29 September 2011

All ready for our Audax 200

Not long ago Lucy and I were completely unaware of the term Audax/Brevet/Randonnée. But recently, and especially after all our long (well, should I say "short" for Audax standards?!) rides we came across Audax UK. As they say on their website: 'Audax United Kingdom is the internationally recognised long distance cycling association in the UK'. That sounded pretty cool, and soon afterwards we were doing some research into it.

A couple of weeks ago we entered our very first Audax, and last week we got our entry package. A lot of information came with it, all in different fancy coloured A4 sheets. We even got a personalized letter from Dave regarding our insurances (a post on this will follow soon). I thought that doing a PhD, in a foreign language, was complicated enough. But understanding the Audax terminology (again, in English!) proved a bit tricky for us newbies! The route is not shown on a map, but on Audax language:

So, here we are Lucy and I trying to make sense of 4 pages full of this. It became very obvious that if we had to follow this sheet(s) as they are on the day, we may end up in Birmingham. We don't even have a map carrier and we both know how crappy we are with directions - we always, always get lost, be it in London or wherever we happened to be. We were not granted with a very bright sense of orientation, unfortunately. But some bright minds (I think americans? Lucy's dad can surely confirm!) invented the GPS a while ago. And now the devices are small enough to be carried on bikes. And because we love technology, we have got two of them! So, let's get started with the mapping. Looking at google maps and street views (it is truly amazing how you can see every single road in the UK as if you were on it!) we followed the instructions and plotted a line that would then be transferred on to our GPS devices:

SO @ X (Busy A31)
$ Village Centre (Berry Hill)

Ok, so stratight on (SO) at crossing (X) which apparently will be the busy A31 (A roads are usually dodgy for cycling in England, the less numbers the worse!). Then signposted for Village Centre (Berry Hill, I guess there must be a hill). Easy. The places in bold are to be cycled through, possibly because there are hidden controls or something. The rest, you can either follow or make up your own route. We're sticking to Dave's for now.

After 4 sheets of this, we've come up with the four different stages of this 213 km audax. And we've created 4 separate .gpx (the GPS's language!) files. We will be given a 'brevet' card, which we need to have stamped in all the controls, manned or unmanned. In the latter case, we need to obtain proofs, such as ATM statements or receipts. Looking interesting. And then we have the time limits! They get relaxed as the km pass. The clossing time for the last control is at about 22:00, which should give us 14 hours to complete. That should be pleeeenty of time...right?

This is stage 3 of the audax

Ok, so if we rode at an average of 22 km/h, which is quite doable, we would invest nearly 10 h of riding time. That is non-stop. So, we have about 4 h stopping time, which includes food/water feeds, pees, mechanicals, and lots of resting atop the Surrey hills. It seems achievable, but we should keep an eye on the timings!

Riding for 10 h in October means that you're very likely to have to ride into the dark. It's good that we have been doing loads of night rides this year, otherwise I would be frightened! Some good lights, bright rears, and high-vis vest are in order. And backlit GPS!

The rest of the preparations include:
  • Some pre-training in Richmond Park (that's for the hills!)
  • Servicing the bikes. I will be changing my summer brake pads for the wet ones, in preparation for my Wales ride
  • Food, food, food. Audaxers say that as long as you're well fed and hydrated, your legs will keep going
  • Get tools ready, inner tubes, arm/knee warmers, batteries full of juice, GPS loaded
  • Let your beard grow (mine's already 10 days) so that you can fit in
Despite all this, I personally feel a bit nervous, kind of similar to when I did my first night ride. Something new, certainily challenging, awaits for us this Saturday!

So we are looking forward to getting up at 5:30 am, cycle to Waterloo, training it to Guildford for 7:30 am, ride 8 km to the start, ride 213 km, 12 h later be back for the train into London (after another 8 km), ride back home from Waterloo ( at about 22:00)...and all this with a good chance of getting soaked! Yep, we do this for fun, but hey, we all sit in the office (or write thesis) for the same amount of time (and 5 days a week!), which is much much more boring! The good thing is, after we hand in our brevet cards and assuming we dont mess up any stamps/times etc, we will officially become randonneurs! That is exciting!

Preparing (mentally) for the Etape Cymru

In less than two weeks Duncan and I will be going cycling in northern Wales. I have found a nice map (thanks to Dave Dee) that describes the pain we are going to be through:

This is meant to be an sportive event, with closed roads. It was fairly pricey, but having missed the Etape Caledonia in Scotland, I wanted to give it a go at the closed roads. My two concerns are 1) this is the very first event of this kind held in Wales and 2) the amount of people may make it difficult on the downhills, if not a bit dangerous. We will have to take it easy and try not to walk up the Horseshoe Pass...

Almost 100 milles and more than 9000 feet (or 3000 m) incline will make for the hilliest ride on a road bike thus far for me... Pob iwc to us (good luck in Welsh, apparently!)

26 September 2011

Falling into Fall: The first cycle ride of autumn

On Saturday we wanted to get out and do some training in preparation for next week's audax. Unfortunately, Alberto needed to get back early in the afternoon to work on his thesis, so we settled on a 100km route through Hertfordshire and decided to try to push the speed a bit.

We got a very early start, catching the 07:41 train from Finsbury Park, and managed to start cycling from Potters Bar before 8am! As soon as we got on the road, we realised that it is indeed Autumn. The forecast called for a beautiful, sunny, 22 degrees C (71 F) day, but now that the sun is rising later in the morning, it takes longer for the day to heat up. For the first two hours of the ride, we could see our breath and our fingers were very cold in their fingerless gloves. There was also a mist in some areas, so we turned on our back lights.

We moved along very quickly for the first half of the route, averaging around 23 kph. But around the midway point I noticed my legs were feeling tired and I was sore in the back as well -- a consequence of not having ridden the Boardman in two weeks. Still, we made good progress, and stopped in Dane End to fill out water bottles in a village shop -- the problem with riding early in the morning is that the pubs aren't open yet to fill you up!

In the last third of the course, we encountered some unexpected big hills! Fortunately they were compensated for by some equally big downhills -- Alberto reached 62 kph and I broke my all time speed record at 56 kph. The countryside was beautiful, especially with some of the leaves starting to turn for fall. The roads were pretty quiet and the drivers surprisingly respectful.

You could almost say it was a perfect day out on the bike, until about 5km from the end, when I again had a clipless fall, resulting from trying to do a U-turn. Virtually a repeat of the one at the end of my first century! I again was not too injured, but feeling annoyed that I had fallen again and ready to be back at the station.

All in all it was a great day out. 101km with a moving average of 22.5kph (14mph). Our moving time was four and a half hours.

In total it took us a bit over 5 hours to complete the 100km, with an overall speed (including stops) of 19kph. This should stand us in good stead for the audax next week, which is twice as long and needs to be completed in under 14 hours (for a minimum overall speed of 15kph).

22 September 2011

Combining two sports: cycling and watching rugby

For most of us cycling is not only the only sport/hobby. Jodie and Tom, the guys featured in this video shared a passion, rugby, and decided to cycle all the way to New Zealand from the UK. Their adventure speaks by itself...

Seen it on Alastair's website. Jodie and Tom seem to be enjoying themselves in New Zealand at the moment.

Interesting fact I read somewhere the other day: some 300-400 real machacas are currently cycling round the world at any given time.

21 September 2011

Behind the Scenes at the Tour of Britain Stage 8

This summer we have been lucky enough to see a few pro races in action, and although they are fun, we don't necessarily feel the need to go out of our way to see every possible race. This Sunday I knew that the Tour of Britain's 8th and final stage was taking place in London, but I didn't plan to go watch it. Nevertheless I ended up having an interesting peek at work that goes on behind the scenes at a cycle race, and some celebrity spotting to boot!

I was in Trafalgar Square with a friend and we came across the course during the morning's time trial. I stopped to watch a few riders go past, and then we wandered along toward the river. Suddenly, I saw a side street with all of the team vehicles parked there. We decided to go in for a closer look and I realised that this was where the teams had set up to transition between the morning's time trial stage (8a) and the afternoon's final group stage (8b) around London. There were loads of time trial bikes waiting to be cleaned, and road racing bikes ready to be adjusted to their riders' liking.

As we went  along we saw a few different riders sitting on the bikes making sure they were right. We also saw, from a distance, Geraint Thomas signing autographs for the crowd. I hadn't been following the race that closely so didn't have any favourite riders that I was dying to see... but then we walked by the van for team HTC-Highroad.

There was a crowd of people outside it, but nothing much was happening. It seemed like the right thing to do to see if we could get a glimpse of Mark Cavendish, Britain's most famous cyclist and the most dominant sprinter in the world at the moment. But I don't think I actually believed that I would get to see him.

Then it happened! He came out of his trailer wearing all black HTC-branded sweats. It was so exciting! He signed a few autographs and then there was a moment of drama when the reporter who was interviewing him seemed to piss him off. He walked away angrily and said that he had been asking about doping! But a few moments later he was back to happily signing autographs. He never came over to where I was standing, but I was just happy to stand by taking pictures!

So, now we have a third perspective on what it's like at a pro cycling race. It gets more interesting each time!

19 September 2011

Yet more (crap) cycle lanes in London

Reading some news I've come across yet another ridiculous cycle lane. The "cyclesuperhighways" are already a joke. The latest addition to the network is this one. Good for your cycle handling skills though! Keep up the good work Stratford council!

Try and get through that sign (from the Londonist)!

18 September 2011

York to Hull Overnight

Last Friday, Alberto and I joined the FNRttC group again for one of their night rides in the North -- this one was from York to Hull (the scenic route).

Waiting to start the ride at York Minster.
It was great to start the ride at York Minster at midnight, and about half an hour into the ride we were already in the countryside. We were a relatively small group of just 40 riders, so we stuck together in a peloton for the majority of the ride. I liked this as I thought it made it very relaxing and felt very safe, although Alberto missed the feeling of being alone in the darkness.

The major highlight of the early part of the ride was Goole, which seemed to have a buzzing nightlife at three in the morning, so we got to pass a lot of bewildered drunk people on the streets, as well as a club which was apparently hosting a Lady Gaga tribute act.

The first 80% of the route was pancake flat and we rode along at a relaxed pace to the halfway stop. I was feeling very very tired at this point... it may have been the combination of waking up at 6am and having the ride be so straightforward that we didn't need to think at all. But the halfway stop had amazingly large cups of tea and sandwiches and cakes (and good conversations), and by the time we got out onto the road again I was ready to cycle some more.

Just a few miles from the Minster and we're already in the countryside.
It also helped that we got lucky with the weather and had an incredibly warm night, even in the countryside. There was a moment of concern when it started to rain lightly, but this was all gone within 10 minutes and we resumed our pleasant ride along the estuaries of various northern rivers.

Dawn came just as we were hitting the only hills of the night. They weren't particularly steep but because our legs were not accustomed to working hard on this ride, we really felt the hills! Fortunately we were rewarded by an amazing downhill just before the runup to the Humber Bridge.

First glimpse of the Humber Bridge.
The whole route had been planned so that we could cross the Humber Bridge, which is the longest bridge in the world that can be walked or cycled across (I mean if you obey the traffic rules...). Although we had a bit too much cloud to get the most gorgeous views, it was a lot of fun to cycle across, and even more fun to arrive at the other side knowing we were about 20 minutes from a full English breakfast!

The small clump of cyclists begins to make its way across.

Crossing the bridge.

We got some sleep on the train back to London and then quickly transitioned into posh mode as we had to attend a wedding at Parliament!

17 September 2011

Hand-made British cycles

The UK has historically been one of the world mecas for bike builders, and lots of amazing designs that we see nowadays on the roads come from bright English minds (e.g. Alex Moulton and his high-pressure small-wheeled bicycles).

We all know that most of our current bikes, well, frames (unless you're into fixies or old bycicle frames, or indeed have plenty of pounds/euros in your pocket) originate from Taiwan. Even expensive top-end bikes come from that tiny island in the far East. They do produce amazing stuff, but as you get into the whole bycicle culture, you realised that they're no longer unique...and they're mostly mass produced.

Now, a few countries such as the USA, Italy, France and the UK are still going strong in hand-made frame building. Unfortunately I am not aware of any Spanish bike builders...! A few UK examples are:

- Roberts
- Dave Yates
- Moulton
- Bromptom
- Burls

A few pictures of each of these manufacturers' beauties are below (all images obtained from their websites). I have not yet had the opportunity to try any of these, and I am not sure I really want to, as this would certainly add to the n+1 number of bikes that I want to own... But if I were to pick one, I find the Moultons a fascinating piece of art (and apparently they are extremely comfortable and fast!).

Roberts Audax bike

Dave Yates mtb
Top-end Moulton (note the full suspension, design from the sixties!)

Folded Brompton

Burls racer (with mudguards!)

The funny thing is...most of these models would not cost more than a medium off-the-peg mass-produced bike!

15 September 2011

We've entered our first Audax!

It's been a while since I heard the word Audax. Others call it brevet, randonneurs or in simple words: long distance cycling events. As with most unknown words these days, I wikipedia-ed it and this is what the net came up with:

Audax is a cycling sport in which participants attempt to cycle long distances within a pre-defined time limit. Audax is a non-competitive sport: success in an event is measured by its completion.

It kind of sounded like a fun thing to do, didn't it?! We loved the non-competetitive aspect of it. We then discovered than the UK is big in Audax-ing, which is quite surprising given the crap weather. Whenever I tell my folks back home that I cycle throughout the year in London (and in Copenhagen) they always say: but it's so rainy and cold out there! Yes, it may be, but put waterproofs/warm clothing on (and maybe mudguards) and you're all sorted.

So, Lucy and I have been browsing the Audax UK calendar and decided to enter the New Upper Tea 200 event held in the Guildford-Surrey area. The few facts that we know about it:

- 213 km to be completed in less than 13.5 h.
- No much idea about the route (we'll get it on the day I believe!)
- 2000 m climbing (good training for my upcoming Etape Cymru!)
- Average speeds (including stopping time) must be within 15-30 km/h
- Sunrise at 6:57 am and sunset at 6:40 pm means that we may have to cycle in the dark
- Dave Hudson is the organiser, and he seems to be well-known for his supreme food feeds
- It's all non-profit, you pay a little fee to cover food costs
- Registration is the old fashon way: post the forms to Dave, with pre-stamped envelopes, and send cheques in at least 2 weeks before the event.
- It's the minimum distance to be recognised as a proper "audax/breve/randonneur" meaning that if we complete it we can call ourselves "audaxers/randonneurs"!

The ultimate Audax achievement: a Randonneur 5000 (something to aim for!)

13 September 2011

My Microadventure in York

Alastair Humphreys, one of Alberto's favorite cyclist authors, has this concept called the microadventure. The idea is that you don't have to travel to exotic lands to have an adventure. His examples include things like cycling after work for as far as you can go, then camping and cycling back to work the next morning.

I didn't set out to have a microadventure last Friday, but it ended up meeting all the criteria of one!

First, a little background. Alberto and I wanted to join the FNRttC group on their York to Hull overnight ride. We thought it would be convenient that I had to go to York on Friday for work, so I could just bring my bike--and also save on train fare! In reality, having to sort out the logistics of it all proved quite challenging. It turned in to quite the microadventure in a lot of ways:

  • Navigational challenges: I brought my bike with me to York on the train in the morning (with my work clothes in a backpack). Several of my colleagues were coming up to York as well as we had to run a workshop at the University of York. When we arrived, they got in a taxi and I told them I'd see them soon. The university is only 2.5 miles from the city centre so I figured we'd probably arrive about the same time. Little did I know that the city of York has very few street signs, and google maps directions are not always that clear! I didn't actually make many wrong turns, but I had to get off the bike all the time to consult the map. On the last turn of the route I actually did completely go in the wrong direction, ending up in a completely different area of the University (which is quite spread out). All this time I was stressing out about not being there to help my colleagues prep for the event. All in all, it took me almost an hour to get to the right building!

    View Larger Map
  • Travelling alone: After the event finished, I said goodbye to my colleagues and headed back into the city centre. Once I arrived (it only took 20 minutes, I might add), I suddenly thought to myself, "what now?" I was alone in a city that I don't know very well, it was 5:00pm and Alberto's train wouldn't arrive from London until after 11pm. I felt the same way I feel whenever I travel alone... this feeling of being in charge of how I spend my time but also the responsibility of looking after my stuff and making sure I take care of myself.
  • Sleeping outside: Sleeping outside is an integral part of the microadventure and I attempted to do just this after making my way back to York. I went to the park next to York Minster and found a nice bench, which I then locked my bike to and laid down on, hoping to get some sleep before the all night ride. This didn't really work out too well as there were tourists walking through all the time, the bells of the Minster ringing periodically, and it started to get cold after I laid still for too long a period. I think I probably got about 20 minutes rest though.

  • This is a picture from the University of York website, but I'm pretty sure that's the exact park bench I tried to nap on!
  • Eating alone: Eating alone is kind of a caveat to travelling alone, but I honestly don't think I have gone to a restaurant for a dinner by myself since travelling on my own to Barcelona two years ago. After finding a place to lock my bike, I went into a restaurant and sat by the window so that I could look out on the bike at all times (I've never left it alone before!). I didn't even have a book with me so I basically spent two and a half hours in the restaurant eating carbs and drinking caffiene. (While wearing lycra and carrying my front wheel I might add!). I then moved to the pub across the street, which also had a view of the bike, to drink (Coke) alone for the remainder of my time. It can actually be very nice to just sit and think, rather than havingy the TV, computer, ipod, or book to distract you. 

It was difficult to make sure I took care of all my needs before the ride in an unfamiliar city, alone and with a very valuable piece of equipment to look after, but I actually did enjoy the challenge of it.

After all this, 70 miles through the night to Hull seemed positively mundane! But we'll put up a blog post about it soon just the same :-)

08 September 2011

A night ride in the mist (London to Brighton overnight)

Our last Friday night ride to the coast, which was part of a charity ride for the Martlet's Hospice, has been a little different from previous ones. This was the second time we've ridden to Brighton overnight, but the very first time that we've cycled in extremely foggy conditions since pretty much the M25 (outskirts of London) until the very end in the Brighton seafront.

Getting ready to leave home.

  • Felt super-awake. More than ever on a night ride. The secret: 1h siesta beforehand!
  • Misty conditions made an interesting ride, and even more interesting scenery. Complete lack of scenery I mean. We actually had no clue where we were, even though we had done this ride a million times. Luckily we had our GPS and the Fnrttc marshals to point us in the right direction
Fog before we have even gotten past the M25!
  • Lonelyness of the ride, despite the large number of riders, we were riding solo for quite prolonged periods of time. It really feels magical to be on your own, without seeing much more than 15 m ahead of you, lit up by an LED light. Looking backwards is scary, and competely dark.
  • The absence of cars. Only around the Gatwick area at ~3am we saw a few cars rushing to the airport.
  • The climb up Ditchling Beacon. Although usually a proper hilly section of road, with awesome vistas of the South Downs, tonight it seemed like a rainforest. It was so foggy and damp that it truly looked different.
  • Lucy made it all the way up the Ditchling without stopping. And all in one piece. And I managed to climb without standing on the pedals, in preparation for the long hills of the Etape Cymru.
That's Lucy's bright light coming up to the top of the Beacon!

At least she's still standing.
  • The home-made cakes delivered by the Martlets volunteers! That surely propelled us to the top of the Beacon!
  • Getting an earlier train and home by 9:15 am was the earliest we've ever made it back. Neither of us felt like having a fry-up breakfast, and the weather was not appealing...
Heading to the station.
  • A fight involving plenty of police and even a few FNRttC-ers in Balham. We later learned that the FNRttCers invovled were police as well who got off the ride to assist before backup arrived!
  • Not being able to use our glasses due to the fog. I got drops of mist from trees straight into my eyes as a result...not a nice feeling
  • Lucy's stomach cramps and sleepyness at the half way stop. Mate, gotta get used to sleeping in sports halls in preparation for our Super Randonneur 2012!
  • My very own stomach got also upset towards the end of the ride. A combination of food and exercise maybe? Need to remind myself to eat home-made only (with the exception of home-made cakes...of course!)
  • The ride itself starts to feel quite short after all the long routes we've done this year. We barely rode 90 km from the official start. Perhaps we should aim for a Saturday morning ride post-Friday night ride?
Stats: 112 km door to door, 5 h 52 m riding time, 19 km/h average, 51 km/h max speed.

We'd like to thank all the people from the Martlets Hospice and all the Fnrttc marshalls (standing by themselves in the fog for hours!!!) that made this ride one of the most memorable ones to date.

07 September 2011

Around the world by bike? Maybe some day!

Just came across this amazing video by Going Slowly (via Travelling Two)... a five minute video summary of their trip around the world by bike!

Going Slowly: Two Years of Travel from Going Slowly on Vimeo.

Alberto and I have always wanted to do an actual cycle tour, but so far we haven't managed more than a long weekend away. Hopefully we'll be able to complete the Camino de Santiago  this year and LEJOG in the next few years... and after that, who knows?!

04 September 2011

Watching La Vuelta a España from the top of a hill

Last weekend, we went to Madrid to visit Alberto's family and spend some time in a place where summer actually exists, unlike the UK! As luck would have it, the Vuelta a España (like the Tour de France, but in Spain) is on at the moment and Stage 8 on Saturday finished in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, a beautiful town outside of Madrid and only about 20 minutes drive from where Alberto's family lives. We knew we had to go check it out!

About 500m from the finish (and no, we didn't write that!)
We've been to see a pro cycling race before, but this one was different in a number of ways:
1. It's the Vuelta a España, one of the three Grand Tours and a major event on the cycling calendar, not a dinky little classic in the UK! There were a LOT of big names.
2. We were at the finish of the race (we stood between the 200 and 300 meters-to-go banners), rather than a random spot along the route. This meant much more excitement and bigger crowds.
3. It was an uphill finish. And when I say uphill, I mean UP. HILL. The slope reached 27% at some points. This meant we could watch the riders go past slowly. The final 1km went straight up a narrow, straight road -- so the riders came past us in little bunches and we had enough time to see the names on their backs and shout out at them.

View from close to the finish line.

We arrived in El Escorial in the early afternoon, and the riders weren't expected until 5:30 or so. We had time to walk up the race route (and it was steep enough to be difficult to walk!), take in the atmosphere, and have lunch in town before heading back to the route to find a spot to watch. It was quite busy already by 4:30 but we eventually found some space. Unfortunately, it was right next to a guy holding the Madrid flag who thought that it was funny to hold it out in front of everything that went passed...not just cyclists but cars and motorbikes as well! It was annoying because it blocked the view for a lot of the time.

For a sense of the angle. Note struggling children in background. 
While we waited, we were entertained by a radio announcer who stood near us broadcasting the race. Those of our readers who understand Spanish may find the video amusing. (Ok, those who don't understand it might still find it amusing!)

Anyway, we waited in anticipation until eventually we could see a helicopter overhead and a few official cars and motorbikes flew past. Finally, we saw him -- Joaquim Rodriguez of team Katusha, or Purito as the Spaniards call him, flying up the mountain, followed closely by Lampre's Michele Sarponi. As the main peloton passed I shot this video. Apologies that it starts a bit slowly -- I really didn't want to miss the riders coming by! The riders arrive at about 1:15 in the video. (You can even hear the point where I spotted Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins and shouted out his name. A few days later he took on the leader's red jersey and at the moment still has it!)

Because of the hill, the riders were very spread out so we had a chance to see lots more cyclists come past and some of them really needed the moral support as they suffered up the mountain.

When it was all over, we walked back down to the exhibition area and looked around. I was excited to find a bike that had been signed by Jens Voigt, probably my favorite pro (and blogger)!

And to top off a great day, while walking through town, we even caught a glimpse of Purito as he cycled back down to his hotel after he had won the stage and took the leader's jersey for the day!

02 September 2011

Our very first experience on recumbent bikes (and trikes)

I have known the existance of recumbent bikes since I went to Luxemburg to visit a friend a few years ago. Before then, I really had no clue that those funny bikes existed. But of course, in central and northern Europe, cycling is more than a hobby. While walking through the EU area in Luxemburg, I counted a good number of recumbent bikes (and trikes!) riden by commuters, with their mandatory panniers.

After that trip, I had completely forgotten about those couches with wheels. It was only recently that I have come across a few more of these bikes through the Friday night rides. In those rides, a few people ride recumbents, and we first noticed them on one of the downhills into Reigate, where two riders flew past us. Wow, they were fast, really fast. I had no idea that those machines could go so fast. But it makes a lot of sense. The pros of the Tour, Vuelta and Giro are always talking about aerodynamics and wind tunnels. So, it seems that we use about 80% of our pedal power on cutting through the air while on a bike. Riding a recumbent means that you are way more aerodynamic and generate less turbulence that you would on a normal upright cycle.

Ok. I then figured out that there´s not just one type of recumbent. In fact, there´s loads. The racers, the tourers, the trikes, the audaxers, the cheap ones...and of course, their respective tandem models. Oh dear. If I was not obsessed enough with regular bikes...I was now getting into reclinadas (recumbents in Spanish!). I read a few facts, such as that all the speed records have been beaten on recumbents such as this one:

On some of our rides, I have had the opportunity to see a few different models and riders. They all agreed that I should try one. They seemed to be extremely comfortable...especially for those looong days on the saddle that we have been enjoying so much recently. When I googled the magic words in Spanish, the 3ike website of Jason from Madrid popped up. Conveniently, we had planned a trip down south in August. After a few emails and phone calls, we arranged for Jason to show us a few models in the outskirts of my hometown.
One of the few things I knew about these vehicles was that you need to re-learn how to cycle. Lucy and I were a bit nervous about this as we did not fancy crashing. After a morning of hiking in the Madrid mountains, we met the recumbents in the evening. I was the first (brave) one to try the two wheeled models, as Miguel and Lucy went for the trikes.
First impressions were...errr...weird. I could not cycle it for more than 5 m without falling or heading in the opposite direction that I wanted. I also did not know how to act before an imminent crash (apparently you need to move forward from the back of the seat, or else...you do fall on either of your sides...). I fell at low speed. It felt frustrating not to know how to cycle anymore after all these years!
Madrid bikes 187

Luckily, after a few more attempts, I got the hang of it and could manage a few meters on my own. Starting from stopped proved a bit tricky. The first pedal stroke has to propel the bike at enough speed to keep you going until you reach the other pedal...other than that is actually not that difficult. Steering is both with body weight and handlebars, although again, it feels weird. I guess we´re so used to normal bikes that we forgot how to ride and balance them...
Madrid bikes 188
Once you manage to balance yourself, they seem to be great fun. The bike I tried, in particular, had double suspension and was extremely comfy. The handlebars being under the seat make it so natural for the arms. I also tried the cheaper version of upright two wheels recumbent, with a different handlebar configuration, being over the seat, like a go-kart. This one was also nice, but perhaps because of the lack of suspension, the ride was not as smooth.

Then it was the trikes´turn. Jason had brought two models: a delta (one wheel at the front, two at the back), and a tadpole (two at the front, one at the back...the most common ones!). Both were very easy to get used to, although at speed (not that we reached more than 20 km/h this time!), you´ve got to be careful or else you may flip over. Obviously there´s not balance problems here! They both felt very fast and responsive, although I still prefer the classic two wheels. Both Miguel and Lucy loved the tadpole and the delta respectively.
Madrid bikes 191
There are a few downs to bear in mind with trikes: they´re bulky, wide (for filtering through traffic), and heavy. On the positive side, they seem stable and fun to ride, and apparently they´re better climbers than their two wheeled brothers (although I am sure this depends mostly on the rider itself!!!).
Lucy also tried the recumbent bike and mastered it in 10 min. I recorded a video while I was going on the delta trike:

Overall, we had a great time and loved these machines. Although we still need to try them for a longer, proper ride, we are already researching into options and I have asked my parents and Lucy to get me a recumbent after I complete the PhD. They better start saving...!
We would like to thank Jason and his dad for their time and help in introducing us to the recumbents world. It is not so common these days to find such good customer service! Keep up the good work guys and hopefully see you soon in Madrid!