Holy Roller rides again (with two puzzles)

Two easy “deliberate mistakes” in this one. Usual rules: PM me if you spot 'em. Please don’t give the game away in a reply on this thread. I’ll post the correct answers in a couple of days.

Recently, I bought a KH24 MUni, and that has taken the Holy Roller’s place in the team. The Road Razor (700c x 28 mm tyre) has been re-geared for versatility, with 125mm cranks, and is performing well. When I ordered the 125 mm cranks, I ordered two sets, different sorts, thinking I could choose the best for the 700c, and would always have a use for the others.

So, the Koxx 125mm cranks went onto the Holy Roller, the idea being to make a fast cross country uni, more versatile than the Road Razor, and less plodding than the KH24.

So, here’s the set up: a rather heavy Pashley 26 inch frame, with the original Pashley wheel, a Maxxis Holy Roller 2.4" tyre, and 125 mm Koxx cranks.

I park at Sherwood Pines and take a few minutes to set up the GPS and make sure my Camelbak is properly packed with Soreen and a puncture repair kit. I mount and ride a few metres. The seat is a touch too high so I stop and adjust it. Then I remount and set off across the car park, weave between the picnic tables causing startled but amused comment, wiggle through the wiggle gate and then I’m onto a long straight track through the forest.

The uni feels light and fast, scooting along with very little input from me. It has a bit less directional stability than the 700c, probably because of the extra Q factor caused by the angled cranks, and partly because the tyre is wider. On the other hand, it is much happier just rolling over patches of loose ballast that would take great care on the skinnier tyre.

Down the hill, not hitting any great speed. The GPS is showing figures around 8 - 9 mph (up to about 15 kph) but I’m still in the warm up stage of the ride.

Half a mile down, there’s another wiggle gate, then I cross a hard-surfaced track and aim for an uphill track opposite. The junction is very sandy, I take it too casually, the wheel sinks and bogs down and I UPD. Cursing, I walk past the sand then remount and UPD again within 10 metres. Some days, the legs and brain work well together, but apparently not today.

I remount, focus my attention, and ride up the hill. The ground is sometimes gravelly, sometimes packed sand and mud, and sometimes soft sand. The challenge is to pick the best route, to anticipate, and to plan. I make it to the top with some pride regained. I ride past a small pond with bulrushes and lilies and zigzag past some of those stupid people who, confronted with a unicycle, simply stop and stand in your way in slack-jawed amazement.

I turn right along a hard-packed forest track, then left, and down a long gradual hill towards a gate. Here I need to dismount. I go through the gate, then ride about 50 metres tot he next gate and dismount again.

The next section is very familiar: a long drag up a gradual hill. The ground is hard, but with some loose ballast. To my right is pine plantation, with small pines all of uniform height and in straight rows.

Near to the top of the hill, for no readily apparent reason, I UPD again. Whether it’s physical or mental tiredness I don’t know, but things aren’t working well today.

I veer off to the left along a rougher track. Usually, this section is rideable with care, but today it is all chewed up and loose as if it has been used as a special stage in a car rally. This is entirely possible, as the Network Q rally sometimes uses this area of forest. I end up on the wrong ridge between the ruts, fail to cross the rut and dismount again. Instead of riding the tricky little junction as I had planned, I am forced to walk for a short distance.

From here, I cruise for a short distance under a canopy of oak, chestnut and beech, the wheel almost silent on a carpet of oak needles. I have a choice of the familiar route to the right, or exploring to the left. I turn left, hesitate as I view the path ahead, hit a twig and do a full length rolling in the dirt dismount. Soft gritty soil goes between my wrist guards and my hands. I swear.

I scout ahead on foot for a moment while I regain my composure. The next bend, only 10 metres away, leads to a descent that few people would attempt. I pick up the uni and climb down a gritty sandy slope to a disused railway line. Some people obviously ride this way as the gap between the rails has been filled with soil and bears the imprints of motorbike tyres.

I climb up the other bank then remount. There is a path that zigzags between the trees, and on each bend the soil is thrown up into a bank. As Inspector Jacques Cousteau might say, “It is a berm.” This is really difficult stuff to ride. The ruts are deep enough to threaten pedal strikes - although the short cranks help here - and the soil on the edge of the ruts is soft enough to make side slips likely. The trees are now mainly old and untidy pines, with sharp broken twigs at about eye level, too close to the path for comfort. I UPD many times.

By the time I’ve ridden half a mile of this, I’m totally demoralised. My cranks are too short, I’m in the wrong gear. Short cranks are good for fast smooth flowing riding, but the track is so winding and the surface so unreliable that I can’t ride fast. At low speed, it is easy of the wheel to stop suddenly against a bump, or when it sinks in softer soil, and the cranks aren’t long enough for me to overcome the obstacle. Instead, what happens is that the wheel stops, I push down hard on the pedal, the wheel says still and I catapult myself out of the saddle with the force of my failed down stroke.

Several times, I stop and sit down to regain my composure. This situation is familiar - but from about 4 years ago, when I first had the Pashley, and went out and bit off more than I could chew. With repeated UPDs and failed mounts, fatigue sets in and riding becomes a slog. I swallow my pride and walk for a while until I can see a clear run of reasonable path, then I remount and ride the path back out of the trees and onto the wider forest road.

I decide to get some distance under my wheel, to regain my confidence, so I ride for a mile or so on easy tracks, then I see an interesting diversion down a hill and make the turn. The path is soft green grass, barely trodden, and the riding is quite easy. Somewhere I can hear a cuckoo - one of nature’s least imaginative songsters - and in the distance I can hear the chain saw-buzz of scrambler bikes. (It’s a Sunday, so it’s unlikely to be the scrambler bike-buzz of chain saws.)

I pause to take a rather posed photograph of myself, then remount and ride to the bottom of the hill. I am temporarily disorientated and turn left along a path that winds between bracken. I duck under a couple of low tree branches, then do another projectile dismount. Grumpily, I turn round and ride back, deciding that I am clearly on the wrong machine for today’s ride.

A couple of hundred metres later, I find a cut through to a path I recognise. My confidence is a bit low, and I walk up a gravelly hill that I would normally ride, then I steer in the general direction of the car park. I’m mostly on familiar paths, sometimes under oak, chestnut and beech, sometimes under pine, and I meet no one until I reach the main forest road again. Here I meet a family group all on mountain bikes, standing deciding what to do. Why is it that mountain bikers spend so much time standing blocking the trail and deciding what to do? As I ride past, the mother comments, “Oh, we could do with one of those.” This at least has the merit of originality.

Up the long hill, and then turn right. The Holy Roller with 125s is good at this: skimming along easy but rough tracks. Trouble is, I want to ride the more interesting stuff to each side, but I know I won’t have the energy. Maybe I should change to 150s, which will still make it “faster” than the KH24, and more capable than the 700c.

At some stage, I turn left, and find myself on an unfamiliar path. I reach the brow of a hill, where a young couple on mountain bikes have stopped to decide what to do. The young woman makes a friendly comment as I ride past, and, being male, I feel good about myself for at least the next five minutes. Pathetic, isn’t it?

The period of feeling good for myself takes me down a long and variable descent, with gravel, mud, sand and grit. The tyre just rolls over it all (down hill is 10 times easier than uphill, even when the hill isn’t that steep) and I feel like a cool rider by the time that I get to the bottom.

As I turn right, two lads on mountain bikes stop to watch me ride past, but make no comment. So far, I haven’t had a single “Where’s your other wheel?” or equivalent comment all day!

Next, turn left. Hmmm… None of this looks familiar. I have that faintly lost feeling. Suddenly, I remember the GPS. I have only used it before as a glorified speed and distance computer, but doesn’t it show something about the route? I slow down and press a few buttons experimentally, and am rewarded with a small picture of a person on a dotted line. He has no unicycle, but I guess it’s meant to be me. The start of the dotted line is just ahead of me and to the left - about half a mile. Fantastic stuff!

So, armed with this intelligence, I zigzag along various paths until I hear the familiar cries of people enjoying themselves on the Go Ape! forest assault course. I head towards that because it is near to the car park, and suddenly I find myself lost in a maze of paths, with witty comments cascading down at me from the tree platforms. One youth shouts, “Oi! Unicyclist! Come here, behind you!” What is it about these posterior orifices that makes them feel able to shout instructions to strangers?

Be that as it may, within five minutes, I am back at the car. A very mixed ride, and on very much the wrong machine for the conditions.

Maximum speed 12.8 mph, 20.6 kph
Distance 6.56 miles, 10.55 km
Average speed (excluding stops) 5.8 mph, 9.33 kph
Riding time 1:08

And here’s the photo:

Forest ride.JPG

Cool story, as usual.


Thanks. (bump!)

So far, 5 entries, not all of them correct.:slight_smile:

I have aching legs for an equally stupid reason… riding right to the top on the Malverns is ridiculously tiring so I usually take fairly frequent breather stops, especially when it’s hot like Saturday was. I am, however, far too vain to stop for a rest when people are watching; I’ll think to myself that I’ll just get round the next corner and then have a rest… only to come across another group, and another, all the way to the top! Before you know it Malvern springwater is being taken off the shelves due to sweat contamination and my lungs are almost inside out from the effort. Aaargh!


Oh good, it’s not just me then :o


The answers will be in the next post on this thread, so if you don’t want to know, don’t look…


It was nothing to do with the cuckoos. Someone told me there are over 70 varieties of cuckoo, some of which sing imaginatively. maybe, but this one didn’t.

It was nothing to do with the rally. They did used to run the Network Q rally through here - it’s mentioned in one of my old stories, I think.


Oak trees are deciduous and have broad leaves, not needles. A carpet of oak needles would be a strange path indeed…

And the person who said in an amusing French accent, “Eet is a berm” was Inspector Clouseau. Jacques Cousteau, on the other hand, was a pioneer of scuba diving.

And the winners? Well, we had 14 entries, and about 1/2 got both answers, and 1/2 the rest got one answer right…

But the prize goes to the first correct answer this time, because he needs cheering up: step forwards, GKMAC, and raise your trophy aloft with your good hand.:slight_smile:

Once again I missed and easy and obvious mistake. Thanks for the great story, Mike.

I don’t think I would have noticed the oak needles thing (well I didn’t did I?). I was in a meeting the other day and the chairperson asked that someone else proof read something that he had done because he found it difficult to see the detail in these things. I thought with relief that that was just like me. (Incidentally all the people with a keen eye for detail were only to happy to help him and were already identifying his mistakes).

I must say, I’m getting into this puzzle thing a bit more. I’m getting more confident about being wrong, if you see what I mean.


The new one should be a challenge then. I don’t expect many people to get all four.:wink: