Recumbents and all feet forward machines
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After most of a week of taking short trips while getting used to the handling of the new 'bent I've now taken New Bike on some slightly longer rides and thought I'd share my impressions. Still too early for a full blown review, but I'll bore you lot with my experiences as a newbie recumbent rider anyway.
On Friday evening I took New Bike on the longer of my two commuting routes for the first time, still only 22km but involving a few busy 2 and 3 lane major roads. On the first big hill I was delayed by a technical hitch, while shifting down chainrings the lower, return side of the chain manage to wrap itself around the top of the front derailleur (how is that even possible?) and the derailleur was twisted out of position. A quick bit of in-the-field bicycle maintenance and I was able to ride home without further difficulties. Riding in traffic on the 'bent wasn't particularly unnerving, my visibility seemed fine and with a combination of my handlebar mirror and head checks (not as hard on the 'bent as I'd been lead to believe) my situational awareness was about as good as on the Trusty Steed. Stop and go traffic was a bit frustrating as starting from a standstill is still sometimes a little awkward for me, but I think that'll pass with time. I did stuff up a couple of starts at lights which was a bit embarrassing, but it seems that from behind at night drivers can't work out what I am and hold off on the honking/abuse just in case I'm something dangerous
This morning it was time for the first group ride, Bike North's Akuna Bay and Church Point Tortoise - Longer, which is a 'medium' ride of 60km, some good hills, but a relaxed pace.
The start and beginning of the ride involved cycling as a loose peloton, at a slow pace to keep the group together, which was good practice in low speed handling. As I can't see my front wheel I couldn't precisely judge my clearance from the bike in front, that was fine in a casual widely spaced bunch but is something I'll have to develop a feel for in order to ride in a drafting paceline.
The rest of the ride, involving twisting climbs and descents, was done at individual pace in between regrouping points, and this gave me a chance to test my speed. I was a little nervy about cornering at speed to begin with, I think the different (slightly lower) riding position made the lean of the bike into the corner seem further over than it really was. Once I got used to that, relaxed and sat straight on the seat I had a huge amount of fun on the descents The bike really flies downhill, and handles well at high speeds.
Taking part in the ride was a friendly young lad (I'd guess late teens) on a shiny new road bike. He's tall, wirey and looks pretty fit, and he took off fast from each regrouping point. Me, being over a decade older and lugging probably 15-20kg more in total rider + bike weight obviously had to give chase... I was very pleased to discover that thanks to New Bike's aero riding position and solid handling I was able to hang onto the back of this guy through the descents, rollers and flats without doing myself in. On the steep, sustained climbs he did pull away from me but by spinning my way up I was able to keep in touch and at a rough guess I'd say I'm climbing roughly as well as I do on the Trusty Steed (which, to be fair, isn't a lightweight bike either) already. All in all, I think I'm going to end up being pretty fast on New Bike.
A word or two about comfort, New Bike is living up to expectations so far. No sore wrists, no saddle induced numbness, no pains in the back or neck. I had wondered how New Bike would feel on poor quality road surfaces (and there are plenty of those in Sydney) as it has no suspension and you can't stand on the pedals to cushion impacts, but I've been pleasantly surprised. The seat, which is mesh stretched over an aluminium frame and covered by open-cell foam pad, is well designed. It provides a reasonably firm and stable platform to push against while pedalling, but also manages to do a good job of soaking up road vibrations and bumps. I think the fact that forces are spread out over your back rather than concentrated at saddle/hands/feet helps a lot too. You still know about it when you hit a pot hole but it's not a painful experience.
In some ways it might be a little too comfortable, I've found that on the 'bent (when I don't have someone in front of me to chase) I tend to relax and start taking it easy without realising it, and have to remind myself to speed up a bit At one point today when I was alone on the road I began to cruise gently, admiring the scenery, and found myself musing how pleasant it would be to go touring... (that way madness lies )
A few more observations. As I'm sure the resident fixie fanatics will confirm, coasting is a bad habit... The chain management on the Giro 26 is pretty good, considering the chain is almost 3 times the length of a standard bike chain and the wide range of gears involved. I've discovered that bumpy roads can cause the chain to slap the frame between the chainrings and the idler though, but only if the drive side is slack i.e. you're coasting. I guess the risk of soiling the lovely yellow paintwork with chain oil will teach me not to be lazy, at least on bumpy roads
Is that a grey beard I hear growing?
Think outside the double triangle.
I wish I could come up with a good signature.
Not grey I hope, at least not yet. I'm still young... I'm still young... I'm still young... (If I tell myself that enough times it'll be true)
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