Forest Grump rides again (with 3 "mistakes")

A bit of an epic, but I don’t get to ride much these days. There are three deliberate mistakes for you to spot here. They are all of a general knowledge nature - that is, you don’t have to be a unicyclist, or a forum regular to spot them. If you want to play the game, please PM me the answers. Please do not post the answers, or any reference to them, in the thread. You may not want to play (fair enough) but please don’t spoil the game for those who do. I will post the correct answers and a list of winners in about 2 days, when the flood of responses dries up.


As the bluesman said, I woke up this morning…

The sky was fairly clear, there was no frost, but it was blowing half a gale. Across the valley, I could see whole trees in motion. I had promised myself a unicycle ride this weekend, but yesterday had been filled with errands and traffic jams, and this morning the wind made me feel very half-hearted about the whole unicycling thing. Any form of cycling in a strong wind is tiring and no fun.

I considered where to ride, and found another problem: route fatigue. All the accessible places, I have ridden to death. I’ve written them up so many times that some of you lot could draw maps.

Breakfasted and coffeed up to the eye balls, I felt more positive. The only option was to go to Sherwood Forest, where the trees would provide shelter. That meant the MUni: a standard KH24, with the 3" tyre and 165 mm cranks. I pumped the tyre up to about 20 psi and threw my gear in the car. No GPS: I hadn’t seen it for a while. No doubt it was under some socks on the bedroom floor or something. Still, no gauges means no numbers, and no numbers means no pressure, so the unipsychology would be good.

I arrive at the Forest Pines car park to find notices all over the place relating to a British Heart Foundation charity ride. As I prepare myself for my own ride, I notice signs showing that part of the forest is closed to people not on the ride. There is a huge inflatable “Start” gate over near the café. I do so hate it when other people want to enjoy themselves and then get in my way in the process!

I mount and ride through the car park. A young girl is wobbling along on her mountain bike. Like so many cyclists these days, she seems surprised to find that every so often she actually has to put some effort into making it move. She keeps to the bare minimum, pedalling about one lazy pedal stroke every few metres. She sees me but shows no awareness of the fact that I might want to use the path, and it takes some skilful manoeuvring on my part to avoid a collision as I aim for the start of the trail.

Once on the trail, I find myself riding against the flow of those who are finishing the BHF ride (or the first lap?). That means I pass a hell of a lot of inexpertly ridden bicycles: pedal, pedal, freewheel, dawdle, wobble, pedal… Here’s me on one wheel and apparently I’m the only one with the brains, the skills and attention span to avoid a collision. Perhaps their faith in my ability to keep out of their way is a sort of compliment, but somehow I doubt it.

Early in the ride, I pass a small boy earnestly riding his mountain bike as his mother wobbles along behind him. He looks up at me, open mouthed, then contorts his face into an archly quizzical expression. He says just loudly enough for his mother to hear: “That’s funny?” There is an implied request for agreement in his tone. This is why there’s no hope for the human race: the child is clearly intelligent, but already, aged about 6, he has been taught to ensure that his private thoughts on even the most trivial subjects are validated by seeking the approval of those whose opinions he perceives to be reliable. Social constructionism in action.

Soon I turn off onto a quieter track. Tall straight pine trees grow in a plantation to my right and left, their trunks virtually featureless, with all their foliage in the top 20% or so of their height. Pine trees are the McDonalds of the tree world: uninteresting, virtually identical, but a simple cheap option for those who want the product quickly and aren’t too worried about the quality.

The trail beneath my wheel is carpeted with pine needles so my progress is almost silent, although there are occasional patches of crunchy sand and gravel. This area of the forest is not particularly good for wild life. I do see the occasional grey squirrel. In the tree tops, I catch an occasional glimpse of a bird, too high up to identify accurately. They are either sand martins or the closely related pine marten. It could be either in a sandy pine forest!. Other than that, it’s just the occasional crow or pigeon.

Over the next mile or so, I cross the route of the British Heart Foundation ride several times. This always amazes me: go onto the boring wide trail with a good hard surface, and you find as many mountain bikes as you like, nearly all with suspension and 18 or more gears. Turn off onto the narrower, rougher, more interesting tracks, and all you find is just the one unicycle - and that’s the one you’re riding. So many people these days seem to think that operating the equipment is the same as doing the activity. I’m not sure whether they have no imagination at all, or whether they have more than I do, because I can’t imagine how what they’re doing is fun.

A few minutes later, I am away from the hordes of cyclists, and climbing a gradual slope of sand, gravel and packed mud, reaching one of the highest points in this part of the forest. The trees here are more mixed, with some oak, some beech and some chestnut. The trail becomes more winding and less predictable, with sections of undulating hard mud, sections of rutted grassy track, and some wider ballasted trails. Sometimes, strands of briar lay across my way, and I rely on the thickness of the tyre to protect the tube.

On one section, I find myself riding along a field boundary, with what looks like a root crop to my left, rutted grass beneath me, and the forest to my right. Two crows swoop over the field, silhouetted momentarily against the clear blue sky.

Then I find a fun descent. It’s not steep or long, but it is twisty, and there are roots across the path. I love this sort of descent: it’s easy enough that I will only UPD if I do something stupid, but it feels hardcore because the movement is non stop, with small obstacle after small obstacle.

Back on the main trail, I meet three young men on mountain bikes, plodding along in the wrong gears. All three make supposedly witty comments, clearly well-meant. One asks, “How do you ride that?” What can I say? I answer, “Practise practise practise.” He responds, “You’re bloody telling me,” as if he fully understands the principle of unicycling, is able to comment intelligently on it, and could no doubt do it if he set his mind to it - which he won’t.

I see the entrance to one of my regular tracks is taped off and there are notices saying, “Unauthorised access forbidden” which I think is borderline tautology. I decide to be a good boy and ride up the hill on the main track until I see a side path that is not taped off. I have to idle while a family of three emerges on their mountain bikes - hallelujah! Someone actually going off the hard trail on their bikes!

When my way is clear, I ride through and find myself on one of the areas where mountain bikers or BMXers have built ramps and dug pits. I know this area, and have some regular “showing off” routes. However, someone has been busy in my absence and built some new ramps. One looks inviting, and I ride up to it, then a little voice in my head warns me to recce it properly. It’s just as well that I do, because the short steep ramp up is rideable, but the drop down on the other side is not: it’s vertical into a small steep sided pit! The expression “plums like coconuts” springs to mind. I ride past, and play for a few minutes on the familiar obstacles.

So far, I estimate I’ve ridden about 2.5 - 3 miles ( say 4 - 5 km) without a single UPD, despite considerable range of terrain types and obstacles. I’m in that mind set where I don’t want to try anything too challenging in case I “break my duck”. I recognise this, and make a conscious effort to overcome it.

I ride up a small hummock, drop down and swoop through some slightly uneven rutted mud, then hit the small uphill that leads to the top of the big earth bank. The bank is similar to the rampart of a hill fort, and I know that beyond and below it is another. I have never been sure whether these banks are natural or man made. they’ve clearly been here for ages as there are mature trees growing on them. Perhaps they were once something to do with the military: there is a training camp only a few miles away.

On a good day, I can make it to the top of the first bank; on a bad day, I stall. Today is a good day, and with some grunting (and, it must be said, a modicum of swearing) I reach the crest of the bank.

The climb up is only a few feet (say 2-3 metres) but steep and uneven. The drop down the other side is considerably further, and just as steep. Someone has been digging, and it looks like back wheel skids have gouged ruts down the face of the slope. It looks worse than it used to and I know that a UPD here will mean using a nail brush to remove the grit from my wounds. I hesitate for a moment, then go for it, riding down the slope slowly enough to keep control, but too fast to stop. I roll out at the bottom and use my momentum to carry me the metre or two up to the top of the next earth bank.

The top of this bank has also seen the spade recently, and the ruts on the downward slope are just as pronounced as on the first one. Having come this far, I feel committed, and I swoop down, letting out an exultant yell of relief and triumph when I make it to the flat ground a few metres below.

As I continue towards a wider trail a few metres away that runs parallel to the bank, I hear mountain bikers behind me, and wish they’d seen what I just did.

I remember that I have still had no UPD during the ride; I haven’t even stopped for a rest. I cast my mind back over the sections I’ve ridden, marvelling at the variety of obstacles, and wondering what I’ll write this evening. Smugly contemplating this, I lose concentration - the act of observation that I have had no UPD causes one: Schroedinger’s UPD! It’s not a bad one - just a step off, on an innocuous section of fairly smooth mud. I curse my lack of concentration, but feel myself relax just a little, because once the ride is no longer “faultless”. Further UPDs will be merely a question of degree, and I now feel more free to try stuff. (Me, obsessive? Nah!)

Further on, I find myself back on the “yeller brick” (as someone once called the pale ballast tracks that criss-cross the forest) then I turn left at a cross roads, having to swerve off the good surface onto rough grass and mud because it would be rude to force the group of fit young men on 21 speed twin suspension mountain bikes to do this and get their tyres dirty. Then I find myself at the top of one of the official “off road cycle tracks”.

Welcome to Blair’s nanny state: in an area of many square miles of forest, with possibly hundreds of miles of single track and double track, there is a half mile section marked, “Off road cycling course: experienced riders only.” I ride it every time, not so much because it is that challenging, but because I find it amusing to ride it on a unicycle while the mountain bikers - almost without exception - ride straight past and keep on the straight and wide.

As it happens, I UPD twice on the official off road cycling course, but they are only step-offs, brought about as much by fatigue and lack of concentration as anything else. I ride all the most difficult bits, with small drops into mud and piles of autumn leaves, without a hitch, and then slog my way up the steep and root-infested hill at the other end quite easily.

Back on the level, I UPD again. I’ve been riding for an hour or so, without a stop except for a few seconds on each of about five UPDs in total. I need a break, but my obsessive personality makes it difficult. I ride on, me on a narrow bumpy and muddy foot path, a few feet into the forest, while all the charity riders potter past on the yeller brick, parallel to me.

My path takes me under dark and low conifers, and I have to concentrate as I pedal in individual strokes from root to root and mud hole to mud hole. Then there is a short, steep and winding descent of a few metres which spits me out onto a wider path. I hear some of the riders on the charity ride whooping and commenting as they see me.

I ride the short distance to the next little area of mountain bike humps and hollows. There are two or three people there playing half heartedly on the obstacles. I ride my usual route, taking a few diversions onto the steeper bits just for the look of the thing then ride back out and across the trail to a path I know well. As I cross the trail, a small boy on his mountain bike smiles his friendly amazement. Being good with kids, I wink and say hello. I will no doubt be arrested within the week.

100 metres into the forest, I meet a group of three lads on bikes. They make friendly noises, and one comments, “That is the craziest thing I have ever seen!” I reflect that perhaps he doesn’t watch the news or he would have seen the war in Iraq, the fuss over the Queen’s bad back, the advertisements for Christmas presents in August, and realised that unicycling is way down the list of crazy things, somewhere below having a 21 speed mountain bike and riding it like my granny would. However, I detect a note of approbation in his tone, and I smile and thank him for his good wishes.

As I ride away up the hill, he says, “I’d love to see you ride that downhill section there.” I am familiar with most of the paths here, and I answer, “Not likely, it’s way too steep for me,” but then pride takes over, and I zigzag my way to the top of a small hill, and choose my descent carefully. I reason that, like a dog walking on its hind legs, it is not so much remarkable for being done well, but remarkable that it is done at all, so I make a bit of a performance of riding down a very easy little hill, and get an ill-deserved round of applause. At the bottom, I do an involuntary step-off and take the opportunity to stop for a breather and a chat.

The three lads are friendly enough, and have some reasonably good questions about the uni. One remarks that, “That tyre is f***ing mental!” (It’s a three inch section and his looks like a 1.95".) Predictably, one of them asks for a go. I warn him about the pinned pedals. With the help of his two mates, he manages to mount and they support him as he wobbles for about two pedal strokes, leaning heavily on them. With perfect comic timing, one of them asks, “Are you ready for us to let you go on your own yet?” and they all collapse with laughter.

The short break, a bit of friendly chat, and the chance to laugh with some decent lads has rested me both physically and mentally, and when I remount, it is with renewed vigour. With a cheery wave, I set off up the sand and gravel path, picking my way between and over the tree roots, and fully in command of my steed.

Over the next hill, I meet more mountain bikers - again, stationary - and I swerve to get past them zooming up and over a low muddy hummock in the process. One or two whoop encouragement and one says knowledgeably, “Training for the Mountain Mayhem.” So, those of you who have actually ridden in the Mountain Mayhem have done something to boost the profile of MUni as a proper sport. Well done!

From here, the route back to the car park is fairly familiar. I am now in an area of mainly deciduous woodland, and the trail is thick with dry golden leaves - mainly beech and oak, with some chestnut. There are two tricky ascents and I make them both, despite the leaves hiding the sand, gravel and ruts of the surface of the path. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden both without a UPD in the same ride, so I must be improving with all this not-riding that I’ve been doing over recent weeks.

I get to a very narrow section of footpath, blocked by a walker who appears to be lighting a cigarette. I politely ask him to excuse me and he turns, throws the butt of his old cigarette into the dry leaves some distance from the path (d’oh!) and steps grumpily out of my way. I ride past carefully, as I have bare legs, and there are gorse bushes nearby!

Up the hill, and ahead of me, I see the watch tower. This is a regular feature of my rides. I only found out recently that it was originally a military watch tower - presumably associated with the nearby Proteus Camp, and was used in the war when the authorities were afraid of the Germans using the cover of Sherwood Forest as a landing ground for a glider-borne invasion force. 60 odd years later, it is now either a fire lookout point or a bird watching tower (I’ve never been sure which).

Either way, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a young man in want of a bit of excitement will always climb any available tower, so I do. To be frank, the view is always disappointing - just the tops of some low conifers nearby, and some taller conifers in the distance. I get my breath back, watch a light aircraft overhead, struggling against a strong head wind, then climb back down and resume my ride.

A few hundred metres later, I see a young couple with a tandem - presumably hired from the Visitor Centre. The boy is posing with the tandem while the girl takes his photograph. She steps back politely and smiles as I ride past. Charmed, I show a rare glimpse of my common humanity, and turn back and offer to photograph them together. The girl is pleased. She doesn’t particularly want the tandem in the picture, but does want the two of them, and the forest. She flutters about prettily for a while trying to work out where best to stand to get the forest in the background (there are trees for miles in all directions!) then decides to pose near the tandem after all.

As I line up the shot, she drapes herself lovingly around the boy, gazing up at him with such doe eyed adoration that it is clear that as long as he makes no huge mistakes this afternoon, he’s on a promise for tonight. Meanwhile, he stares confidently at the camera, ignoring her attentions in a way which suggests, sadly, that she has already made a huge mistake. After the photo is taken, the girl asks me to pose for her on the unicycle, which I do. She thanks me sincerely; he thanks me politely. I resist the temptation to throw her over my shoulder and rescue her from his grasp and I ride away alone with a cheery wave. I think that’s two cheery waves today - I must be softening in my old age.

It is only a few minutes before I find myself passing hordes of cyclists, and I know that I am near to the car park. There is some sort of inverse square law about how many cyclists you see as you get further from the car park. Here, near to the seat of the radiation, I am in danger of a lethal dose, as families and groups of lads wobble inexpertly past, paying minimal attention to what they are doing, where they are doing it, or whom it might affect. To my left, I see a few young boys building a den in the forest, piling fir branches against each other in a sort of tepee shape. It’s good to see kids doing “proper kids’ stuff” like I used to do.

I zigzag my way past the café, and am nearly back at the car when I hear a young girl - maybe aged about 10 - say with awe, “He’s got no chain.” Assuming that she’s talking about me (rather than an inadequately restrained large dog, or someone struggling to flush a poorly designed toilet) I chuckle to myself. It isn’t just another “Where’s you other wheel/cross bar/handlebars/brakes?” comment, because it wasn’t intended either for my hearing or, apparently, for anyone else’s. The absence of a chain: the defining characteristic of the KH24 MUni!

Back to the car after about 1.5 to 2 hours’ enjoyable and varied ride. As I’m putting my Camelbak in the car, I find my GPS, Velcroed to the carrying strap!

“Being good with kids, I wink and say hello. I will no doubt be arrested within the week.”

Haha oh Mike, this is the first time I have laughed out loud reading the forums in a good while.

I think this is your best wride up ever!! Good job.


Sadly, I ws once arrested within 24 hours of telling a child to pick up some litter he’d dropped. Before the actual arrest, one of my friends, who is a deputy head at a local primary school, had to read out my description to the school at assembly, to warn the kids of a potential abductor who had been spotted in the area.

As for the quiz, so far I’ve had exactly one response. The respondent has hit all three points, although missing one minor detail.

Must be a difficult one. Come on folks.:slight_smile:

That was great. i am not to sure as to what to PM you about, i found three mistakes that i believe to be deliberate but am not PMing you for fear of being wrong, this attitude will eventually lead to my downfall.

I moved to Tasmania to do “proper kids’ stuff”. We built some mighty fine Dens. This reminds me of a book called: Where did you go? Out. What did you do? Nothing.

great write up. i too had to deal with my share of “inexpertly ridden bicycles” on the trail this weekend.

Oh, the voting is slow…

4 responses so far, and only one person has got all three. One got none, and two came up with some convincing attempts.

Roll up, roll up!

that made me laugh. good job on the write up.

Lovely story. Thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll have to re-read it now to see if I can spot any mistakes. Didn’t notice any the first time.

Forgot to say - I laughed out loud at the GPS bit. Seemed so familiar.

I couldn’t see any mistakes on the first read through.
I shall have to check again when I am in work tomorrow pretending to be busy.

Dash it all to heck! I just wrote an set of answers as long as the bloomin’ write up, then pressed the wrong button and lost it.

There were several interesting answers, in particular:

  • Blowing half a gale - under the Beaufort Scale, if whole trees were in motion, it would be more than half a gale. The challenge was technically correct, but this was not the deliberate mistake. It was just a turn of phrase.
  • Someone ungallant suggested that no British girl could do anything "prettily".

The only person who got all the correct answers was martin.phillips. Well done!:smiley:

The answers were:

The first one was pretty technical. Most of you would not have known without a suspicious mind and checking Wikipedia. I put it in for Naomi and the others who gave such detailed answers to the smallest bird/halfinch quiz a few days ago. Sand martins do not flit about in the tops of the trees. They skim about low over the water. Also, as members of the swallow family, they fly south for the winter. In fact, sand martins fly earlier than most other swallows and martins. You would not find sand martins in the tree tops in the UK in November.

The second one was easier: pine martens (not the spelling: -en, rather than -in) are mammals, not birds.

The third was most fun: the watch tower to look out for gliders landing in the forest. Yes, the UK Government feared a glider-borne invasion, but they expected those gliders to land on flat open fields and moors, not a forest!

There was a bonus question: Schroedinger’s UPD. A couple of people pointed out that Schroedinger and his famous dead/alive cat was nothing to do with the observer influencing the event. I should have referred to heisenberg and his uncertainty principle. That is correct, but it was simply a gag, not a deliberate mistake. A bonus mark to the clever ones, though.

I’m attaching a pdf of the results. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Quiz.pdf (6.6 KB)

I think I mentioned the glider one being wrong (due to distance from the coast, tree cover, and the area being a tank training ground)?

The Schroedinger one did seem a slightly odd reference to me at the time, but I ignored it.

I should have detailed the gliders. I had seen it, but then thought of Mike’s earlier descriptions of the wood, and concluded that the forest was not solid, wall to wall trees but had clearings that might have been ideally suited to hidden landings in Sherwood. I was Robinned…by myself of course. A great write up with good puzzles Mike, and all the better for being a little more difficult than usual.


Damn, might have known it would be something to do with birds… having to know exactly how high they fly at what time of year is a bit anoraky though :confused: - I’m almost proud not to know that :stuck_out_tongue:

He did put a big document up some time ago (I think that was probably a pdf as well) with a load of his earlier writeups in it.


damn i would have got two right if i had entered :frowning:
wow that was a great write up, i read through four times in order so spot mistakes.
must i add that i am hanging out for another?

Me too.

I also wondered about the sand martins. I FWSE’d for them and found that their usual habitat was over water, but could see nothing to suggest that they /wouldn’t/ be found flying over pine forests. Perhaps they nest in pine trees. And I didn’t know whether there was a lake in the middle of the forest…

The pine marten one leapt out at me and the image of pine martens flying through the treetops had me laughing out loud, though.

Agreed. The pictures conjured up by this RR were the best of any yet.

I think there should be a place for Mikefule RR’s in Uni magazine.