Zach Kaplan has been our California dealer for many years and one of our very active trike users. One of his most recent adventures was a single-day double-century trip with our electric Ti-FLY X. Read a detailed report on his ride, check out the Zach Kaplan Cycles website, and if you like articles like this, follow Zach on his Facebook page. He’s done two other similar trips in recent weeks.
On Saturday 30 September 2023 I rode the Quackcyclists Knoxville Fall Classic Double Century on my AZUB recumbents Ti-FLY X. This was my second double century of 2023, the first one being the Davis Double Century which I rode in May on my HP Velotechnik Speedmachine S-Pedelec. My original plan was to ride the Knoxville Double Century on the Speedmachine S-Pedelec as well but in the days leading up to the ride the chance of rain grew increasingly higher. For safety reasons I don’t like riding 2-wheeled recumbents on wet roads, especially when it is dark and even more difficult to see slippery when wet road hazards such as sand, oil spots, and metal utility covers.
I rode the Knoxville Double Century once before with electric assist in 2016 when it on my HP Velotechnik Scorpion fs 26 S-Pedelec GO SwissDrive hub motor and 6 batteries. However I no longer have that trike and I only have 4 batteries for my current Scorpion fs 26 S-Pedelec with Neodrives hub motor. Also direct drive hub motors are inefficient and slow on double digit grades of which the Knoxville Double Century has some.
I didn’t want to take an unassisted trike as that would mean being out there for hours starting well before dawn and finishing after dusk. Two days before the ride the chance of rain was now up to 50% so I decided to take my other e-trike, an AZUB recumbents Ti-FLY X with Shimano-Ebike EP8 mid-drive motor and Rohloff AG Speedhub. It seemed ludicrous to take a big, heavy, designed for off-road riding, heavy duty touring trike with 6 batteries, and 55-559 Schwalbe tires Big Ben Plus tyres on all 3 wheels on a double century ride, but figured it would be a good experiment and I’d learn more about the Ti-FLY X. I had never done a ride over 150 km on the Ti-FLY X before and this ride was 322.56 km with 3,701 metres of climbing. Based how it did on my shorter rides carrying 3 batteries, I estimated 6 batteries would be sufficient for the Knoxville Double Century. I had never ridden it with 6 batteries before doing the actual ride but figured it is a stable trike designed to carry heavy touring loads so doubling my battery payload would be no big deal which was correct.
Most of the other riders started before 05:00, some even before 04:00. According to the ride organiser all riders needed to be on the road by 06:00. Because I had electric assist I got to sleep in relatively speaking and didn’t start rolling until 06:03. Starting at that hour I still had to do some pre-dawn riding but not much. The roads were wet when I started. Between the ride start in Fairfield, California and the first rest stop at Napa Eco Reserve I only saw a few other cyclists.
I used Boost mode which is what Shimano calls the highest of the 3 assist levels for the entire ride. At 62.71 km with 653 metres of climbing I depleted the first 630 watt-hour battery. With the Shimano STEPS system the battery will run the lighting system for at least an hour after it shuts the motor down. I pulled over for a quick battery swap and resumed riding. I was carrying 3 batteries in the left ORTLIEB Outdoor Equipment Sport-Roller High Visibility pannier and 2 batteries in the right pannier. The battery mount on the trike is on the right side. This way the load was evenly balanced and I didn’t notice the additional weight.
102.24 km into the ride with 1,509 metres of climbing I stopped to switch to the 3rd battery. That leg of the ride had more climbing so I only got 39.53 km out of the 2nd battery. Just before and after doing this battery swap I saw the only other recumbent cyclist on the ride, Steve riding his Bacchetta Recumbent Cycles Corsa A70. I also saw Steve riding his Corsa on the Davis Double Century this year.
I had a cheese sandwich for lunch at Lower Lake County Park which was also the lunch stop for the Davis Double Century this year. At 173.5 km with 2,152 m of climbing I switched to the 4th battery. I was glad to see I made it more than halfway through the ride on the first 3 batteries.
From that point on it rained on and off throughout the ride. It was still fairly warm and didn’t rain enough for me to put my jacket on. Based on the predicted weather I wore my Australian green wool shirt from Rivendell Bicycle Works rather than one of my usual brightly coloured Lycra jerseys. I figured the trike itself and all its daytime visible lights and my yellow helmet and panniers were bright enough to be well noticed without wearing a colourful jersey.
I stopped at 235.21 km 2,008 m of climbing to switch to the 5th battery. After Moore Creek Park which was the 5th official rest stop it began raining harder and the roads were thoroughly wet. On the part of CA-128 near Monticello Dam where the road runs next to steep hills every time it rains rocks roll down from the hills onto the roadway. This even happens when it isn’t raining but much more so when it rains. I was glad I had electric assist as normally I’d be riding this section after dark and there where rocks all over the road which where easy enough to dodge in daylight but would be very difficult to see at night. I remember in 1995 riding this section of road at night in the rain on my Lightning F-40 on a Davis Bike Club 400 km brevet. I was in my 20’s then and am too old to do such unsafe things anymore. In any case even if I did hit one of these rocks it wouldn’t have been that big a deal on the AZUB Ti-FLY X with its 55 mm tyres, 40 mm of front suspension travel, and 95 mm of rear suspension travel.
While climbing Pleasants Valley Road on the home stretch the 5th battery reached its low voltage limit and shut the motor down at 298.13 km with 3,580 m of climbing. I stopped on then opposite side of the road to switch to the 6th battery as there was a pullout there and no place to pull over on the right side of the road.
I stopped one more time to photograph a rainbow before arriving back at the finish at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Fairfield. I only used approximately 20% of the 6th battery. I’ve now completed the Knoxville Double Century 15 times since 2003 and the only other time I finished before dark was in 2016 when I rode the HP Velotechnik Scorpion fs 26 S-Pedelec.
Despite its size and weight, the Ti-FLY X worked great on this ride, the key being the Shimano EP8 motor helping me along. The roads in Napa County and Lake County are very rough and with large diameter, wide tyres running at lower pressure combined with full suspension the ride was plush. I really didn’t have to pay attention to the cracks and bumps in the road which made the ride much lower stress than doing it on a bike with narrower tyres as I’ve done in years past. For me electric assist is a real game changer for doing double centuries. It allows me to disturb my natural sleep cycle less by not having to start so early, eliminates most of the more dangerous riding in the dark, allows me to run very puncture resistant, durable heavy duty tyres, and reduces knee strain on the hills and recovery time. I still get as much exercise as I want, just not too much. I’m inclined to not ride any more double centuries without electric assist. It is just so much more enjoyable and lower stress doing a long ride like this with electric assist. All my favourite aspects of long rides are still there with e-assist but it takes the edge off the climbs and eliminates my least favourite and I think least safe aspects such as late night riding on rural unlit roads full of road hazards and sleep deprivation. Sure the California Triple Crown doesn’t give ride credit for completing double centuries on e-bikes but that is their problem, not mine. I don’t really care anymore. Since 1995 I have completed 108 California Triple Crown double centuries and now it is all about having fun and fully enjoying the rides. Unlike some riders, I don’t have plans to complete 150 or more double centuries on human power alone. I am glad the ride organisers allow e-bikes on their double centuries and would like to see an e-bike category for the California Triple Crown as it is a good option for riders to continue doing these long, hilly rides as they get older. It is well known that the numbers of riders registering for double centuries has been in decline as riders age out and younger riders (with some notable exceptions) seem less interested in doing these types of rides. An e-bike category could help get the numbers of riders back up.