Meeting new friends and riding new trails (write-up)

Sunday morning, and I’m awoken by the alarm ringing at 8am.
“Why the hell have I set my alarm for that time?” I think. It takes me a while to remember that this morning I am supposed to be meeting Semach the Monkey, who sent me a PM earlier on in the week telling me he is riding along the south Wales coast on the weekend, and how it would be nice to meet up.
A couple of exchanged PMs later, and we had agreed to meet up in Swansea along the beach front. Semach said he would be passing by around 11am, so I turn up at 10.30 and have a quick ride around the marina. It’s a lovely sunny morning and lots of people are out. I get the usual comments. You all know them.
I ride around the observatory, which gives me a view of the beach front for about a mile. and I rest against one of it’s walls. Far in the distance I see a man riding on one wheel. “I wonder who that could be?” I think to myself with a smile, and I push off to meet him.
I think about greeting Semach with a “Hey mister, where’s your other wheel?” but at the last minute I decide against it, and we meet with the most awkward N36 dismount I have ever seen and a smile and a handshake.
“My dismounts are normally better than that!” says Semach.
We make small talk and stroll to a cafe in the marina.
Over coffee and cake (slowest coffee service ever!) we talk about bikes and rides and routes and all sorts of stuff. I can’t help noticing Semach’s unusual ear piercings and often find myself talking to his left ear. Also with us is Steve, a b*ke rider that Semach has picked up on the way, and who has offered to show Semach the route for the next few miles.
“Sooooo…can I have a go?” I ask, nodding towards his uni.
“Sure.” says Semach, and I lift up his Nimbus36. It’s very heavy.
He has 120mm cranks on it (I think) and I find it difficult to mount holding on to the marina railings. How on earth he freemounts it I have no idea. A turn or two of the pedals and I fall off. I try again and this time the huge wheel lurches underneath me and the pedal catches my right knee and leaves a nasty scrape.
“I think I’ll stick with my 24” muni for now.” I say as I lower the N36 to the ground and limp back to the cafe bench.
I don’t want to take too much time out of Semach’s schedule. So we finish the cake and walk over the marina bidge where we mount up and ride out of the marina, through a car park and over the new sail bridge. I have a hell of a job trying to keep up with Semach and Steve. We reach the road where it’s time for me to turn back, so we shakes hands while still riding, and I wave them both goodbye.
Right then. What shall I do for the rest of the day?
I eye up Kilvey Hill in the distance.
Haven’t been up there for a while, and never before on my uni. I’m glad I had the forethought to bring my helmet and shin pads. A ten minute drive later and I’m at the foot of the hill. There are many paths up and they all seem to criss-cross each other at some point, but they are all just as steep as each other. There is no easy way up.
I push the uni up the path. It’s strewn with rocks and quite slippery. When it has rained, running water has dug a channel from the centre of the path, so now it’s a ‘V’ shape. This will be tricky to ride down. Half way up I stop at a small man-made lake. The lake has had all sorts of junk dumped in it and is in a very sorry state.
I crack on upwards, moving through forest areas and I can see man-made singletrack swooping through the trees. Further ahead someone has been busy and built Northshore ramps and dirt jumps, which are insanely steep and high and run into enormous berms and runouts. I plod on up log steps and more rooty singletrack until eventually I burst free of the forest near the summit of the hill.
I rest at the seating at the top and take in the view of Swansea to my right (ahh) and Port Talbot to my left (eww). According the the graffiti on the bench Debbie loves Jamie (true) and John is gay. Who would have suspected.
I drink a bottle of Lucozade and start the descent.
The first hundred yards is smooth dirt road which rounds a corner and levels off. I avoid puddles in the tracks by riding along the centre of the dirt road. Soon it turns into a more rocky track which leads to my first UPD of the day. Other walkers and riders are noticable by their absence. It’s a sunny day and I thought more people would have been out. Somewhere in the distance I hear an engine revving. Maybe a dirt bike?
I remount and UPD five yards later. I remount again, and exactly the same thing happens again. These rocks have got it in for me.
I’m grateful when I reach the start of the singletrack. It’ll be easier going on that.
I ride down through the forest, past the jumps and steps and even veer away from the wide path and try out some of the singletrack. It’s like riding a rollercoaster through the trees, swooping and cornering. I guess I UPD around five times trying this out. It’s a laugh though.
I reach the lake again and find two scruffy teenagers playing at the bank. They stare at me wide-eyed as I ride down the path and dismount. I’m hot and I need a break.
I get the usual questions (“How do you ride that? Is it hard? Do you fall off lots?”) as I take off my helmet and gloves. I laugh and ask if they want a go. One says yes, so I lower the saddle and hand over the uni, and go and sit down. As his friend and I enjoy the free entertainment of him trying to mount, a faint roar of engines grows louder as three quad bikes ride up and halt in front of us.
“Look at this guy Dad!” cries of of the kids.
“I know, we saw him earlier from a long way off.” says Dad.
The three grown-ups are just as curious as the kids, and ask all the same questions. We spend a nice fifteen minutes talking about muni and the trails on the hill. I’m not entirely sure of the legality of their riding, but I don’t bring it up. There’s three of them and one of me. We give each other good-natured goodbyes and I continue the last part of the descent.
This is where the centre of the path had been worn away, and I struggle to stick to the edge, rather than ride the rocky middle part of the path.
After another two UPDs the path starts to level and I’m back on pavement and next to the car. I reach for my keys.
They’re not in my pocket.
Crap in a hat.
I’m almost relieved to see them in the ignition of the car. It turns out that I’ve locked myself out when getting the uni out of the car.
Could be worse. I could have lost them on the hill somewhere. Then I never would have found them. I’m just about to call the AA on the mobile, when the quad bikers pull up. They’ve parked their trucks next to my car.
“Hello again,” I say as I walk up to them. “I don’t suppose any of you know anything about breaking into cars?”
Turns out they do. One of them grabs some wire from the back of his truck, makes a loop and pushes it through the crack between my doorframe and door, wiggles it down around the lock and pops it up.
Handshakes all round.
A good day all in all, my arms and face are suntanned and my hands are white from where I wore my gloves.

Semach, good luck with the rest of your ride. I hope the weather stays like it was on Sunday.
Here’s the view from the top of the hill.

Blue, you could work at two jobs simultaneously. First - goofing off in the magazine editorial. Second - writing stories while doing the first.

Kudos on the write-up and the interesting ride!

Or he could go work at UNi magazine. :smiley: :smiley:

Nice write up SEan… What friendly crims you have round your parts.

Not wanting to hi-jack the thread but…
There were (and probably are) loads of illegal riders of bikes and quads where I used to live. You’d run into them on the forest paths, wastelands and fallow fields all the time and they’re commonly the most friendly guys around. I’ve never heard of them causing any more bother than the noise of their two-strokes. They’re pretty much just interested in racing round and larking about with each other. My problem is that they’re frequently featured in advertising campaigns encouraging the public to grass up on “anti-social” behaviour! Since when is noise anti-social?

Anyhoo, I was taught to use a wire coat hanger to open my car by an RAC man after I locked my keys inside for the gazillionth time. So maybe your man was a professional rather than a crimbo.

Great write up sean. Sounds like you had a good time.

I too have tanned arms up to my wrist guards :slight_smile:

PS. One of the things in life that I aim to do when chance presents itself is shout “where’s your other wheel” at another unicyclist. However my rules of this game are that it can’t be a unicyclist that I’ve arranged to meet, be at a unicycling meeting, etc and must be a random unicyclist that I’ve just bumped into. It’s never happened yet.


Please tell me you’re not serious!

Nice write up. Sounds like a great ride. I never try any of that north shore stuff myself. Too perilous.

On the illegality thing - if it’s private land, then the law says what you are entitled to do (e.g. walk on a footpath; ride on a bridleway) and the rest is up to the landowner. Many footpaths are farm drives or tracks providing access to fields.

If the landowner lets you ride a bike or drive a car, that’s his business. The existence of the footpath/bridleway just means he can’t refuse a walker/rider right of way.

On public land, there may be bye laws forbidding certain activities.

great write-up, Sean! sounds like a lot of fun!
i’ve got to get over to Wales sometime…

Thanhs Blue. it was lovely meeting up with you there. sorry if the dismount scared you. they’re not all as messy as that. honest!

well, I followed Steve out of town on National Cycle Route 4 all the way through to Pontypridd (except where I missed the signs about 4 miles from the end), so managed around 55 miles that day. the NCR network is a really nice way to get around and see parts of the country you wouldn’t normally see (including the dodgy back-streets of Port Talbot - eww indeed)

yesterday was spent almost entirely on NCR4 & 46, which was really nice too. 42 miles later I arrived in Abergavenny. Shattered.

the plan today was to ride up to Malvern and meet up with Phil… but my legs have voted on a day of rest. the poor things can barely manage a hobble at the moment :frowning:

Thanks again for the coffee Blue - it’s my round next time.

STM - mmmm… free wifi

This is our intrepid traveller on the Malvern Hills, about to leave for Birmingham…


Ah, a nice picture indeed! (Well, with that scenery is it possible to take a bad picture?)

And for those wondering, I made it to Birmingham. A little worse for wear, and very tired. Sadly the temptation of jumping on a train for the last bit of the journey was much more tempting than 2 more days in the saddle.

Thanks to all of those that helped out along route, it’s certainly been a memorable few days.

STM - thinking about doing a write-up, but not sure if he has the energy

Into The Blue - I loved your writeup.

STM - here’s hoping you do one for your ride, too.

Well done Semach!
Me, I would have caught the train in Swansea.

As for your write-up…
Go on.
You know you want to.