The Evolution of a Cyclist


By Jeff Levenson — For those of you looking for advice on diet, product specs, gear theories, or techie stuff in general — move on. Those topics are well covered by all the other articles. This column is more a slice of life type of experience, my experiences on riding a recumbent trike in general, and around Salt Lake in particular. The 45-degree angle is from riding on the right side of roads, many of which are seriously sloped, whether curbed or not.

Sandy and Jeff Levenson and their recumbent electric trikes. Photo courtesy Jeff Levenson

On a traditional bike, you can lean to the left to compensate for the slope. Although the seat (no saddle) on a trike is more comfortable, you can feel yourself slowly sliding off to the right. If you think a three-wheeler can’t tip over…well, it can. I’ve done it.

The visual effect is intensified because on a trike, the field of view, especially looking above, is much broader and more 3-D since you aren’t riding bent over. When we drive our vehicle along the bike routes we use, the roads look much narrower, even cramped. The upside is that on a trike, cars give you lots of room, many actually going all the way over to the far lane.

This is how you can observe the goings on in a different way, like being in a rolling lawn chair. There was a tree on Utopia Avenue we called the Bicycle Tree. Someone left a BMX bike on it, and as the tree grew, the bike just went higher and higher, about 25 feet off the ground. Recently, the house changed owners, and somebody removed the bright red bike. Haven’t seen it in the trash, so maybe it’s repurposed.

There is another home we spotted on 300 East. The new owners tore out the lawn, put in a gravel covering, and promptly put up a sign reading “STOP THE GRAVEL PIT”. Go figure.

After reading Lou Borgenicht’s article on aging and cycling, I can relate to him. As a kid, I had a 90-pound single speed coaster bike, which was pretty much all there was back then; you could have fun doing skid and drifts while locking up the coaster brake.

For my twelfth birthday, I got a beautiful black Raleigh made in Nottingham, England, courtesy of my grandmother. Hand brakes and a 3 speed Sturmey Archer shifter. Hills no longer a problem! I rode all over, 25 miles or more easily.

Went to college — no cars for freshmen, so got a ten-speed. Got stolen. Back to the campus bus system. Then came the Great Gas Shortage of the early 70’s. Got another 10-speed, made in France, to commute. And then …

About 1980ish, went to the 7-Eleven and there, on the cover of Bicycling Magazine, was a concept I instantly fell in love with — a Specialized Stumpjumper mountain bike! Only problem? It cost way over my budget. Found a Schwinn for half the price (probably twice the weight, too, but since I wasn’t into actually jumping a stump that was OK). The local bike club had to take a vote to see if it was OK to be a member and have an MTB. It was. A historical note: they also had to vote on whether to require a helmet on club rides. I was told that sometimes the voting ended up in fistfights.

Then I moved up to Cannondales, an MTB and a touring bike (with the Sachs-Huret Duopar Eco drive train, still considered the finest non-indexed system ever made. Still have it (make me an offer, this is where the aging sets in).

A back injury canceled out the mountain bike in my 50s. Later on, I started slowing down, so we switched to tandems. The first one was a Sears 6-speed, which would easily go downhill at 60 mph, except the brakes weren’t really up to it. Still, it was really fun on century rides to blast past club riders and racers on the flats, bright red frame and chrome fenders notwithstanding. Sold it and got a chromoly frame ATB tandem which we actually toured on for many years. Then …

Age again catching up. Eleven years ago, we bought the trikes, at that time just for fun. We had met a group on trikes in Kellogg, Idaho, for what we found out was the Tater Tot Ride (it’s on Facebook). Five years later, no longer able to swing a leg over the diamond frame, sold the tandem and started riding the trikes full-time. Then …

Age creeping up again. Electrified the trikes. You still have to pedal to get any serious distance, but the hills aren’t killers anymore. Another note: since our brakes are on the two front wheels, it’s a real learning process when you have to modulate each brake separately, but at the same time, while screaming down a hill! Compensation — you can jam on the front brakes and not flip over the handlebars, since your weight is mostly on the rear wheel.

A real character back in the day was a fellow named Edmund Phelps. A former racer, he still did centuries in his late 80’s. Eventually, there was no one else left in his age category, so he sold his Schwinn Paramount. got a lemon-yellow mountain bike, a lemon-yellow ride kit, and still did 25-50 milers. Joe Brubaker, another club member, went to Spain on an LDS mission, joined a Spanish racing club, did a century, flew home, and then immediately did the Salt Lake Century, all on his 70th birthday. So, back to Lou B. and all the rest of us in our 70’s, 80’s, and even 90’s — whatever you can do, keep doing it as long as you can!


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