I’ve had the Grasshopper for more than a week and I’ve been putting in some effort preparing myself and the bike for the first big tour next week.
My first priority has been to give my recumbent muscles a bit of a workout.
11 days is not sufficient time to alter your fitness, you need around 6 weeks for proper payback from exercise, but I did need to test my recumbent muscles and at least wake them up after several months riding only upright bikes. So my plan was to do three short but testing rides over 5 days, then relax and hope for the best. I picked an uphill route and planned to go further (and climb further) each time.
First time out I got to the top of the first long steady uphill feeling quite shaky and sat in the cafe there for quite a while. It was particularly tricky to get off the bike while wobbling, it’s a tricky leg lift and swing maneouvre, while holding the bike upright by the back of the seat which is behind you.
Next time I found the first section easier, I didn’t need to stop at the cafe, and carried on up a second climb which had a nasty steep section at the top leading to a Tee junction. I have always found that steep bit difficult on my Brompton recumbent (Brecki) and usually lose stability as I lose speed and have to stop before the top. But this time I felt reasonably fresh and powered up the incline, spinning hard in bottom gear, and arrived at the top in good shape with no wobbles or weaving.
It felt like a more efficient bike, converting my effort into motion more effectively than the spongy combination of Mountain Drive and Brecki, and maybe a more stable bike too. Anyway, on the third run I repeated the performance and carried on over an undulating route with no problems keeping up a decent speed on the uphill sections and didn’t feel too much fatigue. Each time I had the fun of a very rapid descent back into Sheffield, the Grasshopper suspension making light of poor road surfaces, although at one point I had to brake hard when a car pulled out in front of me then almost immediately stopped to make a right turn (classic SMIDSY) and the rear wheel snaked quite a lot, so I’ll have to learn to emphasis the front brake more.
So although I don’t have the strength I would like at the moment I am encouraged that hills are do-able if I take them steadily and the bike is reasonably stable when climbing slowly. The next two challenges are bike handling and fitting the kit I will need to take with me. The experience of these three short rides has given me a much better feel for how to approach hills and how to cycle efficiently on the Grasshopper so I’m feeling more confident, although I did need help from my in-house back repair person to get rid of some results from poor practice earlier in the process.