June 2010 Archives

Transitway ride

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Back in late May I took a unicycle ride from the St. Paul campus over to TCBank Stadium. The first half of the trip was on public roads, and the section on Cleveland Ave was a particular pain because of traffic and rough roads. I thought about taking the transitway but knew it would be much longer. Well, today I did the transitway route to the Stadium. It was great from the standpoint of traffic and surface. The buses are only running every 15 minutes now, and didn't cause me any difficulty on the route even though in parts there is no bike lane. The only hassle with other vehicles was a bike that came up behind me on a section that did have a bike path. I was so surprised I UPDed.


View UofM Transitway unicycle ride in a larger map

7.4 miles. I didn't take my watch so I don't know how long it took. 1h15m? Maybe 1h:30m?

On the way back I was getting pretty tired and started high siding for no good reason. The uphills felt really good. The slopes weren't that high, but in particular there was one on the way back where the transitway elevates over the rail yards, and it took a sustained minute or so of pumping to get up that hill. I felt in control, but it really tired me out. After that big push I just tried to hold on until I got back to the gym.

Pre-game ride

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The tire wasn't that low, as it turned out. 40 lbs. I pumped it up to 55 and set out this morning before the USA v Ghana match. I had all kinds of difficulty staying on top, probably because my mind was elsewhere dealing with issues at work. A hill between here and the junior high track threw me off both going down and going up. Usually they aren't a problem. Even the track was a drag. I did 2 miles, but had real trouble turning a circle and heading the opposite direction each lap. I think the surface is pretty grabby when the temperature is high. That's my excuse anyway.

I took a detour on the way home past the Bikery, but no-one was out drinking coffee s I couldn't show off. I tried heading down one of the steep hills into town, but no dice. Eventually I made my way over to one of the several sets of stairs going down the hills and carried the unicycle to the walkway along the river. The water level is still quite high so I rode through on the sidewalk well up the bank. Patrons at the Irish pub hooted a bit when I high sided in front of them, but I pulled off a good freemount and kept going. Of course I had to walk up the hill again...no way I'll be able to tackle those now. I was a rag by the time I got home. Despite all the issues I had while riding, it was wonderful fun.

Refereed journal article

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Check out Sam Schuster's 2007 paper Sex, aggression, and humour: responses to unicycling in the British Medical Journal 335:1320-1322. Had me laughing out loud on many levels.

Pump up that damn tire, Tom

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Today the unicycle felt squishy (I still haven't pumped up the tire). I was on the tennis court working on tighter figure 8s and although yes they're getting tighter, they were anything but smooth turns. Jerk, jerk, jerk. The under-inflated tire was super grippy and prefered to go straight rather than lean over into a turn. And when I needed to make a quick adjustment it took lots of force on the crank. One time I really got off my center of balance and had to give a big rip on the cranks in mid turn to catch my balance. I think I actually left a black tire mark on the court! HA! Peeling out with a unicycle!

In one of my earlier posts I talked about trying to stall the unicycle - like in one of Megan's videos - as a first step toward throwing idles into the ride. I tried doing that today and was struggling to get the feel for it. You know how it feels to finally break through and catch part of a new skill? Well I haven't quite felt it yet with this stalling and idling. Closer, but not yet. I'll need a few more sessions on the tennis court.

Planned dismounts

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Yesterday I planned three dismounts. This is new. Previously my goal was to stay in the saddle as long as possible, but, as noted in earlier posts, my crotch starts getting getting sore about 20 minutes into a ride. Lifting off the seat helps, but nothing helps like getting out of the seat and getting the blood flowing again. If I'm on a challenging ride where I have unplanned dismounts then I have enough time out of the saddle to avoid soreness. But if I'm just doing a fitness ride without nasty hills or uneven surfaces, then I'm more likely to stay in the saddle to the pain point.

Before yesterday's fitness ride I planned strategic dismounts - one at an intersection where I should really dismount anyway and watch carefully for traffic, another at about the half-way point where in the past I've felt a bit sore, and the third at the experimental plots that I wanted to walk through anyway. In the first two cases my plan was to dismount and jog with the unicycle for about 100 meters or so just to get the blood flowing and yet keep my heart rate in the exercise zone. In the third case I knew I'd be taking about 15 minutes to evaluate the weed pressure.

The ride went as expected. I dismounted as planned, jogged, didn't get sore, and saw lots of weeds, particularly a few patches of thistle and some pigweed, that need to be hoed.

Crosstraining

Most days last week I commuted by bicycle to work . Well, actually, my commuting consisted of riding from campus to roughly Highway 36 and Century Road where Sam picked me up on his way home from work. Funny, I've had the cyclometer running, but I never checked out exactly what the mileage is for that ride. I think it about 13-14 miles and I cover it in roughly 50 minutes. Last week I focused on keeping my cadence up around 100 rpm and developing better leg strength. I realize that although I can work on leg strength on the unicycle, I can't give it as much effort as I can on the bicycle because on the unicycle there is the issue of maintaining balance.

I drove in today so I brought in the unicycle for a noon ride through the neighborhood, state fair grounds, and then back through the experiment station for a look at the beans a peanuts. Even though I've been off another week (only two rides in the past two weeks) my balance wasn't too bad. All my dismounts were planned (two planned so I could jog a block and get the blood flowing in my crotch, one to take a look at the plots), remounting was ok, not great. I thought I had higher cadence and leg strength in some sections than in previous rides, but I wasn't able to maintain a regular cadence quite as long. I think this was because I was struggling a bit to keep balanced and that detracted from pedaling now and then. The biggest problem I had was that I haven't checked tire pressure in a couple of weeks and today I felt like I was riding a trampoline. I suspect the tire pressure is down around 35 from the usual 50.

Overall, I'd say that cross training on a bicycle isn't detrimental, and may help build cadence and leg strength. I plan to bike 3 or 4 times a week through July. However, I need to get out on the unicycle more than once a week if I am going to maintain and improve my balance and mounting, let alone finally learn how to idle.

Out of the office

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I was out of the country last week working with colleagues in Costa Rica so I haven't been on the unicycle saddle for about 10 days. I was in another type of saddle though: one of the mornings while in Costa we rode on horseback to check on the mango, banana and sugar cane fields at one of the university farms. Although I do have a little riding experience I haven't been on a horse in about 8 years, Unlike my colleagues, I wasn't sore the day after our 3 hour ride. I'll hypothesize that the abdominal muscles important in horseback riding, as well as those used for balance, are very similar to those used when unicycling.

The day after I returned home I jumped up on the unicycle, not at all certain that I would still be able to ride. To my surprise, after a 10 day break I was riding just fine, and I think in some cases better, than I was before the lay-off. I was comfortable and relaxed in the saddle, could mount just fine, and hills that I could manage before I could still manage after. Unfortunately, but logically, those things I couldn't do before I left I still couldn't do (idling, hops).

Maybe scheduling a "recovery week" off the unicycle now and then would be a good thing.

In progress

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Things I'm trying now:


  • About 30 minutes into a unicycle ride I'm getting saddle ache that isn't so much from rubbing as pressure and lack of circulation. Rising and pogoing on the seat helps, but the best solution is a brief stint off the saddle. If I'm on challenging terrain then unplanned dismounts provide the relief. On fitness road rides I'm intentionally dismounting and running with the unicycle for a couple of minutes before mounting again. Running is surprisingly effective at eliminating the ache.

  • My hands-free static mounts are still pretty jerky. The smoothness seems to be directly related to how well I position my free foot on the forward pedal. If I hit the center of the pedal with the ball of my foot I'm off and riding without hesitation or wobble. If I am off center in any direction I'm screwed. I've been working on swinging my leg off the ground and onto the pedal rather than leaping, and keeping my eye on the pedal as I mount (a unicycling adaptation of the old adage, "keep your eye on the ball"). I've been finishing my rides by going to a smooth flat surface and practicing 10 mounts with each free foot to try to get these mounts to be easier and more automatic. I'd like mounting to be as easy as riding, and it's just not, not yet.

  • Figure 8s are challenging in two ways - transition and diameter. When I switch from clockwise to counterclockwise or vice versa, at the waist of the 8, I need to think about repositioning my contact point on the seat in order to get the right lean, and that takes time and thought rather than being automatic. That leads to large diameter circles. I'd like, for instance, to be able to do a figure 8 within one half of a tennis court, but I can't yet. One of the mental images I've found helpful to pull off smooth relatively tight turns is to move my shoulders out and hips back when getting the right amount of lean into the turn. This is opposite what I do when straight line riding where my image is brining my hips forward and shoulders back. For some reason, maybe associated with the learning process, getting my butt back a bit helps establish the lean. Just the process of working on figure 8s has translated into more controlled turns during my fitness rides, so that's a plus.

  • Idling/rocking. This is just going to take a lot more practice.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2010 is the previous archive.

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