This month for our UKCE Rider Story we chatted with Adam who caught our attention after attending a number of our sportives on his Footbike. We were intrigued and after having a brief go ourselves at our Jurassic Classic event we can confirm it is harder, more tiring and ALOT more fun than it may first appear. Have a read about Adam's journey into the world of Footbiking, what it entails and the places it’s taken him to.
How did you get into Footbiking?
I have been Footbiking for nearly 2 years and stumbled across it after a Google search. I was looking for bicycles and scooters for my three children and an advert for a UK-based footbike supplier popped up. It piqued my interest and after a deeper look, I decided to buy one to accompany my eldest son on a ride.
I had gained a lot of weight since leaving the army so this would also be a way of shedding the 'dad bod'. After the first few rides, I knew that I was absolutely hooked!
How does it differ from riding a traditional bike?
Just as there is in the bicycles, there is a huge range of Footbike types, with varying wheel sizes, frame materials and brake options. There are small wheel 16 and 20-inch commuters, 26-inch hybrids, 29er gravel/downhill/Dog racing models, 700c road/race models and even more commonly a mix of two wheel sizes such as 26/20, or 700c/24. There are even models utilising front suspension and hydraulic discs.
However, unlike a traditional bicycle, there is no seat, no gears and no pedals. I like to think of it as being a cross between your favourite childhood kick scooter and a conventional bicycle. The basic motion is almost second nature to anyone who has owned a scooter in the past although there is a lot of technique to be able to ride one well.
Firstly and most importantly is the ability to change legs whilst riding. This is a skill that every rider must master as you wouldn't last long riding any sort of distance on one leg. This can be done either by using a small hop or pivoting on the ball of the supporting leg and having the kicking leg replace it. There is a period of adaptation when you start mainly for the calves and glutes but after only a few rides I was surprised by how quickly my body adapted.
Secondly, there is the matter of hills! I live in the valleys of South Wales just south of the Brecon Beacons so you could say I was forced to learn quickly. Although it is certainly more challenging than riding the flat, using shorter kicks, a drop in speed and a lot of sweat, this quickly becomes just another part of the ride.
I feel an overwhelming sense of freedom when I'm out kicking. There is very little maintenance required so mechanicals are a thing of the past and the Strava data obsession gets a hard reset. Previous KOMS and power data suddenly become completely irrelevant, now replaced by a simple average pace and Heart Rate zone.
Is there a Footbike community/racing scene that you are a part of / racing scene?
The Footbike scene in the UK is small and fast-growing but this does not represent the size of the sport as a whole. With roughly 800 -1000 riders across Britain and Ireland belonging to multiple social media groups, it's a fantastic way of staying connected.
The bulk of the community hails from the European mainland from countries such as Germany, Slovakia, Italy, Austria, Netherlands, Finland and Russia with a very strong racing scene centred in the Czech Republic. There is also a fast-growing global community with clubs and governing bodies emerging in the USA, Canada, China and Australia to name a few.
Is there any special kit you need?
I wouldn't say that there is any specific kit that's needed to start footbiking. A good set of running shoes, a helmet and some activewear will see you right for general riding.
For fast road and racing, a good kit usually consists of; Cycling jersey and shorts/bib shorts with no chamois, a pair of quality running shoes or modified track shoes with some sticky climbing rubber on the sole and a good helmet.
As riders, we are however guilty of the major fashion faux pas of wearing long compression socks whilst riding. This tends to raise a few eyebrows with the other cyclists at events, but with all that loading on the calves who can blame us?
What’s the furthest you've done in a single ride on your Footbike?
The furthest ride I have done is roughly 110km over the Brecon Beacons with a lot of climbing. With my average sportive ride distance around the 85-90km mark. I am however signed up to complete a 600km footbike race from Vienna to Berlin next summer so expect to see a lot more of me on the longer distances next year!
Have you taken part in any events this year?
I have taken part in the UKCE Wiltshire Classic sportive and I am really excited to be riding in the UKCE Cotswold Classic sportive in August as I’ve missed out on a few others due to my racing commitments.
Last year I took part in as many UKCE Sportives as I possibly could even if that meant a long drive. My favourite event by far was the Mendips classic although I must admit though that the climb through Cheddar Gorge almost finished me off! But those views were well worth the effort.
The UKCE events are very well organised, the staff are super friendly, the routes are very well thought out and the photos are always amazing. I could not recommend UKCE events enough.
I will also be heading out to Italy for a Footbike Eurocup event. This year I have already represented Great Britain in the German Eurocup and the IKSA Footbike World Championship Held in Polva, Estonia. The typical event distances are a 12-14km criterium, a marathon distance, a 400m track sprint and a 20 minute +1 lap Team Relay event where 3 Competitors race using 1 footbike that is handed off at high speed to each other on a circuit roughly 1km long.
What are other riders' reactions to you on your Footbike?
The reactions I receive while riding range greatly from pure shock from other cyclists out on the road to children pulling at their parent's arms to point out the man on the big scooter. I have to admit that my personal favourite is the disbelief in other riders' eyes when I hurtle past them on the descents due to my incredibly low rolling resistance. Although the one thing that seems to be universal is the smiles across everyone's faces.
The problem I face is that when I stop it takes me a lot longer to get going again. I'm often swarmed by people at the coffee stop who can't wait to ask questions, have a go and take photos with me which I obviously don't mind at all :)