Posts Tagged ‘Tricycle’

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.

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Gracie, waiting outside whilst I filled myself with tea and biscuits

I’ve done this ride many times and it is always cold. Today was no different. The weather forecast wasn’t too promising either, with the prospect of snow later. I used my usual rule of if it’s not raining when I start I’ll do the ride. I’d chosen to do the ride on Gracie the Trike for a number of reasons, chief amoungst them being stability and the ability to carry a lot of spare clothing. I felt that I may be in need of extra layers as the day wore on.

The start was the usual mix of familiar faces, cups of tea and catching up with the news in the small world of Audax. I met mark in the HQ and as is usual we started the ride together. Again we were the epitome of Audax cyclists: one of us on a fixed with mud guards and panniers and the other on a tricycle, chatting our way round a ride and putting the world to rights.

At various points on the first leg we tangled with a sportive that was also running on our lanes. Sometimes they were cycling with us and sometimes they were on the other side of the road. Gracie managed to raise a smile from a lot of them. On one corner curiosity got the better of me an d I asked one of the riders which sportive and what route they were doing. After a little chat we felt that we had sold the benefits of Audax (mainly more cake) over Sportives with the cyclist promising to look us up on the web.

On another corner I overtook three sportive riders, they seemed to think that having an extra wheel was in some way cheating. They were very vocal about that. I almost offered them a turn on Gracie to show them that a Trike is in no way cheating. I didn’t because I think that Gracie should be paid more respect than that. She is, after all, an old lady who is still keeping up and in some cases passing the youngsters.

The original route took us up a steep hill to a control but the organisers had decided that the road was too dangerous for us to pass. They regaled us with tales of snow and slush and slippery conditions. I wasn’t too sad that I didn’t have to struggle up the hill for a tepid cup of tea and then follow it with a hair raising descent. I quite enjoyed my hot tea and cake instead.

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Mark, at the first control using Gracie as a bike stand

Mark and I set off on the next section as the snow started to fall. It was very light snow that didn’t settle. At least it wasn’t rain. Rain would have made the ride miserable. The sprinkling of snow was little enough to be distracting but not annoying. The route passed along the piece of road that persuaded me that Audax was a good thing to do. It is a lovely narrow lane through trees and past a pond. Even now in the depth of winter it had a certain charm. I may have been viewing it through rose tinted spectacles though.

There seemed to be more slight ups than downs on this part of the route. I’m a lot slower going up than Mark. I can usually catch up on the downs, providing there are sufficient downs. There weren’t. Mark slowly pulled ahead until he disappeared into the distance. It became clear that I’d be finishing the ride alone.

I learnt at the last control that I wasn’t the last on the road. This raised my mood a little as I felt at times that the entire field had passed me. I was now back on familiar roads, I knew all the lumps and bumps and had mental markers all the way home. I was able to retreat into my little world and try to ignore my legs complaining about being used so much. I was so deep into my world that I almost jumped off the Trike when someone passed me with a jaunty “well done!”

Eventually I pulled into the HQ ready for my bowl of hot soup, a bread roll and almost unlimited cake. The feelings of gloom at my fitness faded fast with each mouthful of cake. I felt I’d done quite well for my first ride out of the year on Gracie.

 

Box Hill

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

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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.

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Suffering

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.

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Cake!!

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.

 

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Gracie and friends, Eager to start

A ride in February is always going to be at the mercy of the weather. The forecast was not promising but sometimes the reality is different. The forecast had mentioned rain. It wasn’t raining at the start and this was a bonus. It wasn’t freezing either. I did this ride once in sub-zero conditions and people were complaining about their water bottles freezing. Today was relatively benign by those standards.

We met up for tea and biscuits in the hall before the ride. It was a chance to catch up with a few people and see how many were doing the ride. I was told that nearly 100 had entered so there will be no lack of company out on the road. I’d come along on Grace the Trike, as I’ve not taken Gracie on this ride before. I am slowly becoming aware that more people recognise Gracie than me; it was how Mark knew I was there. Mark and I have trundled around a few Audaxs over the years, so we are used to each other company.

The start was heralded by the beeping of Garmins and Satnavs. We headed off into the lanes of West Sussex. I watched the fast boys disappear up the road and settled down to my usual pace. A few minutes later Mark had caught me up and the banter began. He was riding fixed I was riding a trike, we soon realised that we were probably the epitome of everything Audax. We should have been wearing tweeds and plus fours to round off the look.

Up ahead the lights started flashing for a level crossing, a group had stopped and another was slowing. Just before the train arrived one of their tyres burst dramatically. There was a small explosion and a cloud of dust was ejected from the tyre. Everyone at the crossing was looking suitably shocked and impressed at the same time. This started the theme of the day, passing people repairing punctures. It must have been something to do with the roads.

Mark is an engineer. He works on big machines. He has a very large tool box and an impressive collection of tools. Most of his tools have been found on the roadside. He seems to have the tool spotting gift. One moment he’ll be beside me chatting away, and then he’ll suddenly stop, saying that he’ll catch up. A few minutes later he’ll return with a big smile on his face and some sort of double handed flexi widget extractor sitting in his saddlebag. I never see tools, I have no idea how he does this.

There is one big hill on this route. It coincided with the point when the sleet started to come down. As an incentive there was a control at the very top that was rumoured to be handing out hot tea and cake. It was a reasonably steep hill but Gracie and I had tackled steeper. It was a case of slipping into a low gear and grinding a way up whilst looking enviously at the lighter riders and machines going past. I don’t relish climbing hills like some people; they are just another obstacle to overcome. I was quite happy with the yell of “chapeau!” from the lightly tanned racing whippet on his finely tuned road bike. It made me feel like a real cyclist. The hill seemed to go on for ever and manoeuvres of the odd car on this narrow road to get round the cyclists were amusing. The freezing rain and sleet however wasn’t. The sight of the control and hot drinks was a sight to behold. It was a shame that the tea was tepid.

Now we had got to the top we had to get down again. I’m not sure which is worse, descending on a fixed wheel or descending on a Trike. Either way, both machines can make life pretty uncomfortable for the rider when descending at speed down a narrow, twisty and wet road at speed. The sleet just added to the discomfort. By the time I reached the bottom I could categorically say that my gloves were not waterproof. My feet had been replaced with blocks of ice and I couldn’t feel my hands. It took a long time to get back to normal operating temperature. A least the rain and sleet stopped, this made the ride marginally more pleasant.

There was a gentle climb to the next control. I ambled up in in my usual fashion but I did notice that I was passed by one or two people who had a look of grim determination. We had reached that point in a ride where the end is almost in sight but just a little too far away. I suspect that the grim ones were thinking that if a Trike could do it so could they (this was confirmed in a conversation at the end).

From here it was plain sailing on familiar roads to the finish. Mark and I made light work of the final 15km. we knew it was nearly over and that we had plenty of time. What’s more we knew that there was a big bowl of hot soup and a mountain of cake waiting for us. This made the whole endeavour so much more pleasant.

 

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.