First ride on new MUni

Yesterday’s ride on the “wrong” KH24…

The story so far. Mikefule ordered a KH cross country, received a KH Muni instead, and decided to keep it, despite some residual doubts about the very fat tyre, the cranks, and the weight.

My previous MUni was a Pashley 26, fitted with a Holy Roller 2.5" tyre and 170mm cranks. The KH is a 24x3" with 165mm cranks.

So I drive up to Sherwood Pines and park in the car park. My initial attempts at riding on the path outside my house had been twitchy, so I pumped a bit more air into the tyre before setting off.

I freemount easily, and set off like a bat out of hell (not to be confused with John Prescott, who told his secretary, “Like a prat out of Hull I’ll be gone when the morning comes…”). These cranks are 5 mm shorter than the cranks on the Pashley, but they are somehow easier to spin. The wheel diameters are not far off identical (I think there’s less than an inch in it) so the difference must simply be that the 5 mm shorter cranks fit my legs better.

300 metres into the ride, I am passing the cycle hire shop when I see a lady with a yellow tandem. She is perplexed. It has too many gears, and none of them is working. The chain is hanging sadly, and she is picking at it with oily fingers, while her young child looks on, glumly. Bicyclists pass her without a second glance.

Ta daaa! Mikefule: Unicyclist of Desssstiny… I screech to a halt and offer to help. We 1:1 seat:wheel ratio cyclists should stick together.

Within minutes the tandem is working. I give the lady some basic advice about using the gears, and see that none of it is understood. I decide to keep it simple: don’t touch that lever at all, whatever you do. Push that lever if you want to go faster, and that lever if you are stuggling up a hill. She smiles dimly.

Off I ride again, spinning that wheel like it’s national spinning week. The giant tyre smooths the minor bumps like a hovercraft. Straight over the first section of “yeller brick”, I wiggle through the wiggle gate, and I’m on grassy track. Somehow, this machine feels ridiculously fast, but already I’m breathing hard.

Left and up a gentle grassy slope, then across the “yeller brick” and into the woods. Alleged mountain bikers pass behind me, plodding along the firm flat track. I scoot through the woods on an undulating winding muddy rooty path. So who’s having more fun?

At the next main track, I turn left up a steepish hill. Up out of the seat, and honking on the pedals, I’m doing OK until suddenly the tyre slips beneath me on a pebble, and before I can react I UPD.

I take the opportunity to get my breath back. It feels worse to be out of breath in a full face helmet. It sounds louder, for a start.

Remounted, I turn down a narrow straight muddy track between tightly ranked conifers. The uni is still demanding that I spin it. I have no way of measuring, but it feels like my cadence is faster than I could sustain for more than a few seconds on the Pashley. Is it the tyre? The cranks? The price I paid? Either way, I have a good feeling about this uni.

Left at the next junction and up the hill. Bang!: the tyre suddenly slips beneath me, this time on a small twig. I UPD and swear. That’s two UPDs that I don’t think would have happened on the Holy Roller.

I slow down a bit (I need to anyway) and find my way along a variety of tracks. Like a naughty boy, I splash through the muddy puddles, pleased with the feedback I get from the tyre, and the general lack of sideslip. Here, the tyre is far far better than the Holy Roller.

I find the BMX course, and ride some of the obstacles. I manage the “grand circuit” with the fast swoop, the steep little climb, the tricky bump at the top… then the swoop and slog, teetering at the very top of the bank before keeping tight control down the first long slope, rushing up the next bank, then stomping back the pedals on the next long descent, before spinning out at the bottom of the hill. Brilliant! I have lost a lot of height, and gained a lot of fun. That’s the sort of thing where I wish I had someone watching, but I am alone.

Which is just as well as the next thing I do is UPD on a discarded Rizzla paper. Weird this: the uni eats up the difficult stuff and trips on the easy stuff. I think at least part of it is that I am getting overconfident.

I reach a short steep section of hill which I sometimes ride up without a stop, but not always. This is one of the unsuccessful times. Again, it feels like the tyre slipped on a pebble.

Down the long gradual descent, then I carry the uni across the big rock and wire barrier onto the footbridge across the railway line, and up the steep sandy slope onto the old track bed.

The old track bed is a former railway embankment. It has been out of use for decades, and subsidence has set in, so that the surface undulates like a roller coaster. After heavy rain, each dip is full of black mucky water. Today, it is fairly dry. The undulations are hard work because they are not perfectly even, and not quite in phase with the size of the wheel. It’s the sort of riding that’s fun at first, but gets a bit wearying after a while.

At the end of the old track bed, earth has been piled up to make a bit of a barrier to kids in stolen cars and jeeps. The barrier has been worn down a bit (by kids in stolen cars and jeeps, no doubt) and the ground is fairly dry. for the first time ever, I make it over the barrier onto the wasteland beyond without a UPD.

The wasteland… an area of black gritty and dust, scored deeply with wheel ruts, many of which are full of slime and sludge. It is April, but no lilacs have bred out of this dead land… it’s not a nice place to be.

The way down from here is a sandy slope. I’d guess the angle is around 30 degrees, and the sand is chewed up by jeeps so it’s soft and yielding. I launch over the edge of the embankment and ride down, fish tailing slightly, but always feeling like the tyre knows what it’s doing. I make it to the bottom (a ride of 20 metres or so) without a UPD, and feeling elated.

I usually turn right here, but today I turn left, and find my way past bright yellow gorse and broom bushes to a steep gravelly hill where I have to dismount and walk up. This brings me into a narrow strip of woods, and then onto an area of high ground that overlooks the “desert”.

The desert is simply a large area of sand and gravel on a site that has been quarried. Local kids ride motorbikes there, or torch cars. Today (Saturday) I am the only person there. I choose my ramp, and ride down the gravelly sandy slope to the desert. This tyre gives me confidence, and I make it to the bottom without a scare.

I pause to gather breath then set off across the desert, managing to get further on the soft shifting sand than ever before. When I do UPD, I decide that enough is enough and walk to the main track.

From here, I ride down the rough gravel road, under the bridge, and towards the black lagoon. I’ve done this section many times on the Pashley. I notice myself taking slightly trickier lines on the KH.

To my surprise, the lagoon has almost been drained. A rusted car roof sticks disconsolately out of the quicksand. Abandoned gas cylinders lie next to it, supported by the dried and cracked crust. The first time I ever came to this place, it spooked me a bit, but today I notice the embankments on each side are ablaze with yellow and white blossom, the few scraggy willow trees are alive with new leaf growth, and the birds are singing. I pause for a while, take a couple of photos, then move on.

The climb up from the lagoon is tricky: a rutted mud path. I’ve done it in my old Suzuki Vitara, but I’ve never made it without a UPD on a unicycle. Today, the conditions are ideal, with the ground fairly dry and solid, so I don’t know how much credit the uni gets, but I make it easily in one.

This brings me back up onto the old track bed, so I retrace my route, and slip slide under perfect control down the gravel and sand ramp back to the foot bridge.

Then it’s up the short climb through the mixed forest to the start of the official mountainbike course. “Experienced Cyclists Only.” I make it down the course with one totally pointless UPD, and one arising from indecision at an obstacle. This is rider error. When I make no mistakes, I find the uni flowing down stuff that I would normally regard as at the limit of my ability.

I cross the next wide track and continue down the mountainbike course, then take a short cut up an embankment, and have a moment of panic at the top. The descent is steep, with a tree root across it, and two sudden changes of gradient. I go for it, and whoop with relief and exhilaration as I make it. Then I rush over the normal obstacles, including the tricky little drop that sometimes trips me.

I stop at a bench seat for a while, and regain my composure. I take a few minutes to enjoy the forest. The trouble with MUni is that you can be so wrapped up in the obstacles ahead of you that you don’t notice the scenery.

Recharged, I set off into the forest again on narrow winding tracks, sometimes climbing, sometimes descending. I make it up at least one more hill that has always defeated me before, but I have two or three more “soft” UPDs. Tired now, I make my way back towards the car, still spinning faster than I would on the Pashley, but knowing that there’s little torque left in those tired leg muscles.

A nice ride.

And the comparison of unicycles?

Well, I never dared hope it would make such an obvious difference. The Pashley is good quality, but not a high specification machine. The Holy Roller is good for speed, but the 3" Leopard isn’t noticeably slower. The KH has more grip in the mud and is absolutely amazing on sand. Somehow the KH gives more feedback: it feels tighter - although I have never noticed any flex in the Pashley. The Pashley frame has always felt like a dead weight, but the KH doesn’t.

Two slight criticisms: the Snafu pedals are very comfortable, but not quite as grippy as my DDGs. The tyre does seem to struggle with isolated loose items (pebbles, twigs, pine cones) particularly on up hills. I wonder if it is simply that the wider footprint naturally “finds” more of these, or whether it is some interaction between the loose pebbles and the very large tread blocks on the tyre. Maybe it’s just the way I was riding today.

Dead chuffed with the new uni, anyway. That Kris Holm bloke obviously knows his stuff.:wink:

My Muni with 3" tyre and 165mm cranks feels way faster that any other 24" I’ve ever ridden.

It can’t be, but it certainly feels it. I think it’s maybe cos your legs are moving more or something.

Try a bit less tyre pressure for help with loose small obstacles, like pebbles.

Mine is horrible to ride on the road but smooth as butter on (not too) rough tracks. Last time I pumped it up, when I connected the pump the guage read between 5-10 psi.

The leopard / contra does inspire confidence and rightly so, it’s a fantastic tyre.

I agree with you on the Snafu pedals, but loads of others seem to love them. Not enough pins on them for me either!

Have fun with your muni!

T.

Glad you like it.

Just one thought - how do you fishtail on a single wheeled vehicle?

John

nice write up i had fun reading it it rely made my day :smiley:

Q.E.D.

Just the tail. No fish. :smiley:

good read as always… makes me want a muni

Chase

I also ride a KH24, with the leopard tire. I’ve never owned another uni, but I can vouch for that tire, and the uni. It got me through the nasty conditions of winter, and it loves mud and soft sand. I have noticed the same thing about gettin tripped up on small objects. Several times i fall, look back, and think" I shouldn’t have been stopped by that". Maybe too much grip?

Maybe you slip on small things because the fat tire spreads the weight out. This means there’s less pressure on a contact point of equal size. Or maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Getting tripped up by small things is a fundamental part of MUni. It has to do with relaxing your concentration when you think you’re doing an easy bit, not with the equipment.

Mike, your ability to make a captivating, interesting story with just a few hours long ride astounds me again