Saturday 28 September 2013

LA By Tandem


SoCal Summer
Current Location: San Diego, California
Distance Cycled: 15,935 km
Headwinds: 2 days in a row
Weather: Cold enough for jackets at night
Bike status: Chains had it, tyres almost worn out
Distance to Mexico Border: About 16 km

L.A. By Tandem

Who would have thought that cycling through L.A. could be such a blast? It may be one of the most car centric cities in the world, but it can also work for cyclists.
Mike, Eric, Judy and Greg take a break from cycling.
We knew it was going to be a long ride – too long to achieve in one day – so we made one of our better decisions and logged onto Warmshowers,  the internet organisation where cyclists host cyclists. Right on our path was a guy called Eric, who lived at Venice Beach. He sounded an affable sort so we dropped him an email and he replied saying ,”sure, come and stay”.

The canals of Venice Beach. Most have been filled in now
and turned into roads.
The ride south to L.A. was fine as we headed out of our campsite at Leo Carrillo State Beach, keeping an eye out for Bob Dylan who we had been told lives just south of Zuma Beach. He wasn’t offering morning coffee, so we pushed on marvelling at the huge, deserted expanse of beach that is Malibu. The traffic became busier, the shoulder disappeared for a time and we started to feel squeezed.
At Santa Monica, we escaped from the traffic onto a beach trail  – shared by cyclists, walkers and joggers, skateboarders and a few rollerbladers who seemed to be the last of a dying breed.
Greg, Eric and Mike the Captain at Venice Beach.

Eric was as cool as – a laid-back surfer with an apartment a block back from the water. We had a great night exchanging stories – he has one of the wildest cycle plans we have heard of yet. Next January he sets out on his own for S.E. Asia with a tandem and trailer, a surfboard and room for a passenger on the back seat of his bike. His aim is to enjoy the best surfing spots the region has to offer and to share his adventure with people he meets along the way. His blog is at:
The next morning Eric and another house guest, Greg, an actor just returned to L.A. after living in Tokyo for nine years, escorted us south for a few miles from Venice Beach.
Mike and Judy, Hermosa Beach
It was one of those rides that will stay with us – it was a blur of motion, sights and sounds so fascinating we wanted to linger.
“Marry me or I’m out,” recounted a woman to a friend as we cycled past.
“Great soundbite,” said Eric and we all laughed.
He and Greg were looking at the waves – the surf was ok and they were feeling tempted. They stuck with us as far as Manhattan Beach where we stopped for coffee and to allow Greg time to practice his Japanese pickup lines on a gaggle of passing Japanese women tourists.
The pier at Redondo Beach and memories of that great Patti Smith song of the same name - what exactly was
it really about.
We said our farewells and the others turned back, leaving us to continue down the trail as it meandered its way through Hermosa Beach to Redondo Beach where it finally ran out.
We met Edward Power on the road - he was on his way
by bike to South America as part of 

a world trip.

We had been encouraged to take a scenic route from there, over the Palos Verdes instead of cutting inland. It was pretty, and pretty long, as we wound our way past multi-million dollar homes, the (Donald) Trump National Golf Course and even the Trump National Highway.  
On the far side we descended into Long Beach and became caught up in back streets, industry and wharves  before reaching our destination – the Queen Mary.
On the Queen Mary - Long Beach in the background.

Cabin porthole - Long Beach in the

Wheeling the Beast of Bridgwater along
the corridors of the Queen Mary to our

Emerging from the lift with room
to spare.

Since making her maiden voyage in 1936, the Queen Mary
carried kings and queens, film stars, presidents and athletes
across theAtlantic until she was retired in 1967. 
Leaving the Queen Mary and about to head south again
towards San Diego.
The Queen Mary dwarfs a cold war submarine.

Since her retirement in 1967, the grand old ocean liner has been owned by the city of Long Beach and used as a floating hotel. We had planned for some time to treat ourselves to at least one night on board and it was a relief to push the tandem through the crowds into reception, down the stairs and a long hall to our cabin.
Maybe it was all the excitement – the sensations, the wind, the laughter and the conversation of the day – but we both felt as though the ship was moving and we were bouncing off the shower walls as we washed off the day’s sweat.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor
were regular guests across the
Atlantic and stored their Rolls
Royce in the cargo hold.On at
 least one occasion they brought
 155 pieces of luggage with them.
Doing our washing in the
bathtub aboard the Queen

Neither our budget nor our dirty cycling clothes would have worked in the ship’s “signature restaurant” – Sir Winstons – but we were happy to tuck into giant burgers, fries, beer and wine  in the Promenade CafĂ© and collapse into a bed with crisp, white sheets.

It had been a special ride and we had made it safely – L.A. you were much, much better than we dared hope. 

Out of Sync

It’s taken us the best part of 18 months to get around to trying something we should perhaps have looked at long ago.
It’s to do with what’s called “crank phasing” on the tandem and arises from the question – which of two options is best? Should the pedals be synchronised so that for example, the two left pedals are at the top of their stroke at the same moment. Or is it better to have them "out of sync" – so that when one pedal is at the top of its stroke the other is half way down?
The idea to have the pedals “out of sync” has been suggested to us by a couple of cyclists we’ve met along the way. One said that friends with a tandem  found that "out of sync" seemed to even out the pedal power and provide a smoothing effect when riding uphill.

Aesthetics and Simplicity

We investigated on the internet but were unable to find any serious research. One article suggested that pedals are usually in phase for aesthetics and simplicity, but that "out of phase" should reduce wear and tear on the drive train.

Out-of-sync - the back pedals are in a vertical plane, the
front ones are horizontal. 
With a few hills still left on our ride to the Mexican border we decided to give "out of phase" a trial and so far, so good. It’s early days, but we sense that on the flat and on gentle uphills we are pedalling at the same speed but doing it in a higher gear – which means covering the ground faster.
On steeper uphills, we seem to be dropping down through the gears just the way we always have, but even then we suspect the pedaling is just a little easier. Perhaps we should have tried this a year ago.

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