Monday, 5 May 2014

Riding Experiences

I apologise for the lateness of this post. I actually finished the bike off a couple of weeks ago but Other Stuff got rather in the way and I've only just got interweb access back again. However, we can now continue with updates as usual. I did manage to sneak in a trial ride before I painted the levers, my daughter recorded it for me.

Hastily recorded footage of the unpainted bike.

Then of course it rained and it rained and it rained. At some point during this I did manage to paint the levers and assemble the bike for the last time. I'll post some better video next time of the actual gear assembly working, it's magical. In the meantime here's a gratuitous centre fold photo.


Since then I've put about 100 km on the bike with the longest ride being 40 km (25 miles) last Saturday. I have a few observations from a facile tyro:
  • It is geared quite highly (60") and consequently goes relatively fast compared to a penny farthing. The down side is that it is harder to start off from a stop. I'm reluctant to stamp on the pedals at this early stage.
  • The wind seems to affect it less than a high wheeler. It's obvious really when you consider the smaller frontal profile and the fewer, shorter spokes but it's worth noting. Particularly when being ridden on a small windy island in the middle of the roaring forties. We're quite good at doing wind here.
  • It makes a ticking noise as you ride it when the drive swaps from side to side at top and bottom dead centre on the gears. At this point the levers have no driving pressure on the gears and the backlash is taken up by the momentum of the bike then driving the gears. As soon as the other lever is pressed, the backlash is taken up the other way again. It's not unpleasant, a little like the ticking of a Sturmey Archer hub in top gear. By concentrating hard on my technique I can almost make it go away. Gears need backlash.
  • It definitely requires some relearning about pedalling, this is something I've noted when riding other faciles, your feet want to do circles and they can't. It meant I had to keep re positioning my feet on the pedals.
  • It has impeccable road manners, it steers beautifully but hands off is impossible at the moment, I suspect that it may never be possible [1]. My lovely wife who has almost no front driver experience, a defect that I intend to cure, found it quite disconcerting. In contrast my giant son just hopped on and rode it, I was impressed.
  • The larger (24") rear wheel is more comfortable and quieter than the smaller wheel (~18") on a penny farthing. Rational bikes happened for a reason.
  • From the front, it looks just like a safety bike being ridden, it's the same height and you can't discern that the feet are going up and down and not round and round. It's only side on that you can tell. This means that it's A Stealth Bike. Sometimes you just don't want every other person asking you how you get on (or off) that thing for the n'th time that day. This is the bike for those days.
  • In motion the driving gear is hypnotic, very steam enginey.
  • The brake lever, despite being a very accurate fit, makes a jingly tune as you ride. The same melody as every other antique bike I have ever ridden. If for no other reason, pneumatic tyres must have been a revelation in peace & quiet when introduced. They may catch on you know.
  • As advised by various writers of the day [2], you really do need to get off the power before the bottom of the stroke. When you remember to do it, your speed noticeably picks up. At pace you can just tap the pedals at the top of their stroke.
  • It uses subtly different muscles to rotary motion, this combined with the very narrow tread meant that I had jelly legs after a short (10 miles) ride at a reasonable pace.
  • The saddle is comfortable from the start, whether it is still comfortable at the end of a long ride remains to be seen.
  • Despite having a higher gear than an ordinary, the facile almost scampers up hills in comparison. This was well noted in the sales literature of the day.
  • Coming down the other side of the hill is vastly safer due to the lower, more central weight distribution. In addition all pedalling forces, forwards or backwards, are behind the axle. Back pedalling is just as awkward as forward pedalling at present.
  • You need medium size feet to ride this with the balls of your feet correctly on the pedals. I've noted this before but Victorians had smaller feet than us. I have UK size 9 feet and I'm probably at the upper limit, any longer and your toes interfere with the lever when at the bottom of the stroke. My giant son with his size 13 flippers has to use his toes which gets tiring.
  • My face aches from overuse of the grinning muscles.

[1] - Badminton Library 1889 edition. Discussing the new Rover rear driver. page 413

"In this particular it much resembles the 'facile'; both machines are the easiest to steer with one hand, but the most difficult (in fact, almost impossible) to steer without their aid."

[2] - Bicycling News June 9th 1888, The "geared facile" and how to ride it.

"The "facile" action, geared or ungeared, will teach the rider many things: it will teach him to push hard, and it will teach him to get off his work quickly, and thus two important points will be early inculcated."

"A great mistake often made by those who try the 'facile' is that they do not release the pedal directly the stroke is finished and it is at its lowest; the consequence is that the power applied to the other pedal is counteracted by, as it were back-pedalling, whereas the foot should be taken off the pedal or rested very lightly on it during the upstroke to get the full value of the muscular power expended."

Somewhere I have a stack of receipts for every piece of material that I used in the construction of the bike over the last 2 years and 8 months. I'll dig them out and add them up for next time. This project has all been building up to an idea that I've been seriously considering for some time. Now that I've actually ridden the bike and so far it appears to be strong and reliable, I'll tell you about it next time.

In other news, I promised my friend Christian that I'd make him a pair of hand grips for his 1888 New Rapid, I finally got around to it it a few weeks ago and then promptly mislaid them.

I'm pleased to say that I found them again. I'll post them off tomorrow Christian.


  1. Absolutely spectacular! Keep on grinning!

    1. Thanks Andrew, watch this space for news on The Big Ride

  2. Remarkable! I am speechlees, congratulations.

  3. A work of art Bob, well done!

    1. Cheers Bob, should be OK for pub quiz tonight. See you there

  4. That is spectacular Bob, you must be stoked. It looks rock solid.

    1. Thanks Dylan, I've enjoyed watching the progress on your fatbike.

  5. Great achievement, the build-up has been a long journey. Brilliant!!!


    1. Thanks Stephen,

      it's not over yet though...


  6. Well done. It's good to see it finally finished. Have fun with it.


  7. OOOOOOO, speechless with excitement and also mirroring the whiney daughter question. Or at least come and marvel at it's splendor in the "flesh".