"Tosser!"

… which, I should explain to colonial friends, is British English for "you're faster than me, and I don't like it!" (*)

Or in other words, I am enjoying the recumbent.

Near home is Peckham Rye which, as far as the commute is concerned, is a long hill.

Going to work, I can now break the 30mph speed limit.

Coming back, it's not so nice, but not horrible either. I used to go down it at about 25mph and up it at about 13mph. The difference is larger now 🙂

As I approached it on Wednesday, slowing down because the lights at the bottom are red, someone on a nice mountain bike passes me. He stops at the lights.

When they change, he's a bit slow off, and I pass him. Not in a cutting-em-up way, I leave him plenty of room, but I'm faster away.

He says something I don't hear, and passes me after about 50m.

He's going quite quickly up the hill – it is a nice bike and he's using it properly. But he doesn't lose me, even though 'bents are not renowned as climbers (eg you can't 'honk', get out of the saddle if the going gets tough). As we get near the top, I pass him again. He says something again.

Downhill the other side (shorter), he's no chance and if he was sensible, he wouldn't even have tried. I've stopped at JoJo's nursery, climbed off the bike, and wheeled it along the pavement before he goes past, yelling "tosser" at me. I just laugh back, loudly and pointedly.

Being able to do that is one of the reasons I got the thing.

It's an Orbit Crystal, a licensed version of the Ross Speed King. The frame number of 6477 is an indication of one of the problems with 'bents: they don't sell very many, so they're not cheap. And because they're not cheap, they don't sell so many.

I had thought I'd be able to ride it home when I got it. Erm, no. I couldn't get it going and ended up seriously sweating.

It took me about four half-hour sessions on the wide paths in the cemetery near work before I'm comfortable riding it on the roads. The actual riding is easy: it's the starts that feel odd to someone intimately familiar with riding an upright. It's a case of practising. I'm still not perfect, but I'm getting better.

(There is a difference in riding – on an upright, the weight of your legs helps push down the pedals. When on a 'bent, you have to support that weight. It's not difficult.)

The first long ride was two Fridays ago, the 9 1/2 miles from work to home. Bit sweaty, not from the effort, but from a couple of 'uh oh' moments.

Last week, I used it for the commute every day. It soon became clear that although the previous owner was the same height as me, the set up wasn't right: the pedals were about an inch too close to my bum. Just as with an upright, this results in upper knee ache and loss of pedalling power.

I wasn't terribly surprised as there were a couple of other minor problems, like the front chainset having its 'stops' set so that you couldn't use the largest gears. A few seconds with a screwdriver fixed that, but extending the pedals by one inch meant extending the chain by two.

The bike shop local to work said they could do that on the spot if I dropped in, but couldn't when I called in ten minutes later.

I hoped to do it at the bike shop near home, the very lovely people at Compton Cycles, on the Friday, but a delivery person messed us around and there wasn't time. So I did it this Monday, and I definitely notice the difference.

It'd be very hard to go back to riding uprights. There's a comment on the UK cycling newsgroup that the thing one person gets off his 'bent and onto a mountain bike for is a good cardiovascular workout.

Or, in other words, riding a 'bent is easy work. Because you're lying back, there's much less effort pushing the air out of the way.

You can either go as fast as you could on an upright for less effort, or go faster.

At the moment, I'm doing the former, partly because I'm still not quite confident to use the 'bents toe clips.

I never panted when cycling usually, but now my breath rate doesn't increase. I breathe slightly deeper, that's all. Similarly, I'm barely sweaty on arrival.

I'll have to try the cycle computer I bought (but didn't get round to installing) at Easter which has a heart rate monitor, and try it on both bikes.

(*) Not really, it's a disrespectful word for someone who masturbates, but I'm entirely comfortable with having people know I do that…


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