August 2010 Archives

Mississippi river trail


My exploration of other trails led me today to the Mississippi river trail in St. Paul just a few miles south of campus. I drove to Desnoyer Park on Pellam Ave, parked and rode the unicycle down Pellam, onto the trail and followed the trail to the dam just past the Ford Bridge.

The trail was all paved. Nice scenery, but frankly not as fun as the horse trail on the Gateway. I had trouble on one section that involved a right hand curve with the surface falling off to the left with a downhill uphill combination and a jogger with stroller right at the apex of the curve. Made it on the second try. A bit complicated, that.

The 7 miles felt pretty good after the long sunday ride. Still, I don't like being away for the nearly 2 hours it took to drive, ride, shower and get back to the desk.

View Mississippi River Blvd trail in a larger map

Third section of the Gateway...and the rest too!


This morning I drove to the trail head of the Gateway on Norell Ave at Point Park. There's a large parking lot, wash rooms, bubbler and benches. My goal was to do the third installment of the Gateway from I694 to Norell. Since that segment is only about 4 or 5 miles, I figured I'd go a bit further and get in at least 6 miles.

Bike Guys in spandex over by the bubbler were mildly interested as I pulled the unicycle out of the Vibe, strapped on the fanny pack of tools and phone, and started off. Instantly I knew it was one of those days that I would be balance-challenged. I dove down the horse trail and on the very first downhill segment hit a channel that sent me head first into the bushes. What an ignominious start.

I brushed myself off, checked for ticks, (since I found one after the second segment ride) and mounted back up. Or tried to, anyway. Remember, this was a balance-challenged day, so it took at least three tries! The section from Norell to Manning has narrow, sandy tracks that I found really tough today.

Just about the whole first half of the ride I was right-shoulder-forward and couldn't even consider doing hands behind or any other type of balance challenge. It was simply a matter of survival out there.

I got to Manning pretty quickly, finishing the third leg, and decided to continue down the trail. In fact, I continued to continue until I got all the way to 75th, way further than I originally intended. At 75th I stopped for a bit of bench rest, walked back a bit to change the pressure on my knees, and to restore good circulation in my crotch.

I think this Freeride saddle is a bit easier on the crotch, but I still have 195lbs bearing down on a small, tender zone, and that pressure just can't be mitigated by saddle design. Eventually I have to get off and walk or jog to alleviate crotch burn and NDS (numb dick syndrome).

After the turn-around I moved over to the asphalt and put up with the bike riders and roller bladers riding past me ("passing on your left...") because it was faster and easier. That Big Apple is a pretty good tire for packed dirt and asphalt. Given the conditions I was on today, ranging from sand to asphalt, I think it did pretty well. Worst was the sand, but then that could have just been my balance. Perhaps the best riding feeling I had to day was bombing through the grass in the alley between the paths on the horse trail.

By the end I was whipped, but elated that I had completed the ride. I just did the map, and it totaled 12.75mi, my longest by quite a bit.

View Long Gateway trail ride in a larger map

Second section of the Gateway


I'm taking a vacation from my vacation and going back in to work for half days. I'm feeling the anxiety of the new school year starting to weigh on me, so getting some material in place now will reduce the strain next week. However, this morning, like yesterday, I explored another segment of the Gateway Trail near Stillwater. The section I rode started at Manning Ave and ran to Jamaca Ave (my start/stop point yesterday). The out and back was 8.6 miles, my longest ride. Again the trail had two options: twin track packed horse trail and an asphalt trail. Today I rode only the horse trail. I made sure the screws holding the seat plate were tight, so I had no equipment issue that would keep me off the dirt.

I've been very interested in hand position the last couple of days. I think this started when I began riding the 29er and felt like I was riding with my right arm and shoulder leading the way when I'd prefer to keep my shoulders square. Consciously moving my hands behind my back or alongside my hips helped square the shoulders. I worked on that again today when I was on some relatively smooth sections of dirt path. I find it particularly hard at the beginning of the ride when my hips and core muscles aren't warmed up and fully engaged. But later in the ride I can bring the hands back alongside my pin bones in the hip and engage those core muscles in doing most of the balance adjustments.

I'm aware of others using the trail. Most of the other users are bike riders on the asphalt, but I always come across some runners and horse riders on the dirt. I'm conscious of trying to look like I'm in control when others are around and may be watching. That consciousness spurs me on to find a hand position that gives the impression of control, and having my hands by my pin bones seems about right. And it feels like a good riding position too. Flailing arms don't cut it. Wings aren't the great either, although who cares when you are doing a steep downhill through sandy patches. I did bail out on one downhill just as a runner was reaching the base and ready to charge up. But she was understanding as the unicycle bounced past.

A feeling I'd like to explore more in my next ride is accentuating the "hips forward" position to maintain speed and momentum.

View Second section of the Gateway Trail in a larger map

Gateway trail

I've been riding the same places over and over. Time for something new as we head in to Fall. This morning I took the unicycle out to the Gateway Trail to try a segment that I thought would be around 5-6 miles round trip. The section of the Gateway Trail that I had in mind runs from a rural area just to the edge of the Metro. The turn-around point has a water fountain and place to sit and relax. The trail itself has two types of surfaces: one track is dirt/stone/sand and attracts those riding horses, trail bikes and runners. The other surface is asphalt, attracting road bikes, roller bladers, moms with strollers. At some points the surfaces run parallel, in other areas they diverge, and in those diverged areas the dirt trail has some interesting ups and downs.

This morning I chose to ride the first leg on the dirt trail to see how the Big Apple would react to a mostly packed dirt and stone path. I think it rolled just fine. I doubt that the Stout would have been better. On some of the uphills the trail got sandy and I thought the Apple might slip, but it didn't. Downhills on some loose stones were ok too. Grass was fine. Overall I'd say I have confidence that the Big Apple can roll on that segment of the trail without too much problem. I hear it is bad in mud though, but today is such a bright, clear, dry, sunny, high barometric pressure Minnesota prairie day that mud wasn't an issue.

I bailed on two uphills where I just couldn't apply the rotational pressure I wanted. I'm having a bit of difficulty maintaining cadence on this 29er. Some of it might be anxiety over the metal petals and studs that I'm sure will rake my shins at any moment. Darren recommended getting some sixsixone shin and knee protection and I suppose I should. No real problem with mounts. However, I'm currently doing all my mounts with a hand on the wheel, Megan-style. Again, I just don't want those spikes punching holes in my shins.

The major issue today was that the seat plate started loosening. The seat post plate on the KH seat is held on just like the Nimbus version with four allen drive screws, maybe 4mm. I didn't have the allen wrench set with me (should I wear a fanny pack with the allen keys and a cell phone?) so I had to do the best I could using fingers. It never got tight enough and I had to stop several times on the first leg to retighten. Riding on the dirt trail loosened the screws quickly.

In part because of the screw issue I decided to ride the second leg on the asphalt, hoping that reducing the vibration would reduce the tendency of the screws to back out. And that was exactly the case. I stopped once just to check on the screws, but otherwise did the remainder of the ride without incident.

I'm still working on riding with wings and then drawing the arms in behind the back. I'm not certain how i want to be positioning my hands during these smooth rides. I hate the look of a hand on the nose of the seat. It looks like the rider is hanging on to his dick like a little kid that needs to pee. I understand the utility of the position when hopping etc but not as an everyday place to set your hand. So where? Hanging to the side is ok but a bit gawky. I'm thinking that behind the back or on the waist might be ok.

View Short Gateway ride in a larger map

Vacation riding


I only had the chance to ride three times during my vacation over the past couple of weeks. Twice I was on a rails to trails pathway with crushed limestone leading to a dam and reservoir in SW Ontario. The unicycle was a 29" with a muni-focused knobby tire that rumbled over the asphalt to the trail, but was fine on the limestone. Today it was the 29" but with a road-focused Big Apple slick. I rode on one of my usual routes back in Minnesota.

The feeling I had today was uncertainty, the uncertainty that comes from a new wheel size, new tire style, longer cranks, but over familiar territory. I liked the feeling of extra leverage from the 150mm cranks. I don't get much extra speed from the bigger wheel because I think I'm turning it more slowly. The bouncy bounce from the Big Apple will take some getting used to, but between it and that big diameter wheel I can roll over some bumps more confidently than before. Today on the track I worked on restoring some of the balance I lost by not riding recently. One approach I used was to ride half a lap airplane style with my arms extended out like wings. The remaining half was ridden arms behind and imagining my arms still out like wings.

I have the overwhelming feeling that I've got a lot to learn.

Hot Sunday


I've ridden the unicycle four times this past week as I recall, which is more than usual for my recent riding. Today was expected to be a hot one (for Minnesota) up in the 90s so I got out around 9am to beat the heat. As you can see by the map I did the cemetery and the track today for a total of about 6.5 mi. At the cemetery I focused on doing the two central hills twice each (once each direction) then 2 miles of speed and balance work at the track. I was a rag by the end and spent the rest of the day in air conditioning.

Today I learned that on the track I can keep my hands behind my back if I relax my shoulders and let them move naturally, which is counter the movement of my legs.

On the hills I felt like on downhill runs I am using my right foot more than my left when holding back the unicycle on the steep bits. I worked and using the left foot more and found that helped smooth out the downhill run.

View 8 Aug '10 in a larger map

Behind my back


Two new-to-me techniques that I feel comfortable recommending:

  1. hands behind the back

  2. slow riding

In earlier posts I've mentioned riding with arms folded and with hands on thighs, but now I'm recommending hands clasped behind the back. I find it more difficult than either arms folded or hands on thighs. I think it might be because the arms are behind rather than in front, and that changes my body position on the unicycle. Next time you have a reasonably straight section, try clasping your hands behind your back and riding 50 or so rotations. Maybe that is easy for you, but its not for me. I find that after a few rotations I relax my arms and shoulders and I fell pretty steady. It has an impact on how comfortably I ride with my arms hanging at my sides.

Today I also tried riding as slowly as possible. I've read that some competitions include a slow riding trial, so I gave it a try. Hard! And I wasn't even going very slow. It sure does take balance and control, so I think that if I learn to do this better then it will improve my stability when riding normally. Also, I think it is helping me do better with stalls (which I'm learning to do) as a precursor to idling (which I can't do).

Here's today's route.

View Lauderdale tennis courts in a larger map

Drying out


Dirt trails are more tiring than pavement. I know that should be obvious, but isn't it a big difference when you break off a trail to pavement? Wow. I was having some difficulty yesterday tooling around the experiment station dirt roads. It is getting a bit droughty around here and at least twice when I took tight corners I skidded out in the loose dry sand and soil. When I'm riding I take the opportunity to visit the bean and peanut plots, stopping to pull out any pigweed, lambsquarters and thistle that might be popping up over the canopy. I've let the purslane go so it is covering over the bare patches, likely doing more damage than I think by sucking up spare moisture.

I'm starting to wonder how I'll keep this up over winter. Maybe I'll join the Twin Cities club and at least once a week go to a gym practice.

Long Lake trail

I've been looking for some unpaved, dirt trails that I can ride the unicycle on, but there just aren't any within riding distance of home. Today thought when looking at Google Maps I noticed one running around the west side of Long Lake. I plotted a map in my mind and took off this morning to see if it was good for unicycling.

There were a couple of challenging hills, in particular Interlachen Way just after turning off Myrtle, and 72nd Street on the north end of the lake. The latter hill is unpaved dirt road and it felt like some of those Tour de France Alps mountains where the higher you go the steeper the pitch. Well, it was hardly the Alps, but that hill beat me and I didn't bother going back down to see if I could make it the second time.

It wasn't too hard finding the trail, but to my surprise and disappointment the sign at the trail head was about three feet long listing all of the things you couldn't do on the trail, like bike, skateboard, etc etc only walk. Unicycling wasn't listed as a no-no, but the sense certainly was nothing fun, just walk. The trail was paved. I rode anyway for half the trail until I saw a dirt trail off to the side that I took just for fun. And it certainly was fun! It only went down to the lake, but what a gas. I took it back to the paved trail when guilt got the better of me and I dismounted and jogged the rest of the way until I met up again with 62nd street. From there on I could ride.

Again, only a very small taste of dirt trail, but enough to know I have to find more!

View Long lake sunday ride in a larger map

About this Archive

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

July 2010 is the previous archive.

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