April 2012 Archives

Pine Point turnaround

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Point park 30 Apr 2012.jpg
Pine Point is about 6 miles out from a convenient parking lot on the Gateway trail so it makes for a good 12 mile weekend ride. It has a water fountain too, which is a bonus - I don't carry water on the Uni and it is helpful to rehydrate at the halfway point. My hopes were dashed though when I got there. No water yet. What, is it going to freeze again before summer? Well, it is Minnesota after all.

Last night I watched Man on a Wire, the documentary of Philippe Petit's 1974 wirewalk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. I coudn't tell what was real archive footage and what was recreation, but there were several clips of Philippe as a young man practicing on the wire. I was taken by the enormous concentration he showed while out on the wire - his face was transformed - and how he kept his head high, chin up and eyes forward. I think I can learn from that focus and apply it to my riding. I'll skip the 1/4 mile high part though.

Sidewalks

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I usually stay off of sidewalks because I don't want to scare the daylights out of pedestrians or get undercut by rampaging tricycles. Today during my lunchtime ride through a quiet neighborhood though I took to that narrow ribbon of concrete.

And it was more challenging than I expected.

Roads have undulations to ride through and potholes to avoid, but compared to the drops and bumps every 5 feet as you jounce over sidewalk cracks and expansion joints, roads are smoooooth. I find, especially with the 24 compared to the 29 wheel, that my slow speed stability is low and jittery. Combine that stability issue with the unexpected challenge of sidewalk riding and this noon's outing was an adventure!

Checking behind

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In a previous post about cars I admitted that I wasn't being sufficiently careful about watching for cars. Today I decided to work on that.

I rode the 24" from the gym to an outdoor basketball court where I worked on figure 8s, mounts, stalls and rocking using drills I've described before. Compared to the 29", the 24' feels twitchy and less stable in the wheel. That's great for maneuvering, since you can twist and turn the wheel quickly, and less rotating mass means the wheel is easier to stop and restart during stalls and rocks. It is also a size that I feel confident free mounting without holding on to the wheel (Megan's Mount) like I do with the 29".

The ride to and from the court is mostly on paved roads through a quiet neighborhood with little traffic, so that's where I chose to practice looking behind me. I started by just looking over my right shoulder, then my left. Then I tried to actually see and focus on something like a traffic sign or parked car I had passed to the left, and then the right. I tried twisting my shoulders a bit to allow more of a look behind, and I tried to keep looking back for 3-4 seconds. It didn't take long before I felt ok looking behind me on both sides, and wasn't roaming too far off a straight track down the road.

Next I need to practice looking behind me when I'm on a dirt path, or steeper inclines or declines. What isn't hard on paved flats often becomes much more of a challenge on hilly, rocky paths.

Horses

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Riding the Gateway trail I usually come across horses and their riders. The trail is really two trails in the section I ride: a paved multi-use trail and an unpaved horse trail. The rules of the trail say that those on horseback using the horse trail must first purchase a permit. Other users are also allowed, and are not required to buy the permit.

Most riders are very congenial, and all the horses I've approached or passed are very calm. However, I've recently decided to dismount or where possible to ditch over to the paved trail when passing or approaching two or more horses. Even though they've always been calm, they are big beasts and haven't had much experience with unicycles before so I don't want to cause them to bolt, particularly with a student rider.

Here's a brief encounter with a pair earlier today. I was pretty tired and coming to the end of a 10+ mile ride, but really it wasn't any trouble to dismount, walk by and greet the riders. They seemed a little snarky for some reason, but that's their problem, not mine.

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Also, for the first time ever, I came across two other unicyclists. We passed by each other on one of the bridges and I think all of us were surprised. They had some tricked out 36" touring unicycles with bars but I didn't catch the type, and of course I forgot to turn on the video camera!

Cars

escarpment small.jpgI didn't ride all that much over the winter so this spring signals the start of the riding season. Today's ride was just a jaunt through the fair grounds and around campus to get my legs going again and enjoy spending time in the saddle. The only memorable event was an altercation with a car when crossing a street that runs through the experiment station. By altercation I don't mean I was hit, nor was it even close. Most of the altercation took place in my imagination.

When I approach a cross street with traffic I usually dismount and sensibly walk up to the intersection, wait for traffic to clear, cross and remount. This takes effort though so I'm more likely to do it in the beginning of the ride, and all too often will try to stay in the saddle and cross the street later in the ride. That's what happened today. I rode a dirt road through the experiment station and eventually had to cross Gortner Ave which funnels a fair bit of traffic from the north through the east side of campus. Since I was on gravel and still a bit unsure of my balance early in the riding season I only stole a quick glance left and right. I knew there was one car oncoming, but it was far enough away to cross. However, just as I got to the crown in the middle of the road I started wobbling and had to take swing back and forth to regain my balance. All of this took time and I was conscious that the car that was previously far enough away, was now bearing down. I regained my composure and crossed in plenty of time, but for the rest of the ride I ran through scenarios in my head where I didn't see a car, misjudged the distance, or for whatever reason was in the middle of the road at the wrong time and got smacked.

Next time I'm going to make sure I get a good look up and down the road for any threats, and if I can't see or see that it will be even remotely close, I'll dismount. Its just not worth saving a little time and energy, but tangle with a car. As a paramedic friend once told me, flesh and steel don't mix.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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