Why Everyone Will Ride a Bicycle by 2030

This is a guest post by David Veibl. David is a contributing writer for Cruiserbikes.com too, a source for the best cruiser bikes online.

Let’s begin this post with a little disclaimer.  No one – not even Sylvia Browne – knows exactly what the future holds.  While any psychic couldn’t give you next week’s lottery numbers, s/he could still give you a detailed pattern analysis that would tell you the numbers most likely to show up in next week’s drawing.  That’s what we humans do.  We predict.  We have all kinds of tools that help us see what the future holds.  There are even entire industries dedicated to predicting the future – the weather and climate industry, the stock market, and urban planning, to name a few.

Look at Portland.  In 1996, Portland’s urban planners predicted that bicycling would become more widespread in the following decades.  At that time, the Portland Bureau of Transportation reported an average of 3,257 daily bicyclists.  Since then, the number has jumped by 560% with an average of 18,257 daily bicyclists in 2011!  Portland’s predictions came true, and it looks like the number of bicyclists will only increase in the years to come.  If the numbers continue to rise consistently, Portland will see at least 102,240 cyclists on the road in 2030!  Luckily, the city is prepared for such a situation.  A couple years ago, they rolled out the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030, a plan that accommodates the increasing number of cyclists with a new bikeway facility design, a stronger bicycle transportation system, larger bicycle parking areas, and so much more.  It’s expected to be complete by 2030.

More people are riding bikes now than ever 

If there’s anything past statistics tell us, it’s that the number of cyclists will continue to climb dramatically year after year.  The increasing number of cyclists on the road could be due to soaring gas prices, concern for the environment, or the need to stay healthy and in shape.  Whatever the reason, bikes are becoming more and more popular.  In fact, the National Bicycle Dealers Association reported that 19.8 million bicycles were sold in the U.S. in 2010, while the Bureau of Transportation reported only 4.6 million cars sold that same year.  BMW sales are dwindling while Schwinn cruisers are selling like hotcakes!

Portland isn’t the only city to prepare for the growth in bicycle commuting

Major cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, as well as countless small towns across the country, are installing more bike lanes, increasing funding for bicycle facilities, and encouraging their residents to travel by bicycle.  Now, since New York installed more than 200 miles of bike lanes in 2009, 1 out of every 24 vehicles on city streets is a bicycle.

 Possible reasons behind the bicycle phenomenon

With the economy the way it is now, it’s hardly a surprise that more and more people have taken up bicycling.  The economy might not be the only reason, though.  If the economy miraculously improves in the next decade or two, it’s highly unlikely that people would ditch their bikes for cars.  By then, the habit of riding a bicycle for short trips would probably be so ingrained that people wouldn’t even hear of driving to the bank on a warm sunny day.  People would get so used to seeing cyclists everywhere that they wouldn’t think twice about buying a new bicycle and joining everyone else in the bike lane on their way to work.

Also, by 2030, communities everywhere will have expanded so much that it would be rare to have to travel to the next town to pick up a gallon of milk.  With everything available nearby, people living in urban, suburban, and some rural areas would hardly have to travel more than 5 miles to get something.  Almost every road would probably have a bike lane, so it would be far easier and safer to travel by bicycle.  People are far more environmentally conscious now than ever, and with scientists constantly finding new information about the environment every day, we’re paying closer attention to reducing our carbon footprint.

Do you think that, when 2030 rolls around, bicycles will be the main mode of transportation?  Why or why not?

A Little Heat Training

A biking buddy I haven’t ridden with for awhile contacted me the other day. He’s been off the bike lately, and wants to get back into it. He suggested we do a few Veloway laps after work. While I knew it would be a hot ride, I readily agreed.

John juggles his young sons, his 29-inch mountain bike and his road bike with his other obligations. He’s ridden rides of decent length before, and last year even did a guest post here about riding the Atlas 4000 kickoff ride under hot conditions.

But he says he’s slowed down quite a bit, and just wanted to turn the cranks in the heat to build up some tolerance for the temperatures he’ll face when he tackles organized rides again next month.

I had my concerns driving home this afternoon. The forecast had called for highs in the 100s most days of this week, and the car thermometer showed 107 at around 3 p.m. After getting my stuff together and setting off to meet John at our agreed-upon ride time of 4:30, I saw that it had dipped — to 106 (41C). One of the official weather stations in Austin recorded a record 109 today. My wife was none too pleased that I was heading out in such conditions.

She forgets, though, that just last weekend she played golf in temperatures almost as high, and had a great round. I slathered on the sunscreen, put lots of ice in the water bottle, and headed out.

The Veloway wasn’t completely deserted, but I saw only a few other bikers rounding the track. While I waited for John, I made sure the bike was parked in the shade, so it wouldn’t be a hot seat when I climbed back on for our laps.

Any shade is good shade.

We set off at an easy pace. John said he’d been averaging about 12 mph lately, and wanted to see if keeping up with me posed any special problems. He monitored his heart rate as we rode, and noted with satisfaction that it was at a reasonable level.

The Veloway is a 3.1-mile circuit, and John said three laps would be plenty for him. Coupled with my ride from home and back again, I would clock about 15 miles. In this weather, I figured that was just right.

The heat wasn’t too bad. Really. Some breeze would have been nice, though. Since we weren’t doing intervals or anything stupid like that, I thought the ride was just the kind of easy day I could always use. I noticed that John was pushing a bit to keep even with me, and once, when I kicked it into high gear, he lagged behind for about half a lap.

John catches and passes me.

After three laps, we pulled into the canopy that offers some shade at the head of the track.  Sweat glistened off both of us, but otherwise, we were fine. That is, until John suggested it was time to head to the parking lot so he could get his bike back on the car rack. I set off to see if any water was left in the coolers at the parking lot entrance (nope), and when I got there, I looked back to see John still under the canopy, staring straight ahead.

“Take the picture already, so I can go refill my water bottle!” The Noob with the borrowed bike.

My average speed for the trip, including the run between the house and the track, was 14.7 mph, just a tad slower than I usually do. If John was adding 2 mph to his typical speeds, and on a day like today, that could really stress him. He’ll be fine if he keeps up his riding this summer, but today was a good reminder to take it easy in extreme conditions. I wonder how some other acquaintances of mine did. They planned a 60-miler late this afternoon!

A New Ride (Temporarily)

Went out Saturday morning for my ride. Even got an early (for me) 7:30 a.m. start. Lubed the new chain, clipped on the computer, put in the water bottles, and got on. But on my first attempt to shift, even before I’d left the driveway — SPRONG! — the shift cable broke where it joins the right side shifter.

See that cable that’s parked under the right handlebar? The one that just ends? Yeah, that’s it. (Click to make the photo bigger.)

Son of a!@#$%^&*! This is the second time this has happened to me. The first was in the fall of 2010. And I know what it means — it means I’ll be buying a new shifter. Trouble is, they’re expensive, and after some unexpected costs this month, we find ourselves with too much month at the end of the money. I’ll have to hold off on the purchase for 10-14 more days.

But what good is being in a bike club if it doesn’t have members with spare bikes? A couple of emails later, my friend Rick agreed to let me use his 10-year-old titanium bike. He’s riding his new carbon fiber Cervelo, and is even faster than he used to be. And he used to be fast.

I picked up the bike Saturday afternoon, and rode it around the block to see what kind of changes I’d have to make to get it right for me.

Right off the bat, a pretty major one. My bike is 56 cm. Rick, who is a big, tall guy, rides what appears to be a 61 cm bike. My feet reached the pedals, but just barely.

I lowered the seat all the way, and moved it up as far as it would go. It’s still a bit big, but I can ride it with a modicum of comfort now.

I skipped the club ride Sunday. They were going to do the Dam Loop — one of my least favorite Austin bike routes — and it was going to be hot!! today. Because I was on a new bike, I opted to do the Saturday morning route I would have done yesterday. If my shifter hadn’t broken.

Riding a familiar route on an unfamiliar bike makes the experience seem brand new. The bike is an Airborne, titanium frame as I’ve said, all Ultegra, nice Easton EA 90 wheels with Michelin Krylion tires, and a triple crankset with a 53-tooth big ring. The model is the Zeppelin, of all things. Airborne apparently got out of the road bike business, because their website features mountain bikes and such, with their cross bike model the closest thing to a road bike. As Rick once told me, “Back in 2002, this was state of the art.”

The Airborne Zeppelin.

I think I’ll like my experience with the triple. My average speed for today’s 29.5-mile ride was 15.3 mph. (Just an estimate, since the bike is not equipped with a computer. I know the route distance, and noted my start and end times on my watch — then deducted time stopped at lights to get my total on-bike time.) Anyhoo, it did get me up some hills with a minimum of fuss.

That average speed compares nicely with my recent speeds on that route. In fact, it’s a smidgen faster than most. I’m looking forward to riding this bike over the next two weeks. I’ll post an update on riding a triple titanium later, after I’ve gotten a few more rides under my belt.

Stravacide

While I’m busy overcoming the cycling blahs (see previous post), I learned of a case where a really enthusiastic cyclist went out to beat a record for a segment on Strava — and lost his life when he collided with a car.

You’re probably aware of Strava — the GPS-based training aid that’s gaining in popularity by the day. I mentioned it here earlier this year. The main attraction of Strava seems to be its ability to divide a ride into segments. If you post the segments publicly, others can see your time for that segment and try to beat it.

Users have even coined a name for it, as noted on the Competitive Cyclist website:

  • Stravacide, [strah-veh-sahyd]
  • noun
  • To ride significantly harder during training than originally planned (e.g. on a climb or a defined stretch of road) in order to increase one’s ranking on the Strava Leaderboard for a specific segment.

Now, the family of the deceased cyclist, one Kim Flint, Jr., is suing Strava, claiming its general negligence led to the wrongful death of Flint. The complaint alleges that Strava breached its “duty of care” by failing to warn cyclists that the road on that segment was “not suited for racing” and “unreasonably dangerous;” for failing to take measures to ensure that KOM (King of the Mountain) challenges take place on safe courses; and for encouraging dangerous behavior. The suit, which seeks damages in excess of $25,000, contends that if Strava had done those things, Flint would not have died as he did.

Hey, I just report the facts. I’ll let you figure out whether the plaintiffs have a leg to stand on, or if this suit will be thrown out of court as frivolous. All I know is that, while I don’t use Strava myself, I do have several segments on my routes where I do keep track of my times — or, more often, my top speed. I don’t need Strava for that, and I don’t need a third party looking out for me to make sure my record-breaking attempts are done under pristine conditions.  I don’t need Strava to kill myself; I’m perfectly capable of doing that on my own.

Of course, I’m also perfectly capable of judging conditions for myself, and determining whether I’m comfortable challenging my best on a given day, or waiting until the wind, for the road surface, or debris, or reflected light, or whatever changes until I am comfortable.

Strava didn’t make Flint ride that day.

The Biking Blahs

I suppose it happens to all of us. There are days you get on the bike, and just aren’t motivated. In my case, that’s been the story for the last few rides.

I’m not sure what’s triggered this round of blahs. I seem to get them every year, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Friday after work, I did my usual 20-miler through the neighborhood. I know the hot weather got me there. It was 98 degrees (37C), and I didn’t want to push it, because I knew I’d be out Saturday morning.

But Saturday morning’s ride, for almost 28 miles, didn’t go much better. I kept pedaling, but had no oomph. Toward the end of the ride, my chain started skipping. I didn’t bother about it (bad sign).

On Sunday’s club ride, the group was heading out to Fitzhugh Road, usually a favorite of mine. They opted to tack on some extra distance, and bring the Fitzhugh total to the mid 50s. The usual turnaround spot gives 46 miles. I and the other B riders turn around earlier, for a 32-miler. But the rolling hills on Fitzhugh make it a tough 32.

Three miles into the ride, going up a nice hill in a semi-rural residential area, my chain started skipping again. But this time it was so bad, I could barely make it to the top. I stopped to check it out. Turning the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur in all the way helped. At least, I could shift while putting power to the pedals and have no chain skip. I started off in pursuit of the group.

But by now, they were so far ahead of me, they weren’t to be seen. I decided to do the 32-mile route on my own.

It was an anticlimax. I had no one else to feed off, so my average speed was down. I passed several clubbers halfway along Fitzhugh Road, where they were watching one of their compadres fix a flat. Ten minutes later, they caught and passed me, and sailed on ahead. That was demoralizing.

Back at Starbuck’s, I enjoyed a smoothie while I waited for some of the group to show up. No one did. The longer route today meant they would be out on a road longer than usual. I headed home.

Today it was the strong southeast wind that got me. At one point, descending an easy hill at about 30 mph, a crosswind gust hit me and nearly knocked me off the bike. That got my attention, but made me cautious for the rest of the ride. My average speed for several days of riding is in the low 14s, which is okay, but not the mid-15s that I’ve been doing lately.

Hm. Have I been pushing too hard to be averaging in the 15s? That’s not an extraordinary speed. In fact, it used to be my old average. I can’t believe it’s a case of over training, since I ride only four days a week, so I’ve got three rest days. Could be lack of sleep, I suppose. I go to bed around midnight, and I’m up at 6 a.m. But I’ve always kept those hours, and seem to get along fine on six hours of sleep.

How about you? Do the biking blahs get you from time to time? If so, what do you do about them? If my past is any indication, I’ll snap out of the blahs in a few more days. But in the meantime, biking has lost its attraction for me.

Getting My Gear Together

Guest poster Don Blount deals with an issue that affects many of us from time to time…

I usually keep my biking gear in the same places.

Bike in garage.

Seasonal clothes in a closet and out of season items in a storage bench.

Helmet and a few other items such as my Garmin, spare tube and C02 cartridge, plastic bag for my phone, sunglasses and a pouch with key and money on the shelf of a bookcase in my home office. (I use the space that is available and that my wife does not object to me using.)

Of course this makes riding easy. Either the night before a ride I gather what I need and place them in an easily accessible place, such as my kitchen, or the day of a ride I can get what I need quickly and head out the door.

No rummaging, no searching, all aggravation free.

That is except when my system gets changed.

My mother-in-law was coming to visit for a week and would be staying in the home office, which has a day bed. So I moved my gear and other items out of that room and into my bedroom. It made sense, this way I would not need to go into my office during her stay.

And then the next morning I readied for a ride. Kitted up, prepared the bike and then went looking for the rest of my gear – sunglasses, a pouch with key and money, baggie for phone, baggie with spare tube and C02. And could not find them.

Tick, tick, tick. If I did not get out by a certain time I would miss my morning exercise window. After all, this was a workday and I could not just ride later.

I looked all over the bedroom as I was certain I had placed them in there. My wife looked as well and she could not find them. She even offered to go back into the home office and look to see if I had left them there. But we opted not to do that since her mother was still asleep.

Five minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes. Tick, tick, tick, slam.

The window had closed.

So I put my bike away.

I put away my helmet and gloves.

And I unkitted, if that is a word, and then I glanced beneath my wife’s dresser and saw a box that I had moved there the night before. Atop but toward the back of the box were the things I had been looking for. I thought for sure I had looked there. My wife looked there too. They were about two feet from the bed but you had to get down on your hands and knees to see them there. I looked under the bed, I looked under a bench but I had not gotten down to look on top and toward the back of the box.

Oh well.

Now, all of my riding gear is together in a corner of my bedroom. So the next time I plan to ride, I will be able to gather it all, without rummaging or searching and all aggravation free.

It Takes More Than Water

Summer temperatures are here in Texas now. Austin got its first 100-degree day (38C) this week, although thankfully, we’re way behind last year’s ridiculous 90 days of 100 degrees or more.

So I’ve been making sure I have plenty of water while out on my rides. But the advent of the really hot temperatures reminds me that water alone isn’t enough. If I needed a stark reminder of that fact, all I had to do was take note of this news item:

SAN ANTONIO, June 12 (UPI) — A 30-year-old man who fell ill during an endurance boat race in Texas has died, authorities said.

Brad Ellis, who had become ill Sunday during the Texas Water Safari race on the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers, was the first participant to die in the event’s 50-year history, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

Ellis died of hyponatremia, or low sodium, said Allen Spelce, president of the Texas Water Safari.

“It goes against logic,” Spelce said. “You think, ‘Drink water, drink water,’ but you’re expelling all of that sodium, through sweat and using the bathroom, and not getting the replacements.”

I plead guilty. I get by just fine with two bottles of water for rides of 30 miles or less. Part of the reason I bonked last weekend is that I was just drinking water and not replenishing my electrolytes on a ride about an hour longer than I’ve been doing lately. It’s time to start carrying some kind of electrolyte replacement again.

I’ve never been picky about what I use. Often, in the middle of a ride, I’ll stop at a convenience store and pick up a bottle of G2 — the low-sugar Gatorade. I have used Nuun in the past, and like it, although I know people who don’t care for the fizzy tablets you add to your water.

Most sports drinks have a variety of electrolytes — sodium, potassium, chloride and more — it appears that sodium is the one to be most concerned about. The Mayo Clinic’s website says sodium is important to the body, because it “helps maintain normal blood pressure, supports the work of your nerves and muscles, and regulates your body’s fluid balance.” If the sodium level drops too much, extra water enters your cells and swells them. It can even cause you brain cells to swell, and since the brain’s ability to enlarge is restricted by the skull, swollen brain cells could trigger more dangerous symptoms.

In lieu of a sports drink, you could munch on something salty. I’ve always liked a Payday candy bar. The peanuts that surround the nougat center of a Payday contain plenty of salt. A small bag of pretzels would work just as well.

The main thing to be aware of, though, is that water isn’t enough. The Mayo Clinic says you should only drink as much fluid as you lose through sweat during exercise. That would be about 34 ounces — or one liter — of water an hour. That’s about two water bottles. Uh oh — I usually drink only one bottle per hour. So hyponatremia wouldn’t seem to be a particular worry for me. I need to boost my fluid intake, and now that it’s really hot outside, make sure I replenish my sodium, too.

Just use the common sense guidelines you’ve been following since starting to cycle, and you’ll be fine.

 

Another Bonk — From An Inadequate Breakfast

“See ya,” I called to my wife as I left for the Sunday club ride.

“What did you have for breakfast?” she asked.

“Coupla pieces of toast and jelly, orange juice and coffee,” I replied.

“That’s not enough,” she said. “You need more.”

“It was fine yesterday,” I answered. “Did 30 miles [really 28] with no trouble.”

She looked doubtful, but I headed out.

Now,  I usually do eat a decent breakfast on club ride days. But our stove was on the fritz today, and I couldn’t do my usual eggs. I had been pleased the previous day that toast and coffee fueled me adequately for my ride that included some decent little hills. I figured I’d just repeat that today.

The club ride was deliberately routed south and east, to avoid traffic. The Republic of Texas — or ROT — Rally is in town this weekend. It’s a huge motorcycle event, and we wanted to avoid roads that we knew would get heavy motorcycle use.

We made a tight-knit peloton as we rode through suburban streets to get out to the main ride area. Twenty-one riders showed up today. We didn’t schedule a separate B ride, although about five or six B riders were in the group — we just went as one big club ride. Although the A’s separated from us on the road to Buda, they waited at a parking lot there and we all regrouped.

The ride leader took us through some Buda streets we hadn’t used before, so we got a look at some new stuff (Frankly, not much to see). We rolled down a side street at about a 17 mph pace, and Laura regaled me with a story about some bubbas who once took a swing at her former husband with brass knuckles, when he protested their pickup passing too close to him while he was on his bike. The cops — WHAM! Up ahead in the pack, a rider lost control and took a bad spill. We all stopped, and avoided any more mishaps. The fallen rider was Donald, whose front wheel had apparently nipped the rear wheel of the bike ahead of him.

We milled around making concerned noises as Donald checked himself out. He didn’t look to be too much the worse for wear.

“Are you bloody?” asked Mike, who just happens to be an emergency room doctor.

“Bloody mad,” replied Donald, our resident Brit, in his best received English accent.

Donald had some derailleur issues, and had to nurse his bike back home. We continued on. I noted with some satisfaction that I had done the 15-mile ride to Buda faster than I ever had before. I’m not crazy about riding in a pack, for the very thing that happened to Donald, but I had to admit that the group does pull one along nicely.

Out in the country, passing slapped-up apartment complexes, double-wides, and an occasional nice housing development, we hit some extended rollers. I was in my customary position, at the back of the pack, but feeling good. However, I could see I was not going to acquit myself well on the rollers today.

I crested a hill, only to see dots in the distance. I was falling farther behind the group on every ascent. By the time the route started turning, I had to stop to fish the cue sheet out of my pocket and see which way to turn. My speed was falling fast. I knew of a convenience store up ahead, and made a beeline for it (if you consider riding slow enough to be passed by a guy in everyday clothes on a hybrid to be making a beeline for anything).

At the store, I plopped on a bench, downed an energy gel, and ate part of a Clif Bar. I finished off one bottle of water and started on another. I just happened to look up, and saw a bunch of our B riders pass by. Ah ha! I knew what happened — they had diverged from the written cue sheet and gone to the store in Creedmoor to refill water bottles. I got my stuff together as quickly as possible in hopes of catching up to them.

It wasn’t to be. The caffeine-laced GU gel gave me a boost for a short time, but I got stuck at two stoplights, and they were already around a corner well ahead. I pedaled on alone, slower and slower. Finally, just a mile from the finish, I stopped in the shade of a large tree and sat on the curb. I remembered the bonk feeling — physically, I felt all right, but I was simply unable to turn the pedals. I finished off my Clif Bar and my water, and finally got back up on the bike. I made it to Starbucks, where Donald was telling the group about his fall.

I took stock of my situation. The toast I’d had the day before was spread with peanut butter, which no doubt provided a little extra nourishment for a ride that lasted less than two hours. The toast I had today was spread with strawberry jelly. Good, but not enough to sustain me for a 42-mile ride.

When I reached the house, Pat told me she’d had a great ride — after making herself a breakfast of oatmeal. She got the stove to work, too, jack of all trades that she is. I took a two-hour nap.

I know better — I’ve even visited this topic in the past. I pledge to eat better before rides from here on out. What do you recommend for breakfast?

Losing 100 Pounds – In One Year – On A Bike

Just when I wonder if I’ll ever start losing weight again, along comes a guest post from Welshman Chris Spann. He’s got me revved up again.

As the kind of bloke who never really used to do any exercise, I would have been very surprised if someone had told me four years ago that I would now be cycling over a 100 miles a week, as well as doing pressup sessions that involved well over 100 of them every time. In fact, I would have laughed in their face. At the time, I was a mess who felt as though everything was beginning to wear out fast.

It’s not that I had always been such a lazy fat lump. I played Rugby at school, and my bulk back then had been muscle rather than flab. The problems came when I left school and went to university.

The appeal of running around getting beaten up in the mud began to diminish rapidly, especially when I could stay snug in the student union bar on a Wednesday or Saturday afternoon. Not playing meant that I also stopped doing any fitness work in the gym. Anyone suggesting going on a bike ride would have been given short shrift.

This pattern continued after I left university and began work in a career that involved sitting at a desk all day, after sitting on a train for two hours each day to get there. The job was great, but I hardly ever did anything that was good for me, I just did not have the time to get out. Nor did I want to.

That is, until I hit 22. It was then that the boozy, calorie-ridden lifestyle I had been living began to show. My waistline began to expand rapidly. Very rapidly. I went from having the physique of a young Richard Harris to once being compared to Orson Welles after I’d experimented with a beard for a couple of weeks. Although I laughed, that line really stung.

Soon after that, my girlfriend left. My weight had ballooned to almost 22 stone, (over 300lbs), which for someone who is only just six foot tall is not flattering.

However, it was then that I decided to buy a bike. Nothing special, just a bog-standard mountain bike from the local bike shop. I had been on my bike every day as a kid, even eschewing my dad’s offer of lifts to rugby matches so that I could cycle instead. I got on it actually expecting to be able to just get back to that kind of level immediately – that was how arrogant I had become.

Instead, I found that just pedalling the three miles from my house to the next village was agony. I had to get off and rest for five minutes twice. But I managed to get there and back, even though it took me something like an hour and half to do so.

Incredibly, I actually enjoyed the pain and the challenge. The endorphins had begun to flow again and I felt my sportsman’s blood actually respond to the test and begin to fight back. This was something that I realised that I had been missing for a very long time in my life. The feel of your body working, it running like a machine, is addictive, there’s no arguing that.

So I went out and got some sports kit to wear. Nothing special and certainly no skin-tight cycling shorts. Instead, a basic helmet and gloves for safety and comfort, some decent knee-length sports shorts and a T-shirt. They made me feel fantastic (although I can’t promise the view was great for others) and I began to cycle every day, even in bad weather.

It was a slow process. That was a year ago and although it has not always been easy, I have managed to lose something like seven stone – around 100 pounds – from those days of being told I looked like Orson Welles.

It did not happen just like that. There was a lot of pain and work, especially into head winds uphill in February – I live in Wales, where there are plenty of both. But if you really want to get fit then you will put up with that kind of challenge, then embrace it and then actually come to enjoy it.

Perhaps the hardest part of it all was watching out for my diet. However, with some sensible management of my carbohydrate and fat intake, I was able to complement the exercise with a more sensible refuelling regime. Lots of veg, fruit and lean meats, combined with just enough pasta, rice or boodles to make your meals interesting. I cook a mean stir-fry, and if I ever meet you I’ll cook one.

It’s been a funny old year, all in all – but I got through it. I even came out of it better off:- emotionally, physically, the lot. I’ve also quit smoking in that time, and I’m now working on stopping the nailbiting that I’ve done since I had teeth.

It’s the hardest damn thing I’ve ever done, I won’t lie.

Chris is a writer for moneysupermarket.com by day; by night he’s usually pedalling into head winds. In February. In Wales.

A Change of Biking Pace — The Catrike

In the last post, I mentioned that my friend Don Bynum doesn’t ride a conventional bike — he rides a three-wheeled recumbent, a Catrike. I first saw one of these years ago, when a guy rode one on the first century ride I did. I was impressed by its quickness.

Don likes to tweak those of us who still ride our “prostate crushers” and proselytizes for the three-wheeler. It bears a closer look, methinks.

Recumbent bikes come in two- and three-wheeled versions. The three-wheelers can have either two wheels in the rear — a “delta” — or two wheels in front — a “tadpole.” I think it’s safe to say, without any empirical corroboration, that the “tadpole” trike is the favored variety. A seat (and it’s properly called a “seat” and not a saddle, because you sit in it like a chair) is slung in the middle. The pedals are mounted on a boom that sticks out in front. The resulting balance is excellent — and you don’t have to be moving forward to stay upright.

The Catrike “Road” (Click to enlarge.)

Don tells a familiar story about adopting a recumbent. Conventional upright bike saddles hurt too much. He says he spent about $1500 over a five or six-year period on “anatomically correct” saddles, but “a 10-mile ride would leave me completely without feeling in my ‘tender parts’ for a couple of days.”

He rode a two-wheeled recumbent, but when he decided to move to the Hill Country of Texas, he got the Catrike. “Since I was obviously going to be riding in hilly terrain and getting clipped back in if I needed to pause to keep my heart from exploding, or to enjoy some sight, getting back going was going to be very difficult [on a 2-wheeler],” he said. “There is a great benefit in this area, where hills of 18%+ grade are not uncommon, to being able to simply put on the brakes, relax for a minute, then just start up with no ‘clip-in drama.'”

Don on (in?) the Catrike Road.

During our ride, Don often pulled out into the traffic lane and sailed by the rest of us, even when we were motoring along at a nice clip. On downhills, the thing simply takes off. Don says he’s comfortable hitting speeds above 45 mph, even on curvy roads. He’s posted several videos of him flying down grades.

Its downhill speed is obviously helped by its weight. Don says the Catrike Road weighs about 32 pounds, and he loads it up with other equipment. “I purposely carry more water than I need and often ‘bail out’ my fellow riders who go off into the hills with only two half-liter bottles on board, where no 7-11 can be found,” he said.  “I often carry six 700mL bottles and can add three more in a bag on the luggage rack if needed.”

That extra weight is also a big disadvantage. Whenever we hit even a slight upgrade, Don fell behind. The Catrike is geared low enough that he can climb most any hill he encounters, and often pedals up hills his diamond frame friends are forced to walk. “It needs lots of gears and the low end needs to be really low,” Don said.  “I think my rear cassette has a 32 tooth low gear.” But he says he’s getting better at keeping up with other riders, and on our ride, he would pull in to rest stops less than a minute after we arrived. And he admits it does have a harsh ride on rough pavement.

What about safety issues?

The Catrike is low to the ground, no doubt about it. That means it can be hard to see. Don says the big problem there is riding alongside parked cars. Where a road biker is perched high enough to be seen in a rear-view mirror (and theoretically avoid being doored), the Catrike is down out of sight. But he contends that most of the time, that odd appearance works to his benefit.

You won’t be able to catch much of a draft when following a trike.

“The thing looks so weird that it seems to register on drivers’ addled brains when even a large Harley, much less a Cannondale road bike does not,” he said.  “My big traffic problem has, so far, been people stopping me to inquire about what the heck it is, how much it cost and where to get one — most turn pale at the response to the cost question.” (MSRP on a Catrike Road is $2,950, according to the Catrike website.)

Another important safety consideration — always wear cleats. “There is a natural tendency to, in a moment of crisis, try to put one’s feet down to help stop,” Don said.”  The result is very likely to be running over your own feet and legs, pinning them under the front axles so badly that another person must lift one front wheel off the ground, help get one leg out, then go to the other side and repeat the process.” With cleats, the rider just focuses on braking.

But you’re not likely to fall off a Catrike (Don cautions that delta-style recumbents have a higher center of gravity and are more susceptible to rolling). And even mossy low-water crossings are not a problem. “You get wet,” Don said, “but a steady hand and just coasting through seems very safe.  And if you hit the water at 25-30mph it is very cooling as well.”

Don says trike owners are probably going to have to become their own mechanics, because of the very long chains found on recumbent bikes. Even though the drive train components are the same as you find on an upright bike, bike shops generally aren’t good at setting up recumbents, Don says.

Finally, Don urges trike owners to get out there and ride: “I regret that most Catrike riders seem to be absolutely freaked at the idea of a hill bigger than a freeway overpass in Houston or a ride longer than 10-15 miles.  But that is their loss.”