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Canal knowledge



 
 
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  #1  
Old August 20th 05, 11:49 PM
Mikefule
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Default Canal knowledge


The rare luxury of an entire day free, and a vague plan to ride 50
miles... but I run through the list of likely routes and decide that
they would all involve too many main roads, or steep hills. Instead, I
go into town.

Town is predictably boring, and I come home and decide to go for a ride
after all.

I know a little car park next to the Grantham Canal - I used it a few
times about four years ago - but I drive past the entrance before I see
it. I take a few turns and end up parking next to the canal near to
Cotgrave, about seven miles out from the River Trent at Nottingham

The Grantham Canal runs from Nottingham, near to the famous Trent Bridge
Cricket Ground, to Grantham, birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton, and
Margaret Thatcher. It is 33 miles (about 53 km) long and follows a
fairly flat course through the Vale of Belvoir (pronounced "beaver").
It was completed in 1797 for a cost of just under 120,000. You can
hardly buy a house for that now. It has been out of use for longer than
I can remember.

I am on the 700c, with 102 mm cranks, and a new battery in the computer,
which has been recalibrated for the smaller (28 mm) tyre. I mount and
ride off along the crushed grit towpath. I can remember when this path
was mud and grass, but the canal is now a "linear recreational facility"
and has been tidied up quite a bit. This means I make good speed.

Every so often, there is a road to cross (the canal is culverted at
these place) and there is a "wiggle gate" to stop motorcycles. I would
just about be possible for me to ride through these, but I'd be bound to
UPD at least one time in four, and as today's project is to cover
distance, I decide to use these wiggle gates as opportunities to
dismount and take the pressure off my seat. Being a pedant, I carry the
uni the short distance each time so that the computer doesn't give a
false reading. How sad is that?

For the first 13 miles (21 km) the route is almost perfectly flat, with
a good rolled grit path. For much of the way, the canal is completely
choked with reeds and bull rushes. Where the water is visible, it is
the same colour as the stuff you get in an American hotel when you ask
for a cup of tea. In places, there are mature willow trees growing in
the centre of the dried up canal bed.

As I get further into the Vale of Belvoir, though, the sections of water
become more prevalent, and I see swans, geese, ducks, coots and
moorhens. I sometimes see small fish in the shallows, but fail to see
any pike - they are probably lurking in the shade under the weed. The
sun is shining (I forgot my sun cream) and there are dragonflies
everywhere, some mating in flight - nice trick if you can do it. The
hedge next to the towpath is full of hawthorn and elderberry, with
occasional willows.

At one of the wiggle gates, there is a notice drawing my attention to an
avenue of 184 poplar trees, planted after the Great War in memory of the
local landowner's son, and 183 members of his regiment who died in the
battle of the Somme. Elsewhere, I see a pillbox (gun emplacement) from
the next war, just over 20 years later.

After thirteen miles, I come to the end of the rolled grit path, and the
towpath continues as unmown grass, without even a well-trodden footpath
to follow. I decide to continue, but find it hard going. Conscious of
the distance I intend to cover, I try to keep the speed up, and this
results in three UPDs, and one failed freemount (oh, the shame!). At
the next bridge, I bail out, deciding to ride on the road for a bit.

I ride about six miles of mainly narrow country lanes, with occasional
wider faster roads. On the narrow country lanes, many of the cars fail
to slow down, or even to pull over a little to pass me. It might be a
compliment to my riding skills, but somehow I suspect it's just
arrogance. This is a part of the world where the Beautiful People live:
gym membership, perfect teeth and tans, and big houses, and big gardens
in small villages devoid of villagers. The farm workers can no longer
afford to buy properties where they work. Meanwhile, the people who do
live there travel to work in the city in their big (usually German)
cars, and spend their weekends playing at country pursuits. In this
context, "country pursuits" does include horse riding, driving a 4 wheel
drive, and maybe a bit of shooting, but it doesn't include back-breaking
work in all weathers, starvation wages, and year after year without
holidays.

Be that as it may, the last part of this section of the ride is a
steepish climb up quite a busy road towards Belvoir Castle. This isn't
a real castle, which is why it looks so much like a castle ought to.
I've put a link to the web site at the bottom of this post.

Belvoir Castle is closed (for a wedding) but at 10 admission, I hadn't
intended to go in anyway. I am disappointed to find that the shop is
shut and there are no refreshments available. I feast on a Snickers and
drink some water from my Camelbak. My computer shows I've ridden 19.96
miles in 2 hours and 6 minutes. That's near enough to 10 miles an hour
for me, given the section of unmown grassy towpath, and the steep climb
at the end.

From the castle, I set off along a different road, climbing further,
with beautiful beech woods to my left, the sun shining through onto a
floor of dried golden leaves. This is England as it should be, with no
braying youths in hoodie tops, no broken bus stops... as I reach the top
of the climb, the view opens out, and I can see for miles across
farmland.

Riding along the road at the top of the hill, I see three club
bicyclists riding towards me. I am signalling to turn right across
their path, so I hold back. I hear one shout, "How the f*** does he
change gear on that?" This rather spoils the surprise when, 5 seconds
later, he asks me, "How the bloody hell do you change gear on that?"
Sigh! if only I had a Guni! He doesn't wait for his answer, so I ride
down the side road, past more woodland, until I see an enticing looking
bridle way.

The bridle way is a mistake. Well, to be precise, attempting to ride it
on a 700c x 28 road tyre is a mistake, because when I get to the deep
wet mud, I lose all traction and have a number of messy falls. I decide
to dismount for the wettest bits. I prefer to dismount neatly by
stopping and stepping off the back, but when I do this, the wheel locks
and the uni skids, nearly depositing me on my backside in the mud.

Even less wisely, I speculate that a steeper side path will be less
muddy, and therefore easier to ride. It is less muddy, but the
steepness of the descent makes traction even more of an issue... and
there are roots as well.

I take the next wide track that follows the contour back towards the
road. When I UPD, I invent a new mount: I like to do a static mount
with a very slight push forwards. This allows me to put some weight on
the back pedal. On this surface, and with this tyre, as soon as I put
weight on the pedal, the wheel rotates - almost as if I were doing a
rollback, but the uni doesn't roll back, it just skids on the spot. The
effect is that the pedal lowers me towards the seat somewhat quicker
than expected. I invite you to share my pain.

Back on the road there is a long steep descent at about the limit of
what I can manage on these 102 mm cranks. After that, it's just a long
slog along various lanes as I zigzag around the Vale of Belvoir trying
to find access to the canal bank again.

By now, I've covered about 26 miles (41 km) and I'm starting to notice
the seat rather too much. In fact, I'm in considerable pain, and
worrying about whether I will make it back to the car in good health.
It feels suspiciously like I'm developing blisters on my buttocks! I am
also wearing my new BMX style shoes, and am noticing that the balls of
my feet are tingling from prolonged contact with the pedals, and I have
to keep scrunching my feet up to restore circulation. I reach the stage
where I'm dismounting every couple of miles. This is bad.

Eventually, I find access to the canal again, and I realise I'm only
about 5 miles from the car. I note with some disappointment that the
computer only shows 30 miles, which means I will be far short of my
planned 50 miles.


--
Mikefule - Roland Hope School of Unicycling

http://www.dolphin-morris.co.uk/

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  #2  
Old August 20th 05, 11:50 PM
Mikefule
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Posts: n/a
Default Canal knowledge


A mile or two along the canal bank, I stop at a bridge because a pain
break is necessary. This is not like me.

At this point, I invite the ladies to avert their eyes for a few
paragraphs.

Being of an analytical disposition, I tend to think in too much detail
about everything (I wonder why that is) and many of you will have seen
(and some will have read) my musings on everything from crank length to
why people shout daft comments. Well, for the last few miles, I have
been thinking very hard about the interface between my bum and the
unicycle seat. Why is it hurting so much?

I have reached the conclusion that it is my new clothes - a pair of good
quality padded Lycra shorts, and a pair of ridiculously expensive Lycra
longs. The padding in the shorts is quite rubbery, and seems to be
holding my buttocks firmly in place, instead of allowing them to find
their natural position on the seat. The pain isn't simply the pressure
of my weight pushing down onto the thinly padded Miyata saddle; it's the
skin being held in place by the shorts, but then pinched and stretched
as my weight and the saddle combine in a failed attempt to move it to a
more suitable position.

The answer? I decide to remove my shorts. This involves a few seconds
of displaying my dangly bits as I hastily drag the Lycra leggings back
on, hoping that a party of middle aged lady hikers doesn't suddenly
appear.

I remount the unicycle, and find that everything slides into place much
more comfortably. After a certain amount of manual adjustment, I feel
ready to ride, and I continue on my way. Within a mile, I realise
suddenly that I am in no pain at all!

Oh, the ladies, can rejoin us now.

Within 3 or 4 miles, I am back at the car, but feeling fresh enough and
comfortable enough to ride further. I look at the computer: 36 miles
covered. That means 14 more to make the 50. Basic arithmetic tells me
that if I ride 7 miles along the towpath towards Nottingham, then turn
round and ride back, I will have done the 50 miles. I estimate that 7
miles will more or less bring me to the junction between the canal and
the Trent. I decide to go for it.

Throughout the ride, I have met very few people. On the next seven
miles, I meet many. There is a group of about 8 lads on bikes in front
of me. The back one looks over his shoulder and sees me coming and
shouts a warning. They all move to one side of the path but continue
riding. As I overtake them, the lad at the back notices I'm on a
unicycle. He shouts, "Hey! he's only got one wheel!" It is a simple
and honest statement of fact, made in a tone of genuine surprise, and
intended to alert his friends to the novelty of the situation. Fair
enough. Why can't everyone be like that, instead of making a weak or
offensive joke.

Later, I approach an elderly couple. They hear the crunch of my tyre on
the grit, and move to one side. As I pass them, there's a brief
exchange:

Mikefule: "Thank you."
Old lady: "No problem at... oh my word!"

Soon, I find myself nearly at the end of the canal, and have a choice
between riding alongside some busy main road or cutting across the
fields by my usual route. I go for the latter, and ride past the
skateboard ramps. Someone shouts, "Hey, look, a unicycle!" and someone
replies boredly, "Yes, we've seen him before. We know which way he's
going."

As I reach the river, I draw on my Camelbak and find with alarm that it
has run dry. This has only happened once before, and it makes me feel
very exposed. It's still hot, I'm tired, and haven't eaten properly for
hours, and I have about 7 miles to ride.

I decide to call in at either the kayak club or one of the three rowing
clubs. They all see me riding past regularly, and I'm sure they'll let
me use their water supplies. Unfortunately, it is now early Saturday
evening, and there are no canoeists or rowers to be seen. I continue as
far as the suspension bridge, hoping to see an ice cream van. No luck.
The kiosk by Trent Bridge is also shut. Plan D? The sailing club, but
that's almost at the Water Sports Centre. When I get there, there are
no sailors. I continue in desperation to the Water Sports Centre and
find the chuck wagon and the ice cream van closed. Fortunately, there
is a vending machine and, at the second attempt, I persuade it to supply
me with a half litre of isotonic drink.

Blessed relief!

Rested and refreshed, I follow the fast main road ("Regatta Way") back
as far as the canal, then ride back towards the car. I notice that my
feet are no longer tingling. My backside is only mildly painful, and
the removal of the shorts has made an enormous difference. (Lady
readers who missed that section of the write up will be mystified by
this comment, no doubt.)
In fact, I now know that I will reach 50 miles on this ride, and I find
myself toying with the idea of putting an extra loop in! Another 5
miles will simply be 4 sections of just under 10 minutes. Should I go
for 60 miles? The metric 100? That way, madness lies. I know that I
have proved that, with suitable clothing, and on an easy surface, I can
ride 50 miles, and could ride 60, or even a bit further. However, I
have to consider how late it's getting, the fact that I have yet to eat,
and the fact that I may want to ride tomorrow.

I stop at one of the wiggle gates and look at the computer: I'm on
exactly 50 miles! I decide to take a photo, and spend some time setting
the camera up on self timer. I decide to pose balancing the unicycle on
my chin (I am an incorrigible chin balancer, doing everything from
chairs to pub umbrellas and tent poles). Unfortunately, my chin is
sweaty, and so is the handle on the front of the unicycle seat. In my
rush to get into the pose in few seconds allowed by the self timer, I
let the uni slip, cutting my lip. The photo shows neither me nor the
uni, and fortunately, the camera is a cheap one and doesn't do sound
files!

Another mile and a bit, and I'm back at the car. And more than I could
wish for: a car pulls up and a chap gets out to go for a walk along the
canal bank. He sees the unicycle, looks at my riding kit and asks, "How
far have you been on that thing?"

"Oh, er... 51.7 miles," I say, as nonchalantly as possible.

Ride stats:
Distance: 51.7 miles (83.19 km)
Riding time 5:32.37
Average riding speed: 9.33 mph (15 kmh)
Max recorded speed: 13 mph (20.9 kph)
Rest stops: around an hour.
Unicycle: Nimbus 1, 28 inch (700c x 28 mm) with 102 mm cranks.

Weight lost during the day: around 3 pounds (1.36 kg)

Links:
http://www.granthamcanal.com/

http://www.belvoircastle.com/


--
Mikefule - Roland Hope School of Unicycling

http://www.dolphin-morris.co.uk/

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  #3  
Old August 20th 05, 11:53 PM
Mikefule
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Posts: n/a
Default Canal knowledge


Here's a photo of me on a random section of canal bank:


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|Download attachment: http://www.unicyclist.com/attachment/350371|
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--
Mikefule - Roland Hope School of Unicycling

http://www.dolphin-morris.co.uk/

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  #4  
Old August 20th 05, 11:54 PM
Mikefule
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Posts: n/a
Default Canal knowledge


Here's me, not quite balanced in time for the self-timer:


+----------------------------------------------------------------+
| Attachment filename: dscn0252.jpg |
|Download attachment: http://www.unicyclist.com/attachment/350372|
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--
Mikefule - Roland Hope School of Unicycling

http://www.dolphin-morris.co.uk/

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  #5  
Old August 20th 05, 11:55 PM
Mikefule
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Posts: n/a
Default Canal knowledge


And finally, a picture showing a bit of the beautiful vale:


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|Download attachment: http://www.unicyclist.com/attachment/350374|
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--
Mikefule - Roland Hope School of Unicycling

http://www.dolphin-morris.co.uk/

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  #6  
Old August 20th 05, 11:55 PM
Mikefule
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Posts: n/a
Default Canal knowledge


And finally, a picture showing a bit of the beautiful vale:


+----------------------------------------------------------------+
| Attachment filename: dscn0250.jpg |
|Download attachment: http://www.unicyclist.com/attachment/350374|
+----------------------------------------------------------------+

--
Mikefule - Roland Hope School of Unicycling

http://www.dolphin-morris.co.uk/

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  #7  
Old August 21st 05, 12:02 AM
Unitik908
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Posts: n/a
Default Canal knowledge


its nice to have a face to put with poster

Chase


--
Unitik908 - The Lone Clothespin....

All hail the exhaulted Sigpoose, for he is forever king...
R.I.P Unibiker
R.I.P Gazzaloddi
R.I.P Paul Hester
R.I.P James Doohan
R.I.P Mitch Hedberg
R.I.P Peter Jennings
R.I.P Pope John Paul II
R.I.P James_Potters_Cat
YAMS
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  #8  
Old August 21st 05, 11:59 AM
unicus
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Default Canal knowledge


This was a thread title in the waiting for one of your great write ups
I wish I had more time to go riding around the countryside in Notts,
Id have to drag you along though if there was to be a good write up of
them.


--
unicus - I need to change this

'Photos' (http://gallery.unicyclist.com/Photos-from-unicus)
'Videos' (http://gallery.unicyclist.com/unicus)
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  #9  
Old August 21st 05, 12:12 PM
cathwood
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Posts: n/a
Default Canal knowledge


Lovely.
A lovely cycle round the countryside before I head off for Turkey (with
my Greek flag).
See you soon.
Cathy


--
cathwood - Lunicyclist

A thought is just a thought.

http://www.chuckingandtwirling.co.uk
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  #10  
Old August 21st 05, 12:56 PM
goldenchicken II
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Default Canal knowledge


Masterly! A joy to read. And an impressive riding distance.


--
goldenchicken II - There is more to cycling

Olaf Johansson

www.enhjulingsfolket.se
www.muni.se
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