Good Bad and Uglier than before

Today I decided to revisit the scene of some of my earliest MUni rides: the High Peak Trail, starting from Black Rocks, near Cromford, in Derbyshire.

See the close up map here:,355500&st=4&ar=N&mapp=newmap.srf&searchp=newsearch.srf&dn=884

The High Peak Trail is a leisure path for cyclists, walkers and riders which follows the route of an old railway. Black Rocks is a gritstone outcrop at the top of the first steep incline, and is a popular venue for rock climbers. Nearby and along the route of the trail there are several small disused quarries.

The first incline up the trail from Black Rocks is called the Middleton Incline. When the railway was in use, the trains had to be hauled up the incline by a static steam engine and winch. The incline is about 1/2 mile (0.8 km) long and approximately 1:7 (14%) in gradient. The surface is a mixture of grit, ballast, mud and the like. Every 20 metres or so there is a diagonal ledge made of kerb stones, designed to divert surface water in heavy rain to prevent erosion.

On my first attempt on this incline, less than 2 years ago, I only made it 2/3 of the way up, and that was with numerous UPDs, dozens of failed mounts, and I retreated with my tail between my legs. On my second attempt I did even worse. I have ridden it since. My best ever attempt was on a (true) 24 inch wheel with 150mm cranks, and that involved about 3 UPDs.

Today was a typically English half-hearted winter’s day: there was snow on the ground, but not enough to look pretty; it was raining, but not enough to need the windscreen wipers on the car; the puddles were frozen but not enough to walk on; it was foggy, but only enough to be irritating when driving; it was cold, but only in that damp creeping into your bones sort of way. To summarise: yuck! So, on with the ride:

I park at the car park shown on the map by a P in a blue square near Black Rocks and ride easily along the level part of the trail. The mud and grit trail is quite badly rutted in places by cycle tyre and horse hooves. These ruts have frozen and are partly concealed by the thinnest dusting of snow. Now and again I hit a deeper patch of mud that has only a thin frozen crust, and my wheel slides unpredictably.

Then I reach the incline and bend to my task. This incline has become my personal Everest, and I measure my ability and stamina against it now and again. Today I hope to ride all the way up in one go.

Picking my way carefully around the ends of the drainage ridges, and trying to use the camber of the track tactically to conserve energy and momentum, I make the first couple of hundred metres quite easily. I’m already way past the places where I had my first 2 or 3 UPDs on that first attempt. I go over a bridge over a road, and wonder what the motorists are thinking as they look up and see a unicyclist silhouetted against the skyline. They probably don’t even notice.

Then the trail gets harder, with lots of rock and ballast embedded in the gritty surface. The rocks are limestone, which is slimy when wet, and the thin coating of snow makes it hard to read the best route. My fingers are cold on the bare metal of the handle. By now, I’m standing on the pedals, gasping in time with my pedal strokes, and finding it harder and harder to pick a route between the bumps. The bumps aren’t big enough to present a problem in their own right, but on a 14% slippery gradient when I’m at the limit of my endurance, 5% extra resistance could be enough to stop me in my track.

Yes, on a unicycle, it’s track, singular. :0)

There is a bungalow right next to the trail, just before a short tunnel. Someone is in the garden, half ignoring me, half wondering what I’m doing. He can see my body bobbing up and down, and hear my breathing, but I don’t think he can see the unicycle from that angle.

Just as I enter the tunnel, events conspire against me and I UPD - half relieved, half disappointed. This matches how far I reached on the 24/150 before UPD- ing. Now I’m on a 26 (x2.6) with 150s, but I have a handle. How do they compare? I think the 24/150 is a touch easier up hill.

I get my breath back and remount easily. It’s now a real slog over the difficult rocky surface through the tunnel, then after that the trail seems muddier and more slippery. Another 100 metres and I UPD. I remount and then UPD about 10 metres further on. I’m not going to break any records for this ascent! :0(

With two more UPDs, I make it to the top, and I’m able to regain my breath within a couple of minutes. The first time I reached the top, a year ago, I was so exhausted it knocked me out for most of the rest of the day, so that’s progress of a sort.

Now I’m at the visitor centre at Middleton Top, shown on the map.

I turn back. There is a notice warning of a steep incline. Cyclists are advised NOT to ride down the incline. Of course they can’t: inclines go UPwards. This is now a DEcline. Thus protected by my pedantic love of the language, I decide to ride down. It’s easy enough, and I ride over the drainage ledges instead of skirting round them as I did on the ascent. A couple of times I feel the rim bottom out, and this makes me nervous of damaging the wheel - nervous enough to UPD on one of the higher ridges.

Soon at the bottom, I turn off the trail to the disused quarry to the north. It’s only a tiny little quarry, but I know there are a few grassy/muddy little paths and a couple of slopes and small ledges. Here the snow is a little deeper - just enough to make the ride interesting.

Then I find a bit of a drop. My regular readers will know that I’m a big believer that wheels are round for a reason, and I don’t do drops… but this one fits my criteria. It has a slight slope down do it, then there’s about an 8 inch (20 cm) step down to a short but steepish slope. I can ride it…

I carry the uni to the top, mount and, too hastily, ride towards the drop. My right foot isn’t quite straight on the pedal, and I should treat the drop with more respect… but no, I can do it.

I go over the drop fairly briskly… the tyre digs in… my weight pitches forwards… I sail through the air… I see the next rocky ledge rushing up towards my face… I know it’s going to hurt… BANG!

I lie stunned for a moment. My head has fallen a distance of about 8 feet (2.4m) and my jaw has taken the full force of the impact. It must be broken. For a few seconds, I don’t move, then I see blood on the snow, inches from my eyes. I move my jaw experimentally. It seems to work. I move it a bit more. It doesn’t feel broken. I spit to see if the blood is from inside my mouth our outside.

I realise I’ve badly cut my chin. My tongue discovers that half a tooth is missing. I’ve no idea how bad the cut is, and suddenly I feel a long way from anyone. I’m only 50 metres from the trail, but how many people are using the trail in this weather?

I gather myself together, stand up, and collect the uni. My chin is bleeding freely, and I pathetically search my Camelbak for a bandage or handkerchief I might accidentally have left in there. No luck… and the blood is dripping on my new fluorescent green jacket. :0(

It’s a good half mile to the car, so riding seems the quickest option - but riding on frozen rutted mud with a thin coating of snow looks less appealing when you’re holding your chin together with one hand and you don’t know how bad the injury is.

I pass a couple of groups of walkers who make the usual comments and don’t notice I have blood all over my face and hand. I suppose the unicycle is unexpected, whereas massive facial injuries are an everyday occurrence?

Back to the car, and I find one of my Morris dancing handkerchiefs - fortuitously, a red one. Not sterile, but red!

I clean my face as best I can, and look in the car’s rear view mirror. It looks bad. I ring a friend who lives nearby and then drive to his house to be cleaned up. He directs me to the local hospital where an exceptionally attractive nurse cleans the wound and applies a dressing. She’s not qualified to stitch wounds, and there are no doctors in, so I then drive 25 odd miles to Nottingham’s main hospital and wait for several hours before an even nicer nurse applies seven stitches.

So here’s my contribution to the safety debate:

Last year I badly hurt my hand and wrist in a low speed fall from the Coker. Now I wear Salomon wrist guards designed for snowboarders. I know my hands took some of the impact because my right shoulder (sword arm :0( ) is bruised and that never it the floor. My hands are both uninjured, although the wrist protectors are clogged with mud and grit. Wear wrist guards!

My helmet never touched the floor. It never has in any UPD from any size of unicycle. A chin guard might well have prevented this injury, though. I am likely to buy a helmet with a chin guard before riding anywhere near rocks again. I was damn’ lucky not to break my jaw, and that would have been an awful injury to endure. I will have a scar, and I will need minor dental repairs. MUni riders, and trialsists: think about getting a helmet with a chin guard - it doesn’t look as stupid as I look right now.

Re: Good Bad and Uglier than before


Wish you a speedy recovery. Thanks for my new Sig.

Re: Good Bad and Uglier than before


I tried on a Giro Switchblade helmet at a bicycle shop recently. The chin guard is low and doesn’t restrict the downward vision as much as I thought it might. It’s light for a full face helmet. The fiberglass shell full face helmets are heavier, they don’t vent well at all, and the chin guard is larger which means they restrict more of your downward vision. The main issue with the Switchblade helmet is the price. The MSRP is $180 USD. Still, it’s cheaper than stitches and dental work. For a full face helmet, the Switchblade is the best option that I know of.

Pictures?? :wink:

Re: Good Bad and Uglier than before

Great line! Too bad it wasn’t sufficient.

Hope you have a speedy recovery.

Re: Re: Good Bad and Uglier than before

…of the Nurses?:smiley:

Oh man, that had to hurt!!
Luckily, you don’t have to use your chin to uni (expect for the landings;) )
Hope you heal quickly:)

Re: Good Bad and Uglier than before

Wow Mike, sounds like a great ride and, quite a fall. I sincerely hope you heal quickly.

Now, about your love for language. Just after making fun of the language of the trail sign, you then contradict yourself by saying “…nervous enough to UPD on one of the higher ridges.” Sounds as though you chickened out to me. That would be a Planned Dismount, not an Un-Planned Dismount. :wink:

Just trying to keep you straight. Heal well. Oh, and pictures, yes, pictures. --chirokid–

Re: Re: Good Bad and Uglier than before

…I second (third?) the motion that you get pictures of the nurses. There’s something about ER nurses… :smiley:

Re: Good Bad and Uglier than before

On Sat, 3 Jan 2004 16:06:55 -0600, Mikefule
<> wrote:

>I’m a
>big believer that wheels are round for a reason, and I don’t do drops…
>but this one fits my criteria.

Or it FITTED your criteria?

Ouch! That was a bad fall. I wish you a speedy recovery. Are you sure
your eyes are unhurt? I mean if the first nurse is exceptionally
attractive and the second is even nicer, that’s almost too much to be

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

Today (4 January) is the first day this year that is neither the first day this year nor the first day this year that is not the first day this year nor the first day this year that is neither the first day this year nor the first day this year that is
not the first day this year.

Re: Re: Re: Good Bad and Uglier than before

… until they smile at you and say “This might sting a little” (medical jargon for “This will hurt a lot more than getting the cut in the first place”) and start cleaning the cut. :frowning:

Glad you’re ok Mike, and thanks Harper, for the link

I started MUni’ing wearing a Giro Switchblade, but have since moved to my XC helmet.

Peering over the rocks when learning (and having a full face mask at home) was very intimidating.

I don’t wear it anymore (I got it when getting into drops on the MTb) but I sure felt bulletproof while it was on, and riding a unicycle there seemed 4 times harder…it turns out that mountainbiking is far harder than unicycling)

Unfortunately, I overheat too easily, and wearing the switchblade was far too consticting, I could feel myself getting weak with it on during tough rides involving uphills as well.

Hope your healing well!

I also hope that I am not wearing a Switchblade over my broken chin!)

Re: Good Bad and Uglier than before

My head has fallen a distance of about 8 feet (2.4m) and my jaw has taken the full force of the impact.

Uh, falling without the chance of using the hands to stop is a nightmare.

Heal well,

Re: Good Bad and Uglier than before

it recently dawned on me that i’ve been missing your write-ups
this was a bad way to get my fix again

that will not be a scar
it will be a badge of the full(e)ness of mike
wear it with pride

Re: Re: Good Bad and Uglier than before

I was weird. My hands went out forwards and as i saw the ground rushing up to meet me, I think my head went back instinctively. My hands and wrists were well protected and felt no pain, but later, my shoulders were both sore, so I guess that the impact was transferred up my arms, as I know my shoulders never hit the floor.

Meanwhile, my torso hit the floor in more or less a ‘belly flop’. This meant that everything stopped dead except my head which I had pulled back a bit. Momentum being what it is, my head soon caught up and the whole blow was focussed on my chin.

I really thought I must have broken my chin, and that was a horrible moment. As it happens, the swelling isn’t too bad. It’s visible, but not too painful. There is a line of stitches across my chin, and I can’t shave that bit so I’m starting an asymmetrical goatee.

UK readers will understand if I compare my current appearance to a subtle blend of Bruce Forsyth, Jimmy Hill, and Frankenstein’s monster. An improvement of sorts!