Everyone has some recreational activity that is theirs for life. They like
it when they are kids and they never stop liking it. For me that has been
riding a bicycle. My dad indulged me in the early sixties by dragging me
around to collect pop bottles and beer bottles on the sides of roads until
I had accumulated enough to help pay for a two wheeler which I promptly
started riding from one end of town to the other. No street went uncovered.
A few years later I started riding between towns. When I was 10 I had a
comfortable range of 17 miles from home. At least I was comfortable.
I'm not sure what my mother thought of the idea. The next place I lived
was 8 miles from the nearest town, so how else was a guy to get around.
My first daughter was born by the time I finished university, so some of
my rides included a very small child on my back. Occasionally my back got
flooded with something warmer than my own sweat, but what the heck. It was
part of the experience. On the days we were going to a pool party a
shower was in order before jumping in anyways.
When my second daughter was born I bought a trailer and towed them both around.
It slowed me down enough that my wife was comfortable riding along some of
In the mid 90s a medical situation made riding a normal bicycle ill advised
and before long I looked to recumbents as an alternative. My recumbent
experience started with a frame a friend had constructed out of parts
from a couple of bikes. He also built a cycle-lawn mower, but that's
another story. I added parts from a couple more bikes and rode around
on a home built long wheel base recumbent for a good part of a season.
In addition to putting much less stress on the circulatory system, it
turns out that a recumbent is much easier on the neck and wrists than
the high seat, low bars configuration of a traditional bicycle.
Back in 1995 there wasn't a lot of choice in either light or affordable
recumbents. While looking for sun on a vacation in my convertible I
found a store in Rocky Mount that had a few recumbents and a place to
try them out. The Bike E was brand new. It was a very simple design
and made mostly of aluminum. For $600 it seemed like a steal. It was
impractical to take it home in a roadster so I made a mental picture
of the bike and carried on.
A few months later my family wanted a vacation in Myrtle Beach so I made
a harness that would let me carry the Bike E in a standard roof rack.
We stopped overnight in Rocky Mount and I bought an electric blue Bike E.
My mental image was off by a few degrees, but the harness was good enough
to get to hold the bike firmly on the roof with about 5 minutes work.
By noon the next day I was ready to ride along the beach while the girls
went swimming. The Harley dudes with choppers loved the raked out front
end and had a grand time ragging me for having illegal forks.
The Bike E was good fun and relatively easy to ride being less extreme
than many recumbents. I found the gearing a little low for my tastes so
I replaced the front sprocket with a 52 which gave me a massive top gear.
When I came to a clear road with a bit of down hill grade, a top speed
test was in order. At 76 kmph the speedometer blanked out, because the
tiny front wheel was spinning too fast for the computer to keep up with.
My cadence was 115 and I upped it to 130 before backing off to a sensible
speed in preparation for an intersection.
A limitation of the Bike E is that it has a very light front end. This
is particularly noticeable on an uphill grade when you are trying to
accelerate. If you try to play gorilla with a big leg push in a high
gear the front wheel will want to come up. Great for impressing the
local BMX kids. Not so good for stability or getting around. I got
in the habit of starting off in low gears anyway to reduce stresses on
the drivetrain. The planetary hub is great for getting into a lower gear
range after an unexpected stop on a hill.
On one business trip to Chicago I decided to test for myself the benefits
of a fairing. I picked up a zipper fairing at Rapid City Cycle and
found it gave me about a 10% speed improvement. It didn't get me back
to the speeds I had been used to on my carbon fibre race bike, but it
was a satisfying improvement even though it did add 50% to the cost of
the bike. An added benefit was keeping small tree parts from slapping
me in a mountain bike charity ride I did for a few years. The Bike E
isn't ideal for off roading, but it was the funkiest looking bike on
the course and the hard core mountain bikers thought it was way cool
to even try the route with it.
A few years later a Dodge decided to dislocate my right knee. Trust me,
you do not want a headlamp implanted immediately below your knee cap.
After 3 days in the hospital I went home with a rigid knee brace and crutches.
After a couple of weeks feeling lazy I noticed the pedals of the Bike E
lent themselves to pedaling from the front with my arms. I put my winter
trainer on a relatively light resistance and pedaled with my hands for
my cardio workout while my leg was healing. It is amazing, perhaps
obvious, but I still found it amazing how quickly you can get your heart
rate up using your arms to propel a bike. When my leg was declared
suitable for use again, I used the Bike E on a trainer to give my knee
a decent workout in a controlled environment.
So...nice bike for a good price. I still have it though now it is
mostly used on a trainer in the winter. I warm up by pedaling with
my arms and then jump on and finish with the legs. Also, when
transporting it now I use a standard fork mount rail. If you invert
the fork it fits like a charm - a tip I got from the Bicycle Spokesman.
After riding recumbents for a few years, I started looking at more exciting
bikes. Part of me wanted something as exotic as the carbon fibre bike
I had ridden when I was younger. Part of me also knew that I wouldn't
be able to use the state of the art in cycling to its fullest potential,
but you're never too old to dream a bit. I looked at just about everything
and tried a bunch of bikes.
In the summer of 2003 I had some bonus money burning a hole in my pocket
and had pretty much decided what I was going to buy with it when I visited
the Bicycle Spokesman to get an off road tire for my Bike E. The owner
was customizing an early edition Bacchetta Strada and let me take it
for a spin. This bike was a whole new experience and my wife knew it
would be mine the first time she saw me turn the corner towards her.
Most of the bikes I found interesting rode quite low. The Bacchetta
is super tall. You sit up above the world on it and the full size tires
give you 'normal' gear inches. Joe had upgraded the brakes and put bar
end shifters on it. He tidied that up and added a mirror and a computer
to the bike before sending me home with it.
The elevated foot position and thrill of a new souped up machine gave
me much greater range in my bike rides. I found I could ride about 50%
longer, which was pretty exciting.
The seating position is about as adjustable as you can get. There is
a wide range of fore and aft movement. Much more than is necessary to
get a good riding position, but very convenient to lower the profile
for transporting the bike. The angle of the seat back can also be adjusted
from near upright, which is good for visibility on the street, to an
extreme recline designed for speed.
One oddity is the movement in the steering mechanism. It flips in and
out of position to make it easy to get in and out of the bike. This
isn't a problem riding the bike, but makes it a bit awkward to carry the bike.
The high seating position might make this bike a bit frightening for
someone who hasn't been on a recumbent before, but it is a great bike
and you can ride like the wind. My only qualification with this bike
is that it isn't as nimble as a traditional bike. You can turn at speed,
but you need a bit more space to do it. Stopping and starting also takes
a bit more deliberate planning than a normal bike because you need to
get your feet into the air to start and back on the ground when you stop.
This isn't a problem on quiet roads, but isn't ideal in traffic or on
paths where there may be kids and dogs darting around.
Now this is a totally different ballgame. I lusted after Greenspeeds for
years, but they were always too expensive to seriously consider. The
first one I looked at had 105 gears which was just mind boggling. A
standard, for the time, 7 speed at the back and 3 front sprockets at
the front with extra 5 speed derailleur in the middle. I'm not sure
what a person would do with all of those gears but it did get my attention.
These trikes had a great reputation for performance.
In 2005 I started testing trikes mostly for fun. I thought nothing of
taking a 200 km drive to try out a trike. The Catrike Pocket was the
talk of the town as a good value trike so I gave it a try and while
it was fun, I found it very jittery.
One Friday I finished work early and went to Recumbent Bike Riders in
State College, PA. This is far and away the best place I've ever been
for selection of recumbents. I tried out half a dozen trikes in the
afternoon and my wife tried a couple as well.
The two Greenspeeds I tried ruled. Light, maneuverable and fast.
What more could you ask. I very rarely buy anything the first time I
see it. I like to walk away to give myself a chance to see how much
I really like it. My gesture to this policy was to go and get a drink
while I contemplated a bright yellow X5 with Scorcher tires. A strong
Canadian dollar made the price much more reasonable than when I had
first seen Greenspeeds in the late 90s.
I decided it would be a good buy and my wife volunteered that she thought
it would be the perfect birthday present so she would buy it and let
me borrow it until my next birthday. That was over 6 months away, but
she didn't want to take a chance on trying to find another X5 in North
America, it being a brand new model and all. It became officially mine
in Myrtle Beach where we were pretty sure it should be warm enough to
put some good miles on.
The Greenspeed is a very different riding experience for a few reasons:
1) You ride very close to the ground. I occasionally drag my gloved
hand on the ground just for grins.
2) It is incredibly nimble. You can change directions so fast you can
make yourself dizzy. Anytime the roads aren't safe, you can have a
great time zipping around a parking lot inventing an obstacle course
as you go.
3) Acceleration and stopping can be much more aggressive than anything
else I've owned. You don't have to be aggressive, but the trike's
strength and stability make it easy to just goof around and have fun.
4) If you get tired, you can slow to a crawl without worrying about
balance, or even take a nap in the bike. Especially if you spring
for the optional head rest.
5) You ride completely below the window of most cars and all trucks.
This makes riding on city streets a bit of an iffy proposition. I
run the usual flag and have added some lights aimed at different
angles to make myself more visible, but I think this bike is much
better suited to paths or open road than to city streets. It is too
easy for a driver not to see you if they aren't approaching from a
good distance away. I've never been a fan of bike paths, but I search
them out for the Greenspeed.
6) The bike also has a pretty wide stance
and occupies close to a meter on the side of the road. I've found
this annoys some drivers - even early Sunday morning with two lanes
in your direction and nobody else on the road. Further incentive to find paths.
While it didn't really impact the appeal of the trike, as an added bonus
you can fold it. It is dead simple and cuts the footprint almost in
half. Folded it will fit in a large trunk. The key dimension in that
fit is the height - a 23 inch trunk depth will handle it no problem.
You can cut a piece of dense foam to support the frame at one end to
fit into a 21 ½ inch depth.
This bike is just plain fun.
This was another birthday present. Ten plus years of riding recumbents
was helping me maintain a reasonable state of fitness, but as the population
grows and the traffic with it, I found myself more and more constrained in
when it was safe to take a recumbent out. Because they aren't as nimble as
a standard bike, you don't have as many options for escaping a bad situation.
As traffic volume increases and impatience and distractions make more drivers
do silly and unexpected things, the more escape routes you have the better
off you are.
This got me thinking of the merits of a traditional bike. Something I could
use for a quick outing whenever the urge struck me. No waiting for traffic
to die down, or needing to go to a road other people didn't use. Just saddle
up and go. If trouble heads your way you can jump a curb, ride into the ditch,
or even step off the bike and run. I borrowed by daughter's Kona Unit (a slick,
little, mountain style, one speed) and thought it was a hoot.
Then one day on vacation, I passed a custom bike store in a little cubby
hole in Calgary and saw Goldie. This bike was built for use in a velodrome,
though the style is favoured by a number of the hard core couriers. One
fixed gear. No brakes. You stop or go with your legs. There was no escaping
the beauty of this very simple bike.
Campione Cycle found some matching brakes for us to put on to make the
bike a bit safer on the street and off I went. Riding a fixed gear bike
is different in a couple of respects. Number one is you get your workout
faster because there is no resting. No being lazy and dropping into a
lower gear to climb the hill. No coasting on the downhill. And trust me:
do not let your feet come off the pedals on a downhill - you'll never
catch up to them.
The second thing about a fixie that trips some people up is resisting
an instinct to stop pedaling when going around a corner. Some people
stop pedaling because they are afraid of corners and others stop so
the inside pedal doesn't ground out, but on a fixie if you stop pedaling,
you stop moving. I've spent enough time on tracks to know that keeping
power to the back wheel in a corner enhances stability, so it wasn't
an issue for me - well except for that one time on an icy patch where
the 'Oh crap!' won out over the 'Keep rolling.'.
So...great workout, low maintenance, pretty as they come.
I didn't set out to buy a bike like this. It was an accident that came
about while helping my wife choose a bike. She wanted something mountain
styled with big knobby tires and a front suspension to minimize bouncing
her wrists. After she found a front suspension she liked, I talked her
into giving a full suspension a try just for grins with a bit of blah-blah
about why it might be good. She gave it a go and ended up buying a very
nice full suspension mountain bike.
While she was testing out bikes she liked, I road along on a shop bike.
In general I found the full suspension bikes a bit bouncy for my tastes.
This was most noticeable with the power stroke I tend to use to get moving.
I'd noticed this trying a friend's bike in the past and had pretty much
written off a full suspension for myself. I explained this to the shop
keeper who thought maybe I'd like to get a new bike too and out came
this Stumpjumper with its 'brain' suspension.
I was skeptical, and not really in the market for a bicycle, but curiosity
compelled me to give it a try. The first run was still a bit bouncy under
power, but a quick adjustment to the setup turned it into a very nice ride.
The rear suspension actually softened the bumps on the trail without
absorbing the input from my legs. This was very cool.
I quickly convinced myself that this would let me ride new places when
the roads were too busy for my tastes. Besides, mud and tree branches
are generally more visually appealing that asphalt and bumpers.
The annual extensions to the river path behind my house have made this
my most used bicycle when riding from home.
This might be the end of the reverse conversion from riding strictly
recumbents for many years back to riding primarily normal bikes. I think
most people convert to recumbents to reduce stress on some combination
of their wrists, neck and back. A few do it for style points or the
incredible speed you can manage with a very low profile, but I think
they are a small minority. Regardless, once people make the transition
to recumbents, they usually stay there.
I switched back to normal bikes mostly because of my sense of safety
and control. Most recumbents just aren't as easy to maneuver as a standard
bike. Not so much so that it affects your ride under normal circumstances,
but enough to put you at a bit of a disadvantage in an emergency situation.
Since I like all of my body parts exactly where they are, I try to stack
the deck as much in my favour as I can.
Once it became clear that I could ride a standard bike again, I started
to prefer them for their smaller footprint and greater maneuverability.
Some days a person just wants to get out on the road and ride. That is
what this bike is for. It is incredibly light, has a big chain ring up
front and loves a long smooth road.
Road bikes have definitely come a long way since the last race bike
I bought about 20 years ago.
I thought I had enough bikes, but did note on a couple of vacations that it
would be nice to have a road bike with me. I didn't want to put the S Works
bike on the roof for an extended trip and there isn't generally room for it
in my car once it is packed with luggage for a couple of people. I had also
pointed out Wilier's first effort at a cross bike to my wife, who thought I
should get it. I watched the price drift lower over a number of months, but
didn't get it because I wasn't sure where I would put it.
Eventually my wife decided it would make a good birthday present and it
arrived from Competitive Cyclist one day when I was home alone. Their
packaging made it super easy to get the bike ready to roll. The geometry is
fairly close to a road bike. Close enough that the differences don't really
show up until you get out on it. The most visible differences were the
tires and brakes. The brakes are cantilever, which makes it a bit easier to
get the bigger tires though when removing the wheel. They should also be
less prone to getting junk in them when the road gets mucky. The tires are
much bigger at 32mm and have nice knobs on them for grip.
I rode the bike for a while as it shipped and quite like that set up for
strange roads that can be in questionable condition and in places where you
need/want to be able to get off the road in a hurry, like where there is
no shoulder and quite a bit of traffic. When it came time to travel with
my daughter to check out the bike portion of a triathlon, it thought road
tires would be in order so I got a set of sleek 23cm rubber. I also swapped
out the seat for one that was a bit longer to give more room to move
around. The result was a really nice road bike. There is a good chance I
will get a spare pair of wheels to make the switch between road and cross
setup a bit quicker. My travel bag accommodates two sets of wheels, so I
could travel and be prepared for whatever conditions I arrived at.
I currently switch just two things when going from cross mode to road mode:
1) tires go from knobby 32 mm to slick 23 mm (and maybe 25 cm the next time
I buy new tires)
2) pedals go from Crank Brothers Eggbeaters to Speedplay Zeros
There is plenty of space for both in my travel bag which fits upright in my
GTI leaving plenty of room for everyone's luggage.
I was intrigued by fat bikes the day they came out and tested every one I could
find. I was willing to drive two hours from home to check out something different.
I tried moderately priced $1,500 bikes and super light $10,000 bikes. I even tried
a couple with electric assists.
My interest in them was to extend the riding season so that I didn't have to spend
as many hours on a trainer between early December and March. Being able to handle
snow was essential and having some ice capability would be helpful. I found that
4.6 inch tires felt much better than narrower ones when the snow got deeper. They
also felt better in the crunchy melt-freeze-melt-freeze ice, corn snow mix that we
get in March and early April on trails in the woods. Being able to accommodate a wide
tire was the first part of the spec that I settled on.
Some people feel that a fat bike doesn't really need a suspension and while I can
see the case for that, I found that a front suspension was a nice addition. I tried
several, the most interesting being a Luft. The Luft was very nice engineering and
I might put it on a bike someday. For the fat bike, which might be used for some
longish winter excursions, I was happy to go to with something a bit more traditional.
The last real decision was frame size. I went with a smaller frame than usual mostly
because I felt the conditions I would be riding in would best be served by giving
myself a bit more room to move around. The Specialized FatBoy Trail Pro fit the
bill quite nicely and as a bonus came with a seat dropper. I tested this very bike
a couple of times, once in a serious slime fest. I decided it was the right bike and
sat back to give it some time.
While I was relaxing, my wife decided it would make a good birthday present and
arranged to buy it - 3 months before my birthday. She kept it stored for a while, but
eventually enough of winter broke out that she set it up in the library to present to
me. It really is a great winter bike. Since getting it, I've become a believer in it
being quite an acceptable general mountain bike. I've also come to accept that 1x11 is a
perfectly good drive train for most purposes.