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ICE Ages, Chapter 1: Medals and Pedals

Chapter 1(1)

During the 1950’s Peter Ross, a young aeronautical engineer drawn by the thrill of motor sport, spent his spare time as a volunteer draughtsman to Lotus helping design their racing cars. He was a regular follower of the early Grand Prix and raced his own Lotus 11 until a catastrophic crash; Peter retired from racing after waking up underneath his car with his head in a ditch.

Peter’s appetite for excitement compelled him to compete in other fields. In  the 1970’s he broke several British records in motor gliding, and by the 1980’s was racing electric cars and then pedal assisted electric cars.  When Peter won one race - despite the car’s electrics shorting out on the start line - he recognised the power and reliability of legs; his mind was rethinking the future of cycling.

Peter was not alone in his enthusiasm for pedal-power. Human Powered Vehicle (HPV) racing was just getting underway in the UK and Peter found a home there. Gradually he developed his idea of a machine with two wheels at the front and one at the back, with a full seat to recline back in and feet extended forwards to the pedals.  

Peter used his new recumbent trike for commuting and recreation. Using his knowledge of aerodynamics he built a full fairing to speed up his commute to and from work. The machine was fast so he took it to the World HPV Championships in Canada and returned home with a medal!

Peter knew he had the future in his hands, or more accurately in his garage, so his next step was to put his machine into production. In 1986 the first trikes started rolling out of his modest production facility in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. This first production Trice had a robust steel frame, and three 20” wheels with two drum brakes on the front and one on the rear. The seat was ergonomically designed with lumbar support and the handlebars positioning made the trike feel safe and easy to ride. Derailleur gearing helped make short work of the hills. The Trice was ready for the world!

Pictures from top right: Peter Ross; Peter’s Lotus 11 (now residing in the USA); Peter’s record-breaking motor glider; Peter enjoying a spin on an early prototype; another early prototype at the Brighton Aspro Clear Speed Challenge; one of the very first Trice prototypes; Peter wowing the public on his morning commute (this journey to work wasn’t so speedy!); Peter at the World Championships in Canada; at Brighton once again; the first production Trice recumbent trike.

Next month in ICE Ages: Growing Crystals, the development of the Crystal Engineering company

For an insider’s account and thoroughly researched history of the early days at Lotus read “Lotus the Early Years” by Peter Ross