Today is World Bicycle Day, but cycling needn’t just be about two wheelers – and it needn’t just be about leg power either. Cycling Dumfries member Dik Toulson has written us this guest post about his adventures on his handcycle and how he upgraded it to tackle some of our gradients …
Life in the slow lane
You may or may not have seen me around on my handcycle. ‘A what?’ I hear you ask. It’s a recumbent tricycle that you pedal with your hands, which is pretty convenient when you don’t have any legs due to an RTA in 1979.
Now I am not a small bloke and despite having a granny cog, the hills around Dumfries are punishing and to tell the truth, they put me off going out cycling. The one good thing about a tricycle is that you can go very, very slow and not topple off, but its not much fun at 1mph.
My wife has an electric bike with a trailer in which we put my wheelchair for when we go out together, but I can see her wobbling with how slow I go. She smiles and says it’s fine, but I know that going so slow is making her feel like a circus clown doing a balancing act. This must change. I need to put an electric motor on the handcycle to make it easier for me, and a bit faster for my wife.
Bafang. After a lot of research, and after finding someone with the same handcycle who has also electrified their machine, I went ahead and purchased a Bafang kit. You must bear in mind that these kits are designed for bikes, and I knew there would be one or two issues with installing it. I was not let down. Sure the battery rack would not just slot on as it was designed for the back of a bike. And the wiring was too short in places which caught me out.
I have a good friend, Duncan, who is very much hands on with a garage more akin to Aladdin’s cave for boys and their toys. From boats to bikes, wood to wheels, Duncan has it all, ‘just in case’ he would say. He adapted the battery mount and made the wiring longer. He also ‘fixed’ the wiring when I pulled the connectors off by mistake. I could not have managed this project with out him.
It is also worth mentioning that YouTube is also an essential these days when undertaking a task you know nothing about. I watched many a video about installing the kit, albeit on bicycle. Becca from REV bikes in Australia was particularly good, and she responds to emails if you need help – nice touch.
So, I am pleased to say, that the Bafang is on the handcycle without too many problems. The biggest surprise, in my naivety, is how heavy the handcycle has become. Made from a special alloy and fairy dust, it was light as a feather in its original format. It was easy to pick up and move around the garage. Now though, it’s the weight of a small tank. This extra weight is pretty high up as well and I may have a look at lowering the battery to get the centre of gravity down. But that is for the future.
On the road, I find life very comfortable between 8 – 10mph and I generally only use one gear out of the 10 I have available on the derailleur. I use the Bafang on number two or three out of the nine assistance modes available and changing this mode is very simple. Dump the gears high, turn the power up and you can hit the legal limit with ease, very easy in fact. But then you will drain the sizeable battery quicker and reduce your range.
Now cycling is a breeze and a pleasure. In the past I would do a ten mile loop maximum, now, the only limit is the range of the battery, which I suspect will be about 50 miles. And that extra range means I can take in more of the beautiful sights. Glenkiln Loop, check. Waterside ride, check. 10 miles loop with a bit more thrown in, check. It is all so pleasurable. And yes, you have to pedal to get the power assistance, but the pedalling has become more aerobic, rather than the punishing anaerobic bouts on the hills.
So what is next for the handcycle? A new front wheel. As already mentioned, I have a derailleur set up at the moment and I would like to change that to an internal geared up. I like the simplicity of only having one cog instead of a cassette and the ability to change gear when stationary would be very handy. A new chain tensioner would be required as it is a bit longer from the crank to the wheel than a standard bicycle. Also, my tyres may be changed in the fulness of time to Schwalbe Big Apple’s or maybe Big Ben Plus.
If you have some cash sloshing around in your saving account earning 0.01%, why not put it to good use and buy a Bafang electric bike conversion kit? You will be amazed at how well it works and how much the hills are ironed out for you. It really has put the joy of cycling back into me.
I live near Maxwelltown Path that we have recently been clearing, you may see me around in the not so slow lane now!