Posts Tagged ‘Gracie’

Invicta Hilly

Gracie waiting whilst I fill myself with tea

Gracie was being a little petulant today and refused to get out of the car without a struggle. I should have realised that this was a bad sign but as usual I carried on regardless. We had driven here to take part in the Invicta Hilly, the smaller version of the Invicta Grimpeur, The first long ride that Gracie and I did together. The big version consists of two loops, one clockwise and one anti clockwise. The hilly is just one anti clockwise loop. There was a lot of climbing and I remember from last time that it got quite painful by the end. The smaller version was definitely the one for me today.

It all started well, the Hilly participants were waved off at the allotted time and I made my way out the gates near the front of the pack. I was under no illusions that I would be the fastest round. That will never happen with an extra wheel on a hilly route. I was surprised how long it took for the first few to come past. I was well into the first climb before it happened. This made me happy as it suggested that the minimal amount of winter training had paid off.

The first control came at the top of Yorks Hill. I sat there for a while and contemplated the first descent. Descending on a Trike is a stressful experience at the best of times and Yorks Hill is steep and evil. The road surface was rutted and covered in mud. I decided that a screaming plummeting descent was out of the question and went for the timid cautious approach instead. It still wasn’t a pleasant experience. I got to the bottom shaken and stirred but mainly happy to be alive.

I caught up with a group of riders in front and followed them to the foot of the next hill. It turned out that I went to school with one of them. I didn’t recognise him at all but apparently I was still the same, something that I doubt. Catching up and chatting took the sting out of the next hill, we even passed someone who was attempting the ride on a Moulton.

We reached the top of the next descent. This was a lot more benign than the last one. It was on a wide road with a good surface and no bends. This was a good road to drop down with childish glee. I assumed the position and let the plummet commence. Then the wobbles started. Little wobbles at first but rapidly escalating into violet throwing off the Trike type wobbles. The whole of the front of the trike was vibrating wildly. I tried pulling hard on the brakes but that only made the whole thing worse. I started fearing becoming part of the road surface in a sudden and violent way. I brought Gracie back into the fold with a combination of brute force and intermittent braking. I pulled into a layby and cursed loudly. I’d been on the margin between upright and road surface; that is quite frightening.

Climbing the next hill I noticed that the quick release on the front wheel had come loose. I’ve no idea if the wobble had caused it or it had caused the wobble but I was willing to bet that it hadn’t helped the situation. Maybe that was why Gracie was being so petulant this morning. She was obviously offended that I’d not given her the attention she deserved.


Box Hill

Posted: July 15, 2016 in Cycling, Tricycle
Tags: , , , , , , ,

box 2

I’m not a climber, I’m not built for climbing and Gracie the Trike is not a mountain goat. Despite all of this we have struggled up a lot of climbs in the Surrey Hills. I rode some out of necessity, some because they had a name and some just to say that we had. Going uphill on a bike is not an enjoyable experience but having suffered a climb and survived is a retrospective pleasure. It’s because of this that the club run to Box Hill appealed. We’d not been up the climb before, it was meant to be a classic and there was a National Trust café at the top. The last point was the major draw, cake after hard work is always welcome.

It wasn’t a promising day. It wasn’t exactly raining; the dampness could be described as low cloud or drizzle. It just hung in the air and waited for you to pass though it to get you wet. It was very lazy rain. We all met up at the sports centre and sometime later headed out into the wilds of Surrey. Others on the run took great delight in drafting behind me. As a big person on a trike I blocked out a lot of the wind. I was not familiar with the roads to Box Hill, I usually cycle in a different direction when I’m out and about. It was nice to follow the herd and not think about directions. I could keep up with everyone on the flat but the moment the road headed slightly upwards I shot backwards and shot out the back of the pack. This didn’t bode well.

The last time I visited Box Hill it was to watch the Olympic road race. I’d not really noticed anything to do with the gradient apart from the fact that there were some of the best cyclists in the world speeding up them. I’d always assumed that it was steep. I turned onto the climb, selected a suitable gear and started peddling. I assumed that it would get steeper somewhere along the way. I worked my way up through the trees and around the zig-zags. The gradient was constant but not steep. It reminded me of one or two of the alpine passes I’ve traveled up. Every now and again a group of cyclists would push on past. This was a very popular hill.

box 3


I broke onto the sunlight and recognised the field to the left as the one I stood in cheering a few years ago. I thin whippet like cyclist dressed in skin tight matching Lycra and riding a lightweight carbon machine came sailing past me. I glanced sideways and Gracie and uttered “nice one” before disappearing up the road.

The car park signaled the end of the climb and the start of the cake. The queue was long but the massive slice of Victoria sponge made it worthwhile. Now there was just the question of riding home on tired legs.

box 1


Evening 10

Preparing for the corner

I’d missed the first evening 10 of the year, the one that the club guys race on fixed gear bike in memory of a departed club member but I managed to get to the next one. I like to do at least one short time trial a year and this was to be the one. It also helped that Pete, my neighbour was going too. It would mean that I would have someone to compete against. I’m not sure if he has forgiven me for taking the minutes back in the evening ten that we did last year.

I took Gracie the Trike along for a number of reasons, firstly I like riding a trike and the thought of doing a time trail on one has an air of silliness about it. It also gives me an excuse for when I come last, my Trike is a lot heavier and a good deal less sleek that all of the other bikes. Finally no one else does the time trail on a trike so even if I come last I will be first in my (completely made up) category.

We signed up and were issued a number, Pete would be departing a minute after me. Now the game was to make sure that he didn’t come past. He could easily make up that minute.

The course is two loops and many corners. It’s not flat either. There are no brutal hill but the undulations are telling. I always feel that I’m at another disadvantage at the beginning of the trial. The starter holds bike and gives them a push start. In my case I don’t need to be held so I just end up having a chat with the starter. He doesn’t push me off. I don’t know if the extra boost would be helpful but I would like to find out.

Even though I’d cycled to the event I was gasping for breath by the first corner. My warming up wasn’t quite as through than I had thought. I made it round the corner without tipping over, my constant fear is to fall off early in the race, and headed up the road. I needed to make as much of that minute gap as I could. A few of the faster bikes that were starting their second lap came past at speed. They would be much slower if they were on Trikes I thought. The second corner leads to an upward slope so there is plenty of potential to loose speed here. Then followed the long undulating section. More bikes passed but none of them were Pete, I didn’t expect Pete to be one of them until the second lap.

I got to the start of the second lap reasonably unscathed but not feeling that fresh. This would be the lap when Pete would come past. I put my head down, grabbed the drops and peddled hard. I was going to make it hard for him, I was convinced that he was breathing down my neck. I got to the long straight and was waiting for it to happen, but it never came. Either I was on a flyer or Pete was having a bad day. By the time I got to the finishing straight it was obvious that Pete was not behind me. I still didn’t let up. As I passed the line I saw Pete standing at the finish. How had he passed me without me noticing?

I looked at my time, it wasn’t evens, I’d wanted evens. I might make that a goal for the year, to ride evens on a Trike in a 10 mile time trial.



A tour of the muddy lanes of Sussex

It’s been a while since I’ve been out on Gracie the Trike. Whilst I’ve been off on my travels over Christmas she has been sitting in the shed, clean, shiny and ready for new adventures. I’ve done this ride a few times but never on Gracie, it seemed time to fix that minor oversight.

A ride in January is always going to depend on the weather, despite the rain and cold of the previous week, it was clear but cold on the day. We mentioned this a lot at the start along with views of various forecasts which claimed we were either going to be soaked or sunburnt by the end. The usual faces were among the hoard partaking of tea and goodies at the start. We exchanged pleasantries before getting started on the ride that never seems to go downhill.

I like to have my moment in the front, this is only possible near the start and on the flat before the fast ones sort themselves out and disappear up the road. I take great delight in powering Gracie past all the groups and on to the front of the pack. I like to think that it reminds two wheelers that Trikes aren’t necessarily slow. It all goes wrong on the first climb where I’m reduced to the speed of a sick snail but until that point there is always a big grin on my face.

After a while the pace settled down and I teamed up with Mark for the first section of the ride to Mayfield. At times it felt like the tour of all the mud strewn roads of Sussex. The recent rains had washed muck all over the roads. In places in was hard to tell the difference between a river and the road. It was all character building stuff but I was starting to think that I had enough character building for one day. Mark and I pressed on to the warm oasis that was the first control. It was a small café rammed full of cyclists, I pitied the small group of non-cyclists that sat in the corner. I wouldn’t have liked my quiet Saturday morning coffee interrupted by a mass of Lycra clad cyclists intent on hot drinks and cake.

Hills Mills 3

An oasis of cake and hot chocolate in Mayfield

The next section took in the Ashdown forest and as it’s centre piece, Kitts Hill, locally known as “the wall”. First of all we had to brave a photographer. He was stood at the top of a significant rise. I assume he was there so that we didn’t appear as blurs. The usual dilemma ensued, do I want a photo of me grinning like a lunatic and waving at the camera? This would give the impression that this was a frivolous ride. Alternatively I could go for the serious cyclist pose of grinding it out up the hill. In the end he got the “I’m trying to make it look like I’m not suffering pose”. At least he gave me a little push to help me on my way.

I’ve been up the wall on Gracie once before. I knew the form. Slow and steady was the only way that I can do it. Slow and steady in the lowest gear, trying to ignore the fact that everyone on two wheels was inching past me. I’d like to say that my lack of hill climbing ability is due to the extra wheel and added weight of  my machine. It’s not, I do exactly the same on two wheels. It comes down to my lack of power to get my bulk up a hill. I’d like to think that I’m more of a sprinter than a climber but I can’t sprint very well either.

I love the top of the forest. Trundling along the road, admiring the views and knowing that every route away from here is down is a fantastic feeling. This might be why I overshot the turn. I could blame it on the route being modified since the last time I rode it but in truth I was day dreaming. I careered off the forest with the combination of fear and thrill that only a tricyclist going fast downhill knows to find the reason for the route change. Another hill to struggle up. The uphill on this ride was starting to get silly. This hill came with a photographer as well, so I had to go though the whole deciding which pose to adopt dilemma again. At least he gave me a cheery “go on Trikie” as I passed.

Eventually I got back to the Café in Mayfield. The cold was warded off with a hot chocolate, a large muffin and some banter with the organisers. It seems that I’m becoming know in the local cycling circles as “the barrow man”. It’ll confuse them when I set out on two wheels again!

Hills Mills 2

Gracie waiting patiently outside the cafe whilst I stock up on muffins

The last section of the ride hit the “Sod this for a game of soldiers” point. It usually happens to me near the end when there are more miles than enthusiasm. It usually lifts when I’m within a few miles of the end, when the prospect of not cycling any further outweighs the distance I’ve already travelled. Today was no exception.

The large hot chocolate and tiffin slice in the café at the end of the ride rounded off the day nicely.


The route NEVER went downhill

BobMcMM (3)

Gracie waiting for the start

It’s the last Audax on my calendar for this year and the last chance before the Christmas madness kicks in to go for a day out on Gracie before she is cleaned and put away for the winter. I had intended to do this ride on the Beast last year but the wheel fell off and put pay to that idea. A ride at the end of November is always going to be fraught with weather based decisions. The forecast wasn’t being that helpful by mentioning nearly every climatic condition there could possibly be, ranging from bright sunshine to howling gales. In the end I just stuffed the saddle bag full of clothes for every occasion and hoped for the best.

BobMcMM (2)

Someone had a long bike

As usual I was the only person in the throng on a Trike, at least it meant that no one noticed that I’d put the back wheels on the wrong way round. I really had no desire to struggle yet again with the wheel nuts so they were going to stay that way for the duration. After lots of chocolate biscuits and procrastination I was underway. I don’t know how it happened but I was leading the pack for the first mile or so. This was a very strange situation to be in and I was relieved when someone overtook me to allow the natural order to return. I wasn’t so happy when they slowed down in front of me though. I had no desire to lose my momentum so I just went by, I few minutes later they passed again, the same thing happened. This was just getting weird. Eventually a small rise sorted things out as my natural inability on hills gave the other bike the advantage to finally stay ahead.

BobMcMM (1)

The melee at the control

There’s a tricky turn near Chailey. I have no idea why it doesn’t feel right as the route sheet describes it perfectly. I remember that last year I sat at the corner pondering if it really was the correct turning. It seems that the Girl with the Silver Helmet was having a similar dilemma this year. Her SatNav had directed her down the wrong turning, so now she was a little lost. We battled against the wind to the correct turning, watching one or two others go sailing past it. The wind had really picked up so I did the ignoble thing and drafted her until we hit a slope and I couldn’t hold her back wheel any longer.

Ditchling is a lovely little village with narrow streets, a combination which makes it a magnet and trap for cars. I spend an amusing few minutes watching two cars impede the movement of all the traffic whilst they were doing the “after you, no after you” thing. Eventually it seemed rude to stay there sniggering at the politeness and chaos so I slipped on by. Ditchling was made sweeter by the fact that I wasn’t climbing the Beacon today.

The final approach to the midway control was into the wind. It really wasn’t nice. A long flat road had been turned into a never ending hill. “It’s all gone a bit Dutch” someone remarked as the crawled past. The tea and cakes made a welcome relief. The knowledge that the way back was with the wind made the cakes taste even better.

I’m sure that the speed of the return leg was all down to my superior fitness and technique. The wind may have had something to do with it but I’m sure it was only a minor part.

I met up with the Girl with the Silver Helmet again near the end; she had watched two people take the wrong turn and now doubted her SatNav. I was following the paper route sheet and had the advantage of getting lost here last year so we joined forces in heading the right way. She was clearly the stronger cyclist and slowly become a dot up the road before disappearing round a corner, never to be seen again.

As always the last few kilometers seemed to take an age but eventually I was rewarded with a slice of homemade lemon drizzle cake and five minutes of friendly banter before packing Gracie into the car and heading home tired and happy.


The Return of the Beast

Posted: October 10, 2015 in Tricycle
Tags: , ,

A new trike axle, rarer than hen’s teeth

It’s been sitting in my shed unloved and neglected for many months. The wheels carefully put to one side, clean and shiny ball bearings in a plastic container, various other bits carefully packed away. The spiders had built webs, raised families and held parties but the beast had remained immobile.

I’d found out the hard way how difficult it is to obtain a replacement axel for a Trike. I’d had a number of attempts. The first was an e-mail to Mark; a parcel had arrived a few days later with some new looking metal work. It had all looked so rosy until I started to try and fit it. Although the right overall length was correct the bit that the cones went against where in the wrong place. My second attempt was the man in the midlands. I had been told that he was sometimes rather hard to get hold of. This proved to be an understatement. The fact that my job means I’m often unable to make calls during his working hours just exacerbated the situation, eventually I got through only to find that he had none in stock and was unlikely to have any for a while, I suspected that “a while” could be measured on a geological calendar.

The third attempt started with a chance conversation at the beginning of an Audax. A friend had just acquired a new lathe and was looking for a project. I mentioned the case of the broken axle and his eyes lit up, he seemed to think this could be the thing to test his skills and machinery. First of all he wanted a drawing. I never did technical drawing at school, something that was painfully obvious from my scribblings. I realised that it would probably be better to send him the broken parts, it would make more sense.


enough to make a technical drawing teacher weep

A few days later an e-mail was waiting for me:

“Looks doable, need to wait for my active centre to arrive”

And I waited, and waited. Some months later another e-mail arrived:

“OK think it’s doable going to give it a try, can you give me an idea where the shoulders are meant to be, the original is a bit of a mess”

There followed another few e-mails and a holiday until:

“I really need to see the rest of the Trike to work out some of the measurements”

Arrangements were made and only a month later we were in my shed looking at the forlorn beast and discussing dimensions. He had fashioned a metal rod to roughly the right dimensions but was curious about clearances, threads and other details. It was then I brought out the axle that Mark had sent me. He looked at it, then at me, then back at it.

“I could just adjust that axle you know!”

A plan was formed and promises were made, I’d have an axle of the right dimensions the next week.

A month later a parcel was waiting for me on the doorstep; the adjusted axle. Overcome by excitement I left it on the kitchen table for a few weeks before attempting to fit it. In all it took about an hour of fiddling around to make it all work. It was tricky getting everything in the right place. There were many things that could have gone wrong but I was glad that I had had the presence of mind to have left one of the cones alone. This acted as the point of reference around which everything else could be build.

The Beast 2

Inside there is where all the trouble happened

Once I was happy it was time for the “moment of truth” a nervous ride listening for every rattle and squeak. It all went quite smoothly. Smooth enough to warrant giving the beast a good was and scrub up before introducing him to Gracie

Gracie and the Beast

Gracie and The Beast


Waiting for the start

There was a lot of nervous chatter hanging in the air at the start. I was just as guilty as everyone else. This was my first 12 hour and I was doing it on Gracie the Trike. There were three other trikes taking part but they were all at the front end of the starting order, I was near the back. Normally on a time trial the slower ones are started first, why was I near the back with the fast boys on two wheels? This was just a little unnerving. Every minute another competitor took off down the road and the line advanced forward until I was sitting there poised and ready to go. I had no doubt that I wouldn’t catch my minute man, but when the start marshal casually mentioned that he had completed the Tour de France any vague hope I had evaporated into the wind.

The first part of the course consisted of some long stretches of road and a few “double backs” which would eventually lead to the meat of the day, the Rye and Camber circuits. It wasn’t a case of if the riders behind me would come past, it was a case of when. It took a lot longer than I expected but once the tap was opened they seemed to come flying past at regular intervals, although surprisingly not in numerical order. There were some really fast cyclists out on the course today.

Something that really bugs me is when someone overtakes and then seems to slow down. In my furtive imagination I think that they have seen me in the far distance and have put in a little extra effort to reel in the Trike. As they come past the purpose for the extra little effort goes and they slow down a little. At this point I hit a dilemma, should I now reel them in? this is probably an unrealistic task, but seems possible as I am slowly gaining, or should I slow slightly until they are on their way. Usually the slight difference in speed takes its toll and before long there is a sizable gap between us and all thoughts of a heroic yet pointless chase are gone.

There were signs and marshals everywhere. This was good as it left very little for me to get wrong. I habitually don’t read the route notes as they make very little sense to me. This meant that I had no clue about where I was going. This would be resolved on the second lap, but the first circuit would be an adventure. I came to a roundabout with no signs or marshals. Panic! What to do? In the absence of being told anything straight on seemed the right thing to do. I carried on but felt uneasy about it. What if I’d gone wrong. I was only a few hours in, it would just be embarrassing to mess it up so early when tiredness and exhaustion are no excuse. After a while I saw a cyclist ahead. Was this another competitor or someone out for a Sunday ride? Slowly I got nearer, close enough to see their number. This was a good sign, at least two of us had made the same mistake. More importantly there was someone on two wheels that I could overtake. This was unexpected and lifted my spirts. A few miles later there were marshals and signs galore, I was going in the right direction. Life was good.

I was doing this unsupported, most other riders had people. They were dotted around the course handing out food, water and encouragement to their riders. All I had was a crate that had been deposited somewhere on the course. I was hoping that I would spot it at some point or else I would be in real trouble later on. I passed a layby packed with people waiting for their riders to pass. It was nice to receive the cheers and congratulations when I passed, it made me feel a part of the event. A few moments later, at the roundabout I saw my crate, next time round I’ll be stopping there to take on food and water.


The box of sugary delights

I was now on the second loop and a familiar set of  roads. I could sneer at the roundabout that had caused the consternation the first time round. I could look round a bit more rather than worry about if I was going the right way. I could admire the sandstone outcrop at the side of the road and wonder if anyone had climbed it. I could be a bit more careful on the junctions around Rye and keep all the wheels on the ground. Heading up past the wind farm I saw others coming down the other way, The Rye circuit must have closed and we were now on the Camber circuit. More significantly, I saw trikes. Not that I’m competitive or anything but they were not that far ahead. I started doing “possibility maths”. How big was the gap? Was it getting bigger or smaller? Was it possible to catch them? Most of this had more to do with possibility than maths and most of my calculations were based firmly in fantasy. This furtive thinking was halted when I reached my crate at the roundabout.

My “Nutrition and Hydration Plan” was a little haphazard to say the least. My only experience of feeding on long time trails is doing two 24 hour trials both of which I’d got it horribly wrong, on the first I’d ended up buying sandwiches from a service station on the course and on the second I didn’t finish due to dehydration and stupidity. This time I’d put a little thought into it, but not much. There was plenty of water with added science stuff to stop me dehydrating and feeling bloated at the same time. There were bottles of Coca Cola, normally I detest the stuff but after riding for miles on end it suddenly becomes the drink of choice. There was lots of sweet stuff including small packets of Haribo, for something sweet and non-chocolate. I’d also put in some savoury things as the relentless eating of jellies and chocolate leaves I hideous cloying taste in my mouth and a stomach ache reminiscent of childhood. The savoury selection may have been a mistake, two pork pies and two Cornish Pasties.

The art of doing long time trials I’ve been told comes down to two things:

  1. Keep moving forward
  2. Don’t go slowly

Which means stop as little as possible and if you can do it on the bike, don’t do it standing at the side of the road. This is why I was trying to stuff a pork pie into my face whilst peddling into the wind on the start of the Camber Circuit. Now a pork pie, fresh from the fridge, cut into slices and served as part of a meal is a wondrous thing and completely different to a whole pork pie that has been stood at the side of the road in the sun for a few hours. The pastry was gooey and soft, it attached its self to my gums and teeth like super strong glue. The meat was warm and fatty. What should have been a joyous savoury moment had become a torment. I wasn’t unhappy when I hit a bump and the hateful little thing jumped out of my hand and into the verge. I won’t be eating another that was for sure.

I was prepared for the wind by the second circuit. It didn’t make it easier and I’m sure that my cursing would have offended anyone who was listening. It wasn’t only the wind, my legs hurt, my back hurt and my bum was getting sore. Having to struggle against the wind just made it all so much worse. The torment ended just past Camber. I’d like to think that I’d suddenly become a stronger cyclist but it was probably more to do with the wind pushing me along.

The second peak of the day happened between Camber and Lydd. I saw someone ahead. This could be another chance to overtake someone. After a while I it dawned on me that it was a Trike ahead. This felt good, it meant that I was going faster than at least one other Trike and that if this carried on I would be in my favourite position of “Not Last”. The Trike category was only in my head, but for me that was a very real and tangible category. Up ahead was a direct competitor and I was gaining. My ego was doing somersaults of delight. I may have had a big grin on my face as well. “Not Last”, my target position for this event, was one step closer. If only I had a clue about the other Trikes.

I was told at the when I stopped at the crate for more sustenance (my nutrition and hydration plan had degraded to Coca Cola and Haribo, supplemented with lots of water) that this would be my last Camber loop. That felt good. The marshal did qualify that with “unless you can do the next loop in under 40 minutes”. Not a chance! One more battle with the wind, one more passing the white sand shoe in the middle of the road, one more being blow towards Lydd one more rattling over the rubbish road surface by the airport and then sweet relief as a marshal directed me North instead of South at the roundabout. I was heading for the finishing circuit.

There was something strange on the way to the finishing circuit; a hill. It wasn’t big or long or steep but after being out on the Romney Marsh for hours it seemed like a mountain. I had to change down a gear and even then it was a struggle. It wasn’t made any better by the rider with dreadlocks and tattooed legs coming past me like a speeding train.


Gracie, cleaned and ready to go

Whist going round and round the finishing circuit I contemplated quite how lonely doing this sort of thing is. There must have been between 30 and 40 riders on the circuit but the chances of actually seeing them were slim. Every now and again someone would come flashing past, not slow enough to chat to though, and that would be that. Of course passing someone was always a bit of an ego booster. It happened twice for me on the finishing circuit, first it was past the cyclist I’d passed much earlier and then it was the one that counted. I passed another Trike. This was in my league, this had consequences. At that moment I was “Not Last” and potentially “Top Half”, better than I had expected. I had a celebratory stretch and a mouthful of Haribo. Little victories need celebrations.

After what seemed like an eternity of going round and round the finishing circuit, time started to run out. I calculated that I was on my last and it was now just a matter of where I would run out of time. I don’t know why but I really wanted to stop by the time keeper with the portable oxygen supply and tubes in her nose, after the pub and the climb. As the clock ticked its way to the twelve hours it became more obvious that that was going to be where I stopped. They were in sight…

And Stop.