Down by the riverside...

April is the Fulest month bringing old cycles out of the dead back bedroom, mixing memory with the desire to ride…

Today was beautiful - bright clear skies, warm sunshine, and I had time to ride.

This time, I risk starting near the adventure playground. An audience of dozens sees me freemount first time and ride past and there is barely a comment - just some half-hearted derisive laughter.

I am wearing different trainers from usual. They are cheap slip-on ones. I had thought that the absence of laces would be an advantage. Unfortunately, the soles are slightly thinner than my usual tennis shoes, and they grip differently on the pins on the pedals. They feel wrong, and the seat feels a tad too high. (A tad is a pre-metric unit, equal to 12 gnats’ eyebrows, or half a smidge.)

Soon I am down by the riverbank, and heading upriver, with the sparkling Trent to my right. A sudden panic: it’s Saturday afternoon - will Nottingham Forest be playing? If so, I’m doomed as my route will take me straight past the stadium. Fortunately, there is no match, and no crowd. In fact, I have only one spectator, a bloke on a narrowboat who shouts a conventional inanity which I ignore.

Within minutes, I’m cruising along the top step of the embankment, then I pass two young lovers, one of whom shouts, “You’ve lost half your bike, mate.” He’s clearly trying to impress his girl with his ready wit and repartee, rather than communicate across the gulf in understanding that separates unicyclists from the mob, so I respond with appropriate contempt. I clap my hands loudly and shout, “Well done! First today.”

Seconds later, I am steaming up the ramp of the suspension bridge, and suddenly, clunk! The first UPD of the day. Ooops! Fortunately, the tower of the bridge obscures me from the view of my self-appointed technical advisor. My hope is that he is too stupid to infer anything from the fact that I rode behind the tower at high speed, but did not appear from behind the tower two seconds later… that would require an intuitive understanding of speed and distance calculations and the laws of physics which I suspect he lacks.

I take the opportunity to lower the seat a tad. Interestingly, there is a “tide mark” on the seat post almost exactly a tad above the clamp. I must have adjusted it a tad too high for some reason a couple of rides ago. Maybe I was wearing shoes with soles half a smidge thicker?

But I digress.

Rather too often.

I swoop down off the bridge onto the cycle path, then across the grass to the tarmac path along the river bank. This is positively aswarm with families and couples, most of whom are friendly. From here, it’s a short ride along the cycle path at the side of the road, then I reach the Pedestrian Underpass of Doom - ramps that go down, up, down, up, across, down and up, with turns to the left and right until one almost expects to meet a small party comprising a cleric, a dwarf, a paladin and an elf locked in mortal combat with a ten foot cube of jelly or some kobolds. Or am I showing my age?

The underpass is quite a challenge. I’m on the 28, which has only 110 mm cranks, and a standard Miyata saddle, with the plastic grab handle. Hills can never be taken for granted. However, I have enough in reserve to be able to admire the graffiti. Clearly the local vandals are into corporate branding, as there’s a massive logo which reads “F.U.N.”, under which is the strap line, “Fukin Up Nottingham”. Whatever next? A mission statement? Targets? Monthly planning meetings? And they say today’s kids lack imagination and get up and go!

Emerging from the labyrinth, I turn 180 degrees and head along a short section of cycle track to the road junction. I almost think I’m safe to cross, but I’m old enough and wise enough to guess that the Ford Escort that is facing slightly to the left, and not indicating will in fact turn to the right, across my path. I mouth a good-natured obscenity at the driver and continue on my way, passing the sports ground, then getting onto the muddy single track across the mown grass. This is quite a challenge on my road tyre, but I manage it.

The next section is well-surfaced single track, which winds along beside the river (now to my left), and I make good speed, cheered on my way by a friendly group of young girls playing in the woods on the opposite bank. I realise I’m catching up with a group of bicyclists, and I make that my objective. Soon I am quietly tagging along behind them. Dad is the tail end Charlie. In front of him are two kids on mountain-style bikes, and in front of them is the widest Mum I’ve seen for some time. Overtaking a backside like that would add half a mile to my route, so I hold back until Dad hears my tyre crunching the chippings, turns, does a classic double-take, then commands his family to pull over to let me past.

Ten minutes later, I’m sitting outside Beeston Marina, drinking Irn Bru and reading the paper.

Thus refreshed, I turn back, opting to ride along the side of the canal. The first section is along the top of a flood bank. A youth on an old Honda CB100 is barking up and down the field at the bottom of the flood bank, and he pulls up his visor and shouts something. It sounds friendly, so I cup my ear and he shouts again, “Race you!” I grin, adopt a racing crouch and spin as fast as I can. He roars off. Aha! But what if the race had a compulsory section where you carry your vehicle up some steps?

Curiosity gets the better of me and I ride up the ramp to a foot bridge that I’ve always previously ignored. I ride over the bridge, struggling a bit to get the wheel up a small sharp step from the ramp to the bridge deck. My progress at the other end of the bridge is abruptly halted by the sight of a short flight of steep stairs leading down to a muddy path.

Not being a sixteen year old with a 3 inch tyre and no fear of pain and maiming, I carry the uni down the steps, then ride along the path. It’s hardly glorious - there’s a 2 metre wire fence on each side, and each fence is decorated with wind-blown carrier bags and other litter. Still, the ride’s challenging enough - although it would be easy on the MUni. I hit the first deep patch of wet mud, and make it through, but in the second patch, I soon reach a traction deficit situation and dismount in an accidental but reasonably dignified fashion. There’s one more UPD on this section before I emerge onto the road.

From here, there’s a mile or so of road and cycle path until I get to the university campus. There’s a lovely ride round the back of the lake, although the route is a bit congested with pedestrians, who have selfishly decided to come out to enjoy the sun. One section of the path has a down slope just steep enough that I have to make The Decision: do I keep control and plod down, or spin down and hope I stay on? Uncharacteristically, I go for the “spin down” option, momentarily regretting it before I reach the safety of the flat bit.

I now follow the maze of cycle paths and cycle routes through the back streets of Dunkirk. (If the “government” wants to encourage cycling, why are cycle routes always longer and more complex than normal roads?) Eventually, I reach the canal bank again.

In Africa, many children have very little food, and only restricted access to water. How this contrasts with our country, where we have so much food that the supermarkets provide trolleys as part of the service, to make you more likely to choose your food from them - and our children throw those trolleys in the water. What’s that all about then?

A couple of miles later, I ride up the ramp from the canal and discover that, with amazingly inept timing, I have reached the Notts County football ground exactly as the crowd is leaving. I find myself riding against the tide, zigzagging trepidly between big blokes in replica shirts. Someone once said, “Never underestimate the stupidity of people in large numbers.” Well, a report out this week proved to my satisfaction that a football crowd is the biggest concentration of stupidity known to man. Studies have shown that violence actually INCREASES when the home side wins. What’s the mentality that causes that? I could draw you a diagram, or write you an essay on it, but I’ll never understand it intuitively.

Be that as it may, most of the crowd is friendly, although there are occasional standard absence-of-component related quips. Only one chap - a big ugly stereotype with short hair and sagging jowls - makes a half-hearted attempt at knocking me over with his car, and mouths unpleasant sentiments at me in the mirror. I’m a bit confused, lip reading in the mirror. All I could make out was, “!reknaw diputS” or words to that effect. (I have Bowdlerised this as I know older people also read this form and they may not be as used to foul and abusive language as the minors.)

Two startled Police officers wave me across a junction, and I soon catch up with the vehicle with the big ugly stereotype in it, stuck in traffic. Smiling benignly, I sail past but eventually have to dismount to cross the footbridge which is packed with fans. I chuckle as a man explains to his son that unicycles are, “really difficult to ride” - like he’s the expert.

Ten minutes later, I’ve finished the last spurt along the river bank and I’m back at the car. I guess that’s about 12 - 15 miles (about 20 km?) but I’m not using the computer these days, as it only makes me chase numbers.

All I could think about on Saturday was how nice it would be to be riding in the fine weather and whether there were any unicyclists out riding but instead I spent the day traipsing around shops and fixing other peoples computers :frowning:

Glad to here you enjoyed the sun in Nottingham Mike.

Me too ™, but, alas, I had to give my knee a break; it suffered too much in last thursdays hockey session… …

Nice writeup, as always, Mike; thank you!

I always have to adjust the seat after changing shoes. I don’t have two pairs which I can use with the same seat height.


Lovely stuff, Mike.

Your write-ups of your rides are getting me closer to taking the 29" out on a longer ride and braving the comments of the general public.

That, and the fact that I am beginning to freemount the big fella successfully more frequently!

And… BUC?