Today, I rode the Pedal on Paliament ride on the muni. This morning I wasn’t quite sure if I could manage it, but I tried anyway and it was fine! There were thousands of cyclists there – stretching from the library all the way back to Melville Drive and then along the road some. It was all a bit stop/start near the beginning – which is very hard on a uni – and having lots of people around made freemounts twice as tough as normal. But once we got down the Royal Mile things flowed more freely, although long downhills are .. you guessed it … pretty hard on a unicycle. Still, lots of fun and a nice sunny day for it.
I unicycled to/from work today, just cos. The first part was fine – along cycle paths, parks and quiet streets. But when I got closer to the city centre, it was just too busy to get much riding in. I rode the old smaller-wheel’d uni for the first time in weeks. It’s lighter and faster responding but I didn’t want to do any kerb-hopping on it lest I break it again. On the way home it was raining, but still managed to ride a fair bit of the way. I’m finding that rolling mounts are actually easier than static mounts, and the lighter uni makes it easy to get on and off quickly.
I realised that the offroad paths near my flat were no longer presenting any real difficulty, and I needed to set my sights higher. It was a lovely sunny afternoon so I drove out to Cramond Brig and rode Dalmeny Estate. From the carpark, I followed the trail north until it reached the water, and then through the woods at the shore – up and down over stones, ruts, muddy puddles and such like. Once I reached the crossroads with the layby, I headed southeast past the farmhouses, over the hill and back onto the main path back to Cramond Brig. Total distance of about 3.5 miles.
It was really good (but tricky) fun. Riding along on rough-ish ground is easy enough, although you need to be constantly adapting to the bumps. I ended up riding through puddles just to mix things up a bit. When the paths get muddier and more rutted, your options are dramatically narrowed. I’d often ride up a potential-energy dead end, stall and have to step off. Actually, afterwards I realised I should’ve switched to hopping more. When mounting on rough ground, I found it much easier to mount into a hop, get my feet adjusted right, and then ride off. I’m getting the hang of riding up steeper hills – I found that doing a half-pedal, then balancing, then another half pedal works on the really steep stuff. Going down actually seems harder than going up, but I learned that holding onto the seat makes it easier to resist the pedal’s tendency to lift you up off the uni.
Rar, mud and munis and sunny days!
I think I was riding for three hours today – uni is an awesomely addictive hobby and a great escape. One hour or so in the morning down at Cramond – enough riding and freemounts to start getting properly used to the new muni, plus some hopping practise up and down a staircase next to the beach. In the afternoon, I rode out to Ocean Terminal and practised riding off kerbs, riding off kerbs avec grande vitesse, hopping up kerbs and my first attempts to rolling hops (ie. riding forward and launching up into a forward jump). I tried about ten times and landed it properly once … for an airborne journey of about a foot!
It’s always fun trying new hard stuff, because the other stuff suddenly feels easier. When I’m focused on riding down drops, I don’t really think about the hundreds of freemounts and hops and little balance-recovery moments I do as setup. But they all contribute. Nowdays, 180 jumps aren’t a trick per-se .. they’re just a useful way of changing direction to set up and try another attempt at a rolling hop.
Going down kerbs fast was interesting. Going off fast is much easier than going down slowly, because there’s less of an along-down-along transition. And it’s the first time I’ve had to deal with freezing the pedals whilst in mid-air .. something that I need to nail for rolling hops.
The new muni is great. The big tyre is way bouncier than the old uni’s – great for drops. It’s way stronger too, which is good news given that I broke the old one!
Woo, I just figured out rolling mounts, and they’re pretty easy! Rolling mount is where you’re rolling the unicycle along the ground on front of you, and then you jump onto it .. without stopping it .. and ride off. It’s the antithesis of my first attempts at freemounting – I remember trying to keep everything precise, steady, measured. But actually unicycles are hardest to handle whilst stationary. So a rolling mount makes lots of sense.
Getting the timing right is the only hard bit. You’re watching for your favoured pedal to come round to about 6’oclock, and then you go and step up on it. The sudden introduction of your foot onto the pedal slows the unicycle down a bit, whilst you carry on up and over into a forward tilt. Then you ride away.
I tried this a few weeks ago, and came up with a hack to make it easier. If you start with your pedals in the optimal position for getting onto the unicycle, then walk backwards three paces (rolling the uni with you) then you’re set up perfectly for three-steps-then-mount. Doing that let me focus on the mounting part rather than the timing part.
Tonight, I nailed the timing part. You’re watching your target pedal as it comes round. Sometimes you need to do a quick little dance to get your feet into sync. But then you just hook up with the pedal as it comes round. It almost seems like the faster you go, the easier it is – the pedal carries you up and over more. I’ve just spend a while banzai’ing up and down my corridor, jumping onto the uni mid-run. Lots of fun!
I’ve also been trying seat-out riding. The difficulty is keeping an even amount of weight on each pedals through the pedal stroke. Easier said than done! But I’m starting to get the hang of it, and making less and less use of the seat as a steering-device / force-compensation-lever.
I’ve been out on the new 26″ muni. It’s different enough from the 20″ wheel to make me like a bit of a noob again. I can ride it fine, but everything is a bit sketchier. My success rate for freemounts is way down. I can still ride it, but everything requires much more concentration and active input. I know this will pass – it’s just a phase of getting used to the bigger/heavier cycle, but it’s frustrating nonetheless. There are some upsides though – the bigger wheel means I ride right straight over ~10cm obstacles without hopping.
My first ride out was with super-low tyre pressure and was like riding a pogo stick. I pumped them up to 20psi today and it was a lot better, although still pretty squishy. I think for paths + light offroad, something higher would be better.
I flipped back to the old uni for a bit of tricks practise. Having got pretty comfortable with jump mounts, I managed to do a 90 degree jump mount (spinning unicycle whilst jumping onto it). It’s a baby-step towards a 180 jump mount. I also started trying a crank-roll mount .. man, that’s a whole new level of difficult.
Woo, new unicycle arrived today! I half-cycled and half-pushed it home from work, which gave me a chance to get used to all the differences and experience a few new varieties of UPD.
The tyre is pretty brutal – 3″ wide and deep tread. The larger wheel/tyre combo means the rotational inertia is noticably bigger, although it doesn’t present any difficulties in riding. Getting on requires a bit of adjustment. At first, I’d always tip over to the right (not sure why, maybe longer cranks?) but I’ve now corrected for that.
Once I got home, I dropped the tyre pressure from 30 psi down to “pretty squishy” and tried hopping around. The bigger wheel feels much more stable – less likely to roll out from under you. I can do 180 hop/jumps fine – I think the increased spring of the big tyre more than compensates for the increased mass you’re spinning round.
Almost the full range of my skillz to date – freemount, riding along, turning (both directions!), transitioning to hops, turning whilst hopping, riding off kerbs, hopping up and down kerbs, riding “fast” and a graceful dismount. All in a single take!
I think I’ve settled on a 26″ Nimbus muni as my next unicycle. I enjoy riding on rough ground more than doing tricks, hence a muni. I’m unsure of the 24″ vs 26″ tradeoffs, but a 26″ wheel would mean I can reuse my bike tyres. Smaller wheel would be easier for direction changes, but 26″ would be better in a straight line and would soak up bumps a bit better.