Switching to Recumbent Trike for Training & Racing – UPDATED
The most significant aftermath of my accident on June 27th has been the severe scoliosis of my upper back due to the fusing of my C1 through T8 vertebrae (cervical and thoracic vertebrae). I have been left with a 40-degree forward slouch, which makes it impossible for me to lift my head when racing in an aero position on my race bike. There is a remote possibility of corrective surgery, but not likely in the next couple of years.
Even if I were to race my road bike, rather than my time trial bike, there are a couple of concerns. The first is simply the lack of competitiveness against more aerodynamic competitors. The second issue is more fundamental. What would be the impact on my fused vertebrae if I had another crash? Would I end up paralyzed? Fortunately, there is an alternative way to race: a recumbent trike.
Last week, I purchased the first performance trike from a Michigan manufacturer, the TerraTrike Spyder. This trike features a two-piece, 7000 series aluminum frame offering incredible stiffness and durability in a lightweight (<35 lbs) package. I will be upgrading the compact (50,34) crankset to a competition (53,39) crankset in January. The rear cassette is a 11-speed (11-34) for a total of 22 gears. The seat angle is adjustable enough to support my slouched upper back and shoulders. The rear wheel (700 x 35) is comparable to the wheelset on my race bike, which improves the trike’s aerodynamics and speed. Most importantly, I am seated less than 10 inches above the ground, minimizing the chance of a paralyzing injury in a crash.
I will start indoor training with the Spyder as of Tuesday, December 7, 2021, until the start of race season in April 2022. Since the leg and knee positions are different than on my upright bikes, I will be using different muscles. It may take a few weeks of workouts for my body to readjust and get used to the reclined position. NOTE: After the holidays, I will be selling my race bike, a full set of HED aero wheels, and several “dumb” and “smart” trainers. The rest of my gear, including shoes, helmets, and speed suits, can still be used with the new trike.
UPDATE: On December 7, 2021, I learned that Illinois is one of 17 states that prohibits recumbent trikes from riding on state highways. This prohibition extends to quad pedal/cargo bikes and handcycles. Two-wheel recumbents are allowed. This is a significant development because 15 of the 19 Mid-America Time Trial Series (MATTS) races are held on Illinois state highways. Only four races are held on Wisconsin roads, where recumbent trikes are allowed. So, I am returning the trike for a full refund. I have two options. First, see if my current race bike cockpit can be modified to raise my head sufficiently, without affecting my center of balance, that I can see the road ahead. Or, secondly, purchase a two-wheel race recumbent. This will be a more difficult task because all of the ones on the market have seats that are too horizontal to accommodate my severe scoliosis. They are also too long, unless foldable, to transport in my current SUV. In the meantime, I will resume indoor training with my road bike on a Saris M2 wheel-on smart trainer connected to Zwift.