On Top of Old Cokey...

A day of unusual comments, and slight achievements…

Another late night, followed by another late morning… but (to paraphrase the late great Buddy Holly) “the sun was out, the sky was blue, there was not a cloud to spoil the view”… so it was time to go a Cokering, along the mountain track, la la la la, la la la la, a napsack on my back.

Having recently boasted of my almost 100% success rate on freemounting, I was disappointed to need two attempts on flat tarmac. Within a hundred yards, I had to dismount for a gate, and again, it took two goes to remount. This was a pattern repeated throughout much of the morning. I was wearing shoes with stiff and heavily treaded soles, which might have made a difference, but I think it was just fatigue. I know my legs were none too keen when I invited them to propel the Coker up the first hill. My three sports - Morris dancing, unicycling and fencing - are all leg-intensive, and occasionally, the legs just run out of push.

I had forgotten my trip computer. This was probably a good thing, as if the numbers are there, I find I ride ‘for the numbers’ which tempts me to take the faster option at junctions. I sometimes miss the more interesting side trails. Pointless vanity, but I can be as vain as the next man (unless he’s Tony Blair, in which case, I concede!)

Today, unable to record my distance and speed for posterity, I ambled where the mood took me, picking some winding and undulating single track. There were patches of sand and gravel. Sand must be the worst surface to Coker on (except for thin ice over a pool of sharks, I suppose) and I UPDd a few times. I wasn’t really getting into my stride.

Eventually, I popped out of the woods into an area set aside for mountain bikers/BMXers, with a few swoops, ramps and jumps. There were lots of kids there, and I thought, “Here we go, wait for the merciless scorn.” But I was wrong. The first comment was, “Hey, mint! Look, a unicycle!”

This spurred me to essay a couple of the ramps. I UPDd gracefully as I crested one, remounted neatly, and swooped down the next and across some broken ground and out of sight, followed by shouts of encouragement.

Dividing the MTB/BMX area is a high bank of earth with an undulating top. I was able to remount on this and ride along the top - silhouetted against the skline in all my glory - then down a big swoop and up a ramp where I didn’t quite manage to get over the top edge. Posing shamelessly, I baled out at exactly the right moment to fly over the top of the ramp without the unicycle, and landed runnig, making the whole thing look a lot more dramatic than it was.

Quitting while I was ahead, I rode off into the forest, eventually finding myself at a Visitor Centre, where I stopped for coffee, and was ‘interviewed’ at length on the subject of unicycling by a middle aged lady mountain biker. She had some intelligent questions, and took a real interest in the answers. Made a nice change.

From there, it was back into the forest, turning this way and that, and convincing myself that I knew where I was. Suddenly, I saw my car, exactly where I’d left it! I’d come full circle. About 8 miles/an hour of riding and I was back where I’d started! D’oh!

I decided to repeat the early part of my route, and ended up back at the MTB/BMX area where the same kids were still riding, and had been joined by a few others. The first lot were able to be ‘real cool’ because they ‘knew’ me and they were boasting to their friends about how good I was!

This time I managed to nail the two ramps where I’d failed before. I’ve done them both before on a 26, but on the Coker, it was quite, er… exciting. Must’ve looked impressive.

After a quick lap of the rideable obstacles I stopped for water and chocolate,and I actually had a nice 10-15 minute chat with the kids, who were asking sensible questions, and taking a real interest.

One lad asked, “Does it rock forwards and backwards where it joins the wheel? Isn’t that difficult to balance?”
To illustrate, I held the wheel still, and moved the seat and forks forwards and backwards.
“Wouldn’t it be easier if it was fixed in position?” he asked.
Hmmmmm.
Er…
To illustrate, I held the fork crown and tyre so that the forks were fixed in position, then pushed the pedal to turn the wheel.
“Oh yes!” To his credit, he had quickly realised the disbenefits of his proposed modification!

Then a man arrived on a posh mountain bike - all springs and discs and stuff. “Has anyone seen my computer? It must have flown off when I did a jump.”
Everyone did a bit of a search. The man was grateful, little realising that if one of the kids had found it, he would probably have charged a ransom - we were near Mansfield, after all.

Eventually, it became clear that the computer was permanently AWOL. The man explained to me glumly, “It must have come off when I did a jump.”
“I know how you feel,” I replied, “I lost my front wheel on a jump… and my handlebars. I’m having to get by with the bits I have left.”
The man laughed.
One of the kids commented, “That was a really crap joke!”
“Yes, but how many times do you think I’ve heard it?”
Point made, and laughter all round.

From there I rode on towards a place known locally as ‘The Desert’. As I came to a junction in the track, I saw a family party of bicyclists ahead of me. They saw me approaching and stopped and pulled to the side of the path. I heard the usual rustle of “Hey look,” and “Wow, look at that…” and couldn’t resist…

At this junction, there is an opportunity to ride up a short steep bank of earth, to still stand briefly and turn, then swoop down, ducking under a branch, up over a smaller bank, then drop down a steep slope back onto the path. I’ve done it before, I knew it could be done, I had an audience… I did it.

Cheers all round, then one of the bicyclists joked, “I could have done that with no wheels at all!” An original line! I was having a good day for comments.

I then went to The Desert, which is an area of colliery/quarry land, with (as its name suggests) lots of sand, and not much vegetation. There are a few tracks and obstacles, but when the sand isn’t damp and hard packed, it’s too difficult to Coker on. So instead, I clambered up onto an old railway embankment, and rode along the track bed. This is a weird section of track, because it undulates with a rise and fall of 2 - 3 feet, with crests varying from 2 - 6 feet apart. You can almost, but not quite, get a rhythm going. It’s certainly good practice - and again, I’m high on the skyline, feeling like a Western hero.

Down from there, and back into the forest, where I follow the signs to “Off Road Mountain Bike Trail. Danger - Rough Terrain - Experienced Cyclists Only.”

Well, wouldn’t you? And frankly, most of the course was easier than much of what I’d ridden already. This is our society: we have a massive area of forest, and we package it all into two Visitor Centres, and one “Off Road Mountain Bike Trail”. How many people take the shortest route through the forest, on the wide straight forestry roads, to ride a half mile or so of designated Off Road Mountain Bike Trail? How many go out for the day and never go further than the Visitor Centre? At least it keeps them out of my way!

I meet a man on the Trail, leading his young son who’s on his own bike. The man stops to chat, and again, has intelligent questions, a real interest, an understanding of the principles (fixed wheel, choice of wheel sizes, etc.) and he makes no inane comments! Have I died and gone to unicyclists’ heaven?

And a few minutes later, as I blast past a group of resting bicyclists, basking on the bank like a colony of seals, one looks up, smiles and says, “Blimey! Couldn’t you make it any lighter?” A ‘knowing’ cyclist’s take on the missing components gag - I’m impressed.

A blow by blow account of the whole ride would bore you all, but by the time I got back to the car, I’d ridden for 2 1/2 hours, with a couple of short stops, so I’d probably done 15 - 20 miles. In that time, my freemounting had improved almost back to my usual standard, my legs had freed up, and were spinning properly again, and I’d ridden one or two obstacles, and one particular hill, which had always beaten me before.

It wasn’t a ‘great’ ride, and I set no records, but really, this ride was what a Coker’s all about: the ability to cover distance, on varied terrain, at a decent speed, and in relative comfort. It looks good, it feels good, and usually, it gets a friendly response from people.

On the 26 or 24, I would have stayed in a smaller area, probably repeating several of the obstacles, until I got bored. The 28 wouldn’t have coped with the ground conditions (it has a narrow tyre). The better I get, the more versatile I find the Coker to be. Should you buy one? Yes!

Hopefully without too many objections I will piggy-back off of Mike’s as usual excellent commentary and make some regarding my own mornings Coker ride.

Today I decided to Coker over to the Dunkin Donuts the whole way, rather than driving past the part that seems a bit dangerous.

I rode over the overpass across the Garden State Parkway and around the slightly hilly curve where cars often speed and have a bit of a blind spot. It was early enough that there wasn’t much traffic so, despite the fact that I don’t feel fully in control there, I didn’t feel too unsafe. I managed it without any UPDs and the rest of the ride is very slightly hilly but straight on.

Does anyone use one of the those little rear-view mirrors on their helmets? I often have to cross from one side of the road to the other and one of these would come in mighty handy.

I have crossed the overpass numerous times on my 24" Schwinn and never had any honking from the highway below, but today on both the to and return trips I got some honks. Assuming they weren’t unrelated to my activity, the Coker must make more of an impression up there.

There is one section of the ride where there is a curb about 4" or 5" high that I had been trying to drop down on my 24"er. I finally made that drop without UPDing the other day. On the Coker it was barely noticeable and there was success on the first try.

Ah, I had a bagel today instead of a donut.

Cheers,
Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ

Nice commentary Mike :slight_smile:

Where abouts were you riding? Sounds pretty cool. All we’ve got round us is a nature trail with a tiny little hill in it that I do MUni practice on.

Urm, probably, but not on my Coker (unless it was pretty easy). At the BUC we went out for a “leisurely ride” along the canal towpath, which was great fun and really relaxed, but at the end some people just went back to the school and a small group of us went riding in the forest. Had I realised this would be on the agenda, I would have taken my 26. Most of it was easy stuff, but the last bit was a fairly technical sandy downhill. I managed most of it on the coker (with 125s) but one bit caught me out and I fell over onto my knee. I think I must have bruised it a bit cause it really hurt for a couple of weeks and has only just started feeling better. Well, if we will do stupid things, like ride unicycles, we should expect a few knochs and bumps.

Doesn’t it feel a whole lot creepier on the Coker? Knowing that a fall may actually send you falling over the side puts a differnet perspective on things!

Great read Mike, you are a word artist

Question for Mike Fule: -
Your Coker stories are most inspiring, I’ve only ridden one very briefly at an indoor juggling convention but even from that I could tell that it was a unique vehicle.
I was wondering if you knew Sheffield that well, and, if so, in your opinion is it that good for Cokering?
I’m thinking particularly of the hills and also in terms of having no car so I would have to ride the streets to get anywhere.
Of Course any other Cokerers who know Sheffield feel free to reply as well.

Firstly I’d like to say a big ‘Thank you!’ for all the kind comments… rambles off into tearful acceptance speech… photos in all the tabloids tomorrow… a lifetime of being satirised on tacky sketch shows follows… ends up being ritually humiliated in embarrassing reality game shows… dies in obscurity.

Cokering off road… as the alleged King of the Short Cranks (not my words) I’d say 125s are only suitable for a Coker on a smooth or at least predictable surface. Yes, you can ride up and down hills on 125s (to a certain extent) but when you need a sudden burst of acceleration to redress your balance, the extra 20% of leverage in 150s is well worth it. (Or perhaps, are well worth it. Pedants may debate this pointless point elsewhere.)

Cokering in Sheffield: is Onewheeldave the artist formerly known as ‘Bestdaveintheworld’? (Perhaps the least modest e-mail address I’ve ever seen.:wink: ) If so, then we’ve corresponded off list before. I don’t know Sheffield well, but I do know that there’s plenty of riding of all standards in and around Rother Valley Country Park. We could meet there some time?

Sofa, for better or worse, overpasses in the States tend to have very high fences along them making it impossible to fall over.

We had a spate of thugs throwing bricks off of them back in the 80s perhaps. There were some drivers killed and ever since at least in the eastern states that I’ve travelled, most ofl the fences are high enough to discourage this kind of activity. Overall, I don’t know if it was a phenomenon that was over reported at the time but whatever, it succeeded in scaring a lot of folks and resulted in the installation of high fences.

The long and the short being, I’d have to work very hard to fall over. Still the fact remains that you can see and be seen a lot more from the perch of a Coker.

Cheers,
Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ

well, the less people throwing bricks over the better I suppose!

Up here in Canada (yes we have overpasses) there is no guard fence (but now I think back to my trips to Michigan and can picture of which you speak), so basically whilest on a coker, your crotch is typically at hand rail level!

Sure you don’t ‘typically’ fall…but if you do [gulp]

Re: On Top of Old Cokey…

I know that but tell my wife.

Cheers. Gary.

Mike-

Your write-ups are outstanding. “A blow by blow account of the whole ride would bore you” does not apply to your mastery of prose. Thanks for the regular stories. And thanks for taking the rest of us with you to places we would not otherwise be able to go to meet people who we will only be able to meet through you.

Yes, I am indeed ‘bestdaveintheworld@yahoo.com’ and it would be good to meet up at Rother Valley Park for a ride.
Which days of the week do you tend to go there on, and are you still on the same e-mail address as last year?

—Yes, I am indeed ‘bestdaveintheworld@yahoo.com’ and it would be good to meet up at Rother Valley Park for a ride.
Which days of the week do you tend to go there on, and are you still on the same e-mail address as last year?-----

I should have said that this ost was a reply to Mike Fules earlier question, as, in isolation, it makes no sense.

Here here! Well said, Greg.

  1. I only go to RVCP now and again. It’s an hour’s drive and there’s plenty of riding closer. But I CAN go there some weekends, by prior arrangement.
  2. Anyone in this forum wanting to contact me direct, I prefer you to use Mikefule(at)aol.com, but make sure you put ‘unicycling’ in the subject line, so I don’t accidentally delete unexpected messages as suspected spam.

Re: On Top of Old Cokey…

unicus wrote:
>>*Should you buy one? Yes! *
> I know that but tell my wife.
>
> Cheers. Gary.

Oi, Gary’s wife.

He needs a Coker, OK? :wink:

All you need to do is buy everything else you could possibly want. Then,
when your birthday comes around she doesn’t know what to get you. Aha,
sorted. :slight_smile:

Regards,
Mark.

Fujitsu Telecom Europe Ltd,| o
Solihull Parkway, | In the land of the pedestrian, /|
Birmingham Business Park, | the one-wheeled man is king. <<
Birmingham, ENGLAND. | O

Yesterday was a first for me on my Coker. Although I’ve now logged a couple hundred “road miles”, I really hadn’t taken it off-road except to negotiate the odd patch of gravel I’d encounter. Yesterday I took it out on some of the easier woods trails near my house, and was very impressed with how well it did. Of course, these are not trails with a lot of roots, but rather are very wide, semi-maintained single-track. Maybe the most interesting element (to me) was that I felt I could actually maintain a higher average speed out on the trail…mostly a mental thing, but the thought of falling at 10+ MPH on pavement makes me a whole lot more nervous than the thought of falling on a relatively soft dirt and bark-mulch trail. On one straightaway I got it going the fastest I have yet…not sure what that is, though, since I don’t yet have a computer.

I’m not yet ready for stairs drops. :stuck_out_tongue:

On Top of Old Cokey…

Mike,

I fear you may have missed your true calling… you should have been a teacher…

Then again…

maybe you haven’t missed anything at all!

Thanks for the lessons (to both non-unicyclists and us), Mike!

Re: Re: On Top of Old Cokey…

I developed this argument:

you know, my beloved one,
I cannot keep pace with you while you are riding your mountain bike
(or even when you are jogging… phew you’re fast!)
So the only way for us to keep romantically strolling thru the woods
is to buy a Coker for me…
I know I’m on a buying spree for unis … (that’ll make three in a row
in just 6 months)…
but you know that’s cheaper than buying a single motorcycle or fancy mountain bike!

hope this helps

bear