Terii’s Cycling Babble

To Falmouth And ICE!
October 26, 2012, 2:21 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Yes, there are a few photos, I promise. They’re just a little further down.

Written October 23 – Early Morning

I’m tucked quite comfortably into my surprisingly nice little single bed in a lovely B&B as I type this. My hosts are a charming couple and anxious to make feel at home. I slept well and, in spite of rain, I’m looking forward to going to ICE to try one of the 26” wheeled trikes. The Sprint 26. But since the journey is meant to be part of the fun, I’ll start from yesterday’s travel.

I woke at 4 am yesterday to finish the last bit of packing. Jens and I were out on our way by 5 am to be sure I had plenty of time to deal with potential security issues. There were none thankfully.

As the plane sat on the tarmac, the sky broke open and the first sunlight in over a week came shining down on the wet concrete and asphalt. It looked to be shaping up into a gorgeous day in my part of Sweden as the plane taxied down the runway after a 20 minute take-off delay due to London fog.

Or perhaps it was just a brief interlude in the gray since shortly after take off, the clouds reappeared below. They looked quite extraordinary; more like cracked sea ice than vaporous clusters. As the plane climbed further and approached an even higher layer of cloud. It (the cloud layer) threw a strange shadow of deepest purple and magenta. Eerily beautiful.

At cruising height the veils and clumps turned into a featureless sheet of gray and white and the flight became tedious and uncomfortable. The plane was quite full. I felt guilty for moving my feet around so much over the duration, but I was determined to keep the blood flowing. I’d rather moderately annoy a fellow passenger than spend the next 6 months to a year treating another blood clot. Also, I didn’t really have enough room to twist my coat into a donut cushion for my tail bone. After an hour, I was extremely uncomfortable. On top of that, the plane had to do circles over London as the fog was still too thick.

Given how thick the fog was when the captain was finally allowed to land, I boggle to think how dense it had to be for them to keep us up in the air. The buildings and parked planes just beyond the wings as we rolled to our gate were only dim, half-seen ghosts through the haze.

So, I was stuck in the plane for over 4 hours instead of the original 3 it should have been.

It felt good to move after so long stuck in a narrow plane seat. Immigration was a breeze and after a few short minutes of confusion, I was on the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station.

With the delays to the flight, I was a bit worried I’d be too late to make the train, but it turned out I needn’t have been so concerned. I had roughly an hour and a half to kick around Paddington. I put my wallet and cell phone into my jeans pocket and kept a hand on both against pick-pockets as I strolled around with my luggage. I thought about buying some food, but there didn’t really seem to be any place to sit and eat. A few metal chairs in front of the arrivals and departure boards which required one to sit back at an awkward angle or perch on the edge. Neither of which facilitate the consumption of something like a hamburger.

The last of my stress fell away as I boarded the train and found my reserved seat. I’d requested a seat at a table with a power supply and facing direction of travel. I got everything except for the direction of travel. An older couple eating the pre-made diagonally cut and boxed sandwiches occupied the aisle seats at the table. I felt terrible when the gentleman got up as quickly as he could while juggling sandwich and cane. But they insisted it was no trouble at all.

Since they were busy eating, I watched out the window at the people passing through the station until it was time for the train to move. The gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I’d like a sandwich. Though I hadn’t eaten in the station, I offered that as a reason to decline since the sandwiches had boiled egg which often make me sick. I thought it very sweet they’d asked.

The simple offer of food set us talking though. They were utterly, utterly wonderful people. Joan and Harry. Married for 33 years. He was 92. Joan a bit younger at 70-ish. Both of them were still very much in love. You could see it in the care they offered each other and the way they spoke. Harry had an impish sense of humor I rather liked. So, for 3 hours we chattered happily as the miles rolled beneath the wheels of the train.

Harry found it peculiar that I was going all the way to Falmouth to ride a ‘bike’ even if it was a strange sort of one, but he admired my bravery for traveling alone. They both had a good laugh over the picture of Loke in his ‘bath robe’ that I had on my iPhone.

I was sad to see them go when the train pulled into their stop. I offered to help them get their luggage off the train, but they insisted they’d be fine. Harry clasped my hand in both of his and told me to have a wonderful trip and be careful. Joan waved farewell to me from the platform as the train pulled away. My vision got a little bleary from the threat of tears. An incredible pair of people.

English Countryside Through Train Window

I love the English countryside and even while chatting with Joan and Harry, I took long looks out the windows in the occasional comfortable lulls in conversation  Occasionally, I’d see the peaks of churches. Twice, I saw something like a castle through the persistent mists though one was little more than a round drum tower. After my table-mates left, I focused more on the scenery and began to feel a touch of consternation. The picture above isn’t of the hills I’m talking about. It was taken about 2 hours before we reached Cornwall.

I remembered Cornwall being hilly, but I didn’t remember the sheer scope and steepness of the hills. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be able to handle it! A bigger problem will be if the pedals are 170 mm which is the standard length of a crank set. My Trice has a special crank set with 155 mm cranks which is much kinder on my poor knees. I might just have to settle with doing a quick loop around the industrial park where ICE sits. They have a few hills in the area. I remember that from when we came for me to test ride the Trice. I think I’d at least make a point of riding to the church a mile or so away. An English medieval church instead of a Swedish one! I rather like that idea! I’m almost giddy with glee!

Written October 23rd – Evening

Recovering from my short ride now. I had a great time with the people at Inspired Cycle Engineering (ICE). They’re as nice as ever, but to start from the beginning-

I woke around 2 am (3 am Swedish time) to the sound of tires on wet pavement. Though the weather forecasts I’d looked at for Falmouth had said overcast, they’d not mentioned rain. It also felt quite muggy, heavy and almost warm. Still, I was determined to go. I came all this way to try the trike, I wasn’t going to let a little wet and humidity stop me.

After staring in bafflement at a map of the bus-routes which just had all the roads in bright red with tiny little numbers written here and there with no clear delineation of which line intersected with what and where, I went with a taxi. Tessa (my hostess at Trelawney Guest House B&B), suggested a walk back which could take me along some nice foot paths.

The cab ride felt a little weird, being on the other side of the road, but in short order, I was dropped off at the door of ICE’s building. I was greeted warmly as I came into the assembly area, offered tea or coffee before Neil led me off to where they had a collection of their current model trikes tucked away.

He listened intently when I explained why I was interest in a trike with a 26” rear wheel. He showed me all the options which included an internal geared hub on a 20″ rear wheel. One of my main objections to an internal geared hub was that everything I’d seen seemed to indicate that you couldn’t have a triple chain rings with them, but they even had one set up with just that which gave me another possibility.

When I decided to try the 26″ rear-wheeled Sprint first and maybe the internal geared trike if I was still worried, Neil looked me up and down before saying it would take about half an hour to 45 minutes to get the Sprint 26x converted to a short crank. I could only make a solid decision if I rode a properly fitted trike rather than making do with a 170 mm crank set. I wasn’t about to argue! Not with my knees and those hills!

I chatted with some of the other people there. They’re all very cheerful and engaging, answered any questions I had in regard to their work. As Neil fiddled with the chain length to adjust for the smaller rings of the short crank set, I watched one of the other men begin the assembly of a trike. It went FAST. Less than half an hour, he had all the major parts installed and was starting to work on the gears. To think it took me a week to assemble my Trice!

I also took the time to change into my cycle pants which I’d packed with me though I’d left my cycle tops at home. My shoes and helmet also made the trip with me.

We also went up into the office to discuss places to ride and the severity of the hills in the area. There were going to be hills no matter which way I rode though we did find a way so that I’d be going DOWN the steepest ones and up the less severe if longer slopes. That’s always easier on my knees. Map printed out, trike set up with mudguards, lights, flag and side-pod bags to carry my camera, phone and GPS. Neil even loaned me a rain coat.

We wheeled the trike to the delivery bay door and I stared out in surprise. The morning which had begun cloudy and drizzly had been obscured with a thick FOG. I was shocked. I’m not used to fogs that roll in around lunch time. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the one my plane had landed in thankfully. Neil suggested I make a quick loop around the parking lot to try the gears and brakes and to give him a chance to see how well the lights cut through the haze.

I was amazed as soon as I sat down in the trike. Though still a mesh seat, it has foam inserts added on the seat bottom and a few to either edge of the back to add support there. The Trice’s seat, for all that it’s just unpadded mesh stretched over metal bars, is surprisingly comfortable. The only time I seem able to sit without pain in my tailbone is on the trike with my twisted blanket. Even the couch or my computer chair with the blanket still brother me. I find that really odd. But the new seat was better still! Even without the padding of twisted fabric, I felt just fine!

As I did a few figure 8’s to get comfortable with the trike, Neil waved me back for a quick adjustment of the rear light. After I did another circle through the parking lot so he could double check, he gave me a thumbs up. Off I went with my GPS running.

It felt truly strange to be riding on the left side of the road though I had no real problem staying there. The only time I had to remind myself to stay left was when I made turns onto other roads.

My heart still leapt into my mouth every time I saw headlights coming through the murk toward me. That knee-jerk thought yelling in my head every time, “OMG!!! They’re coming at me! Wrong side! Wrong side!” In spite of that, I didn’t swerve wildly, only gritted my teeth and stayed with my left wheel firmly on the road edge. Finally, I just started laughing at myself.

The first road away from ICE’s building wasn’t too bad, but as soon as I made the first left turn only 100-200 yards down, I had to chew my way up the first of the hills. I never thought I’d call 61 F warm, but it felt hot as I spun up the incline. It didn’t help that my cotton knight blouse was damp and getting damper under the rain coat. I had to stop to take the coat off in hopes of feeling at least a tiny bit cooler. It didn’t quite work, but at least I didn’t feel so much like a ‘boil-a-bag’ of rice.

A Little Less Fog Here

That moment, perched in the middle of the steep hill as I wrestled the coat off, I decided I absolutely adored the parking brake. My Trice simply has locks on the front wheel brakes for parking. Though I was on the Sprint 26X which is a bit higher end than the 26 I’m thinking of purchasing, both of them have the same rear brake option. A handy twist lever at the bottom of the steering handle. It holds tight and firm and no crushing the brake handles while trying to force the button down.

Coat off, I continued that first hard climb. The fog thinned slightly as I went up. From a perspective of visibility for cars coming over the top of the hill on that pretty, but narrow little lane, I was glad of that much.

The climb was distinctly unpleasant. The trike’s tires slipped from time to time on the wet leaves and it was hard. I don’t know how long it took me to reach the peak. I don’t even know what the grade was since my Garmin was laying in one of the pod-bags. While grinding along, an older man on a mobility scooter out with his dog shook his head at me and said, ‘Right lousy weather to be doing that!’ I heartily agreed.

I have had worse climbs on my Trice here in Sweden, but they have almost all involved ice or gravel or my trailer loaded with camping gear with gravel.

Fog Kissed Spiderweb

The place was beautiful though. As I crept along that road with steep banks crowned with trees or walls, I kept seeing openings for footpaths almost always accompanied by a wooden sign with the words “Public Footpath”. There must be a veritable spider web of them throughout the region.

Seeing those, I felt a bit guilty for not bringing my mother-in-law. She would have just adored those trails.

Finally I made it up that first nasty hill and then got one of the rides of my life. That beautiful trike just flew like a stooping hawk down the road until my wet hair was blowing back from under the helmet and I was giggling like an insane woman with the exhilaration. On one long straight stretch, I just let the brakes go and it felt like I must have hit over 30 mph. I’m not entirely sure of the speed because the Garmin wasn’t handy.

Around about the first mile and midway down the first hill, I gripped the brakes to slow for a turn. Yet something else I loved! The drum brakes on my trike are great. Better than any brakes I’ve had on the standard diamond frame bikes I’ve owned, but the disc brakes of the Sprint put them all to shame. The hand levers felt light and comfortable even to my little hands and the brakes themselves were extremely responsive. I went from streaking at white-knuckle high speed to a smooth glide for the corner gently, but in a surprisingly short distance with less force on the levers that I’d have had to use on the Trice.

Saint Budock Parish Church – First English Medieval Church via Cycling!!

I was still giggling as I coasted to a stop at the first and only church on the planned 8 miles.

Just a hint of the stained glass work. Must be stunning from the other side

I loved the church. The gorgeous stone of the walls and Gothic like detailing of the stained glass windows. I would have loved to take a peak inside to see the artwork of those windows from the proper perspective with daylight shining through them even if it was muted by cloud and fog.

The churchyard had a completely different feel to it than those I’m accustomed to in Sweden. It felt older and certainly more crowded. Swedish country churchyards feel almost open and airy. Even without the fog it wouldn’t have been much of a push for this grave yard to take on the slightly eerie feel that is often portrayed with older places like this. It felt a little close and the headstones so old, deeply weathered, lichen covered and leaning as if weary of existence. Added with that hanging mist and trees and shrubs hiding portions of it, it just deepened the mystery. All it would have needed to be a perfect Halloween setting would have been a few fluttering bats, a dead tree and a full moon shimmering ghost-like in the fog.

It reminded somewhat of a graveyard near where I spent one of the happier times of my childhood. Not far from the corner of Walnut St. And Lake Ave. where my family lived for some number of years stands the Krebs-La Pointe Home that we always called ‘Old Spanish Fort’. It dates from 1718 and right next to the grounds of that old house is the cemetery. A lot of the settlers from the area and time of the 1700’s are buried there and many of the oldest stones are inscribed in French. It had that same old feel to it. It had a spookiness as well, particularly to a young girl with a highly active imagination. The fact some of the old brick, above-ground ‘vaults’ were collapsing with dark openings big enough for one to put a hand into, or for a hand to come out of, gave an even creepier feel.

Maybe it was because it reminded me so much of the Old Spanish Fort Cemetery, and therefore those happy years of youth, but I smiled as I walked around the church. There was the sense that the passing of years stretching into centuries had been made tangible. It hung about the place as if each century was one heavy cloak after another, draped over the church. It wore that age with a heavy dignity more pronounced than that of the Swedish churches I’m familiar with. Maybe it’s because its endurance through the ages had not been stripped away beneath countless renovations to remodel the number, placement and size of windows according to the fashion of the times, nor buried under layers of youthful, glowing skins of brightly painted plaster.

I didn’t linger long. I’m anxious enough when I leave my Trice alone, unlocked, for more than a minute, but I take responsibility for someone else’s property even more seriously. By the time I finished getting pictures and looking at the beautiful details of the church windows, I was about to jump out of my skin with worry about the Sprint.

It was still neatly tucked in the out-of-the-way spot I’d found for it.

Then it was back to the wild ride down.

At the bottom of the hill, I stopped briefly. I think about the time I started making the next hard climb, the thought to cut the ride short crossed my mind. The wet was getting to me, particularly since the cotton blouse felt hotter the wetter it got. The steep, long climbs were wearing my legs out quick. I took a look at the altitude graph on my Garmin and it was showing peaks and valleys double anything I’ve faced in Sweden. AND my part of Sweden at least has stretches with something approaching flat in between the hills. Not so in this part of Cornwall unless you count a the tiny 75 – 100 meter low spots between those hills.

The final blow for me was lack of scenery. The tree lined lanes were pretty, but on the occasions the trunks parted, all I saw was 50-75 feet of green grass fading to a wall of white nothing. If the weather had permitted glimpses of the glorious views across, up and down the hills, I would have been pulled onward for more and more photos.

At least I didn’t have to double back. The wild descent had been the steepest hill of the ride and luckily, there was a turn which would take me directly back to the main road and back to ICE. It was another gorgeous tree-lined lane which offered another flying ride down before creeping upward again. That last climb before the bigger road took forever.

I was shaky and weak-kneed as I pushed up the ramp to their large delivery door. My left arm was splattered in mud where I’d put the wheel off the pavement a few times in an attempt to give passing cars more room. My hair was matted down over my neck and shoulders, dripping onto my well dampened shirt. Still I was grinning as I got off the trike.

My wobbly-legged and soggy appearance got me a few goodnatured laughs and teasing. Hero appeared and said she’d put dry towels in the ladies bathroom for me to dry off with the offer to tea or coffee when I came up into the office. I gratefully took up the offer of both the towels and some tea. I’ve never really had a fondness for tea, but as soon as I stopped pedaling all that wet went right into a chill. Hot anything sounded wonderful.

Neil was scarce as I sipped hot English tea with a bit of milk and sugar and nibbled some cookies. Soon, someone went in search of him and he breezed into the office with a smile. I told him I absolutely loved the Sprint except for the lever gear shifters at the top of the steering grips. Those are standard with the Sprint 26x. The Sprint 26 has twist shifters which I definitely prefer

The rest was perfect until they came up with something better. It felt rock solid even compared to my Trice which I’ve always considered extremely stable. Part of that greater feel of stability is likely the 2 extra inches of of width between the front tires. My Trice is a narrow-track version.

Even though I’d made no commitment to buy, Neil still spent almost an hour with me to go through all the options between my desire for a decent low-end gear range and derailleur clearance.

We quickly discarded the possibility of a internal geared hub with a 20″ wheel. The need for the short crankset with it’s smaller chain rings made the overall gear inches too low. I’d have been pedaling like crazy at the highest gear anytime Loke ran faster than 12 mph.

He quickly did the math and presented the numbers. The short crank set with the 26″ rear wheel had actually given me a smaller gear inch on the lowest gear than my Trice currently has. That surprised me. In that case, as hard as those hills were I would have hated to face them on my own trike.

Once we’d developed up my ‘nearly ideal’ trike, Neil took me back to the trike area for me to try the folding. LOVED IT. It adds nothing to the ride experience itself, but for sheer convenience, I’m wild for it. It folds to about 1/3 shorter than the Trice. The rear wheel stays on the trike so there’s no slack chain that might be smear grease on things. It’s a bit tricky to do until you’re used to it, but that’s because of the safety measures they’ve built in to make sure the trike isn’t going to collapse in the middle of a ride. I’ve folded my Trice no more than 4 times since I bought it because of the hassle of putting the rear wheel back on after it’s been removed and trying to wrap the back in plastic because of the chain. It also never really felt that much smaller after folding either. This one, I can see folding it every time I put it away. I would certainly make much easier to carry in and out since it would be a less unwieldy length.

He showed me something else as well. A pair of trikes fitted with electric assist motors. One was the usual sort with the drive in the rear wheel. That was a beast. I could barely lift the rear wheel off the ground.

The other was almost tiny by comparison. A battery with casing about the size of a large cantaloupe and an even smaller motor that drove the front chainring rather than the rear wheel. With an internal geared hub on the back, it meant the trike actually had a wider range of speeds with the motor pushing it than the heavy one.

Right after that, a shipment arrived at ICE which caused a bit of a stir among the guys. Pre-production prototypes for certain accessories. They were more than happy to show them off to me, winking as they said they’d swear to me to secrecy later. They didn’t, but I’m keeping my mouth shut as if they did. 😉 If the items pass a few last tests, they’ll likely be on the market sometime early next year.

With my shirt decently dry at last, I went to change back into my jeans. As I went around thanking everyone for their hospitality, Neil suddenly asked if I’d like a ride back to my B&B. I started to say I’d walk, but a glance out the doors showed a soggy drizzle. I accepted the offer.

Before we left the industrial park, we swung by their soon-to-be new location. Shortly after I visited in 2006, they changed location. Just moved to another part of the building they were renting in. Now, they’ll be moving again shortly after my visit. This time though, it’s a different building and instead of rent, they’ll be paying a mortgage. It looks good. It’s a little smaller, but it will be theirs.

Overall, it was a good day and they made me feel very welcome and almost even part of their little group. One of the advantages of a small business I guess.

So, in all, the Sprint was a dream to ride in spite of the bad weather and hills that cut the ride short. The folding makes me want to swoon with delight.

Neil suggested that if the weather is better tomorrow, I come back for a longer ride since the trike will be all set for me to just jump on and go. Tessa, my hostess here at Trelawney Guest House, told me the weather is supposed to be better. Fingers crossed!!

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