Tag Archives: trike

40,000 miles and a change of tyres

I’ve cycled a fair distance in the last five years – 42,000 miles – and have done the vast majority of that distance on one type of tyre, the ever-popular Schwalbe Marathon. But six weeks ago I decided it was time for a change, and time to fit the Panaracer Minits Tough tyres that I had bought two years ago after a recommendation from fellow trike rider John Eady.

Left to right: Panaracer Minits Tough; Schwalbe Marathon; Schwalbe Marathon Plus

Left to right: Panaracer Minits Tough; Schwalbe Marathon; Schwalbe Marathon Plus

The previous 40,000 miles hadn’t been entirely with Schwalbe Marathons though. The trikes were originally supplied with Schwalbe Marathon Racers (the ‘faster’ version) but I found they were puncture prone and swapped them for something a bit better after 1,000 miles on the original trike, especially as they were already down to the canvas at that point. My second trike kept its original Marathon Racers for 500 miles until I had two punctures in one ride on those and I took them off and swapped for Marathons.

I’ve also run Schwalbe Big Apple tyres (which are extra fat and comfy) on the old Trice Q for 1,000 miles but they, too, suffered from early wear and less puncture resistance and they were also really hard to get on the rims evenly – they often had buckles in the sidewall which were very awkward to get out.

After several people had recommended Schwalbe Marathon Pluses I also tried those.

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Never again! They may be virtually puncture proof (although I did get one puncture with them) but they are very hard to fit and the rolling resistance is awful – you feel like you’re cycling through treacle the whole time! They knocked a mile per hour off my average speed which was far too much, especially as a puncture repair only takes about ten minutes and I sometimes didn’t have punctures on normal Marathons for several months. The 1mph off my average speed for a month works out at nearly six hours of extra riding each month for the distances I was regularly doing!

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So anyway, I’ve done about 36,000 miles overall on the reliable and reasonably puncture-resistant Marathons. I like them!

After 3,000 miles of riding they can look like this though:

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Where I live we are ‘blessed’ with country lanes with millions of tiny flints. The Marathon tyres pick up the flints and embed them in the rubber but rarely let them right through, fortunately!

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However, if you do get a puncture it’s important to find the corresponding sharp spot in the tyre to remove the flint or thorn that is almost certainly embedded in the tyre else you will get another puncture immediately with your fresh tube.

The Advantages of Marathons:

  • Comfy – I buy the 1.5 inch wide versions which are narrower than some but they still give a comfortable ride
  • Fitting – they go on the rim fairly easily and don’t seem to get the awkward buckles that I get with the Big Apples, for example
  • Puncture resistant Greenguard – this is fairly effective.
  • Rolling resistance – not too bad, you don’t feel like you’re having to work too hard to get the trike moving.
  • Longevity – these tyres last for 3-4 thousand miles on my front wheels which is fairly good. Obviously in winter they get more cut up but in summer they do very well. The rear tyre lasts between 6 and 10 thousand miles usually (it has less weight/wear).

Still, it’s always nice to have a change and I’d heard a lot about how different tyres can help you to go faster. I’m more tortoise than hare so faster sounded good.

I had bought the Panaracers two years ago and immediately thought ‘they are too thin to provide any puncture resistance’ so had put them in the shed and mostly forgotten about them. However, we appeared to be in a bit of heatwave with no rain at all and I thought the sunny, dry conditions were ideal for fast racing tyres and so I’d give them a go.

What are the Panaracer Minits Tough like?

They look good!

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Note that there is no reflective sidewall detail so these would not work well for me in Germany (I’d have to buy some spoke reflectors instead if I wanted the trike to have these in the Fatherland).

They also run at higher pressures than the Schwalbe Marathons – between 65 and 100 PSI (4.5-7 bar).
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As a consequence the ride is harder and rougher but definitely quicker!

There was also a slight issue of failing puncture repairs at this high pressure. I usually patch my tubes over a dozen times before throwing them away – the patches generally work really well. However when I first fitted the Panaracers and pumped them up to 85psi it caused one of the patches to fail and I had to change the tube. This patch had worked perfectly well in the Marathons at 60psi.

They were 1.25″ wide rather than the 1.5″ of the Marathons, 1.75″ of Marathon Pluses and 2″ of the Big Apples. This meant I had to do a whole new lot of bike computer calibration to to Garmin satnav as my wheel diameter had changed!
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They were also significantly lower profile. This meant they looked pretty smart!

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However the low profile had both advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage was in cornering as they cornered much better; the Marathons tend to squirm around a bit if you corner really fast on an adverse camber but these Panaracers felt more secure and solid. They were much sharper turning in and had less understeer – they made the trike feel more stable (not that it feels unstable usually).

The disadvantage was that I had more examples of heelstrike, something I get occasionally on the trike (my heel hits the floor during the pedal stroke because of a bump or something). This happened far more with the Panaracers. It’s never a real problem, as such, but can be a bit startling.

The Panaracers are very easy to get on and off the wheel rims. I can get them on just using my hands (I don’t need tools) and they are easy to get off using a tyre lever. Comparing this with various travails with Schwalbe Marathon Pluses was quite interesting!

One extremely noticeable difference between the two types of tyres was the noise. Finally my trike made that high-pitched whooshing sound rather than the deep rumble that normally followed me around. The slick tyres at high pressure with a hard rubber compound sounded utterly different – they sounded fast. They also sounded rather noisy, particularly when riding in situations were you could hear echoes (such as beside brick walls) and it was something it took me a long time to get used to.

The tyres were £22 each when I bought them two years ago so more expensive than the Marathons but I thought it worth a punt.

So overall I liked them and I particularly liked the increase in my average speed by 0.7mph. Over my average of 750 miles per month that’s a not inconsiderable time saving. It was great to go out on a thirty mile ride and to average over 13mph for the whole ride – when I started triking five years ago I would be lucky to average 10mph for that distance, so I was now saving nearly forty minutes on that distance.

However there was one big problem with these tyres, best exemplified by this photograph.

Flat Panaracer Minits 2

This was a very familiar sight, both in my shed (like here) and out and about on the roads.

In the dry the tyres were reasonable, getting punctures now and again but generally being reasonably reliable as long as I didn’t go off road or through gravelly patches, but as soon as it rained… pfffffffft, instant puncture! I’m writing this blog post on a rainy day when I had three punctures in 18 miles – that’s no fun at all!

One advantage of the tyres not having a puncture guard layer is that the flint or thorn or whatever causes the puncture isn’t usually in the tyre any longer when you go to change the tube so getting back on the road is quick, but today’s punctures two and three were caused by the same tiny flint, so it’s not always the case!

I also found that after just 1,203 miles (when I changed the Panaracers and put Marathons back on) that there were some pretty significant cuts on them.

Cut Panaracer 1

This deep slice had actually been on this tyre for three weeks and hadn’t caused a problem but the tyre is bulging a bit at this point and I expected it to fail in the near future if I hadn’t taken the tyres off.

Cut Panaracer 2

And the real evidence of the puncture situation is here, in my little spreadsheet of all punctures for Alfie the trike. Notice how the Panaracers seemed to struggle on the left hand wheel which is usually in the cleaner road surface. When I fitted them I’d had 2,488 miles without a puncture and I had an instant patch fail with the new tyres – the maximum distance I travelled between punctures was 399 miles – not good. I once did 6,200 miles between punctures on Schwalbe Marathons on the old trike.

Bike Spreadsheet - Alfie punctures

So despite enjoying my extra 0.7mph average speed with these tyres, as soon as the rain falls I end up at the side of the road changing the tube or (as happened today) phoning home for the Broom Wagon. The tyres are fast, good at cornering, easy to get on and off and a fair price but I feel that after 1,000 miles they have too many cuts and holes and that I want to be able to ride in drizzle or rain without being concerned that I’ll get yet another puncture.

So what for next summer?

A very kind Dutch velomobile rider gave me a set of Schwalbe Kojak tyres which are fast but look to have a harder and thicker compound. Next summer I shall try those and see how it goes. I won’t be buying the Panaracer Minits Tough tyres again.

I am also aware that Schwalbe now do the Tryker, a tyre especially for trikes. This is now the standard tyre that ICE fit when supplying their new trikes. I expect I’ll buy a pair of these to try out in the near future.

Oh, and throughout all this the rear tyre has stayed as a normal Marathon. I change the rear tyre every 6,000 miles or so and the current one’s been on since May (2,500 miles) and looks pristine.

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Trike maintenance, Trikes & Velomobiles

Ko2Ko – Koblenz to Köln

Here is the map of where I have got to so far on the whole tour:

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Quite a long way really!

And here’s today’s ride, also a long way.

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Once again I had a hotel room without breakfast (which was 8,50€ extra so I didn’t bother), so I was out of the door at 8am ready to head off on my rather long journey. This was the longest planned day of my tour and I wanted to make sure I was underway without too much faffage.

I didn’t choose the most direct route to the bridge over the Mosel as I wanted to see Deutsches Eck again, so I pootled along the pedestrian/cyclist bit beside the Rhein.

I wouldn’t fancy this job – there are chaps on that contraption right under the bridge!

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I also caught sight of another recumbent, a Challenge Wizard.

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I arrived at Deutsches Eck and Alfie had a look at the Mosel (left) and Rhein (right) in the misty morning.

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After Deutsches Eck it was time to head over the Balduinbrücke. I’ve done this loads of times so have finally got to grips with where to go by bike to avoid steps and stairs etc; however, when I got there the bridge was being resurfaced and there was one-way traffic only, although fortunately bikes could still go over in the north direction.

I was now the other side of the Mosel and was on familiar ground – we had a week’s holiday here in Neuendorf last September. On that holiday we had watched them building an enormous flood barrier – I thought this was an ideal time to check if it worked. It did!

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The cycle path had some diversions because of the flood barrier building and so I followed those signs which took us along the quiet roads from Neuendorf to Kesselheim.

In Kesselheim there’s a short bit through a woodland which was rather pretty.

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However, at the bottom, where the cycle path starts following the river, there were two chaps working on clearing up after the flooding and their van was completely blocking the cycle path. They were very friendly and offered to help me lift it round their van but they warned me that other chaps from their work detail were further up the path and I might do better on the road. I’d stopped next to a flight of steps to the road and so they lifted Alfie up for me, including heaving him over a barrier. The young, talkative chap had very oily hands after this (he’d gripped a bit of the chain) and I apologised but he said it was no problem, he was at work and was meant to get his hands dirty!

So now I was cycling along the road towards St Sebastian and Kaltenengers. This road was nice and quiet and led easily to Urmitz, at which point I took a short cut (the main road does two sides of a triangle). After Urmitz there’s a long stretch of road with nothing to see except for this rather unattractive chimney.

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Although I saw the cycle path again at Weißenthurm I decided to stay on the road to be safe and whizzed along all the way to Andernach.

I’ve cycled through Andernach several times but always on the cycle path. it turns out there’s a fairly large town lurking behind the path including a lovely pedestrian precinct crammed with shops and some old buildings and an old arch and tower (Runder Turm).

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I’d spent a lot more time today looking at the map (after yesterday’s missed opportunities) and realised that after Andernach the cycle path goes the other side of the railway to the river so is therefore away from the flooding zone. So at Andernach I rejoined the path

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Which does some complicated manoeuvring to end up under the road (the B9 again).

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I’d thought vaguely about stopping for breakfast in Namedy but it didn’t seem to have any shops so I continued on.

After Namedy there was a nice bit of country route with fields all round. I had forgotten how attractive this section of the Rhein route can be!

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I was getting close to Bad Breisig which has lots of restaurants/cafés so decided to stop there for breakfast. I rode through Brohl-Lützing and then had to do the fiddly under-the-railway-line underpass which has some rather sharp bends!

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I’ve photographed this marker several times as I can never work out what the scale is. At this point I was about 40 miles from Köln and 23 from Koblenz so it just doesn’t add up!

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Edit: John Cave who I meet below has contacted me subsequent to his tour to say that this is the distance in Prussian Miles (i.e. 7.5km). Thanks John!

I arrived at Bad Breisig and noticed a Thorn Tandem parked up. I commented to the chap that you don’t see many of those in Germany and he replied that he didn’t speak German – another Englishman. We had a nice chat; he and his group of four in total had ridden from Andermatt (the beginning of the Rhein) and had taken several days in Frankfurt to let the flood waters get out of the way. They were hoping the worst was now over as they had originally planned to camp but had been staying in hotels due to washed-out campsites. Their bikes were as muddy as Alfie!

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I have had a mention in their blog too: http://rhine-sourcetosea.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/andernach-to-koln-warm-and-flat.html?m=1

They headed off and I settled down to breakfast – Sachertorte!

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The waiter was very chatty and was telling me about Sachertorte (I think he said he was from Austria) and also about the flood waters which a week ago had been up to the bottom of the steps of his restaurant. Everything looked perfectly normal and he said they’d all worked really hard to clean up.

When I headed off I could see the evidence of the clean up – presumably a road sweeper or something has been along and piled the mud up on the right hand side.

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There was an unexpected bonus in that this surface is usually pretty bumpy with the gaps between the bricks but as they had all been filled with silt it was all a bit smoother!

After a couple of miles I met this chap who was from Japan (I think) and riding to Budapest. He was asking me about campsites further down the Rhein but unfortunately I couldn’t help him with much info apart from what JenM had told me about flooded campsites.

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He said there were problems with the path about 3km further on so I bore that in mind.

I remember this little bridge just after Sinzig.

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But round the corner was some rather deep water on the path.

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I supposed this was what the Japanese chap had warned me about but I’d have a fair detour to go back and avoid it.

While I was faffing an elderly gentleman arrived behind me on a rickety old bike and set off into the water. If he can do it then so can I, I thought.

I’m writing this so I clearly survived but it turned out to be deeper than I expected and deeper than the water on the way in to Worms. The hubs of my front wheels were underwater and I was once again holding the banana bags up out of the water as much as I could, although they both dragged through the water a bit when I had to steer. I had wet feet and Alfie’s mudguard flaps got a good clean!

There was about 100 metres of water so I was most relieved when I got to the end – where there was a group of four cyclists contemplating going through. I recommended they went on the road at this point (Interestingly, when I got to my hotel this evening everything in the bags was dry – clearly the insulating tape over the holes in the bottom did the trick!)

The people waiting at the flooded bit told me all was fine towards Bonn except a bit muddy so I headed off, enjoying the fact the sun had come out and it was a beautiful day.

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This is the apporoach to Remagen – a weird dark stone thing on the far riverbank.

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Oh look, there’s one on my side too!

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Clearly it used to be a bridge. Wikipedia tells me that the capture of this bridge by American troops was a very important part of World War 2 as it was the only significent bridge still standing over the Rhine from the West into the heartland of Nazi Germany. It collapsed into the Rhine ten days after its capture but by then it had been used to move lots of heavy artillery etc.

I continued on, really enjoying the day and the chance for speed on tthe smooth Radweg. This is the Apollinariskirche,

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And across the river from Remagen is Erpel.

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Auntie Helen was pleased to see somewhere named Unkel!

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More blue skies!

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I saw this and thought of my cycling friend Tomsk who runs an Audax (a long-distance cycling event) called the “Asparagus and Strawberries”. It’s not 100 metres though, but 300km. Or is it 400…

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I liked this random arch on this building somewhere near Oberwinter.

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And a view of a pair of castles across the river – these were at Bad Honnef.

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More cycle path.

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The castles again.

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And again, from a different angle. The lower-down one looked fabulous!

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And here is Bad Honnef with tour boat disguised as Moby Dick.

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On the approach to Bonn I discovered evidence of German efficiency in the clean-up efforts.

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There was still a fair bit of muck by the side of the path though. Sometimes I had to put my right-hand wheel through this if passing some other cyclists so I felt like I was still getting a bit mucky.

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I arrived in Bonn having ridden 40 miles and with 25ish to do. It was time for lunch (1:30pm) and so I stopped at a rather posh café as my attention was drawn to its sign for waffles.

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I looked out over the river as I had my waffle and cuppa.

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It was time to set off again, I wanted to get to Köln before it was too late to give me time to have my customary wander around before dinner.

At Bonn the official cycle route crosses the river to the other side but I wanted to stay on this side (it was a shorter distance, plus I was going to do a short-cut across a meander) but I found the signage rather lacking once the main Rhein route had gone.

I also found a rather dramatic gate blocking the way, even though this was cycle path.

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I squeezed by on the right hand side, following in the wheeltracks of hundreds of bikes.

Unfortunately, two miles later I met this obstacle I couldn’t safely negotiate.

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This was at Graurheindorf and there were plenty of decent roads so I gave up with the Radweg and became a motorist for a bit!

At Uedorf I rejoined the Radweg although it was quite mucky.

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And then at Urfeld I was a bit unsure of where the route was and was concerned about getting stuck somewhere. I decided to take the safe option and use the roads again, which would probably be slightly further but a bit more predictable. I ended up going round the other side of this monstrosity.

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I rejoined my old friend the B9 (the road that went to Mainz from Worms), although this time it had a cycle path beside this. A brief look at the map showed me I could follow this road all the way to Köln, missing out the meander at Sürth and Weiß, so I decided to do that.

I liked this unfortunate name in Wesseling – it works in German but sadly not in English!

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And I really liked this huge flowerbed outside a rather boring-looking industrial unit in Godorf.

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My Garmin was now set to head to my hotel and I only had seven miles to go, hurrah! I sped along the cycle path on the B9, being a bit careful when setting off from stationary as my right knee was slightly complaining if I put a lot of pressure on it. I’m being careful with it this evening and expect it to be back to normal tomorrow.

The last few miles went very quickly and I passed the bridge for the A4 Autobahn.

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And look what I could see in the distance – the twin spires of Köln Cathedral!

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The route in on the left bank is fully of new, shiny, glass-fronted buildings and posh cafés. There are a few old things though, like this crane with a sign hinting at my weight after eating all those cakes!

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I followed the path, knowing where I was going and looking forward to seeing the cathedral up close again. I had decided against going straight to my hotel – I wanted to arrive at the central point in Köln, having left the central point in Koblenz that morning.

This is some of the back of the cathedral.

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The front door.

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I went up a side street to try to get more of a view!

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My hotel was a mile away although there were lots of one-way streets which my Garmin insisted I took the right way (it didn’t realise there were cycle paths both sides) so I probably did a bit extra.

I arrived at the hotel Leonet Novum, having done my longest day of the tour.

Imperial:

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Metric:

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My total tour distance is (roughly) 672 miles/1,081 kilometres.

The very helpful receptionist chappie unlocked the luggage storage room and helped me to lift Alfie in (he had to be tipped on his side as the door was too narrow) (Alfie, not the receptionist).

I had been slightly concerned about this hotel as it was ridiculously cheap (33,50€ including breakfast) but it was absolutely fine! The wifi works well, I have my own bathroom and my room is larger than I expected. My window is very high so you can’t really see out of it which probably partly accounts for the price but it doesn’t bother me at all.

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I had my shower and washed my clothes. I noticed that the seam on the backside of my favourite lycra shorts seems to be coming apart – oh dear! Too many cakes! Or too much sitting down, perhaps.

I am displaying very effectively the disadvantages of recumbent cycle touring with regard to an even suntan.

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I was pretty hungry so headed out early for dinner. I found myself at Rudolfplatz which was clearly a very cool bit of Köln as it was heaving with young people and very vibrant and exciting.

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I had a pizza which was very good value too.

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I had a little walk around afterwards to get the feel of the place. I’ve always found Köln a bit disappointing, and too full of English people/Americans, but this bit of it was much more appealing (although too noisy and towny for me).

I bought myself a banana from Rewe and couldn’t resist a pastry too for my dessert!

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Tomorrow I am finishing my Rhein riding by going to Kempen (which isn’t on the Rhein). What I shall probably do is ridde to Düsseldorf (or Neuss, the other side of the Rhein to Düsseldorf) to ‘join up’ my ride as I started out at Dü a couple of weeks ago. I’ll then head cross country to Kempen which should make it a shorter day at probably under 50 miles. I’ve been invited to go to the choir singing evening in Sankt Hubert again (which I did when I stayed in Kempen in March) which is rather lovely! And then it’ll be riding from Kempen to Venlo on Thursday morning and catching the train back to the Hoek van Holland. The holiday is nearly over!!!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Konstanz to Koblenz, Trikes & Velomobiles

New touring luggage – Radical Banana Bags

In just under a month’s time I’m off on another long cycle tour in Germany – Konstanz to Koblenz – and, as most cycle tourers are, I’m always on the look out for things to make touring a bit easier. The other week I was idly perusing the most excellent blog of Dave McCraw (known on the yacf cycling forum as EdinburghFixed) and I came across his review of the Radical Banana Bags. I clicked, read the review and was immediately interested.

As much as I love my Vaude panniers which have given me excellent service over several years, there are some drawbacks to panniers on recumbents. Well, the drawbacks are the same on upright bicycles (you can’t reach into the panniers when travelling along), but on an upright you’ve usually got jersey pockets and a bar bag or tri bag to put things like phones into. On a recumbent you don’t have those options. In winter there might be forward-facing pockets on your winter jacket (I have three on my Altura Attack jacket which gives room for phone and gloves and keys) but in summer when you might just be wearing a jersey and shorts, there’s nowhere convenient to stash your phone whilst triking. If, like me, you regularly stop to take a photo, having to extract the phone from a pannier is a major pain. ICE trikes do have a small pocket in the seat but I find that my phone tends to drop down into it and it’s hard to extract, plus I might easily forget it and leave it on the trike when going into a restaurant or whatever.

Vaude Panniers 1

Vaude Panniers 2

The other thing about panniers is that they render the trike very difficult to move when not actually riding it. The centre of gravity is forward of the seat so with such a weight on the back it becomes very hard to pick up and wheel. I usually take the panniers off and stick them on the seat, but they have a tendency to roll off. They also make the rack wings creak a bit, as you can see from the angle.

Vaude Panniers 3

These panniers also slightly obscure my vision in my mirrors as they stick out so far.

When not on tour but doing general daily leisure cycling I tend to use my Radical Alfa sidepods, bought five years ago when I got my Trice Q. They are showerproof rather than waterproof but have never let rain in. They hang off the seat rather than the rack and – best of all – have zips that you can reach whilst riding so I can grab my phone if it rings. They can also be slung over your shoulder when leaving the trike so can be easier to carry than full panniers. They’re only 25 litres though (as opposed to 45 litres for my Vaude pannier set), which is enough for my usual daily rides to get bread and a few other groceries but not suitable for a bigger shop (when I take the panniers).

Radical Alfa sidepods

They attach to the headrest at the back of the seat although have a tendency to droop.

The view from the rear shows that they are much more sleek and give less wind resistance, plus the weight is on the seat so the trike is easy to lift by the rear rack and wheel around without any issues of weight.

Radical Alfa sidepods rear view

I had long been thinking that some much larger sidepods would be really handy for touring, but hadn’t actually done anything about it (like looking at Radical’s website). Dave McCraw’s excellent blog post spurred me into action and I visited Radical’s site. The Banana bags (larger versions of the sidepods) come in three sizes – Small, Medium and Large (there’s a surprise) – and the price differences between the three are surprisingly small. The Large bags are a whopping 70 litres – almost three times the volume of my current sidepods – so they looked like a great option for touring. I have always managed to fit everything in my 45 litre Vaude panniers for touring but a little more space might give more options for packing stuff.

Radical’s website did warn:

NB: Often too big for bikes with 2 x 20″ wheels.

(Interestingly, it’s only when copying this text to put in this blog I’ve noticed it specifies “two x 20 inch wheels”; I read it at the time as “bikes with 20 inch wheels” which could conceivably include a trike).

The bags looked great. A bit pricey but I get a heck of a lot of use out of this stuff. I was just a bit concerned whether they would fit my ICE Sprint. Dave McCraw’s review had been done with some bags loaned by his local recumbent bike shop, Laid Back Bikes of Edinburgh, about whom I have heard only good things. I thought I’d ring Laid Back and see if they still had the bags available and if they would fit. I had a good chat with David Gardiner there who kindly took some photos of the bags on a Sprint and sent me the pics. Yes, they fit, although without a great deal of ground clearance, but the bags he had in stock were now sold. We had a good general chat about recumbents, as one does, and I will definitely be recommending Laid Back Bikes to others again (and have indeed already done so to a friend looking for a recumbent).

So I decided to go ahead and order some bags from Radical in the Netherlands. In red, of course, to match Alfie’s paint job. The process was painless (well, as painless as spending 250 Euros can be) and my early birthday present arrived just a couple of days later.

They are Omnifit which means they fit hardshell or mesh seats as they have various adjustment options.

The straps were already fixed to one set of the plastic 3-bar slide buckles so I just slung the bags over the seat, tried to size the straps correctly and see where I got. I had to remove the flag to put the Banana bags on as they don’t have a click buckle thingie like the sidepods do.

Banana bags wrongly adjusted

Banana bags wrongly adjusted

You can see that the rearmost strap sits over the rack on the trike, rather than attaching to the seat. Despite doing this they were still very close to the ground and I was a little concerned about general ground clearance on tour – if they were going to be dragged through mud my belongings would not survive very well!

I was very pleased with the mesh pocket on each side but it was when looking more closely at the pocket that I noticed another set of 3-bar sliders outboard of the pocket. And when I opened the bag to have a look at the internal structure I pulled out a magic piece of paper.

Radical Bag Instructions

It would have been handy if I found this before I started! A clear explanation that I had to use the other set of slider buckles for a mesh seat (which I have).

So I quickly changed them round and things were much better.

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There’s much more ground clearance – and these bags are empty. When they’re full of touring kit/shopping they’ll be wider and a bit higher off the ground. I have lost access to those nice mesh top pockets though!

So they looked good and I have high hopes for touring. Except… the pesky requirement to remove the flag each time I take them on and off. My trike’s flagpole got run over by a car (when it unexpectedly flew off the back of the trike) and doesn’t separate into its three parts very well any longer. I try to just leave it be. These banana bags are missing the click fastener that their smaller brethren, the sidepods, have.

Here’s the strap sitting on the rack of the trike.

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You can see the arms of the rack holding the bags away from the back wheel, very handy.

Anyway, I had an uncharacteristic lightbulb moment! These straps are adjustable/removable, why don’t I put a click fastener in the middle of this strap?

So after spending the grand sum of £1.67 for six 3-bar sliders and £1.99 for two side release buckles (plenty of spares for if I got something wrong), and picking up the bit of 50mm webbing that had been lying on the road a mile from home (it appears to be the remains of a seatbelt) I was good to go. I had intended to buy a bit of webbing rather than cut up Radical’s one but my husband remembered seeing the discarded seatbelt and it was still there when he next went past. It’s a bit dirty and a bluey-grey rather than greyey-grey colour but that’s not a major issue!

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So anyway I got the kitchen scissors out and cut the webbing at its cleanest part, giving myself two lengths that my careful measurements had suggested would be about right. James then sealed the ends for me with his gas gun.

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And here is the result (with Radical’s original black webbing beside them)

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It was a matter of moments to assemble them correctly, attach them to the Banana Bags and then sling the whole lot over the trike seat, clipping in the rearward strap without having to remove the flag. Hurrah!

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Eh voilà – ready to go!

So it seemed sensible to do my first ride with these with a fair bit of stuff in the bags. I was due a trip to the charity shop to donate some unused clothing so I sorted out the clothing, put it in a plastic sack and stuffed it into the bag. It fitted easily – here you can see Alfie ready for the off.

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We headed to Colchester with a three mile ride to the charity shop. All seemed very easy, the bags weren’t noticeable as I rode along and didn’t obscure my view in my rear-view mirrors, even though the left hand side bag was fairly well stuffed.

One thing I do notice when riding with different panniers/bags is the change in road noise. On a trike with a 20 inch rear wheel your head is fairly near that wheel and you consequently get a fair bit of road noise from the tyre and mechanical noise from the gear/chain/derailleur/chain tensioner. Whenever I’ve been using one type of pannier for a while and switch to another I notice the change in noise. With the Radical Banana Bags I felt like overall noise was reduced (they buffer the noise from my chain tensioner) but that the noise that was reaching me came from a fairly narrow corridor (up the middle of the rack).

As I arrived at the charity shop I had to bump up a low kerb which I did at speed – and grounded the left hand side Banana Bag. This is obviously the disadvantage of them being low and also the weight wasn’t evenly distributed between the two so the left one had sunk a bit lower. There’s a slight scuff on the bottom of the bag now, nothing significant. If this happens more frequently I might put some duck tape on the bottom just to protect it.

It was very easy to get everything out of the bag as the zips open very wide. After giving the shop assistant the clothes I headed off to Aldi (it was Bike Stuff day). I wandered round, not buying much bike stuff but instead taking the opportunity to buy bulky items – lots of bags of puppodums, some big bags of crisps, popcorn, fresh bagged salad etc and a box of 36 Weetabix. It all fitted in just one side of the Banana Bags but mindful of the issue earlier with the heavier side slipping lower I evened out the weight a bit (Weetabix and bike bits and my tools on one side, food and phone etc on the other). The bags are lovely and easy to carry around when off the bike as there are two handles in the middle – the weight distribution is about right and I can carry them with one hand. I haven’t tried slinging them over my shoulder yet as hadn’t felt the need.

The trike is also easy to wheel around with the bags in situ. It’s not as light as with the Sidepods, which was to be expected, and if I took really big strides my knee might hit the banana bag, but it’s massively easier than wheeling the bike with panniers so that’s an excellent result.

I headed back home with my Aldi goodies. The combined weight wasn’t all that much and the trike didn’t feel any different than it did unladen (whereas pannier weight tends to be more noticeable) so I took a longer route home.

Here am I, back home with probably 40 litres worth of bags of popcorn, puppodums, salad and crisps.

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I did a small further adjustment to the middle strap of the bags when I got home – I shall probably do a couple of other fettles over time, but overall I’m happy with the bags and I think they’ll be really useful on tour. They wouldn’t be good for a winter tour when it’s likely to rain but I expect them to survive the odd shower OK and I will probably wrap my clothes in plastic bags when inside the Banana bags anyway.

For those who never carry large loads and tour with less kit than me, the 45 litre Medium size bags would probably be easier to manage (without the issues of them hanging low) but at only a 10 Euro saving over the Large bags I felt the Large were better value for money.

I’ll be off on my Konstanz to Koblenz trip in just over three weeks so the Banana Bags will get a real baptism of fire then – keep reading my blog to find out how I get on!

An update

The marvels of the internet means that, following the initial posting of this blog, a couple of recumbent cycling chums and I got into a discussion about how I could perhaps raise the lowest part of the bags so they don’t scrape on the floor again.

Of course, the obvious solution is to raise the bags up the seat by attaching them further back on the rack. So I thought about this a bit more and came up with the following idea, using parts that I already had – another 50mm buckle, 3 sliders and the original piece of webbing from Radical that I had taken off.

I attached either part of the clip buckle to a long piece of webbing, wrapped it around the rack and made sure it was fairly tight.

Mount without bags

What you can’t see from the photo above is that there are some bits of metalwork under the rack that mean the arrangement has to sit where it does (perhaps slightly further back than I would have liked).

Here is a view from the back so you can see how I’ve done it.

Mount without bags from back

And from the side.
Mount without bags from side

And now I am attaching the bag, which I can do one side at a time.
Clip removed one side

And here it is with the bags attached. It pulls a fair bit as the contraption is a bit further back than is ideal, but it’s a big improvement.
Clips in place

A view from ground level. The bag on the right hand side of this picture was full of stuff and is not that low.
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And a side view.
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Interestingly I was able to use the pocket on the top of the bag with this arrangement. It was also noticeable that my arms slightly rested on the bags.

I have ordered 2 metres of 50mm webbing to see if I can let out the middle strap a bit more as I may be able to attach it to a different set of clips which could make things sit a bit more comfortably, but overall this seems to be working well and cost me precisely nothing! It is also quick to remove the gadget on the rack which I will need to do if I use the dog basket.

Edit after my first tour using these bags.

So I have now done a cycle tour using the new Radical Banana Bags and they don’t look as new any longer – mud, rain, grot and dust are all over them, which is to be expected. But how did they perform?

Overall I was reasonably happy. The large volume is very handy as I was able to bring back some cakes and chocolates on the last day which I could fit into the bags. They are definitely easier to ride with than panniers on the rack (the weight distribution is better) and the wind resistance issue also helps as they are tucked away more than normal panniers. I also found it handy that I could put my phone in the pocket and get it out again whilst going along (although it could be tricky to do up the zip).

Unfortunately my tour dates clashed with the heavy rains around Bodensee and there was a lot of driving rain and also some flooding. The fact that these bags aren’t waterproof was noticeable at the end of some days with water pooled in the bottom and the outsides of the plastic bags that I wrapped my luggage in wet. However the bags dried pretty quickly (always by the next morning).

The bigger issue was the fixing. Over the course of my 16 day tour I changed the fixing. In the end I found it best to fix the bags to the trike rack whilst empty (i.e. with no weight in) and I connected the straps directly to the rack. No quick-release, I had to thread the sliders manually, but everything stayed in place. Once it was tightly fixed I could put the contents in the bags. This meant, of course, that all my luggage was strewn about for people to see which wasn’t always ideal and would not have been possible in the rain. I didn’t sort this out until I’d ridden for about eight days so was struggling a bit before then with getting the rearmost strap tight enough to hold the bags up and away from the ground and floodwater.

More significantly, I noticed after about ten days that there were a couple of holes in the bags. The photos aren’t great but you can see a bit of daylight where daylight should not be!

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I was able to patch these with insulating tape once the bags had dried but it was rather disappointing.

I expect the holes developed through grounding or perhaps scraping against a stick or some other object on the cycle path (there was a fair amount of debris across the paths in places due to the flooding in central Germany).

I will be touring again in September and if the weather forecast is for mostly dry then I will take the Banana Bags but if there’s a reasonable amount of rain forecast then I will take my Vaude panniers. So these banana bags are a useful addition to my luggage library but are not the perfect solution by any means!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycle Tours, Cycling in England, Cycling in Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles