Terii’s Cycling Babble

About My Cycling Craze.

I’m an American born Swedish resident and I fell in love with my adopted country when I came over to marry my wonderful Swedish husband. My obsession with cycling began long before the possibility of living outside of the US crossed my mind.

My cycling craze began, logically, with my first bike. I loved the freedom and speed it offered though I despised the actual bike. It was a pink girlie bike with the long, high swept handlebars dangling pink, silver and gold tasseling and shiny plastic banana seat of silver glitter. In spite of that hideous little machine being twitchy and uncomfortable, I still went out with it as much as I could. I don’t remember what happened to it. Life was pretty chaotic at that time. Lots of sudden moves.

Several bike-less years passed. The next bike I recall was a lovely little 3 speed adult style comfort bike, a dark plum color that was almost black I think. It appeared one Christmas or birthday when I was about ten. With that one my passion for riding set its hooks even deeper. Through the long summer days in southern Mississippi, I found quiet roads to pedal. Often, I’d wake with the dawn, packing a sandwich and soda bottle full of water into the little wicker handlebar basket and leave until about supper time. A portion of my mother’s gray hairs probably came from the few times she’d ask where I’d been all day. To her credit though, she never said a word when I’d describe some place 15 miles or more from home. A different time back then, when kids didn’t have to be wrapped in bubble-wrap and cotton wool. That bike was swiped by the neighborhood bullies. I found it two days after its disappearance in a ditch with both wheels taco-ed and the frame bent sideways into nearly a 90 degree angle. I cried.

I remember a short period with another bike when I was 15 or so. It was gray. My mother had purchased it for me at a flea market I think. I rode it just about everywhere with my baby brother until it was stolen from the backyard.

My last bike in the states before I moved to Sweden, I owned for almost 15 years. It was a gift from my mother. A combination of ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Congratulations For Going To College’. It was hideous. A man’s road bike, way too large for me and a seat like cold forged iron. That machine was likely older than I was by years. The frame was flat gray and every bit of chrome was rust flecked. But it was cheap at 25 bucks and rolled like a brand new Cadillac. I wheedled my dad into teaching me how to do maintenance so I wouldn’t have to pay a bike shop or beg my dad to always do it for me.

I put some serious miles on that old bike and it moved up to Indiana with me and then back down to Mississippi. The last year or so I was still in the states, I didn’t ride it much. A back injury sustained when I went down with the bike kept me off it. All because someone decided to hit me with a half full soda can because I dared to ride a bike on a road.

Even so,  I was sad to leave it when I moved to Sweden, but it was nearing the end of its life with signs of metal fatigue at some of the welded joints.

Sweden. Sweden is like a dream to someone who grew up in a place where drivers can be viciously hostile to people on bikes. Beautiful scenery, cycle paths are common and, on small country roads or not so small roads, people are considerate of cyclists. It’s a country made to move. I itched to explore it on two wheels.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Just weeks after I made the move, we bought me a nice bike which reminded me very much of the one the neighborhood bullies had destroyed even if it had 27 gears instead of 3. My bad back wouldn’t allow me to ride it. It was a terrible blow as the beautiful countryside and history just minutes away called.

Enter the recumbent.

I had an intense fascination with recumbents in my teen years. Back then they were almost exclusively home built, most often covered in fairing as Velomobiles. As the time passed, I’d forgotten about them.

Then one day in 2005, while wandering around Stockholm, a recumbent bike whizzed by me. It got the wheels turning (ooh fully supported back!). I started doing research as soon as I got home. The idea of a trike rather than a bike intrigued me since Loke wouldn’t be able to yank me down. I liked the tadpole models (two wheels front, one back) most and I gave careful consideration to what I required. It needed to be fairly light so hopefully, I could move it in and out of the apartment.  It had to be narrow enough between the wheels to fit through the apartment doors.  Folding might also be nice to help with transportation and such.

I found all that in the Trice Q-NT, the NT standing for ‘narrow track’.

The problem was expense. Recumbents generally cost more than standard bikes and the one I picked was higher end. It was hard to convince my husband the cost was worth it.  As I agonized, my father called with his yearly ‘Whatcha want for your birthday?’.  I told him I’d have to think about it later because the only thing on my mind was too big of a chunk of change.  He insisted I at least tell him what and how much and let him decide.  He was quiet a moment when I explained. Then he told me if I tried one out and liked it, he’d decide.

I got in touch with Inspired Cycle Engineering to see if any shops in Sweden carried their models.  The closest was somewhere in Norway.  That led my husband and I to another idea.  How about going to England if the guys at the company would let me try one there?  We could make a road trip of it!  That’s exactly what happened in April of 2006.  It was a great vacation as we explored gorgeous parts of Cornwall and the guys at ICE were very friendly and helpful.  They cheerfully set out one of the models I most had my eye on and told me I was welcome to go explore the countryside for a couple hours if I liked.  As I settled into it, the first thing that struck me was how comfy the seat was.  My back actually relaxed into it painlessly.  They also put out another for my husband to ride with me.  I was in love with the Trice the moment I made my first loop of the parking lot while I waited for my husband to get settled in his test ride.

We weren’t gone long.  Just 20 minutes since I was pretty out of shape and Cornwall, England is hilly to say the least.  Those hills only reinforced my near instant love of the Trice.  Since I was a teenager, I’ve had problems with my knees.  I simply can’t put the force or cadence into the pedals that most people can.  Push too hard or try to flex too fast and they just scream.  I’d always had to walk my bikes up all but the gentlest hills.  Headwinds were bigger curses.  I had a twinge of dread when I came to what would have been a mountain on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Much to my surprise, though I slowed to a crawl, I made it up the hill.  I didn’t have to worry about forward momentum thanks to 3 wheels.  I just geared down and crept up.  I was thrilled to pieces.  The last clincher came when I got back to the company’s building and got off the trike.  My back actually felt better.  I was hooked.

As soon as my husband and I landed back in Sweden, I called my father and chattered on and on about how great the trike was. He told me to order my belated birthday gift and have the bill sent to him. Jens offered to pay a portion too so my dad wouldn’t bear the full brunt. Details were worked out between my husband, my father and the guys at ICE. It arrived in June of 2006.

The trike was the best thing since marrying my husband.  It returned a sense of freedom and accomplishment.  From the trike’s arrival, only restriction my back forced on my cycling was whether or not I could get it out the door.  Once on the pavement, how bad my back hurt was irrelevant.  I could plop into that seat and cycle 10 or 50 miles.  My legs and stamina decided.  Not my back. After a few months of frequent rides, the problems in my lower back lessened incredibly for the first time in years.

Even my father has admitted the trike is one of the absolute best things that I’ve ever hit on.  I agree. Even after more than 6 years when he calls to ask what I might want for birthday or Christmas, I answer, “I’ve got the trike! Thank you so much!”

I’ve had many happy years with the Trice. The places I’ve been, people I’ve met, the history I’ve discovered are the sweetest fruit harvested from my obsession with rolling along on wheels fueled by my own power. There have been moments of frustration. Mostly due to freshly grated dirt roads with rocks the size of small (or not so small) hens’ eggs which batter the chain guide of the rear derailleur. Worse, the spring thaws when ruts left by bikes in slushy snow freeze into rock hard channels  1 to 2 inches deep and wide enough only for a tire. I’ve had to replace 2 rear derailleurs when the rear wheel slipped into them and the hard ice smashed the derailleur. Winters and early spring meant weeks and months of being unable to ride as I wait for the snow and ice to melt.

No longer! I think my husband was as sick of hearing, ‘I can’t go for a ride because the snow is too deep’ or ‘I can’t go for a ride, the slush has frozen hard’ as I was of saying it. Not to mention taking the Trice to the cycle shop in Stockholm 2, 3 or 4 times a year to get the gears adjusted because rocks had knocked the derailleur askew. A joke I made about a new trike when my husband told me about our income tax return came true.

Enter the Sprint 26. The 26 is the diameter of the rear wheel. The derailleur is now as safe as it would be on any standard bike. If I find ice ruts over 6” deep, they deserve to eat the derailleur. I’m looking forward to many deliriously happy years with it, even through winter and spring.

As for the Trice? Though I reluctantly told my husband we could sell, he surprised me by adamantly insisting we keep it. I was glad to hear it. I have very strong sentimental attachment to it. Now, just need to find a way to store it!

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi Terri,
came across your site as I was reading about Sverigeleden. I am hoping to cycle from the Arctic Circle down to the Mediterranean Sea -seems a good idea. I am opting to cycle down the Swedish side rather than Norway. The Sverigeleden seem to tick the boxes as it will make navigation easier. Would welcome your views on the route,

John Taylor,
New Forest, England

Comment by John Taylor

Sure, John! Anything I can do to help! The Swedish side would be a bit easier to ride I think because it is a bit flatter. In Norway, there are a lot of mountains and tunnels which I imagine could be quite harrowing on a bike (or trike) though the scenery is breath-taking. The Sverigeleden begins in the far northern stretches of Norway at a place called ‘Nordkapp’ which I think means ‘North Hat’ or ‘North Top’ or even maybe ‘North Pole’ and lies about 200 miles north of the Swedish Border. There’s a whole lot of nothing up there. The trail also goes through Sweden’s northern most town, a little place called Kaaresuando sitting right against the Finnish border. From there, it heads almost due south until about the mid point of the country where it splits into loops. In general, the traffic along the route is light. You would have to be ready to tackle unpaved roads. When they’ve been freshly grated, the stones can be as large as ping-pong balls and rough going, but I’d say those are less than 1/3 of the route. Feel free to throw more questions my way and I’ll answer as I can. 🙂

Comment by terii

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