A good day's riding (and then a bit more)

Saturday turned into a day of trying to keep up with the demands of the expanded unicycle fleet to come out of the garage and be ridden once in a while.

It started with my first trip to Seaton for a ride with Ben for a while; I haven’t ridden the trials uni since BUC and Ben said he was “a little rough” from the night before so we weren’t expecting much in terms of new stuff but it turned into a pretty interesting session around the sea front.

The best bit for me was a wall we hadn’t been to before. It was about a foot wide, but was curved into a peak rather than flat at the top, roughly made and crumbling in places. It was also about a metre away from a large drop into the river, but hey…

Riding along that took many attempts… it was like an “off-road” skinny; a combined challenge of a bumpy, winding surface as well as a narrow one. I’m by no means an expert rider of skinnies but generally I find that getting on and getting going is the hardest part; with this one being so windy and bumpy getting on was only half the battle.

Comment of the Insert Time Period Here: after doing a demonstratory lap of various rocks and steps for some people waiting for a bus, and somehow not falling in a heap, I got a “you were great” for my efforts. I think it’s the hardcore, manly aura from my legoman t-shirt that does it.

On getting home and realising I was still uninjured and not yet suffering from total exhaustion I set off to my local trails with the muni and 29er in tow for some “research”.

My favourite loop is 1.8 miles long according to the map and includes a good variety of terrain from smooth, wide trails to stuff I have never successfully ridden on the muni, and I was intrigued as to how the 29er would compare with the muni. The muni lap was first, taking 16 minutes 57 seconds; then after a short break the 29er lap, taking 16 minutes 42 seconds.

I had expected the difference to be much more than that, in the 29er’s favour. It felt much faster on the smoother sections, and coped with the soft horse-destroyed mud tracks much better than the muni; it seemed to roll straight over the stuff, where the muni would bog down in the huge bumps and ruts.

More research is required, methinks, involving a less exhausted me and the GPS. What would be really useful is a Mario Kart style ghost rider, an image of your previous best lap so you know when you’re pulling ahead or falling behind. Until technology catches up I guess I’ll just have to do what I can with GPS tracks.

By then it was getting dark, and a really stupid idea occurred. Would my normal lights be adequate for 29er speeds? I ride with four Smart Polaris thingies on the helmet, two angled for the bumps I’m about to crash into, and two angled on the bumps I will crash into if I somehow make it over the nearer ones.

They are enough for trails on the lower and slower 24", but empiral evidence would suggest they aren’t really enough for 29er speeds without already knowing the exact line you’re riding. UPDs from a 29er in the dark tend to be very sudden and have a substantially increased “ballistic” quotient.

Twice in my 45 minute run of about 4 miles I hit the deck at speed. The first was while speeding along a smooth track and riding straight into a big pothole; the unicycle stopped, and the first I knew about it was when I went THUD into the ground. The second time I was riding along a mostly flat path left by a tracked digger of some sort and didn’t see a tiny ridge of earth crossing the track until I found myself flying through the air and rolling to a stop several metres away. That hurt…

Most of the problem was the total lack of depth perception from the helmet lights. You just couldn’t tell between a smooth bit of track and an unrideably muddy, bumpy bit. Is this the same however bright they are? It got a bit easier when I tried holding one of the lights down lower, but something more permanent is needed if I’m not to end up walking the night laps in the ever-creeping-closer Red Bull, at the end of next month. I’m pondering about a more powerful dual-light setup attached to the frame somehow to complement the helmet lights. Pondering will continue.

Oooooo, I ache all over, and have a few new bumps and bruises. Never again! Not until next weekend, anyway…


edit: spalling erorrs and mistaks…

Nice writeup, Phil!

The helmet lights always wash out surface irregularities. The frame or handle-mounted light highlights them and can be better than sunlight.

I wouldn’t mount a halogen or HID light on the frame. The impact of a UPD could break the filament in the bulb even if the light itself is protected so it never actually hits the ground. HID lights don’t have a filament, but the bulb will still break due to the shock when hitting the ground. A halogen bulb from Niterider is about $20. A HID bulb from Niterider is about $90. They’re too expensive to be breaking.

What looks promising is the new generation of super bright LED lights. LED lighting systems are in development now that may be as bright as halogen lights. I’ll believe it when I see it. If it actually works it would be a super development. Bright, no filament shadow, even lighting, low heat, lower power use, super long burn times, and shock proof. I hope it works and I hope we start seeing some of these new super bright LED lighting systems soon.

Anyone know more about these new LED lights? I’ve seen some info on DIY sites for building your own LED system. Are there any commercial bike lights? How bright are they? It almost sounds too good to be true so I’m expecting to be disappointed.

The problem with lighting on a unicycle is there’s no good place to put the light on the unicycle. Even if you have a big handlebar apparatus with places to mount it, you run the risk of shock damage from crashes. So putting the light on your helmet is the easiest way to go.

But the problem with helmet-mounted light is that it’s so close to your eye level, you can’t see much surface detail of what you’re riding on. You really need the light to be somewhere higher or lower than your eye level to see all those bumps.

Probably a chest-mounted light, if there were such a thing, would help a bit by bringing the light down lower. But that comes from a guy who hasn’t tried it yet. I lucked out on my two laps at Laguna Seca this weekend, one started at 3:00pm and the other at 6:30am. I still haven’t done any trail riding with lights!

Re: A good day’s riding (and then a bit more)

johnfoss wrote:
> Probably a chest-mounted light, if there were such a thing, would help a
> bit by bringing the light down lower. But that comes from a guy who
> hasn’t tried it yet.

I’ve tried mounting my Lumicycles to a belt round my waist.
Unfortunately the side to side motion of the beam was quite
disconcerting. “A good place to mount lights” therefore remains as the
only reason I’ll wear a helmet while unicycling.

Danny Colyer (the UK company has been laughed out of my reply address)
“He who dares not offend cannot be honest.” - Thomas Paine

Yeah that skinny was cool i got my new wheel set on monday :D.I don’t think i can really notice much weight difference.It has 125’s i did not say which crank size i wanted on the phone though but this was because i would not of minded what size i got 125’s they are what i am used to ,but it would of been interesting to try 140’s.As i am on study leave i might have to take a try down to that wall today after a few hours of revision i must add!

You could mount a halogen bulb on the frame without worrying too much. Pretty much all the bike lights with “super efficient halogen blah blah whatever” lights are actually either MR11 or MR16 halogen bulbs rebadged and cost £3 ($5) from your local hardware store or from a lighting supplier.

I think halogens are pretty resilient when you crash, I’ve crashed and rolled hard enough to knock the lights right off my helmet and never broken a bulb that way, all my bulbs have just run out after about a years use. The halide lamps are supposedly more fragile though and at £100 a bulb I wouldn’t mount one on the frame.

my dad has one of these LED lights, it’s only equivalent to about a 10W halogen, but it lasts for ages.

As for the difference between helmet and low mounted lights, I think it’s often really overrated. It’s nowhere near as much difference as that between a bright light and a not so bright light. Personally, I reckon that the helmet light is actually most important, because it’s easy to see round corners and to choose a line with. If you want it to be more like riding in daylight, then get a frame mounted light in addition to a bright helmet light.

The washed-out thing is true on some kinds of terrain, but mainly only bad on smooth hard mud, where the terrain doesn’t give you many other visual clues. Part of riding at night is about learning to read the night-time terrain and learning to use leg feel to ride as well as your vision. It’s worth practicing riding at night a lot to get the hang of this.

I’ve got lumicycle halogens with the head kit and they’re super duper and I’d totally recommend them, but they are quite expensive.


I haven’t got any LED lights specifically designed for cycles, but I have got as 3-LED “cyber-lite” torch, which, back in the days when I rode my bike, I used to attach the handlebars using elastic bands. That was far brighter than any of the standard filament bulb lights I’ve ever used.

Maplins sell a kit which builds a strobe light with 2 white LEDs, and if you set the strobe speed to its highest, it’s impossible to see the strobing, and you get a very high power, perfectly white torch. The whole thing, inluding a battery, is about the size of one of those tacky little clip-on red or green LED lights, and with some nice reflectors and casing, it could make a nice, robust bike light, and could be mounted at the fork crown, where it would never hit the ground anyway.

Re: A good day’s riding (and then a bit more)

Hi Phil,

Nice write up. I wish I could get over my flu’ and go for a night ride!

I used 35W IRC lamps- which I think more or less equates to 50W normal halogens- they say that it converts some of the infrared to visible light. Plenty bright but still nothing compared to some of the other riders at our 24hr race who were using HID’s or up to 100W of Halogen (imagine the battery pack on those things!). (Still- if you don’t mind strapping a car battery to your back :p)

I haven’t ridden with HID’s- but I did ride with Nathan with his HID set-up. I like the fact that they have a very white light. I reckon that’ll give a better texture definition, although, like I said- I’ve not ridden one. Brown dirt and yellow halogen light all looks yellow and homogenous. I had the same problem as you with hitting soft patches not realising the ground texture had changed.

The LED’s are apparently very white also. Here’s one set-up being developed by a local (for me) company:
http://www.nightlightning.co.nz/multisporters.htm. I have seen one come up behind me- it looks very bright indeed.

Good luck for the Red Bull,


o yeah if u want l.e.ds i could get you some super,super bright ones really really bright not sure how much but we can talk on sat or something

Are these any good? I saw them the other day and nearly bought one but I’ve got so many lighting projects on the go I thought better of starting another one.

Yeah, they’re really bright, and their range is from just slower than 1hz, to something too fast to see it flashing, it just looks like its on constantly. I think the f;ashing makes it appear a bit brighter though. For the purposes of a light, you would need a pretty decent reflector though, because they’re so directional.

one last reply i was not feeling to great because one i was ill and still am and the night before i went out and it was the last day of school on friday lots of merryness!:):slight_smile: