HPV CommuteMachine

It always seems a shame to put up a post without a photo or two within it. Perhaps I’ll have chance to add one later. What follows is likely to bear relation to many people who have been bitten by the recumbent bug. One is never enough. I think the reason is clear and normally unspoken….   For all the advantages of riding recumbent, the challenge is which design of bike or trike to choose.   When you have a choice with anything in life you have to play the pluses against the minuses – but with ‘bents the designs we have today, I am not aware of a machine out there which has the breadth of utility of a conventional diamond-frame design. With my 531 steel tourer, a little gentle off road is OK, riding with a group of roadies is OK and it’s good for commuting to work, pulling a kiddy trailer and of course it excels at touring. But if such true versatility exists in a ‘bent I have yet to see the design to achieve this. I would however be delighted to be corrected on this, dear reader.

My recumbent journey started with a trike. I opted for full suspension as it had 20” wheels and being a ‘bent I could not hitch myself out of the saddle for pot holes. It was supremely comfortable and an enormous amount of fun. It was fabulous for commuting and OK for short local day rides. However for longer day rides or touring the mechanical inefficiency of having three wheels on the road, the losses into the suspension / chain tubes and the weight meant that 40 miles felt like 60, especially when hauling panniers or a baby trailer. I did take it on a tour  which I really enjoyed, but it was too hard work up hills with a load. As I say, 40 miles felt like 60. It was however great in the snow and I think it is this capability that I will miss most, but probably only for one week every five years. She is now sold.

My downfall was looking for the most efficient long distance, hill climbing machine on the market. There seemed to be two designs considered to contend for this prize. The Lightning P38  and the Metabike.   I did get to sit on a P38 thanks to a kind young lady in Edinburgh who dropped into Laid Back Bikes (LBB) when I was there for a test ride. But in that short time I simply could master riding it. Also, it had a 20” unsuspended front wheel which from my experience is just not practical on British roads where we don’t so much ride on the left of the road as ride on what is left of the road!  Whilst I was at LBB I tried a Nazca Fuego (20” unsuspended front wheel) and whilst this was great in many ways, on Edinburgh cobbles it did seek to shake out all my fillings! So having tried a few designs I opted for the Metabike, where the 28” wheels take the edge off the British roads without having the inherent inefficiency of mechanical suspension. It was and is great, but as I said it was also my downfall. This showed me just how fast and efficient a ‘bent could be.  It doesn’t have suspension or chain tube losses, it isn’t heavy and yet the frame is braced and stiff. It allows me average speeds, over the same route, some 2 mph faster than my standard touring bike. So I found I did not need to compromise efficiency to enjoy the laid back posture of ‘bent riding, from then on the days were numbered for the trike.

However, whilst the Metabike is truly fabulous for day rides and touring, and if you are a regular reader you’ll know I rode along the Pennines / Spine of the England in the summer, it is not ideal for commuting in stop / start commuter traffic.   So what to do if I want to keep my ‘bent muscles working between tours, have the pleasure of a laid back commute into work but not be peddling something I know is far harder (less efficient) that I know it could be? It was time to research a compromise machine. Something easier to balance in stop/start traffic, good over potholes and yet not as inefficient as the trike… I guess it should be no surprise that my choice was to be the recumbent which is the most popular in the UK. Others also must have been looking for a versatile machine, and perhaps it is what I should have started with too. That said, hindsight is always 20:20!

So three weeks ago I went for a long drive to test ride, then purchase and bring home a second hand HPV Streetmachine GTe.   The first thing it needed was a change of drive chain to lose the grip shifts and 8 speed rear mech. My thanks to the ever helpful Richard at ATR Cycles for his advice and speedy work upgrading me to bar end shifters, cable oilers (ready for the winter) and rear cassette. She is now a great ride. Not as efficient as the Metabike, but on the spectrum from suspended trike to High Racer I know I am far closer to the High Racer end of the range. And for me efficiency really matters, not just as a concept but because my commute home involves picking up my son in his trailer and then cycling up hill to get home.

Too hot to trike

ImageWe made ourselves a promise that when there was a good weather forecast for the whole weekend that I’d cycle to York (my Alma Mater) and Mrs W follow along in the van for the overnight stop.  The UK is experiencing a prolonged period of high pressure this July, so the time seemed ripe.   What I didn’t reckon upon was just how hot and intense the sun would be.  Day one took me through the Yorkshire Dales and involved a good amount of height gain.  The morning went very well, with lunch in the attractively named Appletreewick.  I think it was Greenhow Hill (ca. 405 metres) just before Pateley Bridge that did the damage.  As careful as I was with taking in liquid (around 750 ml / hour) I think it was heat stroke that led to the next 5 miles seeming much less than pleasant and very hard work.  In retrospect I should not have ditched my helmet at lunchtime and kept it on to keep the sun off my head.  I like to forget that I am not so well insulated up there as I once was!

 The day ended just 6 miles shy of Boroughbridge in a pleasant campsite – but I only started to feel human again after spending five minutes stood under a cold shower.  Suffice it to say that, after 56 miles and some big hills I slept well that night.  Sunday was just as glorious but now I was in the Vale of York.  Flat with many trees shading the road.  That and a 0820 start really helped to start the day well.  By 1100 I was in the shade of York’s Mothercare store awaiting Mrs W to look at baby gismo’s for Junior.  Now he has some emergency bottles in case the natural approach should falter or fail.  Though whether the local NHS would ever speak to you or treat you again if you didn’t breast feed I do wonder from their many posters and militant approach.  But back to the ride.  Whilst the scenery of the Vale of York is only gentle in comparison to the Dales, I did enjoy it.  The trike was in it’s element on the flat, and I even spent five minutes keeping up with a road bike peloton as they asking my many questions about my steed.  How pleasant to be in Yorkshire where everyone is so down to earth.  As nice a country as Lancashire, well almost anyway…

Highlights of our cycle tour of mid-Wales / Herefordshire

I posted details of our route a few weeks back

Great name!
Great name!

 – now here are some pictures.  The trike performed well, but was hard work on the hills to the East of Llanbister.  I am also pleased to report that the Jump Stop  was faltless in it’s application too.  A good week.

 

Crossing the Wye at Symonds Yat

Crossing the Wye at Symonds Yat

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Llanthony Priory (end of day 4)

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Gospel Pass

Over the Gospel Pass

Over the Gospel Pass

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Lunch between two streams – on the way up Hay Bluff

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Stocking up in Rhayader

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Last hill before Rhayader – coming out from Elan Valley

Day 2

Day 2

Frozen gear cables

It seems that I’ve got water into my gear cables – and when the temperature dropped to -5C then froze solid, leaving me stuck in one gear.  There seemed little point in having snow & ice tyres but then only having one gear when it became cold enough to take advantage of them.  So, a trip to my excellent local bike mechanic  – ATR Cycles – led to us working together to replace cables and housing.  Indeed they were full of water.  So now I have a new set, and the old housings in the airing-cupboard to dry out for next time.  I’ve seen some rather neat oil nipple accessories you can fit – but that would mean removing the cable and then re-fitting again – so this seems a job to leave until they freeze again, or at least until the summer when my workshop is well above zero celcius!

Happy despite the rain – sporting a recumbent grin.

Well, here in Lancashire we are in the middle of the wet-season (June to March) and despite this I find my recumbent grin is not being washed away by the rainfall. When I left work tonight it was dark and raining – not normally an attractive prospect for a cycle commute home. However, the joy and novely of recumbent riding has not wained! I enjoyed my ride home, as I have done each day, both in and out over the past six weeks. Sometimes I ponder that it would be nice to have a two seater soft-top car, but then the reality dawns that I rarely drive anywhere so I could not really enjoy such a toy. The recumbent trike, however, is used twice a day each week day and at least once at the weekends too. Swift to accelerate, low to the ground and open to the elements – all the joys of an MX-5 but on a daily basis and with a very respectible carbon footprint.

Trike on tour

This weekend saw us take the Scorpion on its first mini-tour.  Two days of ca. 40 miles over the fells of the Forest of Bowland to Lancaster.

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Out via Slaidburn and High Bentham, and past the source of my favourite river, The Hodder.

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A view here from above Harrop Fold looking over to the fells of the Forest of Bowland.

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Great weather for October.

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It appears I make the perfect bike stand when my wife wants to get off to take photo’s.  Well at least I brought my own deck-chair so I was good and comfy whilst I waited!

Our route back was via Sustrans route 6, Abbeystead and the Dunsop Bridge (the centre of the kingdom)

What a great two days it was, and made all the more enjoyable for being on a recumbent.  Going down the Trough of Bowland with your rear six inches from the road is a most exhilarating experience.  It is true that going up hill was a little harder (akin to being on a tandem with a fit partner) but my speed was matched to the other half, so no time was lost.  I was more inclined to stop and wait for her too, partly because being physically laid back imparts that attitude and partly because I had brought my own deck chair to sit on and soak up the rays.