Coker and 28 comparison ride

I went for another ride with Simon today. Simon took up unicycling less than two months ago, and now has a Coker. On Tuesday, he was freemounting the Coker almost 100%, he rode 7+ miles (11 km) and he did his first section of rough track.

I wasn’t really up for it today. I’ve had 3 tough evenings of fencing this week, and one long evening of Morris dancing, so my legs are starting to rebel. “Hey, Brains?” “Yeah?” “This is legs… what’s going on? Can’t the man play chess or something? Let’s see you do some work for a change.”

I took the 28, which has a narrow 700c x 32mm road tyre, a Velo seat, 110 mm cranks, and the original plastic round-ended pedals. Simon was on his Coker, with a cheap seat (swapped from his 20), 150mm cranks, and DDG pinned platform pedals bought this week.

Having spent much of the morning on his 20, Simon found the Coker hard to get going, and it took him a few attempts to get rolling. Our first half mile or so was accompanied by a group of three young boys who were torn between being impressed and being gratuitously offensive. When Simon had to dismaount at a junction, he had difficulty remounting, and I had to ‘draw their fire’ by doing a couple of mounts, some idling and reversing and even a small bunny hop.

We followed the lane until we reached a trail which I have ridden many times. I would have no problem riding the first section on my 20, or on my 24/102. It was too much for Simon, and we soon gave up. This is no criticism of a new rider, who is doing so phenomenally well, but it is interesting (to me) to be reminded how much progress I have made in the last year and a half. I remember that trail being the height of my off-roading achievement then, but that seems like a lifetime ago. With Simon making such rapid progress, I can see he’ll have overtaken me in another year.

Back on the lane we were doing well until traffic forced a dismount on an uphill. Simon was unable to remount. To be fair, I would have found it challenging on the Coker.

About 8 miles into the ride we stopped at a pub for a beer and a rest. Simon has a new hydration pack (a Blackburn) and I had my Camelbak. It was a muggy afternoon, and the backs of our shirts were soaked. I’m still not 100% convinced by my Camelbak - I think it makes me sweat more than my old waist-pack and drinks bottle did. Still, it is more comfortable… until you stop, then it’s cold and clammy.

By the time we left the pub, it was starting to rain. My 28 has plastic pedals, and my feet were slipping about horribly - not nice in traffic.

The very last section was down the rough track we rode on Tuesday, but today it was muddy with large puddles. The 28 with its skinny road tyre was not in its natural habitat here, and I had about four UPDs, including one which tested my wristguards to the full, and took skin off my forearm. Ouch! In the end, we both had to walk the very last bit of the track - Simon was too tired, and was unsure of his freemounting, and I was finding it too much like hard work, having to stand up and ‘march’ on the pedals, with my feet unable to grip properly, and no handle on the Velo seat.

I could have done this whole ride half as fast again on my own, and on the Coker, but on the 28, I had to ride reasonably briskly to keep up. The top speed may be about the same, but big wheel and steady cadence are better for long trips than the smaller wheel and faster cadence.

The Velo seat is horribly uncomfortable, compared to the Viscount. The 28 road tyre is OK for the road, but it’s hard and unforgiving. I need better pedals. I think 110mm cranks are about right for the 28. 125s are waaaay toooooo slooooow, and 102s are too challenging for riding in traffic. The 28 is a good road machine; with a fatter tyre it might become a good fast MUni… but it’s not a Coker.

On ‘ratios’, the 28 should be slightly faster. On the road, it ain’t.

Total distance covered? Between 10 and 12 miles (16 - 20 km) in a couple of hours. I forgot to set my computer.