It's the rider, not the machine

Sunday afternoon, Sherwood Pines. The carpark is full but the forest is empty. A thin layer of meltwater lies over frozen compacted snow, which conceals deep buttery mud, which conceals tree roots and unexpected pitfalls.

I’m on the KH24, sometimes struggling, occasionally walking when traction disappears altogether, but I get deep into the forest, and I find a section of “official” MTB route I’ve not ridden before.

The path winds enticingly between the trees, occasionally almost blocked by bottomless puddles, but always with a route past, and I gradually climb, breathless but determined, stomp-zagging between the trees, picking my way around the deepest mudbaths, sometimes stumbling but never falling, and all the time in the distance behind I can hear the tell tale click and tick of bikes catching me up.

I make it to the top in one, and it’s an achievement. It’ll never make a best selling video, and I know it’s the last hurrah of a dying sport, but I’m pleased with my own achievement.

At the top of the hill, the water and mud stand in deep pools because there is no slope to provide drainage. The mud has been chewed up and spat out by bike tyres. It is impassable on a uni - no traction, and a UPD would have me struggling but eventually succumbing to the mud like a lost pony in the Great Grimpen Mire.

The bikes are approaching, and I step to one side to let them through: a chap on a mountainbike; a slim young woman on a road bike with drop handlebars; and two blokes struggling on over-specced mountainbikes.

I cannot believe the road bike: 700c wheels, tyres around 32 mm (guess), “racing” handlebars, no suspension… for a fleeting moment, I stand agape.

An hour or so later, I’m in the car park when I recognise the group of four riders, and I make an excuse to stop them and chat.

Turns out it isn’t a road bike, but a proper cyclocross bike. But still, that’s narrow tyres, drop bars, no suspension and no concessions to off road use except a bit more frame clearance and some grippier tyres - and presumbaly lower gears than a road bike.

I express admiration for the achievement of riding it in those conditions, and one of the men with a mountainbike has the cheek to comment that it must be easier - his own big heavy mountainbike (front and rear suspension, hydraulic discs, oversize tubes, 2.5" (or more) tyres…) “is a bit of a handful in these conditions.”

He does not appear to see any irony in saying this to a unicyclist.

great write up
most moutain bikers would love to be able to ride a unicycle


Sounds like a great ride even tho.

I thought they did?