Cannondale

Cat(trike) Fight - Expedition vs. Pocket by Erin Wade

Facing Off

Ok - not really a fight, but I’ve been riding the Expedition now for three weeks, covering a little over 200 miles, which seems long enough on the new machine, and away from the Pocket, to be able to make a reasonable comparison. And I thought some of this information might be useful first for anyone who also has a Pocket who might be considering moving to an Expedition, and secondarily to folks thinking about moving from a trike with a 20" rear wheel to one with a 26" wheel.

There are differences in equipment between the two machines. I detailed that a couple of weeks ago, and you can look back if you are curious. But for now, let the Cat(trike) fight begin!

Size

The Expedition feels bigger than the Pocket and, given that it is bigger, it should. But when I say "bigger", I would say that it gives the impression of being more substantial as opposed to feeling heavier. I don’t really get the impression that I’m hauling more machine around in terms of it being more work. It’s just more substantial.

What this does translate to, tho, is comparatively less of the "go-kart" feel you get with the Pocket. This is not suggest that the Expedition is not a lot of fun to ride, but the sensation is different. To make an automotive comparison, the Pocket handles reminiscent of, say, a Triumph Spitfire or Mini Cooper S, while the Expedition is closer to a late 70’s Camaro (these may be somewhat idiosyncratic examples)...

Triumphant

(Yes - that boy is painfully young, and even I can see the teenage attitude)

All of which is to say that it handles well, but it’s not quite as immediate a handling experience as with the Pocket. This may change with additional experience, but I suspect not much - I think this is a factor of additional length.


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That additional size does also translate into additional carrying capacity, and I am finding that the new pannier bags work quite nicely. I can easily see carrying back a growler from a brewpub in them. It’s also pretty clear that I’m going to have an easier time hooking up my trailer when I finally get around to finishing it.

The size does have an impact on transportation as well - at least potentially so. The Expedition does fit in my Honda Fit (it fits in the Fit). The primary difference between the two machines is that, with the Pocket I can also bring along a passenger. To accommodate the extra length of the Expedition I have to move the passenger seat all the way forward on its track, lean it forward, and remove the headrest (because it blocks the right side rear view mirror).

No passengers

I should say that this scenario involves me making no changes to the trike - I could put in the boom and would likely gain several inches. However, I did try this once and found it very difficult to slide in (by design, I believe). I’ve received several suggestions regarding this, including carrying along a rubber mallet to assist with moving it and putting talcum on the boom to make it slide more easily. I think these are good ideas, and I may try them in future, but the overwhelming majority of the time I don’t really need to accommodate a passenger, so the motivation is fairly low. And I could either strap it to the roof or set up a trailer with the car if I really need to (I do have one). As such, this is more of a difference than an inconvenience. And realistically, over the past couple of years my car has essentially become a rolling trike garage anyway. Passengers may just have to find their own way home.

Speed

One of the more common questions asked by people new to recumbent trikes is whether they are faster than Diamond Frame (DF) bikes, and/or how fast a given trike will go. Answers to this often fall into the accurate but unsatisfying range of either "it depends" or "it’s up to the motor (you)". Setting aside the fact that there is almost certainly a technical, gear-limited top speed for each machine, it’s generally a frustrating example of the real world failing to provide simple answers.

For my part, I had hoped that the Expedition would be faster than the Pocket, but based upon other people’s descriptions and experiences, I didn’t necessarily expect that to be the case. Yes, the Expedition has a larger rear wheel with the same (well - similar - 10 Speed vs. 9 speed cassette) gearing, and so technically a higher top speed capability. But I cannot say that I was routinely pedaling past the gear limits in top gear on the Pocket, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

And - before we get to what I’ve found thus far - there is an introspective part of the middle-aged me that wonders at why I’d want to go faster. While I’d love to ride more for actual transportation, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of the time I ride for pleasure and exercise. What exactly is the upside to making that go by more quickly?

But the truth is that there’s still a fair amount of that kid with the Triumph in there. He’s not necessarily rational, and might have purchased a series of other poorly conceived sporty cars over the years to meet that need (but I digress...).

So what is the deal with speed? Well:

Overall Average Speed

Yeah - The Expedition is faster.

That’s right, hands down, full stop - it’s just faster. What you see in the graph is a comparison between the lifetime average of the Pocket, the Expedition, and (for fun) my Cannondale SR400, which was my primary machine before getting the Pocket. And as can be seen, the Expedition is faster than both of them.

Now, there are some qualifications needed here to understand what this is showing:

  • The Cannondale referred to is a 1987 Cannondale SR400. It is a 12-speed aluminum road bike from the era of Madonna and Duran Duran and Mötley Crüe - it is not a modern machine. However, it was my regular ride for years, it is all of 22 lbs, and tho I prefer to ride the trikes now, I still think it’s a very elegant design. More details on it can be seen in the Cannondale catalog from 1987, and the bike itself is pictured below.
  • The averages for both the Cannondale and the Pocket reflect far more miles over much more varied conditions - including winter riding (which is always slower). The distance on the Expedition thus far is only 204.89 miles vs 2901.35 for the Pocket and 2462.47 for the Cannondale

Cannondale SR400

In order to compensate for the difference in number of rides I thought it would make sense to compare on specific routes. I compared overall speeds on the routes, and then also went thru and, where possible, did a comparison on the last three rides on each of the routes on the Pocket - all of which were in the last couple of months - in order to remove any effect of winter riding on speed (except the Inlet route - I’d only ridden that once on the Pocket, and that was this spring). That is shown in the table and graph below:

Routes comparo

The outcome: The Expedition is faster.

Removing the effect of winter riding for the Pocket definitely makes it faster (snow is fun, but it slows you down), but the Expedition is still faster. It’s faster than the Pocket, and actually faster, on average, than the Cannondale.

I say "on average" here, because the LP route presented is the one that I ride most often. This is a function of convenience - it’s a bike path right by one of my worksites. It involves a hill climb up from the Rock River of about a half-mile or so. My fastest time on that route is still held by the Cannondale - 31:51 for the 8.44 mile loop at an average of 15.90 mph. But I beat my PR on the Pocket with the Expedition on my first ride on the route. And this despite the potential disadvantage of the larger rear wheel on climbing.

So yeah - faster.

Shifters

The Pocket is a 2012 model, and it came with grip shifters.

Grip Shifters

The Expedition has bar end shifters, as does every Catrike model currently on the site, including the Pocket, with the single exception of the Eola. My impression from participation from online groups is that people generally prefer the bar end shifters.

I am finding that I miss the grip shifters a bit.

I like the indexed nature of the grip shifters - each click is a gear. The bar end shifters aren’t really indexed - you can feel them drop into gear, of course, but shifting with them is much more reminiscent of the downtube shifters on the Cannondale. Usually it’s fine, but sometimes I have to adjust a bit to get right into the spot.

The other difference here is location - which is to say that I have to move my hand up to the top of the hand grip in order to shift, instead of just making a quick twist of the wrist. I’ll grant that this is a small thing, and I’m quickly adjusting to the bar ends, but it’s not (yet) as automatic as the grip shifters.

While I’m in this area, I’ll note that that the handgrips on the Expedition are a foam material that gives the impression of less durability than the rubber (or rubberized plastic) of the grip shifters. I have had no difficulty with them thus far, and I’ve never seen anyone complaining about these, so I’m not expecting that impression to be true, but that was my initial impression nevertheless.

The Expedition comes with the wrist rests on the handlebars, which is not a feature I have on the Pocket. This is nice, and I’ve found myself with my hands relaxed on top of them over long stretches. This sort of replaces my habit of on the Pocket of resting my wrists on top of the grips where the mirrors mount (and maybe will result in a longer lifespan for the mirrors). And speaking of those...

Mirror Mounts

The Pocket (or at least my Pocket, anyway) puts the mirrors on the end of the handle grips. This option goes away because thats where the shifters are on the Expedition, and instead there are separate stalks for the mirrors. The stalks are, quite simply, excellent! Not only does it get the mirrors out away from you a bit, but it also provides additional space to mount other things. Right now I’ve put my phone mount on there, which places it much closer in reach than its previous location on the boom.

Rokform Mount

And there’s room on it for other things - I’m considering a bell for trail riding (I’m often surprised by the number of people who are still startled by me after I’ve called out "on your left" - apparently they didn’t think I meant their left...).

Neck Rest

The Pocket didn’t come with a neck rest (and doesn’t from the factory), so there’s no direct comparison here. In fact, given the angle of the seat, it doesn’t really need one. I installed a Power-On Cycling neck rest myself, but this was more to get A) a higher mounting point for a taillight; and 2) give myself a handle for walking the trike. On rare occasion, on longer rides, I would lean my head back and rest it against the pad, but I really didn’t even have it in a position to work as a neck rest.

Just looks more comfy, doesn’t it?

The Expedition has a greater degree of recline: 37° vs 41° for the Pocket. A difference of 4 degrees doesn’t seem like a lot on paper, but it’s enough to make you want to use the neck rest. I had sort of planned to order another neck rest from Power-On when I got the Expedition - again, mostly because of the elevated mounting point for the taillight - but I figured I’d hold off until I had a little experience with the stock model (and save a little coin if I could).

I was able to sort out how to get a taillight mounted on the stock headset.

Taillight on headrest

And the Expedition is tall enough that, between the neck rest and the handle on the pannier bags it’s easy enough to walk it as it sits. The stock neck rest that it comes with works fine in terms of getting into position to lean against while riding. This would all be great, and represent a cost saving, but I am finding that it makes my neck a bit sore over rough terrain. I’ve ordered the Power-On rest.

Clipless Pedals and Shoes

As I mentioned in my initial comparison, I’d never used clipless pedals before. They weren’t a thing when I was a kid (I think versions of them existed, but farm kids riding around the countryside were not a target market). My Cannondale had toe clips (the cages or stirrups) when I got it, and I found those worked quite nicely. On the Pocket I’d installed the heel slings from TerraTrike, and supplemented them with Velcro cross straps to better secure and facilitate a full power stroke (pulling on return in addition to pushing). So, despite the fact that this technology has been around for a while, it was new to my use.

They are... ok.

To be clear, they absolutely work as designed and advertised - you snap in, and your foot is solidly restrained on the pedal. They are also easier to get in and out of than the combination I have on the Pocket. There I have to lean forward to my feet to put them on or off (the cross straps specifically - you can just rest your feet in the slings). The clipless literally just snap in and out. And thus far, that’s the primary advantage.

Right now I have one pair of shoes - the Shimano Sandals I ordered about the same time I ordered the Expedition. The sandals, again, work as advertised, and I can walk around in them - the cleats are recessed enough that you can hear them click on gravel or pavement, but they don’t appear to affect walking. But the design of the sandal itself is visually more like something you’d get out of a bin at Wally World, something you’d keep around for going to the beach, than a sandal you’d want to wear all the time (can you tell I’m still bitter that Keen doesn’t make the Commuter Sandal anymore?).

And, of course, they are expensive, which will still leave me needing to make decisions come winter. Do I seek out specific winter cycling boots (these do exist) or get myself into a pattern of installing and removing the heel slings for cold weather months (since I already have the sandals)?

A part of this also bumps into my personal bias - which I absolutely want to acknowledge here - against cycling specific clothing and gear. While I realize that cycling is primarily a recreational activity here in the US, I’d love to see it move towards more regular use for actual transportation. I do believe that the tendency towards cycling specific gear - especially clothing and shoes - takes away from that. It can give non-cyclists who might be interested the impression that you have to get all of this extra stuff just to get started. That presents an additional, artificial barrier to entry that might discourage folks who would otherwise come on board. Cycling to work becomes all the more effort if one thinks one has to purchase an extra set of clothing, carry the change of clothes that you’ll wear while at work, and change both once you arrive and again when you leave.

And, to be clear, this is a personal bias. I know people enjoy their bespoke cycling gear, and I have no problem with that (I even have a cycling jersey myself, despite all of this). But I don’t want to see the cycling world move towards designing daily use machines that require additional specialized gear.

And maybe part of my problem here is that I am actually considering winter cycling shoes rather than just getting another set of heel slings...

Ok - off the soapbox...

To Sum Up

Overall, I’m really enjoying the Expedition. It is a faster machine and feels like it - I can tell when I’m riding that I’m moving along faster than before. As much as I try to tell myself that shouldn't matter, it just does.

Everything else is just niggles, and a lot of it will go away with additional familiarity and adaptation. Most of the size differences are already fading - it felt much bigger than the Pocket originally, but now when I look at the two machines together the impression I get is that the Pocket seems smaller - the Expedition now - already - feels like the right size.

Time to ride...

Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns by Erin Wade

roadside attractions

In my day-to-day life I think of myself as a person who is somewhat technically inclined. If you are having issues sorting out how to do something with your technology - your iPhone, your Mac, and yes, even (grudgingly) your Windows or Android device - odds are good that I can help you out with that. I’m even somewhat mechanically inclined, or at least I was in a past life. For much of my 20’s and early 30’s I did the lion’s share of maintenance on my own vehicles - oil changes, spark plugs, brakes - and only went in to the mechanic for more involved activities and repairs (Honda timing belts, for example, were beyond my ken).

Bicycles and other HPV’s are relatively simple machines. Yet despite my technical history, I am often surprised - and frequently stymied - by how little I actually know.

Some of this is simply due to experience. As a kid I learned to do things like raising and lowering my seat, and adjusting bent handlebars, both from necessity (the former due to growth, the latter typically due to misadventure). I got considerable practice with re-seating slipped chains as well. But when it came to other skills, like changing tires, and certainly when we move on to the more mechanically intricate components of a derailleur system, I confess to have been largely mystified.


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As a kid, issues with these components would simply have to wait until I could get my Dad to help. As an adult, returning to cycling after a hiatus borne by focus on work and schooling, I found that it was generally preferable to let the local bike shop handle the areas where my knowledge base and skills were lacking.

This worked out fine when I first started back riding. While I was enthusiastic and enjoyed it, in those early years of return my riding time and distances were relatively modest. My need for LBS intervention was largely limited to annual checkups and occasional rear wheel straightening on my relatively ancient Cannondale SR400.

However, a couple of related factors have caused me to have a change of perspective on this front. The second of those factors is the fact that my riding time and distances have increased considerably over the past two years. My records in Cyclemeter go back to 2011, and before 2017 my highest mileage year was 752.47. What’s more, that was in 2014, and my mileage dropped in 2015 and 2016 to 547.18 and 260.49, respectively.

Come 2017, however, my mileage increased - to 937.51, followed by another bump to 1372.14 miles in 2018. I’m on track to do a similar distance (and hopefully further) for 2019.

That increased distance is undeniably due to the first of the factors: In June of 2017 I got my recumbent trike - a 2012 Catrike Pocket. As I’ve detailed elsewhere here, while I’ve always enjoyed cycling, the recumbent trike really kicked that into high gear.

I’ve realized, though, that the trike does provide some interesting implications from a maintenance perspective. About a decade ago we made the call to move to a rural setting. This is a great thing when it comes to going riding - instead of piling things into the car and driving to a trail, most of the time I literally just head out of my driveway - it’s miles and miles of riding pleasure at my doorstep.

However, living in the boondocks also means that everything is far away. While I talk about my LBS, in reality the localest bike shop is a half-hour drive. And while they are great and always helpful, the Pocket is somewhat of a specialty item, and the nearest Catrike dealer is nearly an hour’s worth of travel time distant.

None of that is to complain - I knew what I was getting into when I moved out here. What it does, though, is help to refocus my attention on the need to learn some things about maintenance and repair. Realistically, now, if I can’t fix it myself it means that I can’t ride the trike, at least not until I can fit in a trip to the shop. It’s a different situation than back when I lived in a city with a bike shop nearby, and amplified a bit by the specialized nature of the trike.

(I do still have my Cannondale as a backup, but in general, I’d rather not take that option).

So - I’m learning. I’m quite certain I still have a ways to go. As I detailed here, a couple of weeks ago, I managed to successfully change a tube myself for the first time, along the side of the road. But I’ve now also had to change that tube twice more since, leaving me trying to figure out what the unknown unknowns are about the situation, and realizing how little I actually know about wheels and tires. With the help of some of the very friendly folks on the Facebook recumbent trike groups I’d gone through and done my due diligence in terms of inspecting the wheel and tire itself for debris. But I’ve now also realized that I didn’t ever know what rim tape was or what it was for, and it appears that mine is in need of replacement... (more on that in the near future).

Making that particular potential issue now a known unknown. And if that fixes the recurrent problem, it will move the the known category. If it doesn’t, well, then clearly there’s another unknown unknown...

Bottom line, however, I have to gain a wider base of knowledge and practice - remove the unknowns - if I want to continue to ride and ride further distances.

And I do.

Arizona Recollections by Erin Wade

I use a journaling app called Day One, and it offers up an "On This Day" feature which shows you what you’ve written about on, well, this day, in the past. I sat down with it over coffee this morning and brought up a journal entry about biking in Arizona five years ago.

I wrote about that ride and posted it here back at the time. It starts out like this:

Arizona Winter Ride

This was my view on my bike ride this morning.

I’d never been to Arizona before. In their younger years my child - LB - participated in competitive gymnastics, and one of the nice side effects of that was that we had sort of enforced family trips once or twice a competition season. I don’t think we would have been likely to travel there without this as a reason. That would have been unfortunate - it was truly beautiful - we spent time in Tonto National Forest and saw the cliff dwellings near Roosevelt Dam.

Roosevelt Dam

Roosevelt Dam

Cliff dwellings

LB at the cliff dwellings

And while all of that was wonderful I, of course, also wanted to have the opportunity for bike ride while I was there. It just seemed silly to squander the opportunity, so I searched for a place that would rent me a bike for a short ride the morning ahead of our flight home. This was easier than you’d think - there were, in fact, several places in the Phoenix area that rented out bikes. I went with Arizona Outback Adventures (AOA).

I was a little concerned that any rental place would see me primarily as a pain in the ass. I mean here I was, rolling in to rent a bike for something like an hour. I had no biking gear - no shoes, no helmet - and I was not a local or routine traveler to the area, so I represented no likelihood of repeat business in any volume. But I wanted to ride.

My concerns were for naught. The folks at AOA were wonderful - polite, helpful, gave me everything I needed. I really felt like I was working with folks that understood that need for a riding fix before taking that trip home. Afterwards I signed up for their email alerts for cycling trips, and I’d love to get out on one with them. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

While I wrote about that for Applied Life back then, I sometimes include things in my journal that don’t make it into the posts. At the time my regular ride at home was my Cannondale, and this gave me the opportunity to experiment with multiple "new" (to me) features. From my journal:

This was also an opportunity to try out a modern carbon fibre road bike - something I've been interested in. The bike they gave me was a Specialized Roubaix Elite Apex. This was a comfortable bike, lightweight, with the more current click-shifter setup. They put on toe clips for me. It was a nice bike, and worked very well, the new shifters took a little getting used to - they are more precise - one click equals one gear - but it takes a second for it to respond, as opposed to the immediate response from the older, rotation style shifters. All in all, very nice.

This was my ride before we hit the road:

Specialized in Scottsdale

I was out for just shy of an hour, and logged about 15 miles, give or take. One of the nice things about Cyclemeter is that it makes it relatively easy to go back and take a look at adventures like these, and that Arizona ride is marked off in there under its own route:

AOA 15 mile shop ride

In a way, this ride also saved me some money, because while I liked the Specialized, I didn’t fall in love:

Interesting to me was that it did not seem significantly nicer than my 1987 Cannondale. I liked it, to be sure, but not enough to, say, drop a couple thousand on it to trade up.

There was some unintentional foreshadowing there as well, because that statement was followed by this one:

This is a nice thing to learn, as it means I should wait until I can get something that offers a significantly different experience - here in thinking either mountain bike or tadpole trike (I so very much want a recumbent trike... )

Still, I really enjoyed that ride, and I found Scottsdale to be quite accommodating:

I asked about the traffic - many of the lanes were on 4-lane roadways. The folks at the shop assured me that Scottsdale is a "pretty bike friendly town". This was absolutely the case - all traffic treated me as if I was supposed to be on the road with them, with no horns, no angry passers-by. Probably my favorite example of this attitude was from the roadside maintenance crew. Two gentlemen were out there alongside the road, next to the bike lane, running weed whackers. Each of them stopped as I rode by to keep from hitting me with debris.

I really appreciated the cycle-friendliness of the area, as well as the sights. I also missed the weather back home, but I was considering the trade-offs:

All that, and the view! I wouldn't move to Arizona just for the weather - I mostly enjoy winter in Illinois. But for that sort of biking environment... Well, that might be something to consider.

As one might expect, the Arizona weather from five years ago contrasts considerably with the Illinois weather of today. I don’t have the exact temperatures from that day, but suffice to say I was riding in short sleeves. And this morning?:

Illinois Morning

None of which is to say that I’m pining for Arizona. Even as I’m writing this and reminiscing my winter riding gear is going through the wash, getting ready for today’s Sunday ride.

...But short sleeves in January... ?

Recumbent Trikes - Growing In Popularity? by Erin Wade

MLW and I were chatting a bit the other day about recumbent trikes (what do you talk about at home with your spouse?), and she mentioned that they seem to be becoming more popular.

I wasn’t sure whether that was a real thing, or just a household effect of having gotten a trike myself. So I did some brief internet research, and the proliferation of companies that make recumbent trikes does seem to be something of a more recent phenomenon.

I don’t remember exactly when I first heard about recumbent trikes, but it was at some point in the early to mid-1990’s, I believe. I’d come across an article about a human-powered airplane flight looking to break a previous record. I think it was The Raven Project, which got press in 1996, it fits time-wise; but I’m linking here to a Chicago Tribune article about it without a picture because it’s website seems to have become some sort of soccer fan-site (?).

At any rate, that article led me to the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA) site, which then led me to recumbent trikes. At the time the only brand I recall seeing was Greenspeed. I couldn't speak to model names at that point, just that they looked exotic and very cool; and they seemed expensive and hard to find here in the States. And I wanted one.


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In fact, when I found my Catrike Pocket on eBay it was literally the first I’d ever heard of Catrike. I’d been searching for a new bike of some type and, after being outbid on a couple of Trek road bikes it occurred to me that, if I was looking for a new machine, maybe now was the time to find a trike. Once I came across the Pocket I did a crash course of research on the brand. I knew next to nothing about recumbent trikes, but what I saw about Catrike spoke to the road cyclist in me - aluminum frame, relatively lightweight (about 11lbs heavier than my Cannondale), etc. - so the rest was history.

But looking back on that, when MLW mentioned them become more popular, it made me wonder where all of these trike companies were back in the mid-90’s when I first looked. So I did a brief bit of homework just checking the About and/or Wikipedia entries for the companies, and this is what I found about when they were founded:


And a couple of disclaimers about the list:

  • I know SunSeeker makes trikes as well - I didn’t include them on the list because I couldn’t easily find a founding date for them.
  • The ICE Website indicates that they took over a company called Trice, and I know some of their earlier models carried this name, but it was hard to find info on Trice online.

So - given when I started looking, it makes sense that I’d only have come across GreenSpeed - the others hadn’t started yet, or were just beginning. But the fact that there are now multiple companies producing trikes, and that the youngest of them has been in operation for nearly 20 years, does suggest increasing popularity.

To me that’s encouraging. While I certainly don’t mind being outside the typical, it’s great to see this thing I enjoy as a growing market, with active development and experimentation. This suggests that we can expect an ongoing availability and progression of trikes in the future.

2018 Cycling Year in Review by Erin Wade

It’s our tendency right about this time of year to look back and consider what the past 12 months have looked like. Now, to be clear, this is a review of my year in cycling, not, say, the industry or the race scene, or what have you. It is most certainly not a review of your year in cycling (and how creepy would that be if it were?).

It is always important, I believe, to remember to compare oneself to oneself, not to others. I periodically have to remind myself of this, particularly when undertaking something like this. And with that in mind, with some Decemberists playing in my headphones, and with the help of Cyclemeter, I took a look at the data:

Distance

Perhaps the simplest, but most telling, data point to look at is distance as compared to previous years. For better or worse, for this year I set myself a personal goal to get to 1000 miles. This seemed reasonable, given that my distance for 2017 was 937.51 miles - I knew I wanted to increase my riding time overall for 2018, and I wanted a distance that would represent improvement over the year prior year, but was attainable. And I suppose I should note that, while the goal represented only 62 or so additional miles over the year prior, 20 17’s mileage reflected my greatest distance since I started keeping track. Prior to that my best year - 2014 - was 752.47 miles.

To make a long story short, I’m pleased to say I met the goal. Mileage for 2018 as of this writing sits at 1358.29 miles.

I say "as of this writing" because it’s the 30th of December, and I’ll take at least one more ride before the end of the year (today), two if I can squeeze them in. There’s a part of me that would like to bring the number up to an even 1400 (I also like things to be at right angles on my desk - don’t judge me...), but while that’s not impossible, it would be pretty challenging for me - my average distance per ride for the year is just under 13 miles.

So - this year compares favorably to prior years. I first started using Cyclemeter back in 2011, with the first entry appearing on July 30th of that year. Years across that time are shown in the graph below:

2011-2018 by year

Obviously there’s a pretty sharp increase in 2017 that continues into 2018. This may be due, in part, to a change in activity focus. Back in 2014 my child and I started taking martial arts - specifically Tae Kwon Do - together. This was a new activity for LB and a return for me, and I suspect that’s the reason the years subsequent to 2014 see a drop off in riding time (time in class, at tournaments, etc). As LB moved in to high school, however, their interest (understandably) waned, and I made the difficult decision this year to stop going and focus more on riding. I want to note, also, that this is due primarily to convenience - the school we attended was an hour away (this made sense with respect to my work activities) but is otherwise a great place with wonderful instructors. But that hour drive contrasts with the fact that I can ride right out of my driveway at home.

Still, while that definitely played a role, more of it has to do with what I was riding...

Machines

Breaking down the riding distances narrows down when the increase in riding really took place:

2011-2018 By Month

Looking at things this way shows a pretty significant uptick in riding distance back in June of 2017. There’s one particular event that occurred in that month that speaks to why...

2011-2018 By Month - Catrike Pocket

I got my Catrike Pocket in early June of 2017, and took my first documented ride on June 4th. I say "documented" because, of course I had to ride it around the yard a bit when I first got it home. But the 4th was the first I’d gotten it fully up and running with Cyclemeter tracking it.

My primary machine prior to getting the Pocket - which I still have and ride - was a 1987 Cannondale SR400. It’s a lightweight, 12-speed aluminum road bike. It’s a machine that I have professed my love for many times over the years. It’s elegant and simple and visually (to me) always looks like it’s ready to move.

Cannondale SR400

I’ve said here that this is a bike that I still have and ride, and this is true. But it’s less true than I would have thought. If you’d asked me to estimate how often I’ve ridden the Cannondale this year, I’d have estimated it at a half-dozen or so times.

It’s once. Exactly one time.

I took out the Cannondale last on October 14th, for a ride into town to take a picture of a historic marker and to pick up something from the grocery store. And I took it explicitly because the Catrike was in the shop getting new tires put on. What’s more, looking back thru the data, the last prior ride was October 10th, 2017. I had literally not ridden it for over a year before that outing.

I actually rode rental bikes more frequently in 2018 than I did my Cannondale. Not much more (three outings), but more. The only more neglected machine was MLW’s Schwinn, which I would occasionally take out for snow or gravel, but which hasn’t come off the garage hooks since December of last year (and that only because I wanted to compare it to the Pocket in the snow).

I can’t really decide whether I should feel bad about any of that or not. What is clear, however, is that the recumbent trike has had a huge effect on the amount of riding I’m doing, as well as what it looks like. I like to recline.

Trips

While, as I noted above, most of my rides this year start and end at my driveway (this is an advantage to living out in the hinterlands), I did manage to get out and see some new things. Mostly this involved exploring new trails and routes. Probably my two favorites were the Illinois & Michigan Canal and the Hennepin Canal paths. While they are both canal paths, the experience between them is quite different, with the I&M Canal path offering access to multiple communities along the way, and Hennepin offering mostly nature and solitude.

Occasionally traveling offers opportunities to explore less familiar areas, and a trip along the Rend Lake bike path did just that for me, as did a longer ride along the Military Ridge Trail last month.

Catrike Pocket at Rend Lake

For that last trip I also learned a thing or two about transporting my trike on the outside of my vehicle. ...and it’s clear I have a bit more to learn on that front. Or perhaps I just can’t ever take more than one person with me...

I also rode in the Farmondo again this year, a group cycling event put on by Tempo Velo cycling club and sponsored by Mead’s Bike Shop. For the second consecutive year I was the only person on a recumbent trike in the event. That it’s the only group event on my roster for the past two years says much more about my temperament than the event, which is actually well organized and a lot of fun. And while it’s not technically a competition, the experience provided (for me) a handy reminder about who it is I should compare myself to (see above).

Next Year?

So where does that leave things for next year? Broadly, that’s fairly simple. I’d like to ride more and further. 1500 miles seems like a safe goal, and that’s probably what I’ll set for the year.

I think I’d also like to find more trail routes and try them out. This is often a little more challenging for me simply because, like martial arts, driving to a trail or path competes with riding right out of the driveway. But it does offer the opportunity to see new and different places, and (at times) to chronicle them here.

Along those lines, I think I’d like to travel further along both the I&M and Hennepin Canal trails. The notion of riding the I&M to Ottawa and stopping in at the tap room at Tangled Roots or getting some sushi at BASH is appealing (though riding back might be more challenging afterward. If the opportunity presents I’d love to get MLW a trike so she can join me for those types of trips.

The Hennepin Canal route has a visitor center that I stopped a few miles short of and would like to see. It also has campgrounds, which suggests the opportunity to bike pack and camp. This is a notion that I find romantically attractive, though might struggle to fit in to my actual schedule. We’ll see what time allows.

Comparisons... by Erin Wade

A couple of weeks ago I was pulling my Catrike Pocket out of the back of my car, and noticed something on one of the front tires - a bit of greenish coloring. I rolled it into the garage to get a closer look. At first I thought it was something that had gotten on to the tire from the road. As I looked closer, however, it became clear that it was the layer under the black rubber peeking through. A spin of the wheel found that it was showing in spots all the way around.

I got my Pocket in June of 2017 - about 19 months ago. It’s a 2012 model that I found on eBay. Technically it’s used, of course, but the person I’d bought it from had been given it by someone else who hadn’t ridden it, and he got it for his wife who also decided she didn’t want to ride it. The tires on the trike still had the little nubs around the outside. My little Pocket had seen very little action.

Since then, according to Cyclemeter, I’ve ridden 1861.02 miles on the Pocket. This may seem like a lot, or not that much, depending upon the circles you travel in - to avid, regular cyclists this type of distance in 19 months is no big deal. But it’s important to compare yourself to yourself, and for me last year was my biggest mileage year ever up to that point; and this year I’ve already ridden further. This owes in no small amount to my trike - I love riding this thing.

So: it makes some sense that it would be time for new tires. I took the trike in to the always helpful folks at Meads Bike Shop in Sterling to perform the feat (a bike mechanic I am not). Because the tires needed to be ordered it was going to take a couple of days. (I did actually take a couple of rides on the worn tire, but I figured I was really increasing my odds of having to call for a pickup each successive time).

This meant, when it came time for last week’s Sunday ride, I had no trike. I do, however, have my road bike - it’s a 1987 Cannondale SR400 that I’ve had for years, and was my primary ride until I got the trike. Here she is:

Cannondale SR400

I looked back in Cyclemeter later and realized that it had been over a year since I’d ridden the Cannondale. This week’s Sunday ride was on October 14th, and my prior ride on this bike was October 10th, 2017. The ride prior to that had been on June 27th and, in both cases it was, then as now, because I’d had the trike in the shop.

Now, to be clear, I didn’t get the Catrike because I was unhappy with my Cannondale. Quite the contrary, I’ve always been very fond of it. It’s lightweight, it has an elegant simplicity, and even with only the 12 gears it’s age allows it, it is a fast, capable machine. And I love the clean, simple lines of its design. Heaven help me, I even kind of like the 1980’s pink neon lettering.

I didn’t get the Catrike because I was unhappy with my bike. I got it because I think recumbent trikes are cool. I mean really cool. As I’ve said here before, I’ve wanted one pretty much since the day I realized they existed.

That said, I figured it would be good to get the old girl out and take her for a spin. Of course, there’s been nothing to stop me from doing that over the past year - she’s always waiting, patiently, there in the garage. But still...

I pumped up the tires (it had been a year, after all), put some oil on the chain, and rolled her out down the driveway. The Cannondale rode perfectly, as if no time had passed. But for me, there were several things I noticed on this ride that I likely wouldn't have a year and a half ago:

  • Wind noise. It was immediately clear to me that this was going to be a louder ride than usual due to the wind in my ears. We live in out on the Illinois prairie, in a wind farm, so this is always a factor, but it was so much more noticeable here.
  • Speed - I was still as fast, or perhaps a bit faster, as on the trike. This isn’t necessarily surprising - the Cannondale is lighter and has larger wheels than the Pocket, and my speeds on it are historically higher (though I’ve been getting closer).
  • Comfort - My tuchus was sore well before I reached the end of my 12-ish mile ride (perhaps a loss of callous over time?). And I do not miss the riding position - cranked over and tilting your neck up to see the road ahead is not a bonus.

I had noticed the wind issue from a different perspective last winter when I took my wife’s mountain bike out for a comparative ride. In that case, being up in the wind was noticeable because of how much colder it was. Out here on the prairie, lower is definitely better when it comes to dealing with that wind.

Speed, as I noted, was not an unexpected difference. Here, I suppose, what’s nice to see is that a year away on a different type of machine hasn’t really affected my ability to ride the Cannondale - I suppose it’s true that you never forget how. But I’ve gotten faster on the Pocket since I got it, and it makes me wonder how much closer I’d be with a more comparable machine. Would an Expedition or a 700, with their larger rear wheels, be more comparable machines? (This also leads me to wonder what the valid comparisons are between different bikes and trikes - a question we certainly won’t answer here today...).

The comfort issue is also unsurprising, I suppose. One is actively choosing to make a trade-off when one chooses to ride a road bike. And there will undoubtedly be people out there who suggest that I’d be more comfortable on my Cannondale if I got a fitting for it. For them, let me say here: this is possibly true. Did I mention that I love my Catrike, and that it wasn’t for reasons of comfort that I bought it? A fitting on my road bike isn’t going to get it back off the hooks any more frequently.

The Pocket is back now, fully shod with new shoes on all three wheels. The Cannondale is back in the garage. It is a fine machine, and it did a wonderful job of standing in when needed. But I’m afraid it’s going to remain on the backup bench.