# How long will it take me to ride 20 miles on a big wheel?

So I’ve been training for a triathlon for a couple of months now and I got to thinking of really strange things I could do since I know I’m not going to win. Since there’s nothing I can do strange in the swim, well except maybe dress up as a monkey or something like that, and the run is well, a run. That leaves only one part where I can just go wild.

So, I have to get an idea of how long it would take me to get on my Big Wheel and do the twenty miles. I haven’t been on one since I was a kid and don’t remember that much about how fast they can go.

So I guess I want to know:
How fast I can expect to go in an hour or so.
How dead are my legs going to be after the ride.
Can I buy one for my size, I’m 6’2" and 180lbs? (and can I get one with the hand brake?)
Do they still make those orange flags so that people see you?

Hey I’m also thinking on making a “chopper” for one as well. I saw one in a shop the other day, except I want the ape-hangers for bars.

We need to know the dimensions of the big wheel you intend to use in order to make any calculations.
Dividing the distance to travel by the circumference of the front wheel will tell you how many times it needs to turn. Then you need to know how many times on average you can turn the wheel in one minute.
Otherwise you just need to time yourself on the thing over a fixed distance.
Either way you need to get the big wheel before you an have any meaningful data.

Those things don’t have gears, and I doubt the default pedal to wheel ratio is designed for doing much more than cruising up and down the driveway. In fact, they’re probably designed so you have to pedal like crazy to get up any decent speed.

While it’s been some time since I’ve seen one up close, aren’t their wheels made of plastic, rather than rubber?

I’m guessing that your top speed would be about 6 mph, that you’d be dead after an hour, and that so would the Big Wheel, as it’s not designed for heavy weights or road conditions. Maybe if you could find one of the old metal tricycles, you’d at least have something that could hande the strain, but you’d still be pedaling long after all the other racers have swum, run, and cycled.

But this is GQ, so let’s be more specific. The Big Wheel seems to come in a default 16" model (http://www.babyuniverse.com/pro.asp?store=baby&lang=&id=34998) I guess that’s the diameter of the wheel, so you’d go 50.26 inches per revolution of the pedals. So about 1260 revolutions per mile. It looks like a racer can go 100 rotations per minute (60-80 for a more casual cyclist), so that would be a mile in 12.6 minutes, or five miles an hour, pedaling like a maniac and hoping for no hills.

Another thing to consider is whether or not the race organizers will allow you to ride on a Big Wheel.

Also, if you decide to do it, do it in style. Don’t ribe a Big Wheel, ride a Green Machine!

From what I’ve heard, most triathlons do not allow recumbents (which a big-wheel arguably is). It’s not a written rule but up to the discretion of the race organizer, as far as I can tell.

I see Finagle has already done the calculations, but I thould I’d mention that Sheldon Brown’s Gear Inch Calculator. With a slightly larger 24" wheel and 100 rpm cadence (which isn’t difficiult), you get 7 mph.

If you want an interesting and slightly faster human-powered vehicle, and think you can talk the organizer into allowing one, may I suggest one of these:

You’re welcome to borrow my Sorcerer, but only if you come to pick it up and bring it back.

I wonder how hard it is to rent a penny-farthing ?

That would be cool. Probably take a fair bit of practice first. Also probably not good on variable terrain.

I’m not a triathlete, but I have some experience with road bikes. Most bike races prohibit certain types of bikes. Recumbant bikes are among those banned. You may want to check out the rulebook on this.

That’ll teach me to compose a reply, get distracted, and push submit an hour later. What Demo said.

not to mention… aren’t you going to be a bit large to fit on one of those? Besides the scrunched limbs issues, they’re not very durable.

Why is that man sitting in a giant, wheeled suppository?

Well, I screwed that up, didn’t I?

http://www.1728.com/velocity.htm
(well, it is at my website - but heck it is free). It is what I call an UltraCalculator. In this case it is for Velocity, Time or Distance. If you know 2 variables, it will calculate the third. Big deal some of you may be saying. Ah but the real “selling point” of this calculator is that it will accept input in terms of 12 units of time, distance or velocity and output the results in 12 different units. Go ahead, give it a try - it’s free. Then you can come back here or send me an E-Mail and say “Wolf - you really should get out more often”.

But just a quick example - if you travel at a velocity of 107 inches per second and you have to cover 12 nautical lmiles, how long will this take you?
Well it would take you 8.1772e+9 microseconds or 0.013521 weeks or 2.2714 hours.

Oh and before someone asks, it (regrettably) does not calculate furlongs per fortnight. Nonetheless, my parernts are still very proud of me.

and Edward The Head, that “Green Machine” looks like THE one to ride. I trust the officials will give you permission to ride that “recumbent” bike. I don’t think it will give you an unfair advantage - but it makes a statement !!

When I saw “big wheel” in the thread title, I immediately remembered the ferris wheel that gets loose in Jimmy Neutron, and thought, “That wouldn’t take much time at all!”

On a properly set up bike, with appropriate seat height, crank length etc. I’m guessing a lot less on a Big Wheel.

As others have said, recumbents are banned.

Even if your Big wheel were allowed, you would screw up everyone that gets out of the water after you. It would be as if somebody put a boulder in the road. My guess is that at least twenty triathletes and their bikes will ride up and over your back.

Even after everybody either passed you or crashed into you, riding the twenty miles will take longer than the race organizers are allowed to use the road. At some point either a policeman or race volunteer will drive up and tell you to get to the curb, or a semi will hit you just like those twenty guys and gals on bikes did back at the transition.

Finally, drafting isn’t allowed, so don’t even think about slipstreaming behind that baby carriage.

Why don’t they let recumbents into races? Looks like a bike to me. I’m not much of a biker. I even had to look up what a recumbent bike was.

As for the triathlon I was thinking about, it’s not a very well run one. They have three different pools, two are 25 yards and one is 25 meters. You still swim 500, doesn’t mater which pool you are in so give me yards anyday. Plus there are no prizes as it’s nothing but a fund raiser so I might be able to get away with something like that.

Hey let them get screwed, if they can’t pass a big wheel. However, I want the orange flag so that they see me and don’t run over me. I might even have the one from when I was a kid.

So then, maybe I should think about putting some gears on my big wheel? Maybe I can go a little faster?

I think the crappy molded plastic wheels would give out long before 20 miles…

Theoretically, recumbents are faster than regular road bikes. In practice, I’ve never been passed by one, and I’ve ridden with a few.

Tandems, on the other hand…

Road races such as the Tour de France are organized by UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale). They banned recumbents back in 1934, when a second-rate racer named Francois Faure broke the world hour record riding a recumbent. The official reason is that cycling is not an engineering competition but a sport, and as such, the equipment should be standardized. If you allow different bike designs, bike races will look like this.

Triathlons are not UCI events, and their bicycle design regulations are not quite as strict. Which is why some of the more advanced designs are sold as triathlon bikes, such as the Kestrel Airfoil Pro. (This is banned by UCI because it’s not a diamond frame - it’s missing the seat tube.) Nevertheless the same philosophy seems to apply. Some have also argued that the different height and speed profile of recumbents make them dangerous in a crowded race.

As for whether they are truly faster, it depends on many factors. Recumbents can be made more aerodynamic than road bikes, so they have the advantage on flats. However it’s difficult to make them as light as road bikes, and also you can’t stand on the pedals to use different muscles, so they are at a disadvantage in steep climbs.

This is probably because most people buy recumbents for their comfort, not performance. And most recumbents sold in America are optimized for comfort, not speed. You need something like a Velokraft VK2 or a Bacchetta Aero to beat an equally fit road bike rider.