I think I found XC unicycling nirvana, and it’s practically in my backyard!!
There was a 36er ride today, a Rob’s Ride to be exact, but I didn’t go. I got caught up in some drama at work and couldn’t make it in time. Having just bought a WTB Exiwolf 2.3 for my KH29, I decided to go try it out. I told myself I’d ride up the less of the steeper graded roads near home–it’s only about 8% grade average and around 4 miles long. So, I pumped up the tire to 25 psi which felt pretty good for my 140 pound body, and I headed down to the highway, about 350 feet elevation drop from home.
When I got to the bottom, something in me decided to turn left instead of right. To the right is the less steep road, to the left is Alba Road, my nemesis with an average of 10% grade and about 3.5 miles long. I rode the mile or so to the bottom and started up it. About half a mile up a the first big surge of steepness, I UPD’d and was out of breath. Unwilling to quit I pressed on. In all I counted about 5 big grade surges before the top. Each one had relatively short sections of lesser grade that were still solid uphill but just long enough to catch my breath while riding seated. I made it with only one dismount!! Clearly, the Exiwolf rides well on the road for an offroad tire–it’s definitely my new favorite 29er tire!
Just like last time I went up Alba Road I continued to the summit of Empire Grade and hooked up with the Lost Empire trail. I ran into some local hikers shortly after starting it, and they expressed how awesome my unicycling on a trail is. I guess the “no bikes” signs don’t hold much weight for the locals.
Unlike last time, when I got to the Big Ben Tree, I turned right instead left. Left goes down to a very scenic trail that follows the creek, but it’s not a very exciting trail MUni-wise. And, there are fallen trees with around 4 feet clearance that force a dismount every several hundred feet or so. Right turned out to be incredible with plenty of less than eighteen inch drops, what I would consider good sized for XC MUni. I didn’t clear most of them, but it’s something I can work towards. There were long chutes that were clearly carved out by bikes, not too steep but plenty technical.
Unfortunately, around this time I realized that it was quickly getting dark, and I was descending deeper into a thickly forested valley. So I started hammering which resulted in some UPDs on some more technical sections. I spanked my bum on a log, and I’m sure I’ll have a nice bruise tomorrow. The worst UPD happened right as it got so dark I could barely see without a light. I did an unintentional coast, and one of the pedals caught my left shoe and flung it down the side of the mountain. Fortunately I didn’t fall too hard, and my shoe stopped only about fifteen feet down.
I took the opportunity to pull out my cycling headlight. I covered the remaining few miles of trail walking the rockier parts and riding when I could. Then, an adventure by itself, I rode the windy two lane highway back home, shining my headlight in the road so the cars could see me riding the barely-a-shoulder in some sections.
In all, I was gone for about 3 hours, I climbed at least 2500 feet elevation, and I’d guess that I rode around 15 or more miles. It was quite the epic ride for a weeknight!
So I guess I should explain the trollish subject line. The last three rides I did were on my N36 with 152 mm cranks. All three times left me with a wrecked right knee. It felt like I had seriously pulled something in the joint to the point that even walking was hard. I thought that it might have been from too high of a saddle, but I’m certain that is not the case now. Louise, one of the local riders, clued me in to considering the q-factor. I was using the Sugino cranks that have quite a bit of q-factor. So, with them, my N36 has about one inch more q-factor than any of the other unicycles I have. So I now think the large forces required to ride such a heavy wheel offroad combined with the extreme q-factor is what left my knee hurting so badly. After all my riding today, heck yes I’m sore, but my knees are fine! I’m convinced that the performance to weight ratio of the current 36ers is way too low in rough conditions.
It’s not really that I absolutely hate my N36. It’s a relative hate, relative to how much I like my KH29 and the rides I can take it on. I’m still planning to ride my N36 for the Tour of San Francisco this weekend, but it certainly will have shorter cranks with less q-factor.
So, who else hates their 36er?