December 2010 Archives

Keep yur dukes up

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The U is closed down for the holiday so I'm home Monday on break. Some break - I have 150 final exams to finish grading. Before sitting down at the desk with the green pen I set out this morning for Lake McKusick. The air temp was 11 degrees F, and I enjoyed bright Minnesota prairie sunshine. Karen got me some knee and shin pads and I strapped those on for the first time. They kept my legs warm, and I was confident they were protected from pedal bites and knee drops, even though this ride didn't test them.

The worst road, as aways was the one in front of my house. Uneven soft snow was hard to break through and the only two get-offs I had on this ride were 50 feet from my driveway - going out and coming back! After that the neighborhood roads were mostly packed snow with some bare pavement. I felt the key in those situations was to pick a good line of what looked like evenly packed snow, keep my butt under me and move the pedals. I really like the lugged tire in those circumstances. I had great traction.

The trail around the lake was a joke. Snow hadn't been removed recently and the snowmobiles were using it as their track. I stuck to the road which, as a frequently traveled route out of town, was bare pavement. Here the lugged tire was slow and noisy, and I was concerned about premature wear, but still it was important to have the traction particularly at intersections where there was packed and loose snow.

Around the half way point I moved to a well snow-blown sidewalk with about an inch of packed snow. Here I was really able to get the feel and challenge of riding in snow. It is a workout since the snow offers resistance to the tire, but the tire bites in and gives confidence. Three things seemed to help...pick a good line with an even surface, keep the body in good position over the wheel (not just balance, but position) so I could react to uneven and unexpected changes, and, as the title says, keep my dukes up.

From my earlier posts you may know that I think about hand position. This is the third time I've ridden in packed snow, and each time I've found that my favorite position for my hands is as if I am boxing with my fists clenched up around my chest...my dukes are up. From that position I felt that I could quickly and comfortably respond to balance issues. Maybe having the hands up higher than normal above my center of gravity gave the small weight shifts more impact and quicker. Whatever it is, I find that high and tight hand position great in snow, but not on dry pavement where I prefer hands lower near my hips. Try it and tell me what you think works for you.

I didn't have the camera today, but the picture I would have taken would have been when I was going past the "Your Speed Is..." sign coming back into town where I punched through the radar at a blistering 9mph. HA!

Snowy cemetery ride

walk-off.jpg12 degrees F this morning, bright Minnesota winter sunshine, packed snow on the roads, so I took off on the unicycle for the quiet Stillwater cemetery. I figured the roads would be plowed but still have some packed snow and ruts, so I could get used to the Stout tire and get my balance on snow. I found myself watching very carefully for ice and perhaps being a bit too tentative. Some of the roads were twin wheeltracks, and that made for some tough riding since there wasn't much room for wheel wobble or slideouts. I did two laps around the cemetery, which was enough for one day. I had way more get-offs than usual, and perhaps because I wore knee protection, none were dramatic...just walk-offs. If I didn't have knee protection then perhaps I would have fallen. You know how it is.

I haven't ridden in a week though so I had to constantly tell myself to be aggressive when going over lumps of packed snow, and try to power through some of the obstacles. Great to get outside, and the snow was more tiring than I expected.

On the way home I took 4th street, which was bare pavement, so easy riding. And I wanted to ride past the Bikery and have those espresso-drinking, scone-eating (hmmm sounds good) lycra-wearing two wheel riders see a unicyclist out in the snow mixing it up. But there was only a kid with a yappy dog out front, so I couldn't show off. Just as well.

No revelations from this ride, just a matter of getting used to riding in packed snow with knobby tires. Tiring, a bit like riding on loose dirt, and I'm glad I didn't slip on ice.

Midwest blizzard

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After my wife and I had finished doing some mid-storm snow shoveling, I couldn't resist taking out the unicycle and diving into a drift.

Even though I've switched over the tire from the road-focused Big Apple to a trail-oriented Stout I don't like going out on the road or trail for much riding in winter conditions. Under the packed snow is ice. The ice waits for me to ride nearby, calls to my unicycle like the sirens to Odysseus, and when I ride close, drops me on my arse. Actually, it was the fall on my knee that hurt the worst.

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

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