June 2011 Archives

My fair weather friend

I like that mental image of jogging on one wheel. I took the 29er out today around the campus and experiment station and focused on pretending I was running down the road. It felt to me like like this resulted in a more upright posture with my butt under me a bit more. I even imagined for a while that that when I got it right, it resulted in less effort, although that was probably just wishful thinking.

I also noticed that as I fatigued, I had more difficulty with both that mental image and with my posture. As I got tired I tended to slump over.

The dude who writes the Muni or Bust blog recently commented on how his lower back was aching after riding in a couple of mountain bike races. Firstly, good on him for riding in those races, but I wonder whether the strain and fatigue of that riding causes him to slump forward (he alluded to that in a post) and puts pressure on his lower back. I'm certainly in no position to give him advice - he's racing and I'm just wishing - but I'm going to keep on with this mental image and see if it results in less fatigue over distance.

There is at least one problem though...my upright body seems to catch a lot of air. That's a problem on some legs of my ride because the winds whipping through the midwest can provide a sustained pressure that feels to my legs like a challenging uphill climb. I've been knocked off the unicycle more than once by the winds I encounter riding the lanes through the experiment station. Today those winds were blowing and when they hit me the jogging image instantly vaporized. I was reduced to using whatever body angles and motions I could to stay on top, including slumping, swerving and jerking in a very unjoggingly manner. Tough. Maybe jogging is just my fairweather friend.

Jogging on one wheel

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sam up.jpg

Sam's back from the trip to Vancouver. He accompanied Karen and me out to the trail today -Sam on rollerblades, Karen on her MTB and me on the 29er. While waiting, Sam pulled the 24" out of the garage and tried balancing. As you can see in the picture he's a tall guy so the seat needs to come up a bit, but other than that death grip he has on the nose of the seat, he's almost looking comfortable.

I was thrilled today to get up a hill on the trail that I've never crested before. My technique was to, as I approached the hill, put more pressure on my pedals and get my weight off the seat, then really focus on transferring force from legs to pedal. I went up the steepest section pretty slowly, and I think it has helped to be working on slow speed balance and idling. It was a satisfying feeling. I still have a ways to go though because on the return trip, the back side of the hill beat me twice. Still I went further up than ever before.
sam down.jpg
I had a new sensation today. At times I felt like I was jogging on the unicycle. It had something to do with the posture I maintained during the ride. Because of recent rains there were muddy and slippery parts, and especially through those sections I paid close attention to my posture so that I didn't get too far out over the wheel. When I felt that my posture was similar to when I jog, I also felt like my balance on the unicycle was good. I'll be trying to replicate that on my next ride.

Looks like Sam still has a ways to go. He said he was determined to figure it out. That's the key to learning to unicycle.


Fathers Day 2011

Fathers day 2011.jpgStillwater hosted the Stillwater Criterium today so I headed away from downtown and out to the west. The 7 mile loop followed a paved bike trail out Boutwell to Manning, then north to McKusick, and back around the lake following a route I often take behind Eagle Ridge.

At about the 4 mile mark my crotch was getting sore from sitting. I worked on rising up out of the seat and taking 20 strokes - 10 revolutions - up out of the seat, and that helped get the blood flowing again. I did that several times as I rode back on McKusick and worked on getting nice, stable, even pressure on the pedals. It was a good workout for the legs.

I stopped at about the 5.5 mile mark to take a few pictures near the lake including the one above. That stretch has some challenging bumps, transitions and steep hills that I was able to make, although a couple of them took an extra try.

Now that I've got my exercise in for the day, I feel better about walking down to the Criterium and watching bicycle racers pound up the steep hills on the banks of the St. Croix.

Today's two sensations

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I recall two sensations from my ride today. One had to do with my hips and the other my feet.

Instead of my usual ride to the hockey rink i found another park a little more than a mile away from the gym, rode through the university neighborhood to the tennis court there, and engaged in civil disobedience by riding on the court despite the signs saying no bikes or skateboards. Whatever. It was a rainy day and there was no chance of anyone playing tennis on those soggy courts. Also, I really like the tire grip their textured court surface provides. I did some warm-up figure eights inside the service court and then moved on to practice serial idling along the outside of the court where I could get some balance support from the fence.

Here's where I had the hip sensation. When serial idling, if I could keep my hips square and balanced through one idle and especially during the forward stroke transition to the next idle on the opposite foot, I had reasonable success. I had to strongly focus on squaring and stabilizing the hips through the forward and backward arch, and when I did, it really helped and I could do a chain of four or five idles without needing support. And even more important, I got the sensation that I could eventually reach the point where I could do it indefinitely.

The second sensation, on the feet, occurred on the ride back to the gym. The return ride was all uphill, and steep at times. The 24" that was riding has plastic pedals, and it was a wet, rainy day which adds up to the potential for feet to slide off the pedals at the worst time (like when mounting or straining uphill). To feel secure when transferring sufficient force to the pedals to get up the hills I needed to really focus on keeping the ball of the foot securely and squarely positioned on the pedal, and imagining the force transferred to the center of the pedal. When doing that I had no difficulty with slippage, and I had confidence going up the hills that I wasn't going to slide off the pedal and do a face plant into the asphalt.

Go Canucks!

Ride the line

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When I ride, I wobble. Well, I mean the wheel wobbles from side to side. As I'm riding I don't think the wheel is moving all that much, but the tracks in the damp dirt of the trail don't lie. On a return ride a couple of days ago my wheel and Karen's bike wheels were side by side on the trail, and there was a huge difference. Bike wheel tracks were straight while the unicycle wheel track looked like a snake.

A simple, but fun, drill I've tried during the last several riding sessions has been to ride a defined line. The straight and curved painted lines on the basketball court where I've been practicing figure 8s have been good for this exercise. I try to keep the wheel straight on the line without much side to side movement, particularly at slow speeds. I find that if I concentrate on spot about 6-8 feet in front of me and try to head for that spot, I can stay on the line. I'm sure there is still wobble just due to the way pedal force is applied to the wheel.

On the way to and from the court is a two-block stretch of singletrack alongside a golf course. The singletrack is where the sidewalk should be. It sometimes disintegrates into rutty turf, but for most of the length is a 6" dirt path. I find that path hard to stay on for the whole distance, particularly where I need to slide between a street sign and a steel berm. Doing the line drills on the court, though, seems to have helped. Yesterday I made my first pass through that track without a dismount. Next, I'm interested to see whether it has made a difference on the gateway trail horse paths. Maybe if I ride a straighter line I'll be better able to apply more force to the wheel with better balance and make it up those hills.

Partners

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Karen went out on her mountain bike with me on the Gateway horse trail this afternoon. While I was riding I was conscious of how slow a unicycle goes compared to the speed potential of a bike. We've done this before so she knew it would be slow, but in the back of my mind I wanted to go faster so it wasn't quite so boring for her. As a result, because I was pushing myself to go faster I got a better workout that if we hadn't ridden together.

Ironically, even if I pushed myself to go 15% faster, which is a pretty big bump proportionally, it only represents only a move from 7mph to 8mph on the unicycle, which to a bicyclist is really nothing. So all that extra exertion was great for my fitness, but did little for hers.

But wow does she see things I miss. I'd like to blame it on having to focus so hard on the path in front of me, but really it is just her nature. Everything from naming the different wildflowers along the way, to spying the deer and wild turkeys (and Nora, if you are reading this, it wouldn't surprise me if she was keeping an eye out for the capital building in Madison so she'd see it first).

So it was a great ride today, thanks to my partner.

Some days are just like that

First try at mounting...oops. Second try...rats. Third try...ok here we go...shoot. I could barely even get on top of the unicycle when I started out today. I wonder what it is about some days?

I rode down to the Children Playing park again and worked with the 24" on lazy figure 8s, then tight 8s, then weaving in and out of the foul line and center court circles painted on the outdoor basketball court. I tried unweighting going into each new turn and it still seemed helpful at repositioning. I also worked on arm positioning. I was trying to hold the outside arm and shoulder out front and the inside arm and shoulder out back just the way a figure skater would do when carving turns on the ice. It helped position the hips for the turn and gave a sense of smoothness.

I haven't focused on mounts lately, so especially given my difficulty in mounting at the the start of the ride I practiced mounting and dismounting with one foot, then the other. Between mounts and dismounts I worked on slow speed riding, stopping and restarting without touching down. Eventually I got over to the hockey rink to work on serial idling, which is my big challenge right now (stroke, idle right, stroke, idle left, repeat).

The ride to and from the playground has a path along the road that is dirt singletrack and in some cases pinches right down between a curb and a steel traffic barrier. I get freaked out riding that confined space and dismounted both yesterday and today. I could back up and ride it the second time, but the first time I lose my concentration.

By the time the ride was over I realized that the problems with mounting at the start of the ride didn't carry over to the rest of the ride. It was a good one. Some days are just like that.

Children Playing

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Chplay30-1.gifThe sign posted along the side of the lane leading to my practice hockey rink said "Children Playing". That made me feel childlike, in a good way.

It was quite hot today - in the mid 90s - but compared to some of the sub zero days I rode this past winter it was comfortable. Today's discovery was two situations where unweighting from the seat seemed helpful. When doing figure 8s on the court I came to the conclusion that I need to slightly reposition the seat under me to set up for tight turns. I need a bit more hanging over toward the inside of the circle, and to reposition I need to unweight. When practicing serial idling (left foot idle - half stroke forward - right foot idle - repeat) I found that unweighting as I was taking the half stroke forward between idles was helpful in sustaining low speed balance.

Before riding back to the gym I decided to go up the gradual sloped side of a grassy hill at the park, and then bomb down the steeper side. After two tries I was able to get up the gradual slope side, but when I came to the steep side I reared up just like a horse that refused to make a jump, and abruptly dismounted. Too steep for me, even if it was just child's play.

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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