Not blunted

Well, as more or less all my wride ups seem to start these days, “Work, weather and illness have conspired against me riding much recently, but today I finally got out for a ride - no doubt the first of many over the next few months…” I hope.

Late last summer, I replaced the tyre on the Bacon Slicer.

For those of you who don’t remember, and for newer readers, the Bacon Slicer is a custom-wheeled 28" uni.

It has a deep-walled Mavic Open Pro 700c rim, and was originally shod with a 28mm road tyre which needed 120 psi just to keep the rim off the tarmac. The cranks are 114 mm, and the seat is a standard Miyata with no gel or air cushion. So the wheel looks like the blade of a bacon slicer, and the seat does nasty things to the meat and two veg.

Well, when the Bacon Slicer was new, Rogeratunicycledotcom had a quick go on it and said that he didn’t like the tyre because it was too tall and narrow in section, and made the uni tend to lean or squirm. I pretended not to agree with him although I knew he was right, and late last summer, Iafter spending the first half mile or so of a ride “adjusting” to get the uni to ride vertically, I decided enough was enough.

So I upgraded to a monstrously fat 32mm tyre. That’s 1 1/4" in old units!

And then I’ve been so busy that I never tried it out until tonight.

Will I be able to freemount? Can I still ride? How is my stamina? Will I like the tyre?

Most of all, will I still enjoy it, or is the fact that I’ve gone so long without riding a symptom of losing the unicycling bug? I have ridden a few times over the autumn and winter on the KH24, but that is so easy to ride that it somehow doesn’t really count.

So here I am at the Water Sports Centre car park. For reasons of tradition, I park in the usual bay. I don’t know why, but I laways have, whether the car park is full or empty.

There is a nervous moment, then I freemount first time, no problem. The uni immediately feels good.

A short burst across a rough ballast path with a slight slope, then up and over a small hill and I’m down on the tarmac track that runs around the 2.5 km rowing lake.

First impression of the uni: it’s good. First impression of the evening: it’s cold. An icy wind is coming straight down the lake and cuts through my shirt. Even my hands are cold.

The uni feels a little slower than I remember. The super-lightweight wheel and the narrow high pressure tyre (I put about 90 psi in it) combine to make the wheel skittish on even the slightest changes of surface. That is the special challenge of the Bacon Slicer: where a Coker or a 29er would bowl along, the 28" still needs to be ridden on anything less than a perfect surface.

Gradually, the legs get back into their stride. I overtake a surprised jogger. The ride is starting to be pleasant. To my right, swans appear headless as they graze on the bottom of the shallow waters near the lakeside. Coots chug purposefully across the choppy water. Mallards tip forwards, waving their bums in the air as they feed on whatever they find beneath the surface. To my left there are Canada geese and greylags waddling in pompous groups on the mown grass. There is a constellation of daisies near to the edge of the track, some with the tips of their petals tinged pink.

And soon I reach the top of the lake, turn across the wind and then downwind along the opposite bank. To my left through a screen of willows is the waterski lake, abandoned for the evening, a rescue boat bobbing disconsolately at its buoy. Perfectly black crows hop along the water’s edge, scavenging for the souls of drowned men.

Well, maybe they’re just looking for worms and grubs. Who knows?

And then I turn left and up and over a small hill, splash through a shallow muddy puddle (cold wet legs ensue) and I have done half a lap of the waterski lake. From here I follow the road past the fishing lake, with weed visible a few inches below the surface. It looks like pike territory, and the water is clear, but I see no fish at all.

Then I pop out onto the public road, with fields to my left, and wasteground and willows to my right. I am making good time, and the uni seems to be back on autopilot; I have to be there, of course, but as long as I scan for obvious hazards, the legs seem to take care of the minor variations. Someone asked in another thread whether your skills decay; all I can say is they come back pretty quickly if they do.

To my left is now a deep ditch with a shallow stream at the bottom, overhung with willows. I glimpse my first heron of the year’s riding, standing motionless in the stream, shoulders hunched, alert for prey. (The heron, not me, you fool!)

And then it’s back through the gate and into the Water Sports Centre, near to the main buildings. Here there are concrete jetties. I ride out onto one. The concrete is deeply grooved to make it non-slip. Somehow the wheel drops exactly into one of the grooves (this has never happened before) and there is a moment of teetering near to the deep cold water before I regain control.

Back on the main track, I skirt around the end of the lake, weaving between the racks for the rowing boats. I pass a young couple, each carrying a single scull, and one turns in surprise, nearly catching me with the end of his boat.

Then down onto the next jetty, along the pontoon, and up the nasty little ramp with “almost a step” at the bottom. I’m feeling confident now! I’ve done about 5.5 km without a dismount, and I’m riding for fun again. I suddenly realise I am no longer cold.

Up a small hill, then across some rough track, with small pieces of ballast pinging away from under my tyre, and I pass some canoeists who have been on the white water course. One mutters a joke, I don’t hear it but I do hear his friend say, “I think that’s been said before.” I think we all know what the joke was!

I am now on the river bank, with narrow boats and motor yachts moored against a concrete quay. Some of the narrowboats are gaily painted. One is completely unpainted and rusty. A small converted fishing vessel is moored on the opposite bank. It is more or less bow-on to me, and I see that one side is fully painted, and the other is stripped to the wood ready for repainting. That should make the witnesses argue if it’s in a collision. “I definitely saw a black boat hit the dinghy.” “Don’t be daft, it wasn’t painted at all…”

A car creeps up behind me, presumably the lock keeper, or a visitor. I hold my ground and make him wait. The speed limit along here is 10 mph, and I must be doing most of that.

Then I turn off down a bit of a slope towards the foot bridge over the white water course. Getting up onto the bridge involves a small sloping step - more of a ledge, really - which is easy enough on a 2.5" squidgy tyre, but a challenge on the Bacon Slicer. It doesn’t help that a family is crossing the bridge, and the young boy is obviously waiting to see me fall off…

I make it with a small gasp of “Yes!” then cross the bridge and turn down to follow the narrow zig-zag concrete path alongside the white water course. A few kayakers are playing in the standing waves. There is one C1 with the single bladed paddle… (“Where’s your other paddle, mate?”) Then I see a C2 - that’s a two seater boat with each man having a single bladed paddle. Doing precision slalom work in one of those must be one hell of a test of teamwork.

Turn left, up the rough steep pebbly track, more stones pinging from under my tyre, and I reach the crest of the hill, looking down at the white water course on one side, and the rowing course on the other. The close-mown grass is wet, and I have no grip, so I angle carefully down the grassy slope back onto the lakeside.

A short section of tarmac, a short section of rough sloping path, and I’m now on the public highway leading out of the Water Sports Centre. This is great; I had only intended to do a couple of laps of the lake to get back into the swing of it, and I am 45 minutes into a ride, with no dismounts, and now heading away from the car in search of more.

All the available routes for miles are deeply familiar to me, and probably to many of you reading this. There is the narrow stony footpath that goes up and over the flood bank, those naughty little concrete ridges that sometimes catch me out, then the long grit and clay path along the river bank. This bit is easy riding, made challenging only by the joggers wearing headphones, the cyclists with no road manners, and the dog owners who think it’s charming for their pooches to run under your wheel. Oh, and there are puddles, so that’s more splashing on legs that are starting to feel cold again.

Then past the recreation ground, with the footballers practising, and the lazy aggressive ones barking abuse at their colleagues who are actually chasing the ball.

Then under the old railway bridge, and past the kayak club, the rowing club and the football stadium. The suite in the front of the stadium is used for weddings and banquets, and since I last rode this way they have put a safety fence to stop drunken morons falling into the river. That means that the view is spoiled for those who could appreciate it, and the morons are more likely to survive to breeding age. It seems counter-Darwinian to me, but what do I know?

Under the famous Trent Bridge, along the path at the top of the steps by the river, and then it’s the famous suspension bridge: a steepish paved ramp, a deck made of uneven wooden slats, and a steepish slope down, with a few bollards to avoid. The slatted deck seems a little worse each year, and as I get old the flickering effect of the gaps makes it harder for me to focus my eyes.

Safely over the bridge, down the grassy slope and onto the tarmac. Then it’s under Trent Bridge through the tunnel, into the ornamental gardens, up the slope, and across the bridge on the pavement, with heavy traffic next to me. I’m always glad to get this bit out of my way because I half expect abuse from drivers, although in reality it seldom happens.

The slope down to the river side is always a touch difficult, especially dropping off the kerb with this hard narrow tyre. No problems this time, and now I’m on my way back to the car, a mile or so to go, and to be honest, I’ve had enough. An hour without a dismount on an unpadded seat and a hard tyre, and it’s getting cold.

I’m just thinking that I’ll do the whole ride with no dismounts at all when I meet the idiot who is walking and texting at the same time. Concentrating on how to spell “CU L8r”, he zig zags slightly on what is a very narrow path, I swerve onto damp grass, and the wheel stops suddenly, depositing me on my feet a few paces away.

Quietly but with some asperity, I offer him a small selection from my formidable lexicon of colloquial gynaecology. He seems faintly puzzled, maybe a little vexed, but not excessively bothered. His lips move slightly as if he’s still struggling to choose between “L8r” and L8R".

But, hey, a UPD is an opportunity to practise a freemount, right? And I remount almost casually, no nerves at all. I’m well back in the swing, and my legs don’t even feel tired - which shows that the time spent on the static bike in the gym, whilst boring, hasn’t been wasted.

Then another dismount, but this time deliberate, to let two horses past. After that, it’s a familiar route back into the Water Sports Centre, over the hill, and I’m at the car, where I top off an excellent ride with a casual few seconds idling to prove to myself (and the two middle aged rollerbladers nearby) that I can do it.

Awesome writeup as usual

Now I sort of miss my old skinny 27 X 1 1/4

Skinny tired unis really are a difrent kind of beast.

Wow, you remind me of the humorous description style of non-fiction travel writer Bill Bryson. I think he lives in London.

PS. I am a new reader, but even to us your name is familiar from some people’s sigs.

Nice write-up as usual Mike. I especially like the “waterfowl section”.

Now, how about a Bacon Slicer “before” and “after” photo comparison? I’m sure it would be appreciated by the newer members, since it’s difficult to picture what that thing actually looked like without seeing it. Plus it would be good for those less literate like me, that just like to have a few pictures to go along with the words.

:slight_smile: TB

Lovely.

Good to hear from you again Mike. Nice write-up.
For some reason I thought you had something even narrower on that rim before - a 25 or even 23mm? Or have I just ruined the deliberate mistake competition?

Rob

You’re completely right. Shows how out of touch I am.

The Road Razor had a 28mm x 700c. The Bacon Slicer had a 23mm x 700c.

I sold the Road Razor. The Bacon Slicer has gone from 23mm to 28mm.

So I am now on a Duraskin 28mm on the Bacon Slicer.

It is a good job I did that ride yesterday, because I wouldn’t have been able to do it today, with the way my legs now feel.:o

Bryson moved back to the US awhile back, I think, living in New England.

Great write-up though, and I agree with the comparison.