Being stranded in the grim wastelands of the North on my billy has given me the free evenings and the incentive to break out the 29er once again. I haven’t actually ridden it for more than two minutes since the Red Bull, and that was back in June! Somehow even without riding it has needed more attention than the others in the herd; the hub flange bent in mysterious circumstances after BMW, and the last attempt at a ride ended up with the inner tube exploding loudly. The tyre has been swapped repeatedly between the big apple and the mythos in anticipation of rides that never quite materialised.
Yesterday evening it all went smoothly. The unicycle adorned with the red glowing wire from last week’s unimeet and myself with my super-shiny new lights, I set off from the top of Marple Locks on the Macclesfield canal.
Cycling along the side of a canal in the dark did occasionally make me think I should have taken a slightly safer route… some of the low bridges where the path narrows and twists under the bridge gave me visions of hitting a bump and flying into the black depths. Even on the clearer sections the canal was totally invisible, the ground just falling into nothingness at the side of the path. These are by far the brightest lights I’ve ever ridden with; I definitely wouldn’t have liked to ride that with my old lights. You can see the bumps, slippery bits, overhanging trees and the lone hedgehog ambling along the path (that was a close one!). Lock gates look particularly spooky in the dark, the painted arms glinting ghost-like in the darkness.
Something I hadn’t anticipated when off-roading with the big apple: scary noises made by wet leaves! With the thought of the exploding innertube and the fact that I’d left the pump adapter at home in my mind I was rather anxious of having a puncture. Losing control on a squirrelly tyre and riding into the canal didn’t really appeal either, to be honest. So there I was, riding along happily, when all of a sudden a loud hissing noise starts emanating from the wheel. Terrified of having to walk back in the dark - would the lights last? Canals don’t have streetlights - I dismount, only to find it’s just a leaf stuck in the fork rubbing on the frame. Phew!
An excellent ride. It’s a pity there aren’t as many canals in the south west; they do make for a nice ride. If you can ignore the risk of falling in and the out-and-back style ride, the towpath goes on for miles, has gentle (if any) hills and generally offer a good combination of countryside and interesting canalside structures. My ride, although along only about five miles of canal, went over an impressive aqueduct alongside an equally impressive railway viaduct, and along a length of embankment that must contain millions of tons of earth as it held the canal high above the level of the town to one side.
I’m very tempted to return tomorrow, if I can find a different carpark to continue from near where I left off.
Phil, from a hotel in Stockport