The Hound of the Baconwheel

I’ve been too busy or too tired to ride much recently. Last night I had an evening free, and set off on the Bacon Slicer (700c x 233mm, 114 mm cranks, standard Miyata saddle) with the vague idea of doing 10 miles non stop, and possibly 20.

Two laps of the big lake, a diversion along the lane, a wiggle through the little rough path past the sailing club, and I’m on the river bank. The sailing club fleet is out in force, with Wayfarers, Lasers, a big stodgy GP14, LARKs and Toppers zipping about merrily in the sunshine and stiff breeze.

The path here is a metre and a half wide, smooth, rolled grit. It is the Trent Valley Way: a long distance path open to pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians. It is a sunny evening and there are many people about.

I make my way along, with friendly requests for people to “Excuse me” as I approach, and thanking them if they stand to one side. All is right with the world, and after an incredibly bad day at work, I’m slowly starting to unwind.

The lady ahead of me is walking her dog, and it isn’t on a lead. I slow right down to walking pace, make encouraging “Hello, good dog!” noises to let the dog (and the owner) know I’m there as well as to avoid the risk of the dog being startled and jumping at me. I’m doing everything right.

Unfortunately, the dog walker has no real control over the dog, she calls it’s name a few times in a sort of half-hearted panic. Then, as I’m passing her, and as the dog zig zags in front of me giving me no choice but to dismount or have an accident, she says to me, “Oh, that looks dangerous.”

My response is ungracious, and along the lines of, “Not as bldy dangerous as having your dog off the bldy lead on a bldy bridle path you bldy idiot.”

With hindsight, I shouldn’t have said it, but she deserved it. 50 minutes and about 7.7 miles without a dismount, and her dog has caused me to step off.

And before anyone jumps down my throat, I like dogs. Ruth has two Rottweilers who, apart from being difficult to spell, are the perfect companions, daft as brushes, and adorable.

I did exactly 17 miles in 1 hour 56 minutes and was off the uni for less than 10 seconds, but with my obsessive personality, the ride was blemished by that brief dismount. That and the puncture right at the end!

That reminds me of a trip in to work a couple of weeks ago.

Normally I am very concious of keeping out of the way of traffic, but when I see a lorry that’s pulled up most of the way over a green ‘cycle only’ part of the road before traffic lights, I tend to see red (no pun intended), and am happy to use my full right of way to pull up and start from any point of the green bit I choose.

Well, on this occasion, I pulled up just in front and to the right of the drivers cab. The bloke probably wasn’t even aware that he was 3 foot past HIS stop line, but he wound down his window and asked “Do you feel safe on that thing?”

In hind sight, I’m sure he meant it all inocently, so possibly my reaction of “Not when therer’s fing Ales like you parking on fing clcyle paths I f**ing don’t” was a bit strong.

I didn’t quite catch the comments from him or his passenger, luckilly, but could tell that he’d changed his tone. However, at the roundabout ahead, he really did his best to try to run me off the road, so I didn’t feel all that bad about things in the end.


I had a woman with two dogs off leads scampering all over the shared footpath / cycle path. One of them ran right in front of my wheel, it was a bit scary. At the time I decided to just ride slowly and predictably forwards. As always, dismounting would have made sure I was safe, but I chose to approach deliberately and alertly, ready to dismount.

As I rode away, I heard the woman comment, loud enough for me to hear “That’s a dangerous thing to be doing around dogs”. Which I thought was a bit much, given she didn’t seem to be fulfilling her responsibilities as a dog owner and seemed to object to my not leaping to compensate for that in the way she wanted me to. Possibly I could have made a witty retort, but I generally avoid arguing with people in the heat of the moment. And my wit tends to emerge with such a huge latency that it’s never any actual use!

In all fairness, though, I rarely have problems with dog owners. I don’t even really mind their dogs running around the path that much, I just wish they’d keep a hold of them when cycles are coming past. The majority of dog owners seem to be fine. And I guess they can make mistakes too. They bother me less than car drivers who seem to think anything that isn’t a car should give way to them without question!

Mmmm. Dogs.

I have come to be able to read doggy body language as well as I can read human body language.

I bare in mind that dogs aren’t actually allowed on part of the prom in the summer and definitely should be kept on leads on the rest of it. Of course the actual dog owners take no notice of this whatsoever.

Although I am compulsively polite I have (once) been frightened enough when nearly running over a very stupid dog to remind the dog owner of these rules, which resulted in a relatively polite shouting match with someone who was with the dog owner.

These days I have more confidence in my ability to instigate avoidance tactics if necessary (I usually ride on the wide prom rather than a narrow cycle lane so there’s usually more room) and content myself with the thought that if I fall off and hurt myself, or more importantly damage the unicycle, I’m going to sue them because they are disobeying the local bylaws. :roll_eyes:

Shared use paths make for some conflicts. I’ve been riding a lot on a popular Seattle area bike path. It gets use by bicycles, unicycles, inline skaters, walkers, joggers, runners, dog walkers, moms pushing baby strollers, groups walking in a pack side by side, bikes riding side by side, slow cyclists, fast cyclists on fast training rides, cyclists on aero bars, people listening to iPods, old people, young people, families with young children who may dart out, people who walk across the path without bothering to look if there is anyone approaching, joggers who suddenly decide to do a U-turn in front of you, and all sorts of other behavior. You just gotta be prepared for the unexpected and ride defensively.

It would be nice if the people walking dogs would be smart enough to walk the dogs on the dirt beside the paved path. That would keep the dogs farther away from the bicycle traffic and would avoid the problem of having a dog and its lead stretched two-thirds of the way across the trail impeding traffic in both directions.

Dogs and young children are random and may dart out at any time. Joggers are just clueless about the traffic approaching behind them. Dog owners let the dog(s) stretch the lead across the trail.

I’m careful and ride defensively. I’m confident that I’m never going to run into anyone. I’m never ever going to run into a kid (I slow way way down when I see kids). But jeesh people. Make it easier for the rest of the people on the trail. Don’t be the bonehead that causes problems and accidents.

I like the sound of your unicycle- you won’t be slicing much bacon with a 233mm wide tire though, you sure you don’t mean 23mm? I don’t see why more 700c users don’t use narrow tires instead of 29" ones. They are so light and tires are readily available. Sounds like you are cranking out some decent speeds. Keep it up!

Yes, 23mm. :o

The light weight and high pressure make it slower but more responsive. Slower because it has less momentum and is easily stopped or slowed by changes in the surface of the ground, and because the tyre has no “give” to smooth out small bumps. More responsive because you can change speed more easily. It’s a foil not a cutlass.

Great fun, and a privilege to ride, but not as inherently practical as a 29er.

Very much agreed. If I thought I’m causing unreasonable risk I’d hop straight off. Sometimes I do anyhow, just to be careful. I suspect that what bothers me and the others more is how rude or thoughtless people are even when they’re being inconsiderate and you’re doing your best to cope with that.

Dogs off the leash are, as far as I know, reasonably specifically controlled by law in this country but - not having a dog - I’ve never found out the specifics. I rather suspect that on the path it was not permitted anyhow, but I’m not really bothered by that if people control their pets properly. It’s the consideration that’s really lacking sometimes.

Such is life though, in general other road users are quite considerate to unicyclists (or just don’t know any better!) - including dog walkers, parents with children, etc. Car drivers annoy me most frequently in terms of rudeness, but they probably have to spend all day avoiding bikes who think the traffic laws only apply if in their favour!

I found the biggest problems so far to be:

  1. Any little girl. For some reason they are more unpredictable than boys. If I can’t get a good hundred yards between us, I’ll dismount. :smiley:

  2. Dogs when they are lolloping around off the lead and the owner sees me and gets a look of panic in their eye. Owner shouts for the dog, who takes no notice. In fact, at this point the dog is taking no notice of anything except for the lovely smells. If I change tack to go around the dog, it will invariably change direction too, right under my wheel. Meanwhile said owner is, ever more frantically, calling the dog. At this point the dog sees the scary big wheel, decides to go back to mama, but unfortunately I am between them. Oh dear. :roll_eyes:

I’m generally pretty anti-dog anyway, but once a few years ago there was one that came sprinting towards me from a long way off (probably 50 yards or so) as if it really meant business. Its owner shouted the normal “Mutley come here”, “bad dog” stuff, then suddenly changed to “no, Mutley, don’t do that - not again” - at that point I went into an all-out sprint and didn’t look back (luckily I was on a bike).


I would have thought though, that a Coker wheel is substantial enough to simply roll over any off-the-leash dogs that stray into its path? :slight_smile:

Perhaps less so with Mikes 700c ‘bacon slicer’, but, then again, its especially narrow tyre would probably have a similar effect.

That way, the unicyclist is not inconvenienced by an unnecessary dismount, or by getting into a pointless argument with a smug dog-owner who is clearly in the wrong for not controlling their mutt (and, having scraped Rover off the path, they’ll probably be a lot more careful with future pets).

Not by law, but HC rule 42 covers it:
“Dogs … Keep it on a short lead when walking on the pavement, road or path shared with cyclists”

Bear in mind that there will be a new HC out in a few weeks, which will have it under a different rule No.

I wondered about that. At > 200mm you’d be giving the new products from the Coker and Massey Ferguson companies a decent run for their money!

If I ever happen to ride past a narrow-tyred uni whilst riding my 29er, I will not have a very strong urge to shout “YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR! SHIVER ME TIMBERS!”

This amused me :slight_smile: