Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flevo for Sale?

Since I got my Barcroft back to back tandem, Liz and I haven't ridden the Flevo back to back as much as we used to. It's not that we don't enjoy it immensely when we ride it. We do. It's not that it isn't a great bike. It is. It's just that since we got the Barcroft Liz decided to start clipping in. She felt more comfortable doing this on the Barcroft since it's so low to the ground. She's closer to the pavement and I can hold her up easily on the Barcroft when we stop. Eventually she gained the confidence to clip in on the Flevo too, but for some reason, she always felt more comfortable on the Barcroft.

Liz had a hip replacement last month from a non-biking fall. She's talked to the doctor about getting back on the bike and he gave her the okay. She worries, though, about breaking the other hip in a bike fall. Given her additional comfort level on the Barcroft it seems unlikely that she'll ever get back on the Flevo, at least not any time soon. A bike like this needs to be out on the road, not hanging in my garage. I'm thinking about selling it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tour de Houston March 2009

I missed this ride last year because of my broken femur so I was anxious to do it this year. My lovely stoker was still recuperating from here hip replacement and couldn't ride so I took my new Barcroft Oregon. I picked up friends Jim, Danny and David and we loaded all four bike on my Tahoe and headed downtown.

Three bikes went on the Draftmaster and my new Oregon fit neatly in the back of the truck. I work downtown so our first stop was to see if I could edge the Tahoe into my parking garage three blocks from the ride start. Unfortunately we were too tall by an inch or two. We opted for a pay lot right next to Discovery Green.

Packet pick up the day before the ride had been disappointing. I seldom sign up for organized rides in advance but I did so for this one because I wanted the T-shirt. Danny and I stopped at a Guaranty Bank branch (Guaranty sponsors this ride) on Saturday to get our packets. There were no T-shirts at this location. Oh well.
There were at least ten Porta-Potties on Discovery Green. Nevertheless, David and I stood in line for a good 15 minutes to get into one. Right after I reached the head of the very long line someone pointed out that there were public bathrooms just a few feet away with no lines. The story of my life.

Someone told me at the start line that 5000 had signed up to ride. Looking at the crowd I could believe it. The start was well planned. Start times were staggered by route distance. Riders were further staggered by starting in limited groups to reduce congestion. I had no trouble pedaling on my SWB single recumbent right from the start. There were so many riders, however, that I never really broke clear of the pack for the whole 40 miles ride.

I enjoyed the ride route since it took us through the heart of Houston. Leg One was up through the Heights with the first rest stop at Reagan High School. I realized after the first few miles that I was on the wrong bike for this ride. The Oregon rides on 451 wheels inflated to 100 lbs. The frame on the Oregon is, of necessity, pretty stiff. This bike on these wheels is fast, but the combination is not conducive to a smooth ride on city streets like these. This ride was a tooth rattler! If I do the ride again it will be on more forgiving tires.

This brings me to accidents. I personally saw two wrecks happen and passed several others that had already happened. I watched one young lady go down about 100 feet ahead of me for no apparent reason. She was riding in the open and fell as we passed over Memorial Drive. I could see no reason for the crash except that one of her wheels must have dropped into a crack. It seemed to me that more people were crashing on this ride than other rides I've been in. I'd be interested in the numbers. My theory is that it was due to the city streets and the fact that there were so many bikes that riders never really broke free of other bikes. There were bikes all around me for the whole ride. With the bike traffic and city streets, constant vigilance was required.

At Reagan High we bumped into Paul and Cyndy with their homebuilt Bilenky type tandem.

Leg Two took us down through Montrose, over the Southwest Freeway on the Mandel Street bridge and through Mid Town and Montrose down to North Braeswood and then up Weslayen to Rest Stop Two.

This leg of the trip took us along the north side of Rice University and then down Main Street to Braeswood. There were police blocking traffic at all busy interections and the route was well marked. Indeed, there were so many bikes on the road it would have been virtually impossible to get lost on this ride.

Rest Stop Two had a forest of Porta Potties. There was no wait!
The remainder of the ride was consisted of retracing our steps back over the 20 miles we had just traveled.

There were festivities at Discovery Green at the end of the ride. A free lunch from Antoines was included in the price of the ride along with free beer. Not bad. All this was followed by live music.

I will do this ride again next year, but on a different bike.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Stoker is Back!

Liz has been recuperating fast from here broken femur and total hip replacement. This past Monday, four weeks to the day since her surgery, she was back on the bike with me in the park. This afternoon, after the morning ride in Fulshear, I took Liz to the park and she made 16 miles with no pain. She's able to articulate her new joint with no problems.

For the first 10 miles or so we flew, reminding me how fast we are together on this bike. I think Liz tired a little for the last few miles and we dropped down to a more sedate pace. She's just a little deconditioned from the rigors of surgery and not riding in a month. This confirms my own experience with my broken femur. Riding the bike was the first real exercise i was able to do after surgery with no pain. She'll be back up to full speed in no time.

Naturally, Liz is a little nervous about reinjury and I can't say that I blame her. She says she'll never get on the Flevo again because she feels so much more comfortable on the XBike. I'm thinking about selling it, but haven't made up my mind yet. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Another Back to Back

I found out about this unique back to back through my friend Martin on YouTube. This tandem was built by Jan Friedl (on the captain's seat) and Jirka Hebeda, both from Czech Republic.

Jirka provided the following information about the bike:

The design and frame were mostly done by my friend who is piloting it in that picture (with the rest of his family on board). The basic idea is this: a cross between racing and touring configuration easily converted between the two.

The frame was designed to be simple yet effective and tolerant to manufacturing imperfections. Front geometry is done so that the head tube and main frame tube are perpendicular - for easy building.

The rear end is designed to be stiff under load of baggage. The ride is rather harder as a result of the sporty configuration, but still quite ok. It is reasonably fast and we did beat Martin's tandem in that 24 hour race :-). The wheelbase is 2300mm (about 7.5 feet) and front wheel trail 70mm. Seats are movable in large range via several holes in the main frame and clamp on the seat stays. Pedals are mounted by a bracket onto the main tube and can be adjusted finely to the millimeter.

What's intriguing about this bike is it's apparent simplicity. I can't see any curved tubing, only angles. If Jan and Jirka are willing to share the plans, I'd like to try to build one of these.