Life at a 45-Degree Angle

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By Jeff Levenson — As this is a new column, a bit of history is called for. I began 70 years ago, at age 5, on a kiddie bike with training wheels. After losing the trainers, moved on to a coaster brake JC Whitney cruiser, which probably outweighed me. At age 12, my Grandmother presented me with a state-of-the-art machine, a glossy black Raleigh (from Nottingham, England – home of Robin Hood and the dastardly Sheriff). In 1985, the gas shortage led me and my wife to purchase 10 speed French Racing bikes to commute with. Later we moved on to touring bikes, mountain bikes, and tandems.

Jeff and Sandy Levenson on their recumbent bicycles. Photo by Dave Iltis
Jeff and Sandy Levenson on their recumbent bicycles. Photo by Dave Iltis

Then…disaster struck! In the words of one of my doctors (you get a lot of them in retirement), “Your backbone is turning into talcum powder”. If you watch TV, you will know from the overabundant legal commercials that talcum powder is deadly stuff. A few years earlier, we had, on a whim, bought two recumbent trikes. The solution to the back problem! And the seats were super comfortable – no “breaking-in” of a saddle that must convince your butt feels good; even better the longer you use it. Aside – I found on my first bike tour that the saddle had the ability to turn itself into a WW1 German army helmet – the one with the 10” spike rising from the middle.

What does any of this have to do with a 45-degree angle? Well, something you don't notice on a cruiser, a racing bike, a touring bike, a tandem, or for that matter, a penny farthing. The lovely streets of the Salt Lake metropolitan area are high centered in the middle, then more or less flatten out – until the 5 feet or so adjoining the sidewalk. Then it's a 45-degree slope. On a two wheeled contraption, you just naturally lean a bit to the left – problem solved. On a bike with two wheels up front, you just tilt – and sometimes start sliding off your seat and into the gutter (Note: those of you who think it's impossible to flip a three-wheeler – it's actually not that difficult!).

In later columns, I'll address the observations I see as I trike around town. It's definitely a different point of view.

 

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