Friday, October 31, 2008

The "Belik Bicycle"

I found a few photos of this interesting home built carbon fiber tandem recumbent on the net. It was designed and built by Paul Velik and reminds me of the Double Vision recumbent tandem. These pictures are eight years old. I wonder what became of the bike and whether it's still around. For more info and pictures, go here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday Ride - X Bike Review

I was really excited to be riding this morning for a couple of reasons. I didn't get to make the usual Saturday ride last week, so I was anxious to get back on the road and stretch my legs with my friends. This is also the first opportunity Liz and I have had to really unlimber the new Barcroft XBike Back to Back Tandem and see what it could do on a really good ride.

For a change of pace, we met near Richmond, Texas just south of US 59 where Wayne led us on a ride on his turf. We were joined by Danny, Ken, Jim, David, Robert and Bobby.

This was also the first really cool morning we've had on any of our rides this fall. Temps were in the high 40's - low 50's, but warmed up rapidly as the sun rose.

Here's Bobby's new Optima Baron. I want one! the Optima no longer comes with Flip-it handlebars so it was interesting to watch Bobby trying to dismount.

Now to the bike. The first thing you notice on this new tandem is the seat height. It's much lower than the Flevo. The bike rides on 20" wheels. With my feet on the ground, my thighs are parallel to the ground. This makes for effortless, more solid starts and I can easily hold the bike steady while Liz is clipped in and ready to pedal. She can also remain clipped in for intersection and traffic stops. The only disadvantage of the low profile is that it can be hard to see around other bike in front of and behind us. The bike is equipped with comfortable Euromesh seats. This is a more upright pedalling position for me, but it should be an easy adjustment once I get used to it. Liz sits at more of an incline because we had to move her seat all the way to the stop to get her feet to the pedals. Bill Cook also helped by shortening the rear end of the frame a bit so the boom had a little more travel towards the stoker. The bike is considerably shorter than the Flevo and handles beautifully. It has dual wheel drive and the front wheels drive system uses a twisting chain. This system works very well and I could pedal through turns without heel interference.

Steering is quite a bit different from the Flevo. The handlebars on the Flevo are right at eye level and obscure forward vision. This is because of the high bottom bracket and the recline angle of the seats. This is also one of the reasons the Flevo is fast. The handlebars on the XBike are well down and right over the front wheel, resulting in full forward vision and no tiller effect. Like the Flevo, this bike offers fully independent cadence so that Liz can pedal at her most comfortable pace.

I was a little concerned that the 20" wheels would mean a rougher ride. I quickly discovered that the braced monotube frame flexes just enough to take the edge off of most bumps. The ride was quite comfortable. The bike is fast. We didn't push to see how fast it would go, but I found that we could accelerate through 20mph without too much effort at all. I had the feeling that this bike accelerates from a stop much faster than the Flevo. This is probably due to the smaller wheels. I think I'd like higher gearing on the bike. Danny is looking into it.

We were relieved to find that this bike fits perfectly onto the trailer David built for the Flevo. Overall, I am very pleased with this bike. It has several distinct advantages over the Flevo and I think Liz and I will be enjoying it for many more miles in the future. This makes three tandems for me: the Seavo, the Flevo and the XBike. The Seavo still fills a role in my riding. I'll be using it on most of my Sunday rides in town and as a change of pace from back to back riding. I doubt I'll ever sell the Flevo. It's just too unusual and rare to part with, at least right now. Liz is in love with the XBike right now so it's going to be hard to get her to ride anything else.

We had a blast on today's ride. The traffic was a bit challenging for the first 10-15 miles, but once we got out into the countryside, the riding was great. We had nice shoulders most of the way.

Miles Ridden This Year: 1682
Miles Today: 51.8

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Check Lists

Have you ever driven out to a ride and found that you've forgotten your pump? Ever forgotten your front wheel? Helmet? All these little comedies have happened to me at one time or another. I've told myself for quite a while that I need a checklist so that I don't forget essential items when I ride. One day a couple of months ago I finally made one. My Flevo back to back has it's own pre-ride check list and one of the most important items on the list is to check the two main connecting screws that hold the frame together as well as the screws that hold the movable cranks onto the frame. The bike was made in Holland and I've never seen screws quite like these. I wouldn't want to lose any of them because I have a feeling that they'd be difficult if not impossible to replace.

Since I transport the Flevo on a trailer, there is lots of vibration and the screws do tend to loosen during the trip. My check list requires me to check all screws before I leave the house and tighten them before we actually ride. This past Saturday we drove to Fulshear for our usual morning ride with the gang. I failed to use my checklist. The weather was beautiful and the ride was a joy. Something was nagging at me in the back of my mind though. At the 10 mile rests top I realized I hadn't checked frame screws. "I'll just tighten them up," I thought as I dismounted. You can see what I found in the pic below:

The bottom frame screw wasn't just had fallen out. Our ride was over. There was no way we could ride the bike with one of the main frame screws missing. The rest of the group pushed on to finish the ride while Ken headed back 10 miles to Fulshear to get my truck.

This story has a happy ending though. We found the screw on the trailer and I use my checklist religiously these days.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The X-Bike Has Arrived

The new Barcroft back to back tandem has finally arrived. It's taking shape over at Danny's (world headquarters of Cycle Genius Recumbents). Bill Cook had the bike powder coated for me before he shipped it. I couldn't be happier with the layered purple over silver my stoker picked out. It's gorgeous! I took a few measurements of the assembled bike last night and I don't think it's going to fit in the Tahoe. I'll find out for sure today. I've taken the day off so I can give it a road test.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A City Ride

The older I get, the more conservative I've become in my riding. Since my accident in January I've avoided riding in wet conditions and have been extremely cautious going over railroad tracks. I've never liked riding in traffic, but the last few years I've avoided it almost all together. When I bought my first recumbent, my Tour Easy, I hooked up with other riders for an in town ride. Looking back at the traffic and potholes we braved I can only marvel and shake my head. I'd never consider such a ride these days. So, when my stoker suggested that we ride through town over to some freinds house for morning coffee I was dubious. Nevertheless, the weather for Sunday was forecast as cool and still. I figured if we rose early we could miss most of the traffic. Using lightly traveled side roads we could try to avoid most of the bumps and potholes.

We shoved off around 7:45 and headed for Hermann Park and then up to the Museum District. Traffic was indeed very light. We were able to cruise through usually busy intersections without stopping. Within 45 minutes we were sipping coffee on the porch of our friends house. After this delightful break we pushed off for Rice Village for breakfast at La Madelaine. More coffee, great food and the Sunday paper. This city ride was growing on me.

After breakfast we turned west again and pointed the bike back towards the house. We meandered through West University and Bellaire, enjoying the view. Lots of people were out walkng, picking up the paper or tending to their yards. Most all of them smiled or waved when they saw us roll by on our our tandem.

The Seavo is the ideal tandem for this type of ride. It's 1.5" tires glide over ruts, bumps and gravel without much trouble. It's steady and stable even at the slower cruising speeds we use on these city streets.

We ended up with 20 miles although we hardly ever looked down at the computer. The quiet morning city sights were our entertainment. What a way to start a Sunday!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Post Ike Rides

We've had fine riding weather the past couple of weekends. It's been getting cooler so we've moved our ride starts in Fulshear from 7:30 to 8am. Danny has ridden with us and has, as usual, provided invaluable technical assitance, from adjusting Z's seat on his V2F to fixing a broken spoke on the Flevo.

There was quite a crowd in the Fulshear area this past Saturday and I can't account for it except for the glorious weather. Here's Liz explaining the joys of riding backwards to a couple of DFers.

George Bush Park
Aimee and I decided to check out George Bush Park this past Friday for the first time since Hurricane Ike.
All went well until we turned south to traverse the body of the Park. We didn't get very far before we came to a screeching halt at the water's edge. Apparnetly the storm dropped lots of water in the park and it hasn't drained off yet. We turned around and with a couple of double backs, got 20 miles for the ride.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Hurricane Ike did this ride in. From the Bike Around the Bay website:

We are saddened to announce that because of conditions resulting from Hurricane Ike, we are cancelling our bike ride scheduled forthis October 18-19. Conditions will simply not allow us to go forward with a safe ride this year. We have explored several options ofgoing forward with only a portion of the ride, but ultimately decided it would be best to pass for this year. We are very committed to LyondellBasell Bike Around the Bay and look forward to offering the ride again in 2009. However, we are very excited to invite all riders to join us in Galveston the weekend of October 18-19 for a “Bike Around the Bay” volunteer event. Instead of simply cancelling our bike ride, we’d like to have a large group of riders/volunteers join us to assist with Hurricane recovery efforts in Galveston. We are in the process right now of setting up specific activities on which our volunteers can work, but we anticipate having a full day’s worth of activities on both Saturday, October 18, and Sunday, October 19. We invite you to join us for one or both days and if you can, spend the night at Moody Gardens. If we have enough participation, we will plan to go forward with our dinner and beach party that evening as a way to thank all our volunteers. Lunch will also be provided both days for all volunteers.

I think it's great that the ride organizers are sponsoring a relief event in Galveston in lieu of the ride. This is a great tour that I will definitely do next year.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cycling Photography

Before I was really into tandem cycling, I took pictures. I remember the thrill of developing my own negatives and then staying up all night making black and white prints in the darkroom. Those days are gone for me now, but I still love taking pictures, especially if they relate to my cycling. The problem is that to take a picture while riding, I have to take one hand off of the handlebars, fumble the camera out of the front bike bag, turn the camera on and then try to get the shot. The problem with this method is that it's an accident looking for a place to happen. A tandem captain can't afford this kind of distraction when he is repsonsible for the bike and the safety of his stoker. That's why my stoker takes all of the pictures while we're rolling. She doesn't have the view that I do up front, however, so alot of neat shots are missed. Jeff at came up with a handlebar mount for his Nikon Coolpix 4500 that solves the problem.

Another nifty solution is offered by GoPro. This lightweight digital camera is waterproof and can shoot 56 minutes of video and 2 hours of "photo every 5 seconds" shots. For $169.99 it's hard to pass up.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting to see what the organizers of the "Lyondell Bike Around the Bay" are going to do about this years ride. It's set for October 18-19, a little over two weeks from now. The first evening of the ride is in Galveston and many of the roads on last year's course are washed away or heavily damaged. In addition, there are reported health hazards on the island. I loved this ride last year, but for the safety of all, I'm hoping it's pushed back until next spring.