Having proven I could ride my high racer well enough to cover 27 miles last weekend, this weekend I set off on a long planned mini-tour. Mrs W and I had planned to do this together, and one day next year I hope we will – but at eight months pregnant a 40 mile bike ride has been out of the question for her for a few weeks since.
My route out skirted around Waddington Fell so I could enjoy may favourite valley – the Hodder – and after Slaidburn took me up onto the fell over to Tosside. I may have walked two hills that day, but the climb out of Slaidburn was not one of them. I felt buoyed up by making up a 1in6 with a tight hairpin in the middle. The Metabike is proving as good as reported for getting up hills – every bit as good as a standard up-right. When I fail it is really down to confidence. Not only am I new to two wheel recumbent riding, I am also new to being clipped in. Going slowing uphill with your feet above your head is proving an acquired skill.
After Settle the real climbing began up into the foothills of Pen-y-Ghent. The sun was out and the views glorious.The climb topped out at 440 m and from there it was all downhill for the three miles to my destination – The Queens Arms in Litton.
Mrs W was waiting in the van outside (having a nap, lucky her!) but woke up to buy me a pint and then go for a stroll beside the river before dinner. The atmosphere in the Queens Arms was as good as when we first visited in the winter – a very pleasant evening ensued.
The next day saw me start off at 0900 in the direction of Arnside. I fondly remembered my wife’s late Grandfather, Lionel, who always spoke so warmly about Littondale. The route down the valley was slightly downhill, following the river, and this led to fantastic cruising speeds on the Metabike. I can but imagine how fast I’ll go once I have developed all the right muscles and the confidence to go with them. After 18 miles I arrived in Gargrave and was mighty chuffed to note an average speed of 15.5 mph. After Gargrave the wind really picked up, and whilst it did not feel like the drag I am used to on my upright, the stat’s on my cycle computer could not be argued with, it was slowing me down.
It was nice to see the Leeds-to-Liverpool canal a few times on my way into Barnoldswick (Barlick), but by this point I’d already eaten my lunch and was ready for a second one (I blame the headwind). Stumbled on ‘The Chef’s Pantry’ a bakery and deli in the town centre. What a Godsend! A fabulous bacon and black pudding roll for just £2.15. I love cycling, it means you can eat like this with a clean conscience! I can see Barlick forming an integral part of further cycling trips after this discovery.
It was quite a climb over the fell to Downham after >20 miles into a strong wind. But as I’ve noted before on the Metabike – you look at the hill and think ‘that’ll be hard’ and then you find yourself half way up and think ‘ this is much easier than I thought ‘.
Really this was more of a learning experience than a chance to see the scenery so what did I conclude
The reported mechanical efficiency of the Metabike is all it is claimed to be – riding up all hills less than 1in5 seems as easy as on an upright – perhaps easier? That sometimes it feel easier I think is the move to a high cadence ‘spinning’ technique over a low cadence ‘grinding’ technique. A change forced by necessity (clearly you cannot stand up and pull on the bars anymore) but welcomed as a good and wise change.
The harshness of the stiff frame is OK on decent roads, but trying on badly broken back lanes. This made one thing obvious in my trip and that was the transition from Lancashire into Yorkshire. We all know that Yorkshire folk think their country the greatest not just in the UK but in the world, but for sure their council has a more effective road maintenance policy.
Getting the positioning of the handlebars just right is critical to being able to relax. Mid way though day one I raised the height a little and tipped the angle to a little more vertical (to make my wrist-to-arm junction straighter) and this really helped me drop my shoulders and relax more.
The high level of concentration needed on day one detracted from riding pleasure, but by day two I was starting to enjoy the views and the ride – the whole riding experience was becoming more natural.
So whilst gaining the first 70% of what is needed to ride a high racer proved easy for me, I can see it will take quite a few more day rides to fully relax into this new mode of cycling. But the ability to ride 40 hilly miles in a morning is a great incentive to keep on building on my experience. I hope next year to do a pukka week-long tour, junior Weston and his trailer allowing…