OK, folks. One deliberate general knowledge type mistake in here for the alert reader to spot. if you want to play, just PM me the answer. I will psot the answer in a couple of days when the resposnes dry up. If you don’t want to play, that’s OK, but please don’t point out the answer in a reply on the thread. Thanks.
A new super lightweight tube in the 23 mm 700c tyre, a new track pump, and 130 psi of pressure. Time to give the Bacon Slicer another try.
Not wanting to suffer a pinch flat in the first 20 metres, I push the Bacon Slicer over the ballast path and mount on the tarmac. The uni is light and skittish, but the 102 mm cranks seem to offer too little control for the easy down slope to the side of the rowing lake. I teeter onto the lakeside, adjust my position on the pedals and the seat and get into my stride, cruising easily at 10 - 11 mph. The wheel feels weightless, but there is a slight rattle. I’m not quite sure but I think it’s that little ring that goes round the valve stem, tinkling against the rim. Whatever… I’m riding, and I don’t like to stop.
Skimming along the lakeside, it’s warm and muggy. A few rowers are out on the water. To my left, loud music is blasting from speakers near to the white watercourse. Flotillas of Canada geese and greylags drift in the middle of the lake. Other geese forage on the grassy banks, or scatter noisily across the road as I approach.
A mile and a half brings me to the end of the lake, and I am very aware of the seat. The 23 mm race tyre has no “give” in it, and I’m learning how much difference even a softer 28 mm tyre would make to saddle comfort! The steering is a little awkward too. The tyre is narrow, but has quite a tall profile, meaning it tips quite suddenly into turns. All challenging stuff.
Back along the other side of the lake into the stiff breeze. To my left is the water ski lake. There is an overhead cable way, and beginners are being dragged round one at a time. The bloke on at the moment is having a great time - holding on with only one hand and flapping his other arm like a mad thing.
OK, so the seat is getting a bit firm now. Time to add some variety! I turn left onto a little grassy cut-through that runs along the side of the water ski lake. The track slopes down from my right to my left, and the ground is grassy and slightly soft. This takes concentration, and the wheel is crabbing slightly, turning into the slope. I reach the end of the track, and stumble but remain upright as I step up the last little grassy slope onto the tarmac. I turn right, over the little hill and back down to the rowing lake. Something is knocking slightly. I think it’s the bearing clamps.
I scoot down the lakeside, occasionally sprinting and checking my speed on the GPS. 13 mph or so is possible, but it is skittish at these speeds. I know a 29er would be faster because it would be smoother and more predictable. The Bacon Slicer might even be faster with slightly longer cranks - say 110s - because of the extra control they would give. But that’s not the point!
Round the end of the lake past the boat houses, over the rough ridged concrete strip that I wouldn’t notice on any other uni, and back onto the long side of the lake. Ahead of me are geese - lots of geese. There are Canada geese and greylags, some with goslings, and there are ducks - mallard, bombay and tufted. As I approach, I clack my wrist guards together to clear a path through the geese. Then on a whim, I turn left, away from the lake and up the grassy goose-shitten slope.
This hill used to be the big challenge of my evening rides on the Coker. It’s long enough to get bogged down on and stall. The last bit is steepest, although none of it is very steep. Now here’s me riding up it on a machine that is little more than a vinyl LP with a seat attached, and 4 inch cranks.
At the top of the hill, I stop and tighten the bearing clamps. I also lower the seat slightly, in the hope that this will stop my knees twinging. That sounds daft, but no, it isn’t the deliberate mistake. With short cranks, your legs move less, and there is an argument for lowering the seat slightly so you’re not just using that limited range of movement at the point where your knee is almost but not quite straight. It works for me, anyway.
I get my breath back. 3 miles or so covered, but the concentration level needed is higher than on any other unicycle I’ve ever ridden.
I remount on the ballast track. Pinch flats or no, my demon says I have to try stuff, so I try it. I stand out of the saddle, use the remains of my knees as suspension, and hope that the wheel will have the good sense to find it’s way round the worst of the ballast. It’s hard work, and a little slow, but I console myself with the thought I’m doing something that’s probably not far of unique. Call me an arrogant so and so… no, better still, call me a taxi, because I’m knackered.
And now… the back of Scoreboard Hill… I can do it on the Coker, I can do it on the Holy Roller… I’ve even done it on the Road Razor on 125s… but can I do it on the Bacon Slicer? The wheel is responsive because it has very little inertia. Put another way: it has very little momentum, and needs positive input for both movement and balance every step of the way. So, when I make it to the top, I’m pretty proud. The seat has twisted to one side, so I stop, straighten it and tighten the clamp.
Now for the descent, and this is quite hairy. It’s not just the ratio of leverage, but shorter cranks give inherently less control on descents because you are controlling such a small movement. It takes precision, otherwise the pedals flick past unexpectedly like a cam, and you’re off the back before you know it. Spinning out isn’t an option because right across the bottom of the hill is a ballast path, and I don’t want to hit that at high speed on a 130 psi liquorice boot lace of a tyre.
I make it, and set off across the grassy hilltops, riding under the sculpture, but tripping over the edge of the little dip and UPDing. I laugh. This is like learning to ride cross country all over again. Back up in the saddle, and along the ridge, past the elderly spaniel that is zigzagging aimlessly, then past its owner - an elderly man, listening to his MP3, who reacts with startled amazement as I pass him.