Friday, October 22, 2010

What do Recumbents Have to do with HiWheel Cycling?

This excerpted draft comes to you from "How America Can Bike and Grow Rich" :


As everyone soon began queuing up to leave, I said to those within earshot, “Yeah, here is where it gets interesting. I remember the last time I rode with Steve eleven years ago. All the locals out there in DC were all cheering him on. They weren’t looking at our high tech recumbents or the tandem trike that I was on, they were looking at Steve. “

And unbeknownst to me at the time, seeing all the attention he and his bike were getting, he had planted a seed. 

Even though I could now see that the HiWheel created a lot of excitement, the notion of my riding one was easy for me to dismiss. Reasoning that I needed to keep the playing field leveled between myself and cars, there was not going to be any way that I could build one into my world. As a transportation cyclist, I needed to be able to get places fast without a lot of effort. And it was  for this application that I knew that the HiWheel was in a word, IMPRACTICAL.

I was closed to the possibility of doing anything more than admiring what is also called a Penny Farthing  until a year later when I pedaled a tall wheel for the first time. I had bought a well used, replicated version to bring attention to our booth at the NBG Festivals we used to produce. However when I finally worked up the nerve to try it, even though it was not mechanically sound, the joy of floating above the cars and the rest of the world below forced me to rethink my priorities. The danger of being so high off the ground suddenly paled in comparison to the sudden feeling of magnificence that soon overwhelmed me. 

I determined if I could learn how to walk again and do what it took to reverse my paralysis and all of the other complications brought on by my 1977 head injury to ride a traditional bicycle and then a recumbent across the US, that I could ride a few blocks on a HiWheel bike. Besides, I now did yoga and had been doing so every day since I had completed my last coast-to-coast bike ride. I knew that no matter how bad my bones got shaken out of alignment, that I could still remedy the situation.

I also loved making people smile. The joy riding my HiWheel  brought to others told me I had to do what it took to be able to ride it more. But where would I find the time, I wondered.

Soon I determined that if I rode one a few days a week when I was not working out with weights, that I could develop enough expertise to be able to ride it in a parade or two. However, once I got the bike repaired and it became evident that the longer I rode, the less energy I had for the gym, I asked myself if I could ride more and work out less. When I could see that my body felt and looked as fit as it ever did the more I HiWheeled and the less I pushed iron, I did a very hard thing. 

I gave up my gym membership!

I traded in the safety and familiarity of a social world of fellow health seekers sequestered from the rest of the world  by walls and windows for asphalt, cars and the fit and the mostly unfit. For 24 years,  working out had been a way of life for me. It had gotten me beyond the helplessness of my head injury setback. I had become so accustomed to seeing my body change as I focused on different parts of it with resistance training  that I was only minimally aware of the fact that most people only paid attention to their bodies when they were sick.

As such then, I would be using all the time I had spent under a health club roof to place the National Bicycle Greenway vision before an America that really needed it. The several hours a day I spent working out in the gym, I began to spend on my HiWheel bicycle. And just as soon, I could see that just by riding the Penny Farthing  I was bringing hope to the the young and the old, the overweight and the fit and all the different ethnicities that make up the world around us. All the happiness that resulted pushed me on.

Ten years ago, I would have been happy with a couple of blocks worth of pedaling, while being able to ride a parade or two would have tested the limits of my joy. And yet here now, I was crossing the country on the bicycle where modern transportation all began; the same machine that forever changed the way man would move about. 

Besides connecting me to the people on the street, the HiWheel was also connecting different cyclists to one another. Since even within the ranks of cycling there are different factions all with their own agendas, needs and desires, the HiWheel bike seems to have built in leadership qualities. As I got around on the HiWheel and more and more touring, racing, training, commuting, off-road, recumbent and casual cyclists got a chance to see  motorists give me more respect than they themselves were getting, I could see that more and more of them wanted to be a part of my family. And as my  family of regular bicyclists grew, a critical mass of us would be elevating the public consciousness to show how important it is for all bicycles to be on the road. 

And it is here that I count mountain bike cyclists as an interested party. Even though their preferred riding turf is off road, in getting to the dirt many of them pedal the road. And more of them would travel that way if the streets were safer for them to ride. Nor does any off this account for the fact that studies have shown that most of the off road bikes  that are sold today spend most of their time riding not off the road, but on the road.

And then there are the people who ride recumbent bicycles, a marginalized population of cyclists indeed. They are seen by many of the mostly younger cyclists who ride traditional upright bikes, as being less capable. They dismiss the recumbent rider as being a man or woman who is limited by age, health or weight problems. So the fact that since 1982, I had only been riding recumbents, partly in an attempt to get attention for the National Bicycle Greenway, seemed to communicate that I had special needs; that I couldn’t ride a “real” bike.   It seemed to be telling people who had no visible way of knowing that I had already crossed the country on an upright, that I wanted a Greenway so I would have a place to ride my non-conventional bicycle

I had not realized that I was limiting the support I needed for our vision until I started riding the HiWheel. In hindsight, however, I do take comfort in the fact, that I am still cycling all these years later. Looking back I had seen so many of the same upright cyclists who looked down on me for riding a recumbent, fall by the  way side because of the discomfort their bikes were causing them as they got older. While my pedaling  kept  me fit, I watched as the familiar faces around me were in a constant state of change. While I knew some of them had simply moved to new cycling turf, I was also sure that an even larger number of them had traded in the two wheel road for  the luxury and unhealthy ways of the automobile. Where they had gone was corroborated for me once in a while when I would spot one of them filling  up at a gas station or sitting behind the steering wheel of a car at a traffic light. 

Besides the butt, shoulder, neck and sometimes arm pain that forced a lot of them off the saddle, there are also the issues of attire, functionality, even peer pressure. As many of us grow older, only to find more and more demands placed on our time, the conventional bicycle often becomes less and less attractive because it is harder to build into our lives. There is all the special wear, such as gloves or padding and chamois for one’s hind quarters that must be bought, kept clean and just changed in and out of in order to be an effective upright cyclist. 

Besides wearing the right, tight-fitting  bike clothes for two wheel efficiency, there is also the subtle pressure the bike industry places on its cyclists to remind us that we must look and go fast. From what our helmets and upper body wear (preferably brightly colored jerseys with lots of corporate logos on them) are supposed to look like to the kinds of biking events that appear on on our TV screens (the Tour De France and to a lesser degree the Race Across America), to how cars are needed for our activity (at such races, we see a mass of cars and motor homes with bikes on top of them following the two wheel speedsters around), etc, there is both a dress code and a code of conduct anyone who wants to be seen as a serious cyclists must abide by. It is here that  driving a car to a bike event, for example, scores higher marks than riding a recumbent to get there or anywhere for that matter. This is partly so because when they were banned from racing in 1934 an unwritten rule was somehow placed  on the books that also said that anyone who rides a recumbent  is a rogue cyclist.

By the time time newspapers and magazines join in to also adulate the bright and colorful bike racers, “serious” cyclists know they are supposed to be riding their bikes fast, and what they should look like when they are on them. In such a way,  the real heroes of bicycling, those who replace car trips, are cast by the wayside. As a result, the needs of transportation cyclists are not  placed on center stage. Instead, those chasing speed become the unofficial ambassadors of what is supposed to be seen as a sport that also requires motorized support. 

While there are becoming more of those who  make, sell and promote conventional bikes that are designed for comfort, even transportation, the market of such users is  always reminded that they are B-League cyclists. Because such pedal machines go slower, those who ride them are made to feel almost like they need to apologize for not being young and able to withstand the pain of a traditional road bike any longer.

Conventional bikes are also limited in how much they can carry. Sure racks and saddle bags can be added to them but they change the handling characteristics of the bike. And odd shaped purchases or things one might have to get to and/or from work, school or play are more difficult to mount on a traditional pedal machine. 

All of this changes on a recumbent.  Because the seat is shaped more like the chairs found at one’s dining room table, besides the comfort of a large seating area and then having your back supported, it is easier to hang or drape things off of. All this as the recumbent cyclist pedals away in loose fitting clothes that one does not have to change in and out of in order to do a strong ride. If all this is not enough to warrant that we should see more of them on the road, if for no other reason than to keep older cyclists out there with us, they also have a higher speed potential. 

In fact all the present day human powered land speed records were established using the recumbent design. Even the English Channel was flown over by a man pedaling supine because engineers determined that that was the only way  they could get enough power for such an effort.  And if one wanted to spend the money, depending on their fitness level, there are recumbents a person could buy that would put them at the front of most any racing pack.

Recumbents are also safer bikes to ride. Because you are much closer to the ground, the impact of a fall is not nearly as great. Over the years, I have known more than a few upright cyclists whose lives were ruined, some of whom  even died, by crashes  from a machine, the upright road bike, that makes the head and not the butt the point of impact. Nor is the recumbent rider so low that he or she cannot be seen. Not at all. In fact the biggest part of their body is what is most directly in the car driver’s field of vision instead of legs or skinny bike tires.

Besides their comfort, safety, speed and practicality, are there other reasons why do we not see more recumbent bicycles on the road? To begin with, we do not see many of them in bike shops. And if they do show up there, they are often not supported by an enthusiastic sales staff. This is  so because the same pressure the ad man uses to  tell a person what serious cyclists are supposed to look like, finds its way into the bike shops where most of the employees have not reached the age where comfort on a bike is a concern, Since they tend to sell and be knowledgeable about what their conditioning has told them is acceptable, even fashionable, to ride, the recumbent is an unknown oddity to them. As are those who express interest in knowing about them. 

Sure one can go out on the web and find such a machine. However, since mechanical support is harder to find from the bicycle marketplace, a lot of shops for example do not like to even do repair work on recumbents, interested buyers will often need some mechanical aptitude in order to build one out of the box. And once they get it out on the road, they must be able to play the game of being an instant cycling authority as they  answer all the many questions that will always be asked. 

If however they are new to cycling or have been away for a number of years, much strength of character will be  required in order to consistently ride a recumbent. This  is so because as they redevelop their skills or learn new ones, it will be harder for them to remain anonymous. Insecure in themselves as cyclists, it will be harder for them to ignore the looks of disdain or outright disapproval that will come their way once in a while. Such a cyclist, lacking in confidence, will also have a harder time laughing at comments such as  ‘get a real bike’, ‘quit laying down on the job’ or ‘what a silly/wacky bike’, etc, that they can expect to hear on occasion. And yet new or returning bike riders, the ones we most need to grow the activity, are the same ones who may never get get a chance to really ride  the only bike that it makes sense for them to ride.

I could not wait to return to the speed and the comfort of a recumbent bicycle but for now I was a man on  mission.


   Martin Krieg "Awake Again" Author

2011 w/"How America Can Bike & Grow Rich"

   '79 & '86 TransAmerica Bike Rides

Coma, Paralysis, Clinical Death Survivor  

NBG Founding Director, HiWheel Cyclist

      Riding only active Eagle in world 

Posted via email from HiWheel's Posterous

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Worthy Camper Living Essentials Needed for NBG San Jose to Boston Bus

Our 9th Annual National Mayors' Ride which leaves May 2, 2011 from San Jose, CA per this schedule, will feature the first backwards facing Hiwheel to cross America and the 15-person Busycle. All of which will be supported by the 40 foot "Rock Star" bus you see pictured here. 

Despite the fact that our bus runs awesome and looks amazing, it still needs a lot of help inside to make it worthy of the press and the people who will visit it at the shopping centers, city halls and book stores ahead of us.

While it has a hardwood floor and tinted windows and we will be dedicating a fair amount of space inside to the public for the on board museum it will feature, we still need the kind of facilities that will help us roll from one venue to another. These include a:

- Propane refrigerator

- Propane or white gas stove

- Shower

- Toilet

- Beds/bunks

If you have camper shell or motor home, etc, that perhaps has a beat up appearance but most of these items are still in good working order, can we take it off your hands? And give you a tax write off from our nonprofit National Bicycle Greenway in exchange!! 

Posted via email from HiWheel's Posterous

Monday, October 11, 2010

Here's to the crazy ones.

Narrator = Richard Dreyfus

Here's to the crazy ones.
   The misfits.
      The rebels.
         The troublemakers.
            The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They're not fond of rules.
   And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
   disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do is ignore them.

Because they change things.
   They invent.  They imagine.   They heal.
   They explore.   They create.   They inspire.

They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
   Or sit in silence and hear a song that's never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Chiat/Day copywriter, Craig Tanimoto for Apple Computer, September 28, 1997

Posted via email from HiWheel's Posterous

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Book Excerpt - NBG in its Highest Art Form

What follows comes to you from the re-write I am doing of  "How America Can Bike and Grow Rich". It is an almost final draft excerpted from the American River  Parkway section. The Lynn to  which these words refer, is Lynn LePage, the recreation manager for the city of Folsom.

NBG in its Highest Art Form

Handsome and fit, with a large view of the future, Lynn also saw the big picture of the National Bicycle Greenway. As an enthusiastic supporter of our mission and our yearly trek up the American River Parkway, he saw the NBG in its highest art form; what will happen once we get all of America’s bikeable roads and paths interconnected.

He and I have spent many hours talking about the NBG over the years. Lynn envisions a corridor similar to his Parkway  that celebrates the natural, as well as the urban wonder of each of the areas though which it passes to connect the coasts. From his Parkway, he foresees rail trails joining hands with old logging roads and abandoned highways and the like  to explore America’s forests, mountains, lakes, and even deserts as it moves across the West. 

He and I have spent many hours talking about the NBG over the years. Lynn envisions a corridor similar to his Parkway  that celebrates the natural, as well as the urban wonder of each of the areas though which it passes to connect the coasts. From his Parkway, he foresees rail trails joining hands with old logging roads and abandoned highways and the like  to explore America’s forests, mountains, lakes, and even deserts as it moves across the West.

In his mind’s eye, he saw, as the Lincoln Highway people did back in 1912 (see appendix), the reality of a red line on the map calling for a travel route from ocean to ocean. While the dream they fulfilled was for cars, Lynn knows the right of way from San Jose to Boston our annual Mayors' Rides are helping us determine, will one day make quiet, vehicle free cross county trips possible. This as we extol all the natural and man made simplicity and wonder that meet our path.

Interpretive in nature, the historical background of mountain passes such as the Mormon Immigrant Pass (discussed in detail later in this chapter) ahead, as well as those found in Nevada, the Rockies, the Appalachians and etc, will all be marked with tasteful signage that will make them fun to experience for those moving slow. The wonder of America’s bread basket will be explained. Even the Platte River Basin’s contribution to taming the West (talked about in the Omaha chapter), instead of being thundered through at interstate speeds, will be greatly savored by all those who use their own bodies to travel. The natural features we want to celebrate on the route we foresee are endless

Where the NBG passes through all the urban areas in between wide open America, there would be wonder at hand there as well. Once again, signage and information kiosks would be hard at work. In populated areas, they would tell NBG bikeway users where to go for food, lodging, fun and points of interest along the way. This as the route we will have chosen to most directly get across each of the cities in question will establish the character  that sets them apart from one another. In order to do so, the National Bicycle Greenway will work to make sure our route will  take in as much of the best each city has to offer as we can. This in the way of attractions, parks,  neighborhoods, traffic tamed shopping villages, places of learning, and whatever natural assets there are to be discovered, etc.

The 2011 Mayors' Ride schedule is due out soon....

Posted via email from HiWheel's Posterous

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chapter Excerpt - Eagle Crash

The following excerpt comes from Martin Krieg's new book, "How America Can Bike and Grow Rich" , due March 2011.

The miles of bike lanes on lightly traveled neighborhood streets continued all the way to  the border of Palo Alto. There the Wilkie Way Bridge carried us alongside a creek into our next Mayors' Ride city. Fully enshrouded by massive oaks and other trees, it is a piece of engineering mastery. In order to construct a bike way at this location, concrete pillars had to be  sunk deep into the ground at the edge of one side of the creek. In such a way a ledge could be hung off the backyards the stream passes through. It is on the five foot wide path that resulted that an important bicycle transportation  corridor has evolved. Through here great numbers of cyclists pass  everyday on their way up and down the San Francisco peninsula.

It was also nearby, on my way to it,  that my hopes to become the first to cross America on the Eagle were put on hold. Having just set out on a training ride on my way to the  bridge, I wasn’t but a few blocks away when a  car made a left turn in front of me. All I could do was turn  with him when he clobbered my wheel so hard, I flew off the back of the bike.

Two things were working in my favor when all of  this happened. First of all, I was on an Eagle, so instead of getting my  head  launched into the asphalt for certain catastrophe, I  landed on my butpak. Second, if I had been at regular bicycle height, his bumper would have crushed my legs and probably even done severe damage to my internal organs.

At any rate, I survived well enough to walk my destroyed bike back to the bus. The wheel had been almost folded in half. Nor would we be able to assess how much damage had been done to the bike’s heart and soul, the hub, in enough time to keep our  ride on schedule even if we did get the wheel rebuilt. This was so because the only expert, Jim Spillane, the man who had painstakingly re-manufactured  this machine, lived in Connecticut, on the other side  of the US. All of which brought the ride to this year.

Posted via email from HiWheel's Posterous

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chapter Excerpt - Why I Ride an Eagle


A group of  fixed gear cyclists  waited. One of the  riders was holding a trackstand, a maneuver where the cyclist sits on his bike seat and keeps it upright and balanced. Since our bikes were also fixed, the original version where the pedals connect directly to the wheel without a chain or sprockets in between, the trackstand on a HiWheel was once an important skill to learn. Though few present day HiWheelers take the time to master being able to do so, I found this ability important to my being able to enjoy a Car Free lifestyle  on my Ordinary (another name for the traditional tall wheel).

Learning to trackstand gave me a better mastery over my high bike in crowded areas. Some examples of this include  gridlocked streets, busy shopping districts, even the Critical Mass or San Jose Bike Party rides that I like to attend. With what looks like a trick to most, I did not have to get off and on the bike at traffic lights or for whatever other stops the congestion in my path could otherwise force me to make. I could also stop and hold a stand to have a brief conversation with those people along my way. 

I had spent many hours learning to trackstand. In doing so, I had had to endure a lot of bumps, bruises and cuts, even many embarrassing falls. But just as I was getting more and more confident and better, the Eagle appeared  While  rumor has it that a trackstand is possible on one, I suspect that I will always be so consumed with looking for ways to get places faster or more efficiently on the Eagle, that I may not even try to see if a controlled stall is even possible on one.

The few dozen times I did try, I always went off the back end once I got the bike delayed. This is because in order to keep  from getting launched into the sometimes fatal header that made  conventional HiWeel bikes so dangerous, the Eagle's center of gravity was placed behind the rider. As a result, the Eagle cyclist is always in a gentle struggle to keep the front wheel from popping off the ground. If that were to happen, if his mind were to wander from the task at hand, for instance, he could easily slide off the rear of the machine and probably crash.

I also can’t seem to ride with no hands on the Eagle. Nor is such a skill set all about show  when one is in the tall wheel saddle for any length of time. Since it is useful to be able to get both hands free while still pedaling, not having to stop to put on or take off a jacket, adjust a helmet or sunglasses or  peel the wrapper off an energy bar, for example, all become little pleasures that add to the joy of being on an Ordinary. The on the road performance of an Eagle, however, makes it easy for me to overlook some of the smaller things I can no longer do on it.

The Eagle, for example can climb hills with fervor. Unlike the traditional HiWheel cyclist, long  known to have walked both sides of a mountain, the Eagle rider can climb out of the saddle to get up inclines. In being able to jockey the bike back and forth while ascending, besides being able to add leverage, he also won’t find himself sitting on a wheel that burns rubber as it goes nowhere. When riding the typical tall seat of the 19th Century, I always found the steeper the pitch, if I was even moving at all, the more the wheel used to slip out on me.

Once the summit is reached, the Eagle can also be used to descend in style as well as comfort. Since the pedals never stop on a Penny Farthing, being able to cross one’s feet in front of the steer tube is  easy to do when descending on an Eagle. It is also a great way to relax. On the traditional HiWheel, however, one must get his legs over the top of the handlebars in order to be free of the spinning pedals. A difficult position to get into, it also puts its rider in a dangerous position that is then hard to escape from should the need arise.

When I Eagled from San Francisco to Salt Lake City in 2009, in climbing the Sierras and across the most mountainous state in the Union, Nevada, for example, I was in and out of the saddle many times - on both sides of most all the peaks I transcended. This explains why mine was the first high bike to ever have been actually pedaled over these Ranges.

Even on the flats, the Eagle is far more efficient  than  the traditional HiWheel. Because the Eagle cyclist does not pedal the same wheel he is steering, like one does on the normal Penny Farthing, he can ankle. What this means is that he can take advantage of the full pedal stroke by pulling up as well as pushing down on the pedals. This also means, not only can more force be generated but that the steering itself is not affected by what the stronger and far more powerful legs are doing. To illustrate, if you are riding no hands on a standard HiWheel, how straight you go is in direct proportion to how well you only push down on the pedals. By pulling up on them, you involve your arms as they fight to make those corrections needed to keep you on course.

There are certain actions that make the Eagle exciting to be around. It is always easy to get a crowd together to watch me start. While my climbing out of the saddle to accelerate also turns heads, if I really want to hold people's attention, I can jump off the back of the bike to make it stop. In doing so,  the smaller front wheel shoots six feet above the street. This as I do a wide plant with my feet while holding the handlebars at shoulder height.

A bike that came about during the last two years of the HiWheel era (1869-1892), the Eagle is likely what we'd all be riding if the pneumatic tire and refinements in the chain had not made the smaller wheels of today possible. Blessed with the honor of riding Jim Spillane's celebrated and near exact re-creation of the 1891 Eagle, regularly affirms for me why I feel the Eagle was the highest art form of the Industrial Revolution that shaped the America we know.

Posted via email from HiWheel's Posterous

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Big Picture - How the NBG will become Real!!

From my personal home page - :

I took the 2007 Mayors' Ride season off to devise a fully interactive Google mapping system that runs like a game while building community to let users calculate, request, plan, utilize, store, display and vote on bike routes. I did this all toward the end of showing how, in our increasingly crowded world, the internet can now make the bicycle the superior way to move one's self about. Once my cross X rides are complete, it will be this program I will work to make real so we can connect the principal roads and paths we identify for safe  intra city  travel  with  those those that connect cities. And as this happens, coast to coast bike travel will become possible on the National Bicycle Greenway heaven I know will soon result.

Posted via email from HiWheel's Posterous