100 miles of short rides this week

I took off in the WAW this morning and rode to Mabank. I ended up with 20.7 miles. I had just over 100 miles for the week. With the dire forecast of rain and colder temperatures for the weekend, I decided I’d better get my miles in before the weekend.

I did four rides this week. The last three were in the WAW, as I get the last of the adjustments done on the WAW, getting it to fit me. The last two rides were just 20 mile rides. I don’t usually do rides that short, but it seemed fitting as I work out these final WAW adjustments, plus I’ve been suffering from some kind of cold or sinus/throat event this last week, and thought short rides might be better for me right now.

I ended up with 430 total riding miles in November. That’s a good November. This year’s mild weather certainly helped. It gives me 5,200 miles for the year, so I only need 300 miles in December to reach my mileage goal for the year. Barring blizzards, I should be able to do that.

Here I am at a traffic light in Mabank. Someone took this photo last Saturday, then posted it on facebook and asked what it was. LOL. It’s amazing how many people just can’t seem to figure out what the WAW and I are, and how many photos get taken of it.

First 40 Mile Ride in the WAW

I took off in the WAW this morning and rode my 40 mile route out to Purtis Creek State Park. It was a chilly morning, just perfect for a velomobile ride, and it was a good ride in the WAW. It’s been almost a month since I bought the WAW, and I finally have it rideable. I’ve been very surprised at how much work it’s taken to get it rideable for me. And most surprising to me is the fact that most of the problems I’ve had with it, I haven’t found anything posted about anywhere online. Oh, well. Here is what I had to do to get it working for me.

The first thing I did was to remove the 155mm pedal crank arms the first owner had installed, and replace them with the original 170mm cranks. I never got on board with the short crank fad that’s so popular among recumbent riders. It takes more range of motion in your knee to use longer cranks, so my thinking has always been that using them helps me keep a better range of motion in my knees as I age, and the only way I’ll move to shorter cranks is if I lose enough range of motion that the longer cranks don’t work for me. But a velomobile is different. I knew that I might have problems with the longer cranks in the WAW. I am 5′ 9″ tall (I used to be 5′ 11″ tall before 40+ years of heavy machine shop work pretzeled the shape of my spine enough for me to lose 2 inches of height), but I have long arms and legs, and size 12 feet. I knew that might make it tough to use the longer crank arms, but I decided I wasn’t going to switch back to the 155mm cranks unless I had to. The 170mm cranks are still installed in the WAW.

I knew right away the seat in the WAW was too high, and much too far forward, but I had no idea what a project it would become to get a seat position that worked for me. I had moved the seat back a couple of inches and lowered it before my first ride in the WAW, but I barely got over 3 miles in it before I had to turn around. My shoulders were killing me. My shoulders are bad, from that same 40+ years of heavy machine shop work. I’ve had surgery on my left shoulder, and ruptured my bicep in both arms. Saying my shoulders are bad is probably an understatement.

And the seating position in the WAW, and the position of the tank control sticks put me with my elbows so far behind me that it gave me a great deal of pain in my shoulders, especially my left shoulder, just trying to steer and brake the WAW. I knew I had to get the seat back further and the stick controls further forward. I flipped the seat mounting brackets upside down to get the seat to its furthest back and lowest adjustment. I had to move the pedal bottom bracket back over 4 inches from its original position. I had to remove 7 chain links and cut 3 inches off each of the chain tubes. It still wasn’t nearly enough, so I bent the control sticks forward as far as I could without the brake levers hitting the wheel wells, and did a 30 mile ride on November 9th. It still wasn’t nearly enough.

So, I bought some 3/4″ EMT and used it to fabricate new control sticks. Rather than bend them forward, I used threaded rod to extend the steering linkage enough to pivot the control sticks well over the top of the wheel wells, and moved the brake levers to the back of the control sticks. Using the thumb half of my hands to brake rather than my fingers is taking a little getting used to, but not as much getting used to as the tank steering itself, really.

The cut and bent new control sticks. Note that the one that will end up on the right side is shorter, because it will have a bar end shifter sticking up on the top.

The before.

The after.

This is working. I still need to tweak my seat position a little, but my shoulders don’t feel too bad after a 40 mile ride, so I think the control sticks are keepers.

The seat came with a Ventisit pad. Ventisit pads aren’t padded enough for me. With every Ventisit pad I’ve ever ridden on, I’ve literally gotten bruises on my back. This one was no exception. I knew that with the seat in its current lowest position, I could add some padding and still have plenty of clearance for my knees, so I cut a Walmart camper pad to the shape of the seat, punched some holes in it for ventilation, and installed it under the Ventisit pad. I may end up needing to add more padding yet, but this is much better.

The Walmart camping pad, cut to the shape of the seat, and with holes punched.

Installed on the seat and under the Ventisit pad.

The first time I sat in the WAW, I noticed that the foot holes seemed to be too far forward, much further forward than those in Greg’s Quest. After moving the seat back four inches, that problem was much worse. I couldn’t pedal at all without my heels striking the back of the holes. I ended up taking my jigsaw and cutting the back of the holes to open them up a couple of inches more. I have the cover for the foot holes. I doubt that I’ll ever use it, but if I did, it probably wouldn’t quite cover the holes now. I’d have to add something. I would no doubt have to go back to the 155mm crank arms, too.

And finally, I couldn’t get the Garmin mounting arm to stop pivoting while I rode. I first removed the plastic washers under the locknuts. This worked to keep the mount in place side to side, but not up and down. I’ll be re-installing the plastic washer, then adding a second locknut to act as a jamb nut against the first, to see if that will hold it.

The Garmin mounting arm that won’t hold still. You can also see how much I cut out at the back of the foot holes.

I was spotted on the way home this morning.




WAW-hoo!

I had planned to ride Greg’s Quest this winter, all the while watching for a good deal on a used velomobile, so that by next winter, I would have my own. That plan was still in its infancy stage, when it took a sudden turn this week, and I now own a WAW. It’s a WAW@2014, serial number WAW231.

By the time you add the options you’d want to a new version of any of the top of the line velomobiles, and pay shipping to get it from Europe, the price is usually $10,000+. I’m semi-retired now, and that kind of price tag is more than my budget will allow. I had set my max price for a velomobile at $5,000. That price will get you the kit version of the FAW+ velomobile that’s being built in Midland, and I’d decided that if I hadn’t found a really nice used one by next fall, that’s exactly what I’d get. The FAW+ isn’t comparable to top of the line velomobiles, but I thought it would be passable for what I wanted in a velomobile.

The first step in my plan was to re-join the bentrider online forum. I’d frequented it years ago, but my login had quit working, and I could never successfully recover my password. I’d quit posting there a long time ago anyway. I found the place to be full of self proclaimed “experts” who knew next to nothing, but were always ready to argue with anyone who did. Those were the ones who’d reply first to any question asked, then argue with anyone who posted otherwise. I got frustrated with all the bad information that was being posted on the largest recumbent forum around, and left. But, I knew that was where most velomobiles for sale would be posted, and you can’t view photos or reply to a poster unless you’re a member and logged in, so it was time to put all that aside, and re-join the forum.

Last month, a member posted his WAW for sale, and by this week, his asking price had been lowered to $5,000. The original owner intended to get into riding when he bought it, but never quite did, and had now moved on to other hobbies. He had paid almost $11,000 for it, but now he just wanted it gone, at the best price he could get. The WAW had body damage, but almost no miles on it, the perfect combination for a bargain, and when the price got down to that magic number, I couldn’t resist pouncing on it. This is a nicer velomobile than I ever thought I’d end up with.

The WAW computer’s odometer shows just 11 total miles, and the original owner said he’d only done two short rides in it, so I suspect that odometer mileage is correct.

I knew that the new version of the WAW, which Katanga has been manufacturing in the Czech Republic for the last couple of years, was among the best of velomobiles, but I did not know many of the nice things about it until I researched more thoroughly after spotting this used one. Unlike the Quest, the WAW’s front wheels are on the outside. This gives the WAW a better turning radius than the Quest, but makes its aerodynamics not quite as good as the Quest. But the carbon fiber version of the WAW which I now own, weighs just 60 pounds, making it 25 pounds lighter than the Quest. So, anything the WAW might lose to aerodynamics on the flats, it should easily make up for on the hills.

The other major thing that caught my eye was how easy the WAW is to work on. You don’t realize how hard a Quest is to work on until you try it. I had to replace a front derailler cable on Greg’s Quest, as well as rotate the derailler a bit, to get it to shift into its smallest chainring. That’s not a tough task on a bicycle at all, but the only way I could do it on the Quest was to roll it onto its side, and work through the foot holes. It gave the feeling of trying to assemble one of those ships in a bottle.

With the WAW, both the nose cone and tail are removeable, and removing just two bolts lets you pull off a cover and open up a large access port up front. It makes everything easy to reach and work on. More velomobiles should be made this way. And the fit and finish on the WAW are really good. It even gives you a small dash panel. The brackets for its aerodynamic mirrors also serve as swivels to let the top pivot up and down. There’s just a lot to like about the WAW. And this one has lots of options, including a SRAM Dual Drive, 90mm drum brakes, and carbon fiber wheel covers.

The rear section of the WAW is removeable, so you can easily access the rear wheel and derailler.

Removing two bolts opens up this large access port in front.

The top flips up, for entry and exit from the WAW. With it held at a 45 degree angle, it will pull right off (like removing a pickup tailgate).

I figured that before I returned Greg’s Quest to him, I’d take some photos of the WAW beside it, for comparison. The Quest is a bit taller and wider than the WAW. The opening for the rider is a couple of inches lower on the WAW, making it easier to step into, but it’s also almost three inches narrower. The WAW is smaller inside, too. It’s big enough for me (I’m 5′ 9″, 185 lbs), but wouldn’t accommodate as large a rider as the Quest would.



It’s time to return Greg’s Quest, I guess. It barely fits in the bed of my truck. With its removable tail section, the WAW is a much easier fit, as I found out when I made the long drive home with it.

I’m still cleaning, lubing, and adjusting on the WAW, and haven’t done my first ride with it yet. It’s still a bit warm in Texas for velomobile riding anyway, but it will soon be time for its maiden voyage. I’ve been debating whether or not I should name it. The Great Pumpkin, maybe? Orange Crush, or perhaps Texas Tangerine?

30 Miles in the Quest

I took off this morning and rode my normal 30 mile loop. It was my first time doing my normal route in the Quest. I still need to do some adjusting on the shifting, but the Quest performed very well. One of the questions I had was about how the ride on these roads would be in a Velomobile. My roads are rough. And a trike rides rougher than a bicycle. It’s just a basic three wheels versus two wheels thing. And you can’t dodge holes and rough spots nearly as well with three wheels, either. But the Quest, with its suspended ride and wide tires, actually rode smoother on these roads than my bikes do. I was impressed. It’s pretty obvious that most folks around here haven’t seen a velomobile before. The reactions to the Quest were crazy.

It’s too soon to do speed comparisons, but I couldn’t resist doing them anyway. I’ve been wondering how the Quest’s speed would compare with my F-5. Recumbent bicycles have a different speed profile than upright bikes. If you compare a racing recumbent with a racing upright bike, the recumbent will be faster on the downhills and flats, but slower on uphills. The recumbent doesn’t gain enough on downhills to make up for what it loses on uphills, so the bottom line tends to be that on a flat route, the recumbent will be faster, but on a hilly route, the upright will be the faster bike.

With a velomobile, the differences are even more dramatic. It’s weight and superior aerodynamics makes it even faster on a downhill, but slower yet on an uphill. But, as with all pedal vehicles, the strength of the rider makes the biggest difference in how fast a particular vehicle will be. It’s even more pronounced on a velomobile. The reason is that to gain any advantage from the velomobile’s superior aerodynamics, you have to be riding 13 to 18 mph or faster. Below that range, rolling resistance is the biggest obstacle to speed, and with its heavier weight and wider tires, a velomobile rider will be slower in it than he would be on a bike. Yet, when above that speed range, the same amount of power on the pedals will move the velomobile faster than any other pedal vehicle.

So if you are a slow cyclist, you’ll actually be slower in the heavier velomobile than you would be on a bicycle. But a racer can gain a lot of speed in a velomobile. So, for me, somewhere in between a slow cyclist and a racer, I wondered how the Quest would compare with my F-5, a pretty fast recumbent, on the roads I ride. I don’t have a power meter on any of my bikes, but looking at my average heart rate, versus the speed it produces on the F-5 and Quest, should be a pretty good comparison. There can be a pretty wide variety of average speed and average heart rate on my rides. But a 15 mph average is pretty normal for me. On slower days, either I was at a recovery pace, or there was a lot of wind, or some other out of the ordinary factor. On days where I averaged faster than 15 mph, I was definitely putting out more than a normal effort.

I looked at the last few weeks of riding. On my 30 mile rides on the F-5, on the days I averaged 15 mph, my average heart rate varied from 123 to 135. On this first ride in the Quest, on the same route, I averaged 16.9 mph. But my average heart rate was 142. So, while I was faster, it was a harder effort that produced it. I need some more rides to do a more valid comparison. But it does look like the Quest will be at least as fast as the F-5, if not a bit faster. I’m thinking it will make an excellent winter ride.

But, considering I’m only working part time these days, the Quest is a bit more than I can afford for my long term winter ride, unless I run across an especially good deal on one. But even if I have to settle for a velomobile that’s a bit slower than a Quest, it looks like it won’t be very much slower than my normal riding. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, it’s time to just enjoy riding Greg’s Quest.

The Quest.

The view from within.

Martin Mills Metric

I took off on the F5 this morning and rode my Martin Mills Metric route. Today’s 60 miles, along with two 30 mile rides during the week, gave me 120 miles for the week. It was 55 degrees when I took off this morning, with a brisk north wind. Fall is definitely in the air.

On FM 3080, about 12 miles into the ride. I hit a dog. It’s a large dog that’s been a problem for me for a while. It often gives chase as I pass its house, but worse than giving chase, it likes to run back and forth in front of me. I’ve come very close to hitting it before. With most of the dogs I’ve encountered, a spray in the face from the special dog training fluid (read: ammonia) in my spray bottle, and they don’t come as close again. This one has been an exception, and keeps coming after me. As I approached him this morning, he rose from his spot on the ground and ran toward me. I was still in the act of retrieving my spray bottle from the bottle cage with my left hand when I hit him with my front wheel.

It’s the second time I’ve hit a dog on the bike since I moved here three years ago. At least I wasn’t going nearly as fast this time as I was when I hit a dog in 2014. Fortunately, I didn’t run over him. My front tire struck him in the shoulder, knocking him off to the side. I quickly got my left hand back on the handlebar and brought myself to a wobbly stop, without going down. He jumped up and hightailed it back up his driveway and out of sight. So thankfully, we both survived. Hopefully, he’ll take a better lesson from this than he has from the spray bottle.

Today’s route.

State Highway 19 Loop

I took off on the F5 this morning and rode a variation of my State Highway 19 Loop. The seven mile stretch of FM 1861 that I always ride has been repaved with fresh boulder seal, so I skipped it and came back on FM 2709 instead. I don’t much like it. It’s rolling hills have too many blind spots where drivers tend to pass too close. FM 1861 has so little traffic that it’s going to take that new boulder seal a long time to smooth out. One more rough stretch of road added to too many miles of rough road around here already.

I ended up with 52.3 miles today. With Wednesday afternoon’s 40 miles and Thursday morning’s 30 miles, that gave me 122 miles for the week. I had ridden 120 miles each of the two previous weeks, and finished the month of September with 510 miles. That’s a decent month for me, and keeps me on pace to make my mileage goal for the year.

It was 59 degrees this morning, and pretty cool on Thursday morning, as well. I wore shorts both days, but went with long sleeves. I hadn’t done that in quite a while; I’m glad to finally see some cooler fall weather.

Today’s version of the State Highway 19 Loop route.

A very different test ride.

I managed my usual two 30 mile rides during the week last week, but when I got up at 6:00 am on Saturday morning to do my planned 60 mile ride, there was a large storm bearing down on this area, so I went back to bed. It ended up not raining for long, and the roads were dry when I finally started my ride at 10:00 am. With that late start, I settled for a 40 mile loop out to Purtis Creek State Park. So, I was ready for a few more miles on Sunday, but I got them in a very different way.

I’ve been wondering what a velomobile might be like for a winter ride, so I made a trip to Fort Worth to visit Greg Gross, an old friend. There, I did my first test ride of a velomobile ever, pedaling just under 10 miles in his Quest. It didn’t disappoint, and was a blast to ride. Greg has been unable to ride it for a while, and agreed to let me bring it home for an extended test run. We’re supposed to start getting some cooler weather soon, and I’m really looking forward to getting some miles in it. I may have trouble getting my miles again this week though, with the forecast for later in the week calling for a lot of rain.

Velomobiles are pretty unique contraptions. They are very aerodynamic enclosures, built on trikes. Their weight makes them slow to climb a hill with, but on downhills and flats, they are faster than any bicycle. As I found out yesterday, there is a learning curve to handling one. They are hot to ride in in a Texas summer, but really nice in the winter. I’m looking forward to seeing what this one will do on my usual routes.

A very different ride for me yesterday.

And it came home with me afterward.

Martin Mills Metric

I took off on the F5 shortly after 7:00 yesterday morning, and rode my Martin Mills Metric route. It was 69 degrees when I left home, the coolest morning in quite a while. But it was sunny and warmed up to the upper 80′s by the time I finished at 11:30. Still, with a good north breeze, it was a really nice day to be on the bike. I ended up with 60 miles. That, combined with two 30 mile rides during the week, gave me 120 miles for the week.

Tuesday’s 30 mile ride was my last ride of August. I ended up with 542 miles for the month. That’s about what I would expect for August. I’m slightly ahead of the mileage pace I need to reach my goal of 5,500 miles for the year. I’ll need those extra miles when the weather gets tougher in November and December and I’ll have trouble maintaining that pace. Now that the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred is done, I’ll start doing slightly fewer miles. This week’s 120 miles will be more the norm than the 140 miles a week I’ve been riding.

Martin Mills Metric route.

2016 Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred

Yesterday, I rode the 100 mile route at the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred for the tenth consecutive year. Like last year, I stayed at the First Christian Church the night before, sleeping on an air mattress in the gym. I joined a bunch of other recumbent riders for dinner Friday evening. (Thanks, Gary!) It was definitely an enjoyable trip this year.

The forecast had been for a cooler day this year, but it was humid, not many clouds, and as I started my drive home at 1:00 in the afternoon, it was already 93 degrees. So it wasn’t that cool at all. That said, it wasn’t nearly as hot as it has been in some years past. As I was driving home, I did notice that some storms had popped up at Wichita Falls, so some of those who were still on the course late likely got rained on.

The HHH people at the start let the recumbents and tandems start about ten minutes before seven. I stayed behind moderate speed tandems those first few miles, and managed to stay with one group or another for all but a couple of the first 30 miles. At that point, there were no groups to be found, and I was out in the wind by myself for the next 8 miles. On the stretch from Electra to Burkburnett, I only seemed to encounter faster groups on inclines where I really couldn’t keep up with them, so rode alone more in that stretch than I usually do.

I passed Hell’s Gate well before 10:00 am, but was feeling pretty tired at that point. I did a better job of staying with one group or another for quite a few miles after Hell’s gate, and seemed to get my second wind. It felt like I put out more effort this year than last year though, and there were several times where I was trying to hang with a group on an incline and watching my heart rate approach 170 before I had the sense to back off. But I think my fitness was a little better than last year, and I finished a bit faster, and never had anything approaching cramps, in spite of my effort.

According to my Garmin, I finished the ride in 5:19, a good time for me, about 10 minutes faster than last year. For only the second time in my 10 HHH rides, I rode the entire 100.7 miles without stopping at all. My bladder gets me up all the time at night, yet I can occasionally ride more than five hours without stopping. One of life’s great mysteries, I guess. It appears that my timing chip didn’t work this year. There was no official result for me on the timing website.

The start. That’s me, just to the left of the velomobile.

And we’re off.

Hell’s Gate at mile 60.

The medal waiting at the finish.

This morning’s reward at Denny’s.

My Garmin data.

Ben Wheeler 80 Mile Ride

I did my last July bike ride this morning. I took off on the F5 around 6:20 this morning, and rode my Ben Wheeler 80 mile route.The clouds from the last couple of days were gone, it was sunny and it got hot quickly this morning. I finished just after noon, and it was already 93 degrees. I had done two 30 mile rides during the week, so for the third week in a row, ended up with 140 miles total for the week.

I ended up with 620 miles for the month of July. That’s my best mileage month for the year, and finally puts me right on the pace I need to maintain to make my mileage goal of 5,500 miles for the year. My monthly mileage average needs to be 460 miles to reach that goal, but I likely won’t make my monthly goals in either November nor December, so from now to then, I need to stay on a pace of more miles per month than that average.

Today’s route.