Provence Tour: Technical Glitches but Proof of Concept

Discussion in 'Recumbent bicycles' started by Artemisia, May 15, 2008.

  1. Artemisia

    Artemisia Guest

    Back since Friday from touring Provence on my recumbent trike, Widdershins.
    Here's a non-exhaustive performance account.

    I was able to prove that Widdershins, folded, bound and wrapped up in a
    slipcover, can travel perfectly happily on French TGV lines and is
    within regulations. Despite the fact that I was occupying a prodigious
    amount of space, no one even commented. Many kind people offered to help
    me with the luggage, and even the staff seemed perfectly at ease with
    this cargo. The only recommendation is that Widders must always travel
    First Class, where there is much more space. Luckily I had taken that
    into account.

    Widdershins also surprised me with his outstanding performances in
    traffic, both on large roads (against my wishes, I ended up on the
    Nationale 7 between Caumont and Avignon), and within towns. I bought him
    as a touring bike, I return with a suspicion that he aspires to be a
    city-bike. These are areas where Flyzipper fails me altogether. Widders
    is impeccably polite at traffic lights, stopping and restarting on
    command. He waits his turn to enter roundabouts, permits me to signal,
    and then gets quickly out of the way of faster traffic. He can even inch
    his way at 20 metres per hour through pedestrian quarters, respectful
    and patient behind old ladies with their walking cages, who do not even
    notice there's a metallic orange monster arachnid just behind them.

    However, I'm not really finding him comfortable over distances, and here
    we have some glitches to work out. The worst was the excruciatng pain
    caused by the SPD pedals and clip-in shoes. This was torture after the
    first few kilometers. A long discussion in the cycling newsgroups helped
    somewhat, as I was able to adjust the position of the clip to hurt less,
    but these still are not comfort shoes by a long way. The SPD shoes also
    meant that I couldn't really walk anywhere.

    I feel the road much more than on an upright bike. I especially hate the
    configuration of a cambered road, cycling lane on one side, and ditch
    just next to the lane. All my effort goes into keeping out of the ditch,
    and however flat, such roads are always uphill.

    The wireless bike computer (Sigma BC2006 - piece of shite) also conked
    out after the first 6km. It was new, an essential navigation tool, and
    this was infuriating. On the upside, I discovered what it would have
    helped to know from the beginning - no need for a wireless, it is
    perfectly possible to position a wired model on the mudguard mount. So
    Widders now has a bog standard Sigma 1600, just like my other bikes,
    courtesy of a very nice bike shop in Vaison la Romaine.

    Travelling with Widdershins is a bitch. I have to allow about an hour
    and a half for the dismantling or reassembly - a VERY far cry from the
    90 seconds folding time advertized on the Web site! "Quick release
    levers" is a joke. The central lever, that permits the bike to fold or
    holds it rigid, works or not, entirely on its own terms, and in its own
    time. You might get lucky and compact the bike in half an hour - or you
    could be there, struggling in a pool of sweat, until the train has left.
    The wheels too, are very tricky to remove and replace, and every time
    they have been out of the bike they get "voilées" - I don't know the
    English expression - it means that they stick in the brakes and do not
    turn fluidly. On the way into Vaison, the left wheel was so stuck that
    the trike was drawing to a halt on downhill runs! When he delivered the
    trike, my Darth told me that this is because the brakes must absolutely
    not be touched, or the levers activated, when the wheels are not in
    their axels. All very well, but it is pretty much impossible to edge
    them in or out without touching the brakes, and you have no control over
    what happens to the levers when the covered bike is being squeezed into
    a train compartment or a taxi. The manual says that the brakes should be
    blocked with the clips used in delivery - but I was given no such clips.
    I tried bits of cardboard on the way back but they didn't stay in. This
    is a big glitch to sort out because I cannot go to the Darth to get the
    brakes readjusted every single time the bike has been folded.

    Trike apart, the trip had its ups and downs. The base hotel in Avignon
    was so far out of town that once you were there, you were its prisoner.
    It had a restaurant, but this was pretentious and exorbitantly priced,
    with portions so small as to be insulting. On the day of arrival I
    hadn't eaten all day. The entrée was four little steamed asparagus tips
    and four prawns with a dollop of pesto in the middle; the main course
    arrived with an enormous papillote which proved, on unwrapping, to
    contain about 3 tablespoons of overcooked fish. Plus despite
    systematically starting at 7:30 they never could get me served in time
    for the weather report at 8:45. Never has so little food taken so long
    to serve. In compensation, this hotel had a lovely pool. But no sooner
    in, than I destroyed my beloved Timex Ironman watch, which was supposed
    to be waterproof and wasn't at all. So first day in Avignon was all
    about getting a replacement watch and a real lunch. After a day of
    trekking papal cobblestones in 30° heat, I still had the 6km walk back
    (not confident enough yet to use Widders), and very sore feet. It
    forced the realization that the most precious things in life are cool
    water and shade.

    Another big annoyance was that the maps and routes provided by the tour
    company were impossible to follow. As usual, 50% of my time on the road
    was spent being lost. The first day, I made a concerted effort to follow
    the instuctions, which took on little paths through fields. There was an
    ambiguous or outright wrong turning every km or so. This was so in the
    middle of nowhere, that I could have disappeared from the earth and
    they'd only find the body three years later. The worst was a gravel path
    that was completely blocked with enormous puddles, about 15 inches deep.
    Widders, all 25 kg of him, had to be _carried_ through the brush, and
    this for over a kilometer. Moreover, although I had a GPS, it was
    useless because the stupid thing (TomTom, not recommended) only knows
    about routes for cars. After that, I stuck to Départementales - they may
    not be so pretty but at least there is some hope of _signposting_, and
    the dangers from passing traffic ultimately seemed to me much less than
    those of facing uncharted wilderness alone and without instruments. In
    retrospect I think this kind of route is only practicable on guided
    tours. I suggested to the company that they provide customers with the
    option to rent a GPS system for trekking - there is one made by the
    company IGN which also makes trekking and ordinance maps. The wench
    actually _laughed_ at this suggestion, because she "couldn't imagine"
    people on _bikes_ using a GPS system. Shows you where they're at!

    I never even saw the town of Orange apart from the hotel and a pizzeria
    in the central plaza - the drama of that day was finding a shop to sell
    me a new bike computer. Nothing open in Orange, since this was Monday
    and any excuse to be closed is good in France. I headed off to Vaison
    and had another foodless day. The only restaurant I passed refused to
    serve me because it was _already_ 2pm.

    Vaison la Romaine was my favorite stop of the trip. The hotel was right
    in the central plaza and there was a cornucopia spread of eateries. Also
    the town had an excellent, OPEN bike shop, beautiful Roman ruins, and on
    Tuesday, a famous market. I visited a statue, a rather unflattering,
    scowling one, of the Emperor Hadrian, one of my tutelary deities (not
    having a nose never did much for anyone). And that day, I decided that I
    would not even attempt the 65 km distance to the next stop, Isle sur
    Sorgue, because my tortured feet could never bear it and because the
    taxi that was transferring my luggage could transfer me as well. That
    was great - a day of peace. And the hotel at Isle was extremely
    luxurious. Same thing about being prisoner because it was too far out of
    town, but at least this overpriced restaurant was reasonably good, and
    had portions of normal size.

    A 21 km stint around the Luberon the following day, up to Fontaine la
    Vaucluse and back, was cool and pleasant. Finally, the trip back to
    Avignon. Here I was faced with a decent Départementale as far as a town
    called Caumont. Then, there were three choices: try to follow the
    far-out-of-the-way route through tundra provided by the company (and
    again risk getting lost or dying of heat exhaustion), try an
    alternative, shorter route that visibly cut through some rather menacing
    elevation lines, or do as the nice man in the news shop advised: just
    follow the nice signs and take the nice straight road, marked in orange
    on the map, straight to Avignon.

    So that's how I ended up on the Nationale 7 on a trike!

    Hey, it wasn't nearly so bad as you might think. The cars were very
    courteous and there was plenty of room; indeed, most of the time there
    was a navigable shoulder. I was able to cruise Widders at around 23 kph
    for most of the trip - he even hit a high of 35 kph. The roundabouts
    were orderly and the signs clear. The only part I didn't like was the
    entry to Avignon where the traffic became much more congested and the
    hideous industrial wasteland around seemed to go on forever. But I found
    a delicious restaurant in the town center and had a nice rest before
    proceding out into my wilderness hotel once more.

    Now I'm back doing laundry. At Antony market this morning I bought
    lovely fresh things with a Provençal slant - artichokes, tomatoes, lots
    of herbs, some beef fillet for carpaccio, whiting fillets, asparagus and
    gorgeous goat cheese. Gotta go cook!

    EFR
    Ile de France
     
    Tags:


  2. Peter Clinch

    Peter Clinch Guest

    Artemisia wrote:

    > I feel the road much more than on an upright bike. I especially hate
    > the configuration of a cambered road, cycling lane on one side, and
    > ditch just next to the lane. All my effort goes into keeping out of
    > the ditch, and however flat, such roads are always uphill.


    My first go on a kettweisel I spent some time riding into the kerb...

    A bike has a lot of steering done quite unconsciously by leaning, but
    you can't lean the trike so all of the steering has to be by direct
    steering. It is often said that it's easier for a novice to ride a
    trike than a bicyclist because there's no "unlearning" of steering to do
    (this is much more the case on an upright delta than a tadpole 'bent,
    but the difference is still there).
    But it should go away with experience as you simply learn how the
    steering works and do what's needed unconsciously. Don't worry, just
    get more time on it.

    > The wireless bike computer (Sigma BC2006 - piece of shite) also
    > conked out after the first 6km. It was new, an essential navigation
    > tool, and this was infuriating.


    Never have bothered fitting a computer: while the information can be
    interesting it's not really "essential" for touring.

    > Travelling with Widdershins is a bitch. I have to allow about an hour
    > and a half for the dismantling or reassembly - a VERY far cry from
    > the 90 seconds folding time advertized on the Web site!


    It is typically the case with this sort of thing that practice makes
    perfect. I can fold a Brompton in 15 seconds, first time I tried I had
    to study it for quite some time before I realised the sequence order was
    crucial. So practice...

    > "Quick release levers" is a joke. The central lever, that permits the
    > bike to fold or holds it rigid, works or not, entirely on its own
    > terms, and in its own time.


    QRs are an industry standard and really /are/ quick release... *if* you
    have the tension set properly. If the nut opposite the QR lever is too
    tight it'll be a bitch to move either way, if it's too loose then it
    will come undone at random. So you do need to fiddle about with the
    tensioning nut on the opposite end of the bolt to the lever, but once
    you've got that fettled then QR really is easy and works very well.

    > my Darth told me that this is
    > because the brakes must absolutely not be touched, or the levers
    > activated, when the wheels are not in their axels. All very well, but
    > it is pretty much impossible to edge them in or out without touching
    > the brakes, and you have no control over what happens to the levers
    > when the covered bike is being squeezed into a train compartment or a
    > taxi. The manual says that the brakes should be blocked with the
    > clips used in delivery - but I was given no such clips.


    I think by "touching the brakes" he just meant the levers: if having the
    pads hit the brakes ruined things you'd really be in trouble... every
    time you braked! But it is important not to hit the levers with the
    brake out as they'll adjust themselves fro where they hit something,
    usually the disc but with no disc in place it will go wrong.

    So get onto HP Vel and have them send you their locking clips. Point
    out you didn't get any and you're having trouble without them.

    Pete.
    --
    Peter Clinch Medical Physics IT Officer
    Tel 44 1382 660111 ext. 33637 Univ. of Dundee, Ninewells Hospital
    Fax 44 1382 640177 Dundee DD1 9SY Scotland UK
    net [email protected] http://www.dundee.ac.uk/~pjclinch/
     
  3. Artemisia

    Artemisia Guest

    Peter Clinch wrote:

    > So get onto HP Vel and have them send you their locking clips. Point
    > out you didn't get any and you're having trouble without them.


    Good idea. I've been trying to contact the Darth, but no answer on the
    phone this week, so perhaps they're all on vacation. HP Vel gives me
    someone else to nag!

    EFR
    Ile de France
     
  4. gotbent

    gotbent Guest

    "Artemisia" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]
    > Peter Clinch wrote:
    >
    >> So get onto HP Vel and have them send you their locking clips. Point
    >> out you didn't get any and you're having trouble without them.

    >
    > Good idea. I've been trying to contact the Darth, but no answer on the
    > phone this week, so perhaps they're all on vacation. HP Vel gives me
    > someone else to nag!
    >
    > EFR
    > Ile de France


    If you have Magura brakes, the plastic whatits that keep the pads from
    closing together can be purchased directly from Magura through one of their
    branches. Trying to get some for free from the dealer/manufacturer is a good
    idea as Maggy overcharge for the little bastards like they were some
    precious body part like a liver or a kidney. Good luck with your quest.

    gotbent aka frvt rider


    ** Posted from http://www.teranews.com **
     
Loading...
Loading...