Monday, December 31, 2007

Fulshear Saturday

Only six riders showed up for the Fulshear ride Saturday: Hasso, Orrin, Keith, Jim, me and Liz. Ken has been out of commission after hitting a dog at speed on last week's ride. No broken bones, but he's still too sore to ride. This is David's busy season and he had to work. Debbie's dad is having surgery so she and Pat are at the hospital instead of out on the road with us.

This was the first Fulshear ride for the Flevo and I was anxious to see how it performed. It didn't let me down. First, it is easily 3-4 mph faster than the Seavo. I attribute this to the lower profile and the resulting decrease in wind resistance. I wonder if a front fairing would improve performance even more. Second, the headrests proved very comfortable and relieved my neck problems. I have yet to solve the transport problem, but it only takes a few minutes to set the bike up once I pull the two halves out of the back of the truck. My stoker is working on seat covers, a fairing for the cargo area and a custom bag. Another issue that surfaced was the inconvenience of my wired intercom system. It still works well, but it's a little inconvenient plugging and unplugging in this seating position. Perhaps the wireless system is the answer.

My mileage for the year stands at 3,163. That's 163 over my goal so I'm happy with that. I would like to ride 4000 miles next year. Looking back, it seems to me that I've ridden just about as much as was convenient. That means I rode every weekend and two or three weekdays in fair weather. I don't ride Sundays because that is the day each week I spend with the girls, having breakfast together, going to Barnes & Noble and then just lounging around together. The only way I can really increase my mileage is to commute to work. It's only 10 miles each way from my house to the office downtown. I've commuted once or twice, but I've never really gotten into the habit. This would be a great mileage boost and would also cut my monthly commuting expenses. Parking alone is $140 a month. So, more bike commuting next year.

Happy New Year and a great 2008 to all!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Learning Curve

Riding a tandem requires cooperation and communication between captain and stoker. Starting, stopping, turning, slowing all require a coordination of purpose. The same is true, of course, on the Flevo, but more so and sometimes with a twist. Since the stoker has no forward view, I'm particularly careful to announce what's ahead and what we'll be doing with the bike. Turns on the Flevo can be unnerving for the stoker who doesn't know they're coming. That's almost intuitive. What I did not anticipate was that from the stoker position riding backwards, all directions are reversed. When I announce a left turn, the stoker facing backwards feels the bike lean and turn to his/her right. This can be disconcerting, but is easily overcome with experience.

Although I use a headset intercom on the Seavo and Screamer, none is necessary on the Flevo, for obvious reasons.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Flevo is Here

My Flevo arrived this past week by truck one day before my birthday. Perfect timing! The bike had been well packed by Jim at the Spoke Shop in Billings, Montana. Rather than leave it at the local bike shop for set up in a few days (they are quite busy the week before Christmas) I decided to take it home and try to get it set up myself. The first thing I learned about this bike is that the two halves fit easily into the back of my Tahoe.

Once home, I connected the two halves by connecting two bolts. After that, all that was left to was to to reconnect the rear hydraulic brake handle to the captain's handle bars. A little air in the tires and it was ready for a ride. I found the bike quite twitchy to ride solo. Once I found a stoker to provide a little ballast, however, the bike handled beautifully, especially for it's size. The reclined seats proved a little uncomfortable so I've ordered headrests.

I spent the next few days trying to figure out how I was going to transport the bike. I love my Draftmaster and so began an online search for some Draftmaster trays I could cut up and weld into a long tray for the Flevo. It was while changing out the 8 year old tubes on the bike that I had a revelation. The Flevo has independent drives on each wheel. This means that in order to take the front wheel off it's necessary to release the cable for the Sachs hub, release the hydraulic brakes, unbolt the wheel and then work it out of the dropouts and the front deraileuer. This bike has no quick release on either wheel. So, taking the front wheel off to mount the bike on a Draftmaster rack would not be a quick, convenient process. The next complication became apparent when I considered just how big this bike is. My Seavo is about 8' long and I mount it on the Draftmaster by standing it up on the rear wheel and walking it into the tray. The Flevo, however, is every bit of 11' long. I would not be able to reach the handlebars to perform a similar feat with the Flevo. In the end, I realized that the easiest transport option for this bike is to just break it down and stow it in the back of the Tahoe.

Here's a shot of the twisting chain arrangement on the front wheel.

I'm looking forward to putting lots of miles on this bike next year.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Saturday in Fulshear

Saturday's recumbent crowd in Fulshear consisted of Debbie and Pat, Wayne, Ben, Jim, me and Hasso who was riding with us for the first time.

Hasso builds his own trikes. He calls this one the "Triped."

Daughter Aimee, my usual stoker, has taken a job at a vet clinic while waiting to see if she will get into vet school next year. Unfortunately, this means that she was not able to ride back seat yesterday. She may be missing more Saturdays in the future. The fact that I might have had to ride my V2 Saturday for lack of a stoker made me realize just how much I enjoy tandem riding. Frankly, I was not looking forward to riding solo. I put out an email to our newsgroup Friday night and Debbie kindly volunteered to stoke in Aimee's place . Debbie and Pat are thinking about getting a tandem and she wanted some real time experience. Debbie is a strong stoker in spite of the fact that she's never been on this bike before. With a healthy tail wind we managed to cruise at 22mph.

Flevo Update: The bike has been packed for shipment up in Billings, Montana and should be here in the next week or two.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Flevo Back To Back Tandem

In the last few weeks I've been doing research on this bike. Because it's no longer in production there's not much around. What there is is something of a mixed bag. Here's a favorable 8 year old review I found posted on a message board:

The seats on the Flevo are far lower than the seats on the Screamer. The low seats immediately gave me a feeling of confidence. They were right down there were they should be. I was able to easily put my feet down flat with my upper legs approximately parallel to the ground like on a Tour Easy, not at some unnatural feeling downward angle like on every other too highr ecumbent tandem I have ridden. The seat backs were nicely reclined at about a 35 degree angle which improves the aerodynamics and rear end comfort on long rides yet isn't so reclined that it causes neck strain. The seats came from the Flevo Basic single recumbents and appear to be modeled after the Linear seats with supportive mesh over steel frame backs and foam bottoms suppported by a triangular steel frame. Flevo was at one time(maybe they still are?) the Dutch Linear importer. The overall length of the Flevo is considerably longer than a Screamer butstill shorter than a LWB tandem like a Ryan Duplex. The extra length was due to a combination of back to back seats and fairly laid back seats.There is a tremendous amount of cargo space between the seat backs, enough for two people to do fully self supported touring without a trailer, unlike the Screamer which has rather limited cargo space. Furthermore the cargo between the seats is low and at the middle of the bike for optimum weight distribution.

The back to back position has other advantages besides aerodynamics and also has some disadvantages. Conversation is much easier with the heads close together though we noticed the backs of our helmets sometimes banged against each other. The stoker makes a nice rear view mirror and is in a good position to negotiate with following drivers about making lane changes and such. With the stoker unable to easily see forward there is no back seat driving going on about conditions up ahead. I did have to communicate bumps and turns more. I have ridden on the back of other back to back tandems and it is an interesting sensation sitting backwards looking at the straight road behind and suddenly feeling the side forces of the bike going into a turn.

Looking back my overall impressions were the Flevo back to back tandem was a blast to ride and very fast but in need of some significant refinement. It overall had a prototype feel to it which may be why some people assumed it was homebuilt. The desireability of this basic configuration of tandem was clearly demonstrated to me. For years I have thought a 2 wheel drive back to back tandem was the way to go for maximum performance (which can also mean least exertion for a given speed if your aren't out to go fast). Just as da Vinci drive proved to me the advantages of independent coasting, the 2 wheel drive configuration proves to me how much better yet having two completely independent drive trains is. I can really appreciate this as most of the stokers I ride with have lower cadences which compromises my efficiency and requires me to reduce my power output to avoid knee pain or force them to spin faster. Although the Flevo could use a lot of mechanical refinement and some people might not get along with the high bottom brackets I don't recall ever riding an HPV which causes so many others to smile. This machine got far more attention than all sorts of other unusual recumbents I have ridden. At one point we were riding behind the Screamer and passed some people on road bikes. We heard them make the usual comments about the Screamer but they just about went crazy when we passed and they saw the rear facing stoker. When stopped we got lots of questions about which direction it drove in (both ends look the same from a distance) and why the seats were back to back. Vincent had a good answer, he said the bike was designed for Siamesetwins joined at the head.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Independence Ride

This past Saturday Aimee and I rode the Independence Ride in Wallis. As a general rule, I don't like to pay someone to do an organized ride where I usually ride on the weekend, but this was a very good cause. One hundred percent of the proceeds of this ride go to provide America's disabled veterans with the tools and assistance they are not otherwise receiving to enhance their emotional and physical well being. It's one thing to read and hear about our casualties in Iraq and elsewhere. It's quite another to see these brave young men in the flesh.

Before I review the ride, I want to mention the new tandem that I bought today. It's the Flevo tandem manufactured in Holland. It's been out of production for several years, but it still appears from time to time for resale. As regular readers of this blog know, I've been interested in a back to back tandem for the last few weeks. I looked at the Mic Wic back to back. I've ruled it out for now because a new one would cost a little over $8000 and that's out of my price range for the time being. Also, I didn't like to pair of 20" wheels it rides on. My friend Jim Connelly bought one used on ebay and has had no end of problems getting it ridable. So, for these and a few other reasons, I decided to look for a Flevo Tandem. The Flevo, pictured below, sits on a pair of 26" wheels and has a suspension system of sorts. It comes apart in the middle for easy transport. I'll write a longer review once I've ridden a few miles.

Now, back to the ride. Aimee and I signed up for the 60 mile route, but we could see when we arrived Saturday morning that the wind was going to be brutal on the last leg of the ride: 10-15 mph. We made a judicious decision to take the 41 mile route instead. Itw as a goood call. Although the first 30 miles seemed to fly by, the last ten were difficult and seemed endless. Aimee and I both had sore knees after we finished.

Registration took place at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Wallis. Most of our crew had passed this building many times on our Saturday rides so none of us had much problem finding it. Parking and materials pick up was well managed and went smoothly. I say "materials pick up" because there wasn't really a packet to pick up; just a map, a T-shirt and a wrist band for lunch. Breakfast of doughuts, coffee and orange juice was provided. Free lunch at the end of the ride consisted of a barbecue sandwich, potato salad, cole slaw and a drink.

The Army flew an Apache attack helicopter out to support the ride. We saw him coming in for a landing just as the ride was beginning. I've never seen one of these up close before.

The forty mile route was a familiar one to our group. From Wallis we proceeded east to Simonton and then north to Brookshire. From there north to Pattison and then west and south to Sealy. Then we recrossed I-10 and headed to Frydek before grinding out the last few miles back to Wallis.

There seemed to be plenty of SAG support and adequate rest stops. Traffic was light and most of the roads were good.

I will do this ride again next year if it is offered, not becuase it was anything to write home about, but because it is an excellent cause.

Another milestone passed during this ride. I reached my 3000 mile goal for the year. It now remains to be seen how many more miles I can ride before the end of the year to set a benchmark for the next.