Just a shout from the rooftop to express the fun that was had on the Montour Trial today by me and Billham. I got a fantastic new Coker for Christmas (inspired gift of my wife), and today was the first day to really get on it and see what it was all about. Beautiful day, mid-40’s, overcast and low wind. Very comfortable riding weather. The trail is converted rail lines from the steel era here in SW Pennsylvania…actually coal lines which moved the stuff from the Pittsburgh coal seam to the furnaces along the Monongehela, and Youghigheny Rivers…I still have no idea how to pronounce those.
We set out on a paved section, smooth dry and lightly populated with couples, families, and other groups that had no apparent connection, mostly encouraging…we didn’t get by anybody without saying “hi” to them. I learned quickly what a false sense of security you can have when the nice smooth pavement suddenly has a less than graceful pavement joint as we crossed a bridge…no biggie…just a typical UPD without incident, followed by a freemount and a return to our pace. I’ve ridden this trail many times on my bike with my family and have wanted to be able to keep up on a uni, and now I’m confident I can. We established an 8.7mph average speed with a spike at 14.7mph over the course of 6.9 miles…the halfway point of our ride. In the middle of the ride there is a beautiful horse farm, and then a quick ascent to a grade crossing with a road which I assume must have been a filled in tunnel, as the trains would never have been scaling that hill in either direction. This was my location for my higher speed UPD that came when I started to lose speed going up the grade only to lean forward to accellerate and not be able to recover from my lean…I gained some speed alright, it was just wasted by me taking the palms of my gloves off and grinding into my wrist guards for a few feet. I snagged my left kneecap on the pavement for a minor strawberry (but one I’m no less proud of). Unfortunately this UPD happened in front of the biggest group of people we had seen on the trail so far in the ride, so there was no hiding the fact and quickly remounting with the “meant to do that” look on my face. Since the hill was fairly steep, I decided to walk the last 20 meters or so to the top.
The second half of this ride was over finely crushed limestone which can squish out this time of year, but was remarkably firm with only a few areas that gave us the clay stripe up our backs. Another badge of honor in my book. The highlight of the trip for me was passing a nice lady on a bike who reacted with great surprise to two unicyclists speeding by on her left. We stopped to take a few pictures up the trail, and she showered the praise for our bravery on our little quest. The last stop for us was at a farm house which has a rooster that my family traditionally stops to hear “cock-a-doodle-doo” from. This time there was only a goose who was feeling rather shy.
The beautiful thing about old rail lines is that they are at nearly imperceptible grades and we had been going uphill slightly the whole time to the turnaround point, so we started picking up the pace on the way back to the cars. We ended up with a 12.8 mile ride, 9.2mph average speed, and a blistering (for me) 15mph high speed…I’m actually taking credit for Bill’s computer readout. I near his pace but lagged behind a few yard a couple of times.
So far, this is the kind of riding I’ve always wanted to do on a unicycle…I’m in heaven having one under my belt and all the next ones to look forward to. Hope everybody out there is having a great winter and experiencing the joy that zipping along on one wheel can bring.
Congratulations on your first Coker ride, Bob, and welcome to the wonderful world of Coker riding! Obviously, your wife is an extremely intelligent woman to have bought you such a wonderful gift for Christmas… you are a very lucky man! From your words and the look on your face in that picture… you certainly seem to be enjoying yourself! That’s what Coker riding is all about … and it only gets better! I wish you the best of luck on your new machine. Now that you 've joined the ranks, I look forward to hearing more about your adventures riding your Coker on those converted rail lines. Happy (and safe) riding!
Sounds like you’re converted completely. I like how you say “I’m in heaven”. Those annoying UPDs will pretty much cease with a little more practice which will make it even more fun. I hope you gave your wife something half as cool as what she gave you! Great photo too.
Thanks for the encouragement and response, I’m going to see if I can keep up with my family tomorrow. I’m depending on my kids to be at 9mph or lower. Wish me luck! BTW, notice the strawberry from my 2nd UPD? I tried to take a close up for the younger riders, but had it on movie mode…frankly it’s not as impressive as some of the gashes I’ve seen here.
Maybe this uni-club we’re going to get off the ground will have a coker event! Bill? We could have some sort of a contest/raffle to raise funds and raffle off a coker! Every month…we’d have a gaggle of them by spring!
This was the exact cause of my first significant Coker UPD…it would be interesting to see how many others went down first the same way.
Welcome to the joyous world of big wheel unicycling. When I first got mine, I thought it might be an intersting diversion. It has become a bit of an obsession, however. Maybe it will for you too. I noticed that the first two respondents to your post are also firmly in the “obsessed” camp :).
Nice write-up…thanks for sharing the details. Re: your rivers observation, I can’t speak for the first one you listed, but the second is pronounced Muh-non-gah-HEE-lah. Some big history on that river…
I misspelled it, but the Youghiogheny (I learned) is pronounced,
yock-i-gane-ee…go figure. Traditionally it’s shortened to Yock. And the Monongehela is shortened to Mon. Thanks for the excuse to look it up. The coker riding possibilities are looking pretty much endless with easy access to the Great Allegheny Passage nearby and new trails getting opened every year. I’m so psyched (and after my ride the other day, sore!) There ought to be a coker event in this area in the future. I’m looking forward to getting to one of the already scheduled ones one of these times.
Welcome to the big wheel club, Bob. I’m especially excited since you live nearby and will be a ready and willing riding partner. With no experience on a coker, you are already riding at my pace, so I’m sure you will be pushing my pace a little and helping me to spin a little faster.
By the way, who did the great photography on the photo of you? Okay, I confess, it was me. But you know I’ll never make it into the top ranks of uni-photographers if credits aren’t added to the photos.
Today, Bob and I did a 20 miler to bring in the new year. Watch for a new post later tonight for a few details. Oh, and a photo or two by Bob.