Narrow wheel, wide horizons

Christmas Eve: the Coker; Saturday: the MUni: Sunday…

A cold clear morning with blue skies, or so I gather from later reports. I was up late and missed most of it. After a hasty breakfast, the 28 was selected and loaded into the back of the car.

There are only so many places to ride locally, so having a fleet of unicycles adds interest. I start near to the adventure playground. A few kids are playing half heartedly on the half pipe and can’t be bothered to mock me. Their loss. So, off down the riverside path, feeling my way back into an understanding with the 28s narrow wheel and the short cranks after my last ride on the MUni.

I make the tricky little turn over the two concrete ridges near the sailing club. They’re nothing really - just two ridges about half an inch high, but right on a bend, with a narrow pebbly path immediately afterwards. They can catch me just wrong sometimes. Last time I rode this section I fell off - but I was riding in the dark, and had forgotten they were there.

A short section of road leads to the National Watersports Centre, where I zig zag up the footpaths, feeling every stone through the narrow tyre. The Miyata handle gives less leverage and control than the metal handle on my MUni. I stand on the pedals and tiptoe up the slope between the larger stones, where the Coker would just roll on through.

Down past the canoe slalom course, where one of the workmen does a classic double take as I ride past. I make it up the tricky step onto the footbridge - again, it’s easy on the MUni or Coker, but takes delicacy and poise on the 28.

From there, it’s the long and slightly boring straight for 2,000 metres down the rowing course, or, to be pedantic, just to one side of the rowing course. By now I’m quite warm because the wind is behind me and I’m riding in a pocket of still air.

Round the top of the lake and the pocket of still air becomes a hostile icy blast which is no fun at all. I divert across to the waterski lodge where I take the unmetalled track towards the road.

Er… no. I take the WRONG unmetalled track which goes towards the river. It’s one of those tracks that keeps looking like it’s going to turn in the direction you want, but never does. Instead, it just gets rougher and rougher, and slimier and slimier. This is easy riding on a Coker or MUni - the sort of stuff you ride quickly to get to the good bits further on - but it’s a cerebral challenge on the road wheel as the puddles and ruts become the walls of a maze. Will I find my way through or end up in a blind alley?

Blind alley it is then. :0(

And as I try to turn, my lack of confidence in the friction characteristics of the mud (somewhat akin to buttered Teflon) stops me committing myself fully. I step off - my first UPD, 4.8 miles into the ride. I just hate ‘soft’ UPDs. That’s ones where I know I could have stayed on, not ones where I land softly. (In fact, I generally prefer the ones where I land softly.)

At least a UPD takes the pressure off me to complete the whole ride without a UPD. You know me: can I do the hour, the 10 miles, the 15 miles, the 20 miles, the 2 hours… still walk?

Back along the track past familiar dog walkers, still surprised to see a unicyclist, then it’s out onto the road. A hundred yards later, my mobile rings. I’m meeting a friend for a ride in the afternoon, and dinner is added to our plans.

The call makes a natural punctuation to the ride. I put on my new fluorescent windproof waterproof top and turn to face the bitter wind. From here, it’s about 2 miles to my father’s house, and I ride the who distance on the road, giving clear hand signals, timing the junctions, and not having to dismount.

I arrive at my father’s house and the neighbours don’t even comment on the unicycle. It’s now just an accepted thing.

My father has a dog called Jake. A few months ago, I was riding along my father’s road when I saw two kids. One shouted, “Look! A unicycle.” The other replied, “Oh, that’s just Jake’s dad’s son,” without even looking round. So I know my place.

Today, refreshed by much tea, I put my waterproof windproof fluorescent top back on, replace my Camelbak, and grimace as my cold sweaty tee shirt presses against my spine. Yuk! The worst thing about stopping is starting again.

Almost back to the car, and I find myself behind a herd of horses. Could be worse - it could have been a horde of hearses. Said beasts block my way, and I’m not keen to overtake, having once been in a bicycle club which had lost a member who was kicked in the head by a horse as he overtook it. I slow right down, decide to idle (I can idle the 28 like nobody’s business) and I fluff it and UPD. Shamefaced, I remount, wait for the horses to turn off, then ride back to the car.

That afternoon, Andy’s not riding at his best, but I have a good play on the MUni as I shepherd him around the park on his 24.

After weeks without riding, that’s three good days on the uni in a long weekend.

Re: Narrow wheel, wide horizons

“Mikefule” <> wrote in
> Christmas Eve: the Coker; Saturday: the MUni: Sunday…

My thanks Mike…for taking the time to tell us.

A worthy read.