One blue square = 1 km across.
Ride starts at the junction of the white track heading north west from the yellow road, a short distance south west of Mill Farm - the track that heads towards the river.
This is yesterday’s MUni ride on the new KH24 - a route I have ridden a few times on the Pashley 26.
There will be one deliberate mistake in here to keep you alert.
After a hard day at work I took a little while to get ready to go for my evening’s ride. All day, I had been planning to take the 700c out. Then I found the tyre was a little soft, and that my pump had mysteriously stopped working. Unwilling to waste further time, I took the new KH.
East Bridgford is about 8-10 miles from where I live, and a few miles further down river than my regular riding territory. I park on a grassy verge at the start of the track that leads towards the river. I put on the new hideously-overpriced helmet, then mount and set off.
The first section is more or less level. It used to be a challenge a couple of years ago, but now it is just a warm up: a few hundred metres of rough gravel track with a few stony puddles. Then I reach the gate.
The gate is locked, and there is a big tree trunk deliberately blocking it. That is new, but not a problem, as my intended route takes me to the right - more or less north towards Old Hill. There is a stile next to the gate, which is good, as I intend to come back that way.
This is the track I think of as the three hills. The track is almost straight and goes up, down, up, down, up, then dooooooooown towards the river. The first hill has a deeply rutted mud surface. The second is less worn, and quite grassy, and the third is very grassy. (There is a green hill far away…)
To give some idea of the terrain - I have taken a small Suzuki 4x4 along this track, and it took considerable care to avoid bottoming out or getting stuck in the deeper muddy ruts. I have ridden every part of the route before, but I have never strung it all together without a UPD.
So, that is today’s challenge. How good is the KH, and how fit am I? I set off a little too quickly up the first hill, and am soon breathing hard. There are few technical challenges, as long as I concentrate, read the track a fair distance ahead, and don’t get trapped into a blind alley between deep ruts.
I make it to the top with a sense of relief, and the view opens up to my left. The sun is shining, and I can see far out across the broad flat Trent valley to my left. In the foreground is a blaze of bright yellow rape, already in flower. It’s not a traditional English crop, or part of our green and pleasant land, but on a day like this, it looks pretty spectacular.
The descent takes care, then it is a tricky slog up the second hill, riding on tussocky grass that conceals all manner of minor tripping hazards. I am tempted to ride some of the more technical bits, but the priority is to make the whole length of the track without a UPD, if possible, so I carefully pick the safest route.
I crest the second hill, and the descent is quite easy - the grass is soft under the wheel, making the ride less harsh.
Then it’s the third big climb and now I’m breathing really hard, concentrating, not wanting to make the silly mistake that wastes all the hard work. If I stop, then I may as well have stopped earlier to enjoy the view!
The top of the third hill is flat for a short distance, then there is the long long descent, quite steep, and gradually turning to the left. At several stages, I think I am nearly at the bottom, then I come round the corner to see another stretch of muddy grassy ruts ahead of me. This is used as a bridleway, and there are fossilised hoof prints baked into the drier patches of mud. These are a nightmare to ride over.
The very last section comes into view, a little bit steeper, and wetter and muddier, and there are one or two slithers and slides from the fat tyre before I reach the gate with a cheer. For the first ime ever, I have ridden the three hills “in one”.
I dismount to climb over the stile (I’m 43, you know, so hopping is out of the question.)
I head towards the river, across a rough grassy field full of cattle. Across my path I can see a very formidable fence that I don’t recall from previous rides. I swoop down a short steep bank under a big old willow tree, and cattle startle and canter away.
There is no gate through the fence, and I turn, work my way back up the bank, and see a stile not far from the one that I climbed over a minute or two ago. I head for that. The surface is horrible to ride - rough grass and concealed deep hoof prints. Still, it’s a nice place to be, with the sun shining, and blossom on the trees on the hillside ahead of me.
I UPD, remount, and make it to the stile. I clamber over that, then ride down a rough hard-baked mud track, then attempt a short steep climb. No chance! I UPD in a rut, walk to the top, then ride dow, cut through a patch of low-growing nettles and try to cross some deep wheel ruts. Clunk! Another UPD. I change direction and soon make it to the river bank.
With the river to my right, I head more or less south, making good speed. Ahead of me, mid-river, is a cabin cruiser chugging along. I seem to be gaining on it, and it becomes a half-hearted objective to overtake it.
As I ride, my progress startles the wildlife. Ducks and moorhens flap out of the reeds and make their way low across the water. A pair of crows rises up from the long grass to my left. Chaffinches flutter from the bushes, and a lone puffin soars overhead, swooping through clouds of insects, feeding.
Soon, I am under tree cover, with the river to my right, and a steep wooded hillside to my left. I overtake the boat, then find myself on a long firm mud path that I know will take me all the way to the weir. This is a lovely bit of path. The hill to my left becomes a low shale and sandstone cliff. Soon, I am on what is almost a beach, with only a couple of metres of width available to me.
The beachiest bit has always been a challenge in the past - gravel and sand are not an easy riding surface - but the KH sails over it as if it was made for it. I reach the weir, ride up a short concrete ramp and pause to refresh myself and take a couple of photos.
I know that if I carry on, I will be in the boat yard, and have to follow the road back to the car, so I turn and ride back along the river bank. I hear children on the opposite bank shouting to each other to look at the man on one wheel. I disappear behind trees, slow down a bit, enjoy the wild flowers, bright pinks and yellows, waving in the slight breeze.
I reach the “other end” of the track on which I started the ride. It shows on the map as an end to the white track, next to the river. Next to it is a tiny green oblong bit of “valley”.
Now, the toughest challenge of the ride. I’ve been saving this bit for last. It’s a big steep climb, all the way up from river level to the gate (the one that was blocked with the big log). Many times on the Pashley (and on my old 24) I have attacked this track, managing to get only 15-20 metres along it before falling or stalling. The track is fairly steep, and there is lots of loose gravel and ballast - a difficult combination. So, how does the KH24 compare?
Well, it’s a bit of an anticlimax, really, because I just ride straight up the hill in one, without a dismount, or stopping to idle or anything! It’s like being on a stair lift - almost. Except I am breathless, my heart is pounding, and I half wish I could UPD just so the pain would stop.
The map makes it around 25 metres height gain in around 300 metres but that isn’t the whole story, because the steepest bit is well steep. When I make it to the top, I know I have just done the toughest climb of my riding career, and that most people couldn’t have done it on a bicycle, let alone a unicycle.
So, that’s the KH24 - incomparably more competent than the Pashley. OK, so last time I brought the Pashley this way it had only 150s, and a bloomin’ awful Gazzaloddi 2.3" tyre.
What makes the KH better? Is it just the tyre? Is it the finer control I get from the plastic handle (the Pashley had a metal handle) or is it just the slightly smaller wheel and the slightly longer cranks? Dunno, but if this carries on, I’ll take one of the pedals off just to make it more challenging!
No big adventures, no crazy people, but a lovely ride in rare good weather. This is what makes this sport so special.
So who reads as carefully as I write? There’s one obvious factual error in there. If you want to play the game, PM me because if you just reply on the thread, it will spoil it for everyone else. If I get a good response, I have some more ideas.