Trike Storage by Erin Wade

Riding and living with a recumbent trike is different from from the upright variety in a number of ways, and one of those is storage. There exists a cornucopia of storage options for upright, two-wheeled cycles, ranging from very simple options to mechanically complex.

My Catrike Pocket takes considerably less vertical space than an upright bike, but it’s also considerably wider. Out at the Homestead we have a fair amount of space, but useful storage area outside the house is mostly limited to our small garage.

While, as noted, there are certainly a number of fancy ways to store a bike, I’ve always been partial to the simple approach offered by a ceiling hook. If one has a crossbeam to screw a couple of these in to, hanging up a two-wheeler becomes a simple exercise of identifying a location where one hopefully will not repeatedly walk into the bike (a step I may have failed at a time or three in the past), measuring out the distance between the wheel centers, and mounting the hooks. Not fancy, but a pretty reliable system, even in our limited garage space:

bikes hanging out together

The layout of the trike complicates things. The three wheels do not run in a line, so they cannot be managed by simply putting hooks in a crossbeam. What’s more, the distance between the front wheels does not match the distance between the beams, so mounting each wheel to immediately parallel beams wasn’t an option either. And given that most of the airspace that doesn’t have people walking through it regularly is already occupied by the other bikes, having the trike hang that low wouldn't have been a great option anyway.

I considered mounting along a wall instead of in the ceiling, but the layout of the garage is such that any wall space that isn’t occupied by stuff already is unoccupied for a reason - mostly because a car has to pull up close to the wall in that space. While the trike isn’t tall, it would stick out far enough to impede that sort of use. It was going to have to be mounted above, high enough to prevent noggin-knocking, but not so high that I couldn't get it up and down (I am not a tall person).

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My solution was to install 2x4’s across the top end of the cross beams - two of them running side by side, and the third set back at the rear wheel’s center. This arrangement allowed me some play for the mounting of the hooks side to side as well.

Hooks! Nothing but hooks!

This position gets the Catrike up high enough that I can walk under it without fear of hitting my head.


Hello again

It also sets it high enough that the car can fit under it (since my bike storage needs are now spreading out into the car area of the garage).

Catrike over car

I was initially a little nervous about the fact that the trike is hanging right over the windshield of the car, but it’s been there for months now, without issue. Also, there really wasn’t much by way of other option - moving it further back, say over the roof of the car, would interfere with the travel area of the garage door.

To get the trike up on the hooks, I have to pick it up, flip it over, and then lift it above my head - a variation on a clean and jerk. I hold it by the crossbar across the top of the seat back, and the accessory mount on the boom. Fortunately the Pocket is only about 33 lbs from the factory, and probably around 35 with my bags and accessories on it, so this isn’t significantly harder than lifting the two wheelers. Lining up the three wheels with the hooks was a little more challenging at first, but that’s gotten easier with practice.

Overall it’s been a good solution. Getting it in place took a bit longer than my usual bike system - lots of measuring to make sure everything lined up before I finalized things, and of course considerably more cutting, drilling, and driving of screws. And I am now running out of ceiling space. I would need to get more creative if I were to get another trike (but that never happens, right?).

How Does Satellite Internet Suck? Let Me Count the Ways by Erin Wade

When the opportunity to move to the Homestead presented itself, we were generally pretty excited. In the midst of that excitement, however, there was some trepidation.

We'd been urban(ish)ites for for well over 15 years at the point that the opportunity for a pastoral life presented itself. Such a lifestyle, while largely devoid of personal privacy and the freedom to pee outside, does have it's perks: Sushi, a variety of pizza options, a movie theatre that's less than a half-hour away...

...And high-speed internet.

I feared our options would likely be limited when we started looking, and my fears came to fruition. Comcast's website made vague promises that cable might exist at that distance, but when I contacted the local(ish) office - which largely consisted only of advertising account people - they seemed confused that I would even consider it possible at our location. Verizon's website, upon scrutinizing our address, suggested that I "check back later", suggesting that, at some distant date, they might indeed offer DSL in rural Lee county. I did learn, however, that T1 service can be installed virtually anywhere. For a price.

That price? Somewhere in the neighborhood of a car payment.

When we moved we still hadn't come right down to a final decision. For a period of time we used my Verizon MiFi as a stand-in. The device works well, but it had substantial drawbacks - the largest being that I needed to take it with me during the day. I'd originally gotten it (and still use it) to have broadband data access while on the road. However, part of the benefit to this is that we use data syncing systems - Microsoft Live Sync and Dropbox (have I ever mentioned Dropbox before?...) as automatic backups - when something is saved into one of these folders when I'm on the road, it automatically syncs to the home computers. That way, should anything happen to the devices on the road I don't lose my work. Which, of course, doesn't work if both systems aren't connected to the internet.

So it was clear we'd need to do something different. I broke down and ordered satellite internet. I say "broke down", as we'd had experience with satellite internet before. My folks have internet through HughesNet at their "cabin" in Wisconsin. Our interaction with that system primarily resulted in learning about bandwidth caps. Essentially my folks had enough leeway in their contract that they could check their email and download pictures from friends and family, but when the rest of the Wades hit the wifi channel - with my brother checking, rechecking, and rechecking again on his eBay auction, Ethan watching "that cool FaceBook video" over and over, and yours truly downloading that much needed patch for Civilization 4 - well, lets just say we cross that line in a hurry.

And - when you surpass the bandwidth cap you are punished. Hobbled down to dial-up speeds, HughesNet attacking your web-surfing habits like Kathy Bates in Misery.

That experience in mind, we went with WildBlue. HughesNet claimed to have higher speed service (though the bandwidth caps between the two were nearly identical), but they counted data usage by day, while WildBlue went with a rolling 30 days of usage. This seemed more forgiving - you could have a very busy internet day, then back off for a few days and bring things back down.

The experience with WildBlue was less than stellar from the outset. It was difficult to get an installation day scheduled and, when the day came and the young man showed up to install the dish on our roof, it was raining. As the rain persisted, he kept calling back to the office and suggesting we re-schedule. The re-scheduled date was going to be several weeks away. I protested and - to his credit - he put the satellite dish up on a ladder in the rain (after I made it clear that I would do the work in the attic. For such a brave young man he was quite anxious about the attic… Chalk it up either to an unreasonable fear of spiders, or perhaps a somewhat more reasonable fear of accidentally putting one's foot through a 150-year old plaster ceiling).

Since then we've seen considerable variability in performance - the latency of satellite (combined with the bandwidth caps) makes it utterly unsuitable for watching all but the briefest of videos online, or to use it for video or audio communications. And, of course, there is particular difficulty and often a complete lack of service if there's a thunderstorm.

Or snow. Of any kind.

Or Rain.

Or a stiff breeze on a cloudy day.

Or if it just doesn't f@&king feel like working.

This last part was particularly true during a period of time in which the modem would simply stop working properly about twice a week, requiring a hard reset (being unplugged for an ungodly number of Mississippi's and then plugged back in - typically right after you'd gotten into your jammies and sat down with a beer in front of the TV…). That one went on for nearly a month due to lack of time to call in - during which I kept meticulous track of the date, times, and weather conditions (naturally), only to ultimately be told, after much fruitless conversation, that I would have to call in when the problem was happening.

It took another technical assistance call and a service call later - the latter ostensibly made necessary as they absolutely had to send out a technician to make sure there wasn't a problem with my dish alignment... ...which he did by checking on WildBlue's website - to get the modem replaced.

It was against the backdrop of these events that I was particularly interested when I heard about Virgin Mobile's new pay-as-you go MiFi plan from Merlin Mann on MacBreak Weekly. This is the same device that I already use when I travel, but without the contract or the bandwidth cap that comes with the Verizon version. All that, at less than half the cost of WildBlue per month.

So this required some research. My first stop was the Virgin Mobile website to make sure the offer was real, that "unlimited" really meant no limits (cell phone companies are apparently allowed to call the plans "unlimited" if the cap is something that a certain high percentage of their customers are unlikely to exceed - Verizon's "unlimited" plans cap out at 5GB), and whether, most importantly, there was coverage at my home.

Much to my delight, it was all true, and the Homestead was awash in a bath of orange Virgin 3G service. So my final question was whether I would experience any differences in performance if I moved from the satellite to the cellular wireless. This required some testing to evaluate, but fortunately I already had a MiFi to compare it to.

I downloaded the speedtest app on the iPad, and went to on my iMac, and ran a series of trials to compare both the iPad and my desktop using the MiFi and WildBlue. I expected the MiFi to be slower, but I wanted to see if the difference would be large enough to discourage me. I ran ten trials under each condition, and then compared the results by running t-tests.

The results were surprising. In download speeds there was no significant difference in most of the trials, and on the one trial in which there was a difference the MiFi was the better of the two.

The MiFi was far, far faster in upload speeds, and had significantly less latency than the satellite.

The actual numbers and graphs can be seen here for those who are interested. The bottom line, though, is that the cellular wireless was always at least as good, and was better on most measures.

So I resolved to get myself a Virgin Mobile MiFi to replace my satellite. This turned out to be a bit of a challenge, as they were sold out on Virgin Mobile's site, and in a number of other online locations (I may not have been the only person to listen to this week's MacBreak Weekly or to read the NY Times review of it). But a little extra searching found that they had some in stock at the Peru Wal-Mart.

Since I've gotten things set up at home I've been playing with the system and it works extremely well. Everything was hooked up quickly, and I had everything running off of the Virgin MiFi in a few minutes. I even watched an episode of the Daily Show this evening to test it - it was Magnificent!