My first ride on a Recumbent

Recumbent bicycles have always intrigued me. If you don´t know what a recumbent bicycle is, a picture says more than a thousand words…

Challenge Hurricane (Stock Photo 2)
Stock Photo (Challenge Hurricane)

I’ve seen a few over the years and even seen one here in Bracknell once. I stopped to chat to the rider and he told me he was forced to get one because he loved cycling, but he had sustained some kind of back injured years ago which prevented him from riding a conventional bike.

It took me years to decide to buy one because they are quite expensive (even second-hand ones) and there was always the chance I would not adapt well to the experience, but the idea had been growing on me. I read an article somewhere  last month about someone who had toured from Spain to the UK on one and decided to go to eBay and see if I could find any. There were a few and I added them to my watch list. These bikes are not very common and the ones with a higher spec were selling between £700 and £900 pounds with a few on offer at up to £1400. New ones are sold in upwards of 2 to 3 thousand pounds, depending on specs, so price wise they are in a pair with high spec conventional bikes. I’s a high investment for someone you’ve never tried before and have no idea how it rides.

I’ve let some of them go and then decided I was going to try to get one setting a max. bid of £800 delivered. A bit to my surprise I got one, a Dutch made Challenge Hurricane.

Got the bike on a Friday and after all the unpacking and minor assembly I anxiously sat on it. Even seating on it felt like this was going to be indeed a challenge and I tumbled to the sides a few times until I realized you must have the brakes pressed when you want to seat on a Recumbent. On this particular model the rider goes in a very laid back position, so your feet tend to push you to the back. If you don’t counteract this force by pressing the breaks the bike starts rolling backwards until your feet are no longer able to sustain yourself.

Me in my Challenge Hurricane Recumbent Bike

So, you may think this is ridiculous, but even the process of seating on is a new learning experience. I presume recumbents in which the rider is in a more upright position the challenge is less pronounced.

As suggested by some of the videos I watched in YouTube, I started on a gentle slope in a straight line. Just pushing myself with my feet slightly raised from the ground. Tried to pedal and immediately fell. This was going to take a while to get used to.

I gradually started to become more comfortable with the type of balance required and was able to balance myself for more than a few meters without putting my feet on the ground. The problem became how make turns. Tried a few times unsuccessfully.

As much as I’d have liked to continue, my Friday lunch break ended and I had to go back to work. After work I was determined to learn. Took it to my back road and repeated the procedure of pushing with my feet for some hour an hour and slowly attempting to pedal. Must have fallen some 3 or 4 times, but the good thing is that you are so close to the ground you can simply reach it with your hands.

Long story short, it took me about 1h to learn, even if in a very awkward way, to keep myself from falling and make turns. After that, I went for a 8.5 Km ride around the block. Still fell 3 times during this ride. Riding it required my undivided attention and full concentration. I lost balance once just by looking right to see if any cars were coming at a road cross.

In conclusion there is an interesting learning curve when you start to ride a recumbent bike, but so far it’s worth it. They make for a very comfortable ride. Just not sure I will ever go touring on my Hurricane. It looks not very suited for long distances and I don’t think it would be able to carry heavy loads on bags. I’ll cross this bridge when I get there.

Bike ride from Ventnor to Ryde, Isle of Wight.

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The 3rd and last day of my short Isle of Wight tour started rainy and grey. You can see by the pictures in the time-lapse video below.

I knew the day was going to be like that and was expecting it to be much worse than it actually was. About 1.5 hours into the ride the skies cleared and the rain stopped. Still very cloudy, but at least dry.

I had a non-water proof camera mount on the handlebar and the water proof camera casing was mounted on my helmet. Unfortunately I didn´t notice that somehow the camera was bending to the left as you can see at the beginning of the time-lapse video. Once the rain stopped I moved the camera to the handlebar mount as the open casing also enabled the camera to be charged while recording the trip.

The ride started with a climb straight away. Ventnor is very “hilly” and when I planned my route using Google Maps it suggested a more inland route than I had taken in a previous visit to the island (Sustrans Regional Route 67). So, I didn´t get to see much of the village, but I did ride through it during a nice sunny day in August 2014 and the video below I took during that ride.

The coastal route is nicer, but it has climbs of up to 12% incline in places that were challenging enough for an “empty” bike, let alone a fully loaded one.

Lots of flowers along the way
Lots of flowers along the way (click to enlarge)

The route traced by Google Maps took me along Wroxall, Newchurch and when I got to a place known as the Garlic Farm, which is exactly what the title indicates, a garlic farm, but you can

visit the farm and know everything about garlic (something like a Garlic Museum), I realised Google was taking me to a direct route to Ryde, which is not what I wanted. My intention was to bypass the

Cycle way, National Cycling Route 23
Cycle way, National Cycling Route 23 (click to enlarge)

coastal hills, as I had already done them last year, but to go back to the coast shortly after, so I turned back to Newchurch and entered what is known as the Red Squirrel Trail or Sustrans National Cycle Route 23. I really recommend a ride on this route. It´s a pedestrian shared cycle path, but horses are not allowed and it runs alongside the river Yar. Very peaceful and you´ll find a number of people riding it as well.

I met a nice couple and had a quick chat with them. The man was a native of the Isle, but they both lived in California and were there to visit his family.

View of Sandown Pier
View of Sandown Pier (click to enlarge)

The destination was Sandown and I got a bit lost after the cycle path ended, so you see in the GPS data a bit a back and forth until I found my way.

Sandown Beach on a nice day in August 2014
Sandown Beach on a nice day in August 2014 (click to enlarge)

Sandown is a nice part of the Island with great sandy beaches and a fun pier with all sorts of entertainments (game machines, bump cars, etc). If you have children they will love it (it reminds Brighton pier).

Sandown Pier
Closer look at Sandown Pier (Aug 2014) (click to enlarge)

Riding along the promenade at Sandown beach is fun, but on sunny days you’ll find it full of people and need to be careful.

After Sandown I made my way to

Bembridge Lifeboat Station
Bembridge Lifeboat Station at the end of the bridge. (click to enlarge)

Bembridge where the new Lifeboat Station is located. At a cost of £7

million it’s a state of the art facility where they can launch sea worthy rescue boats over a ramp in a matter of minutes.

Priory Bay Hotel and Gold Course
Priory Bay Hotel and Gold Course (click to enlarge)

After Bembridge I crossed Saint Helens and the grounds of the Priory Bay Hotel and Golf camp (very nice to stay if you have the money) in the direction to the village of Seaview. In Seaview you have a clear view of Portsmouth on the other side of the channel.

View of Portsmouth from Seaview.
10x Zoom view of Portsmouth from Seaview. (click to enlarge)

From Seaview it´s a short trip to Ryde alongside the beach. Having done the trip in this direction (counter clockwise), if you ever go to the Isle of Wight to ride I would recommend that you go the other direction (clockwise). From Ryde to Seaview, Bembridge, Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor and so on. I think it would be a more scenic route.

This post now concludes the series of posts about my 3 days trip to and around the Isle of Wight. If you have any questions, don´t hesitate to ask. Thank you for your visit!

I´ve added a few more pictures and videos below.

Appley Beach and Appley Tower
Appley Beach with the Appley Tower on the background (between Seaview and Ryde) (click to enlarge)
An interesting picture in every village I rode through.
An interesting picture in every village I rode through. (click to enlarge)
Along the Cycling Route 23
Along the Cycling Route 23 (click to enlarge)
Bicycle tunnel
Bicycle tunnel (click to enlarge)

The video below was taken as I was about the leave the Isle of Wight after a 3 days cycling tour to and around the Island.
Bicycles and Hovercrafts… two very interesting vehicles.

Bicycles are carried free of charge in the Hovercraft and you don’t need to disassemble anything, just remove your bags/luggage from the bike (and item lose item, although I left the water bootles in places and they arrived fine). On the way back my bike´s rear view mirror got broken though. Keep in mind the cargo can only carry 2 bikes at once, but during summer the service runs every 15 minutes.

The next video was shot inside the Hovercraft while “flying” over water to Portsmouth.

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Ryde to Ventnor via Needles Park

(Click on the pictures to enlarge them)

This was my 2nd time in the Isle of Wight. I have been here last year with my family and we drove to the Needles Park on the last day of our visit. We could not, however, drive to the Batteries where the big guns used to be. My younger son was already tired and I knew if we walked all the way up hill (it is a considerable walk) I would likely have to carry him.

So in this visit to the Isle of Wight one of my goals was to go the the Needles Battery and see the sea from there.

Full English Breakfast
Full English Breakfast at Kasbah

I left Ryde at about 11 in the morning after a nice full English Breakfast in the B&B I was staying, which I do recommend, by the way. It´s called Kasbah and they are very friendly and welcoming. Rather than a traditional B&B it is more like a small hotel, with nice on-suite rooms, TV and comfortable beds.

During Breakfast I phoned a number of B&Bs and Guesthouses in the Village of Freshwater, which is near the Needles Park. No rooms available. Camping was also not an option as it was too cold, windy and rainy at night and even if I wanted to, most camping grounds where not yet open for the season.

River Medina Marina in Newport, Isle of Wight
River Medina Marina in Newport.

So I decided to call B&Bs in my next destination, which was Ventnor, a village about 20 miles or 32 Km away – Success, but at a 40% higher price. With accommodation reserved for the night I started my ride letting Google guide me all the way. The first part of the ride, is the route from Ryde to Newport, the island´s biggest town.

I was already familiar with this route because last year I did a 62 Km ride in one day (1/2 way around the Island) which included this ride from Ryde to Newport. Most of the ride is done on roads, but there are stretches of shared cycle ways. The ride follows the National Cycle Route 22.

Horse riders on the B3401
Horse riders on the B3401

To my surprise I even found people riding horses on that road, which must have really pissed the drivers behind them 🙂

Had I found accommodation in Freshwater, I intended to take National Cycle Route 23 and ride to Cowes and Yarmouth and then to the Needles (if not too late in the evening) or stay in Freshwater. Given I had to ride south to Ventnor, I decided for a more direct route to the Needles.

Narrow stretch of the B3401 (Calbourne Road) with intense traffic
Narrow stretch on a climb of the B3401 (Calbourne Road) with intense traffic.

There are portions of this ride with high traffic of vehicles, mostly cars, vans, buses and small trucks. One particular point on the B3401 is a considerable climb in a very narrow part of the road.

I think that was the only moment in the 2 days of ride in the Isle of Wight that I was concerned for my safety, but that was a very small distance, of perhaps less than a kilometre. The problem is to climb with a heavy bike, slows you down too much, with cars passing inches from you at times.

The rest of the ride was reasonably uneventful with fields and farms often on both sides of the road.

ZigZag climb to the top of the cliff
ZigZag climb to the top of the cliff

When I arrived at the Needles Park was already past 3pm in the afternoon, so I went straight up the cliff in the direction of the batteries. I did have to push the bike a part of the way up as the wind, together with the climb was making it very difficult to pedal on a loaded bike.

Bus coming down from the top of the cliff
That would have been an easier way to get up there.

You can walk around the new batteries, but there isn´t much to see, apart from the wonderful sea views.

The Needles Rock formation
The Needles Rock formation.

To enter the old batteries, which is maintained by English Heritage you need to pay a fee of £6.00, which, given the time I thought wasn´t worth it. So once I had a look around I rode the way down to the park and had a cup of coffee.

The Needles Rock formation on the background
Selfie with the Needles Rock formation on the background

There I realized I was without mobile phone signal, so I had to guess the way to Ventnor for a mile until signal was restored and I realized I was going slightly off course.

I wanted to ride to Ventnor on the A3055, also known as Military Road, as this is a coastal road that offer excellent sea views along the way.

(I was told there used to be missile silos in the island during the cold war, but could not find any evidence of that... well, they would have probably hidden the silos anyway, right?)
House being transported by a truck
Mobile phones, mobile houses, mobile everything…

About half way there, Google directed me to take a detour, which I knew was to avoid the A3055 because from that point onwards the traffic increases substantially, but also, probably, to spare me from the climbs I knew I had to do, because I had already ridden this part last year (on an “empty” bike though).

Freshwater Bay Beach
Freshwater Bay Beach

Turns out, when I arrived in the B&B in Ventnor my hosts told me there had been a land slide and the road was blocked from a certain point onwards. Had I continued on the A3055 I would have had to turn back and take the detour anyway, so thank you Google.

Riding through little villages and farm houses, using small country lanes was indeed better and although there were a few climbs, they were much less difficult than those on the A3055.

Yellow flowers on both sides and the sea in front.
Particularly nice stretch on the A3055. Yellow flowers on both sides and the sea in front.

As I arrived in Ventnor, the time was 6:30pm, the sun had gone completely bringing the temperature down to a chili 5C.

Were the weather friendlier, I would have probably done a much different ride today, but when you are touring one of the things you do is to improvise.

It rained all night that night and weather was predicting heavy rain the next day (which thankfully didn´t actually happen), so I decided to cut my “Tour de Isle of Wight” short and head home the next day.

The video below is more than 8h of riding compressed in less than 8 minutes (5 seconds time-lapse).

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