Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Recumbent Trikes with The RoadQueen

The RoadQueen's hot pink ICE Sprint 26"

 We finally took a break from farm chores and projects and spent a day on our recumbent trikes.  It has been a long time since we ventured out on our three wheelers so we thoroughly enjoyed a lazy Saturday on the B & O Trail in Richland County, Ohio. 

Temperatures were ideal at about 70 degrees and other than a late afternoon passing shower conditions were great along the greenways.

With the stability of three wheels camera work while underway is safe and easy.

Spring is one of my favorite times to be outside on a bike. The air smells clean and fresh and blossoming trees and wildflowers along the trail provide fragrance as well as great views.

Since owning and riding a recumbent trike I've discovered an attribute of this type of cycle that really makes the platform shine.  If I'm feeling like racing the clock or hammering out an intense workout my Catrike 700 is up to the task.  On the other hand if I want to spend the day at a relaxing 10 mph the trike does that with aplomb. 

There are racks available to transport a pair of trikes on a car but since I have a pickup truck portaging to the trail is easy as pie.

B & O Trail
Ride Time:    2:59
Distance:    30.54 Miles
Average Speed:    10.22 mph

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Composting System for Small Horsefarms

This is one of the first projects the RoadQueen and I took on last year when we were getting our horse farm up and running.  While she is the equine expert I simply enjoy building things and being a gardener I can appreciate a system that yields wagons full of cured compost for my garden.

We found plans and theory of operation for this system from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension and the Oklahoma State University. Here is the pdf. 

Some of the materials we already had on hand. These were panels of heavy stock fencing, T-posts and a pile of pea gravel to make a raised base to keep the manure pile up off the ground. To cover the gravel we laid heavy one inch thick rubber stall mats to make forking and shoveling easier.  I fabricated corner brackets to connect and stiffen the 2 x 12 frame from 1/16" aluminum.

We started adding to the bin right away from stall clean outs and paddock area.  The key is to continue to add to the pile mixing in fresh manure to the older stuff working towards the open end of the bin.  After 11 months we had the bin about three quarters full.

Over time microorganisms and bacteria worked their magic and now I am forking out beautiful black gold to fortify my garden soil.

Unfortunately we don't have a tractor with a front end loader yet so all the lifting is done by hand and I use a small garden tractor and cart to transport the compost to my garden.  While shoveling shit is not the least bit glamorous or fun I'll still take it over the boring repetition of lifting weights in a gym.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Spreading Manure

Today I spread some aged manure on the garden plot.  Living with horses has many advantages one of which is a nearly endless supply of very nutrient rich compost. 

The mowing crew.

My mother taught me gardening and the love of it has stuck with me all my life.  When I lived in the city I only had a small strip on the south side of my house where I could cultivate a small crop of tomatoes and maybe a few pepper plants.  The rest of the property had too much shade and not enough sunlight to support a vegetable garden.

Here is a few photos from previous years:

While I like to can, dry and freeze a lot of my harvest it is nice to eat fresh from the garden.  The above photo shows tomatoes, jalapeno and red chili peppers ready for a batch of homemade chili.

A feature I noticed right away when looking at the farm was a perfectly situated garden spot chosen by the former owner. I wasn't going to grow a garden last year because we had so much going on having just moved. In the end I threw a few plants in the ground anyways and we enjoyed this first garden on the farm.

Here is the garden about mid summer 2016:
From left: Sweetcorn, tomatoes, cabbage, bell, cayenne and jalapeno peppers.  

This year after some extensive soil building I'm looking forward to many hours spent working my little plot.  Back in the fall I covered the entire garden with leaves once they all fell and now I'll continue to cart loads of manure up and start tilling it in.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Springtime Flowers

The last time I was back in the woods the ground was covered in dead brown leaves. This weekend I took a walk back and discovered the renewal of spring in full bloom.

My knowledge of botany is limited so I have no idea of the name of this ground cover. In any case it sure is nice to see things greening up finally.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Double Crank for the Motobecane

After much consideration I decided to swap out the triple crank for a double on my titanium Motobecane. For years I've always liked the utility of a triple crank on my bikes but since moving to the farm I don't find myself with the time or the desire to head east to ride in the hill country. The roads around my area are very flat as can be seen in the photo so really a double is right at home. And let's face it the Motobecane is a performance bike and a double crank completes the look.

When I decided to make the change last fall I perused that online auction site and found a used Ultegra crankset with bottom bracket for fifty dollars.  The new to me double is from the same line as the triple I was using so shares the same classic looks.  I'm not a fan of the newer style big blocky looking cranks that are on the market today.  

The crank is not a compact model but I did replace the 53 tooth big ring with my existing 50 tooth. I'm not a strong rider by any stretch and the 53 just feels like too much gear to me.  I did leave the 34 on for low gears and it works fine on the very occasional rises I encounter on my rides.

Another positive outcome of the change was realized because the double runs on a slightly narrower bottom bracket than the triple. This moves the chain rings closer in towards the frame and the chain line now falls more in the middle of the cogset where I do most of my riding anyways.  Now the drive line feels noticeable smoother while underway and I'm not missing the triple at all.  

With the farm came an outstanding 40' X 60' pole barn which is quite a change from the single stall garage I had back in the city.  I now have more than adequate room for my collection of bikes, motorcycles and tractors. I don't have to push everything to one side when it comes time for maintenance.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Life On The Farm - Forestry Project

Moving from the city about a year ago to a farm in the country has been a life changing event to say the least.  In the past I spent much of my free time with my bikes.  Living in the city with only a small lot to take care of left ample time for velo-related activities. Never one to shy away from some honest hard work I've found that the farm provides a plethora of projects to work on to keep me busy and fit.

Since I'm not so focused on the bike world I have decided to start a new topic on the blog and call it "Life On The Farm". Over the past year I continued to document my projects photographically and I'm going to make an attempt to get back to posting these endeavors here.

The back of our property is made up of a small three acre woodlot. We have Oaks, Maples, Hickory among other deciduous species.   A few weeks ago because of the lack of snow and the fact that the ground cover is dormant I decided to start cleaning up the area of downded branches and trees.  Our farm sat vacant for nearly ten years so there is lots of sticks to be picked up.

I've always enjoyed being in the woods whether mountain biking; hunting or simply sitting still watching the birds.  Even though the woods is only a meager three acres it doesn't seem to matter and I spend a lot of time being back there. And best of all I can call it my own. Well, maybe eventually I can when the bank is paid off.

A couple weeks ago we had a few days of very strong winds move through the area.  The fifty-plus mph gusts brought down a large Ash.  Years ago the woods was filled with many beautiful and tall Ash trees.  Unfortunately the Emerald Ash Borer moved in and decimated the Ash population.  Several of these trees are on the ground but many more are still standing dead waiting for the wind and gravity to have their way.

The first weekend after the wind storms I headed back and with the help of Wyatt and the RoadQueen we got busy converting this giant to firewood.  I'd rather have a forest full of healthy Ash trees but I suppose the one consolation is we won't have to buy firewood for quite some time.

When the Ash toppled it took out a couple smaller trees one of which it bent over fully and held there under tension.  Anyone who's been around woods and chainsaws knows this is a very dangerous situation.  After cutting as close as I dared to the area where the two trunks made contact I rigged up my winch to a thirty foot tow strap and eased the larger trunk off the smaller.  This way I was able to keep well clear of the danger area. The Ash slid off easily enough but I wasn't sure what the smaller tree under tension would do once freed from the weight of the Ash.  In the end it only whipped up a few feet.  Its base was splintered pretty bad at ground level.

The next day we sawed the massive trunk into managable pieces (see opening picture) ready for transport back to the woodshed.

Here's a shot of Wyatt tending the fire.  We're in the process of burning out an old stump using branches that are too wet or rotted to be burned in the indoor woodburner.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Frank Roberson Knife

My Inlaws Butch and Missy who are some of the nicest folks you could meet gifted me this Frank Roberson knife for Christmas this year. The blade is a small custom made full tang sheath knife that right away I knew would be a perfect addition to my flint lock kit.

Frank Roberson is a knife maker from Irving Texas who has been crafting blades since 1991. He used ATS-34 steel and favored sheephorn, ivory and other natural materials for handle scales.  The knife is not new but came from the collection of Missy's stepfather Hollis "Howdy" Howes who was a collector of knives and Native American artifacts who lived in Mineral Wells, Texas.

The tang of the knife has carving of a vine motif on the top and bottom. This embellishment I really like.

Here's the knife secure in it's new home:

Colonial riflemen often carried a small "patch" knife on a thong around their neck that was used to trim patch material from around the ball as they loaded their muzzle loading rifles.  A good patch knife has been missing from my rig and I am pleased to finally fill in the missing puzzle piece with this fine steel.  I lashed the sheath to the strap of my shooting bag with a couple leather laces to keep the knife handy and at the ready.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Ride With Wyatt

Veteran's Park - Butler, Ohio
Wow! time sure is a relentless rider.  My son is in the tenth grade now. Seems like just yesterday he was rocking the the twenty inch BMX.  He's become a fine young man and still rides his bike to school although now he rolls on 700c wheels.

Wyatt takes after his old man in that he's not of fan of ball sports but he does care deeply about his physical fitness.  When he noticed me messing about with my bicycle the other day he suggested that a nice long bike ride would be a great way to add some endurance training to his regular exercise routine.  He had my attention at "long bike ride"!  I said if your up to it let's ride the B&O.   

So we loaded up on a late Sunday morning and headed over to the trail.  Now I wouldn't think of riding a regular bike for 2+ hours without a pair of padded shorts and a jersey but Wyatt does not concern himself with the fredly trappings of a cyclist's kit.  His standard uniform of khaki pants and white tee shirt suited him fine.

He did make a great comment later after our ride: "Usually when we ride the rail trail we get passed by these groups of guys that look like you do with your serious bikes and a nod inferring to my stretchy clothes. But not this ride." 

I just let him set the pace for most of the ride and I think he was pretty pleased with himself that in 36 miles he was the one doing all the passing.  He's also learned how to meter out his power slowly and not burn up too soon.  

Foraging Whitetails

I felt pretty good also considering this was only my second time out.  The fact thatWyatt has become a good rider and can keep up a steady speed really helped to keep me spinning and lessening the pressure on the road bike saddle.

B & O Trail
Time:  2:42
Distance:  37.19 Miles
Average Speed:  13.73 mph

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Back in the Saddle Again

Yes I realize it's a little late in the season to be reporting my first ride but better late than never.  I do have a good excuse for my hiatus from the road though. Earlier this year The RoadQueen and I got hitched and bought a farm.  Needless to say whipping up a long neglected farm back into operational status; cleaning out the old house and holding down the old 9 to 5 has kept me pretty busy this summer.

Finally I had some time this morning to dust off the titanium Motobecane and don my stretchy clothes for a little shakedown ride.  After a summer of farm work; everything from chucking hay bales, fixing fences to demolishing a couple old buildings I've managed to stay in great shape and even lost 10 pounds. But I was curious to see what shape the old legs were in.

The property we bought lies a few miles west of town smack dab in the middle of bucolic North central Ohio I have photographed so many times during my rides around this area.  No more stop lights and traffic getting into and returning from my rides.  Right from my driveway is nothing but long stretches of lonely rural roads. A biker's paradise for sure.

The Motobecane and its twelve year old componentry performed reliable just as it had during our last outing.  It felt wonderful to back out spinning away and didn't feel as if I'd missed a beat.  My wireless computer's batteries had long since gone dead but my trusty smart phone kept track of the data which I didn't worry about until I'd finished the ride.

Parcher Road Short Loop

Bike:  Motobecane Le Champion
Ride Time:  1:02
Distance:  16.54 Miles
Average Speed:  15.77 mph

I was pleased with the data. My average was right up where it has been during past seasons on the road bike. Not bad for nearly a year off the bike.  Best of all the farm sits not far from one of my favorite routes: Parcher Road Loop. I shortened up the ride a bit since I forgot my water bottle and found it makes for a nice hour long jaunt.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Into Fall On Three Wheels

As always I love the transition from late summer to fall.  Among other outdoor activities I like to pursue I've gotten out on my Catrike 700 a few times.  Other than the Ti-GP bike which I ride to work most days I've neglected all my other bikes.  The trike is just plain fun to ride.  I keep waiting for the novelty to wear off but I keep falling further into lust with this sweet ride.

Periodically I make small tweaks and adjustments to perfect my fit to the machine.  I'm a big fan of Catrikes' overall design and in particular the steering system.  The grips and wrist rests can be adjusted forward and aft and tilted in or out to suit ones preference.  This design is a departure from many recumbents out there that rely on a more or less traditional handlebar setup.  After experimenting with the forward and back positioning of the hand grip I tilted them both in with just enough clearance for my hips during ingress and egress of the cockpit.  Like an open wheel race car or a fighter jet this cycle is a machine you get into rather than ride on. 

I missed the peak of the fall foliage with my camera but still beautiful in any event.  Recently I returned to Mt Vernon, Ohio to ride the HOOT trail and take a look from the observation tower in Founders Park.

Later back on the trail I was just riding along and all of a sudden my rear tire went flat.  Earlier when I went to top off my pressure the little insert in the presta valve popped right out the stem before I could attach the pump head.  I screwed it back in and inflated the tube as usual.  When the tire went flat on the trail I just figured the valve was broken so I pulled the wheel with the intention of replacing the whole tube.  For shits and grins I tried pumping the original tube back up and it held air fine.  I kept checking as I continued on my ride and had no more problems.  I have no idea what that was all about.

It won't be long now and the view will be back to cold grays and browns but even that I'll take over the view from the couch.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Catrike 700!

Well I've taken the plunge and added this Catrike 700 performance trike to my fleet.  I always knew I would end up with a three-wheeler eventually but I figured it would be later in my golden years.  Over the past few years I've noticed the uptick in trike popularity and I have been seeing more and more of them on the trails.

My first experience on three wheels was with a little red one that had a fixed gear.  That was roughly forty years ago.  I probably put more miles on that thing with one foot on the rear platform and kicking off with the other than I did sitting properly on the hard metal seat.  I still remember the tiny crankset spinning madly by itself as I whipped up and down the driveway and neighborhood sidewalks.

That little red trike was the rabbit hole I fell through that landed me in the wonderful world of bikes.  Like most kids I soon felt the pull of two-wheeled freedom and quickly forgot about my trike once I mastered the ability to balance a regular upright bike.

A couple decades later as a young adult still immersed in cycling culture I had my second brush with the trike.  After work I would often hang out at the local Schwinn bike shop and shoot the breeze with my friend Jeff who ran the place.  One day I noticed a low sleek three-wheeler sitting there in the shop. It was a tadpole style; two wheels in the front and one trailing behind, with a boom mounted crank set at the front.  I don't remember what exclamation of wonder I uttered but Jeff noting my enthusiasm said "Take it for a ride." 

What!? really? OK! We wheeled it out the door and I took off on my first ever recumbent ride.  The trike which was in the shop for regular maintenance wasn't a home built but did not have any markings so I have no idea of what brand it was.  The trike had 20" wheels all around shod with narrow high pressure tires and a sporty red paint job.  I still remember the turn like it's on rails-go cart like feel that little scooter had.  The seeds were sown.

Jumping forward another twenty years along my trike timeline brings us to the present and I find myself once again under the spell of three wheels.  So what caused this sudden onset of trike madness?  I was just saying I figured my beard would be long and white by the time the circle of life was complete and I found myself back on a trike.  One word, well two actually: RoadQueen.

Even before we met the RoadQueen was thinking about a bicycle.  She did pick up a nice 700c equipped hybrid but after hooking up with a bike nut such as myself who regularly enjoys a 2, 3 or even 4 hour ride she quickly realized the standard bike seat wouldn't cut the mustard.  She discovered recumbent trikes on her own and said "That's what I want!"  

One day just for fun she spec'ed out her dream trike on the Utah Trikes website and sent me the details in an email.  She had no idea I was going to place the order and it resulted in a great surprise for her.  Initially I had planned to just ride my HP Street Machine while the RoadQueen developed her recumbent legs but who's kidding who I had to get in on the trike action too so I pulled the trigger on the Catrike 700 I've had my eye on.

Eventually a couple huge boxes arrived via truck freight after an excruciating month long wait.  The long lead time was due to waiting on RQ's Ice Sprint to be shipped from England to Utah and then even more time was required for the custom hot pink paint job.

Ultimately it was worth the wait for that sweet paint.  That's the reason we chose Utah Trikes over a dealer closer to home; They offer custom paint.

So lets get to the meat of this post and talk about the trike experience.  There was no question Catrike was my chosen machine.  I love the fact that these three wheelers are completely built in Catrike's state of the art manufacturing shop in Orlando, Florida.

A few well thought out details sold me on the Catrike design.  As with all the models in the lineup the seat frame is actually part of the overall chassis of the trike.  It's a unique feature that makes perfect sense.  No separate seat and attachment hardware to add weight and cause noise.  I cannot stand squeaks and tics coming from the components of my bikes.

The one caveat with the Catrike seat is that there is no adjustment of recline possible. This was not a concern for me because from the very first time I settled back into the mesh seat it felt as if the frame was made just for me.  The angle of recline may be a touch more laid back than the Street Machine I've spent the last seven years on but it feels perfectly fine to me.  

For control Catrike employs what is called direct steering.  Instead of a complicated linkage system the Catrike's steering arms are directly connected to standard bicycle size head tubes with a simple tie rod to hold the front wheels in alignment.

Some point out that this setup causes the steering to be too twitchy but I prefer precise and responsive handling so I like the direct steering.  Just like the Street Machine with its under seat steering the bars are simply a place for the hands to rest.  The trike responds instantly to the slightest inputs to the bars.  Steering is quick and intuitive.

A nice finishing touch and added creature comfort are the wrist rests mounted below the grips.  These oval foam pads are visible in the picture of the trike while still in the box.   

The 700 is Catrike's flagship performance machine.  It has no suspension and no folding capability which seems to be all the rage in the trike world these days.  The 700 name comes from the rear drive wheel size: 700c.  The big wheel not only looks cool but keeps the gear ratios the same as the typical road bike.

Because of the narrow high pressure Schwalbe Durano tires and no suspension I was expecting a harsh ride but it's not that bad.  It really doesn't feel any worse than my road bike.  Acceleration and ease at cruising speed is where the 700 shines.  Of course I'm faster on my road bike but the 700 is no slouch by any means.  On my last ride of 27 miles on the Heart of Ohio Trail I logged 15.8 mph average speed.  Sitting just inches off the ground enhances the perception of speed adding to the fun.

Years ago I purchased my full suspension Street Machine because its main purpose is long distance touring; something I thought I might be interested in pursuing.  While I do love the cushy ride the Street Machine is a heavy bike.  Because most of my rides are only 20-40 miles in length I don't really need a touring bike or the extra weight of suspension for that matter.  Taking on an extra wheel adds to the weight of a trike but overall difference between the 700 versus the Street Machine is only 2.8 pounds.  My body weight fluctuates that much.    

Since I've had the 700 I've put 140 miles on it and the trike has exceeded my expectations.  The thing is just plain fun to ride.  It didn't take long to notice that balancing a two wheeler be it a recumbent or traditional diamond frame takes up a good measure of attention.  The trike requires no sense of balance. This frees up the rider's mind to simply enjoy the ride and scenery along the way.

At cruising speed the trike tracks very straight making two abreast riding especially enjoyable.  I noticed while riding with the RoadQueen our front wheels would be only four inches apart and we easily maintained position while carrying on a conversation.  Eventually I'll get back to riding my two wheelers because they provide their own special kind of magic but for now I can't get enough of this cool laid back ride.

Here's a couple guys I've followed online for a while who I'd like to thank for sharing their knowledge and experience which really influenced my decision making concerning the Catrike 700: