In Riding with ataxia, Kipp Style: Part 1, I talked at some length (the coffee was strong that day) about how I try to think about my feet and legs as two pistons, pushing, and well, pushing to get my pedaling to something closely resembling a circle pedal, to try and smooth things out.
Well, I had a late evening home this last Wednesday, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to set up the Catrike up on my Sportcrafters rollers in the garage (rather than a dark ride outside), and try to capture this pedal situation on video. Let me tell you, I really don’t enjoy taking videos, and, as my legs have started to adapt to riding on the rollers, the uneven pedal that I’ve been talking about, isn’t nearly as apparent here, as I’d been hoping to share. I’ll have to either get ahold of a GoPro sometime, or recruit Greta to try and film me while riding outside so you can see what I am talking about, amplified.
Trying to focus your mind on making your feet and legs pump like pistons, really works, for me. I can tell a significant difference in the pedalling and power, when I start to fatigue, all sorts of chatter and chain jumping starts occurring, queueing me to try and refocus, again. In addition to this mental battle, there are some things that I have done to help, primarily relating to the vertical chain play on my Catrike.
I first purchased my Catrike with one of TerraCycles Catrike Boom Adjust Chain Tensioner’s (TerraCycle makes this item for other trikes as well). The function of this is to allow you to adjust the length of your boom to accommodate different riders. Without this chain tensioner, if you want to adjust the length of your boom (equivalent to raising/lowering a bike seat), you have to add or remove links from your chain. This is a great product, and I highly recommend anyone who is starting out, to get one of these, so you can play around with boom length and seated pedal position on the trike, without having to fuss with the chain links. Also, your friends and family are going to want to try out your trike. Depending on your riding level, and if you want to continue letting others go for a spin, you may even want to leave this on permanently.
Well, I kept thinking that there was too much slack in my chain, and started tinkering with some very crude attempts to keep my top chain tube from jumping up and down so much, slapping on the frame. The first solution, which I used for many miles, was a piece of foam taped around the chain tube, at the place where it meets with the trike frame. That helped, a lot, but was pretty ugly, and not a great solution as the chain tube slides position some.
This Christmas, one of the stuffings in my stocking was a product call Sugru. If it didn’t take overnight to set, MacGyver surely would have kept a couple packets of this stuff next to his swiss army knife, bailing wire, and duct tape. Once set, this has a rubberish consistency, well, maybe more plastic, it’s certainly not squishy. Anyways, I took a fender spoke, cut it to my needed length, bent it into shape, then went at covering it with the Sugru, to provide a screw hole in the one end, and act as a non-abrasive barrier between the fender spoke and the trike. Now I have an improvised chain tube holder, that cuts down on the movement of the chain-tube, but still allows enough give for shifting gears, and effectively reduces the amount my chain bounces up and down when my legs are not wanting to pedal out smoothly.
My in-laws pooled together funds and generously gifted me a WGX Windwrap Fairing from TerraCycles (another awesome product of theirs, I’ll write more of a spot about it later) for my combined Christmas and Birthday present this year. This fairing is relatively universal for the tadpole trikes, but is a bit more tricky to get setup just right on the Catrike 700, on account of such a reclined position. After adjusting just about every setting of my position, with many test rides between, I finally found the sweet spot with this fairing, and I think I improved my overall riding position. Not wanting to go through having to re-adjust any of these things again, I pedalled down to Rose City Recumbent Cycles and they so kindly removed this boom adjust (get in touch if you’d like to pickup a used one of these), links from my chain, and got the chain tension just right for me, helping even more reducing the chain slack and slap with the jerky pedalling. I’ll still gladly let you try out my trike, you’ll just have to deal with the boom length set as it is!
What I’m getting at with this segment? Don’t be afraid to play around and find what works for yourself. The majority of gear out there may not be engineered with your individual needs in mind, especially with all this fun ataxia stuff. Try a recumbent trike out, first of all, find one that fits and makes you feel comfortable, so try many out. Secondly, once you’ve landed on “the one”, if something isn’t working quite as you’d like after a few rides, don’t let it discourage you from continuing. We don’t all have to be master engineers to figure this stuff out, if you need help, get yourself on the internet and start searching, there is an ever growing amount of information, and solutions provided by others who have been there, and figured it out already. If you’re still struggling coming up with a solution (we’re talking recumbent trikes more specifically here), send me a message (contact form available here, or reply to this post). I am no expert, but I have an ever growing list of those experts I can get you in touch with.