Monday, August 07, 2006

trike adventures in burb-land.

So after a week of having e-assist on the trike, what's the verdict?

I like it.

The two biggest features are of course help with hills, but also getting up to speed a bit more quickly, which is good in certain traffic situations. After triking to my Sunday gig, and again to a show in the Market last Thursday (and also just playing around after the weekly HPVOoO Sunday dinner), I thought it was time to see how how it fared further from the downtown nest. So last Friday I decided to head south, which meant using an arterial road like Bank or Bronson, with the Value Village store at Bank and Walkley as a destination.

Bank St. is the city's Main Drag, and for the most part the curb lanes are full of parked cars. I could've taken that route, but I'd have all the cagers breathing (exhaust-ing?) down my neck as I took the only available lane. Plus it has one heck of a hill just past the Rideau River...

Bronson is wider, but is a very ugly road. A former residential road (and in the mid-1800s it was the western boundary of Ottawa) it is now an arterial feeder route with two lanes in each direction, undivided, and the right lanes have precious little extra width for cyclists. On my 2-wheel bikes I avoid it whenever possible, but I do have to cross it to get many places, since I live a few blocks west. After skirting by the upscale Glebe neighbourhood it turns into a 6-lane divided road as it heads past Carleton University, and later shrinks down to a 2-lane route called the Airport Parkway (with an 80 kph limit).

With all these positive aspects I decide to try it! I cycle down my street as far as possible until it gets cut off by the mid-town highway (417), then head east three blocks and get on Bronson. The traffic here is busy, what with the highway access ramps, but not travelling too fast. Once past the underpass it picks up a bit, but traffic lights and sheer volume keep the flow down and allow me to keep pace. A kilometre later past Carling Ave. it picks up, but is also a slight downslope and fly down as fas as I can. Any traffic behind me just pulls into the available left lane and goes around. But shortly it starts to rise as the approach to the bridge over the canal begins and my speed naturally drops. I apply the assist and do my best to make it over, but one buttwipe in a van behind me honks aggressively and then zooms around yelling at me - the first time I've had any abuse in three years of riding this trike. Part of the problem is that at this point the speed limit rises to 60 kph, and the road widens and everyone starts accelerating, because soon they can fly up the long straightaway past the University.

But once over the bridge a bike lane opens up, and I stuff myself in here (just barely) and with some e-assist I pedal up the gradual, kilometre-long hill (perhaps 8% grade). At the top of the hill I turn off at Heron Rd. to make my way east to Bank St., another kilometre or so away. Heron is four lanes divided, and again afternoon traffic just goes around me. Some confusion near Bank, as there's a parking lot outlet for the Canadian Tire store, and some cars are not sure how fast I'm going and whether they can pull out. Trun onto Bank St., which at this point is a busy, undivided four lane (with centre turn lanes that open up) and some impatient drivers. I had to get over into the left and then centre lane make a turn, and even though my signal was on I eventually just had to stuff myself into the lane, as no one was leaving room for me.

I turned in at Altavista so I could visit both a music store and the local Sally Ann. Then back out onto Bank for a block, then turning ino the large Value Village lot. After the usual perusal of the aisles the irony is that for once I found no large items that needed the trike to get them home! Instead of heading back down Bank I headed west along Walkley (divided 4-lane), and found the traffic fairly light. I was heading for Riverside Drive, but first turned down a wide residential street for about a km, then over to northbound Riverside, another undivided 4-lane. Traffic was not too bad here, and I decided not to mess with the lovely traffic patterns needed to get onto northbound Bronson, and decided to head for Prince of Wales Drive (old hwy. 16), since its shoulders are designated bike "lanes". So I got into the left lane to get back onto Heron, which widens here into six lanes. That might sound intimidating, but it means two lanes for others to pass me. ;) The bridge over the canal here is rather steep (for a heavy cargo trike) and the assist was full on to help me over at anything less than a crawl. I then turned north onto PoW, and a nice ride back to Dow's Lake, where I turned onto Preston St., which put me back in my 'hood.

Verdict? Well, pedaling a large vehicle that takes up a lane requires a modicum of persistence and bullheadedness. Downtown-ish it's fine - motor vehicle traffic expects to travel more slowly, so I never feel too pressured. But out in the burbs the car is king, and the speeds are higher, so one's fortitude gets tested much more readily. Without the assist I would have crawled over a few of those hills and bridges, and even with it I was faster, but certainly not keeping up. And that was travelling without any kind of load in the cargo bed. Juergen has suggested eventually putting together a larger battery pack that I could install just for these longer excursions, but for carrying a load it seems that a stronger motor might also be in order. That said, I almost never gig out in the burbs, and can usually get a lift from a fellow band member if needed.

It was good to find out how the assist would help in a more challenging road environment, but I don't plan on making it a habit to trike out there. The machine will continue doing what it does downtown, with the assist helping when needed. Going further afield will need a re-think in terms of both batteries and motor. BTW, after my excursion the battery pack still seemed to have juice, though of course I did not want to run it down completely. It took about 3.5 hours to recharge.

No comments: