Monday, 22 March 2010

Night Unicycling - Makara Peak, North Face

Having bought some Ay-Up LED lights (which are absolutely awesome) in December for an outing at Unicon (which I never actually went on), lately I've been getting into night unicycling - so far mostly on Mount Victoria.

Last night I finally got back up to Makara Peak - somehow I've not been since December - for what became a 3-hour ride, half of which was in darkness.

This was also the first Makara Peak outing for my new KH24 mountain unicycle, which is the only thing I've wanted to ride offroad since I got it in December. I've been riding it on Mount Victoria and having a great time on the steep tracks there.

The KH24 really likes Makara Peak. With its long 165mm cranks and huge 3-inch-wide tyre, it's much better suited to the steep rocky parts than the 29" uni, especially with the trails in their current eroded, rocky condition. At least, it's better suited now that my balance and skill is up to it and I don't have to rely on the big 29er wheel to smooth out the bumps.

KH24 at top of Sally Alley track

Eventually, in darkness, I reached the summit, after stopping to chat to two surprised evening mountain bikers. The climb was a bit of an ordeal - my leg muscles are apparently a bit out of condition since I haven't done any multi-hour rides lately, just shorter intense ones on Mt Vic. I had to walk much of Aratihi, though the lower tracks were ok.

The summit was in cloud and very windy, so I didn't linger but headed over to the new North Face downhill track, which is now open for careful riding, and has recently been conquered by mountain bike.

I'm not going to say too much about whether it's a good idea to ride a new, unfamiliar, unpolished, rough-edged track by unicycle, alone in the dark, when somewhat tired... suffice to say that I survived.

So, what's it like? What can I say? North Face is awesome! This is already my new favourite track in the park for unicycling (previously I would have said Sally Alley/Missing Link, then Aratihi downhill). Never boring, but still good for a bit of speed. The right mix of interesting steep bits, twistiness, sudden humps and grade reversals.

KH24 resting on North Face, lights of Karori in background

KH24 and a treacherous bump on North Face, cloudily illuminated by Ay-Up lights

Some of the many steep switchbacks defeated me, but I'm still fairly rubbish at unicycling even the easy ones (even those on Lazy Fern), so that says more about my riding than the track design. They will provide a good challenge for some time I think!

After North Face I was tired enough to take the easy option, so headed up then down the 4wd track, then down Lazy Fern. Unfortunately I then got an agonising cramp in a thigh muscle, leading to an abrupt dismount, and leaving me helplessly cursing on the ground for a while until it relaxed and I could bend my leg again. Ouch! Maybe I overdid it slightly. I had to walk down from there - it felt like it might cramp again, and the results could be spectacular if descending a switchback at the time!

Fun ride. A lot of muscles are going to hurt in a day or so, but I will definitely be keen to ride North Face again soon. Just for a laugh, I might try it in daylight.

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