archival and resource material for human powered recumbent tricycles

Steven Telck’s trike adventure continues … Episode Nine

Missive #9

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I understand some people are interested in my trike setup and how I roll around Asia.  Well I took some pictures and a short video of my spinning flag. They are included in the folder “Newest Asia Tour Files”.

First I ride an ICE Adventure trike. I ride this trike because it is higher than the lower Sprint model and because it is also a folding trike which makes it easier to put on buses if one needs to transport from place to place. I find a Sprint just a little too low to the ground for many of the roads in Asia. There are places here with buildup of dirt and rock on the roads or drop offs from asphalt to dirt that the Sprint will hit the frame if you’re not careful. Therefore the Adventure being a little higher is much more suitable for this type of touring.

I have an elastomer rear suspension and none in the front, but the roads in Vietnam made me wish that I did have front suspension. In the last 2,300 km I have broken three spokes on the front wheels. This is no fault of design or wheel structure it is mine as I knew the spokes were becoming loose and I failed tension them before the trip. Riding with loose spokes will cause them to break so fast you couldn’t replace them fast enough. The upside of using 20 inch wheels is even when spokes break the wheels usually do not go far out of from side to side, and with the Sturmey Archer drum brake system you do not have to worry about brake pads rubbing the side of the rims if the rims do go out a little side to side. Also the drum brakes are easier to transport on buses as one does not have to worry about handlers bending a disc rotor. My old  girls paint is chipped and scratched, but she gets down the road I don’t have any bent rotors because I have the drum brakes and the wheels get me there even with a few broken spokes until I can take the time to pull the tire off and replace them.

I also use a 6 ft tall collapsible warning pole with a spinning flag attached to the pole. All eyes are designed to notice motion and with the flag spinning it is usually the first thing anyone sees before they even recognize the trike. This is not my personal opinion this has been told to me by many people who have pulled up and said I could see that flag long before I even knew you were on a trike. The flag has a quick release couple at the seat frame where it is attached and a black sliding sleeve which slips up and allows the flag to be folded  so you can go under low objects. It also makes for a quick disconnect and fold ability if you want to transport again via bus. I also use an airzound air horn and I keep the reservoir pumped-up to 100 PSI. The air horn is extremely useful for two things, first for those cars backing up that for whatever reason cannot see a 6-foot flag and second to scare off dogs which are everywhere in Asia.

Just today there was a dog chasing Roger down the street who was for whatever reason not backing off after we left his territory I was about 200 feet behind Rodger so I just blasted at the dog with the air horn. He immedialy broke off pursuit and headed to the side of the road and ditch. He most likely was  thinking he was about to get run over by one of many trucks on the road. It is amazing how many lame dogs there are in Asia, usually with broken hind legs. On the right hand side opposite the air horn I have the little Ding-A-Ling bell for when I’m trying to move amongst people. I use two standard Ortlieb roller bags in the back with a larger roll-up bag on top which spans the top of the two lower bags. The top bag is held to the lower bags and the rack with two elastic spider nets. I also have a very large side bag in which I carry most of the things I need during the day such as powder for the incessant humidity ( keeps the boys happy), sunglasses, basic tools, sunscreen, electrolytes etc. I personally ride in long pants which I tuck into my socks and wear a high visibility long sleeve shirt. I do this because I don’t like to put on sunblock over and over as it’s next to impossible to keep on for any length of time while  sweating my way up a mountain in this humidity.

If you look closely you should notice that I do not have standard clip in pedals. One year after I started riding trikes I started developing hot foot problems. I was looking around for a solution when I ran across a webpage by James Bolf who just so happens to live part-time in Chiang Mai Thailand.  He had taken some of aluminum plate and cut them out in a rough shape of a foot and attached  his cleats to the bottom of the plates which he attached to his pedals. He then just puts his feet on the pedals and rides the trike that way. He told me the platforms had cured his hot foot problems which made me very curious so I looked into it a bit. The nerve which is directly behind the ball of the foot and where the cleat on most shoes is attached gets compressed and for some people it it can swell so badly it causes the hot foot problems. I have never been able to find a pair of riding shoes where the cleat could be moved back far enough to get the pressure off the ball of the foot and for a trike rider I see no great reason why I should want to have my point of contact to the spindle near the ball of my foot because I am not using the calfs of my legs for quick acceleration.

I took James basic design and design my own set of platforms made out of lightweight aluminum plate, drilled a series of holes in them so that they could be attached to the back side of my combination pedals at many different positions which would allow me to move the effective spindle area forward or backwards under my foot. If you look closely in the picture you can see that the spindle is almost under my arch. This distributes the pressure from the pedal stroke more evenly across the bottom of my foot and my hot foot problems are gone. Thank you James. The heavy duty bungee on the heel is to keep my foot from slipping backwards as I pull on the pedal during the second half of the stroke, the velcro straps on the front just keep my foot against the platform again so that when I’m pulling it does not lift up off the platform and want to jump out of the heel slings.  This design also offers one other solution to a problem I experienced two years ago while riding. I was moving only about 4 miles an hour when I hit a rather large hole and for whatever reason I shifted my weight in the seat, which unclipped my right foot and my leg went down and got trapped under the crossbar of the trike. I lost a lot of skin on the outside of my right ankle and I pulled a ligament in my knee which to this day still gives me trouble after long rides. Yes I was a victim of the infamous leg suck.

The thing I remember most about the incident other than the pain was the two young girls maybe 12 and 13 who saw me trying to free my leg trapped under the crossbar. They ran over very quickly both grabbed the right front wheel and lifted the trike up with me in it so I could push my leg out from under the crossbar. One should note that I weigh 240 pounds and the trike is nearly 40 pounds itself so this was something that was difficult for these two young ladies to do.

I have experienced many incidences like this. Take the time someone chased me down 20 miles to give me back a pair of $3 clip on sunglasses or the time that a man and his wife still wearing her dressing gown chased us down the road to give us back a mouse which we had thrown in the garbage can because it wasn’t working and they thought we had left it behind in the hotel or the time I was standing along side of the road on a hot mountain road trying to get the last bit of water out of my bottle and have people  stop and ask me if I needed water and then give it to me and not want one nickle from me in exchange. There are many other stories which I could relate but I think the reader gets the picture. I find the people of Thailand gracious and easy to get along with and helpful especially when you really needed it.

A few days ago was a rough day as it turns out I killed a dog with my trike. It was a rather surrealist event. I was clipping down the road in the safety margin at about 15 kilometers per hour. A dog was sitting on the side of the road, looked up, saw me and immediately went into total terror and panic. He started running away from me yelping and running sideways. You see he was in total panic of my trike. I think it might have been the fact that it sits low to the ground and the flag was spinning very fast. Anyway as he ran away sideways from me he ran across the street and was hit head-on by a sedan and killed instantly. I turned the trike around and went back to make sure he was dead which was rather obvious because it was not a pretty sight. The owner of the dog walked out from his house and stood there looking at it and I told him in Thai I was very sorry that the dog was so frightened of my trike that he ran across the street in front of the car. The dog’s owner just looked at me and said “my bpen ri, my bpen ri”. This phrase in Thai means many things, one it can mean it’s not important, or it could mean it’s not a problem. Even now I still feel quite bad about the incident, this poor dog was not chasing me, barking at me or snapping at my heels, he was just trying to get away from me in a stark terror and accidentally ran out in front of a car. One second alive the next second dead.

There has also been one other accident related to my trike. Three people on a motorcycle were rubbernecking my trike when a car stopped short in front of them. They notice just in time to slam the brakes put the motorcycle down and slide in the sand into the back of the car. No serious injuries just some loss of skin and scraped up motorcycle.

Well well enough for now I’ve had my shower we’ve had a light dinner and I got a little bit of warm beer to finish.



2 responses

  1. Jen Fleming

    Great to read your story. Thank you. I will remember that solution for the hot foot problems. We road for 5 weeks through outback queensland and often felt the bottoms of our feet burning by about 60k Is that what you mean? Keep up the stories!

    January 14, 2018 at 5:50 pm

  2. Jen,

    The foot issues Steven is discussing in his story are known as Nerve Compression Syndrome (NCS), and I have written about it extensively in my cycling books and online. NCS can result in permanent damage if not addressed. After much experimentation, I finally got past the NCS that was plaguing me on my trike journeys, and my feet are again healthy and strong. I suspect that most cyclists who suffer from “hot spots” just see them as an annoyance, something that comes with cycling, but to dismiss these sensations is not wise. Steven found his solution through his unique pedal setup, which will keep his feet healthy for all the thousands of miles he pedals. NCS does not have to be tolerated, and should not. It can be overcome through self education on the condition, and cycling can continue in comfort.

    January 16, 2018 at 9:57 am