Schlumpf 29" Geared unicycle (effective wheel size 43.5" in high gear, 29" in low)
Tyre: Big Apple 2.0" road tyre
Cranks: Schlumpf 150mm
Seat: UDC Gel Saddle
Handle: T7 (no accessories)
Monday 10th September 2007
Start time: 7.45
Finish time: 18.15
Distance 73.49 miles (118km)
Decent 508 ft
Route: Nottingham to Northampton via Long Eaton, Kegworth, Loughborough, Leicester, Kelmarsh, Market Harborough
Tuesday 11th September 2007
Start time: 8.00
Finish time: 18.15
Distance 70.58 miles (113km)
Ascent 520 ft
Decent 620 ft
Route: Northampton to Wood Green, London via Milton Keynes, Dunstable, St Albans, Potters Bar, Cockfosters
In June 2008, the biggest unicycle race ever staged will happen in Nova Scotia. This race, Ride The Lobster (www.ridethelobster.com) covers the 800km length of Nova Scotai in 5 days. Four of these being Tour De France style racing, and one day of time trials. It will feature the best distance unicyclist riders in the world, but is open to anyone that can qualify, get a team together and get over to Nova Scotia. There is a $10,000 prize fund for the winning teams.
When I first heard about this, I thought, WOW, I would love to be there. At the time my biggest unicycle was 29", and after a 4 hour ride, I had damaged the cartilage in my right knee. If I had any hope of getting there, I would have a lot of work to do. The qualifying ride is a great way to sort out those that can manage to complete the race from those that just want to take part, and has a minimum distance that has to be ridden over 2 days, although this distance takes in to account terrain, weather and daylight conditions. The rules state “Two consecutive days with the first day rating 125 and the second day rating 150 (see the rating calculator below). This roughly works out to be 75 km with 500 m of elevation gained for both days. Or, with little or no elevation it is 87 km the first day and 90 km the second day.”
Back in April 2007 I rode from Swansea to Birmingham (136 miles) over 4 days, one of which was a rest day. That was on a Nimbus 36 over some fairly mountainous terrain, and my legs suffered badly. Apart from the date being too early to qualify, the distances on the first and second day would have barely scraped through and the second was no where near enough. Since then, however, I have bought a Schlumpf geared 29" unicycle. This has the advantage that riding slowly in heavy traffic conditions or climbing steep hills, in low gear it works much better than a 36" wheel. The rest of the time, however, in high gear, it has the effective wheelsize of a 43.5" wheel, so can be even faster than a 36". With this in mind, I thought I would be ready to take on the challenge of riding from Nottingham to London.
When driving on the motorway, this is around a 130 mile trip, and can be completed in just over 2 hours with good traffic (I’ve also done it in 18.5 hours in a snow storm though!). Of course, the motorways are out of bounds to a unicycle, but there are a lot of nicer roads to ride down, some of which are more direct than via motorway. Looking on the map, and using TomTom sat nav to estimate the ‘bicycle route’, it seemed like Northampton was a fairly central point. So, a few days before hand, I booked a hotel in Northampton. And that was it. No going back.
Like the majority of my rides, I did it solo. To be honest, I prefer to ride this way as I don’t feel guilty for slowing someone else down, and I don’t get frustrated when someone slows me down. That, and the fact that there’s not many unicyclists that would want to ride from Nottingham to London!
One thing that I learned from the Swansea to B’ham ride was that I needed to travel light. I packed the minimum amount of clothing for an overnight stay and a second day on the road. This still made my back pack fairly heavy, but a lot lighter than I often have for the 8 mile ride to work. Most of the weight, however, was taken up by the full Camel Back.
I had done part of the route before, and knew that some of that wasn’t a good idea, so part of the route to Leicester was new. I knew that the National Cycle Route would take me pretty much all the way through to Milton Keynes, so I spent the whole weekend before I set off trying to get hold of a map. These maps, however, are like fairy wings - some people don’t believe they exits, others have no idea what you’re talking about, and others claim to have seen them, but no longer have any in stock. So I set off with only a partial route, and planned to make things up as I went along.