Funderbird 1 goes America
by William Cortvriendt
(Learn more about William and the trike HERE.)
Photographs from this overland journey follow this article:
In one of my former posts on TA I mentioned my plans to trike across America. In fact I have had these plans since I was in Medical school back in early eighties but due to my busy professional life I either always had a chronic lack of time or something else came up asking for immediate attention such as recently the translation of my book Living a Century or More in some 20 foreign languages. But, to put it simple: having time is a matter of priorities so I forced myself to prepare for my coast to coast trip and actually already a couple of years ago I gradually started to increase my bicycling mileage.
However, I noticed that after some 30 – 40 miles on the bicycle, always various discomforts popped up like a stiff neck and shoulders, painful wrists and hands and (naturally) a soar butt. Gradually my garage filled up with frames of different geometries, the strangest bar handles varying from triathlon to butterfly and numerous saddles. And yes, the much appraised Brooks B17 old fashioned leather saddle is the best, meaning the least uncomfortable. But nothing really satisfied me until, through this Trike Asylum website, I discovered trikes and decided that this unconventional machinery possibly could resolve all the unsolvable issues of discomfort. After reading pretty much all the existing reviews and some extensive riding on three different types, I decided to purchase the HPV Scorpion fs 26.
I was instantly flabbergasted by the combination of the comfort, speed and enjoyment that this trike provided, so much that I named it ‘Funderbird 1’ (anticipating a number 2 sometime in the future). After triking for nearly two years and some 6.000 miles with rides up to 80 miles a day without experiencing any problems of discomfort or quality issues, I decided it was time for the “big trip” in May/June 2015 from San Francisco, California to Washington DC. Coast to coast, west to east.
Fortunately after numerous telephone calls I was able to convince Air France/KLM that a tailored suitcase with my fully stripped folded trike was not cargo but instead regular luggage. The difference? Some $2.500 for the flights from Paris to San Francisco and back from DC to Paris!
In addition I am very fortunate that my wife was accompanying me and drove an RV that we rented. This thus meant that the only items I had to take on my trike were a hand pump, some minor tools for urgent repairs, loads of bananas, water and the Scosche Boombox™ so I could listen to my favorite music while biking. In addition one cannot imagine the instant pleasure of an immediate cool beer, a hot shower, a great home cooked meal and a comfortable bed after a long day triking!
My planned trip started on May 1st in San Francisco and I had planned to basically cross the US in a fairly straight line heading East towards Washington DC averaging about 60-65 miles per day. It started out with fabulous blue skies, 80-85 degrees and the chosen daily mileage was, as I had tested so extensively in Europe, just right. At least until day 4. On day 4 I had planned to ride from Bear Valley CA to Carson City NV, but what was unheard of at this time of the year, the temperatures dropped overnight to below freezing point and it started snowing. Being hard headed I still tried triking for a few miles until a local ranger stopped me and told me that I could not travel any further without snow chains (“It’s the law sir”.) Do snow chains even exist for trikes? And to make things worse, the weather was going to remain cold for the foreseeable days, so we decided instead to drive with our RV (for which we had no snow chains either) back to Sacramento and from there to Carson City on highway 50.
For the next days the weather in Nevada remained way too cold for the time of the year with snow, rain and such forceful winds that triking was simply too dangerous. Since I had a fixed time frame of two months there really was no other alternative than to reschedule the trip more South, not knowing that Texas and Oklahoma were just about to experience the wettest month since they started recording the weather data, apart from the numerous tornados that occurred. Twice I was confronted with a bridge over a river that was fully under water and could not be crossed. It was not until we arrived in Arkansas that the remainder of the trip to DC could be continued without any interruptions from natural causes.
But, the Southern rescheduling of my trip proved to be extremely rewarding. What a beautiful states these are: Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. And there was more. The people were the nicest human beings one can imagine. There was respect and curiosity everywhere for me and my trike, both on the road and off the road. Where does one experience that a lady jumps out of her SUV and stops me to ask where I got “that thing” because she wanted one “just like that”? Where do you experience that on various occasions people stopped me and invited me inside their home to have a coffee or beer with them? Where do you experience that on the only occasion that I had a flat tire a car stops and the guy loads my trike in his pickup truck (yes that’s what they drive down there) to his house where his compressor could get sufficient air in my tire, much easier than my small hand pump? Where are you invited to a birthday party 10 minutes after you have arrived in an unknown small town and where are you offered to take people’s private car to go shopping so you don’t have to take “that RV all the way over there”? Well my friends, this happens only in America! And I can say this with some confidence after having lived and biked in quite a variety of different countries.
A few remarks about the HPV Scorpion fs 26. This is a truly remarkable trike. The only two necessary repairs during the entire trip were a flat tire (caused by a nasty pothole) and the replacement of a broken cable. The Scorpion fs 26 proved to handle any circumstance extremely well. Even on a 50 mile long unpaved road that was recommended to me by the locals in Virginia the trike remained comfortable and handled the uneven dirt extremely well. I now understand why the German manufacturer decided to basically take the Scorpion fs 26 and transform it into the off the road Enduro simply by putting on fatter tires. Even after having parked the Scorpion fs 26 outside overnight for two months with all the different circumstances such as snow, rain and hot humidity the trike looks completely like new! In fact only one little part showed some visible corrosion which actually is not the trike itself but the supposedly top of the line Shimano Dura Ace bar end shifter!
In fact, the trike and all parts proved to be extremely reliable under all circumstances. For those interested, these are the parts that I used on my trike:
Seat: Standard HPV Mesh (extremely comfortable!)
Crankset: Shimano XT (22-32-44)
Pedals: Shimano PD-A600
Rear Hub: Shimano XT
Front hubs: Standard HPV
Rims 20” and 26”: Ginko (a German brand that combines strength/stiffness and light weight)
Cassette: Shimano XT (9-speed 11-34)
Bar end shifters: Shimano Dura Ace
Chain: KMC X9SL
Brakes: Avid BB7
Brake handles: Sun Promax. Very cheap, works great, makes a rear parking brake redundant and thereby saves about a pound of weight!
Suspension: Front: standard HPV, rear: Swiss DT
Tires: Schwalbe Durano foldable 1.35” (had to be replaced after approximately 2.500 miles). The usual tire pressure was 5.0-5.5 Bar. This proved to be a combination of tire and pressure that is light weight, offers a small rolling resistance and great comfort (thanks to the full suspension of the trike).
Music speaker: Scosche BoomBottle
GPS/computer: Garmin 800
Bottles: Camelback Podium Big Chill (keeps your drinks cool)
Lights: Front: Niterider Lumina 750 Rear 2x Niterider Solas. Important: During my trip I received numerous compliments that these lights in combination with yellow clothing made me extremely visible and thus safe!
Is there anything that can be improved on the Scorpion fs 26? No, for trekking this is the trike to have! In my view only one thing should be changed in case you want to use the trike for racing purposes. The Scorpion fs 26 is very fast but notably heavier than other top end trikes such as the Catrike 700 and the ICE VTX, mostly as a result of its full suspension. But who would want to sacrifice the ultimate smooth ride that the Scorpion provides? Perhaps HPV can refocus its attention from going off road (Enduro) and Trike SUV style (Scorpion Plus series) back to racing and develop a lightweight carbon Scorpion fs 26 (with suspension!), including a seat that reclines a few degrees more horizontal in order to increase aerodynamics.
I want one!
PS. Some time ago I ran out of chain lubrication and instead used some old Teflon spray that I found in my garage. I was greatly surprised with the immediate reduction in friction of the drive train which was also noticeable through my increased triking speed. It appeared that this did not occur because of the lubrication of the chain itself, but rather as a result of the dramatic reduction of the friction between the chain and the chain tube. I now use the combination of regular chain lubrication and spraying the inside of the chain tube with Teflon. A remarkable improvement!
PHOTOS OF FUNDERBIRD 1 GOES AMERICA TREK:
Nice RV rented from BlissRV (great service!), a fabulous trike and a gorgeous wife. Let’s head on down the open road of adventure!
Amidst the fields where tens of thousands died in the civil war, often sacrificed by their ‘glorious’ generals for the gain of only few hundred yards of territory. A sobering thought that such madness keeps repeating itself.