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Sunday, March 25th 2007

18:27

On the Roads of the Suburbs

Today was our first real try-out of our quadracycle. Ruth was very keen to get the vehicle out on the road this weekend and was quite disappointed when it snowed on Saturday. Sunday’s forecast looked a bit better – it was supposed to be +11C and sunny – but the morning didn’t look that promising with a couple of centimetres of snow on the ground and cool temps just above freezing. After lunch the day had warmed up a bit to around +9C, the snow had melted and the streets dried out somewhat, although there were still some puddles around.

We headed out around one o’clock and spent about 40 minutes peddling around the residential streets of our neighbourhood in south Ottawa. We wanted to get used to the gears and shifting, as well as just about everything else about the quadracycle, while staying off the busier streets in the area.

We started off with the seats set up for me in the left and Ruth on the right.

GPS Mounting

The first thing we learned is that the GPS mounting down on the shift bar doesn’t work. It wasn’t in the way or anything, but while pedalling my legs obviously blocked all the GPS signals – we got nothing for the whole trip!

After we were done and back home we moved it to the steering rod so that it is mounted over the handlebars. A quick trial showed that worked fine – so my legs were the culprit. It is amazing how weak GPS signals are!

With the GPS mounted so that it worked we did a couple of runs up and down the straight, level stretch of our street and easily achieved average speeds of 22 and 23 km/hr on the short legs of the street and a peak of 25 km/hr without trying that hard, so that isn’t too bad. We’ll have to try some longer distances and see what kind of averages we can achieve, so we can plan some of our trips.

There is no doubt that the quadracycle is slower than a bicycle, but not by much. My last trials on my mountain bike showed easy 20 km/hr cruise with 30 km/hr achievable with some effort.

Overall impressions

The trip went really well and we had great fun for our first time out. From the trip around the neighbourhood here is what we learned.

Comfort

The quadracycle is very comfortable to ride compared to a bike. The semi-reclined recumbent seating position is pretty easy to get used to pedalling and steering from. The pedalling position is quite different from an upright bike and definitely feels like it is using some different muscles, but neither one of us felt sore once we got home. I guess we may have to wait until tomorrow to make a final pronouncement on that subject!

There is no doubt that riding the quadracycle will keep you in shape. It was pretty cool when we started out, but we warmed up very quickly.

Steering

The last time we did a few runs on the street we both found the steering was very sensitive. Since then we changed the angle on the handle bars to make it them more vertical, mostly to give more knee clearance for pedalling. One of the unintended side effects of that adjustment was to make the steering less sensitive, by reducing the mechanical advantage. This turned out to be a good thing!

Turning Around

The quadracycle doesn’t turn like a bike, it turns like a car. On my bike I can do figure “8”s in the width of any suburban road. With the quadracycle the simple steering geometry makes a tight turn something to be avoided. We found that the easiest way to turn the quadracycle around on a suburban road was to pedal into a sloped driveway (sloped up away from the road that is), check for traffic and then just let it roll backwards out into the road, while completing a two point turn. That works really well! Lots to learn with this new vehicle.

Brakes

Last time we were out we noted that the brakes seem to be not very effective. Since then I cleaned the brake discs with alcohol (and removed some oily substance from them in doing that) and also adjusted the brakes as well. They now work much better and will probably improve more so as the pads wear in a bit. The disc brakes are new to Rhoades Car models in 2007 and while they seem to work fine I wouldn’t want to just have one brake – you need the optional second brake to get the two seater stopped without using excessive distance.

Changing Seats

When we got back from our trip we decided to change the seats so that Ruth can drive it next time and I’ll take the right seat. Mostly she wants to be able to take it out this week while I am at work. Because our two seating positions are on two different holes (due to our height differential) it is a bit of work to loosen the nut, remove the hardware and then move the seat to the new hole, align it, hold the seat down and then re-install the hardware to hold it in place, then torque it down with a wrench to hold it in place solidly. The system is designed to be adjustable without any tools, but you just can’t get it tight enough without a wrench to stop the seat from rocking around. It probably takes about five or six minutes of crawling around under the vehicle to swap the seats, so it isn’t something that you would want to do at the side of a busy street.

One trick I have learned is to fold the seats forward while swapping them – that way they stay in place while you are torquing them down instead of falling over backwards. It eliminates the need for a third hand.

Avoiding the Puddles

There were still quite a few puddles around on the local roads today and if we were riding our mountain bikes these would be easy to avoid by just slaloming around them. The quadracycle, with its width and two wheel track, makes it a bit harder to avoid the puddles with both front wheels. When you hit a puddle the water does tend to go everywhere. The quadracycle will definitely be happier in drier weather.

We wiped it down when we got home.

Shifting Gears

We were concerned about the location of the gear shifters, in-between the driver’s knees. This means that the driver has to shift for both peddlers. In practice it isn’t too hard to do this, although it would be ideal if the right hand passenger could literally shift for themselves.

At the start of this trip I just shifted both sides to the same gears at the same time. That generally worked out okay and if Ruth found the going too tough she just asked me to shift her down a notch or two. With a bit of practice I was able to guess the settings for her and settled on having her about two gears lower than me, which seemed to keep her happy.

She liked being able to rest any time that she liked without stopping the vehicle.

In managing the two shifters I generally left the bottom shifter in the lowest setting and then shifted the top shifters together. When I ran out of travel I bumped up the lower shifter one of two notches and that seemed to work fine.

Public Reaction

This was one area that I was interested to see how it worked out. It was the first moderately warm Sunday afternoon in suburbia this spring, so there were quite a number of people about, walking, kids playing, people doing yard work outside, etc.

There is no doubt that lots of people stared at us. Many waved or shouted comments – all of them supportive and positive! We got some honks and friendly waves from drivers who passed us, too. Actually we got no negative reactions at all from anyone, which is a relief. I am sure we will get a negative reaction at some point, if only from someone trying to pass us, but not today.

The best reaction was from two teenage boys, perhaps 18 years old, whom we passed on the street. We were moving pretty good on a fairly main street, doing perhaps 20 km/hr. One of them shouted out, “That is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen – you guys rock.” All we could do is smile and give them a “thumbs up”.

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