Rat Race Road Trip 2013
Peter Gorrie left his Challenge Fujin SL at home and took to the road on a MetaBike just to see if he liked the ‘high life’.
This was an event of many firsts for me:
• Using a High Racer - previous experince had been on a Nazca Fuego and my current bike a Challenge Fujin SLI
• Completing a century in a day - previous max was 81 miles on the Etape Caledonia on a Nazca Fuego
• Completing 4 centuries in a row - uncharted territory!
Whilst for some these may be small mileages, this for me was a real challenge over varied terrain. It therefore gave a good insight into the strengths of the MetaBike. (Interestingly my spellchecker wants to correct this to motorbike – there were times over the next days when that would have been a preferred option!) My training was the usual – not as much as I should!
Getting to London by train was easy, lock the bike on the racks in train – bike pre-booking essential and then a 4 !/2 hour trip to Kings Cross. Then a short cycle to Tower Bridge – thank goodness for a Garmin 800 with GPS. Also very useful were radical banana bags into which I was able to stuff 4 day’s worth of gear. These fitted easily on the seat of the metabike, An advantage of doing this organised event was that luggage was carried each day to the end of the route. This meant daily bike cargo comprised essential emergency innertubes, zip ties, chain links and multitool along with and food and liquid.
Stage 1 – 100 miles total
START: POTTERS FIELDS PARK, TOWER BRIDGE, LONDON
FINISH: BURGHLEY HOUSE, STAMFORD, LINCOLNSHIRE
The first 12 miles were through London traffic. It was very impressive leaving from Tower Bridge however the next 12 miles of London rush hour traffic were not that enjoyable. The traffic combined with looking out for the direction signs, listening to route beeps on the Garmin made this quite stressful! A big advantage of the metabike here was being head level with car drivers – this would not have been the case with a low racer. On the plus side there were lots of smiles, cheers and positive comments from pedestrians as I went past. (mainly children on their way to school)
In common with most days I was passed by many very fast roadies. Judging by the number of Team Sky jerseys you could have been forgiven for thinking that they were there on a training camp – I am assuming they were replica jerseys as the Giro was also about to start. The latter part of the day there was significant head wind, this seemed to be the pattern over the 4 days. It was on these occasions that I wished I was on my Fujin – the higher up Metabike was definitely affected (no surprises there really) and proved harder work. The other factor was obviously my own fitness levels as my pace definitely dropped off.
Stage 2 – 122 miles total
START: BURGHLEY HOUSE, LINCOLNSHIRE
FINISH: YORK RACECOURSE, YORK, NORTH YORKSHIRE
Stage 2 was similarly flat and to be honest fairly dull landscape – as I rode I thought of my usual routes out through West Lothian with its interesting terrain, rolling hills and fantastic views of the river Forth and beyond.
The last 30 miles were tough across wide open flat landscapes with a westerly side / head wind. I feel again that the metabike was affected greater by this than my Fujin would have been. On the more protected flat roads there was probably not that much between them – certainly glancing at the speedo I was maintaining a fairly healthy average (for me) of around 15 mph – bearing in mind I was trying keep some reserves for the 100+ miles each day. The route avoided as much as possible major roads, sticking to B roads. Well done to the organisers for this. Also well done for the pit stops with supplies of high 5 and various sugary snacks. Though by the end of day 2 I had had enough of chocolate rice crispie cake and flapjack – which was not half as good as the supply my daughter had made me.
A highlight for me was seeing the friends I was to stay with in York that night. They tracked my progress for the last 20 miles and provided some great encouragement. It was around 15 miles to go that I was passed by the first rider in the ‘expert’ category. They had left London that morning and were completing the trip to Holyrood park in 2 days. I have to say I was in awe at the speed he was going – when I was beginning to toil with low energy reserves.
Stage 3 – 113 miles total
START: YORK RACECOURSE, YORK, NORTH YORKSHIRE
FINISH: MORPETH, NORTHUMBERLAND
This was the toughest day, some 15% gradients towards the end of the day which pushed me to the limit at the end and indeed ended up with me pushing!. In terms of the hills the metabike has a good reputation for climbing in the recumbent world. I would concur – the 2x26” wheels rolled well and indeed 700c would have further marginal gains. I was able to keep similar pace to DF riders on gradients of up to 10% and indeed overtook some. The motivation to keep going was that – there must be a downhill coming at some point. Unfortunately these were of the steep twisty variety with dodgy road surface – I was very thankful of the dual disc brakes here! The metabike handled this comfortably and never gave any OMG moments.
I always did wonder how the Fujin SL would have handled these inclines – my guess is fairly similar to the metabike. The Fujin also has a reputation as a competent climber. An advantage of the Metabike and its higher handlebars and seat meant was that it was easier to push up the hills .
Stage 4 – 109 miles total
START: MORPETH, NORTHUMBERLAND
FINISH: HOLYROOD PARK, EDINBURGH
This was the most satisfying day – apart from being the final leg – it was the most scenic and from northern Northumbria I was picking up road signs for places I knew having spent family holidays in the Borders. It was also the most recumbent friendly terrain – rolling hills that allowed a lot of speed to be generated downhill with enough momentum to get up the other side. The metabike was great in this environment – it was proving deceptively fast – not quite sure of speeds as my Garmin died halfway through day 2 (therefore – sorry no stats!). I was however freewheeling past roadies who were pedalling. In comparison to my Fujin the sense of speed and likely actual speed were slower but the metabike was certainly no slouch.
From the last pit-stop at Cranshaw’s village hall there was a steep hill followed by a long winch up past Whiteadder Reservoir to the highest point of 1400 feet. The next 6 miles were an adrenalin pumping downhill stretch where 1000 feet were descended at a vast rate of knots. The Mercedes SLK in my rear mirror was struggling to keep up and gave up its early attempts to overtake! I was of course taking up the primary road position / racing line! The final 18 miles went very quickly – I was on home territory. Musselburgh High street and Portobello were the usual rush hour snail’s pace, not for me – the adrenalin had kicked back in and I was overtaking fellow riders who were unsure of the route. I believe I even managed a sprint through Holyrood Park to the finish at Holyrood Palace.
Final thoughts …
So a great event really well organised.
The Metabike – a very good choice of weapon for such an event but I was left thinking – how would the Fujin SL have risen to the Challenge?
The Metabike is currently available to demo at LaidBackBikes – because of its higher style and slightly more twitchy feel I would not recommend to an outright recumbent beginner. However for straight efficient chainline and use of one combined return / powerside idler then is a plus.
In terms of look, and who says looks don’t matter , I have sought female opinion. My wife prefers the Fujin whereas my sister in law was impressed with the design of the Metabike! So split opinion there.