fording rivers advice please

I’m back in hot & humid London after a hot & humid break in Dorset. Give me the latter any day.
Went for a limited number of rides, but the most notable was at Moreton, where a warm evening ride ended at a 50 metre wide ford with a footbridge alongside. It had to be done (ok, you’ve got the gist already - tried).
The current was not particularly fast. I could recover the 29er lazily floating off downstream at a fast walking pace after spectacular, fun and cooling UPDs.
The shallowest route I could find across covered the pedals at the top of the stroke (or maybe some more) for just a few metres.
No matter what I tried, from either bank I could not manage that deepest section.
Anything below the axle was fine, so next time I will be trying the Coker.

Does any one have any advice for riding through water?

Sounds like fun. I have no idea how to forge deep water while riding. I’ve only gone axle-deep.

Did you try angling your craft upstream. Even a little current will knock you off balance.

Be sure to thoroughly dismantle and dry off your machine. Those bearings will get rusty and squeek and drag. Remember WD40? The WD stands for “water displacement”. At the very least, soak those bearings in WD40. Solicit advice from other, more fastidious mechanics on these forums who might have better methods.

It’s also a degreasant, so it’ll get rid of the water nicely, but you will then need to re-grease the bearings to stop them being ruined.

Might be better to just drop a bit of oil on them, but then my attitude to maintenance is generally ‘ignore it and it might go away’ varying to ‘drip some oil on it and it’ll be fine’ in cases whichr equire a mjor strip down, clean, grease and re-assembly. It’s working so far…

As for fords - it’s easier in the dark, because the lights shine on the bottom so that you can see it, rather than just seeing a reflection of whatever’s on the opposite bank during the day. Possibly. My only other advice is use the bridge, but that’s dull.


I keep saying this, but no-one believes me, choosing to believe instead that only a real weirdo would enjoy riding through streams on a unicycle after dark. I say the two are not mutually exclusive.

I think that applies to when it’s rocky underneath though, rather than just coping with sheer volume of water.

I have never ridden through anything over hub depth. I guess the main problem is the foot moving forwards at the top of the pedal stroke; coupled with the bottom foot moving backwards this will probably make you turn in circles and fall off. In this case I would imagine going really slowly is the answer… but then you are at the mercy of any slight bumps on the bottom.

I’m not too sure about how bearings are affected by plunging them into water. My 29er survived a dip in the canal and a good number of huuuuuge puddles and streams on the Quantocks, only to seize after some not very wet rides. I have a feeling that the seals and grease are adequate to keep rivers and puddles out but not enough to keep water from the hosepipe out when cleaning the thing. Since I changed my last hub I just give the centre of the wheel a once over with a rag to get the worst of the mud off; the bearings have been fine so far.


On the water in the bearings issue:

I posted a request for advice about replacing bearings recently, but then I simply regreased the ones I had. I decided that my unicycle has doen a few hundred miles, and that my bicycle used to do many more than that before the bearings needed replacing.

All I did was this:
Drop the wheel out of the frame.
Use a tiny screwdriver to carefully lift the rubber ring out of the bearing unit.
Rinse the bearing thoroughly to remove grit. (using an aerosol spray such as WD40 would help to blast out any grit or dust.)
Allow the bearing to dry.
Add grease. I used motorcycle chain lube which again has the advantage of being aerosol, and which is formulated not to damage the rubber O rings in a motorcycle chain, so won’t damage the rubber seals in a unicycle wheel.
Replace the rubber ring, carefully.

There was no need to remove the bearing cage or the balls.

OK, so maybe a full overhall would be even better, but this worked for me, and got rid of an irritating noise,

It’s a simple job. 20 minutes at most.

As for riding fords. The problems will be:
Hydrodynamic drag on the wheel.
The uneven bed of the ford, shifting under the tyre.
The buoyancy of the tyre, reducing your grip.
Any cross current that might knock you off course.

Drag will ebb much lower if you ride slowly.

You will be less affected by uneven ground under the wheel if you stand on the pedals and ride slowly.

The buoyancy problem will get worse, the deeper the water is, as you attempt to submerge more of the tyre. Look at the shape of the tyre to see how this is NOT a straight line graph. Stand on the pedals to keep as much of yourself out of the water as possible.

Aim upstream to counteract the effects of the current.

It’s easy to say these things. I’ve never done it for real in anything deeper than about 6 - 8 inches. Accept that it is a game. You may win, you may lose.

But do dry the uni thoroughly - most forks are hollow at the bottom and water will get into the frame there. The seat tube is also hollow, as is the seat post. The bearings need greasing. Lots of WD 40.

WDs 1 - 39 were not nearly so good.

Ball bearings need grease - not oil. Grease will stay in place for much longer while oil will evaporate. Grease will hold back water better than oil. When cleaning bearings, pull them off the axle and let them soak in a degreaser (preferably biodegradable!) let them dry and remove any grit. Check the races for uneven wear and then put ample of grease inside the bearing before resealing it.

An amendement to what I wrote earlier.

I just took my 20 apart with a view to rinsing and re-greasing the bearings, only to find that they were totally different from the bearings on my 28.

The two unis are the same “brand” from the same supplier. however it is no surprise that a fairly budget model should be put together with whatever parts are available at that time. The 28 has the cheaper-looking bearings that are easy to open. the 20 has ones that seem to be much better sealed. I can’t (easily) clean and grease them, but presumably they will keep the dirt and water out better.

After all, how often do you clean and grease the wheel bearings on your car or motorbike? Every few thousand miles, although they carry more load and work at higher revs and temperatures, in all weathers.

I had some strange noises from my muni a month ago, so off with the bearings and on with a new pair. The noise was gone. Here the bearings cost only 2.60 $ (£1.50) each so its no big deal. But just to be safe I opened the bearings before putting them on to make sure they were properly greased.

Some bearings are quite impossible to open without destroying the ‘lid’. Look for the ones with rubber seals.

next time I’ll bring the Muni & Coker as well. lower tyre pressure would probably help the traction & bouyancy.

riding after dark would naturally mean lighting the uni for retrieval purposes too (imagine losing a uni that way? oh the shame!). It does make drying off in the sunshine afterwards a bit more difficult.

Re: fording rivers advice please

I imagine going REALLY fast may help, or result in an early
maybe the boomerang uni, if ridden at high speed would
simpley skim across the top of the water, jesus sandels,
flowing hair and beard would probably be required too!

I rode my uni on the beach at Filey on the weekend and rode through the waves as they washed the sands, it was a great baywatch moment, just needed one of those funny red things over my shoulder and a hairy chest…

It was great…
in fact the whole scarborough wkend was great

Andy P

Some people stand in the darkness
Afraid to step into the light
Some people need to help somebody
When the edge of surrender’s in sight…

Re: Re: fording rivers advice please

Cor… the bearings have it hard with just water, let alone salt and sand.

Does the wheel still turn?


That’s not what it looked like from where we were standing :stuck_out_tongue:

Re: Re: Re: fording rivers advice please

it did last night, i was only in 4 - 6 inches of water…
i think i’ll give a bit of an overhaul this weekend though :o)

Not with the buoyancy unless the tyre was so flat it collapsed under the water pressure. Buoyancy is to do with displacement of water, and the same amount of water will be displaced whether they tyre is at 20 psi or 120 psi. In fact, and this is not a joke, the wheel will be heavier at high pressure due to the additional weight of the air.

I used to be a diver, and we had to adjust our weight for how much air would be in the tank at the end of a dive, not the beginning. Of course, the pressures there are much higher.

There might be a slight decrease in buoyancy caused by the very slight reduction in displacement caused by the bottom of the tyre distorting against the bottom of the river. If the pressure was so low that the amount of distortion was noticeable increased, as soon as you rode out of the water, and lost th ebuoyancy, your tyre would be too soft.

I’ve ridden in a couple of lakes with my old unicycle (now with a broken hub). Afterwards I just Gunk Liquid wrenched (similar to Wd40) the whole unicycle, and tried to saturated bearing housings with it. I did not disassemble the unicycle. I also using the unicycle in the following winter so to prevent rust I would wipe the uni down then coated the entire uni in the same Liquid wrenched; at the end of the winter, still no rust and everything was working correctly.

Since I have my KH20 I haven’t tried it in water any water deeper then a few inches but for an old uni, Liquid wrench seemed to work to keep it riding normally after the submersion.

The deepest I managed to ride was just about waist deep. Even that deep is hard because of the water giving you resistance and slowing you down. Where I rode there was a sand bottom I’m sure rocks would be way harder to ride on, once I was out deep enough I just concentrated on each half revolution and tried to keep going however slowly; that seemed to help me. The unicycle had a seat post made from a very heavy iron pipe; I think that helped to counteract the buoyancy factor. Have you tried riding carrying some weights?

e.g. a really heavy helmet - with the added bonus that if you did fall off, it could save your life…:smiley:

That goes without saying, except the heavy part. :slight_smile:

P.S. Let’s stay off the helmet issue, ok?

Sooo, Have you tried riding carrying some weights to counteract the buoyancy factor?:slight_smile: