The last, and hardest, day of this tour - Testing my aging body and a new two battery setup on my V-Rex - CycleBlaze

April 6, 2022

The last, and hardest, day of this tour

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I expected the last day of this short tour to be the hardest day because it was  riding up from the piedmount into the mountains and riding on tired legs that simply weren't use to riding longer than an hour or two a day. I expected I'd be using more e-assist and that would make it doable. What I didn't expect is that I would actually enjoy the intensity of the riding, especially in Asheville which is quite hilly and whose busy roads usually feel dangerous . 

I misremembered my planned routing for getting over to the French Broad river and as a result had to improvise my route through the city. Asheville is hard to ride  through going south to north because the interstate runs east to west through the middle of the city and there are only a few bridges crossing it. That, combined with the hills and ridges that prevent Asheville roads from having a rectangular grid pattern means you really need  to know the roads where you are . I live in north Asheville and know the roads north of the interstate, but, even after living here for several decades, I don't know most of the roads south of the interstate. Once I messed up my routing, I had to get to the only bridge across the interstate I was comfortable crossing  mostly by trial and error. After that crossing that bridge, it was straight forward for me to finish my ride.

Drivers today, even in Asheville, behaved more like drivers in Germany than drivers in North Carolina and, as a result I felt relatively safe even when riding in heavy traffic . I'm sure part of that was riding an unusual bike which meant that drivers 'saw' me better and another part was, because of the assist, I was able to climb faster and keep my line better.  

I started my morning by riding my unloaded bike to a McDs that, like the McDs in Burnsville on Monday, was only serving customers in cars. Fortunately I knew a nearby Subway so I rode there and got a footlong and coffee. I, as usual, ate half of the sub and took the rest with me on my ride.

In that Subway, I had a good interaction with a local bicyclist who, seeing me on the road, had realized that my bike was an ebike and wanted to talk about it. 

Then I rode back to my motel, had a brief and pleasant interaction with the Indian man who ran it and loaded my bike. The motel had a two step raised doorway so I had had to take the bags off before I could get my bike into the room. Even without the bags, I had needed to use the walking e-assist  to get my bike up into my room. It was easy to back it out of the room before going for breakfast and to put the panniers back on the rear rack outside the room.

Speaking of rooms, both the previous night at the Celo Inn and last night at the Budget Host motel I was told  $70 'for the room.' The reality was that $70 was the total bill at the Budget Host but $90 was my cost at the Celo Inn.  $5 of the difference at the Celo Inn was for some extra stuff I ate at breakfast and the other $15 was taxes.  That is a 20% tax rate which is not the highest I've run into while touring in the US. 

I got on US 70 and headed home.  70 also runs through Asheville and Nashville TN and I've ridden it across TN in both directions several times . For a major US highway, it is often a pretty good bike touring road.  It often parallels I-40 much as US 11 parallels I-81. Today I rode 70 west till Greenlee NC and then took Greenlee Rd from Greenlee  to near Old Fort NC.

Greenlee Rd goes south to run right next to I-40 for a while and then comes back north to US 70 just before Old Fort. I rode 70 through Old Fort and then turned north on Old US70 to ride  to where the old US 70 was abandoned when 70 was re-routed on I-40.  For more than 50 years the old concrete slab roadbed  was left to nature. It was still possible to bushwack   though that section with a bicycle, but there was, and still is, a good dirt road roughly parallel to it that was my way to get down to  Old Fort. Ten(?) years ago, the old 70 section that had been abandoned was cleared and a single lane of asphalt pavement was put on the old road bed  to make a bicycling and walking trail called Point Lookout Trial. The I-40 section that replaced 70 has a long. pretty straight 6% grade and it runs one valley over from the new trail so you can't see it or hear it from the trail.  I rode up that trail this morning.

Yesterday, in Marion, I recharged both of my batteries. The battery that has been on my recumbent and has been used and recharged a lot over the last several years, refused to take a full charge. It stopped charging at a bit over 38 volts which means it has lost 20% or so of its storage capacity. Today I thought it would probably make it to the top of Point Lookout Trail and it almost did. It shutdown within sight of the barricade at the top of the trail.  I rode/pushed it to the barricade and switched to my second battery for the ride to Asheville from there.

In Black Mountain, a strong headwind quickly developed - it was forecast - and I maintained my speed by upping the percentage of the work my bikes motor was doing. I've set the assist levels so I can be doing roughly 9/10ths of the work or roughly 3/4 ths of the work or roughly 2/3rds of the work or roughly 1/2 of the work  or roughly 1/3  of the work. 

Given my reduced ability due to aging, I  can only generate roughly half of the power I used to produce but, with the bike motor adding the same amount of power, the bike and I together now generate the same amount of power I could produce  20 years ago. That is very much what it feels like when I set the assist from the motor to match my power output/

The motor, used with a 36 volt battery, can produce 350 watts or almost half a horse power. I can do 250 watts for short intervals or 150 watts for a longer time or continuously generate 100 watts. My bike's current software shows me the power my pedaling  is producing and also displays  the power that the motor is producing. 

Normal  flat riding under still conditions at ten mph only uses a few tens of watts. climbing a gentle grade or riding into a moderate headwind  can take 100 or more watts. Climbing a steep grade on a loaded bike will use several hundred  watts or more depending on bike and rider weight.  Unloaded, I can now climb short 20% grades with the bike doing half the work. Loaded and climbing the roughly 5 or 6% grade on the bike path today I was generating 100 watts and the bike was generating another 100 watts.

After I finished the bike path, I continued on old US 70 to Black Mountain which is a tourist city with several motels. In Black Mountain,the wind suddenly picked up leaving me riding into a stiff headwind. I adjusted the assist setting to compensate so I was really not slowed down by the wind.

After riding through Black Mountain, I rode on, into the wind, to Swannanoa where I stopped to rest and snack sitting by the river. I also used the bathroom at the Subway.

Then I rode on to Asheville on US 70. In Asheville, riding on US 70 continued to be comfortable because drivers always pulled over into the roads inner lane before passing me. This behavior was great for me, but it led to a car accident just in front of me.

It happened as I was climbing a hill on 70 near where my mother lived after she retired to Asheville. I regularly rode or drove to/from this part of town for many years so, unlike most of southern Asheville, I know the roads. A car pulled over to the inside lane to pass me. I watched as she passed and then started to return to my lane before running  her car into the inside rear corner of a car in the other lane.

The impact was impressive and both cars were badly damaged .They ended up blocking both lanes until wreckers could arrive and remove  them. I waited till the driver that caused the accident got out of her car and walked over to speak to the driver of the other car. They were both unhurt and, since the liability issue seemed straight forward,  I walked my bike across the car bits  that were scattered between the two damaged cars and rode on.

Shortly after the accident, I rode under the Blue Ridge Parkway and then down a hill to where I turned left on the Swannanoa River Rd. As I expected, the traffic on that, mostly shoulderless, two lane road was terrible, but I was able to work with those vehicles and get on down the road at a reasonable speed while pulling over to allow many cars to safely pass me. There are now two major intersections, with lights on that rather curvy road and I safely passed through them. If I had continued straight through at the end of the River Road I would have been on Meadows Rd which I could follow down to the French Broad river and then ride on nice bike paths along the river to get most of the way back to my home on flat bicycle friendly roads before riding home on the non bicycle friendly route I used for my commute for decades. Instead, I turned right and rode up Biltmore Ave - the main north-south road in that part of Asheville.

Roads in Asheville are not on a grid and many of them dead end so, although I wasn't far from the French Broad River road I couldn't remember how to get down to it. I decided to continue north and through a bunch of moderately steep hills to get to the one bridge I was comfortable with riding over the Interstate that runs through the middle of Asheville. Finding my way to that bridge  was not easy and required a lot of hill climbing, and some times re-climbing, but I did get there and then, after riding over that bridge into north Asheville, I knew how to get home.  It took me about 20 minutes to do it 

When I got home, my wife was gone on a hike, so I got something to eat, got the rear bags off of the bike and unpacked the one that didn't have my camping gear in it, and then started both batteries charging. I had drained the battery mounted on the bike and roughly half drained the one in my small pannier. Having two batteries meant I was able to ride with a lot of assist when I got into Asheville without having to worry about running out of battery. Despite  lots of climbing -nearly 3000 feet - and headwinds for the last part of the ride. I rode for about five hours on the roads and used another hour for rest and food stops.

Interestingly, having the e-assist meant that the ride times predicted by Google for each of the three days were pretty close to my actual ride times even though I was riding on a loaded recumbent and am old enough to have slowed down a lot without the assist.

Today's ride: 45 miles (72 km)
Total: 115 miles (185 km)

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Bill ShaneyfeltI wild camped outside Black Mountain next to some kind of big convention center in 2008 after riding from Bryson City through Cherokee, and Asheville. Seemed like a long ride back then. I'm sure it would be not a chance today with my 76 year old knees that complain if I ride a flat 15 miles (unloaded on a road bike) now.
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11 months ago
Mark BoydIt is a bit hilly around here but my knees are not what is limiting me now, it is simply that I can only generate half of the sustained power that I could a dozen years ago. E-assist using torque sensing seems to takes care of that problem for me and having it on a recumbent feels very natural to me.

I got into recumbent riding about a dozen years ago and part of my motivation for that was that when I had to have arthroscopic knee surgery on my right knee because of torn cartilage, the surgeon had found two worn areas on the ball. I figured that riding a recumbent would change the wear pattern and make those worn spots less of a problem. I've been riding both upright and recumbents since then and haven't had any more knee problems ;-}.

Now, due to aging issues I plan to only tour on recumbent because they are easier on my neck, wrists, and back....
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11 months ago