As I was Cokorvatin’ over the hill
I saw Maybelene in a Coupe De Ville…
But that’s another story for another day.
It’s been a funny old weekend, with weather varying from torrential rain and no wind, to too much wind but no rain, to baking hot sun. Sunday’s ride on the MUni was a disappointment, and Monday’s weather was more so… until mid afternoon.
So, I hit upon a plan to fit the 125mm cranks to the Coker and take it out for a ride. I’ve ridden it on 125s before, but I reverted to 150s because of the extra control and torque off road. Still, you gotta try these things from time to time.
I decide to start a few hundred yards away from my usual place, as I really don’t want to fluff my first few mounts with an audience of 50 bored kids on the park. So, imagine my chagrin when I get the Coker out of the boot of the car, only to find that I’ve attracted quite an audience anyway.
(Strictly speaking, they are spectators, rather than an audience, as they will be watching (L. spectare) rather than listening (L. audere) but let’s not be pedantic.) Oh, too late, I have been.
A discussion ensues:
Urchin: “Are you going to ride that?”
Me: “We’ll see in a minute.”
Girl: “How do you ride it?”
Girl (to mother): “How does he sit on it, that’s what I want to know.”
Mother: “Stupid. It’s got a saddle, look.”
Me (thinks) “Oh, it’s that simple is it? What a relief.”
Fortunately, I freemount first time, although it is a little scrappy, and I ride the first few metres with my right heel on the pedal before I get sufficient control to adjust my position.
Riding a Coker on 125s is easy enough, if you can ride a Coker at all. However, the problem comes when you hit topographical irregularities. All too soon, I hit a whole series thereof, and I slow right down, knowing that the reduced torque of the shorter cranks will make it harder for me to make sudden changes of speed to regain my balance. I totter and sway along the short section of packed mud single track that leads to the river bank.
Soon, I’m on the packed grit cycle path, and cruising along smoothly. There are lots of people about, but they’re mainly friendly, and step aside as I pass. As I approach the sailing club, and the short difficult section of narrow path, I hear a bicycle behind me and I slow and wave him past. Another conversation ensues:
Him: “See you at the Mountain Mayhem?”
Me: “Nope. Not this year.”
Him: “Done it before?”
Me: “Nearly. I trained for it then had an accident a week before and missed it. I know some people who did it on these, though.”
Him: “Well, they didn’t hold us up too much.”
(I think that was intended as a compliment.)
Then the silly bugger stops right on the bend into the difficult section. I have to swerve and tiptoe my way round him. With the reduced control of the shorter cranks, I’m quite pleased with the results. He asks me for directions, and I shout them over my shoulder and gesticulate in a general direction. He follows me.
From here, I try to follow my usual route through the Water Sports Centre, to see how the shorter cranks compare. There’s a definite loss of speed and control on the uphill zig zag path. It’s loads harder on the mown grass slope, although that could be because the ground is sopping wet from the morning’s rain. I make it over the first hill, along the saddle, then UPD on the next short steep climb.
To be fair, I’m never certain of making it up that last section on the 150s, but I can’t remember the last time I failed. I turn and remount down the slope, ride along the saddle and turn so that I get a good run up. This time, I make it up the second hill.
The next big obstacle is the steep descent to the lakeside. This is intimidating because if I lose control I must either force myself to UPD at high speed, or end up in the lake. So far, I’ve not had to swim, but the thought is always there. I make it down the hill, considerably more slowly than I would on the longer cranks. I chicken out of the next short uphill, because that one’s never a certainty on the 150s, and the ground is wet, which makes it more difficult.
The rest of my regular route is quite easy, although there’s a strong diagonal headwind on my way back up the lake, and I feel the Coker leaning uncomfortably to one side, despite everything I try. Cycling into the wind is always hard work, and I honestly think it’d be easier on the longer cranks. I’d probably even be going a bit faster.
Around the top of the lake, and I try to cut up across the grassy slope to the path. This is always a challenge, requiring an astute tactical understanding of the contours of the slope. On wet muddy grass and short cranks, it proves impossible and I dismount voluntarily and walk.
Soon, I’m riding back up the river, gritting my teeth a bit as I fight the headwind. I pass many people, most of whom are pleasant and polite. I also pass a group of young scallywags on mountain bikes who laugh derisively - until one of them chastises the others, saying, “No. Respeck for that.” (He might have said, “Respec’”, of course. In fact, yes, he was so brave, resisting peer pressure, that I’ll credit him with the apostrophe.)
As I ride past the City Ground, home of NFFC, cradle of despair, I meet a swarm of young men in sports clothing. One thinks it’s hilarious to raise his hands like claws, shout “Graaaaaaaghh!” and run towards me. My response consists of one word, and implies he might be well suited to pancake racing or entering the caber event in the Highland games.
The rest of the ride is fairly uneventful, except that I pass far more people than I would normally see. Mostly, they are friendly, and several people cheer me on my way. One unusual comment, meant nicely: “Do you have a deathwish?”
That’s not an easy question to ask nicely, either!
(OK, OK, for those of you who don’t speak the English dialect of the English language, or who still haven’t worked it out, the pancakes and cabers word was “tosser”.)
I make it back to the car after 11.34 miles (18.24 km) and 1:12:26, making an average speed of 9.38 mph (15.1 kmh). And the top speed? A mere 13 mph (just under 21 kmh).
The high average speed over such a mixed route suggests that the cruising speed on the flat is slightly higher with the 125s than with the 150s. The maximum speed is nothing to write home about, but I never really went for it in a big way. I was always aware that I had less acceleration in reserve in the event of an unforeseen loss of equilibrium. I also found myself leaving a much bigger safety margin in the difficult sections.
There were some sections which I can only just ride on the 150s which were impossible on the 125s. There were some sections I can easily ride on the 150s which were challenging on the 125s. I found myself picking my route to suite the cranks.
Of course, I might improve with practice, but practice will never hide the fact that the 150s have about 20% more torque. It’s more than that on hills, because the comparison should be between the amount of crank on the uphill side of the contact patch between tyre and ground. So, for example, if the contact patch moves an inch uphill from the hub axle (or spindle, I can never remember) then the lever provided by the 150 (6 inch) crank is about 25% more than that provided by the 125 (5 inch) crank.
I’m used to riding a 28 on 110s. (30.93% ratio) so the Coker on 125s (27.34%) shouldn’t be that different. Perhaps it’s the extra weight of the rim and tyre, or the extra height, or just a confidence thing. Either way, the Coker on 150s is a go anywhere do anything bulldozer of a unicycle; by comparison, the Coker on 125s is a fast cruiser on flat tarmac, but a bit of a liability when the going gets tough.