0053: The Standard Questions

0053: The Standard Questions

Here is a selection of questions I am asked on a more or less daily basis. Hourly in some cases!

1. What type of bike is that?

Its called a Recumbent Bicycle.
They are not a new invention and in some cases are older than a more traditional bicycle.
They never became popular due to some competition ruling by the cycling governing body back in the 1930's.
This particular model is German designed and built for long distance tours. It's heavy, but tough and does what I want and more.

2. Is it comfortable?

Very.
I'm sitting in a big chair all day.
I own and ride conventional bikes as well. But you cannot beat travelling the world in an armchair on wheels.

3. Don't you fall asleep riding it?

Silly question #1 . If I did, I would have had an accident a long time ago.
I hope you don't fall asleep behind the wheel of your car?!
It's a similar seat...

4. Do you pedal with your hands?

Silly question #2. No. I steer with my hands and pedal with my feet like normal. Except my feet are in front. And my hands in a relaxed position by my side. (Given the number of people that actually see me arrive on the bike then begin to ask this questions makes me wonder.....)

5. How do you keep your balance?

With practice, the bike rides like any other.
Riding a recumbent, you have to forget the rules when as a child, you first learned to ride a conventional bicycle and start again.
But after a few rides, you'll get the hang of it. The trick is to relax.
Also, as your centre of gravity is much lower, you are actually more stable on this bike. Add panniers below and that makes it stable again.

6. Can I have a try/ride/lift?

Try it? no. It's custom fitted for me. And I can't afford for you to fall off and break something...The bike I am talking about!
Ride/ lift? Don't be silly!

7. How do you steer?

The handlebars are positioned so you can grip them from the sitting position with your hands relaxed by your side.

8. How much does a bike like that cost?

Well, I am not going to tell you the truth.
Why?
Well it wasn't cheap. It is a specialist touring machine. But in some countries even a fake cheap price will still be expensive.
If anyone asks, I say a similar price to a regular bike of the same specification.
If they push, I say I bought it second hand for 300 Dollars, secondhand.

9. Did you make it yourself? Are you a designer?

No, but I assembled it myself.
I spent many years as a professional mechanic, working in the bicycle industry, so was able, over time to get many of the original components at a cheaper price. They have been previously fitted to other bikes I have owned. And are old in some cases to the point were I have had to replace major parts as I have been travelling.
The components have been selected for maximum reliability and minimal maintenance, and messing around. So far, very little has gone wrong.


10. Where have you come from?

I started cycling south in Prudhoe bay, Alaska on 26th May 2014
The most northerly road accessible point on the north American continent.

11. Where are you going to?

I hope to reach Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego sometime in the next 12-18 months. The southernmost city in south America.

12. How much does it cost in fuel?

It's not a motorbike there is no engine, I have some petrol for my camping stove though, but haven't used it much. I think I paid about 5 Pesos in Mexico to fill it up and have used about half of it so far. I am not cooking much.

13. Where is the motor/you should fit one?

It's not a motorbike!!
And I don't want to fit one.
Though one could argue my legs are the motor and the fuel is food!

14. Where is the battery?

No battery or motor. Though it is a factory option.

15. Is it fast/slow?

About the same as a normal bicycle on average.
Climbing is slower as you cannot use your upper body to give additional leverage as you climb.
On the flat, I ride about the same speed as a regular cyclist, but in a headwind I have an advantage and my average speed barely drops.
Ultimately, I am not a fast rider. I am carrying too much weight and I am not in a rush.
I get there when I get there.....

16. How long is that chain?

I have to purchase 3 identical chains and end up using about 2.5.
Shimano chains last longer. I fitted a Shimano XT chain in Calgary, Canada and this lasted until I changed it in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Here I fitted a Sram 801 chain which I changed back to a Shimano chain in San José, Costa Rica. A tiny fraction of the distance.
Don't buy Sram chains, they are made of cheese!
I use Purple extreme chain lubricant which is the best for long distance riding. I have two 10oz bottles and I have used about 4/5ths of the first bottle so far....

17. Are your tyres worn?

Yes, I have ridden about 25,000 kilometres. But the profile was fairly smooth to begin with.
I prefer Schwalbe tyres as they have a very long service life as long as you maintain them. i.e. keep them at the correct air pressure and regularly check for cuts and damage.

18. How many times have you changed your tyres?

I started with cheap Continental tyres which were both damaged on the Dalton highway and were immediately replaced with Schwalbe Marathon Supreme folding tyres I carried in my bags.
These took me across Canada.
One rear later exploded on the Bruce peninsula in Canada.
I then fitted new Schwalbe Marathon front and rear in London, Ontario which were partly worn by the time I reached Guadalajara.
There, I refitted my folding Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tyres which I have been using since then. I have just replaced the front tyre with a $20 BMX Tioga tyre which is already showing wear after around 200km's
Buy cheap buy twice as they say. I will probably have to replace it in Colombia.
I also carry a folding Schwalbe Mondial and a Schwalbe Jumping jack. These both have an off road profile so I am saving them for roads that are exclusively dirt or gravel. Or for emergency backup.
To date I have had between 30-40 punctures. Usually from truck tyre debris in the hard shoulder.

19. Where do you sleep?

I carry a small tent, but haven't used it much. Partly because of security concerns and partly because it is really hot.
In Alaska, I had a Hilleberg Kaitum 2 man tunnel tent which was like a mansion for 1 person. It's great, but needs to be pegged out to make sure it will stand. I swapped this in Tucson, Arizona for my Hilleberg Soulo dome tent. This is more compact and easier to hide if I need to stealth camp. It is also free standing so can be placed anywhere.
For the most part, I am sleeping in Hotels or hostels.
However, I have also wild camped in Canada and the USA, slept in fire stations, police stations, farms, restaurants, a tequila distillery and been invited to peoples homes.
I prefer to use the hospitality networks though if possible.
Warmshowers is specifically for cyclists and generally I get a good welcome from the people I meet. Couchsurfing I find, is incredibly difficult to make contact with people, but again, I have had no bad experiences (yet!)

20. Are you travelling alone?

For the purposes of public discussion by the roadside. No my friends are ahead/ behind and we will meet later. Depending on who I am talking to, and what vibe I get from them I will say if I am travelling alone or not. I don't want someone following me to rob me. If they suspect there may be another person/witness they are less likely to try anything silly.
But most people are genuinely curious and don't cause problems.

21. Don't you get lonely?

Yes. Sometimes.
I had expected to see more cyclists along the route. Though several of the sections I have ridden were not the conventional routes followed by cyclists. I'm hoping to see more as I continue south.
I have travelled for a while with others.
In Canada, I travelled with several riders including, Lulu and Charlotte, Doug and Jane, Derek, Bob and Dan and Colleen to name but a few.
In Mexico, I travelled for a week or so with Hugo and also for a month with Charlotte again.
It was great fun and a new dimension to cycle touring.
Having said that, I am used to travelling alone so though it is sometimes tough, boring or lonely I do still quite enjoy it.
And in hostels, or with hosts, I have had a great time and made many new friends.

22. Do you carry a weapon?

Silly question #3.
In the USA, I was asked this question I don't know how many times.
No. I do not own or carry a gun.
Frankly, if you are riding a bicycle in a place that requires you to carry a gun, turn around and leave the area.
I do have some knives, but regard these as tools, not for self defence or attack.
I still carry a can of Alaska Bear spray, which I might use in a sticky situation.
Hopefully that won't happen. Though I have taken the safety clip off twice. In Mexico and Honduras to spray dogs. Fortunately for the dogs, they turned off at the last minute.

23. Who let the dogs out?

I have been chased by hundreds. Large and small.
They don't know what a recumbent is, so pursue to chase me out of their territory.
None have made contact yet and most bark and chase through defence.
If they get too close, I often shout "No!!" in a stern voice.
This shocks them and if I have a little distance I will stand up.
Here, Humans beat dogs, so identifying a human shouting "no" to a stray dog might mean a kick or punch. And honestly, if I had to, I would too.
They often turn and run though.
If I see a dog ahead in the distance which might be aggressive to cyclists, I often get off and walk. They are often used to people walking so do not associate bike and person as one. This has worked on many occasions.
Dog aggressiveness seems to vary from region to region.
I'm not sure why.
They should all be treated with caution, but so far, I have had no issues with dogs.

24. Why don't you just fly there?

Silly question #4
Again, another question I was asked a LOT in the USA.
It's sad that a many north Americans don't leave their own state, let alone know their own country or travel the world.
I was never quite sure how to honestly answer without being too rude...


I'll add more as I get asked......

Or you could ask by commenting below.

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Post by Matthew Hopkins

An avid cycle tourer and Bicycle Mechanic, I also enjoy cycling, cooking, camping, cinema, computers, internet and tech.

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