An Ungripping Read

My last two rides were pretty unsuccessful, and the opportunities for riding are harder to find at this time of year. Yesterday dawned bright and clear, but there was Christmas shopping to do. Today, with a ride half planned, I awake to dull grey skies and a damp chill hanging in the air. The unicycle is already fettled - I put the 110mm cranks on last night - but my riding kit seems to be widely scattered about the house and takes some time to collate.

So I drive to the usual starting place, take a little longer than usual to get ready, and do a few half hearted calf stretches. It’s about 9:15 a.m., so there is only one kid on the skateboard ramps, and he seems engrossed in perfecting a specific technique for stumbling from his inverted skateboard, and he makes no comment as I pass.

I mount first time, but the uni feels a bit twitchy. Most of my recent rides have been on a 26 x 2.5 MUni with 170 mm cranks. Today I’m on a 700c x 28 mm high pressure tyre, and 110 mm cranks. It’s like changing from a tractor to a sports car, and the adjusment is bound to take a few minutes.

Round the corner onto the river bank, and I’m confronted by a carpet of slimy autumn leaves. On my last ride, with the seat an inch too high, I had UPDed on these leaves - or some very like them - so I proceed with caution. Then I’m back onto the tarmac, and riding past the club houses of the rowing club and the kayak club where a motorist has a couple of attempts at dislodging me from my steed as he parks, changes his mind, pulls out and parks again.

Next is the City Ground, home of the once mighty Nottingham Forest. The City Ground has some sort of offices or an entertainment suite at the front, with glass-to-ground. As I catch sight of my reflection, I pull my tummy in, sit up a bit straighter and try to look as unclownlike as I can. The folly of vanity: that a 43 year old bloke can wear skin-tight lycra and ride a one wheeled bike, but still hope that he doesn’t look daft!

By now, the chill is taking the edhge off my enjoyment of the ride. The breeze is in my face, and the skin of my bare arms puckers as the hairs stand up. Why the Americans make such a fuss about the right to bare arms is beyond me, especially at this time of year.

As I swoop through the tunnel under Trent Bridge, and turn sharply to the left up the S shaped slope, I notice a knocking from my left crank. I slow down to take the load off, and cruise to a halt at a bench a couple of hundred metres later. Tools out (as Alice Cooper nearly said) and by putting as much pressure on my tool as I can with my injured wrist, I tighten both my nuts as far as they will go.

Back on the uni, I ride along the top step of the embankment, then swoop round and up and over the suspension bridge. It doesn’t seem long ago that the suspension bridge, with its closely-spaced bollards across the bottom of the ramp, its steep ramp and its slatted deck, was a major obstacle on my rides. I still treat it with caution - perhaps more respect than it deserves - but in fact it is easy to ride. With the longer cranks (I was previously on 102s) it is almost disappointingly easy.

After the bridge, I turn onto the tarmac path that runs parallel to the river, and see a drama being acted out. An elderly man is flat on his back; two or three younger people are helping him to his feet, but it is not clear that he wants to be helped; another elderly man is shouting a mixture or encouragement and derision. I suspect that cider might be involved - I could possibly even specify the brand. I give the drama a wide berth and swoop down across the wet grass to the lower path and ride alongside the river as far as the toll bridge.

The toll bridge no longer charges. A few years ago it was converted to a cycle path and foot path. As I approach it, I see three elderly bicyclists on the bridge, obviously waiting for companions to join them. I recognise the green and white tops of Notts DA of the CTC, and as I get closer, I also recognise the ugly mug of Reg - a miserable bloke I never got on with when I was in that club. I nod as I pass and the other two make a friendly comment. I doubt Reg recognises me.

I am going this way to avoid a section of main road where the cycle path is blocked by reconstruction work. The interesting challenge is that I’m not at all sure how to find my way back across the river. I know that there’s a cycle path across the next bridge (Clifton Bridge) but I’ve now idea how to join it.

My route takes me under Clifton Bridge,where the massive concrete pillars are decorated with graffiti. On one there is a new design: a picture of Spiderman in his classic blue and red costume (I never liked the black and white one), but with his head about ten sizes too big, and his eyes exaggerated. His tiny body is in a typical Betty Boop pose, and the effect is most amusing - graffiti as ironic art.

From here, I need to climb up a steep tarmac ramp to the cycle path next to the main road. There is a slight kerb at the bottom of the ramp. I “unweight” the wheel as I hit it, but overdo it, so that the wheel takes off. With no contact between the tyre and the ground, the wheel skips round until my foot hits the bottom of its travel, then the wheel lands and bites and I UPD - the first of the day.

I remount, and zig zag round the anglers’ car park between muddy puddles before approaching the ramp from a different angle. The ramp is about as steep as I can ride with these cranks - I certainly couldn’t do it on the 102s - but I make it to the top intact. I then walk across the main road and remount. Now, how do I find the path across the bridge? There follows a few frustrating minutes in which I am lost in a maze of footpaths, cycle paths and a pedestrian underpass. At one time, I ride up a steep ramp, only to find a dead end, a bus shelter and a startled pensioner. That’s slightly better than a dead pensioner and a startled end, I suppose.

When all else has failed, I read the signs and follow them.

I ride over the bridge and down to the road that passes the football ground and the golf course. This is usually a very quiet road, but I time my arrival with about 22 cars. Presumably there is a football match on and most of the players are travelling alone. I have to idle for about 2 or 3 minutes until there is a gap and I can join the convoy.

Next is the sports field. Here the 28mm slick tyre is no help at all. The path is simply a narrow strip of trodden mud, with the friction coefficient of Teflon flavoured toothpaste. I manage to teeter most of the way across the field before a complete loss of traction has me UPDing. The surface is so bad I can’t even remount, so I walk for a bit.

Then it’s what used to be a favourite section - the swoopy path by the river. However, it is part way through being improved, and will never be as good again. It is wider and straighter, but the surface is not yet flat. On the Coker, it would be easy; on the MUni, it would be boring; on the 700c, it’s just irritating.

After this section, there is more slimy mud, and I’m starting to regret my choice of tyre. Maybe I need a winter tyre with more grip. The precision steering and tactical route selection that made the 700c such an enjoyable challenge in the summer are less fun now, when the path is a winding strip of slime.

Eventually, I get back onto a hard dry surface and make good speed, slowing occasionally for dog walkers. I reach the weir. Beeston Weir is quite spectacular, with various concrete structures which break and mix the flow of the water, presumably to reduce erosion at the next bend in the river.

At the side of the weir is a concrete platform, and access to this is down a concrete ramp. I often ride down here to sit and contemplate infinity (i.e. “rest”) for a while. However, they have dug the ground at the top of the ramp, presumably to re-seed the grass. This means I have to ride across a narrow strip of exposed wet soil, with a steepish little drop. As I put back pressure on the pedals to control my speed, the tyre slips, the wheel locks and I skid down the hill before regaining control and riding onto the ramp. Two lads who were just starting to make derisory comments express admiration instead.

Later, I ride the short distance to the marina café where I purchase a rather disreputable Sunday paper and consume coffee and calories. This will be the furthest point of my ride, partly because I’m tired, and partly because I know that this tyre would be no good whatsoever on what would come next if I continued.

I ride back alongside the canal, almost without event.

An angler waits until I pass and says, “'Ere, mate, how do you knw you’re not going to fall off that?”

It’s a strange question. I slow almost to an idle and reply, “I will, sooner or later. I’ve fallen off twice already today.” He seems satsified with the answer.

I reach the steep little pedestrian bridge. I have never ridden over this on 102s. It would be exaggerating to call it easy on the 110s, but I manage it without serious difficulty. 8mm, an extra 8% - but it makes all the difference. I am starting to think that the test of a good unicyclist is not to be able to ride with ever shorter cranks, but to be able to ride reasonably fast with longer cranks.

I won’t give chapter and verse on the last couple of miles, because I’ve described the route so many times before, and it passes without incident.

Back to the car, the computer says:
14.19 miles (22.8 km)
Max speed 12 mph (19 kph) which is pretty good, considering that I never deliberately tried to ride fast.
1:39.52 riding time.
That’s an average riding speed of 8.5 mph (13.6 kph) which is slow, but takes into account all the nadgery sections and the slime.

Great story Mikefule!

I’m glad you got out this weekend. I’m finding it increasingly difficult due to what feels like almost constant rain and ever shortening days. Any way, I spent all day yesterday playing unicycle hockey for the firt time. It was great fun. I’m very achey today but it feels great.


just wanted to know since i always take a look at your thread: How can you write that long of text for each of your ride or 2 ???

Nice write up Mike,
You describe that rout so well I’m starting to feel like I’ve ridden there myself.
Got out on my own 29er today, rode into the city for a cup of coffie, did a loop of the parliment buildings and rode home again. 28 km in all
, lite snow most of the way and not a single wise crack from any one.

Cheers Dave

Verbal diar, diahr, dire… er… dirahoe, sh*ts.:o

Ottawa Dave: <<You describe that rout so well I’m starting to feel like I’ve ridden there myself. Got out on my own 29er today, rode into the city for a cup of coffie, did a loop of the parliment buildings and rode home again. 28 km in all , lite snow most of the way and not a single wise crack from any one. >>

A brevity to which I should perhaps aspire.:wink:

Re: An Ungripping Read

On Sun, 11 Dec 2005 14:41:35 -0600, cathwood wrote:

>ever shortening days

Just 1.5 week and the days start lengthening again!

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

“erectile function trumps public image - David Stone, commenting on the importance of seat comfort”

In addition to the vivid descriptions of the rides and conditions, I think it’s your ‘easy wit’ that I most enjoy about these posts.

Don’t you dare…

I’m well aquainted with the bi-monthly Monday morning, UniHoki-inspired realisation that I’m not 22 any more.
Love it.

Oh no, that’s poo that they’re resurfacing that bit from Grove Farm round towards Beeston canal, that was great on a coker at high speed. hmmmf. Maybe it’ll wear down to it’s original narrow niceness over the winter though?

By the way, on the bit between the old bridge and Clifton Bridge on the North bank, can’t you head down to the river really soon, thus hardly needing to ride along the road at all? The way that ends up going under Clifton Bridge right near the river? Or is that the bit that’s closed?

Incidentally, as it’s quite handy for where you are; I don’t think we posted up here, but we rode Blidworth Bottoms, Sansom Woods and Bestwood a couple of weeks back, you can put it into a really nice although slightly long muni ride if you use the bus (get the bus to Blidworth from the Victoria Centre Bus Station). There’s good and easy to find muni riding in Blidworth + Sansom Woods and very good but a bit ‘you’ve gotta know it’ riding in Bestwood. Oh and a nice pub in the middle(at the bottom of Sansom Woods I think it was). Easy navigation too. Was lovely and dry, still riding good despite the weather. It’s your sort of riding, woody not rocky.


the bit that’s closed is between where the Embankment Road joins the road from the Meadows towards Toys R us. Here, the cycle track runs alongsideto the road, and on the other side is a railing, a drop, and the river.

I think I know the bit you mean - a narrow track that looks like an anglers’ path? Must try it one day. You can get through that way then?

P.S., no one from further away than Derby will believe for one minute that there is a place called “Blidworth Bottoms”.:smiley:

Being 22 has nowt to do with it. I’m of that age and I was stiff, particularly my stomach muscles and obliques. Presumably from all the twisting and turning to keep track of where the ball is. Still, was well worth the pain…I’ve not had so much fun in ages.

Re: An Ungripping Read

In message
<>, Mikefule <>
>P.S., no one from further away than Derby will believe for one minute
>that there is a place called “Blidworth Bottoms”.:smiley:

We’ve got a Spuncombe Bottom near us. Beat that!


Martin E Phillips nb Boden, Splatt Bridge martin/at/g4cio/dot/demon/dot/co/dot/uk
Homebrewing, black pudding, boats, morris dancing, ham radio and more!
The Gloucester-Sharpness canal page

There is a place called Playfairvill not to far from where I live.
I’d write more if my typeing wasn’t so painfully slow.
Cheers Dave

Re: An Ungripping Read

On Mon, 12 Dec 2005 22:00:18 +0000, Martin Phillips wrote:

>We’ve got a Spuncombe Bottom near us. Beat that!

I know of a pub in Alaska (halfway between Nenana and Fairbanks) which
is run by a skinny fellow by the name of Dick. The pub is called (wait
for it)

Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

“erectile function trumps public image - David Stone, commenting on the importance of seat comfort”

Yep. A steep bit going down at the start but completely rideable and more direct than messing around with the official cycle route.


“near us”,“not to far from where I live” and “I know of” is not good enough. We all know silly names places (all though some of those are above average, I’ll give you that). You have to actually ride there, and ideally return with photographic evidence of unis leaning on silly signs. All rides should be planned based on this philosophy.


I was there this past summer on a motorcycle trip with some friends.