Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been optimising the 36" for road use. That meant changing the saddle for a slightly softer one, adding a Nimbus T handle with bar ends, front and rear lights and a bell. After yet another experiment with 125s, I once again reverted to 150s, prefering the confident control in traffic (150s) to the slight gain in cruising speed (125s).
So tonight was the first “night ride” - by which I simply mean “ride in the dark”.
Last winter, my few night rides were done with a superpowerful LED “you can make toast with it too” head torch. This year as an experiment I have attached a basic 5 LED bicycle front light to the new T bar.
Straight out of my own gateway and onto the fast level road out of the village. A real luxury after 18 years of living in a steep sided grittily urban valley full of plebs.
Up and over the A1 dual carriageway, with the sidewind affecting the handling of the uni as I crossed the bridge. The front lamp is casting a circle in front of me which sways slightly as I pedal, sweeping the ground for obstacles.
Down the other side of the bridge, a sharp turn into a dark lane, and then a long grind up a dead straight road, still with a strong side wind. At the far end is a steep little hill (htere are no big hills for miles now I live in Lincolnshire) and I slog up there, my hand straying back into the traditional front-of-seat position for confidence.
At the farm at the top, I turn right along an unmade road (or to be accurate, it was made once but is now unmade - perhaps dismade?) where I weave between patches of rough surface and try to pick my way between puddles. This is riding by touch as much as sight. What fencers call “sentiment du fer” which translates loosely as “the feel of the steel” or - for unicyclists - the feel of the wheel.
I see two puddles that have merged into one that completely crosses my path. It’s a try and see moment. I try, I see. I see that I fall off. The sound alerts the dogs at the nearby farm, and I half expect an irate farmer to come out and tell me to get orf his land.
I remount (not easy on uneven ground in the dark, and continue until I reach smooth tarmac again.
Soon there is a right turn and a long smooth descent. My light picks out a white shape and I recognise the ghostly form of a barn owl, its underparts white, its flight silent.
To might right the moon shines wanly through thin cloud. I decide to turn off my front light and ride by night vision and feel. There is half a mile of this before I turn the light back on for the junction.
Left and up over the A1 dual carriageway again. Traffic roars beneath me. I turn down the slip road towards the small island at the bottom, timing my ride to let two cars speed through. I turn left into the small back lane that leads into the village. The road meanders a little and the surface is uneven enough to be a challenge in the dark.
Apolice car cruises past. I’m riding a 36 inch unicycle ont he road int he dark. Perfectly legal, but so is riding a bicycle through the vehicle exit at Downing Street… The car doesn’t stop.
Back out onto the main road and a gentle poddle for the last couple of hundred metres home.
My guess, 4 miles covered. 1 UPD. A good start to the winter season.