Funny old weekend. Saturday, I thought I needed to hone my freemounting skills. For some months I’ve been rollback mounting with a mediocre degree of success. Enough to give confidence that I can get back on if there isn’t a lamp-post handy, but not quite as reliable as one might like. Sometimes (usually) it takes a few tries to get up again, and it’s frustrating if anyone is watching - the photons reflected from their eyes have special, destabilising qualities.
So, I decided that it’s time to try a static mount seriously. Last weekend I had a few goes, and managed to hit it about three times in a longish practice. This time a few successes gave me confidence, and after an hour or so I was hitting it right about 50% of the time. This is better than I’ve ever achieved with a rollback mount, so feeling quite pleased, despite one mount where I missed the pedal altogether and caught a nasty bite from the pins. The improvement seems to be with making sure that my back foot is well above the horizontal position when stepping up.
After this, a quick run down the road, turn round in the village hall car park and back up the hill. This hill is something of a bete noir for me: on the old 20" cycle I could make it about 50% of the time, but I’ve never made it on the Nimbus 26 which is the current dream machine. When it arrived just before Christmas, I had thought that I would be sailing up hills which the 20" couldn’t make. I’ve been rather disappointed that my hill climbing has regressed despite having slightly more mechanical advantage on the Nimbus. I think that the problem is that the larger cranks make my leg movement much more exaggerated and this leads to wobbles, imbalance and UPDs. Anyway, I was pleased for the first time to pass the crux of the hill and stay on.
The road then leads out of the village in a direction I’ve never explored on the uni - mainly because it leads fairly quickly to the sort of busy road that one does not want to be on in anything smaller than a large car. It does, however, have a hill on it and I’m pleased to make it over the brow without too much difficulty. As the hill flattens out, there is enough width to turn without problem in the entrance to a National Trust property. There is, however, a difficulty. A car is coming the other way, and the driver looks at me, slows down, and gawps just at the point where I want to turn. I slow down and gawp back. The car driver looks embarrassed and rushes off, just in time for me to do a 180 degree turn in the wider space and head back. The hill on the return leg is steeper, and I UPD near the top. Quite pleased, however, as I nearly made it. Remount at the top, eschewing the telegraph pole, and back into the village. Go past home, turn round in the pub car park, up onto the pavement and am pleased to dismount almost elegantly six inches from the front door.
On Sunday, I decide to go along the cycle track which runs from Nailsworth to Stroud and meet the missus at Waitrose. Park at Nailworth and am pleased to roll off the edge of the kerb (another bete noir) without UPD, down the slope and up the double kerb at the beginning of the cycle track (a third bete noir for this weekend). The cycle track runs for about four miles into Stroud, mostly flat (it’s a former railway line) with a well-beaten surface of gravel , tarmac and packed mud. No problems for most of the way, it’s very quiet with just a few family groups out walking or cycling. There are two big dips along the route: the first one doesn’t give a problem, the second one causes me to UPD on the climb, but it’s a tidy UPD and I’ve got a good fraction of the way up it so am pleased.
As the track reaches the outskirts of Stroud, another leg branches off through a housing estate. The first part of this has a steep downhill, with a thoughtfully placed rock at the bottom to stop cyclists cycling over someones front garden. Ignoring images of front teeth being spat over the lawn, I manage the tight turn and the drop over the kerb and carry on. Another bete noir beaten! Onwards through the houses, where on a previous visit a loud voice coming from someone in thier garden on a mobile 'phone said “Holy shit, there’s an old bloke on a unicycle going past!”.
Onwards, an awkward turn through the gates at the end of a path, across a quiet road, up the kerb and a steep path which has always beaten me before. I’m really on a roll today, making it up the slope and a tidy dismount at the pedestrian crossing at the top. This is definetely the steepest slope I’ve managed so far. Five bete noirs ticked off so far. Cross the road, walk up the steps on the far side and back onto the cycle track. This is now easy stuff on a smooth surface.
At the end is a choice: a sharp left-hander up a steep slope which is hard even on a mountain bike, or head off into the woods on a rough track which looks as if it ought to go where I want to be. I choose the latter. The track looks muddy: a few metres in, there are some bumps. I clear those nicely, then a steep downhill. The mud is slippery, the wheel shoots off and I UPD. I land on my left foot, which shoots out from under me with a sharp pain from behind the knee. Onto the right foot, and I run out down the slope - well, more slide down it, with every landing on the left foot making the pain worse. I stagger to a halt twenty metres further on, unable to walk. It takes ten minutes to limp back up to the cycle, then another ten to regain the main road. Ring the wife who is now shopping in Waitrose and ask her to come to collect me.
It seems ages to wait the ten minutes before her car arrives. We return to the supermarket to retrieve her trolley, and she blags a bag of ice from the fish department to hold on my leg while I have a cup of coffee and she finishes the shopping. Back home, a man-sized ibuprofen helps, followed by a trip to the pub on crutches (left over from first attempts on the cycle a few months back) for beer, and mockery from the locals.
The pain is now eased by anti-inflammatories, beer, gin and wine. It may, however, be a while before I head into the woods again.
Funny old weekend.