with 800+ lumen are fine, but I've found that my eyes really appreciate the brightest light I can obtain. I've been using HID lights from Light and Motion. The latest iteration of Light and Motion SECA bike lights are now LED based and provide 2000 lumen. These lights essentially add car headlights to your bike. It's a great experience. Really bright rear lights are essential. I really like the rear safety lights produced by SERFAS. The USB-charged ones are really convenient. For the beginner, try warm and dry weather days and give a bike commute a spin. Having a locker and shower at your workplace is also important. Talking to someone that already commutes by bike is a great way to build up the courage to ditch the car for a new adventure. And, of course, wear a well-fitting helmet.
Thanks to Jeff Barnd for an great primer on winter commuting in central Indiana!
If you have questions about Jeff and winter riding, please submit a comment and ISWE will beg Jeff for some more information.
www.indianasmallwheelenthusiasts.com is now...
The newly available .bike top level domain name extension has finally made the iswe URL as compact as the bikes we love. Whew!
While the ISWE staff is socked away warm and dry during the thaw from Indiana's recent Snowpocalypse, Polar Vortex, or whatever it is they call it, enjoy this pic of the last small wheel sighting of 2013, a nice little vintage Raleigh Twenty. The summery appearance of the Raleigh belies the setting, 20-degrees (F) at the Indy Cycloplex Cyclocross 2013.
While the post-volunteering late day cold discouraged more thorough inspection and any additional photos (apologies), several interesting details are visible. From the rear, we see a really cool, vintage rack with plenty of storage for trips to the grocery, or in this case, across the pits. I hope they were hauling hot chocolate, sweaters, and gloves. Above that, a nice Brooks Flyer Saddle. Note the springs. With small wheels come bumps. With no rear suspension on the Raleigh, those generous springs combined with a well broken-in leather saddle would go a long way to smoothing the terrain. Frame-wise, we see a single straight tube, step-over design similar to a Bike Friday or older Dahon. The frames are so similar, in fact, that Bike Friday and Dahon both currently offer under-seat shock options to compensate for lack of rear suspension. The u-shaped bars look very similar to Brompton bars, especially with what looks like a Sturmey Archer three-speed shift lever (if only those levers looked as nice on current Bromptons). Looks as if there could also be a bottle-style dynamo on the far side of the rear wheel, powering the front and rear-integrated lighting, which is quite similar to lighting setup on the ISWE Brompton.
In the late 70s, early 80s, Raleigh produced a lot of Twenties, so there are Twenties to be had on eBay or Craigslist. Because Raleigh built them to last, they are great for restoration or modification, but they probably won't come cheap. A clean, complete Raleigh Twenty will probably cost you two or three times more than the original price of perhaps a couple hundred bucks. There are a lot of bikes out there that look similar to Raleigh Twenties. Keep your eye out for a real one at a garage sale or tag sale or whatever they call it in your area and you might get yourself a pretty good deal. For more on Raleigh Twenties, check out Sheldon Brown's Souped-up Twenty or the Twenty Wikipedia page.
Stay tuned for more, warmer, adventures on ISWE.bike.
ISWE Brommie thinking it's a work of art :)
Columbus, Indiana that is.
ISWE recently had the good fortune to stop over for a couple of hours in Indiana's small-town architectural treasure trove located just about an hour south of Indianapolis along I-65. If arts and architecture were boxing, Columbus would be the flyweight, pound-for-pound US champ. In just this little spot (left), one can see I. M. Pei's Bartholomew County Library (brick building in background), Eliel Saarinen's First Christian Church (below), English sculptor Henry Moore's "Large Arch" and the Irwin Home and Gardens.
Just a short bike ride from here, we were able to see: Eero Saarinen's (that's Eliel's son and designer of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis) Irwin Union Bank and Trust building; Kevin Roche's vine-covered Cummins Corporate Office Building and Columbus' deconstructivist SOM City Hall. Just a couple miles to the north, one can see Eero's really cool sci-fi-esque North Christian Church, although we didn't get to see it this trip :(
Let it be said that a lot of communities would be well advised to show a bit of the spirit of Columbus. There aren't many cities of this size in Indiana that can boast tourists from places like New York City as an absolutely routine occurrence on a Monday afternoon. Well done little Columbus, well done.
First Christian Church
Of the buildings near the "Large Arch", Eliel's First Christian Church is perhaps the most interesting. Built in 1942, it was one of the first churches in American to use a contemporary design. It's fun to imagine those building committee meetings. One one side, a bunch of conservative Hoosier farmers used to red brick and white clapboard buildings with steeples, on the other perhaps Cummins chief J. Irwin Miller himself, his Swedish Architect Saarinen and modern furniture designer Charles Eames all pitching what must have looked like something from a Robert Heinlein novel. Wow! Were we only church mice in '42, it would have been a heck of a show. Imagine the parishioners' reactions to those initial renderings. There must have been passing out in the aisles and exclamations of, "You want to build what?!"
As amazing as these structures are, something overshadowed them on this particular day; specifically, Zelcova serrata. While that may sound like the name of a radical Russian architect, it's not. It's a Japanese tree. Zelcova serrata line both sides of 5th Street in Columbus adjacent to the Irwin Gardnes... and on this hot, humid day, they were amazing.
The Brompton practically piloted itself down 5th Street probably five or ten times. One source lists Zelcova as excellent street trees, describing them as tolerant of heat, drought, and wind and excellent replacements for American Elm, and they are! On this muggy summer day, the climate in the tunnel beneath the Zelcova was totally cool and breezy. It had to be at least ten degrees cooler beneath them. Well done Zelcova trees, well done.
Brommie ready to go.
Eero, Eliel, ISWE and Zelcova--altogether, a wonderful couple of hours, all made possible by our Brompton in the boot. We would not have loaded a bike on a roof rack that day. We would not have attached one to the rear via a trailer hitch or Rube Goldberg buckle-on bicycle carrier contraption. It simply wouldn't have happened. No need. Brommie's always in the boot. Right there ready to go at a moment's notice... with plenty of room for grocery, shopping or book bags right there by his side. Well done Brommie, well done.
If you don't have a small wheel on hand, get one. Do, and someday while easing by the Eero or zipping under the Zelcova, you'll be very very glad you did.
ISWE had two goals on a recent part-day trip to Chicago 1) visit the Chicago Tesla store to see what's new in the world of gasless transport and 2) enjoy riding around in Chicago loop traffic for a while.Silly Brommie, you can't be a Divvy
1) Tesla was a really interesting stop for ISWE. With the Model S, Tesla seems to really be on it's way to a legitimately practical automobile. The Model S has a whopping 232 mile range, a durable aluminum body, nothing in the boot or bonnet (gobs of storage space) and of course does not spew any yucky black, blue, or otherwise invisible exhaust. ISWE members will certainly appreciate the latter. There's nothing worse than working up some decent cardio activity only to stop at an intersection and take in a full lungful of smog. Yuk. That experience can't end too soon. Add in that electricity is about 20% the cost of gas (like buying gas right now for about .76/gallon) and an even cheaper Tesla on the way and we've got some good news for the US, motorists, and people who like to do things like breathe air. The Tesla staff also seemed interested in the ISWE Brompton and pleased to learn that it (unlike the Tesla for now) generates all of it's own electricity :)
2) Chicago streets are always a treat for ISWE. While Indianapolis is well on its way to becoming a bike-friendly city, it has a long way to go to match Chi-town. While the bike lanes in Indy represent some sort of for-now-indecipherable hieroglyphics for Indy drivers, a lot of Chicago drivers already get them, even when they're not there. In other words, even without bike lanes, most Chicago loop drivers seem to know you're waiting on their left at a light or slipping partially concealed between a bus and some taxi cabs, and they're OK with it. While the presence of a bike on the street in Indy sends some drivers into total freakout mode, a similar presence in Chicago seems to engender a proud, "Yeah, we got bikes, no biggie" from even the most timid-looking drivers. While it's easy for cyclists to quickly pick up how bike lanes (or the lack thereof) work simply by following the bicycling ambassadors (the bike in front of you that knows what it's doing), things are a little more difficult for motorists. They have to learn on their own to look for bikes in pretty much the last places they would expect to see them, that is anywhere but right up against the curb on the right side of the street (a place that will get a cyclist clobbered when a driver looks left to check for oncoming traffic while turning right, right over bike and rider). Hopefully it won't take too long to get Indy drivers up to bike-friendly savvy. Until then, we'll enjoy our trips in Chicago just a little bit more :)
Another interesting transportation finding in Chicago was the City's new Divvy bike sharing program. There were Divvy bikes everywhere! Divvy launched with 75 stations (like that pictured) equipped with 750 bikes. Riders made 4,123 rides on those bikes on just the opening weekend of the program. Soon, Chicago hopes to have 300 stations with 3,000 bikes. Wow! Is it just me, or is that a lot of bikes? That's a lot of bikes!
The stations work on 24-hour or annual passes at $7 and $75 respectively. Sub-30-minute rides are free. Longer rides cost a few dollars. Hmmm? Note to wife: bringing the Brompton in the trunk of the car, saved us $6 to $8 for my ride. I told you the Brompton was a wise investment :)
Seriously, these Divvys were all over the place. It's an amazing program. It will introduce a lot of people to cycling. It will have positive health effects. And, it will give tourists something to do other than snake around in creepy long lines of slow-moving Segways.
Internally geared three-speed hub and mystery brake
Mechanically, these things appear to be built like tanks. They have bulky frames, a front rack that looks like it could support a bag of cement (if you could find some way to get it on the rack) and interestingly, some very folding bike features. Hmmm...
A close look at the rear hub of the Divvy reveals what appears to be an internally geared three-speed hub, a lot like the Sturmey Archer on the Brommie. And, what? That rear brake looks similar to the old-fashioned/strange band brake on the Dahon Stow Away we recently spotted on the IUPUI campus. Both are smart choices for commuter bikes because they keep the elements (and other stuff) away from the important stuff. Like the Brommie, they also have active lighting systems front and rear. Cool.
We'll, thanks to having the folding bike in the trunk during the wife's meeting in the loop, our short stay in Chicago turned into a 20-mile tour of transportation technology for the future--a mini Columbian exposition. Not too bad little Brompton, not too bad at all.
ISWE is at the races. We're working the Masters Track Nationals at the Major Taylor Velodrome today. Not yet able to get the ISWE Brompton on the track with all these carbon fiber monster. Good luck for them ;)
It's not all that unusual to spot small wheelers on the IUPUI campus these days--ISWE readers may recall a couple sightings of Dahon P8s last year--but something pretty interesting showed up outside the Lecture Hall last week. Meet the P8's grandpa (or grandma, not sure about how bike gender is determined), the Dahon Stow Away. It's an interesting little bike with a history worthy of a Steven Speilberg film. Short version: Largely in response to the 70's oil embargo/crisis, tactical/nuclear fusion laser beam physicist, Dr. David T. Hon founds Dahon in 1982. This little bike shows up in the mid-80s. Dahon goes on to conquer the folding bicycle market, becoming the world's largest folding bicycle manufacturer with well over 2 million folders sold by 2011. Then, Hon's son and wife, Florence and Joshua rebel, splitting Dahon in two, creating one of Dahon's major current competitors, Tern. Whew, drama.
There are a couple of interesting features on the Stow Away. Perhaps most notable is the Moulton-esque space frame handlebar support. The support undoubtedly adds a good bit of strength and stiffness to the long handlebar stem. It also, in the opinion of ISWE, adds considerably the look of the bike. Another unique feature is the location of the bottom bracket. Check that out, it's mounted at least a quarter of the way up the seat tube. That adds clearance for the cranks and pedals. Without that extra three or four inches, cornering the low-to-the-ground frame would be tricky to say the least. Moving to the rear, we see a five-speed freewheel on the far side and yes... a band brake, the bike's only brake, on the near side. Hmmm? Wonder what that's like in terms of stopping power? Finally, that's an integrated reflector in the rear fender. Cool. If this one shows up on campus again, we'll definitely take a much closer look.
Here's Dr. Hon with his original Da-Bike (smiling pre-rebellion). Notice, the Da-Bike pictured lacks the the distinctive handlebar support. But there is something extra there, a third wheel! If you look closely in the folded picture, just to the right of the crank, you'll see a swivel castor. While there appear to be brazings for its mounting on the Stow Away above, it's not there. Likely many owners opt to opt out of it or ditch it after the fact to partially reduce the steel bike's, I believe, approximate 40-pound overall weight.
While the fold is quite compact, almost rivaling that of Brompton, it is a bit complicated... check it out in this excellent set of YouTube clips. Any time you have two YouTube videos to demonstrate fold and unfold, you know it's going to be a little rough :)
Thanks to whomever you are intrepid IUPUI Stow Away rider for providing us a look at such an interesting machine!
Recumbent trikes, while becoming a more common site on bike paths everywhere, remain a bit of a mystery to many of the general cycling public. How much did that cost? Where did you get that? and What is that like to ride? are questions common to just about every trike owner out there. For those of you still in the noodling phase of trike appreciation, Sam Binnig of Athens, Ohio has generously some initial trike impressions from his first few weeks as the owner of a very popular trike, the Catrike Trail. Check out the interview below the pic.
ISWE: While tadpole trikes are becoming more popular everyday, they're still a rare sight on the road in some locations and somewhat idiosyncratic choice when it comes to transportation. What were you thinking? Are you crazy? What initially attracted you to trikes? What was it that convinced you finally take the plunge?
Sam: I first saw a recumbent trike a few years back at Quaker Haven camp in northeast Indiana when my uncle brought out his Greenspeed trike. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I remember being able to take a ride down the gravel path there and thinking it was a really cool bike. After that, I was removed from the trike world and even the bike world for a bit as I finished up high school and college. When I finally got closer to graduation, I was thinking about getting a bike to ride around town to both exercise and just relax on a bit and figured the best fit would be a trike.
ISWE: Tell us a little about your buying experience. Where did you purchase your trike? What was that like? Were you able to gauge from the process how well trikes are selling these days? What's the whole trike scene like over there in the Buckeye state (what we like to call the ISWE east annex)?
Sam: Talking to some of my friends and colleagues, they all seemed both amazed and confused by pictures of the bike before the purchase and that's when I was really set on getting one and bringing the tadpole trike world down to Athens. To purchase the bike, I met up with my awesome parents, Bruce and Betsy, in Lisbon, Ohio at Lisbon Rail to Trail Bike Shop (and Catrike Megastore). Here's the link to their site: http://www.lisbonrailtotrail.com/
On our arrival, we were greeted by their friendly staff and within the first 2-3 minutes they had me on a trike cruising down the local streets. I tried a few different trikes out while we were there and the staff even got Dad out riding around on a trike as well. The roads up around the store consisted of quite a bit of crack and seal pavement as well as occasional gravel on the road. The ride was a little bumpy at parts, but overall it was quite easy to navigate the short trip. Once we were back and I had decided on the Trail model, I selected a brand new blue frame from the many colors in stock and we went down the street to get a bite to eat while the staff assembled and setup the trike. I couldn't tell how well trikes were selling from this store, but it seemed like they sold quite a few and they will have between 60-90 trikes in stock at any one time. I've only seen one or two other tadpole trikes out in the wild over here in Ohio, but I'm sure there have to be more.
ISWE: Now, let's get down to it. You just finished a nice 45 mile ride? We'd like to hear about that. Where did you go? What did you do? What were the road conditions? How was the ride?
Sam: The (approximately) 45 mile ride was great. Some of my friends and colleagues have started a group called the Old Man Bike Club (although I think the average age of the group probably sits around 26) and this was the inaugural ride. Starting out we set a pretty lofty goal: Ride the entire bike path from Athens to Nelsonville. We all met up and hopped on the path at Peden Stadium and eventually covered the entire path from end to end--more information here: http://www.athensohio.com/whattodo/534)
We picked a nice sunny Wednesday afternoon to go on the ride, but it was not too hot. A lot of the path is also covered in trees, which was nice. The path is flat the entire way with no real steep grades which made for a nice first ride. Overall, it was a great ride. Everyone was pretty tired at the end of it since most of the group is fairly new to long distance riding, but we all made it.
ISWE: How well would you say the Trail perform on your ride? Pros and cons? Finally, if you had to sum up your whole experience with the Trail in 3 words, what would they be?
Sam: The Trail was great and a lot of fun to ride. It turned quite a few heads and even got a few "Awesome Bike!" shouts from others on the path. Parts of the ride were a little bumpy as you feel every bit of even the smallest bumps, but the low profile gets your eyes closer to the ground and it is a lot easier to see them coming up. I feel that the trike helps reduce fatigue quite a bit on the ride. One of the great pros of the trike is definitely the seat. It offered a great deal of comfort that the traditional two wheel bikes lacked. However, since you are laid back more, your legs are more exposed to the sun throughout the trip and unless you smother them in sunscreen before, you will probably get burnt (trust me). Another pro of the seat though is that I was able to change shoes (from my running shoes to my clipless shoes after a pit stop) while riding. It was a little tricky, but possible.
If I had to sum up the Catrike Trail in three words I think they would be: Comfortable. Head-turning. Fun.
Thanks Sam for the great report!
For those who can remember back a few years in terms of recumbent bikes and trikes, Sam's shop picture is an encouraging, perhaps even astonishing, indicator of the current climate for recumbents in the Midwest. It has to be improving! For years, brave recumbent bike shop pioneers (e.g., Valley Bikes of Carmel, Indiana) struggled uphill both ways to get people to even entertain the idea of an alternative to conventional diamond framed road and mountain bike configurations. Back then, a shop with one or two trikes and/or one or two two-wheeled recumbents was a treasure trove. A shop with 60 trikes was something completely unthinkable, to great to be imagined--perish the thought! So, let's all take a moment to thank the designers, retailers, and mechanics who supported these machines through their development. Today their efforts mean more people can access cycling in more ways than ever before, and they don't have to know how to use an acetylene torch and brazing rod to do so. If you haven't yet tried an alternative mode of pedal-powered propulsion, there's no better time than this weekend. Do your a favor, take a road trip, hit a shop, and give one of these new rides a spin. You'll be glad you did.
Stay tuned for more reports from ISWE riders and friends!
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Small wheels rule!