Trans Pennine Trail the Low Slung Way (March 2003)
By Rod Yeoman
I've just completed the full TPT on a recumbent bike, a 2 metre long low slung machine with an 'armchair' type seat, pedals out in front and steering down by your sides.
It's an extremely comfortable ride around the flat roads of Merseyside where I live. The question was how would it compare to other bikes on the Trail.
I've jotted down a few notes below - not telling the full story of the trip which has been well covered by other riders, but highlighting the differences I think for me as a recumbent rider.
Given I took on the trip in March, I was lucky not to get rained whilst actually cycling, but lots of rain the preceding week and overnight meant the muddy bits were at their gory worst. The long frame of the recumbent slides around in those conditions and I struggled a bit at times compared to conventional off road bikes.
Also, although experienced riders would argue otherwise, I find recumbents great on the flat but harder work than other bikes on hills. Fortunately, as those who've ridden the Trail know, overall it is remarkably flat given you're crossing the Pennines. I was slightly fearful of dealing with all the gates and barriers with a longer, heavier bike, but overall they were fine, especially the newer A frame gates which I could slip through without getting off the bike.
On the positive side, given the seating style of a recumbent - an uninterrupted view from an 'armchair' compared to the hunched style of other bikes- the ability to appreciate the scenic sections is unrivalled. I'm sure its great for all riders, but flying down on the recumbent from the highest point of the Trail into Dunford Bridge (with a huge Westerly tail wind as it happens) is one of my great cycling memories.
Not strictly a recumbent issue, but another great memory is the 'Pied Piper of Woodhead Tunnel' moment. I got to the very high moorland section on top of the Woodhead tunnel late in the afternoon - which is local sheep feeding time. As the only human in sight, every sheep for miles around thought I was there to feed them and descended from all quarters of the moorland. I rode that section accompanied by 100 plus bleating sheep. The site that greeted the farmer when he did arrive of this low slung machine flying across the moors with his livelihood in hot pursuit made for an unusual end to the day!
Finally, the overall summary from an extremely enjoyable trip is a bit harder work than other bikes, but more than compensated by the endless conversations with local Trail walkers and riders provoked by the slightly unusual bike. The level of interest, help and hospitality I received was amazing, and along with the general pleasure of riding the Trail made for a great trip.