This post is my own critique of the journey so far cycling with a rickshaw. There have been many things positive and negative and because of its nature is on-going experiment.
It’s difficult to find places to sleep
The UK has been particularly difficult to find places to stay. Normal cycle touring is a piece of cake in comparison. You find a field and if there is a fence or a gate you can throw everything over and you can set up camp. A rickshaw is a difficult beast and in built up areas, it requires a lot of hope that there will be no obstacles in the way.
A ball and chain around your legs
A rickshaw and the luggage, is something that’s not portable at all. It’s very difficult to leave anywhere by itself and I’m often reluctant to leave it by itself for a long time – even taking most of the valuable stuff with me and locking it up. Usually when going into a shop I try and find a place where I can see it through the window. This doesn’t necessarily guarantee that someone will sit on it as someone did eating their dinner in Leicester.
Going uphill is difficult
I’m getting used to each day, and hills are slowly becoming easier. However, I have found that anything above 8% becomes a very tedious game of patience. It requires several stops carrying extra luggage. The steepest so far is 11% and that was horrendously painful in the wind and rain. Planning my route to avoid these at all costs will be quite important. Long hills shallow hills in general are fine, but over time become tiring but would prefer that over a steeper climb. Bare in mind that the laden weight of the rickshaw is around 110 kg not forgetting myself.
The lowest gear is probably not enough and when I get near Turkey, I may have to consider having a ‘granny’ gear or a really low gear (32t) to help get up those steep ones. If I get anotehr sponsors I may have to consider getting some motor assistance or hiring a dog to help pull me up!
Luggage and Storage
Having boxes underneath has provided dry storage, but hasn’t been convenient when trying to walk around and priortise what I take and leave with me. The boxes have cracked already in places and even mighty gaffa tape will not hold them for long. There’s also a hole in one of the boxes, which is beyond repair.
I’m considering getting a suitcase that I can more conveniently carry more stuff and wheel about. It’s just the matter of fitting most thigns and storing it underneath in the seat compartment.
The waterproof cape kept me dry apart from sweating underneath, which is impossible to overcome with high humidity. The compartment underneath keeps dry underneath, but in heavy rain starts to trickle down the sides and the back. I also find that the canopy of the roof collects considerable amount of water and is a pain to remove.
Something new I have learnt. Always carry a sponge or cloth. It can remove water from these surfaces easily and can be used to dry the tent.
The tent has kept me very dry even when it has rained hard during the night. The problem is that moisture and dew collects on the inside and condenses and apart from leaving the tent door open seems impossible to stop. This isn’t much of a problem, but it does become frustrating when you leave the tent in the morning.
Even Brits are interested
I knew England would be difficult to get people’s attention and interest in general – London being the most notorious. I have noticed that a lot of people tend to be switched off – they are often looking at the floor, ‘thubbing’ on their phones or as I say just gawp and their eyes are misted over. This is not to generalise, in many areas, especially in smaller towns and villages people have given be smile, waves and even come up to ask me more about the rickshaw and what I’m doing. My branding hasn’t really helped, atleast on the side, but it doesn’t matter when people cannot speak english anyway when outside the UK.
Once people know what I’m doing they are astounded, but I don’t particularly want to give the whole game away since its unsual for a rickshaw to be around in most areas.
Life’s slow going
Most days I have been covering less than 30 miles today. However, that’s fitting into the schedule of things. It does give you time to appreciate things even more than you would on a normal bike, when the conditions are just right. Unlike a bike, it’s something you cannot force, you have to go to the tempo of the rickshaw, otherwise both you and the rickshaw will be knackered.
Rasberry Pi Tracking Unit
Having bought all the pieces and fitting it together, I was never really confident it would work, especailly in testing conditins that came up. The GPS tracker has worked nearly flawlessly on most occasions. The camera time-lapse has also produced some good photos of my journey which when I look back think are quite amazing. It’s had a couple of wobbles but generally has worked well. The current problem I have is the camera refuses to work after a long time – I’m not sure why but there will be a solution somewere.
Things don’t go to plan
I expected this at the beginning and that has happened. Britain has been truly difficult mainly because of the weather but acclimatising to the added strength and endurance needed on a rickshaw. Having little incentive to go to some places (Sheffield, Birmingham, Oxford) I decided not to visit as I would only be passing through. Jumping at the opportunity to go straight to Holland was never planned but would save me a week and that matters when days are getting shorter. It’s now dark at 7PM whereas before I started it was dark at 8PM.
Somethings have worked well and others have been more difficult than anticpated. Much as I discovered after the first day there is usually a remedy for these. It’s all an experiment and when you’re charting your course in something complelty unknown and untried, these challenges will have to be overcome.