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Trice on the Wight

I have always been interested in recumbent machines, and had a penchant for three wheels. This summer we explored the options available, and following a test ride at The Bike Shed we bought a Trice Q. This is a 'tadpole' recumbent trike, with the two steered wheels at the front, and the single driven wheel at the back. Ours has the standard hub brakes on the front wheels only, with individual brake levers.

The sitting position is exceptionally comfortable, although you quickly discover two key facts: first, you have to keep your cadence up, typically to 90-100 /sec, and second, pedalling a Trice uses slightly different muscle groups to a conventional road bike. This makes the Trice ideal for cross-training. If you ever suffer from pain in the bum after cycling, take a break on a Trice.

Most people worry that motorists are unable to cope with a lower, wider and longer machine, and will keep cutting in and carving you up or even not notice you at all. In my experience, that is completely untrue. Most motorists seem to notice you better, and pass with a wider margin, usually with one or two occupants hanging out of the windows wondering what you are riding. A few pass very close indeed, but I fancy they would do just the same if you were on a regular bike instead. Equipped with the standard yellow flag, and particularly with some bright panniers, a Trice is highly visible. You need to use the road wisely to help motorists spot you: hugging the hedge on left-hand bends is dangerous no matter what you are riding, as an approaching motor vehicle will not see you until they are almost on top of you. Ride sensibly and defensively on a Trice and I believe it is a safer option than conventional bikes.

Trice

Our Trice Q, pictured on the cliff above Blackgang Chine, looking west towards the Needles, along the Back of the Wight.

Trices are not light, and with a superb rear carrier I am always tempted to carry more than I should, and much more than I ever could on one of my road bikes. So even if you pare your road weight down assiduously, climbing hills is not going to be as quick as on a road bike. However the Trice is very wisely geared (it is made in hilly Cornwall, UK) and I have been perfectly able to pedal it up steep 10% and greater hills round here. Just sit back, use the gears, and keep your cadence up. You do not have an option to start standing on the pedals as you do on a conventional bike, although you can brace your legs through your hips and back to generate more force for short steep sections. You must also remember not to pedal with your arms, or you will swerve around the road.

I have now ridden two sectors with my Giant TCR C2 road bike and Garmin Edge 305 GPS computer, and our Trice, for comparison. The above photo was taken near the high point on my Round the Island route, some 11.2 km out from home. The outward leg to that point is largely uphill, with a long slow ascent from Niton to the top of Niton Down. On the TCR C2, I took 27 min to cover that leg, an average of 24.5 kph (15.2 mph). On the Trice, it took me 35 min, averaging 19.2 kph (11.9 mph). The round trip on the Trice includes the descent of that hill into Niton, something shown on a movie at the ICE site (see this page, clicking on the ICE videos and looking for the Isle of Wight Monster). That round trip of 22.4 km (13.9 miles) and 340 m total ascent (1115 ft) took an hour, at an average of 22.4 kph (13.9 mph). The maximum gradient is 10.4%. During the descent into Niton on the Trice, I know that I exceeded 30 mph, and with your bum just a few inches above the hard tarmac, it is an exhilarating experience. I was very tempted to shout "Geronimo!"

The second sector for comparison is the hill climb circuit from Wroxall, through Shanklin Old Village, to Luccombe, Bonchurch, Ventnor, and back to Wroxall (the variant detailed at the end of my Round the Island route). This is 14.3 km (8.9 miles) for the whole circuit, with a total ascent of 288 m (945 ft) at a maximum gradient of 15.7%. On my TCR C2, when hardly fresh, I took a total of 34 min, plus some 11 min of rests to allow my legs to pick the cadence up again over the steeper sections. On our Trice, I took 39 min with a single 3 min break.

My next step is to ride the Trice around the Island, something already familiar to others (see this page, navigating down to the Trice Micro, and looking for the photo diary of the Isle of Wight).

Trices are made by the wonderful folk at Inspired Cycle Engineering and the local dealer is Jeff Smith at The Bike Shed (see Info page).

Full Face Helmets

Although I know that not everyone agrees, and I am not sure that I agree with making them legally compulsory, I never ride a bike or Trice without wearing a proper approved helmet. There are several excellent sites that go through the arguments, figures, and other details: one of the very best is BHSI.

However I enjoy riding as fast as my little (old) legs can carry me, and prefer to have better protection that the minimum afforded by various consumer standards. In particular, I like facial and better impact protection, along the lines of full-face helmets complying with the ASTM F 1952 standard for downhill cycling helmets.

Although that better standard is not included, there is a fascinating comparison of different cycle helmet standards on this page.

Mark well the wise words of the BHSI: "If you use a bicycle helmet for a powered vehicle traveling 20 mph or more, you are taking a greater risk than most bicyclists that the helmet will not be adequate for the type of crash you should expect." (BHSI site.)

Skip the one word "powered" in that sentence and you will perhaps understand why anyone averaging close to 20 mph, or more if I am really lucky, might want a helmet that provides a better protection from impact than the minima prescribed by the consumer standards.

Facial protection is more important than often accepted. For example, "Standard bicycle helmets do not protect the face (you can live just fine with a busted nose or split lip from a bicycle crash) or the jaw joint, which can transmit injurious force to the brain in a crash at motorized speeds." (BHSI, same page.)

Recall that Fabio Casartelli died in the Tour de France on 18 July 1995 following facial injuries, and maybe this dismissal of such injuries is inappropriate, at least for those who try to ride more quickly. Yes, Casartelli was riding fast when he struck a concrete block, and even a downhill helmet may not have saved him, but browse the many tragedies listed on Wikipedia and perhaps these put a different perspective on the requirements.

I am more likely to suffer a fall or crash that could have serious consequences when I am travelling at higher speeds. At those higher speeds, a consumer helmet will not provide me with the protection needed to address impacts at higher speeds. Therefore if there is to be real value in my wearing a helmet when cycling, that helmet needs to provide facial and better impact protection.

Currently my helmet of choice for commuting and day-to-day runs is a Bell Bellistic. Although it is warmer than a lightweight racing helmet with extensive cut-outs, I think that it should serve me better should I need its protection. And for anyone who insists that you cannot wear such a helmet when pedalling on the road for long, I wore it throughout the 3 hours 40 minutes that I took to cycle around the Island, and despite air temperatures over 20 deg C my brains did not boil. I have worn my Bellistic in much warmer conditions for shorter periods too.

More recently I have bought a Giro Remedy Carbon Fibre, which I now wear when out training or tackling longer (or hotter) runs. Although over twice the price of the Bellistic, it is quite frankly the best helmet that I have ever worn. It is claimed to provide 20% better impact resistance than the standard version of the Remedy, which also passes ASTM F 1952, but is almost as light as a good road helmet, and provides full jaw and face protection too. It is extremely well ventilated, and imposes little thermal penalty in comparison to a standard helmet. In fact I think in colder weather it could prove quite chilly!

 
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