Visit to ICE and Tour of Cornwall
I’m part of a family with a fleet of three ICE Sprints. Our son Sam got the first one a few years ago, enabling him for the first time to comfortably cycle, with the three wheels countering a neuromuscular condition that makes balance on a bicycle difficult. He took to his Sprint RS with a passion, completing numerous day rides during college and more than 900 miles of riding in the western US following his graduation. In the meantime, my wife Pat and I had purchased our own trikes, recognizing that this would be a way for us to do some cycling together in that relaxed way that trikes make so easy.
That’s some history. Now, Sam is a graduate student in Oxford, moving there with his trike last fall. When my wife and I began planning our first visit over to see him one of our first questions was, “How could the three of us do some distance riding there?” The answer came quite wonderfully from Elliot Hodges at the ICE factory in Falmouth. He said that ICE would be glad to loan us some demo trikes if we would write up our experiences afterwards. Wow! What an offer! That would allow us to visit ICE to talk first hand with the people who design and build our own trikes, and it would give us reason to set off on a circle tour of Cornwall, starting and finishing in Falmouth.
Lanyon Rowe from Cornish Cycle Tours quickly mapped out a five-day tour for us that included one day of rest in St. Ives and we began packing for our April visit. That April visit is now over so I want to offer some impressions of the people at ICE, of cycling in Cornwall, and of the wonderful trikes we borrowed.
Let’s start with the people at ICE. First imagine some of the qualities of an ICE recumbent. They are wonderfully engineered, showing great attention to detail and quality, and highly sensitive to those things that can make riding so comfortable. Not so surprisingly, those are the same qualities we felt in the people we met. Chris Parker and Neil Selwood were generous with their time, despite the last minute preparations for the Spezi show. They were warm and welcoming, proud to show their operation and methods, and very proud of their trikes. Recognizing that Sam’s Sprint needed a tune-up, Chris quickly threw it up on the stand in the assembly shop and suddenly he and others were working away as efficiently as a medical team in the Emergency Room with a patient.
Elliot Hodges and Dan Pearce were equally helpful, making sure that an Adventure FS with the electric Neodrive and a Sprint FS with a SRAM Dual Drive rear hub were well-fitted to my wife and myself. We were given phone numbers to call if we had any problems during our travel and off we went.
In a short space it is hard to capture all the great things about our tour – the incredible scenery, the friendly people (including motorists), the sense of history. What made this area particularly interesting for us is that there is a history of Cornish miners where we live in the US. Lead had been discovered sometime in the early 1800s and those who came to mine it were from Cornwall. This means that the town closest to the mines has beautifully-built limestone buildings and we had tasted pasties long before eating all of the great ones we had on our tour.
We had also heard of the hills in Cornwall, the climbs that got you up and out of the frequent river and stream valleys. People we spoke with ahead of time seemed to think that would be too daunting for an enjoyable tour. But they don’t know what its like to ride an ICE recumbent. Yes, there were some tough hills – one of them with a 1:6 grade – but that just meant we went slower for a while. And by being on such back roads, we were able to see some of the more intimate scenery of Cornwall. Coming from a farming area here in the US, I was particularly pleased to come across the sounds and smells of working farms, the legacy of those who had so strongly shaped the look of the Cornish landscape we enjoyed so much.
As for our trikes on loan, those are beautiful machines, giving us some clear ideas about upgrades we want to do on our own Sprint 26 trikes. The full suspension and headrests made the ride more comfortable than we are used to. And the dual drive rear hub on Pat’s Sprint was a wonder. We didn’t know a cycle could be geared that low. There were pluses and minuses, however, to the Neodrive on my trike.
The great news, as I experienced on the first day of riding, is the wonderful sensation of almost floating up a hill. You know that your legs are pedaling but there is this uncanny sensation of knowing that you couldn’t be possibly doing all the work. As someone taking a solo tour, this would have been a very great thing. When traveling with others, however, who don’t have that same sensation it’s a more difficult thing to maintain group harmony. There were too many hilltops where I would be patiently waiting for Pat and Sam, a peaceful smile on my face, as I said, “Isn’t this all great?!” So, after that first day I decided to keep the Neodrive turned off. That didn’t at all diminish my pleasures of the road and it helped us be a stronger team.
The trip ended too soon. Our legs had become strong and hardy, the rhythm of our days had become without effort, and we could consume great amounts of calories without concern. And best of all, we had that feeling of, “Why would anyone travel in any other fashion?” Our gratitude to Neil, Chris and their team is bigger than I can easily express. ICE is impressive in the design and construction of their trikes, and in the continuing drive for innovation. But just as impressive is the warmth of those who work together there, showing an obvious love of recumbent trikes and all they enable us riders to do.
Written by Gordon Greene, Wisconsin USA