Joburg Carnival Parade - a 4.5 km Coker Epic.

And it took 3 and a half hours to do those 4.5 km, so don’t laugh.

A friend of mine phoned me about a week ago and wanted to know if I’d be interested in riding in the Johannesburg Carnival Parade. After the obligatory ‘Do they say ‘DUH?!’ where you live?’ question, we quickly established that a) yes, I would be interested in riding and b) they have the budget to pay me for the privilege. Marvelous.
I was involved in the first parade of this sort just over a year ago. It’s an initiative that involves a variety of skills being taught to kids from a variety of regions of Jhb. These include things like welding and sewing and accounts for some of the more impressive costumes and floats that were all made by the kids themselves.
It is hoped that these skills will help these somewhat marginalized kids find gainful employment. There’s now been some more local government buy-in and the ‘Joburg Carnival’ title is one result.

Since I still have JayneZA’s Coker on loan, I thought it would make perfect sense to use that since my experience at the casino has shown it to be very visually arresting. Since I don’t have any outrageous costumes, I thought I’d do the wheel up all colourfull-like and then just wear basic black. Well, black tails and a bowler hat so I guess it isn’t all that basic.

For something to do your head in, I recommend trying to recreate the South African Flag

using insulation tape on the spokes of a wheel.
As an added incentive, try n do it in about 35 minutes while eating a meal cause you just realised that you’re running late and are about to ride a unicycle for 3hours and you haven’t eaten anything all day.
There are some improvements that can be made, but I think I got pretty lucky.
This first attempt looked slightly spindly so I added some more tape.

Ah, much better.

But still looking a bit dodgy. The green bits next to the black and yellow triangle are too big. The first white bits are at the wrong angle. Too late to change anything now.
Oh well, I’ll just wear the bandanna and maybe the visual clue will help people realise what the wheel is all about.
As it turned out (pun unavoidable), the design works perfectly in the wheel and actually looks more like the flag when turning that when stationary. Check out a short video-clip here.

In honour of sitting on a uniseat for three hours, I made another hodgy-podgy, home-made, duct-tape and sock 12" tube airseat. I had a bit of a go with that set-up at the casino the night before and wasn’t quite sure if it my boohiney would handle. Desperate times call for desperate measures and against all my better judgement and heaps and heaps of advice from these fora to the contrary, I decided to try something new. (I don’t mean that there’s anything wrong with trying something new, it’s just normally suggested that you don’t try it out ‘in public’ for the first time.) I would wear my cycling bib-shorts and I would wear another pair of cycling shorts over them, thereby providing aforementioned boohiney the benefit of a doubly padded set of chamois leathers.
I can report that it worked fine. Somewhere between the 12"tube+the old gym sock and the overdose of chamois, I got off that ride with less discomfort than I normally feel after a heavy day’s UniHoki.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I throw all relevant bits into the car and head of to the start of the parade. Somewhere in the middle of town. Close to Constitution Hill.
The parade started in four separate locations with groups from the different regions heading for the ‘official’ starting point where the dignitaries will dignity and then the Carnival proper will kick off and head out across town to Newtown.
This rather fascinating way of confusing the crap out of everybody worked remarkably well.
We gathered at a filling station across the road from the starting point.

Myself, JohnJ on a 24", Liberty on a 24", Charles on his 6ft raffie-based trickb*ke (the frame and front wheel part can come off, leaving him riding the raffie part - he can take this off (and replace it) while riding, a pretty impressive feat in my book), two stilt-walkers, a balloon modeler, a fire performer and a Scotsman with a bad attitude, a set of bagpipes and a wonderfull collection of traditional Afrikaans folksongs. A motley crew indeed. We had to wait for the parade to get going and pass us so we could put some of our stuff on the support vehicle. I figured that I wouldn’t be able to do too much riding in the parade itself on the Coker and took the 20" in case I needed to swop. Most of the other people had bits and pieces they wanted on the support vehicle as well.

After the speeches, the parade finally got going. The Mayor’s impassioned ‘Let’s get moving!!’ (the theme was ‘Joburg on the move’) fell somewhat flat as the driver of the truck that carried the SA Police Band at the head of the parade decided to pop out for something to eat and it took them about 10 minutes to track him down.
They finally got moving and while we waited for the 2000 odd people to file past us so we could get to the support vehicle, a TV crew showed some interest in us. A bit of juggling here, Charlie’s trick-b*ke there and then your’s truly is called upon to demonstrate a kick-up mount for the cameras.
Do I have to tell you what happened?
Despite being as close to 100 percent as makes no odds over the past couple of weeks of casino-work (and being 100% for landing one out of three) I could for the life of me not land one. And a TV camera-person at a Carnival is like an ADD kid…
I’m still pissed at myself.

We eventually got to the support vehicle, loaded our stuff and then set off. As I’d feared, the parade was moving way below walking speed and taking extended breaks as well. While I have managed to idle the Coker in the past, I’m by no means well enough versed in that arcane art to be able to hang around the back of a slow moving parade.
So I figured I would just ride the length of the parade and then sit back and wait for them to pass me again.
The trip down the length of the parade was memorable. A Police vehicle was trying to make the same journey and for a while I rode with my very own police escort clearing marchers and onlookers out of my way.
Eventually even the Police car was moving to slow for my liking so I overtook him and started clearing the road for the cop car.
I had fun.
There were a couple of groups who walked in formation and it was good fun to ride down the middle of these groups. Until I got to the dancing group who waited until I’d just entered their group when they started their ‘two step to the right, two steps to the left’ dancing pattern. I still can’t believe I made it thru without hitting someone.

At the front of the parade, I met a gentleman on a particularly colourfull b*ke. He had a dressed-up shop dummy as a passenger and a variety of bells and whistles on the machine.
After initially berating him and pointing out that ‘somewhere a kid is doing without…’ he pulled up short with a piece of cloth (refer ‘bells and whistles’) jammed into the rear sprocket. And when I say jammed…
I stepped off to help him, hoping that we’d be able to turn the wheel backwards to untangle the cloth from the sprocket but it had turned thru three revolutions of the wheel and several attempts at ‘rolling it out’ came to naught. I fortunately decided to keep a little mini-leatherman on my keyring for the ride, just in case. It came in handy as we had to use the little knife to cut our way thru pieces of cloth until we could free the wheel and emerge from the ordeal as brothers-of-the-wheel, counting all nonsense now.

I spent most of the rest of the parade riding around the front end of the parade. All the other cycles had naturally migrated to the front and for a carnival themed ‘Joburg on the move’, made for a pretty fun parade header.
I’d taken my Camelback and wore it under my tails jacket (the sleeves of which I hacked off just before the start of the parade, it was just too hot.)
You can see the slight hunchback appearance in the video clip. This was an inspired decision as I worked my way thru the best past of three liters on what turned out to be a hot summers day.
Crossing over the Nelson Mandela Bridge was a memorable highlight.

I can’t recall a single ‘Where’s your other wheel?/Hey, you lost a wheel!’ comment. I got heaps of the traditional African expression ‘Eish!’ (this mixture of disbelief and admiration is a wonderfull ‘catch-all’ phrase) and didn’t pass a camera without a pic being taken.

All told it was great fun and a wonderfull way to let you know that we do do more than just play UniHoki in SA.

Hey Gild, that sounds like great fun. Thanks for posting that great description. I thought the uni and you looked fab.


Definitely a cool writeup and a good time; thanks Dave!

Yes. You are a professional unicyclist. Great looking outfits for you AND the Coker. Thanks for a wonderful “just-like-you-were-there” writeup.

good write up. my little sis likes what you did with the wheel. heh.

From the mouths of babes…