a day with a racing tricycle

Got to do two things yesterday that I’ve wanted to do for years. I went to the Printer’s Row Book Fair, and I got to take a ride on a recumbent bike.

Printer’s Row was mostly a disappointment. I read a lot, but I’m not much of an idle browser. I’ll browse the bibliographies of books I already like, I’ll take the recommendations of friends I respect, but I don’t bother much with the disorganized stacks at used book stores. Which is what Printer’s Row amounted to. The author’s panels seemed mostly dry or boring. The presidential biography one wasn’t too bad. I didn’t have much use for the rest. I also ran into some old friends from high school, which was nice.

But I also got to take my buddy Todd’s Windcheetah racing tricycle out for a spin on the Chicago lakefront path. I want one!

It was perfect: a glorious spring day, mild temperatures and breezes, hangin’ out with friends. I only got it up to 22 miles an hour, but I was a little confused about the shitifng for the front chanrings, so I didn’t get it all the way up into top gear till we were almost home. Some notes:

  • Very comfortable. I hadn’t realized how much of the fatigue I experienced riding a wedgie (a regular bike) was just from discomfort;
  • Hard to break a sweat. I would definitely have to go pretty fast to make it a major part of my exercise routine. Which isn’t necesarily a bad thing;
  • Close to the ground. So you have all those clearance issues to deal with: bumps in the pavement, puddles, cracks. It’s all much more in-your-face than it is on a regular bike. Lucky Chicago is so flat;
  • Low to the ground. So you’re nearly invisible, which is bad in traffic. I think I’d want lots of flashing lights and probably a tall flag, at least for urban riding;
  • Three wheels. The stability is nice, not having to unclip your feet from the pedals to stop, and so forth. But it also means you’re actually concious of the tilt in the road surface. Not all recumbent bikes have three wheels. Odd that the lakefront path seems banked the wrong way on a lot of curves;
  • Touchy steering. I didn’t quite have enough time to get used to it in one day. This is particular to the model I was riding. This was another reason I didn’t get it up to top speed. I think I’d probably want something less touchy;
  • Hills are different. They’re a little harder to climb, because you can’t use your upper body. But lots of hills are the other side of a dip, so you climb them after you come down a previous incline. And because you lose less energy to wind resistance, your inertia caries you up farther;
  • Higher maintenance. Maybe it’s just that Todd is more attentive to such things than I am. But keeping such a long chain clean is more important on a recumbent;
  • More expensive. Getting a bent(recumbent) is one of those things to worry about after I get a freakin’ job. I think that the expense also adds to the maintenance issue. You’re naturally going to be fussier about a more expensive bike.

So there are some pluses and some minuses. But I’ve had a fascination with HPVs since reading about them in Omni magazine in eighth grade. Anyone remember Omni? I wonder whatever happened to it.

Anyway, really cool, fun ride. I want one, though I have plenty of food for thought before I get one. Not to mention plenty of money to make.

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