Lightning riders

Paul Gracey

Drag racing with a Coroplast tail section

Riding across the USA

This is a compendium of e-mail messages posted to the IHPVA ‘HPV’ list covering Paul Gracey’s solo trip across the United States during the summer of 2000.

Paul rode a modified Lightning P-38/F-40, named Black Mariah.

Fri, 12 May 2000 15:26:54 EDT: Second installment of my Cross U.S. trip report

Mesa Arizona. I start the serious climbing when I leave here.

Miami to Claypool is supposed to be wicked. I have had the advantage of following winds and level terrain between Yuma and here, making nearly ninety miles a couple of days ago to Gila Bend, followed by another 50 mile ride to Goodyear, AZ. Heat has been in the high nineties (F) and copious liquids have been consumed.

The bike has been reasonably cool to ride, with the shade provided by the fairing, and the extra speed it confers giving me a similar amount of cooling flow to what I might have had without it at a slower speed. I managed 15.1 mph Average with stops and a flat to fix. I have also experienced sailing boost by the fairing, with only a little aggravation to steering mostly due to passing semi-trailers operating without the now common cab fairing. Strangely, one of the worst incidents causing me to slow considerably came from a gasoline tanker w/o fairing.

I have decided to take this day off to recuperate some dehydration and signs of stress I have detected (dry lips, etc.). It should help with the challenges ahead.

Paul Gracey on a highly modified F-40 in Mesa Arizona.

16 May 2000 12:57:29: Questions

From: Chris Broome <>

I asked Paul some questions about his cross-country ride.

The questions and his reply follow:

1. My post to Paul:

Hi Paul,

Thank you for posting your ride reports — they are a source of inspiration!

Some questions:

Where is your final destination?

How do you post your reports — dial-in from a hotel room?

What are your observations about the advantages/disadvantages of a high BB for hill climbing? Is it better or worse on long or short hills?

What is the effect of the fairing in hot weather — does it make you hotter, or does it offer protection from the sun?

Have a GREAT trip !

— Chris

2. Paul’s reply, of May 16th:

Hi Chris,

I am headed for Connecticut, state of my birth, to put the front wheel in the Atlantic at Saybrook.

The fairing is working well, but I am hanging here at Safford because of forecast 45 mph gusts. I was just interviewed by a local weekly whose terminal I am using to write this.


Heat has not been a problem when I am moving and flow through is good. I have survived winds of 20-25 from the side. Climbing was never my forte and I walked six of the seven miles up to Globe, AZ. Yesterday’s 76 miles was mainly downhill in 100-degree heat.

I am glad to hang about as I am ahead of my schedule so far. Thanks for the interest. I file when I find a library or computer shop which will sell me time.

Paul Gracey

Tue, 23 May 2000 22:08:27 EDT: More about my Trip across the U.S.A.

This is Paul Gracey again with an update.

I have reached Alamogordo New Mexico and the seat of the Lightning P-38 has broken.

It is ten years old, steel, and I have been in contact with Tim Brummer, who will send me a new aluminum one if I am unable to effect repairs. I was put in touch with a local recumbent experimenter in this community, and it is on his wife’s computer that I write this.

I have resorted to bailing wire (found on the highway) and JB Weld, an epoxy similar to the stuff I used to use when I worked on spacecraft for NASA before retiring. It only has to keep the seat from rising out of the channel provided for the mount to the frame. I rode the bike thirteen miles back from Tularosa to find the bike shop, which connected me with these people.

The one attempt at MIG welding I let him try resulted in the anticipated hole in the chrome-moly.

He apologized and we set about Plan B. There was enough of a bond left from the weld attempt to stabilize the joint for the epoxy overlay, and we had drilled four small adjoining holes to stitch with the mild steel bailing wire to the cleaned joint area. I will have to modify my starting procedure to push off on my left leg, and will have to cut out the strap at the back of the seat cushion I had been using to lift the fully loaded bike over curbs and such. I will use the back of the internal rack as my rear lift point and try to grab the frame top tube for the front if I don’t use the steerer stem.

I have come too far to let this stop me, and as I am retired I can take the time. It has been fascinating thus far. I am sorry I have not been able to keep up with all the discussions on the list, as so little time is allotted at Libraries. I will send more brief notes as I progress, or retrogress, as may sometimes be the case. Ruidoso then Roswell NM where Robert Goddard did early rocket experiments are my next objectives.

Till then, Paul Gracey

Sat, 27 May 2000 14:11:20 EDT: Cross U.S. Report from Roswell New Mexico

I reached Roswell with my repaired seat still intact.

The climb was steadily uphill for 25 miles (40 km) to the 7,600 ft. (2,300 m) pass just before Ruidoso. The next day I got back a great deal of the stored energy from the day before going down to Roswell with only a few small uphill sections.

I had a great lunch yesterday at Tinnie about half way down. Victorian style restaurant with an art collection on the walls including A huge portrait of Lily Langtree. Some of you may know of it. It made a great respite from the semi-tractors and other traffic.

The shoulders were good most of the way.

When I reached the flatter lands near Roswell I had a good wind coming from my rear quarter, and was sailing at nearly 25 mph (40 kph). At times the bike was even sailing slightly uphill at 2/3 of that speed. In seventy miles (112 km) I must have pedaled for only twenty.

My next goal will be Clovis, NM. But I may settle for Portales. It is supposed to be flat all the way.

Paul Gracey

Tue, 30 May 2000 15:00:07 EDT: Further adventures on the road now in Texas

I have made it to Texas covering 145 miles in two days.

Roads are better here and the winds have been favorable. I have used local knowledge to effect and changed my route to go through this town, Hereford, instead of going straight north out of Clovis. I next head for Dalhart and U.S. 54. This is an area of Feedlots and farms. I have no sense of smell, or I would be complaining of more than the dust. I have avoided going down into a valley near sea level only to have to climb out of it by using this route. More later, there is a line waiting to use this computer.

Paul Gracey sailing through Texas.

Thu, 1 Jun 2000 14:12:21 EDT: Still in Texas

I have become a High Plains Drifter being blown northeastward across the Panhandle.

There are thunderstorms chasing me and I have stopped her in Stratford to check the for information. I have one more hour of riding at the present average speed of 19 mph or better to reach a town on the Texas Oklahoma border.

Paul Gracey on his wonder horse Black Mariah.

Fri, 2 Jun 2000 17:56:46 EDT: Oklahoma OK, Thunderstorms not

Hi Folks,

More on my meandering from Guymon, Oklahoma, where the high empty plains of the U.S. and incipient thunderstorms make sitting here the wisest alternative to riding my bike. I slowed considerably from my last posting due to headwinds and large gusts from large trucks. More later.

Paul Gracey

05 Jun 2000 20:19:47 ñ0700: Paul Gracey’s USA X-Country update

From: "F.Lenk" <>


I got some news via a private correspondence from Paul. He asked me to pass on parts of the message of general interest to the list. My private inquiry to him was about the suitability of taking a recumbent trike on his trip, and he had a few words to say about that.

Safe rides, fred. wrote:

> Hi Fred,

> (Private stuff deleted)

> As to the trike on the highways I have been traveling, it is a mixed bag. Just here in Montezuma, Kansas, there are no shoulders, none. I have to keep my take a look mirror well adjusted so that I don’t lose track of the semis approaching. In other parts of the area there have been full width shoulders for the farming equipment. These would be fine with a trike. I have yet to encounter the gust that would cause me to lose control, and with some narrow shoulders with rumble strips using up the majority, I think the single-track vehicle is marginally better.

> Today I expect to reach Dodge City but I have been fighting headwinds thus far. It has slowed me to thirteen to seventeen mph. The Weather Channel has prognosticated SE winds later today, so I am procrastinating here in Montezuma where I had lunch. The pattern in this region seems to be a town with an elevator and a water tank every 11 to 14 miles. By the flatness of this land it makes for an elevator rising into view just as the last one is disappearing. There is a railroad near this highway, but the signaling suggests that it is a branch line. This is corn country, and that may have prompted the name.

Please post the relevant paragraphs if you like, it will save me having to repeat myself.


Paul Gracey

Sat, 10 Jun 2000 15:57:27 EDT: Crossing Kansas on an HPV

This is another installment of my trip across the U.S. in my modified Lightning F-40 called Black Mariah.

It is windy here in Kansas and it is mostly flat. By fortune the winds have been mostly cross or tailwinds so far and I am in Emporia nearing Kansas City, now. I did 75 miles yesterday under 15 to 30 mph wind conditions going generally northeast with southerly winds to aid my progress. The Kansas highways I used were two lanes with full width shoulders. Some rolling hills but mostly flat. The concrete was very smooth, and where the rumble strips were confined to the area nearest the main roadway, I traveled along leaning against the wind at 20 to 23 mph with the effort necessary to go at 10 mph in windless conditions. Unfortunately the highway department has see fit to use full width rumble strips at roughly 100 ft intervals, and for ten miles at a stretch I was slowed to about 16 mph for these experiments.

Horses and cows seem quite curious when I approach and I have startled a couple. Dogs seem confused by the full fairing, and have not come very close at all, though I have seen some truly vicious looking ones.

More Later,

Paul Gracey waiting out thunderstorms in Emporia, KS.

Mon., 12 Jun 2000 14:16:01 EDT: Another report before I leave Kansas

Riding across the U.S. on my modified Lightning F-40. I have not had to ride in rain until yesterday.

That was the baptism of my modifications to the F-40 fairing system. Those who have read my report in HPV News know that I have replaced the Spandex parts with black polyethylene sheet plastic in the form of doors and panniers with an aerodynamic curve plus a tail cone to cover the panniers and the gear stowed above them on the rack. The open mesh of the seat is a liability when the bike is sitting out in the rain without me in it, as things within can get wet, but I didn’t anticipate the degree of leakage I encountered from the kick up of water by the rear wheel. I have an internal mudguard, but it only extends as far as the end of the rack. That is not good enough to prevent the drenching of my sleeping bag. I spent the night in a dreary trucker’s motel with everything hanging to dry, but to no avail. This morning everything was just uniformly damp.

Oh well. It is supposed to be an adventure.

Paul Gracey in Ottawa, Kansas.

Wed Jun 14 14:54:30 2000: I’m not in Kansas anymore

I made it to Belton, Missouri, with a 95-mile ride and followed it with a rest day in Independence, home of Harry Truman.

I marvel that I made it through Kansas without threat of a tornado only to be under Tornado watch upon entering Missouri. As I started out yesterday from Belton, winds were extremely nasty, and as the Motel had no nearby restaurant, I made it a point to stop for breakfast at the first opportunity. No sooner had I found the Denny’s along the highway and parked the bike under an overhanging eve adjacent to the entrance, and then the rain came down in buckets. My breakfast finished, It was already dry enough to ride and stayed so for the duration of the day.

By the time I reached the concentration of Motels near the Interstate Highway, the wind was back in gale force. Safely in my room for the night, the local TV channels displayed Tornado Warning in the upper right hand corner of the screen for the rest of the evening with wind and rain in copious quantities just!! Outside the window. I planned my day’s activities with the weather reports in mind, but I am amazed that I had such good fortune. Whatever beneficence is being visited upon me, I hope it continues for the rest of my trip.

Paul Gracey on his F-40 Black Mariah wandering east through Missouri.

Mon., 19 Jun 2000 14:24:55 -0700: Paul Gracey still in Missouri

From: Jean Seay <>

For those of you who have been following any of Paul Gracey’s trek across America on his Black Mariah P-38, a quick update (our phone connection today was much better).

Paul finally decided to ride the KATY trail (gravel surface), although it slows him down considerably. He stayed at Hermann last night, called me from somewhere near Marthaville — and is hoping to make St. Charles by tonight. He hasn’t been near a library with internet connection, so is unaware of the riding on Missouri highways thread the last posting about his trip started.

Re: that thread, I learned a lot — and I’m learning more from the latest issue of what is now called League of American Bicyclists (instead of Bicycle USA) which gives interesting information about what some states are doing to promote cycling and walking and incorporate those activities into their traffic planning — and about what some states are not doing (Colorado as one of the latter).


— Jean Seay

Tue Jun 20 13:20:06 2000: St. Charles Blues

Further adventures in crossing Missouri.

I have tried twice to tell in detail the story of my travails here in Missouri. It will have to wait till I can get on a friendlier computer system than the one here in St. Charles Library. AOL and the library have conspired to preclude me from returning to my message after the threat of interruption by AOL is displayed.

After two miserable, rainy days getting to Jefferson City, I relented and tried the Katy Trail. It was OK. It was slower than the nearby 94 highway, but for its intended purpose, leisurely enjoying the pleasures of the Missouri valley on a bicycle going from Bed and Breakfast to Bed and Breakfast, it was fine. For me trying to get across the state quickly it was less so. Motels are cheaper and rain made the few camping facilities less enticing.

I will elaborate when I write up my journey as a submission to HPV News, which can be Obtained with IHPVA membership (Plug).

Paul Gracey continuing to dodge thunderstorms in Missouri.

Wed Jun 21 18:47:44 2000: More misery in Missouri

Today in St. Louis has been a pleasant and relaxing respite from what happened yesterday after I finished filing my report from St. Charles.

I left the library and had lunch and then one of the "scattered" thundershowers decided it wanted to dump right on me. I had stopped at the Missouri river park to take stock of the bike before heading for the bridge toward St. Louis.

Unfortunately the replacement rear tire I obtained in Jefferson City was old, its gumwalls were giving way and I had just started to break out the folding spare when Sploosh! occurred. The Black Mariah was on its side with the rear wheel removed, so there was no moving it to the shelter of the nearby bandstand, so I broke out the plastic ground cover and huddled over the rear triangle for the duration.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the seat didn’t get wet, being covered by the door over it at that attitude. I, however, was not so dry. The thorn proof tube wouldn’t fit, so I used an older patched tube in my kit. This was a mistake, and I found myself by the side of the road near the Airport trying to find the other somewhat decent tube from earlier in the trip to cure the slow leaker I had installed. I found a Touring bike shop and got replacements for each, then got a motel for two nights so I could recover a bit and enjoy the sights of a St. Louis I hadn’t seen since 1967.

Paul Gracey

Fri Jun 23 12:18:26 2000: Illinois wandering

I took 50 miles of riding to reach Jerseyville, IL, where a gathering of Gracey’s is scheduled for this evening.

It is thirty miles on the map, but I took the scenic route along the Mississippi river trail between Alton and Grafton, and then inadvertently backtracked by way of charming back roads to Alton where I had to finish in rush hour traffic on route 267. I will be here for the weekend.

The Trail along the river is very nice, though as a rails to trails its paving is already being attacked by the roots of the many overhanging trees, and my guess is that their choice of blacktop paving left them with less money to do the road bed right. In that regard, the Katy trail was superior, at least to the segment I traveled yesterday. I hope that my choice of routes here in Illinois is as comfortable to travel as what I had yesterday.

Paul Gracey

Thu Jun 29 12:58:53 2000: Riding through Illinois

This is Paul Gracey here in Blue Mound Illinois stopping to check his e-mail and get caught up to date with the List traffic.

My gathering of Gracey’s in Jerseyville went fine and so I am back on the road. I had Lightning Cycles send me a new front tire (Moulton, because its an old bike) to Jerseyville, but it never got there during the five days I was there. When I contacted UPS they told me it went to Maryland. I have had them forward it to Decator IL and this afternoon I should at last pick it up.

The tire on the front is doing OK though it is getting thin. I put a Tuffy in it when the other one had a blowout. Now I need a new spare.

The roads in Southern Illinois are a bit better in terms of paved shoulders than they were in Missouri, but there are plenty of trucks on secondary highways and I wish I could use the wide shoulders of the interstates instead.

Having to constantly watch both behind and in front on two-foot wide shoulders is tiring. I do spend less than four hours a day traveling this way, but if I had good shoulders with this flat terrain and winds I could make hundred mile days easily.

Till later, in Decator, heading for Champaign-Urbana.

Paul Gracey

Fri Jun 30 17:13:12 2000: Stuck in Decatur Illinois

More on my trials and tribulations with the United Parcel Service (UPS).

I stayed in Decatur last night because they told me the Moulton tire that Tim Brummer sent to me was still in transit from Alton IL. When I got lost trying to find the street for their depot, I called and they said they were closed until 5pm and upon further inquiry, no, they hadn’t received the parcel, so that when it did arrive on an evening truck, I couldn’t pick it up until Monday because the truck would not be unloaded until later than they had the front desk open. I just about exploded, and used language about UPS that related to their brown company colors, which I instantly regretted as I was at the mercy of the person I was talking to.

Apologies followed, and I called the UPS 800 number. After I was transferred to a troubleshooter, I got confirmation that the parcel was still in Alton awaiting a proper address to which it could be forwarded. I asked for some special attention, as it had been over ten days since the tire had been picked up in Calif.

They said they would call back within the hour and I left my cell phone on and started toward the Depot. When I reached it a person coming out caught my attention and I asked if it were her that I had abused on the phone. She said no, and while she was just getting off work, she seemed happy to look into my situation after I had explained it to her. She obtained the services of her supervisor and an assistant, both male, who proceeded to circumvent the procedures so that I could obtain my package without having it sent back to California, the response they would have provided if I didn’t have an address to which they could deliver it. My only alternative was to let them deliver it to Bill Gracey and get him to re-ship it to a Post Office. I hope to have it in my hands by tomorrow morning. They had five whole days to get it to me at an address while I was in Jerseyville, and they couldn’t do it. I have wasted three good riding days because of their problems.

Paul Gracey making the most of his time off the bike.

Mon. Jul 03 11:53:55 2000: Indiana Here I Come

Good fortune was mine this morning here in Watseka Illinois.

I got my Moulton tire from UPS in Decatur, but decided that since the old tire with its Mr. Tuffy liner was holding up I would wait to replace it. Bad idea. I was checking the pressure when I saw that the Tuffy had saved my bacon. It was pooched out of the hole in the tread worn through by a too thin casing.

Good fortune also allowed me to buy the one Sunday Chicago Tribune edition I was likely to see on this trip across the U.S. which had the fine article about Warren Beachamp, Sean Costin and the Bricks as well as good coverage of HPRA racing and a mention of the IHPVA, too. I have it saved and will use it for questioners further on in the trip. If I could afford the detour, I would try to make it to the events mentioned even though the Black Mariah is not in racing trim. I am committed to a schedule however, and have used up most of the allotted extra days. The Thunderstorms last night reminded me that I must make use of the good weather while it is here.

Paul Gracey on his modified F-40 touring machine.

Wed Jul 05 15:46:35 2000: Further adventures in Indiana

I write this from Huntington Indiana, a rest stop on my way toward another Decatur, this one here in Indiana.

The Trucks are back on the highway after a nearly blissful absence yesterday, Our Nations Birthday, July 4th. I have slowed to normal tourist pace of about 12mph in order to stand a good chance of seeing the next such celebration in one piece. Highway construction has many more trucks than usual on a "get five days work done in four" type of schedule. Oh, well, at least they should be rested and alert.

Another interview with a local Newspaper this morning has me behind schedule a bit, but I did the math last night and I am still close to a fifty mile per day average, even with the delays in Illinois and Missouri.

More Later,

Paul Gracey on the fully faired Black Mariah (F-40 type).

Fri Jul 07 15:05:34 2000: Advice from a bike riding Truck Driver

This is another installment in the ongoing Saga of my journey across America by HPV.

I am in Findlay Ohio as I write, and I had a better ride this morning than I have had in a while thanks to some old timers I encountered at breakfast. A local Hardware store owner and his wife are Tandemists, and this fellow got me connected with them. They in turn gave me a club map with local back roads shown, which took me here from Ottawa OH, where I spent the night in what should have been called the "Pesky Fly" Motel, but will remain anonymous for now.

I enjoyed the bucolic pleasures of the country roads, and then sought out the bike shop here in Findlay that they had mentioned. A customer came to my assistance when I stated my desire for more road advice further to the east. He said he was a truck driver, and together we searched my Ohio map for the best routes east out of Ohio. I now feel much more confident that I can get through this and nearby states without too much more stress from the constant vigilance that riding Truckers Highways requires.

More later,

Paul Gracey enjoying California-like weather here in Ohio.

July 8 ?: The Empire State arrival

More about my travels across the U.S. by fully faired Recumbent. (Modified F-40 named Black Mariah)

I crossed Pennsylvania in less than 7 hours from Conneaut Ohio, and camped out on the edge of Lake Erie last night. The visit with my cousin in Wadsworth Ohio went well, his dad, who is eighty, rides thousands of miles, some of them on a Lemle Tailwind recumbent (also called Lightning). The first day away from my cousin saw me riding in rain and hills. When the rain got worse, and the rush hour traffic in the Greater Cleveland area got to me, I stopped at a visitors center, where I found that, being close to Sea World made my options limited as to Hotel availability, and I ended up paying three times what I usually do for a nights lodging.

An eighty-mile ride got me to Conneaut the next day and the riding along the lake has been very pleasant with wide shoulders. I have reached a state with Atlantic seafront, and it is one state away from the objective of my trip, Connecticut. I am beginning to feel that I have the goal line in sight. Later today I should be able to see Canada across the lake, as earlier in the trip I was able to see Mexico in the distance, so I have nearly crossed both the length and the breadth of the U.S.A.

Paul Gracey enjoying a beautiful day in western New York State.

Sat, 15 Jul 2000 20:57:24 EDT: New York Rambling

I have reached Rochester with my Black Mariah after a stop yesterday at the Burgwardt Bicycling Museum in Orchard Park. Not to be missed.

Today I visited the Eastman Museum with the Gracey’s I met at the reunion I attended when I passed through Illinois who live nearby.

The riding has been good here in New York, with wide paved shoulders on most of the roads I have used, and some shoulders on nearly all of them. The route is not far from that of the Erie Canal, and has been used throughout the history of travel in this region, so unlike some of the newer roads created after the widespread use of the automobile, which go up hill and down with impunity, these stay fairly level, as people and horses objected if didn’t in years past.

Paul Gracey whose luck in finding shelter from rain just in time is still holding, knock wood.

Thu, 20 Jul 2000 15:40:21 EDT: Mohawk Valley cruising

Another in the series about my travels across the U.S.A. by Modified Lightning F-40.

I have had good weather for several days, but that is about to change as the weekend approaches. I am in Fort Plains NY at the moment. I visited with my second Cousin in Baldwinsville near Syracuse, and then went over to my 91 year old Uncle’s place in Parish NY, about 35 miles away. He and I renewed our chess playing, had a good visit. The New York hills had been getting to me until I ran into some officials from the Canalway project in Seneca Falls. They gave me a map showing a marked bicycle route along the Erie Canal.

Today I encountered some sizable hills on the southern side of the canal, but was told at a local museum I would have found more hills, though of a lesser size on the northern side. I expect to be close to Albany by tonight. I then need to get through the foothills of the Berkshires to my resting-place in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

In regard to the discussion about visibility, I am in agreement with LRay’s philosophy of the invisible cyclist; it has been my own for many years. However, I have had to rely a great deal on being seen on this trip, as it is not always possible to follow the movements all the vehicles approaching. If I am on a two-lane highway with large vehicles approaching from both directions I often get off the road, sometimes even with ridable shoulders. Here in New York the shoulders are much wider than I have seen in most of the other states I have traversed, but I still have had occasion to duck to the gravel or grass. It seems that good roads just encourage drivers to go faster yet, thereby proving Gracey’s Theory: People ride/drive at the speed of their discomfort. My own discomfort has been the uncertainty of the road ahead, which has caused me to not let speed get very high on downhills, though I have improved my uphill performance markedly during the course of this trip.

Paul Gracey finding friendlier hills as he approaches his Native State of Connecticut.

Sat, 29 Jul 2000 16:29:48 EDT: The end is in sight

Hi All,

I have rested my weary legs in Great Barrington Massachusetts for a week taking in the sights and kicking back a little in the Berkshire Mountains with my Father and his wife. I was interviewed on Albany Fox Television at a breakfast stop the day before arriving in Massachusetts. They did a good job as I got to see it in the Motel room between storm warning advisories that night.

I managed another 92-mile day to get here in East Hampton Connecticut yesterday and have finally found a computer to write this on, the Great Barrington library having none, and the Timeshare Apartments likewise. Here in a day or so I will get my uncle to follow me down to the mouth of the Connecticut River at Old Lyme and take my picture for the record putting my front wheel into the Atlantic.

I thank you all for indulging me in this reporting along the way. To comment again on a current topic, I have found that just having a "What the #*&% is that?" bike is safety flag enough for this particular trip by bike. I get a wide berth almost every time I am passed. I did had a fellow roll down his passenger window and say to me at 40 miles per hour down hill "Keep it up!" and gave me a thumbs up from 4 feet away before passing me!

Paul Gracey in the hills of his home State still traveling to the Atlantic by his Modified F-40 called Black Mariah.

Wed, 2 Aug 2000 11:06:11 EDT: Re: Boston Globe publicity

Carol Cohen asked:

I wonder if Mr. Zoon is doing the Berkshire hills on his bent while Symphony is at Tanglewood in the summer?

I attended the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood while I rested in Great Barrington on my trip. I am pleased to hear that one of the players I heard is a ‘bent rider, though I cannot recall seeing any ‘bents in the area while sightseeing with my father. Perhaps I just missed him.

Paul Gracey

Fri, 4 Aug 2000 10:42:51 EDT: ‘Bent climbing potential

Jeff Potter raises in interesting point when in his discussion of the type of bike good for climbing he argues for a lighter bike than 30 lbs. but then says that he begins to have his reservations about going downhill over 50 mph.

I too, have not yet had the courage to go more than 50 mph down hill on my fully faired P-38, a bike that weighs about 43 lbs. stripped to racing gear only. It has the Lightning front suspension, which is adequate for the touring I have been doing at speeds less than 42 mph.

But if I were to beef it up for the kind of hills I have encountered crossing the U.S.A. in order to let it go faster rather than clamp on the binders as I did, it would get heavier still. I would also want greater safety in the event of a fall than the polyethylene sheeting I have used, or even any of the Kevlar fairings I have seen in streamliners. Most are too thin and can wear through or at least get hot enough to produce severe burns in a protracted slide at 60+ mph.

All of this is to say that very high speeds on very lightweight vehicles should only be tried in pursuit of World’s Records by people willing to risk their lives doing it. It is not likely to ever be in the realm of practical transportation.

Paul Gracey

Thu, 10 Aug 2000 11:27:34 EDT: Helmet mounted light

Regarding the recent suggestion that a Tour Easy with a fairing might be best lighted with a helmet-mounted light; I will add my two cents worth.

I carried the helmet light that I used to use for commuting with me on my journey across the U.S.A. I did not have to use it except for the camping I did, and that for only a brief amount of time. My hosts here in Connecticut needed a bathroom light fixture repaired, and I volunteered. With the circuit breaker off, and little light to work by, I remembered the light in my panniers, and got it and the helmet out to provide the work light I needed.

Where to put the battery has never been a problem with me because I insist on wearing practical clothing with pockets, which retain what I put in them even on the P-38.

For the trip I bought climbing pants, which have three zipped pockets from REI, and I had these on from this morning’s ride. I just put the small gel cell that I had adapted for my TurboCat into the pocket and zipped it most of the way closed. I nearly forgot that I had the arrangement on when my uncle came in with his flashlight offering to help. He saw that I needed none and I finished the job. I was pleased that the charge I had given it three months ago was still good.

Paul Gracey

Fri, 11 Aug 2000 16:11:43 EDT: Fairings vs. wind

I cannot let this topic go by without putting in a few words about my experiences crossing the U.S.A. with the fully faired modified F-40 I call Black Mariah.

It has some flatter surfaces, though I did further modifications to the F-40 shape it had when I was commuting on it. Two points to be made up front. I carried 40 lbs. of gear along with the 160 lbs. of myself, and that gear was packed as closely to my backsides and bottom as I could reasonably get it. Secondly, I was cautious, not aggressive, in crosswind and gusty conditions. Racers need not read further. I did manage fairly fast downhills and some gusts reported to be around 35 mph out in the desert, but I took as much road as I could and let the bike tell me where it wanted to go on it, or I slowed to where I felt safe if I had to share the road. I never fell due to wind, and never had the turbulence from a passing truck give me unmanageable riding conditions.

Here are some of the factors that I think helped me. Besides the close coupling of mass to myself. The tail length was shortened and rounded back to the length of the rear rack. A tail cone above the rear rack, which covered the panniers, had a conic section pointing aft and up completing a line straight aft from my shoulders, the widest part of my person. No disk on the front wheel. The doors curved under a little at the bottom and their aft edges could flap like the gills of a fish. A belly pan discouraged air from coming up through the bottom, it was deflected out the door flaps if a gust came through, and the cockpit opening at the top allowed little to be trapped. I did have some annoyances when the wind was dead astern with the door flaps flapping, but they only got out of hand if I had not secured them with the hanging hooks that I used to close them. Most of the time the very rounded shape did its work well. It will never be as fast as the F-40 unmodified, except perhaps for the touring I did, but it worked much better than I had any reason to believe it would when I started out.

Paul Gracey

Source: Chris Broome

Copyright © 2000, P.N. Gracey

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