Retirement minus 24 days…17 weekdays…not that I’m counting.
I’d like a big trip to celebrate my retirement. The Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail? 2500 miles give or take…that’s a long way to walk. Maybe riding would be easier. So I started looking at the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR).
Not to be confused with the Tour Divide race, the GDMBR was pioneered by the Adventure Cycling Association, an excellent resource for planning any sort of cycling tour. The GDMBR is an off-pavement cycling route, crisscrossing the continental divide of the United States. The route is remote and unsupported…and, did I mention remote? Mostly long desert crossings and mountain-pass riding. Roughly 200,000 feet in elevation gain over about 80% dirt and gravel roads; the remaining 20% being primitive trails and paved roads.
The thought of sitting on a diamond frame for weeks and months doesn’t have much appeal. I’d like a more relaxed trip. Also, this trip is going to be something I plan to enjoy. I don’t want pressure to make miles each day. On top of that, I have some other requirements.
Relative comfort: It’s a long way from Mexico to Canada. And, 200,000 feet up is a big climb. This is a retirement trip…I’m not 25 anymore. I’d like a ride that will take care of me. Fat(ish) tires and full suspension required.
Reliable: More time touring, less time fixing. I want to ride, relax, enjoy the scenery, camp comfortably, eat well, sleep late, and take it all in. I don’t want to have to listen to disc brake squeal, adjust brake pads, limp in with broken suspension, or fiddle with a derailleur. And the dirt roads in New Mexico are reported to be notably bad. If I’m going to pedal washboard and worse, the ride needs to be sturdy and proven.
Capacity: I want to be well-provisioned. Considering sporadic and limited resupply options, I’d like to have fresh and healthy food. Think eggs, meat, olive oil, carrots, potatoes, and onions. Fresh food means extra weight. A two-person tent will give enough room to lounge for a day mosquito-free if I find a good spot. More weight. Add to that some basic expedition-level tools/spares, a smart phone, camp shoes, etc. It all adds up. I want a ride that can handle a few extra pounds without complaint.
I am fortunate to live in Austin, Texas; home to Easy Street Recumbents. Both Mike and Micah are a wealth of knowledge regarding all things recumbent. After talking with them and taking a couple of test rides, I decided to go with a recumbent trike. If you have never ridden a recumbent trike, I suggest you stop by and check it out. They are, in a word, fun. It’s like pedaling around in your easy chair. Very relaxed and very comfortable.
Why a trike? Lots of reasons. Tons of cargo capacity…really, you can carry a lot without having to cram it into every nook and cranny or over- compress that nice down sleeping bag. Need water for a long dry stretch? Why not take a couple of gallons? No sore spots on your sitting bones and no funny bike pants. No sore hands or neck. You can sip a morning coffee, text, check the map, and take off a layer–all while you ride. You can look around, enjoy the view, and wear a wide- brimmed hat. As they say, the list goes on and on.
I looked at a variety of brands, but none seemed to have all the features I wanted for this trip. One had great buttery suspension, but no hub brakes. Another had hub brakes, but the suspension was pretty rough. I contacted several manufacturers regarding custom build. No dice. Responses ranged from “we don’t do that” to “you don’t need that.”
One manufacturer was markedly different. Azub in the Czech Republic. Azub enjoys a sterling reputation in Europe and Asia. They build robust tour-ready machines which have been taken on lengthy serious expeditions all over the world.
I contacted the company with the idea that they would lend me a recumbent trike to test it out on the Great Divide. Honza at Azub had a different thought. He had a few new ideas to try out. One thing led to another and I ended up buying a custom-built prototype that incorporated Honza’s ideas and the features I wanted.
Start with a Ti-Fly frame with the namesake transverse titanium leaf spring front (TC4 titanium) and Suntour Unair 165mm rear suspension. Add 90mm Sturmey-Archer drum brakes for reliable, weatherproof, low-maintenance, and quiet stopping power. Propel it with a state of the art P1.18 pinion drive that provides 13-83 gear inches (636%) with 24T front/ 26T rear chain rings. (Take that, Rohloff!) With a few adjustments, they were able to give it 26” wheels all-around with generous Schwalbe Good Sam tires for a smooth ride and decent rolling resistance over thousands of miles of washboard and gravel. The final touch is an Azub “standard” rack that is simply a massive and sturdy masterpiece.
All function, no fluff. Ultra-low maintenance. The brakes should be good for 1000 miles, the pinion needs an oil change at 6,000 miles, and the Schwalbe tires offer Level-5 puncture protection. All that is left for me is to hose it down when it gets muddy, check the air in the tires, clean the chain, and pedal…pedal…pedal…are we there yet?
Azub is still working on a name for this creation. I’ve heard Ti-Fly 78…but I prefer the Ti-Fly Triple 26.
Up next: “Outfitting for the Trip” (aka Easy Street Recumbents meets Discover Card)
We thank Tom for this really nice report and if you are interested more into Ti-FLY X, visit it’s profile on our pages.