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Century-A-Day Headwind Tour

To our knowledge, this trip is the longest/fastest trip ever ridden on an ebike in the USA. If you know of one that beats this, please let us know (trip journal at ifyouwerewondering.com).

"Can you travel cross-country on an ebike?"

To examine this question in great detail, my daughter and I rode almost 3200 miles from Texas to Florida and back. She rode a power-assisted Bacchetta Agio and I rode my unassisted Bacchetta Corsa high-racer. She kept a trip journal at ifyouwerewondering.com. The trip is thus titled because we averaged over 95 miles per day at over 17mph while we were travelling, and experienced only 4 days of tailwinds out of 31 days of travelling. The primary distance limitation was access to available motels and the shorter daylight hours during late fall and winter. I think the trip blog shows that this was truly a serious test of a cross-country ebike.

The Agio was fitted with a Crystalyte 404 instant-start front-wheel motor in an Alex DM24 20" rim and used a pair of 36V 20Ah LIPO packs with BMSes mounted to the Agio with TerraCycle Easy Reacher underseat racks. A Crystalyte 72V 40A digital controller was used in conjunction with a CycleAnalyst power meter. The CycleAnalyst was used to limit max amperage to 12A and further used the throttle override feature with a potentiometer to limit max power to typically less than 250W when underway to reduce throttle control stress. The Crystalyte controller had a 72V low voltage cutout which limited our 20Ah packs to a little over 15Ah.

"Why use a recumbent bike? Why not use a mountain or road bike?"

We simply could not have done this trip on standard touring or road bikes, much less any kind of mountain bike. I've ridden road bikes for many years and with my advancing age, I have trouble riding a century on my road bikes under ideal circumstances and would need a couple of days to recover from it. My daughter was not a cyclist or an athlete when she started this trip and had less than two weeks to become acquainted with the Agio and develop handling and road skills for the trip. As the trip progressed, she became even more enamored with the Agio, both with the bike itself and with the power-assist. Our recumbents offered greater speed and comfort (and thus range) which made riding a century a day, day after day, not only possible but something we never even wanted to avoid. Bad traffic, bad roads, sore muscles, maybe, but the bikes were spectacular.

"Who supported you on the trip?"

No one supported us. We supported ourselves. We rode the bikes entirely alone, except for two lifts on the road to help us cover a section of road that was unrideable and to cross a river where no ferry was running that day. The last 20 miles of the trip my other daughter relieved us of the panniers in order to allow us to meet an unassociated deadline.

For panniers, we made our own from Coroplast, sewn together with hotmelt glue and zipties. This allowed us to make more efficient use of the available space on the bikes. We designed and built the panniers on very short notice after deciding that commercially-available panniers really didn't offer what we needed, so while they weren't as nice as we could have done with more time, they were extremely light and provided excellent durable and manageable storage for the trip. We spent a little more time with the Corsa panniers to make sure they were as aerodynamic as we had time to provide and they performed in that capacity very well. We made custom mounts for the coroplast panniers consisting of a 'foot' support for the bottom of the Agio panniers and a long plastic hook at the top of the panniers that attached to the rack. The Corsa panniers hung from the carbon seat using nylon webbing and an internal cpvc pannier frame and hooks made from a spoke to hold the bottom of the panniers to the seat supports. Velcro was used to cushion the panniers from the bike and keep them from moving around.

"Why stay in motels? That's expensive! Why didn't you camp?"

When we ran the numbers and considered the price of food and campsites these days, we realized that covering more ground each day by staying in motels instead of camping might allow expenses to be about the same (not to mention warm showers and beds and more time to rest). With even supermarket food sometimes costing two and three times what we are used to on the trip, we stand by our decision.

"What were road conditions and drivers like?"

I think Florida generally had the best roads we travelled on. Louisiana roads were generally in very bad condition, many likely due to the recent hurricanes, though Hwy 190 in far western Louisana was recently redone and was one of the nicest roads we travelled on. Texas roads tended to be the second worse but not from neglect. For some unconceivable reason, Texas authorities are turning perfectly good paved roads back into essentially unrideable gravel ones. I'm not talking about chip-seal, I'm talking about .75" to 1.5" sharp gravel loosely tossed onto a perfectly good road, somewhat sprayed with tar, with maybe a small effort at cleaning the loose gravel off of the road. I personally believe the officials in charge of destroying these fine texas roads should be charged with criminal endangerment at a minimum. Even motor vehicle drivers who live where this criminal activity has taken place are extremely upset, so it is drastically affecting more than just touring cyclists.

Drivers tended to be better away from the more affluent areas and large towns (small cities) with white colored and luxury vehicles generally having worse drivers. Drivers transporting heavy equipment and earth material haulers (gravel, roadbase, etc.) were by far the most dangerous (sociopathic) drivers as a class. On the other hand, transport truckers tended to be safe and considerate.

"Power-Assist? Bah!!!"

When I hear this, I often ask: "How far can you pedal your car?".

The P.A. Agio was designed primarily to replace a car for personal transportation; not as a recreational vehicle. It was ridden by a non-cyclist; a person who has never travelled on a bike and had no experience riding a road bike until a couple of weeks before this trip. The power-assist greatly assisted her learning and provided far faster muscle development during the trip than she would have had without it. When set up correctly, power-assist can allow you to operate your muscles right at their anaerobic threshold (faster muscle development) without the stress of crossing over and becoming fatigued. After the trip, the bike is going with her to replace her car.

For others, I might ask "How far can you, as a partially-disabled person, ride a bike?"

The Corsa was ridden by a person with two broken feet (me). About 15 years ago I damaged both of my feet, putting an end to my cycling. Over the course of 10 years, all attempts at medical recovery failed. 5 years ago I tried power-assist for my 32-mile round-trip commute which allowed me to pull-spin and not have to push the pedals to climb all the hills around where I live. My feet greatly recovered, and I developed the muscle to cycle by mainly pulling the pedals. When I bought the Corsa, I modified shoes to allow me to also push in a way that doesn't hurt my feet (not possible on a standard road bike). I still commute by power-assist, yet this trip would simply not have happened for either of us without it, even though it was not used on the Corsa.

"Bah"? Maybe try thinking these issues over again... How long has it been since you completed a Century-A-Day 3200 mile trip?


I do want to thank two of my great bike dealers for assisting us with the bikes and special equipment for this trip: Helotes Bicycle - Helotes, TX (210) 695-3159 - (San Antonio, TX area) and Easy Street Recumbents - Austin, TX, and the great folks at Bacchetta for making such fabulous bikes available.

Power-assisted Bacchetta Agio without panniersP.A. Bacchetta Agio
without panniers
Power-assisted Bacchetta Agio with panniersP.A. Bacchetta Agio
with panniers
Bacchetta Corsa without panniers ConversionBacchetta Corsa
without panniers
Bacchetta Corsa with panniersBacchetta Corsa
with panniers
Corsa Coroplast panniersCorsa Coroplast panniers
Corsa Coroplast panniersCorsa Coroplast panniers
Corsa Coroplast panniersCorsa Coroplast panniers

May 23, 2013