Thursday, August 19, 2010

Product Reviews (Part 2 - the trikes)

Why tour by trike tandem?

We came to touring relatively late. I had never managed a "century" (100-mile) ride in my first half century, and never tried a multi-day ride until 2001. As "mature" riders, we give comfort and safety a high priority.

A tandem configuration that lets two cyclists in their 60th year or beyond actually enjoy riding 1000+ miles in just over two weeks deserves even younger riders' consideration.

Other touring options we have tried;

Regular upright bikes:
I just couldn't ride far enough. My longest ride was about 100 kilometers, and there was no way I would get up and ride the next day.

Upright tandem:
We had three different upright tandems in the 1990's. They worked fine for one-day rides, and for taking the kids to school, but we couldn't coordinate our riding styles well enough to try a long ride. We wouldn't have dared to load up couple weeks' worth of luggage and tackle a hill on one of them.

Recumbent tandem:
In 2000, we bought a RANS Screamer recumbent tandem, and in the spring of 2001 we rode it 500 miles through Austria and into Hungary. A terrific bike! Its downfall (literally) was on climbs with switchbacks. With all our luggage, we couldn't keep it going fast enough to make the turns, and we didn't always agree on when to give up. It's a "noble climb" when you get off and push the bike up the hill, but we got tired of noble climbs.

One advantage of the Screamer over our later trikes: you can take it apart and put it in the trunk of a Camry. Reassembly (after some practice) takes less than a half hour.

It's very comfortable and easy enough to ride that I can put casual cyclists on the back seat and take them for a spin. Non-cyclists and elderly folks are another matter, and it takes a while to become comfortable being the captain (riding on the front).

In 2003, we toured across northern Germany and the Netherlands in Cab-Bike velomobiles and shipped them home, where we have used them for foul-weather commuting and for grocery shopping. We have done very little touring with them in the US, mostly day rides to which we traveled by van. They do stay dry in the rain, and they easily transport large amounts of luggage. They are heavy on uphill climbs, and it's hard to communicate between riders. Later models have made tire-changing easier, but ours have rear tires that we would rather never change out on the road.

Other velomobiles are better-suited to really long-distance tours.

At an annual rally in Germany, riders come hundreds of kilometers pedaling Quest velomobiles, reaching speeds of over fifty miles per hour and easily exceeding a hundred miles per day. A group of a couple dozen European velomobilists is planning a cross-country American tour from the Pacific to the Atlantic in 2011. We can imagine upgrading to lighter, faster velomobiles with more accessible wheels and joining them -- but I don't think it will happen.

Tadpole trikes (two wheels in front and one behind):
We've rented a variety of tadpole trikes for multi-day tours in the Netherlands and Austria. They are a blast! They accept normal panniers and trailers, so that luggage is not much of a problem. They don't fall over. When we tried riding with traffic in the US, however, we felt too low and inconspicuous. (In Europe, we were on bike paths or lightly-traveled country roads where drivers expect bikes.) We really prefer to ride tandem, and tadpole trikes don't tandemize. For solo riders touring on trails, a tadpole trike may be ideal. Availability and prices are favorable, and the drivetrain is relatively "normal" and uncomplicated, because it can use a standard rear bicycle wheel.

Tadpole tandem trike:
We've admired these and taken a couple test rides, and we were very tempted to buy one. Storage and transport of such a large trike were intimidating, and we hesitated. -- and then we found an ideal answer to our touring needs -- the delta trike tandem.

Delta tandems

Hase in Germany pioneered the delta tandem. We encountered trains of five or six of their Kettwiesel trikes being used to transport visitors to the Spezi bike show in 2003 and fell in love with them. (For pictures of a train of 93 Hase trikes, click here.)

Take the single front wheel off a delta trike and drop the fork into a coupler on the back of another trike to make a tandem.  Repeat until you have enough seats for everyone who wants to ride along.  The trike train or delta tandem has several advantages over two-wheeled tandems. It's very hard to tip over. Each rider has a separate drivetrain, so there are no disputes about which gear or cadence to use. Going uphill, you don't need to maintain a minimum speed to stay upright; you can even stop and restart.

Compared with most tadpole trikes, most delta trikes are not as low, so it's easier to get up from the seat.  The higher seat gives the deltas a bigger profile on the road;  I feel safer and more visible on the delta. It's very hard to "tandemize" tadpole trikes, so if two riders of different skill levels want to stay together, deltas have a big advantage.

Compared with a committed tadpole tandem trike, a train of two or more delta tandems turns in a shorter distance, has more drive-wheels (two to four, or more, rather than just one) for better traction, stores in much less space, and offers the greater versatility of converting instantly into independent trikes.  Separate drivetrains allow each rider to coast or to pedal in his or her preferred gear and cadence, something that is difficult to impossible to arrange on a shared drivetrain.  Switching which trike is in front allows different-sized riders to trade "captain" and "stoker" roles in less than a minute;  changing may not even be possible on a tadpole tandem trike. 

We started with a delta trike tandem hybrid of an Anura from Greenspeed and a Kettwiesel from Hase. We were in the right place at the right time to buy one of the late prototypes for the Anura, and we happened upon a used Kettwiesel at a good price a few months later. We bought couplers for both of them, so that we could ride tandem with either trike in front. Delta trikes "play well with others." If your delta trike has a hitch on the back, you can link just about any other delta trike on behind.

Our first Anura wasn't set up to pull our trailer, so the Kettwiesel had to be on the back for touring. This is a good configuration for stability on descents, but we wanted more flexibility. Neither of us likes to be in back all the time.

Greenspeed Anura

We rode our 1000-mile tour in 2010 with two Greenspeed Anura trikes. Why two Anuras, rather than two Kettwiesels? Why not stay with the combination of an Anura and a Kettwiesel, on which we had already ridden three long tours?

--The two trikes use different wheel sizes, and we were devoting more space than we liked to tires and tubes. Besides the spare tubes and tires, we carry the front wheel for the rear trike along with us, in case we want to ride separately or switch who's in front. With the Anura, the back trike's 16-inch wheel can fit into our luggage; the 20-inch wheel on the Kettwiesel has to be strapped on top.

--Motels in the Midwestern United States are very accommodating about allowing trikes into the rooms, but the Kettwiesel won't always fit through the door. After tipping it to one side, then another, taking off a wheel, and finally deciding to give up and park it outside, you start to think about reserving the "Kett" for camping trips. (European doors are based on the meter standard, and US doors tend to be about three inches or 11 centimeters narrower, because they are based on a one-yard standard. If you could know in advance whether the Kettwiesel would fit, it wouldn't be so bad. More likely, though, you come to a motel after a long ride, with rain expected overnight, and it really looks as if the thing ought to fit some way or another -- but it doesn't, and then you have to drag it back outside -- and good luck finding someplace to lock it up.)

--Our Kett is driven by just the right rear wheel; a differential is available on newer Kettwiesels, but the additional cost is high. On the Anura, the differential comes as standard equipment. One-wheel drive makes a trike vulnerable to slipping or outright failure on sand or gravel, particularly on highway shoulders where sand may accumulate just where the Kettwiesel's right rear tire needs to get traction. Two Anura trikes linked together makes a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. Just imagine what you can get through! (Obviously, two Kettwiesels with differentials would have the same advantages, but the cost is pretty high.)

--Luggage space on our Kettwiesel is limited, and the bag that fits it is not waterproof. (Newer Ketts may be better.) The Anura can accept a standard pannier on its optional rear rack, and there's room for a small standard RANS-style seat-back bag above it (or one large seat-back bag without a pannier). Linking another trike on behind limits the size and configuration of the front trike's luggage; we found that we didn't lose as much space and flexibility if we used two Anuras.

Why not two Kettwiesels?

We are very happy touring with two Anuras, but we realize that two Kettwiesels might be the ideal choice for many tandem teams.

--Some people strongly prefer the mesh seats; they shed rain better than the RANS seats.

--If the same trike will always be on the front, the front one can add substantial luggage capacity by carrying front panniers, which are readily available for the Kettwiesel.

--In the US, Anuras are much less expensive than Kettwiesels, but European buyers won't find much difference.

--Spare tires and tubes for the 20-inch wheels on the Kettwiesel are easier to find than 16's.

--The wider track and cambered rear wheels on the Kettwiesel make it more resistant to tipping than the Anura. (I've never tipped either of them, but riding solo I can lift a wheel on the Anura, and I can't on the Kettwiesel.)

Other delta trikes

There are other delta trikes besides the Greenspeed Anura and the Hase Kettwiesel. (Hase itself has the Lepus). Lightfoot offers the Greenway and other trikes, which can be tandemized using their hitch adapter. Sun EZ-3, USX, and some (but not all) of Sun's newer models don't have factory-supplied hitches, but there is a source for after-market couplers for them (Van-Guard Machine, Inc.). Discontinued trikes such as the Penninger may be available on the used market. For the most part, these aren't long-distance touring trikes. If you can't lift it to waist level, you probably don't want to ride it more than 10 or 20 miles, but it could still be an economical choice for riding to the store or taking fun day trips.

Anura experiences and evaluation

We found the two Anura trikes to be very comfortable for long-distance riding. Most of our riding days were over 100 kilometers, and one day was over 100 miles. We had some foot pain and toe numbness, but otherwise our bodies tolerated the rides very well.

Our biggest problem was with the tires. We went through four tires and lost count of inner tubes and patches. The original-equipment Scorcher tires were very smooth-riding and fast, but we came home and bought a "six-pack" of Schwalbe Marathons after the tour. Highway riding with trikes in our area requires really good sidewall protection, because the shoulders are scarcely wider than the trike. At the edges of the road and the shoulder, rough edges can scrape the tires if they drop or ride up over the side. Debris can cause punctures. Broken glass, roadkill, potholes, -- there are a lot of hazards, and the tires have to be very sturdy to deal with them.

Mechanically, we had no trouble except for one axle that was wearing prematurely. This seems to have been due to a problem with a wheel bearing. We met up with Ian Sims, the manufacturer, at the Midwest Recumbent Rally in Stevens Point. He brought replacement bearings and a new axle and took the worn ones back to Australia to evaluate. This seems to have been an isolated problem.

Steering, braking, and shifting all functioned just the way they were supposed to.

These trikes were fun to ride. People smile or even break out laughing when they see them. They're a real ice-breaker for conversations.

They are also easy! We gave lots of people test-rides. We could put total neophytes on the back trike. Kids had a great time, even if they could barely reach the pedals. Even on the front trike, there's not much you can do wrong, so we didn't have any worries letting folks try them out.

Couples with one passionate rider and one couch-potato can ride a delta tandem and not have to worry about staying together. Tandem teams that can't agree who rides in front can just switch off. "Mashers" and "Spinners" can ride together without fighting over cadence. Families can hook on more trikes and have the fun of a triple, quad, or quint (or more) tandem without the rapidly escalating difficulty of riding the longer two-wheelers.

You spent that much money on a bike???

Well, yes.

And how much money do people spend on snowmobiles and jet-skis that require gas, trailers, and expensive maintenance and can be ridden only when there is enough snow/open water? How much do they spend on cruises, beach vacations, gambling, jewelry, plastic surgery, and smoking?  How much do they spend on weight-loss products and programs that don't work?

At the risk of sounding defensive -- aw heck, just plain getting defensive about it -- our bike/trike habit has paid off with better health, lots of enjoyment, and -- well, just look at the "before and after" photos below (from 2005 and 2010). Cycling has been good for us. Having bikes and trikes that we really enjoy riding has been good for us. Having trikes that can be ridden on ice without falling over has kept us exercising during the winter. Having bikes and trikes that carry our stuff in waterproof containers out of reach of our heels has kept us commuting to work and getting exercise without cutting into our time for other activities. Having velomobiles and owning bike trailers with enough room for all of our groceries has turned our shopping trips into opportunities for exercise. And having a really great touring set-up has let us become long-distance cyclists despite all the reasons (cancer, orthopedic issues, etc.) we could be sitting in our rocking chairs instead.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Product Reviews (Part 1)

We used quite a few products on our 1000-mile tour. We'll start with the gear trailer and its box:

Burley Flatbed Trailer modified by Calhoun Cycle to have a straight drawbar for use with delta trikes. The trailer has been through over 1500 miles of touring, including many miles on crushed limestone trails. We also use it for grocery shopping and have transported bikes and kayaks on it. We wore out the original tires and replaced them with Schwalbe Marathons. The fabric has required some patching with a combination of Kevlar fabric and Gorilla Tape. Despite being quite light, it is reasonably sturdy. The fabric has held up pretty well, considering that we often find the area under our luggage box to be full of sand and little rocks after a ride on a trail.

The trailer tracks well with the central drawbar. If we were to do it again, we would smooth the sharp edges of the attachment hardware, which ended up cutting into the fabric when we put a box on the trailer -- requiring some patching.

We have gone downhill pulling the trailer behind a pair of trikes (an Anura and a Kettwiesel on that occasion) at speeds up to 42 miles per hour, without any problems handling it.

We have used two different boxes on the trailer. The first was a Sterilite container that fit fully within the area of the fabric, but its lid was hard to open, especially in cold weather. We worried that it would crack, so we started looking for a suitable replacement. Even the box that we had was now unavailable, and the newer ones didn't appear robust enough for touring.

The Igloo cooler was the only sturdy, waterproof box we could find that would fit on the trailer. At 23 pounds, it is heavier than we would prefer, its thick walls reduce the interior space somewhat, and the latches are a bit flimsy, but it has many offsetting advantages. Drinks stay cool in it. It's easy to open and close. Even with the thick walls, the inside is roomier than the previous box. The white color is very visible on the road. It was fairly easy to mount Planet Bike "rack-mount" blinkies on the back of it. Reflectorized tape sticks pretty well to the surface. ...And, there are four cup holders built into the lid!

We use foam pipe insulation underneath to cushion the box and protect the trailer's fabric. The Burley straps just reach over the top of the box but don't hold it quite securely enough, so we also run a bungee cord through the handles on the front and back and secure them to the trailer's frame. On long rides, it's important that the bungee cords are equally strong, or the box ends up moving forward or backward.

For a supported bike tour with luggage-forwarding, we worried that the box would pop open during loading or unloading. We taped it closed with Gorilla tape, sometimes adding duct tape over the latches. (Gorilla tape also proved handy for patching a tire when we ran out of patch material and for reinforcing the rim-tape in one wheel when a tube developed a hole on the rim side and we couldn't find the source of the puncture.) Taping the box shut worked well: it didn't pop open during handling, and the tape was easy to remove. When using the box on the trailer, we rely on the Burley trailer's built-in straps to reinforce the latches.

The elegant and simple hitch is unfortunately unavailable in the United States. It comes from Weber in Germany and is hard to find even in other EU countries. There are several sizes, for different European children's and utility trailers and different configurations of bike attachments. The two sections are sold separately and are fairly expensive. We had the hitch on our trailer when we used it with our Kettwiesel trike, having gotten a set in Germany a few years ago. This restricted us to having the Kettwiesel in back whenever we wanted to use the trailer. When traveling with two Anuras, we wanted maximum flexibility in the configuration of the trikes. We picked up a pair of hitches for the Anuras in Copenhagen in the fall of 2009, after making rather complicated arrangements to have them shipped from Germany to a guy in Denmark who needed a bike part from the US that we could bring over for him.

The part of the hitch that attaches to the bike normally has an axle mount, but this can be removed for mounting directly to a central plate on the rear of a trike. Hase's trike coupler for the Kettwiesel has holes drilled for this purpose, but we had to have an attachment custom-made for the Anura. We've shown the modified Anura coupler/hitch to Ian Sims from Greenspeed and hope that there will be a factory-produced version in the future.

The trailer can be attached one-handed, though it is easier with two hands. Pushing a button allows a sleeve to rotate on the drawbar for the trailer. The sleeve slides over the hitch section that is mounted on the trike.

The system is similar to what is used on collapsible canes and adjustable crutches. There is also a security strap on the hitches as they are supplied, but we ended up not installing it, because of difficulty figuring out how to mount it.

A quick twist of the sleeve snaps the button out, and the trailer is securely hitched.

We have been very satisfied with the trailer and its current box. It does tempt us to pack a little more stuff than we really need, and its weight is burdensome on steep climbs, but it offers the best solution we have found for the need to have enough clothing, tools, and other supplies along on a tour.

The safety factor is considerable. Nobody wants to run over a big, old cooler. Cars and trucks pulled far to the side to go around us. The blinkie lights are easy to see from quite a distance and the white color is conspicuous. Our previous dull, blue box didn't seem nearly as protective.

At home, the insulated cooler is terrific for grocery shopping. I've had over 80 pounds of groceries in it. Picnics and tailgating will be fun with this rig; the drinks will stay cold, and the cup-holders will be convenient.

We have also thought of mounting a solar panel on top for re-charging electronic gear, but we'll probably wait for lower-priced and more efficient solar cells before trying that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sometimes it's better to get home alive

We thought about having a flat tire on a road under construction -- or detouring many extra miles in the face of "dangerous heat" warnings, and we went for the U-Haul. They had only local rentals available, but we were close enough to home to be called local.

Forty minutes later, we were dropping the trikes off at Calhoun Cycle for all new tires and a tune up.

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End of the road

We passed a thousand miles coming down into the Mississippi and St. Croix River Valley at Prescott, Wisconsin. By then, we had missed two meals, had none of the instant ice packs left to cool us down on the climbs, were riding on a bulging tire with an inner tube scavanged from the front wheel of the rear trike (with the other best tube already patched four times), and had Dale nursing an Achilles tendon that was visibly swollen. We found an astonishingly good little restaurant - Enrique's - in Prescott and enjoyed a wonderful lunch of fresh tortillas, real nachos, and a special salad. The ride across the St. Croix into Minnesota went well, and we made it up the bluff between the rivers. At that point, our planned route hit a snag. Instead of the unpleasant but rideable shoulder we expected, the only road had been torn up on one side, with all the traffic diverted to a single lane. Sitting in a Park-and-Ride, surveying the situation and checking Google for any alternate route, we realized we were next door to a U-Haul rental place with three trucks on the lot...
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1000 miles

Passed a thousand
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Last Day

Wednesday, August 11:
About to set out from Ellsworth for Minneapolis. It should be an easier ride than yesterday, when we blundered onto a local hill-training route, just ahead of a torrential downpour. We made it into the hotel only a little soaked, thanks to kind strangers who transported our trailer to the hotel after we had a flat on one of the hills.
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We may not have appreciated our good luck on Tuesday, August 10, when catastrophic storms with up to 6 inches of rain were striking areas just north of our ride. Osseo to Ellsworth was supposed to start (after breakfast at the Norske Nook) with a ride on the Buffalo River State Trail, followed by mostly country roads and some time on Highway 10. All of the Wisconsin trails come with a warning that their surfaces may be best suited to mountain bikes rather than touring bikes. We hadn't come across anything that we couldn't ride on, and the Buffalo River Trail leaving Osseo was splendid.
Along the first section, a red fox popped out of the bushes and looked at us, then ducked back in and came out a couple more times before finally disappearing. We rode through Strum on this wide, smooth, crushed-limestone section, then on to Eleva. The trail looked just a bit rough as we set out from Eleva, and we were soon bottoming out in soft sand. We struggled to keep the trikes moving, sometimes getting off and pushing them, always hoping for an improvement just a little further on. A great horned owl flew up in front of us, but there were few other consolations as we fought through a mile of bad trail to a point where we could get back onto Highway 10. It was so bad, and we were getting so worried about the weather, that we didn't even stop to take a picture of the deep ruts where our bike chains dragged through the sand and the wheels spun.

We would recommend the Buffalo River Trail from Osseo to Eleva, but it scarcely deserves to be called even a mountain bike trail from Eleva to Mondovi.

Once back on Highway 10, we were reluctant to go off to the side roads that Google had proposed, knowing that they might be gravel and that the hills are often steeper on the country roads than on the highways. The bicycling map showed green with good shoulders from Plum City to Ellsworth. What we didn't know was that it was a good route for hill-training, rather than for fully-loaded touring.

We really appreciated the kindness of Wisconsinites when we didn't think we could pull the trailer up one more hill. A guy who noticed us changing a tire halfway up a very long hill turned around and took our gear trailer up to an auto repair store well past the crest. The daughter of the guy at the auto body shop was driving into Ellsworth, and she dropped them off at the hotel for us. With a lighter load, we were able to make it to the hotel just two or three minutes after the storm hit. We were soaked, but our bags didn't take on much water. There was a roof over the sidewalk in front of the motel, and we could get out of the rain as soon as we pulled up.

The photo above shows another flat tire on the morning of August 11, when we loaded up the trikes at the David Motel in Ellsworth for a planned 55 mile ride into Minneapolis. We were out of un-patched tubes, and the tube that Dale put in at the hotel lasted less than three miles. We had to take the good tube out of the wheel that we weren't using. Then we noticed the tire thumping from a weak spot in the casing. We checked the internet for bike shops in Prescott or Hastings, finding only one that was out of business. We remembered it as a good shop -- The Route -- that might have carried odd-sized tubes and tires. It looked as if we would be out of luck with any more tire problems.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Super trail -- until it wasn't

This photo of the Buffalo River State Trail was taken in Strum, a few miles from Osseo, Wisconsin. The Buffalo River trail website mentions that it may not be suited to road bikes, but our trikes have been OK on other trails.

We were enjoying the wildlife -- first a family of turkeys, then a fox that kept popping out to look at us as we approached, but disappearing before we got to it.

In Eleva, the trail went bad. It was like railroad ballast stones with three inches of fine sand on top. We walked, pulling the trikes through sand and muck until we could get to Highway 10. I have never been so happy to get onto a road with an inadequate shoulder and heavy traffic.
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Ah, pie

Tuesday, August 10:
Raspberry sour cream and cherry pies
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We lost two posts from Bloggerdroid when we couldn't upload them in Osseo, Wisconsin on the evening of our 102-mile ride from Stevens Point.

That ride, on Monday, August 9, was supposed to start at five o'clock in the morning, but we noticed a bulging tire casing as we loaded up the trikes. We put on a spare that we had just bought at Hostel Shoppe, left the bad one for Ian Sims from Greenspeed, and headed out two hours late.

Grey skies and fog kept the temperatures tolerable, and we quickly passed through town and out along the Wisconsin River to the west. Flocks of sandhill cranes flew overhead. Goldfinches chased each other up from the ditches. We recognized much of our route from two years earlier.

When Google directed us onto a gravel road that would take us away from civilization just before lunchtime, we had had enough. We pulled out the bicycling map, consulted the GPS list of restaurants, and headed south to Vesper. There, we found a little restaurant run by a young couple who really knew how to make a veggie omlette. We departed much refreshed, and realizing that we were, in fact, on the route that we had taken in 2008, when we biked to the Recumbent Rally.

We retraced our earlier path almost all of the way to Osseo, losing some time for another flat tire at the top of a hot and sunny hill, not quite close enough to the town of Neillsville -- with canopied gas stations and trees shading the parking lot of the Hardee's Restaurant. When we did get into town, we cooled off with malts and shakes at Hardee's, choosing onion rings as the only obvious vegetarian fare -- not realizing that there was a separate "healthy" menu available on request.

We decided to stay on Highway 10, but we quickly turned off onto County Road B (and our 2008 route) when we saw that there was going to be construction on Highway 10. County B brought us through Humbird, where asphalt paving machines had reduced Highway 12 to a single lane. The flag-people let us ride on the fresh asphalt that hadn't been fully rolled down yet. It's amazingly sticky, and we remembered a similar stretch on the same highway in 2008, but up near the Menomonie. Fortunately, County B soon left the highway again, and we were back on the country roads.

Several miles of rolling hills, and some slogging hills, brought us to County G headed north to the east side of Osseo. We knew that the Norske Nook would not be open late, but the thought of pies kept us rolling as fast as we could.

We passed 100 miles for the day and still hadn't reached the motel. A spectacular evening cloud display silhouetted Dale's head as he rode on the front trike, and I amused myself taking a dozen or so pictures of the scene from the back, while juggling the maps and GPS.

When we finally came into Osseo at 8:30 or so -- 102.6 miles -- we found out that the Norske Nook is open until 9 rather than 7 (which is when we thought they closed). We didn't have a scrap of energy left, though, so we subsisted on granola bars and Gatorade.

Next to the motel was a monster parking lot with perhaps a hundred semis parked. We tried to upload some blog postings via Bloggerdroid, but nothing was going through, and the postings were lost from the drafts area of the app. We could log onto the motel's internet with the laptop, but could not get any websites to load. We figured that 100 truckers were simultaneously checking the (very bad) weather and tying up all the bandwidth, so we went to sleep without reviewing the next day's route for trouble spots. Not good.

In the morning on Tuesday, August 10, we took advantage of the Norske Nook's 6 a.m. opening time and grabbed a quick breakfast, complete with pie.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Choosing the short ride

We hadn't decided whether to take the short or the medium ride through the Wisconsin countryside on Sunday morning, but when we got a bit involved with sending one young rider off to check on the condition of what looked like a "hot" appendix, we decided that the short loop would be long enough.
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We did catch up with the last riders on the short loop despite starting an hour or more late. We were mostly by ourselves with the birds and cows.

We rode back to Stevens Point on the Tomorrow River Trail and up the lovely trail along Hoover. Deanna Campbell met us at the hotel to film some footage for the Greenspeed website, showing how easy it is to park the Anuras in a motel room. We ended the day with preparations for an early morning departure.

Off to an "explosive" start

Only on a Sunday morning would we take a ride from Stevens Point to Amherst via Highway 10, and here is one reason.

If your tire blows, with a cloud of condensation so dense that you first try to figure out how on earth a trike could catch fire, it is nice to have a quiet shoulder to change the tire on.

We appreciated the concern of the fellow riders who pulled over to make sure we were OK.

The mass start for the Sunday morning ride met us on the road, but we figured we should make a quick stop at the starting point before setting out on the ride.
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We could have just turned around and joined the ride, but we didn't have ride sheets, and we wanted to make sure the tire was really holding air before leaving on the Sunday ride. Starting from Amherst adds about 13 miles to the ride on the front end and around 20 going back to Stevens Point (because it's insane to ride Highway 10 there in the afternoon, even on Sunday). With a commitment to ride almost 25 miles just to get to and from the ride, we were only sure that we were not going to take a long route, and were leaning toward the really short one.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday Morning

Blowout on Hwy 10 on the way to the ride.

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Saturday, August 07, 2010


Listening to Bryan Ball from Bentrideronline discuss the history of his website. There were several speakers talking about recumbent bikes and trikes

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We spent the early afternoon on Saturday, August 8 visiting some vendors and watching Anura trikes "sell" themselves. Quite a few people test rode the trike tandem, and many more asked about it. We broke away in the late afternoon to attend a couple of seminars, but the acoustics were hard on our aging ears.

It may not have been just our ears that had problems, since we ended up at one restaurant for supper while the people we thought we were eating with went to another. No problem though, everyone just regrouped, and we had another fun recumbent-centric meal.

Relaxing after the morning ride

At the Hostel Shoppe after the Saturday morning ride at the Midwest Recumbent Rally, August 7.

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On a hot day, a spot in the shade is welcome. Several dogs rode along on the morning ride. With its impressive mass start, this ride is the highlight of the weekend. We chose the mid-length ride, because we remembered almost missing lunch last year when we did the long ride (on a train of 6 trikes).

Afterward, this dog dozed under the trailer while we talked with its owner.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Hostel Shoppe ice cream ride

Here we go!

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It's easy to find problems with Google's "Beta" version of bicycling directions, but we were quite impressed with their map showing the new cycling shortcut from the Hostel Shoppe to the La Quinta Hotel area up by Highway 10. The official opening of the path was set for August 11, but it was already on the map. We rode down around opening time to find a crowd of cylists already assembling in the parking lot. Our troubled Anura went up on its back for a new axle and bearings, flown in fresh from Australia.

We did a little shopping, looked at other riders' bikes, and made arrangements to have some of our unneeded luggage shipped home to lighten our trailer.

By the time the Ice Cream Ride started, we were ready to roll. We ended up with about 28 miles of riding for the day, the shortest since our trip to the Crane Foundation.

There were crowds of trikes this year -- mostly tadpoles, with many Catrikes and Terratrikes, and a good number of trikes from Greenspeed and ICE. We didn't see many delta trikes, and there was no attempt to repeat a ride with a train of six. Volae short-wheelbase bikes were well-represented, and we saw many RANS, Vision, and other brands of long and short wheelbase two-wheelers.

The Anura tandem excited quite a bit of interest from people who would like to ride tandem but haven't been able to develop the necessary cooperative skills. We gave quite a few folks test rides on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Stevens Point - August 5

We rode only about 68 or 70 miles from Appleton to Stevens Point on Thursday, August 5. With a steady headwind that made the flags stand out straight and whipped the tops of the trees back and forth it felt like more than 100.

Besides the one flat tire, we had about thirty miles on busy roads with narrow shoulders before we reached bike trails. One new experience: we were riding up a gentle hill, with the outside wheels on the white line, and a slow truck behind that just wouldn't pass. When it honked, I pulled the trikes off onto the gravel, and the reason for the problem became clear. It was a white-line striping truck. It left a freshly-painted line right where we needed to put our three left wheels, but after another couple hundred feet, the driver turned off the sprayer, and the whole spraying convoy turned into a side road. We got past the wet paint and scampered as fast as two people could pedal a heavily-loaded "Tiger-Snake" into a twenty- or thirty-mile-an-hour headwind until we crossed onto the next township.

The second half of the ride was mostly on limestone trails that were lightly used. The surfaces were not well-packed, and there were often tall weeds in the center. At every border between two fox territories (we were, after all, riding up out of the Fox River Valley) we had to ride around two neatly-placed piles of fox droppings, perfectly-centered and ten or fifteen feet apart.

On the trails, the trees sometimes waved back and forth above us, absorbing some of the force of the wind, and the old rail lines skirted the worst of the hills. We could forgive them for the rough spots.

We arrived at the Hostel Shoppe an hour and a half before closing. Ian Sims from Greenspeed was there, along with Greenspeed's US marketing director, Deanna. Customers were already around for the Rally. We gave several of them test rides before heading to the hotel.

We rode a short distance to Grazies, a nice Italian restaurant that is great about serving almost anything on the menu meat-free. We joined Ian, Deanna, Ben from ICE trikes in Britain, the aerospace engineer who switched to making racks that will carry recumbents, and a recumbent customer whose name our tired brains couldn't remember. Between jet lag from several thousand miles each way (Britain for Ben and Australia for Ian), and plain exhaustion from riding (for us), we didn't make it much past dessert, before everyone headed for the hotels.
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Thursday, August 05, 2010

On the way to Stevens Point

Felt a little sluggish and what do you know? We had picked up a piece of glass.

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Dale changes tires in less than 6 minutes, at least when the wheels come off nicely and it's just the tube that's flat. The tire changing was starting to get old, though. This one lost air slowly and became convincingly flat just beyond Appleton.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

August 4

As the light clouds that kept the morning tolerable cleared, we appreciated the rest stops. At this one, we parked next to a Greenspeed tandem trike.

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When we went to drop off our trailer and box at the truck in Mishicot on Wednesday, August 4, the local TV crew was filming. We gave the anchorman a trike ride around the parking lot and set out for Appleton.

It was another hilly morning, so we were ready to eat when we pulled in to a meal stop in a church basement. Another Greenspeed tandem was sitting in the parking lot, and we parked beside it.

Appleton presented a challenge, as we picked up our trailer and cycled to the Radisson Hotel across the Fox River. The street rose very steeply from the bridge, and it was all we could do to climb to the intersection. A trip back across the river for supper at the school cafeteria just didn't fill us with enthusiasm, and the initial search for nearby restaurants turned up some places with surprisingly unfavorable reviews. Expanding the search radius brought us to a Thai restaurant a few blocks down the street, where we had no trouble finding a good vegetarian meal.

We left directly for Stevens Point on the morning of August 5, pulling our trailer. The ride on August 5 was about half on highways and about half on the Tomorrow River trail and nearby country roads.

On the beach

Two Rivers, Michigan. After two ice cream stops.

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The ride along Lake Michigan on Tuesday, August 2 was designated as Dairy Day. We stopped for ice cream at one place that had a huge cow outside:

We followed that with a stop at the ice cream parlor that claims to be the original home of the ice cream sundae. Naturally, we had one.

We ended the day away from the lake in Mishicot, where we stayed at the Fox Hills Resort.

Each day that we rode with SAGBRAW, we left our trailer and Igloo cooler box with the truck in the morning and picked them up at the school where the campground was set up in the evening. Local scout troops provided "Red Wagon Service" to take people's bags to their campsites, but when we arrived in Mishicot, the scouts were standing idle, with nobody needing anything delivered. They were intrigued with the trikes, so I took several of them for rides around the parking lot, slaloming between the traffic cones that separated the bus lanes.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Rest Stop by Lake Michigan

After some hot days crossing Wisconsin, we enjoyed a rest stop overlooking Lake Michigan in the town on Cleveland.

Additional comment: some SAGBRAW riders were standing and talking next to the lake. The trike beside them is Larry Varney's Catrike. (Larry is one of the editors of bentrideronline, a recumbent cycling website.)

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Lake Michigan

After a couple days when we were too tired to blog we reached the lake.

Added comment (August 3, evening): I took the photo on August 3 and uploaded the entry above while riding on the back of the tandem bike. Lake Michigan was splendid, and our route kept us near the lake with frequent opportunities to see it or to stop at beaches.

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We hadn't thought that the shorter rides with less gear would wear us out much, but we chose the long rides when available and had the additional back-and-forth trips to our motels, and somehow we fell asleep without managing to upload anything from the ride on the 2nd.

The ride to Lake Michigan was somewhat still hilly, but by the time we rode along the lakeshore, it was quite flat and relaxing:

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Waiting for sag service

August 1, 2010 -- Sunday

We didn't have our spare tires with us on today's ride. Not good. One of the tire casings developed a bulge and the mechanical service warned us that we were headed for bad pavement and rumble strips. They recommended waiting at the rest stop for a spare rather than trying to limp into a later town.

Really, we weren't always changing tires or waiting for the sag service! It's just that those incidents were often the easiest times to post a quick entry via Bloggerdroid. This ride, from Columbus to Waupun, took us up and down rolling hills through cornfields and past farmyards.

The sag service was terrific. The reason we were waiting was the 16-inch non-BMX tires that we needed for the trikes. Wheel & Sprocket was providing mechanical support for the ride, and they had one of the right tires -- but it was at the "mother ship," not out on the roving sag wagon, so it took a while to get to us.

In Waupun, we stayed at the Inn Town motel, a friendly little place run by a couple from India. We enjoyed good internet service and were able to run a load of laundry at the local laundromat. The internet is great for a lot of things -- finding laundromats is one of them. We had the address of this one before we ever entered the town.

We had noticed some unevenness in the rotation of the left rear wheel on my trike, so we e-mailed Ian Sims at Greenspeed about it. By Monday morning, we had gotten a reply, had sent photos of the wheel and differential and had arranged that Ian would bring replacement parts from Australia to the Hostel Shoppe on Thursday. What terrific service! Nobody expected this kind of heavy use for these trikes and tires. Some parts around the bearings and axles need to be heavier-duty, and we plan to run on sturdier touring tires in the future.

During the next day, we continued to communicate about the wheel. We started to think of leaving SAGBRAW a day earlier than planned and ride straight west to Stevens Point rather than break off on the last day and ride north.

August 2, Monday. We rode through some glacial moraine territory, heading for Plymouth. We stayed at the Plymouth Inn, just down from the school where the campground was set up.

Here's a sample of the scenery:

Cornfields with Queen Anne's lace and blue chicory flowers, yellow goldenrod and coneflowers, and little yellow cabbage butterflies dancing all through them.