Catrike

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...

Sizing Things Up by Erin Wade

As I mentioned when I first wrote about my new Catrike Expedition, part of the reason that I went forward with getting the new machine was because MLW had expressed an interest in riding a trike as well. Like many people, she remembers enjoying riding bikes when she was younger, but finds the riding position - and especially the seating options - of a DF bike to be ...unforgiving.

If there had been any question that this was a desire in earnest, it was erased by the fact that, within a day or so of my setting up the Expedition, she was already out riding on the Pocket, using a pillow as a spacer to reach the pedals. This, of course, because the Pocket was still sized to me.

Any time a new person gets on a bike of any kind, things need to be adjusted. The seat and handlebars on a DF need to be raised or lowered, for example, to fit the height of the new rider. The same is true for a recumbent trike, but the process is different and, at least at first blush, a little more intimidating.

This is because, for many types of recumbent trike, re-sizing means re-setting the distance of the boom - the telescoping portion at the front of the trike that holds the pedals - and then either shortening or lengthening the chain.

Boom-boom

The first part, I think, sounds pretty straightforward. The boom just slides in and out, and so it’s somewhat analogous to moving the seat on a DF bike. It’s that second part that gives a bit of mental pause: shortening or lengthening the chain.

I mean, all of us with any experience with bikes as a kid know what a chain is; it’s that thing that lets the pedals move the bike forward, and also the thing that catches our pants, gets grease on us, and periodically falls off, making us unable to move while our friends, not realizing our crisis, continue to ride away...

Ahem.

What we didn’t learn, most of us, was how to _do_ anything with the chain except oil it periodically and re-set it on the sprockets when it came off, incidentally cursing that oil for now being on our fingers. (I still remember the revelation I experienced when my dad showed me how to more readily re-set it by flipping the bike upside down - perhaps my first real-world lifehack).

This means that approaching that portion of the re-sizing seems a bit of an arcane, black art - a bit of sorcery known to the grizzled bike shop wizards of old, but a power which the novice knows not how to harness.

But: I’ve been resolved to learn how to do more things myself, my localest bike shop being 20 minutes away. And while MLW had devised her own solution for reaching the pedals, it seemed like it would probably be nicer for her to have it actually sized to fit her. So it set forth to tackle it on my own.


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The first thing I did was consult the folks at Utah Trikes on how to do this via their channel on YouTube. They actually have a very nicely done video that shows how to go through the process, including how to set the gears before doing so (tho you’ll want to watch it a couple of times, because that’s a brief aside several minutes in).

Then I marked the old spot on it for me with a sharpie, loosened up the quick releases on the boom, had MLW sit down on it, and went to slide the boom in and...

...nothing. Wouldn't move.

I’d been expecting it to slide right in, so I was a little surprised at the complete lack of movement. But, faced with an obstacle, I did what any red-blooded American male does:

I hit it.

By which I mean I smacked it at the front with the heel of my hand. This was successful, as far as it went, except it made my hand sore very quickly. I commented that maybe this would work better if I had a rubber mallet.

I made this comment standing five feet from my toolbox which, incidentally, had a rubber mallet sitting on the floor in front of it. So, of course, I continued to hit it with my hand. I point this out in part so that you will understand the grace and kindness my wife exhibited when she quietly said "you know, there’s a mallet right there" and completely refrained from appending "dumbass" to the end of that sentence.

Turns out the mallet worked at least as well as my hand, and with considerably less incidental discomfort. Who knew? (Yes - MLW knew, that’s who).

Once the boom length was set I... let it sit for a few days.

We’d set the length on a weeknight, and some time ago I learned to let new and longer projects wait until the weekend, when I have more time to struggle with them. Otherwise I become frustrated with the need to leave things partway completed - better to do it all at once. And given that I hadn’t changed a chain length before I didn’t know how long it was going to take me.

When I did sit down with it I first started with simply locating the master link on the chain. The chain on a recumbent trike is long - much longer than on a DF bike - and as I slowly worked my way through it I found myself wondering if I was simply cycling through the same sections of chain over and over again. I solved this by cleaning off a couple of links so I’d have a clear, shiny reference point (turns out there may be a benefit to not routinely cleaning your chain... kind of).

Once I located the link I started working on getting it apart. I did not have a master link tool, but I reasoned that it looked a lot like a set of needle nose pliers, and I certainly had those, so they would work just fine.

Right?

Well, no. After about five minutes of aborted attempts I decided that maybe it would be better just to ensure I had the right actual tools for the job, hopped in the car and headed out to my localest bike shop: Bike Works in Peru. The folks there were, as usual, very helpful. I explained what I was doing and they put together the items I needed and got me on my way. I was literally in and out in less than 15 minutes.

And what a difference the right tool makes! It literally took seconds to open the master link with the tool once I put it in play. This is a thing that I have had to learn over and over again across the course of my life - maybe this time it will stick (Narrator: It didn’t).

My experience with the chain tool was similar to that of the master link tool. It took a little longer to sort out just how to seat the chain and just far I would have to push the pin in in order to get it thru, but once I sorted that out it just came apart as designed.

As laid out in the video, I’d taken a picture of the position of the derailleur before I started moving things, pulled the two ends of the chain together until the derailleur position matched the picture, and put them back together. Bob’s your uncle - I was finished!

Well, I thought I was. I set up an improvised rope and pulley (using a garage rafter in lieu of the actually pulley) to get the rear wheel off the ground so I could cycle thru the gears. I was pretty pleased with this:

Rope and pulley

It worked a treat, and I began to spin through the gears on the big ring, pleased to see that it hit them all, and then again to see it on the middle ring. And it worked okay on the small ring, except that the chain was dangling slack in the top few gears. Which meant I hadn’t taken out enough chain.

In the area of true confessions, I’d taken my picture of the rear derailleur with the chain in a different position on the rear sprocket than they recommend in the Utah Trikes video. I’d realized this fairly early on, but I figured, you know, as long as it’s all in the same position at the end it’ll be fine, right?

Right?

So, again: no.

And now I didn’t have an accurate picture to use for reference. What I did have, tho, was another trike that I could set up with the gears in the same position and hopefully that would approximate the correct orientation for the derailleur. Which is why you see the orange Expedition sitting behind the Pocket here:

Expedition as reference

I got the gears on the Expedition into position and used that to eyeball the derailleur angle on the Pocket. Now I can’t honestly say whether it was a brilliant idea or just good fortune, but it actually worked (they say sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good)!

And there you have it - One Catrike Pocket, resized for My Lovely Wife. We also ordered her up a new flag to go with it, and she’s ready to hit the road.

Pocket Sized Up

Catrike Expedition - Differences in Setup by Erin Wade

700B4E66-EB97-4E31-BDC7-E2D43FB01BE5.jpeg

As I mentioned last time, when I ordered my new Catrike Expedition I chose to do some things differently from how they present on my Catrike Pocket. While I love the Pocket, I’ve had two years of riding experience and research to consider what I might do differently the next time around. As such, the configuration I arrived at was mostly stock, but with a handful of extras, primarily:

  • A right-side mirror with mount
  • A full fender set
  • The Utah Trikes rear cargo rack
  • A set of pannier bags (Axiom Seymour Oceanwave P25’s)

Let’s talk briefly about the why of these in turn:

Mirrors

The Pocket has grip shifters - you twist the handlebar in order to shift gears. That allows for an option of putting the mirrors right on the end of the handlebar. The Expedition (and I believe actually the entire Catrike line now) has bar end shifters occupying the end of the handlebar. This means that mirrors have to go on separate mounts along the steering mechanism. A left-sided mount comes stock, but I realized fairly early on with the Pocket that more mirrors was better, both for a broader rear-view as well as from a built-in redundancy perspective, so I ordered a right sided mount as well. One of the nice things about that is that the mirror mount also allows for additional mounting points for accessories.

Fenders

The Pocket did not have fenders when I got it, and still does not. This is a thing that I find I regret every time I ride thru a puddle, every time it starts to rain, and certainly any time I’m dealing with mud. The fact that it still does not have them is due in part to the fact that I’ve struggled to find fenders to fit the 16" front wheels (tho there is at least one option for the rear). Suffice it to say I’ve spent a fair amount of time with dirt-speckled forearms, and I was hoping to find a better way this time around.

I think the fenders look good on the Expedition, but it is clear to me that the rear fender setup is going to be a source of some noise on the road. I’ve been able to isolate most of that (a couple of carefully placed bits of sticky Velcro - soft side), and what little remains I think will be a fair trade off against the mud-stripe that would otherwise appear on my back.

Probably the one limitation that they do otherwise present is in how the mirrors are mounted. At the suggestion of folks on the Recumbent Trikes group on Facebook I mounted the Mirrorcycle mirrors without the little vertical arm on the Pocket.

No vertical arm

This has the effect of decreasing vibration a bit, making it a bit easier to see what’s coming up behind you. Where the mirrors sit atop the fenders on the Expedition doesn’t allow any room for that option.

tight fit

And actually, it’s not clear they allow room for it without the fender - the mirror might hit the wheel. I could possibly adjust the position of the mount in future, but I’ve left it for now - we’ll see how much the vibration bothers me.

Rack and Pannier Bags

The Pocket does have a cargo rack, and by the looks of it, it may well be from Utah Trikes (actually, given that the Pocket’s boom is painted, I suspect it may have been ordered from UT by the original purchaser, since this is an option they offer). It works well, so I knew I was going to want one on the Expedition. The Pocket also came with the Arkel frame bags, which I thought were an elegant use of space when I first saw them, and I still think they are.

Arkel bag on Pocket

Unfortunately, it is sometimes the case that an elegant design is not always the most practical or effective alternative. I find the Arkel bags can be challenging to get into and/or to zip up at times, as the zipper is very close to the frame. And while they make good use of the space in the arc of the frame, that also means their size is limited and the shape, dictated by that arc, isn’t terribly space efficient. But probably the biggest issue is more mine than theirs - the way the zipper sits, if you forget to zip it up and ride away, odds are good that you will lose your stuff.

I am... good at losing stuff. I’m good at it without the help of the design of these bags, and they have conspired to abet that tendency on an occasion or two in the past. So I wanted a design that closed at the top, such that if I failed to zip it, wouldn't start leaving a trail of breadcrumbs made from my gear.


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I went with Axiom Seymour Oceanwave P25 Panniers. The name is a mouthful, but key components to these for me were the additional size, the top opening feature, extra side pockets, and a carry handle for them when off the trike. This last item is a bonus in case I ever need to park the trike someplace where I’m concerned about someone getting into the bags (I did a brief search for lockable bags and didn’t find any, tho I’ll bet they are out there). I don’t carry a ton of gear, but the additional space in these actually leaves room for things like a sweatshirt or other changes of clothes, which is a thing I’ve often wished for in the mixed weather of spring and fall.

Expedition

Other Differences

Not on the list of differences are a couple of things that I didn’t get (or at least, haven’t yet). On the Pocket I have a Power-On Cycling headrest. The Pocket did not have a head or neck rest when I got it, and the degree of recline to the Pocket’s seat isn’t such that I felt it was really necessary (tho it is nice to have from time to time). But what this item did offer was a higher mounting point for a rear light, as well as a convenient handle for walking the Pocket.

You only have to get a flat tire three miles out one time to realize how much you want a handle to walk your trike by. Or so I hear...

But the Expedition comes with the Catrike neckrest as a stock item, and it also sits a bit taller. I think it’s quite likely that I’ll still end up ordering another headrest from Power-On, but I figured I would try out the stock arrangement before shelling out the coin.

I also didn’t order, and thus have not installed, the heel sling kit from Terratrike that I have on the Pocket. As with the headrest, it’s not due to dissatisfaction with that item - I actually find the slings work nicely, particularly with an addition retention strap across the top of the foot. But I while I’ve been riding bikes of one stripe or another most of my life, I’ve actually never used clipless pedals. I thought it might be worth giving it a try so that at least I have a frame of reference for comparison.

I ordered a pair of Shimano Cycling Sandals for this purpose. I wear sandals for three seasons of year, cycling and otherwise. My preferred sandals are Keens, but it appears that they have elected to stop making the Commuter Bike Sandal (I actually emailed the company to verify this - they are really what I wanted). In fact, cycling sandals are, for some reason, a rather difficult thing to find in general, and where I could find them they were often either out of stock or not available in my size (and I’m an inch shy of the national average height - I’m not an odd fit). Is it possible that I’m the only one with feet that get hot when riding?

It’s worth noting that purchasing the sandals means that right out of the gate this is an expensive experiment - the sandals cost nearly three times as much as the heel slings, and they obviously won’t work for winter riding. I’m determined to give the system a fair shake, but it will have a hurdle to clear to be better.

Going Forward

And those are the differences going in. I’ve been out on the new trike three times thus far, and I’ll be heading out today. It is a different experience than the Pocket in multiple ways - I’m liking it, to be sure, but it’s different in ways that are interesting, at least to me. After I get a bit more seat time we’ll discuss.

Time to ride...

Catrike Expedition by Erin Wade

New Arrival

We have a new arrival within our cycling stable - a new (2019) Catrike Expedition in Atomic Orange!

This was an addition I’d been considering for quite some time. I very much love the Pocket - have from the day I got it - but I’ve had my mental eye on an Expedition for a while. In addition, a little while ago MLW mentioned that she might be interested in riding a trike as well, which put my efforts into high gear.

Mostly I like to buy my machines used, but after spending several months combing through classifieds on Facebook and Craigslist I came to find that A) people who have Expeditions must really like them, because they don’t come up for sale very often; and 2) When they do, they were always at least several hundred miles away. As can be said for all of us, my free time is limited, and spending a day of it on travel - especially with the possibility that the thing you’ve come to see might not be all that was described - was not an attractive proposition. I was extremely fortunate back when I bought the Pocket two years ago because it was only an hour away and, though it was five years old, it had virtually never been ridden - it still had the little nubs on the tires.

So ultimately, after considering several options, I went with Utah Trikes. This let me pick the options I was looking for, including the color, and get it shipped to my door, and they offer a very attractive financing option. I’d actually been to their site multiple times during my search, and configured the trike more than once without pulling the trigger as I was thinking things thru. Once I did finally order it I found folks from UT very helpful. I took measurements of my positioning from the Pocket as they suggested, and sent along pictures of what I’d measured to make sure I’d done it correctly.

Turns out that was a good idea, since I did it wrong the first time around... but it all worked out. And, of course, once it was ordered, there was the waiting.

Einstein has taught us that time is relative, and while I’m certainly no theoretical physicist I’m pretty sure he was talking about the effect that occurs after one has made a decision to go ahead and order something. Over the days and weeks while one is mulling something over time moves forward at a perfectly normal pace, just minding its own business. But once one has actually made the decision time dilates down into a focused, incredibly slow moving stream such that one might feel they have approached the event horizon of a black hole...

Yeah - I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant by it.


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It seems that the folks at UT also have an understanding of this effect. Once my trike was assembled they set up a webpage for it and sent me a link so that I could see it! This was unexpected and very cool.

That interminable, tortuous, painful length of time between ordering and arriving at my door? One week. I did order a color that was in stock, which made things go a little faster, but I think all-in-all that’s a really good turnaround.

And, when I say "shipped to my door" I’m only being slightly metaphorical:

On the truck

The driver for XPO Logistics who was, frankly, just delightful, got it off of the truck for me and once it was down said "should we look inside?" I think he may have been nearly as excited as I was, and he did say he thought it was a pretty thing once we popped the top. At it was:

It’s not even Boxing Day

Opening things a little at a time

I was a little surprised that the box was not filled with packing material - honestly, that’s what I’d expected. Instead there seems to be rather clever placement of additional cardboard buffers and holding sections within the main box to serve that purpose.

The rest of the process the first day was really just getting it out, looking it over, and allowing for it’s inspection by the other members of the household.

Rosie approves

And I also wanted to get a look at it side-by-side with the Pocket to allow for some comparison.

Side by side

Siblings or cousins?

The Expedition is different from the Pocket, of course. It’s bigger in all directions and has larger wheels all around (26" rear and 20" front vs the 2012 Pocket’s 20" rear and 16" front). It’s got a greater degree of angle to the seat - that is, its more laid back or recumbent than the Pocket (37° vs 41° for the Pocket). It also has bar end shifters while my Pocket has grip twist shifters.

While I love the Pocket, two years of experience has provided the opportunity to consider a couple of things that I wanted to be different with this new machine. As such, the configuration I arrived at was mostly stock, but with a handful of extras, primarily:

  • A full fender set
  • The Utah Trikes rear cargo rack
  • A set of pannier bags (Axiom Seymour Oceanwave P25’s)
  • A right-side mirror with mount

And, while I use the TerraTrike heel slings supplemented with Velcro cross straps on the Pocket, I decided this would be an opportunity to give clipless pedals a try (a thing I’ve truly never done before), so I’ve ordered a set of Shimano cycling sandals that I’ll be trying out.

Because the Expedition arrived in the middle of the work week I’ve been stealing snippets of time after work to get things set up. Mostly this involves things like getting the mirrors and head rest positioned and sorting out where to mount my other accessories, and getting the pannier bags placed and loaded up. I also had to spend a little time sorting out how the fender is mounted (there was a bit of tire rub as it was originally set up). I also had to put the SPD clips on the sandals and figure out how that system works.

Because of all of that, even tho it arrived on Tuesday, I didn’t get it out for a ride until Saturday (yesterday) evening. As you might expect - I liked it a lot (there was little to no chance of any other outcome, really). But there are clear differences in the experience between this machine and the Pocket. We’ll talk about those here, after get a little more experience with my new baby.

Time to get ready 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.

Roadside Repairs - Part the Third by Erin Wade

Although I write about cycling here a lot - it’s the majority of the posts on Applied Life at this point - I do try to vary the subject within that topic from week to week. But sometimes the fates have other ideas (apparently).

Last week I had a sudden, but fortunately non-catastrophic,disassembly of my left front axle to to write about. I wrote that up, got dressed for a ride, did a careful walk-around on the trike, and hit the road.

Somewhere just after mile 6 my rear wheel started to get squirrelly and, when I looked back at it (this is a bit of a stretching feat on the trike) I could see that it was uncomfortably low on air. I had a flat.

My first strategy was to hope that it had somehow just gotten the air knocked out of it (I know, I know - wishful thinking). So I pulled out the hand-pump that I keep in what is almost certainly a purpose-designed pocket on the back of the seat (there are several of these pockets on the back of my Catrike Pocket seat - it’s a clever design) and pumped it up. And it seemed to hold air, so I remounted and rode away.

...for maybe 100 feet.

Yes - then it was flat again, and it was clear something more permanent had happened to the tire. I’m frankly not sure what - there was no clear event to proceed this, but there I was, regardless (which is why I think the Norns may have been having a little fun with me).


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So there I was, a little less than halfway into my ride, and at the furthest point from home in the route, and I began to debate in my head about whether to call for a ride.

The thing is, I’ve never successfully changed a tire on the trike. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I’m actually not sure if I’ve ever done so on any bike or cycle. If I have, it’s been a very long time. And by successfully, I mean that I’ve tried on a number of occasions, but those efforts have ended up in failure for various and sundry reasons - either I’ve flattened the tube in the effort to install it, or I’ve been unable to get the tire back on the wheel, or encountered similar such issues. I managed to do both when I tried to change a tire on the Pocket myself the last time, and ultimately gave up and took it the 20 minutes down the road to the local bike shop. And that is my general approach, for better or worse, because I’d typically rather spend my time riding than repairing.

But here I was, at the side of the road, with a choice to either tuck my tail between my legs and slink off, or take a shot at rectifying the situation myself.

After a bit of thought I reasoned that there was very little to lose by giving it a try. First, I was already immobile and had a bad tube. This was pretty much the worst the situation could get, and if I failed I’d still be making that call for a ride.

Second, and more important, the situation was different than in the past. I’ve now watched the guys at Peru Bike Works change the tires on the Pocket’s wheels multiple times, plus I’ve spent a bit of time on the subject on YouTube as a result of my last adventure in this area, and so I’ve learned a bit about the technique. Perhaps even more important still, that watching made me realize that something existed that I, even more embarrassingly still, had previously been unaware of: tire levers.

You’d think that, in forty-plus years of riding, I’d have come across these little marvels before. I’m quite certain they are nothing new, and I fear they may be nearly as old as the pneumatic tire itself. Still, I had previously been ignorant of their very existence, and so every time I’ve tried to change a tire I’ve employed the tool within my toolbox that most closely seems to fit the task: a flat-bladed screwdriver. Which works, of course, to move the tire off and on the wheel, but routinely pinches or pokes and flattens the tube. At which point I then have to go to the bike shop...

This time, however, I was armed with both new knowledge, and new tools that were appropriate to the job. I was also emboldened by the fact that it was the 20" rear tire, which would probably be a little more pliable and easy to move than the 16" fronts had been. So I gave it a shot.

I rolled the trike to an easement area aside the street and started to work. I was in a residential area of the town of Mendota, which at least meant I was in the shade and out of the wind, and didn’t have to contend with traffic moving at rural road speeds near me as I worked. Of course, it also meant that I was on display to everyone in the neigborhood, making a public event of my potential failure.

The wheel came off of the back and out of the chain perfectly, and the tire levers absolutely did their job. I was, frankly, astonished at how easily the tire came off the wheel.

Wheel off trike

I inspected the tire and found no cuts or holes. And the leak in the tube itself had to be very small, as it would hold air for a bit before deflating. This was encouraging, since it suggested that the tire was fine to continue riding once (if) I managed to get everything up and running.

Tire off wheel

Going back on was a little more effort, but not as much as I’d feared it would be. The levers were a big help in this respect and, after noodling with it a bit, I was able to reseat the tire around the new tube. Then I went to pump it up with the hand pump and...

...nothing. The new tube would not hold air. I tried pumping it up for several minutes (or at least so it felt) with absolutely no progress made.

I really do not think I’d pinched it or damaged it putting it on. There’s no way to know for sure, of course, but I don’t think I ever even came near it, even with the tire levers, so I suspect it was faulty from the get-go. Fortunately I had another (I carry two tubes to match the rear, and three for the fronts, which always seemed like overkill given that I couldn't change them myself anyway, but sometimes things work out...).

I reversed the process, pulled the first tube off, put the second one on (I pumped it up a bit to test it first), and that one held air. So - you know - success!

I popped it back on, and continued with the rest of the ride. The entire process took a long time, relatively speaking - Cyclemeter says my stopped time on this route was nearly 52 minutes, and I can verify that 50 of those were due to the flat; So I certainly wasn’t speedy. But that was nearly an hour spent developing experience at something that, if I continue riding (and I will) I will almost certainly need to do again.

I had never before used either of the two tire levers, or the little hand pump (which I’d purchased for that pocket on the back of the seat shortly after getting the trike two years ago). This one use more than justified the purchase of both, and I’m glad I had them - and the extra tubes - along for the ride. I probably won’t be so quick to run to the bike shop next time this needs to be done.

And when I got home, I immediately ordered two new 20" tubes from Amazon - Fortuna favet paratus...

Roadside Repairs - Part Deux by Erin Wade

It’s been a little less than a year since I had a brake come apart a few miles into a ride. I was actually thinking about that event this past Sunday as I was getting the Pocket ready for a ride and, as a result, checked the brakes to make sure they were tight. A few seconds with the allen wrenches on each, and they seemed to be just fine.

Confident that all was good, I hit the road for a 29-ish (ok - 28.7) mile ride. Bucking the trend of this extremely wet season, it was a near perfect day for a ride: Sunshine, 69° (F), a relaxed (for the prairie) 12mph wind (Cyclemeter keeps track for me). Honestly, it would have been hard to ask for better weather.

As I came into the last third of the ride, I was heading south, with that 12mph wind at my back. The road was relatively level and I was running at a pretty decent clip, a little over 20mph (no bragging here - this was definitely with wind assist). And then something came up off the road.

Now, as anyone who rides can probably attest, tires do periodically pick things up off the road. On the recumbent trike you are much more intimate with your wheels, and so you become more aware of it when it occurs. Even more so if your front wheels do not have fenders, as is the case for me. It happens often enough that, at this point, one tends to dismiss it.

Which I did. At least initially.

But a second or so after seeing (or maybe feeling - it goes by very quickly) the debris, I heard it land.

...It made a metallic "ping".

Most road or trail debris is of the stick or rock variety, so a metallic sound is, shall we say, at least potentially troubling. So I slowed down, did a U-turn, and rode back slowly over the prior 1/8th or so of a mile (again, I was moving at a pretty good clip when it happened). I couldn't see anything from the vantage point of the trike on the way back, but I rode slowly back over the section again the other way. Again seeing nothing, I decided I was going to have to get up off the trike and walk the area to be certain there were no issues.

After a couple of feet I reached my turnaround point, and saw a wheel skewer laying on the road.

Now, for just a second, I swear what I thought was "oh - someone lost a wheel skewer here".

This despite the fact that the skewer was about six inches long, and I am literally the only recumbent trike rider for about 30 miles or so, as best I can tell. It clearly would not have fit any kind of traditional upright.

But that was for just a second. Ok - maybe two. (I swear I’m not dumb. Not really...) And then I looked back at my Pocket:

Wheel missing skewer

Wheel missing skewer

And so now I knew what I was looking for along that road. Or at least what else, now that I’d found the skewer. I needed to locate the two seating nuts (my term - I’ll bet they have an actual, technical name) that hold the skewer into the wheel and mounting bracket.


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I walked back over that 1/8th mile or so and, after several minutes of looking, found the outside one in the grass on the opposite side of the road. It’s forward momentum had apparently bounced and traveled it across the other lane of travel to rest there.

Outside nut

I carried the nut, a little worse for wear (though some of the scratching is from another incident) back and placed it on the seat with the skewer while I went to look for the inside one.

skewer and nut

It made sense to look for it in the general vicinity of the skewer. Where I found it, tho, was a few feet further down the road from my turnaround point - on pavement I hadn’t yet traveled.

Inside nut far away

Inside nut closer up

For scale, it helps to realize I did my turnaround right by the stop sign, which is also where I saw the skewer.

Piecing it together I figure the sequence of events was something like this:

  1. The outside nut worked its way loose and came off first. This was the item I saw/felt come loose and bounce away with the "ping".
  2. At that point the skewer was loose, but still on the trike. When I did my U-turn the skewer fell out as I hooked around. This probably gives an idea of how quickly I did the turns (recumbent trikes handle like go-karts - it’s part of the fun - but perhaps not advisable when your wheel isn’t, you know, attached).
  3. Shortly after the skewer exited the inside nut came free - either off of the skewer or off of the trike - and being lighter than the skewer, continued its forward momentum.

An inspection of the wheel found that the springs were still intact. The repair - such as it was - was the simple action of putting the pieces back together. The fix took considerably less time than the finding of the pieces.

But as I was doing that and then resuming my ride, some considerations ran through my head.

First - how amazing and fortunate is it that the wheel stayed on the trike? I suspect this owes in large part to the fact that the disc brake calipers are mounted to the frame and not the wheel, helping to keep everything in place. But all told, I probably rode a little more than a quarter mile (albeit slowly) with the skewer (axle) missing, including two U-turns - riding back over the area looking for what I found - before I got off the trike.

Second - how fortunate is it that I actually chose to stop? As I said, things being kicked up by the front tires is not an unusual occurrence, and I nearly dismissed it and kept going. I was about 20.5 miles into my 29-ish mile ride, and things were going well (or so I thought). I really did not want to stop. How far into that last stretch would the wheel have hung on for? And how rude an awakening would it have been when it came apart?

Third - how amazing and fortunate is it that I was able to find all three pieces? I was able to avoid calling the road support crew (also known as my wife and/or child) to come and get me, mostly due to dumb luck.

I’ve ridden over 1100 miles since the incident with the brake, so I’ve gotten more than my fair share of mileage without issue, I think. In fact, so rarely do I have any difficulties with my trike that I think I may have become a bit complacent with the equipment checks (I checked the brakes because I thought of it, but they were the only component I checked). All-in-all, I’m feeling pretty fortunate.

But - you know - I’m going to start checking things a little more regularly too. I think I may have used up my supply of dumb luck.

Fortuna favet paratus...

Hennepin Feeder Canal Trail: Martins Landing to Rte 172 by Erin Wade

Hennepin Canal Park Sign

The Hennepin Canal in Northern Illinois has garnered some attention in the cycling media of late, given its designated status as the "gateway" trail for the Illinois portion of the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy’s Great American Rail Trail Project. The Hennepin Canal Trail makes a great deal of sense in that role, given that it runs predominantly east to west, connects with the Mississippi River at the westernmost end, and covers over 100 miles of distance.

This is not that Hennepin Canal.

To be clear, it’s a part of the same canal system, but what I’m writing about in this post is actually the feeder canal - the man-made ditch that was dug to supply water to the Hennepin Canal itself. Back when the project was undertaken, it was designed to take water from the Rock River nearly 30 miles to the north, and divert a portion of it southward to fill the shipping lanes of the canal itself.

What does this mean, in practical terms, for the person going cycling on this trail? Mostly it means a slightly different view from the main canal (a portion of which I wrote about here, a little while back). Because it was not really designed to be a shipping lane the feeder canal has no locks along its distance - with the notable exception of the lock set at the entryway into the canal from Lake Sinnissippi on the Rock River. This is different largely because the locks make an interesting, historical set of distance markers as you progress down the main canal. But this small difference does not keep this portion of the canal parkway from being a beautiful place to ride. It’s also notable that Rock Falls and Sterling make for a fairly sizeable municipality for northern Illinois, which means restaurants, hotel accommodations, and a handy local bike shop - Meads Bike Shop, which recumbent trike riders may find handy, as they sell and services Catrikes - none of which you will find along the main canal.


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The Canal Parkway technically begins in Rock Falls, Illinois, just south of the Rock River, and there is municipal parking there for folks to begin their journey along the trail. However, I wanted to start in Sterling, Illinois - just across the River - because it also offered the opportunity to cross the bridge that runs across the dam. I suppose technically I could have parked in Rock Falls and gone back over the bridge, but that just seemed... silly.

So my ride started at Martin’s Landing in Sterling.

Martin’s Landing

This is essentially a trail head sited just to the side of the historic Dillon Home Museum. Be aware, if you go, that there’s no public parking here - the lovely brick lot is specifically for the Dillon House - but street parking is readily available just East of Martin’s Landing on 2nd street.

Dillon Home Museum Lot

Martin’s Landing sends you straight down to the Rock River, with a stone tunnel that takes you under the train tracks at the north end...

Tunnel

...and puts you in view of the lower side of the dam and the bridge that spans it.

Dam and Bridge

It also puts you in view, in the springtime, of pelicans and other waterfowl plying their business along the waterway. The pelicans themselves are a fairly recent phenomenon for the region, but a welcome one. They keep their distance, making a clear shot challenging with an unaided camera phone, but with some zooming you can see them.

Pelicans

At the entryway to the bridge there is an information sign off to the side.

Bridge info

And the bridge itself appears to be constructed in two sections, with the longer, wood-based portion covering the spillway, while a cement and steel component takes you over the gates.

Bridge

The change in the current makes itself known both visually and audibly.

Once you get to the other side you are at the entryway into the Canal Parkway. as you enter, you see the lock that controlled flow into the canal itself.

Lock

This particular lock is interesting, in part, because of the machinery that is still present at the sides.

Machinery

At least for the section of the main canal I rode, I do not recall any clear machinery on the locks.

From there you can see the trail ahead.

Trail view

The first portion of the trail is asphalt, and that continues along the Canal Parkway for about 3 1/2 miles. For those familiar with asphalt trails in Illinois, this is a predictably mixed bag. The harder surface lets you pick up some speed, of course, but our weather extremes have a tendency to buckle and bend asphalt in unforgiving ways. This trail is no exception. However, that aside, the trail moves out of the view of small town life into the appearance of remote nature in a hurry.

It’s mid-spring here in the northern hemisphere, and the plant life is abundant along this trail. Much of it, as can be seen in the trail pictures, comes in various shades of green, but there are patches of other colors along the way:

Yellow

White

And along with the flowers there are long stretches of wild grass ranging from green to reddish brown.

Grass

Maybe my favorite part of the nature on this ride was the ongoing game of tag I seemed to be playing with a Great Blue Heron. I tried to get a picture of it, but every time I rode close it would take off again. But she did show up on video...

After Buell Road the trail switches from asphalt to gravel.

Buell Road underpass

Later on it shifts from gravel to... less gravel, I guess (it’s dirt. Good dirt, but dirt). It’s a softer surface that gives the impression of perhaps having been last been graveled some time ago. But honestly, the gravel is more forgiving than the asphalt, and the latter surface more forgiving still than the gravel. The trike handled it well, and anything from a hybrid on down to mountain bikes will be fine. In the rainy season, at least, road bikes are probably going to struggle.

The other thing that goes with spring is rain, and this year has been exceptionally wet. Riding along a canal means water is a part of the mix, and the DNR has actuallyclosed portions of the main trail:

TRAIL CLOSED from Lock 26 (900 E Rd) all the way through and past Colona to Lock 29 at the Rock River due to the Green River flooding into the canal. TRAIL CLOSED from Bridge 3 (2160 E Rd) to Bridge 4 (2050 E Rd) just east of Tiskilwa, due to a levee break at Lock 7

There were no closure notices for the feeder canal, but this didn’t mean there were no impediments along the way. Multiple roadways cross the canal, and those crossings are punctuated by underpasses. These vary from culverts...

Culvert underpass

...to more intricate affairs:

Highway 40 underpass

But while they aren’t closed, that doesn’t mean that the rainy season doesn’t bring the water level up. On a couple of occasions, this meant fording my way through overflow:

Standing water

In most cases there is an alternative option - you can ride up to the road and cross there. Most cases, but not all. On occasion you can see the route, but there simply isn’t a trail up to the road. But the deepest area that I forded was the underpass for interstate 88 - so obviously, crossing at the road grade was not an option. I rode thru, slowly...

I88 underpass

I88 underpass underwater

On the trike you sit low, so there’s a risk that you are going to drag your tuches through the water. But if you lift at the handles and push your back against the upper part of the seat you can remain above it. But while I was able to keep my backside dry while fording my way through the I88 underpass, my heels were definitely dipping in the water while I was pedaling.

Speaking of rain, it’s been doing that routinely this spring, and for most of Memorial Day Weekend as well. I really wanted to get out to try this trail, so I got up early, eyeballed the weather reports, and timed my travel time and ride so that I’d finish up ahead of the incoming rain.

...I failed. Almost completely. I was able to catch most of my pictures and video in the first part of my ride. That was important, because it rained on me for about two-thirds of the ride. Now - to be clear - that’s no fault of the trail; that’s all on me.

I will ride in almost any weather, but rain is my least favorite riding situation. But I was dressed entirely in synthetics, and I was on a trail, so visibility was not an issue. And importantly, it wasn’t cold. So, you know, ride on.

Well, I rode on until I came up to this:

Rte 172 underpass

This was the underpass at Route 172. Unlike the other flooded passageways, I couldn't easily tell how deep it was. To be fair, I could have ridden up and over the road - the trail offers this option, and there’s a parking area at this point. But I’d planned on a 20-mile round trip, and this point was 9 1/2 miles (ish, ok - 9.45) in, so it seemed like the right point to turn around.

The route back up was damper (err - more damp?) than the way down, but I ended up playing Heron Tag on that direction as well. I have no idea if it was the same bird, but I like to think so...

It’s a good ride, but you’ll want to be aware that it’s pretty remote once you exit Rock Falls. There are a handful of minor facilities - trailside benches, an occasional picnic table. In the 10 (ok, yes, 9.45) mile stretch I rode there was one site with a porta-potty, and another (at 172) with an outhouse. However, aside from these options, outside of town there were no formal shelter options - if I’d wanted to take shelter from the rain I’d either have had to sit in one of the underpasses, or taken refuge in an outhouse. I don’t think this is uncommon for rural trails, but it is something you want to be prepared for when you go.

And if you like rides on remote trails, this one has a lot more to give. As I noted at the beginning, the feeder canal itself offers up more distance than I traveled by a factor of three; the entire canal system could readily offer up a half-century or more for the interested rider.

Memorial Day Weekend Rides by Erin Wade

Memorial Day Weekend is often looked at as the unofficial start of summer. It’s also the first long weekend of the season for most of us and, weather permitting, provides an opportunity for a ride or two that is longer or more adventurous than we might otherwise undertake. Given that, if you find some time for a ride in-between your cemetery visits and grilling of various meats, I thought it might be helpful to have information on some trail options. These are all places I’ve been in Illinois and Wisconsin. The post at each link will give trail descriptions as well as pictures and other information to help you decide whether to venture forth:

The Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail - Details my ride along the I&M Canal trail from LaSalle, IL to Buffalo Rock State Park. Several pics and details about the trail and the sights along the way.

The Hennepin Canal State Park Trail - Lock 2 to Lock 13 - The Hennepin is set to be a major component of the new Rails to Trails cross-country route, but my trip down this part of the Hennepin Canal was also a bit of a personal journey to find the site where my great-grandfather worked as a lock tender. It’s a very cool, and somewhat secluded ride - lots of pics and details about the trail and sights. Also notable - the Hennepin Canal Trail is the Illinois gateway trail for the new Rails-to-Trails cross country Great American Rail Trail. The I&M Canal Trail, above, is also a significant portion of it in Illinois.

The Rend Lake Trail - This trail runs around the lower third of Rend Lake in Southern Illinois, and offers river, water, and woodland views. It’s a little out of the way, but definitely worth checking out if you have the opportunity.

Wayne Fitzgerell State Park - This is a state park in Southern Illinois that I visited back in 2015. It sits along the banks of Rend Lake (see above), but this entry describes the riding through the park itself.

Military Ridge Trail - This trail runs through the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin. It’s beautiful territory and well worth visiting. I’ve written about it twice - Once on an upright bike, and more recently on my Catrike:

  • Military Ridge Trail - My first ride down this trail, on an upright, big box store mountain bike, in November 2015. Ride was from Ridgeway to Barneveld

  • Military Ridge Trail Revisited - This post from December 2018 details my ride from Ridgeway to Blue Mounds, with a side trip up into Governor Dodge State Park.

Tunnel Hill State Trail - Vienna to Karnak - Tunnel Hill State Trail is rail-trail that runs nearly 45 miles, much of it through the heart of the Shawnee National Forest at the tip of Illinois. This entry descrIbes the southern-most 10-mIle sectIon through wooded wetlands, with pictures and observations of stops along the way.

And there you have it - make your choice(s) and enjoy!


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First Recumbent Ride - Looking Back by Erin Wade

It It looks like we are actually entering the honest-to-goodness warm spring weather here in the Midwest (or at least I hope so). For many folks that heralds the beginning of the outdoor activity season, and lots of folks will be cycling. It’s also the time of year that people consider the option of moving to a recumbent trike.

In the spirit of that, I thought I’d revisit my earliest experience with my Catrike Pocket and compare it to current day. Her maiden voyage with me was almost two years ago, and these were the things I realized from that initial experience:

There are several differences from riding an upright bike that became clear on this initial ride:

  • You sit low. This is a given when you look at it, of course, but when riding down the road you quickly realize that you are at eye level with the top of the grass in an unmowed ditch. The value of the bike flag becomes immediately apparent.
  • Because of the height difference, extra care needs to be at intersections to be sure you can see whether a car is there.
  • You cannot see into the cars as they pass you from behind - the angle is too steep. Oncoming traffic, however, is much the same experience as on the upright bike.
  • At first the act of pedaling causes a bit of torque steer. This goes away with some practice (smoother pedaling), but it's a real adjustment (enough so that it's mentioned in the Catrike owners manual).
  • Riding this is noticeably more of a leg workout than with the upright. This seems be due to the differences in positioning. On the upright you can stand up on the pedals, of course, but you can also use more of your upper body to supplement by pulling against the handlebars. It is possible to brace against the seat back, which offers a different but similar benefit, but I didn't fully sort that out until about two-thirds of the way thru the ride. I suspect this also contributed to the slower ride time; it will likelly improve with practice.
  • In relation to the above item, I did a lot more shifting than usual. Some of this, again, will likely pare back with practice. Still, I suspect more shifting is simply a part of the deal.
  • Because the rear wheel is right behind your head, you are much more aware of mechanical activity of the trike.
  • Steering is immediate and awesome - it's like riding a pedal-powered go-kart.
  • Similarly, the brakes are astonishingly quick. I don't know if this is because of the design of the trike itself, or just a feature of the disc brakes - I've never owned a bike with disc brakes. But in either case, it's noticeably different from my Cannondale.
  • This is the first ride of any length I've taken in years in which my hands did not become numb from road vibration. In fact the difference in controls and position was quite a bit more comfortable than on an upright bike.
  • Having a full seat back - even when it's made of mesh - results in your back getting exactly as sweaty as you would think.

Now, nearly two full years into the recumbent trike experience, I can verify that some of these things are the same, while others have faded with familiarity. In the warmer months - and they don’t have to be a lot warmer, a 60° day will suffice - my back still gets soaked. And it still feels delightfully like riding a me-powered go-kart. Frankly, I don’t think that’s ever going to get old.

With experience, though, I’ve gotten accustomed to the riding position, and have learned how to see what’s coming, though I still use the flag, along with lights, to enhance my visibility to others. Some adjustments in mirrors and learning to use them has addressed the issue with detecting cars from behind.


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The issue of torque steer has largely vanished with practice, and my legs have accommodated to the different type of effort needed. I honestly don’t think about either of these issues any more, and I’m simply reminded of them because of looking back at this post. Riding on the Catrike has gotten faster over time as well.

I’ve gotten used to the brakes as well. Back in the early days I did have a panic stop moment where I nearly flipped myself forward out of the trike, but that was a one-time event.

I was right about shifting - I still do more than I remember doing on the upright. However, except in very hilly situations, I am able to spend most of my time on a single (big) ring. In addition, tho it’s a more regular event, it’s become second nature, particularly on familiar routes. It’s a part of interacting with the machine that I especially enjoy (I also preferentially drive a stick shift - there may be a relationship there).

And overall, it’s still a more pleasant and comfortable experience than riding the upright. As I noted a little while back, I still have my Cannondale road bike, but it mostly collects dust.

Whether upright or recumbent, enjoy your ride!

New Project - Trailer Part 1 by Erin Wade

I’ve had this bike trailer for well over a decade. If memory serves, it was a garage sale find, and it served for several missions of child hauling during LB’s younger years. With sufficient preparation - books to look at and drinks and snacks and such - LB would remain content to allow for an hour or more of riding time, and it added a different dimension (mostly additional weight) to my regular riding routine.

I’d hoped that this experience would also spur in my child a love of cycling the way that riding with my father had in me. Unfortunately my parental failure is complete - my child prefers running to cycling. The horror!

When LB got too big for the trailer we continued to use it to carry things - a cooler for refreshments or a picnic during a break, groceries on the occasional trip to the store. But when we moved from the city out to our homestead it got stored in the rafters of the garage, with the intention of getting it back down to ply into service again as a cargo hauler. Someday.

That was nearly 10 years ago.

I’ve been thinking about it more regularly lately, tho, with the particular idea of using it with my Catrike Pocket when I am on functional rides - e.g. trips where I’m using the trike as transportation and not just recreation. But the decade in the garage rafters has not been kind to the trailer...

She’s a dirty girl...

There’s the general dust and debris from sitting unattended in an outbuilding for an extended period of time. But I had a chance to look at it a while back when I was up on a ladder, and I knew there was going to be another, larger (or, if you like, smaller) issue - the mice had found it.

There’s a lot to like about living out in an intensely rural setting. The privacy, the open air, the prairie wildlife.

But not all the prairie wildlife is enjoyable. If you are someone who is now thinking "but mice are cute", I would submit that you are someone who has never actually lived with mice. When you live out in farm country you quickly realize that they are everywhere and that a field mouse, given the choice between living in the actual field for which it is named, and living in your home or another, similar structure, will opt for the latter every time. And it is surprising just how unpleasant and damaging such a tiny creature can be. They will get into cabinets, drawers, vehicles (that’s a fun surprise going down the road, let me tell you); they will urinate and defacate everywhere, and tear up whatever is around them for nesting material. I don’t love the mice.

But I digress. I’d noticed, back when I was up on the ladder last, that mice had nested in the trailer, and this meant that I was not going to have the option of just getting it down, hooking it up, and going. The body of the trailer is mostly canvas, and that material was going to have been soaked with rodent effluent. It was going to have to go. Which is part of why it’s taken me a while to get to this - it was going to be a project.

I don’t like mice

my kid used to sit in there

Using one of these old trailers as a base for a different design is not a new idea, not original to me, to be sure. I have a well documented dislike of Facebook, but the recumbent trike groups within Facebook are an exception to that rule, and lots of people more capable and creative than I have gone through and modified these items to good effect. In the hopes that folks will understand that mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery, I’m going to copy from some of what I’ve seen and see what I can put together with this.

One of the questions I had to begin with is how to hook it up to the trike. It’s meant to attach to the lower rear bar at the back of a diamond frame bike. That bar is bigger on the Pocket, and not easily accessible with the frame bags in the way (and I don’t intend to use the trailer all the time, so it won’t replace the bags - they are staying). For the moment, at least, I’m thinking that it can connect to the rear cargo rack:

I think this may work

view from above

I think that may work, though it does put the trailer at a bit of an angle. I’ll have to think it thru a bit.

New Project

Any project that I start competes somewhat with my actual riding time, so I don’t anticipate this will get done in a hurry. But I’ve gotten the thing down out of the rafters in part so that it’s in my way, and thus has to be contended with. That should help ensure that I deal with it sooner rather than later - you know, not another ten years...

Site Addition - Cycling Page by Erin Wade

I have been writing and posting on this site since May of 2010. Applied Life is something more or less of a traditional "blog" site, by which I mean that I write about the things that interest me here. The initial focus - and the tag line - for the site was Science and Technology in Everyday Life. Hence the name.

The very first post on the site was my review of the original iPad back in 2010 (TL:DR version - I liked it). And much of those early years reflected that type of topic, with occasional excursions into things like TV shows or books, or music that I like and music that I don’t.

But more recently the site has become much more focused on cycling in various aspects. I’ve been a cyclist off and on for most of my life - when I was a kid it was our primary mode of transportation, and as an adult it’s one of my two favorite forms of exercise (the other is martial arts). Given that, it’s probably not surprising that cycling has been a part of this site since early on. My earliest cycling focused post appeared in December of 2013 and it was about winter cycling. But the topic of cycling was an occasional one until I got my Catrike Pocket.

That machine has caused considerable changes both to what I do and what I write about. I’m cycling more - more time and further distances - than ever before, and it definitely affects the things that are on my mind, which is, ultimately, where the material on this site comes from. In my head I sometimes muse over changing the name of the site to Applied Trike...

I’m probably not going to do that, but the volume of cycling material does mean that it seemed to me like it might be getting more challenging to find some specific things on the site. As such, I put together a separate page with some links to a series of specific articles that might represent topic areas people are looking for.

The page is just called "Cycling", and depending upon how you are coming to the site - e.g. via desktop/laptop or mobile device it will appear in a couple of different ways.

On the desktop you will see a menu of words across the top right hand corner of the site, one of which is "Cycling":

Desktop

On your mobile device - and my analytics say that’s how most people find their way here - that menu is in the hamburger button (the three little lines that denote a menu) in the upper right:

Hamburger button

Clicking that will get you the list of additional pages:

Applied Life Other Pages

Choosing ”Cycling" will take you to the Cycling Resources page:

Cycling Resources

What you will find there is a list of selected articles under specific topic areas related to cycling, including (to start with):

  • Trail Reviews
  • Life With Recumbent Trikes
  • Winter Cycling

As I noted, this is a list of selected articles, so it’s not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination. Still, it should provide access to articles that provide longer-term reference information, and which seem to be among the more popular on the site. If you are a person who enjoys the site because of the cycling posts and want to refer someone here, this page would be a good place for them to start.

I will plan to update it and add to it over time - particularly in the area of trail and equipment reviews and so on. I will also likely include a link to it in posts about cycling to make it easy to find.

I said that I’ve been cycling off and on for most of my life, and that is true. But my enthusiasm for cycling has really grown over the past couple of years. I can see by the number of visitors that there are a lot of other folks who are also enthusiastic about it. I appreciate your time and attention here at Applied Life and I hope you will find the new page helpful.

And - of course - I also needed to update the tag line, which is now: Science and Technology - and Cycling! - In Everyday Life...

EJW

Tailwinds by Erin Wade

So. Last week I wondered how windy was too windy to ride.

Gee, I wonder which direction the wind is coming from...

In a lot of ways that post was part of my process of trying to decide whether to brave the elements, or whether I finally had found an excuse (besides lightening) for not going out on my Sunday ride.

The thing is, you can only read so much about a person riding across Antarctica in higher winds and lower temperatures for days before all the mental whingeing about whether or not to head out for an hour or so seems, well, a little pathetic.

So - you know - I rode.

I decided to head out on the route that I’ve now come to call Rocks 8. This is the gravel route I put together to take advantage of snow cover and freezing mitigating the unpleasant effects of the gravel. I reasoned that it was a relatively brief route and remained close to home, so if safety became an issue I would be an easy rescue. And besides, once the warmer weather comes I will likely avoid the gravel portions of this route, so I might as well enjoy them while I can.

It’s a route that runs in a square, and that square, given the Midwest road grid patterns, runs on the cardinal compass points. This means that the eight mile route is about two miles in each direction - two miles south, two miles east, two miles north, etc. Suffice it to say that my ride maps are often, well, pretty dull.

The wind last Sunday was coming directly out of the west. Westerly winds are the predominant pattern in this area, and this day was point on. The wind speed during the ride, according to Cyclemeter, was 38 mph:

38 mph winds

Cyclemeter offers up graphs of your ride speed across the miles of distance traveled, and then compares it to your "official" or reference ride (by default, it’s your first recorded ride on a given route). On the graph, the purplish dotted line is the reference ride, and the blue line is the current ride:

Graphical differences

Can you guess which part of the ride it was during which I had the west-to-east tailwind?

I did a more in-depth analysis of the effect of the wind on my rides a while back, but it still amazes me somewhat how much of a difference it can make. The elevated section on the graph runs between mile two and three, smack in the 20-30mph range. It’s notable too that this section is entirely across gravel and, while not involving immense climbs, isn’t entirely flat either (which accounts for some of the up and down in speed). I’d be lying if I said I didn’t push a bit during this section - how could one not? Fast is fun! But for reference, my average speed for the year prior was 11.86mph, and the overwhelming majority of that was set on my Catrike Pocket, which is what I was riding for this outing as well.

You can see the headwind section as well across miles six and seven. My average speed for mile seven was 5.38mph. That’s better than walking, but not a lot, and really gives some credence to why Maria Leijerstam chose a trike for her Antarctic ride - you’re starting to get down to speeds where it would be difficult to stay upright on two wheels. For fun, the headwind also makes it hard to catch your breath at times, and throws bits of debris into your face.

It also brings the overall averages down to earth. Despite that section running between 20-30 mph, and a top speed of 30.60mph on mile three, the average speed for the route was only 8.95mph. This is still better than two minutes over my median speed for this route, but it illustrates how much the headwind cuts into the time.

At the end, though, you definitely know you had a workout. Maddeningly, Cyclemeter does not appear to take the wind into account with respect to calorie burn. How exactly it counts calories does not appear to be explained on its otherwise very detailed help section, but you have to enter your weight for it to work, so it seems to be based upon that vs. your ride speed and distance. For this brief, slow ride, then, it credits me with using 399 calories. I suspect that, in reality, I burned that or better during the headwind section alone.

Overall, tho, west to east, I’m not even sure the trike needed me...

How Windy is Too Windy...? by Erin Wade

I begin my Sunday mornings in a similar fashion most weeks. I get up earlier than I intend (by force of habit), make some coffee and perform my ablutions, and think about where I will go for My Sunday Ride.

I try to get out to ride at least two days a week. I’d love to do more, and I do if the opportunity presents, but my goal for bare minimum is the two days. My Sunday Ride is an important component of that goal because Sundays are, all told, the day that I’m most free to get that ride in.

As I ponder a ride here this morning, however, that contemplation is accompanied by a soundtrack of howling and gusting wind. My iPhone’s weather app tells me that we are sitting at a wind speed of more than 30 miles an hour, and my ears are in general agreement with that assessment. All of which suggests the question: how windy is too windy to ride?

Wind speed

Any cyclist knows that the wind can have a huge effect on the degree of forward progress one experiences when riding. (I spent a little time going over my personal numbers on the effect of the wind here a little while back). Still, I’m not riding for transportation, I’m riding for my physical and mental health and the general enjoyment of the activity. And as far as that physical health part goes, the resistance a strong headwind offers is really just a bit of frosting on the cycling cake.

...right?

Having my Catrike does make a difference in this calculation, at least a bit. The lower profile nature of the trike does absolutely make the wind less of an issue, of course. This is part of the reason that Maria Leijerstam chose one for her record setting ride to the South Pole.

Of course, spending a little time reading about Maria Leijerstam’s ride across Antarctica makes one feel rather wimpy about the question one is asking for this very post. She was contending with 50mph winds and temperatures so low that the sweat was freezing in her boots. So, you know, it offers a bit of perspective there...


I realize, as I look back over the past couple of weeks that I’ve spent a lot of cognitive effort and writing time on complaining about the weather. I’d like to say that this is not my fault, and rather to lay the blame at the feet of, well...

...of February. That is, assuming February has feet.

Looking back over the past few years in Cyclemeter, tho, it’s clear that February has issues. While my amount of riding varies across time, the second month of the calendar year is routinely one of the lowest both in terms of riding outings and distance traveled. It is the shortest month, of course, so that may be a variable as well, but I suspect that a calculation of average distance per day across the months would also put February routinely at or near the bottom.

If it would just be more cooperative we’d get along so much better, February and I. But to be clear, this is all February‘s fault.

Gravel Subdued by Erin Wade

I don’t like gravel.

I live in a rural area - grew up here, in fact, though I moved away for quite a while and then returned. Gravel has always been a part of life out here. The road that live on now was gravel for most of my childhood, and parts of it still were up until a couple of years ago. Although it has since been paved, many of the secondary roads around us remain covered in loose rock.

I’m sure gravel has its benefits, but from a road user perspective it’s hard on things. It’s hard on your vehicle, chipping paint and throwing dust on things. And it’s particularly hard when cycling. On an upright, or diamond-frame (DF) bike riding a gravel road is a matter of carefully finding the narrow paths through the surface where the gravel has been worn away and hoping against hope that an errant rock doesn’t find your front wheel and take you down.

And wiping out in gravel? I suppose, technically, a gravel road is a softer surface to fall on than is asphalt. I mean, after all, the rocks are simply sitting on top of dirt, right? But this does not account for the hours (and sometimes days) of picking rock after rock out of your skin. Ugh.

When I got my Catrike Pocket one of the things I was looking forward to was being more comfortable on gravel. But while my recumbent trike is my preferred ride for virtually every option, it isn’t able to tame all of the issues gravel has to offer. That risk of falling is gone, of course, but the ride over rock is still very rough and uncomfortable, and the layout of the trike is such that soft material - for example, loose gravel on an uphill track - causes the rear (traction) wheel to loose hold, and you find yourself sitting and spinning with no forward motion.

And I’m aware that they make gravel bikes, and that fat tire and suspension bikes and trikes are a thing. But I’m the (apparently somewhat rare) cyclist who really doesn’t collect bikes and trikes. I like to have a well rounded machine that does most things well, and I find my Catrike fits that bill.

But it means that I map out my rides so that I can avoid riding on the rocks.

It occurred to me last weekend, however, that the snow-covered nature of our roads this season might offer up an opportunity.

Out here in rural Illinois the plows go to great effort to clear primary highways down to the asphalt. Liberal application of spark showering blades combined with road salt means that, for the most part, a heavily traveled roadway with a state or national numerical designation is going to be showing pavement. But on the secondary roads the plows content themselves with removing the drifts and ensuring the road is passable to traffic only. They remain coated in white.

This is pleasant to ride on - last week I mentioned the delightful sound of snow crunching under the wheels. But it occurred to me when I was trying to decide where to ride last week that it also had the potential to be an equalizer of sorts. That is, a snow-covered road is just a snow-covered road, regardless of what is under it.

That thought in mind, I decided to give it a go. I don’t have to ride far to get to gravel, and I ended up laying out an eight mile circle (well - it’s a square circle - we’re in farm-grid country, after all) that included four solid miles on the gravel.

So the first, simple part is that it worked. If you didn’t know these roads were gravel ahead of time there’d have been no way to tell simply by looking.

Intersection at Gravel and Asphalt

This is taken at a gravel and asphalt intersection. Which is which? I know, because I was there...

More importantly, there was no way to tell by riding on it either. Turning off of the asphalt and on to the gravel was an indistinguishable change as far as my backside was concerned.

What’s more, this opened up an opportunity to travel down roadways that, although nearby, I hadn’t seen in years. I hadn’t realized, for example, that the house down one of the roadways is, apparently unoccupied - no sign of activity, of attempt to clear the driveway or get a vehicle through. There was an old barn that I remember playing at as a kid that I see is now gone, and I passed at least one house that, if I’d ever seen it before I don’t remember doing so.

Hidden creek

big sky country?

These are small things, but they are part of the joy of cycling through the countryside, and offered some novelty, some fresheness from my typical routes. In fact, I took the route again yesterday, moving my usual Sunday ride up a day because a) it looked like the weather today was going to be inhospitable and would turn the roads to a slushy mess (and so far that is true); and 2) it was simply gorgeous yesterday - too gorgeous to pass on the opportunity.

It might seem surprising that this possibility hasn’t occurred to me in the past - I do a fair amount of winter cycling. Still, the reality is that most of our winters here really don’t offer extended periods of snow cover. It’s typically cold, but real snow on the ground and the roads for an extended period of time is a rarity. This may be the first season since I started winter cycling that the opportunity presented itself.

It’s an ephemeral opportunity at best. It was 40° here yesterday, and the snow cover on the asphalt was already transitioning away. There were even sections of the gravel starting to show thru.

Gravel showing thru snow

It’s already 40° again here this morning, and the surrounding world is blanketed in the thick fog that rises as the snow releases its hold on the earth. It’s 40°, on its way to 41°, with a low also well above freezing, and a projected high for tomorrow of nearly 50°. The snow - even with the prodigious volume we’d received - will be gone soon. There might be more - the forecast speculates some for next week, but we all know how reliable that is. Odds are that, even if it happens, it will be fleeting. That’s just the way it goes here.

But for a short period of time, a few days, and two rides, it opened up another part of my little world.

Trike in snow

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.


Enjoying this post? Check out our Cycling page for links to other cycling articles on Applied Life


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.

Military Ridge Trail Revisited by Erin Wade

A few years ago I had the opportunity to take a relatively short ride along the Military Ridge Trail in southwestern Wisconsin. This was a Black Friday ride - much of the family goes shopping or gets lost in video games (or maybe plays video games about shopping? I’m sure they exist), and so I took the opportunity to go out for a ride.

The last couple of years we’ve done our turkey day closer to home, but this year we headed back up the cheddar state. Given this I made special arrangements to get the Catrike strapped to the roof of our Honda Fit and figured I’d give the Military Ridge Trail another go.

I wanted to go either further, or in a different direction than last time. From Ridgeway, my starting point, the trail offers the opportunity to ride to two different state parks. To the east, the section of trail I’d already spent some time on, the trail heads over to the town of Blue Mounds, and rides along and through the southern end of Blue Mound State Park, a 10 mile ride (though last time I’d begged off due to the effects of turkey and wine and stopped in Barneveld). To the other direction it heads into Dodgeville and Governor Dodge State Park, for 9 and 8 1/2 mile rides, respectively. These were similar distances, and I might have gone for the novelty of the other direction, but fortunately my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are familiar with the trail, and indicated parts of it were cut off due to construction in the Dodgeville direction. So Blue Mounds it was.

The trail is mostly dirt or crushed stone, though parts of it are really just sand. I started relatively early in the day - about 8:30 - and this guaranteed that the softer bits would still be frozen. While it’s still technically autumn, we’ve had a bit of snowfall across the Midwest, and much of the trail is shaded enough that many patches of it remain

Snowy Trail

Military Ridge Trail cuts through the Driftless Area of Wisconsin, so the landscape is different than other parts of the state. Here sits an ancient, mostly buried mountain range, and the views give you that feel from time to time. You can be looking off into the distance and see what seems like a distant peak:

Mountain?

And then you think "that can’t be a mountain - I’m in Wisconsin". But it is, technically. It’s just that the valleys around it are mostly filled in through years of erosion. And, of course, you can see it because you are also high up in the mountains. These thoughts - the result in part of a geography class I signed up for in undergrad nearly 30 years ago, mostly to round out my credit requirements for a semester - accompany me every time I ride or drive through this area.

Barneveld on the Map

Barneveld is the first town stop along this course. It’s a small town, though certainly bigger than Ridgeway. There are a couple of taverns/restaurants along the trail, so folks looking for a pit stop on their ride along the Ridge have their opportunity here. The early morning nature of my particular ride didn’t really leave this an open opportunity, so I can’t vouch for the businesses themselves, but many of these little places in Wisconsin offer a fine meal for those unafraid of a little cholesterol.

Barneveld

Barneveld is also the gateway to Botham Vineyard. For those who enjoy a glass of Wisconsin wine with a view, the winery offers tastings with a view of the vineyards and Wisconsin countryside. For the warmer weather this would be an excellent side trip, particularly if accompanied by a picnic lunch. Days and hours available for tastings are specified on their website. I didn’t visit Botham on this ride, but MLW and I have been there before and enjoyed the trip.

As you ride out of Barneveld you also ride away from the highway that the trail parallels for much of the first part of the trip.

Out of Barneveld into Blue Mound State Park

From there the tree cover is more dense, and you begin to feel much more alone and in the wilderness. About three miles past Barneveld you enter the southern edge of Blue Mound State Park. There are occasional signs mounted to the trees off the trail that tell you this.

Blue Mound State Park

Another half-mile or so in there is an asphalt trail to the north that leads up into the park’s campground area. For those looking for a hill climb this offers a nice opportunity.

Up the Hill

Campground

The trail itself ends up in the park, so the way in is also the way out. The descent is fun, of course, though ice and snow on the path limited my speeds on the way down. Be aware that, depending upon time of year, hunting is allowed in the park. Though there were no campers that I could find, I did come across a batch of gentlemen in blaze orange planning to head up into the trees. I was thankful for my brightly colored gear, flag, and flashing lights.

There are other trails in the park, and some of them can be seen off the camping drive. These are more rustic, however, and not suited for my trike. Folks riding up on a mountain bike or similar would likely be able to tackle them, however.

I continued on past the park into the village of Blue Mounds.

Blue Mounds

Mounds View Park was my turnaround point. While the town itself is smaller than Barneveld, it too has a couple of taverns for the hungry and thirsty. They are a little further off the trail, but in a town this size that’s not saying much. There also appears to be, according to google maps, a yoga studio and a meditation center (go figure).

Cave of the Mounds road crosses the trail on two spots following this and will take you (unsurprisingly) to the Cave of the Mounds. I’ve never been, but according to its website, it is the "premier cave in the upper Midwest and the jewel box of America’s major show caves" (some carful parsing went into that description). It does appear to be open year round, however, so winter cyclists can absolutely make this a stop if they wish.

From there it was just a matter of turning around and heading back. The trail itself, as mentioned before, is mostly crushed stone, and so is relatively soft. In the warmer air and partial sunshine of my return trip it had gotten softer still. The surface is such that it was slow going in general - I averaged 8.21 mph for the ride, and I’m usually in the 11-13mph range on the Catrike. The broader footprint of the trike made the trail navigable on its road-ish tires (Schwalbe Marathons). If I were on an upright I’d want mountain bike tires - I’d imagine a road bike would be a challenge on parts of the trail even on a dry summer day. There was a brief, sandy uphill section that required dismounting the trike and walking it up, making me briefly wish for a fat-tire trike of my own. Not that it would have mattered - I recall struggling on the same section three years ago on MLW’s Schwinn which, while certainly not fancy, has what one would assume would be the "right" type of tires for such a situation.

As I mentioned back then, sections of the trail do parallel the highway, and provide a more... agricultural view, particularly between Ridgeway and Barneveld. The additional distance into Blue Mounds, as opposed to stopping at Barneveld, makes a big difference in the scenery. I’d recommend going the extra miles or, alternately, starting in Barneveld and heading east on the trail if you are looking for a shorter trip and a view. If you are simply looking for some peace, quiet, and alone time on your ride of choice, however, any part of the trail will do nicely.

Trike Transporting - Getting on Top of Things by Erin Wade

One of the questions that comes up pretty regularly with respect to living with a recumbent trike is how to transport it from place to place for riding. For myself that’s usually a pretty simple question to answer - I put it in the back of my Honda Fit:

Trike in Fit

In fact, this is such a routine thing that, much of the time my Honda functions as a rolling garage for the Catrike. I think it’s fair to say that it spends more time in the car than it does stored in any other location.

But the reality is that this doesn’t work for everyone, and it doesn’t work for every situation. I’m a long-term fan of hatchbacks - I like little cars with good gas mileage and very flexible interior arrangements that allow for the carrying of (relatively) large volumes of stuff when the need calls. My Honda Fit is just the latest in a line of cars that includes a 1991 Dodge Colt, a 1995 Honda Civic Si, and a 2006 Mini Cooper S.

Like them as much as I do, the fact is that, as flexible as these cars are, flexibility is still a study in compromise: Do you want to haul stuff inside, or people? You can’t do both.

This came up as a need for us in preparation for Thanksgiving. We were heading up to spend the holiday with family in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. This type of trip is a multiple bonus, given both the opportunity to spend time with family, and to spend it in an area with a beautiful state park and bike trail system (everyone celebrates Black Friday in their own way...).


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I initially came up with what I considered a simple, straightforward solution to the problem, but the kids unreasonably objected to making the two and half-hour drive riding on the roof, so I was going to have to come up with another answer for my trike.

Perhaps the most common solution for this issue is to move up. I first purchased a roof rack for the 1995 Civic, and I’ve used variations of that roof rack on every car since. When I was riding upright bikes routinely this was a fairly simple solution to work with - Yakima (the brand I happen to have) offers multiple solutions for upright bikes of various designs and styles. This was a good arrangement for one bike and, even on a fairly small car like the Civic or the Mini, you can comfortably fit two or three bikes on top.

mini and kid with bikes

Thing is, while I do already have the roof rack set to fit my current car, and have used it for carrying other things they don’t have ready-made solutions for recumbent trikes. This means that, like storage solutions, we are left rolling our own.

What I arrived at was using a variation of what I already had. The upright mounts I was accustomed to using with my system are Yakima Copperheads. These were a relatively low cost fork-mount style of bike holder which included a trough-style wheel tray with a ratcheting wheel strap for the rear wheel. My plan was to use the ratchet straps for all three wheels of the trike.

I had two of the mounts already, but obviously I would need a third. The Copperheads appear to no longer be made by Yakima (I bought the rack back in the 1990’s, so they are a couple of years old at this point), but they can be found elsewhere. eBay was my solution in this case, and in fact I was able to find just the trays and ratchet straps (since I did not need the fork mounts). The trays I found happened to come in a set of two, which would turn out to be handy...

My first attempt at this was to put up the two Copperhead mounts intact - e.g. with the fork mount mounted to the front bar, and to put one of the trays from eBay in the middle for the rear wheel.

Unfortunately, what I found was that this arrangement did not allow enough length for the trike - I couldn't move the ratchet straps for the front wheels far enough forward to get the rear wheel strapped in. A more planful person would possibly have measured first to learn this without completely assembling it, but then I was also cited repeatedly in grade school for failing to read directions before starting on the assignment...

So - as I mentioned, that additional tray came in handy. I had to disassemble one of the Copperheads by taking the fork mount off, and that gave me three trays to mount flat across the bars. I did measure out the space between the front wheels and between the fronts and the centerline to figure out where to place the trays relative to one another. Once put together, this arrangement allowed for enough room, lengthwise, for all three wheels to be tightened down with the wheel straps.

On the roof - profile

trike on roof - rear view

The sharp-eyed viewer will note that the trike is not centered over the roof of the car. This was on purpose. I put it as far to the driver’s side as I could to make it easier to get the trike up on the roof. At about 33lbs my Pocket is not especially heavy, but it is awkward, and it’s necessary not just to get it up there, but also to line all three wheels up with the trays. I didn’t want to also have to reach across several inches of roofline while doing this.

This secured the trike down well on the rack, and I did a short test run to make sure it would stay up there at highway speed. However, while that was successful, I was going to be on the road for longer than a short run, and I was going to be out on an interstate highway for much of the trip. I wanted to supplement the wheel straps to better ensure the safety of the trike.

My inclination was to use nylon ratchet straps. I have a fair number of these and I use them pretty regularly. They work well. I decided to try them out with a test run by taking the trike with me on an extended drive.

The good of it is that nylon ratchet straps absolutely held the trike down well. However, at speed the nylon straps began to vibrate in the wind in with a sonorous thrumming that translated down into the rack to which it was attached, and from the rack into the roof to which it was attached. I ended up taking them off part way home. It was too much, and that was on a 40-minute ride. Two and a half hours of that would have been pure torture.

The following day I swapped out the nylon ratchet straps for heavy-duty black rubber bungee straps and made another trial run. This was much more successful, and this was the solution I employed for the trip.

Rubber bungee front

front bungee hook close-up

rear bungee

Another thing that I realized was that the trike was strapped down, but it wasn’t locked in any way. The Copperhead mounts had locks built into the fork mounts, but those weren’t in play here. An enterprising theif with a little time opportunity could unstrap it and make away with it. I solved this by using my bike lock to tether it to the roof rack. This also presented as a potential additional fail-safe if the other straps all failed.

Bike lock

All told, the trip was successful. The trike got to and from Wisconsin intact and unharmed. Wind noise was higher on the way up, but not awful. On the way back it was considerably windier, and thus considerably noisier.

Which is to say that, by "successful", I mean that this worked for what was intended, and I think it would work well enough for around-town types of transport when needed. But I also took it off the following morning and will be returning the trike to its customary mobile garage placement inside the car.

Why? Well, on that trip back, it was not not just noisier due to the wind, but as we entered the last leg of the trip home over the open prairie of Illinois it was, frankly, loud enough to make the radio or any conversation hard to hear. What’s more, the wind gusts periodically made the little car lose speed despite cruise control (e.g. set at 70mph, but occasionally dropping itself to 65 as it struggled to maintain speed). This is not a difficulty the car has ever had without the rack on top. As you might expect, mileage drops when using a roof rack as well. In addition, on this trip home it was not just windy, but it was raining. Raining on my trike. This part - which is always a risk of carrying your machines outside the vehicle - I do not love. Which is ultimately why they usually ride inside the car.

An additional note here: the car I’m using for this is a 2009 Honda Fit with over 300,000 miles on it. It’s been chewed on by my dog (seriously) and has been through a hailstorm, among other things. I was completely unconcerned about what would happen to the paint as a result of multiple attempts to get the trike up there, attaching and unattaching straps above it, and so on. I’d think twice about this on a vehicle where one cared about its appearance.

TL:DR

The roof-rack setup that I put together here worked well enough for the purpose for which it was assembled - transporting the trike while also carrying people in the back seat. However, I’d regard it as a secondary solution to be used when other options aren’t available.

The Good:

  • Allows for carrying a trike and multiple people with a smaller car.
  • Inexpensive solution if you already have a roof rack.
  • Additional parts needed for rack can be found on eBay.
  • The world can see that you have a recumbent trike!

The Bad:

  • Trike is awkward to get up on to roof - if you cannot lift your trike over your head this is not an option.
  • Trike is exposed to the elements.
  • The world can see that you have a recumbent trike - need to find a supplementary locking system.
  • Wind noise and effects on driving and mileage.
  • Also, did I mention wind noise?

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.