With intentions of getting this blog going again I thought that I would post a small update. Since August of last year I have had two more back surgeries. The first one was a discectomy and it was unsuccessful at relieving any pain. In March of 2015 I had a L3-L5 fusion and had some complications. Long story short is I haven’t really been on a bike since August of last year. I have decided it’s time to get started again. My plan is to ride RAGBRAI 2016 with either one or two of my sons and I want to be in good enough shape to enjoy it and not just survive it like I did in 2014. So stay tuned……..I have a couple new bikes in store and I plan to start making bent riding a part of my lifestyle once again.
I know this is late news but I did experience RAGBRAI 2014 this year. When I left I had a ruptured disc in my back so I bought a Delta trike for the trip so I could get in and out of the bike easily. Turns out a delta trike just isn’t what I wanted so I ended up returning it.
Anyway beyond that what a hoot! It’s like camping and riding with 20k of your best friends.The main thing I learned is RAGBRAI is what you make of it. If you wanted a drunken stooper fest then there is plenty of beer gardens available. On the other hand if you are there for the experience, culture, history and oddities you may see then you can have a totally different experience. To start with I was very surprised that RAGBRAI had so many beer gardens. I mean some of the first towns we went through in the mornings there were beer gardens everywhere. I ended up not doing any drinking at all at the rally. Like I said earlier I had a ruptured disc in my back so getting around was done with a cane and it was very limited. When dealing with most vendors I rode my bike up to directly and never got off of the trike.
For camping I decided to use a sherpa service for setting up and breaking down the tents and mattresses each morning. The name of their service and website is www.bubbaspamperedpedalers.com. I can say without a doubt that this was a life saver for me. They offered covered areas with seats and snacks at each overnight camping spot. We were also able to have our bags put in our tents each afternoon so there was no searching through a mountain of bags for them. Everyone was very personable and professional. I honestly did not know what to expect but camping through Bubba’s really made the trip extra special. Every night they had an on site bike mechanic in case you needed anything. Also new this year was an on site massage service. Lots of people took advantage of the massage service.
Here is the morning we checked in to take the shuttle from the destination town to the starting town.
Bikes waiting to be loaded
Here you can see the large Kelty tents that they had for us to use:
Here is a typical gathering area for our campground each afternoon.
I’m not a huge fan of large crowds but I never really had that feeling of being sandwiched in a group or anything. I was also VERY concerned about lines for food and bathrooms. As long as I didn’t stop for a rest stop at the first point in town I pretty much would walk up to any vendor or bathroom with the exception of one. There was an ice cream vendor that every day had a line of 50-100 people. I never stopped because I didn’t want to have to stand for that long with my messed up back.
I even had a pork chop a couple days from a highly loved vendor Mr. Porkchop without having to wait. Granted there were lots of people hanging out and eating but no lines or waiting.
Yummy pork chop
This was the crowd stopped having his pork chops and other items they sold there.
There is SO much more that I could write for days about my experience. Let me just say that I plan on returning next with my two teenage sons and I hope to use the tent service again. I met so many new and interesting people. I also was able to see a part of the country that I had never had an opportunity to see.
This was probably the largest group of people I rode in all week and it was only for a few minutes.
There were lots of windmills. To me I find them interesting because we don’t have them in the Southeast.
My suggestions for someone new to RAGBRAI would be:
1. Bring lots of $1 bills. Almost everything is a $1 whether it be snacks bottled water or whatever.
2. Bring a rain suit. You are going to need it sometime during the week.
3. If you are there to ride and not party then I would say plan on leaving camp early each morning, eating breakfast in the first town and spend some time in the pass through towns. Also don’t be afraid to get off of the path and visit areas not necessarily on the route.
4. My last suggestion is to train, train train!!!! I had ridden approximately 2k miles this year prior to RAGBRAI and at times I still had to struggle to ride some of the hills. 2014 was supposedly one of the flattest routes ever. I’m from flat crop land and I definitely needed more preparation than I did prior to the ride.
I have had the Swagman XCS 2 place bike carrier for about a month now. I have been on two trips with this rack so I feel like I have some good impressions with this set up. I purchased this rack with intentions of hauling a multitude of bikes and configurations. I’ve hauled bikes to Ohio and East Tn with this rack totaling close to 2000 miles. I purchased the bike carrier from e-trailer. Initially I intended to purchase either a Yakima or Thule carrier but on bent rider there were some good reviews. I took their info at face value and decided to purchase a Swagman XCS 2.
The rack was simple to assemble and we had it on the van in merely minutes. It offers a multitude of adjustments so we can carry literally any of our two wheeled recumbent bicycles. It is capable of handling tires from 20″ all the way up to 29″ tires and also it is very easily adjusted. My only point of criticism is regarding the racheting braces that go to the bikes frame. They can be a little difficult to release but it seems like it is getting better with continued use. Considering the cost of the rack I find it to be a great value.
This past week my son and I attend the third annual Smoky Mountain Recumbent Rally (SMRR). Last year I attend the rally and had a good time but this years rally was so much more fun. A good part of that was due to me being in better shape last year. Last year I survived the rides but this year I enjoyed them.
Friday morning brought out a cool morning that was in the 40’s and the group this year looked to be somewhere between 40-50 people. The mix of recumbents was probably 60% trikes and 40% two wheeled recumbents. The youngest participant was my son who is 14 and the oldest was in his late 70’s. Our first ride went from the bike shop: U Man Power to Coulter bridge. The ride goes along a nice stream and was approximately 20 miles round trip. After lunch we had the option of listening to a few speakers that included Bill Gillette, Bryan Ball and the owner of Trident trikes. Below is a picture of his demo of a new folding trike that they are working on.
Once the speakers were finished we had planned to ride up to a waterfall inside the Smoky Mountain National Park but rain swept in and the ride was cancelled. The group met later that evening for dinner in a nearby restaurant.
Saturday was the big day. The group was to meet at the entrance to Cades Cove at 8am. With the threat of rain later that morning a few of us arrived at Cades cove at sunrise. The temperature was in the 30’s and we were really questioning our sanity meeting that early on such a cold morning. We all wanted a chance to get some riding in and this was our chance. Cades cove is an 11 mile loop that goes through some of the most scenic ares that the Smoky’s have to offer. We chose to ride two loops inside Cades cove and just like every other time I have been there I did not see a bear. One of these days I’m destined to see one……I just know it. . I opted not to ride on Saturday afternoon. When we rode in Cades cove I didn’t realize it but I didn’t have the boom on my Catrike fully extended. I struggled the first lap and it just drained all of the energy from my legs.
Saturday evening all of the rally participants had a wonderful dinner and music at a cafe in Townsend named La Chocolate. Everyone had a great time and it was a great gathering. Overall the rally this year was a huge success. I hope to be able to return next year with the goal of being in good enough shape to ride from Townsend up to Cades cove, ride the loop and ride back to Townsend.
This week I had the opportunity to attend a Recumbent Rally in Xenia Ohio on May 2-4. The rally is just a loosely organized group of recumbent riders that meet up in Xenia Ohio for a few days of riding and fellowship. Xenia has over 300 miles of paved bike trails that branch out from the city. Most of them are constructed from old rail road beds making rail-trails for the area. Here is a link to more info on the trail system:
Day 1: On Friday we met at the Xenia Station and rode out to Yellow Springs to eat lunch at a restaurant named Young’s Jersey Dairy. The route was a little over 30 miles round trip. The pavement was well cared for and the trails were clearly marked. The weather was overcast, 50*, and windy but we didn’t let it put a damper on our day.
Stopped for our lunch stop.
Day 2: On Saturday we met again at the Xenia station this time with plans to ride out to a damn. The ride was about 40 miles round trip and everyone had a great ride. The weather was in the 60 degree range but the winds were blowing a stead 20-25 mph wind.
Overall this was a great trip. So much so that I may see about bringing my kids back up here for a few days of riding this summer. There was no entry fee or any costs associated with the rally but it was very well organized and everyone had a great time. I’m already looking forward to the next time we can visit the area.
Last week I put a Da Brim visor on my helmet. The first ride I used it on was 88 miles and sunny/fairly hot. The brim did a good job of keeping the sun off of my face/head which is what I needed because I’m so fair skinned that I burn easily. The brim held its shape fairly well but anytime I got over 20 mph the brim would catch air and add resistance to holding my head level. I learned quickly that I can just barely tip my head into the wind direction and deflect most of it. I also have the added stiffener but have yet to install it. Overall I like the functionality even though the looks are a bit goofy. I think this summer is where I will really enjoy the added shade.
While this isn’t particularly recumbent specific but it is the recumbents that encouraged me to make this purchase. I had a Mazda 3 hatchback that I really enjoyed but lifting the recumbents up on the top of the car(including sometimes the trikes) was a serious problem for me with my back history. Here is what I had before:
This past weekend I went on a ride by myself(my son usually goes along) and had to lift my Catrike Musashi up onto the roof rack by myself and it was a real challenge on my back. I had been kicking around the idea of getting a new vehicle but really didn’t know what I wanted to get. I was considering a few vehicles that really would have been no advantage to what I had in regards to carrying bikes. I was thinking about a Jeep Wrangler, FJ Cruiser, full size pickups etc. You could say that I had a huge case of sticker shock when I started looking into how much some of those vehicles cost both new and used. After some reading online I decided that I wanted to look at the new Ford Transit Connect vans. In 2014 they underwent significant upgrades/changes which included a passenger van version of the Transit Connect.
What I purchased was a Ford Transit Connect Long Wheel Base 7 passenger van. The largest advantage for me is the ability to put two trikes inside the van. I also have tow hitch and hitch mount bike carrier ordered. I plan to use the bike carrier when hauling our two wheeled recumbents.
The interior with all of the seats:
I opted to remove the third row passenger seating because it would be extremely rare to have more than 4 in the van at one time. It is a 5 minute job to put them back in.
As you can see my Catrike 700 easily fits inside the van. I can fit two catrikes in but I will have to push in the booms so they can go in straight. It’s not an issue because I have the booms marked at where they belong and it only takes a few seconds to push them in or out.
I will post up my thoughts/experiences with the van once I have some miles on it and get a feel for how it is going to work for me.