Last week I got to see the Conference Bike that we will be using for the first time and had my first experience at the wheel in the pilot's seat. It's an incredible piece of machinery that you really do have to see to believe.
The Conference Bike currently resides at Get Cycling in York. I was met off the train by Terry who had come on the two-seater, four wheeled zen bike (See below).
We then pedalled our way through the city traffic to the Get Cycling headquarters on the outskirts of town. It is full to bursting of pedal powered vehichles of every shape and size, with multiple seats in unexpected places. There's even a full size Rolls Royce inspired pedal powered car.
After a tour of the place and introductions to the lovely lot who work there, we went outside into the summer sunshine and unlocked the Conference Bike, which was resplendent in its purple livery. After the safety brief, that we'll have to deliver many times throughout August. I climbed up and we set off. Its geared quite high at the moment and so pedalling is really easy on the flat, but with three on board, myself, Jim McGurn and Duncan MacCann in the pilot seat, we weren't exactly flying.
I then took a turn on pilot duties. The steering is very responsive and the bike, despite its size can turn on a six pence. The brakes are from a VW Polo, one operated by the right foot the other like a normal bike brake. They respond like a car's and they need to when you're driving on the road. Even though the pilot's pedals are lower geared you really have to concentrate on the steering and have a foot ready on the brake when you're up and going.
As we cycled around we discussed the "hill problem". The feeling was that we should gear the bike low for speed rather high to make the hills easier. We're going to have to fit harnesses to pull us up the steeper sections anyway and we'll aim to make up any lost time on the flat (What little of it there is between John O'Groats and Land's End). We'll also fit Shinamo hybrid pedals, so that those who have cycle shoes can use them, but then the pedals can be flipped over to have toe clips when we're picking up passengers.
I left feeling a little more nervous about the scale of the challenge but confident that the support and experience from the Get Cycling team will help to make things much easier.