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IF YOU’VE GOT ‘EM, USE ‘EM (GEARS THAT IS)


I have never been a smoker but certainly I have been forced against my will to be around a lot of smoking. When I was going thru boot camp (recruit training) in the Navy I remember the company commander saying the words “If you’ve got em, smoke em”. This was how a smoking break was announced. Obviously, if someone lacks something they can’t very well use them.

Some folks buy trikes which lack sufficient gearing for hill climbing. What can I say? But for those who purchased trikes with low gearing available what I am talking about here applies … if you have low enough gearing, use it. I am amazed at the number I riders I come across that don’t use their gears much at all. Hey, that is what they are there for. Some are quite intimidated by them. They don’t understand them and don’t know how to shift them. I am amazed by that as it is so simple. And it is also so practical, sensible and very much needed.

We can encounter some horrendous hills and having and using “granny gear” is a must if we are going to climb them. I have written quite a bit about this before: HERE, HEREHERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE, With all that already written I won’t go on here much more. I just want to emphasize that we need to use the gears and not be afraid of them. If you have a derailleur system the main thing to remember is don’t try to shift when stopped or while pushing hard on the pedals. Shifting, especially downshifting, must be done ahead of time before one gets themselves into trouble not being in the right gear. One can do serious and expensive damage to the rear derailleur when attempting to shift if under heavy load or while stopped. You can literally turn it into the shape of a pretzel leaving you stranded and having to buy a new derailleur.

So I say again … if you’ve got ’em, use ’em. It will make your ride much more enjoyable and help you to …

KEEP ON TRIKIN’

 

IT’S JUST A HILL … GET OVER IT


steep hill 2

saw those words printed on shirts you can buy and thought they were pretty “catchy”. I think most riders would agree that it is a lot more fun and enjoyable going down a hill than it is climbing it. Many have reported reaching some pretty fast speeds on their descent. I am talking 40 to 50 plus mph. Velomobile riders have reported reaching speeds in excess of 70 mph. Going down the longest steepest hill I know of around here where I live the highest speed I have ever obtained is only about 28 mph. Here below is a picture of the hill I speak of. Looking at the hill one would think that it would yield higher speeds than that. I have only ridden my trike on it once as it is a distance away and not someplace I normally ride.

Tonkel Rd. hill 2

It is said and is quite true that we must climb the hill enduring the challenge and difficulty in order to enjoy the fun and thrill of going down it. Climbing a steep hill only using our human power can indeed be challenging. And certainly our ability to do so depends upon our physical condition and the gearing we have available. Low gearing is a must for hill climbing.

This is a 3 speed internal hub with  a 10 cog rear cassette … totaling 90 speeds. I would love to have something like this on my trike.

3-speed-hub-with-cassettes

I would settle for 81 speeds. The option to shift the internal hub instantly changing the available gear down lower would be a ‘godsend’ as they say.

My tadpole trike came with 27 ‘speeds’ (3 chainrings in the front and 9 cogs in the rear cassette). The newer ones are 30 speeds as they have a rear cassette of 10 cogs. They come with a 34 tooth cog as the largest diameter sprocket on the rear cassette. My trike originally had a 32 tooth sprocket as the largest cog on the rear cassette. I later changed it to 34 tooth which definitely helped a little bit with hill climbing. Still I could really use a smaller chain ring on the front. The hills I normally climb here where I live are not anything like the one in the picture above. I would definitely need lowing gearing to tackle something like that. Either that or I would have to make numerous stops to rest. That is one thing good about riding a tadpole trike. Stopping to rest doesn’t involve having to “dismount” and then struggle to get started again like a bicyclist does. And we don’t have to concern ourselves with balancing while going slow. We can climb a hill just as slow as we can manage the pedaling involved … perhaps at 1.5 mph … maybe even slower for some of us. Try that on a bicycle.

50 tooth cog on rear cassette

In the picture above you are looking at a 50 tooth cog . I have seen 42 and 44 tooth sprockets for the rear cassette and just now I found this 50 tooth. Given enough traction and strength in the trike build I would think that a person could just about “pull stumps” out of the ground with that low gearing. 🙂 Of course, one must keep in mind that when talking about a derailleur system the rear derailleur can only handle so much gear range. Going with such a large sprocket on the rear means that the largest front chain ring would have to be smaller in order for the rear derailleur to handle things. (I have an article on rear derailleur capacity.) So what you would gain in low gearing you would lose in high gearing (fastest speed obtainable). If we live/ride somewhere that has lots of hills to climb and yet we also like to go as fast as we possibly can we have a bit of a problem. Solutions are available, but they are not cheap. There are two and three speed internal hubs for the crankset as well as various internal hubs for the rear wheel. Some fabulous gearing combinations can be had for a price … more than what some trikes cost.

Many of us have one or more hills to contend with … GET OVER ‘EM! … and                                                   KEEP ON TRIKIN’

HILL CLIMBING … NOT THE WAY I REMEMBER IT


Back in my teenage years and into my 20s and 30s I used to love hill climbing. However, it was a bit different back then. Here is a picture of me engaged in some hill climbing.

Steve riding wheelie up a hill

Obviously it is not a good quality photo. Yes, hill climbing then was a lot of fun.  This particular hill was long enough and had the right incline to it that I could “wheelie” my way up it. Serious hills however are not conquered by riding a wheelie. In fact, the least amount of front end up into the air is desirable.

I tackled some pretty steep hills including some that looked like they would be impossible to climb at the very top … to get over the top where the edge protruded forward like I have drawn here with the blue arrow pointing to what I am talking about:

hill climb drawing

It could be done and I and a couple of my friends used to do it all the time. We had to do it just right however or the consequences would have been disastrous.

motorcyle hill climb competition

I never got involved in competition. I only did this for fun and recreation. I loved motorcycling … both on and off road. In competition there are two goals. The first goal is to make it all the way to the top and over the crest of the hill. May competitors fail to accomplish this. The second goal is to make it up the hill faster than anyone else. I used to love watching hill climbing competition as I did other motorcycle competition … racing, trials, etc. Yes, hill climbing on a motorcycle was a lot of fun.

Now I am much older and my motorcycling days are over. Oh, I would still enjoy some of it if I were to do it, but it is not worth the risk of injury. Things change a lot as we age. I am nearly 69 now and I definitely am not in the physical condition I was in 40 years ago when I used to do this kind of stuff. I continued to ride motorcycles on roads over the years, but I made the decision a few years ago to sell my motorcycle and just stick with my human powered machines. I found that I was riding them and ignoring my motorcycle. I was surprised by this as I assumed I would continue to ride a motorcycle for a very long time … right up until I felt I needed to quit for personal safety reasons. I have no regrets making the decision to stop altogether. I truly enjoy pedaling along on my tadpole trike. That brings me to the point of this posting … hill climbing on a tadpole trike. Now I am not talking about off road riding, but rather strictly riding on paved surfaces whether they be trails, streets, roads, or sidewalks.

The difference between my motorcycle hill climbing days and now is that the motorcycle hill climbing was lots of fun. I sure can’t say that about climbing hills on my trike. Nope, not at all. It is just something that comes with it and has to be done. I find no enjoyment in it. But there are some differences which I want to point out. Climbing a hill on a motorcycle (off road) involves a certain amount of speed. You usually can’t go very slow and have much hope of making it ‘up and over’. Both balance and traction would be one’s undoing if the speed was too slow. On a tadpole trike on pavement climbing a hill is usually pretty slow going, but the good news is that balance doesn’t enter the picture. One can go as slow as they care to as long as they can turn the crank pedaling along. I have climbed many hills at 2 mph or even a touch less at times. And if I want to or need to I can even stop to rest or pick up a piece of trash or a tree branch laying on the trail and then resume my climbing.

Of course, this would not be possible without the use of “granny gear”. Ah yes, good ol’ granny gear! What a difference gearing can make. For those who don’t know what granny gear is it is simply the lowest gear one has on multiple gear trike. On a typical derailleur system it is when the chain is on the smallest sprocket in the front and the largest sprocket in the back. In the picture of the bicycle below you can see this gear combination.

granny gear on bicycle

It doesn’t take long to get into serious trouble trying to climb a hill if the rider fails to shift into a low enough gear. Then there are trikes that don’t have low enough gearing available and so the rider on such a trike either really struggles or doesn’t even attempt to climb hills they know they can’t make it up. What can I say except “Sorry about your luck”.

No, I can’t say as though I am enjoying climbing hills nowadays, but I am enjoying the fact that I can and am. And I am relatively sure that in doing so it helps me to …

KEEP ON TRIKIN’