Ride the Lobster and other unicycling stuff

I run a Go Ride cycling session on Friday afternoons at my children’s primary school. This has been in hibernation over the winter. However, there’s a nice warm gym handy so I thought I’d make use of it.

I created a school unicycling club. With a bit of cash from the local authority’s sport budget I bought six unicycles from Unicycle.com and advertised lessons via a school newsletter. At this point I still couldn’t unicycle myself. I knew I’d have to learn quickly, though, because 20 percent of the kids wanted to attend my lessons!

I bought a how-to book and dusted down the unicycle I’ve owned for ages but never mastered. A few hours of hopelessness later I was hooked and just about able to wobble far enough to call myself a unicyclist.

It doesn’t half tax your leg muscles. It’s not the balance that topples me now, it’s the lactic acid burn.

With Coach Carlton now semi-proficient at one wheeling I was let loose on the kids (I’ve split them up into groups, there were too many to have in one session).

I was lucky. Two German girls were already long-in-the-tooth ‘einradders’. Instead of falling off in front of the kids – not a good look for a coach – I could point to Angela and Julia.

“Look. That’s how it’s done. Now, copy them.”

It’s pretty tough to teach unicycling. It’s very much a self-taught discipline. I put the kids up against a wall, show them how to keep steady by pushing their body weight all through one leg, teach them the difference between vertical and horizontal pedal planes and then leave them to work the rest out for themselves.

OK, it may be a little more advanced than this, but not much. After week three, I now have three kids who have cracked the technique and I can feel that the rest are getting close.

I love the fact that, in Japan, unicycling is compulsory in one school year. Unicycling teaches balance, coordination, and discipline. It’s not just for clowns any more.

These are two of the biggest unicycling vids on YouTube having been watched 750,000+ times each.

You think alley cat racing vids are rad? Watch it done on a large-wheel unicycle (and watch it until the end…):

The Manhattan unicycling vid is from Balance Productions of Canada. This micro video production crew, deft at Glidecam shots through traffic, produces DVDs on extreme unicycling.

Filmmaker Brian MacKenzie of Balance Productions says “unicycling is where skateboarding and mountain biking were.”

The crew is currently organising Ride The Lobster, an 800km unicycle stage race to be held 16-20th June 2008 in Nova Scotia, Canada.

“This race is the first of it’s kind, anywhere,” says MacKenzie.

Unicycling is certainly getting itself about. Mountain unicycling will be on display in Moab, Utah, next week. The 9th Annual Moab MUni Fest will be held March 28th to 30th. It will feature trials, demonstrations, and trail rides of some of Moab’s most famous terrain, including the Slickrock Bike Trail and Moab Rim Trail.

Jerseys get tasty makeover

I’m a Go Ride coach at Newcastle Phoenix CC, a youth cycling club. The club’s latest jerseys sport a couple of fetching logos on the back pocket area. Shimano, yes, and there’s the Quickrelease.tv image too!

Two of my bike-mad kids have done me proud recently. They won their respective categories in the club’s Best All Rounder competition.

Half a million video views!

The Quickrelease.tv videos on YouTube have broken through the half a million views ceiling. The vids have been watched 505,883 times. Thanks for watching! Four of the top performing vids are embedded below.

More content is coming soon. There’s a nifty little video on bike part names and five pieces rescued from ITV’s deep storage video vault.

In 1994, I was the presenter of a six-part TV series called ‘Chain Gang’, produced by Tyne Tees/Yorkshire TV .

Tyne Tees has now allowed me to publish extracts of this TV series on Quickrelease.tv via YouTube and Vimeo and iTunes.

The video shorts will feature:

* MTB superstar Jason McRoy (RIP)
* A bike tour of Malawi
* Raleigh and Dave Yates factory feature
* York Rally
* An urban race between an Aston Martin bike and an Aston Martin car

Brand owners: contact Big Al to get involved in this series.





Konnie is cute cos she cycles

That’s the conclusion of an article in today’s Mail on Sunday.

The piece is headlined: “How you can get a body like mine, by cycling-mad former Blue Peter presenter Konnie.”

Would-be suitors driving flash sports cars won’t get too far with Konnie Huq. Just weeks out of her decade-long tenure as Blue Peter’s longest-running presenter, she is enjoying a resurgent love affair – with cycling.

“I walk and cycle everywhere. It’s liberating to be a free agent.”

The gym, she says, is tedious.

“I never had time for it with Blue Peter, and I do tend to get bored. Gyms are so weird – if an alien came to our planet and saw everyone working out, they’d think, ‘What the hell is going on?’”

The piece is overwhelmingly positive about cycling, except for a snide comment from journalist Kevin Pillock.

He asked whether Ms Huq “ever commits the cyclist’s sin of running red lights?”

She doesn’t.

Since when has running red lights been a bike-only phenomenon? Plenty of motorists do it too, and with more fatal consequences.

Lock article goes mainstream

The Quickrelease.TV lock article is given a big fat plug in today’s Sunday Times.

Journalist Daniel Elkan calls the article “entertaining.” Thanks, Daniel.

Webwise: everything you wanted to know about cycling has links to lots of useful bike websites, including the Quickrelease.tv maintenance videos produced for Weldtite. The washing and lubing video has had 35,500 views on YouTube. Bonkers.


Reidlets on tour

A four-page article on our 2007 family cycle camping holiday to the Netherlands has been published in the April edition of Cycling Plus magazine.

When I get the time – and my dad, who sells the adverts on BritishCycling.org.uk, has booked in an ‘end of part one’ video advert – I’ll be creating a YouTube and Apple TV featurette on this trip. I got lots of footage of ‘normal’ people on bikes. That wasn’t us, we were in Lycra and wore helmets.

It was fab for the Reidlets to travel in a country that really looked after its cyclists.

We saw this great looking bionic leg in a campsite near Amsterdam, but never bumped into the owner so couldn’t ask him how long it took to recharge and whether it had a pedalling action:

The trip was pretty green. We cycled eight miles from our home in Newcastle to the DFDS ferry at North Shields and landed near Amsterdam the next day. No flights, no car trips.

Our next bike holiday is to Scotland in May, pre-midgies. We’ll be taking the train. I hope our kids grow up to realise you don’t need an SUV to get to fun places. The best ‘people carrier’ is the one with two wheels, fuelled by breakfast.

Vote for ‘Cruising on my scraper bike’

The annual YouTube award nominations are out. Cycling vids don’t make it into the ‘sports’ category but there’s a classic in the ‘music’ category.

It’s a music video for ‘Scraper Bike’ by the Trunk Boiz, starring Young Champ, J-Dub aka Alexander Tha Grate, and B-Janky. And a bunch of scraper bikes, of course.

Scraper what?

“Scraper bikes: A new trend that is a part of the San Francisco Bay Area Hyphy Movement in which people ride their tricked out bikes and go stupid, dumb, retarded while on their bikes. Generally, the bikes have nice designs, such as duo-tone paint jobs, and rims or spinners. The term was coined by the rap group Trunk Boiz of Oakland, California.” Urban Dictionary

Jerome: Me and my buds was on our scraper bikes picking up on girls. My scraper bike go hard, I don’t need no car.
Tyrone: That go

Vote cycling here.

Hey, and while you’re in a voting mood would you care to vote for Quickrelease.tv in the North East Digital Awards? That’s North East as in North East England.

Best blog

Best podcast

Best use of video


Supercycle stars can be followed with web apps

Alan Shearer, Adrian Chiles and the other five riders on Sport Relief’s Supercycle 335-mile two-day bike ride from Newcastle to London are now just 100 miles from the BBC TV centre where they appear live tonight.

It’s great to see brilliant use of Web 2.0 features so followers can track their progress. On the update section of the Supercycle microsite there’s live GPS tracking, Twitter updates, Flikr photosets and YouTube videos, such as this one:

Shearer says his bum hurts, naturally, and both he and Chiles have hit the deck, but the riders appear to be going strong and the challenge should make good TV tonight.

Footballers are mega puffed after 90 minutes of play so any sporting activity longer than two hours is going to be new to Shearer. He’s always said he hates endurance events so it will be interesting to see if he sings the praises of cycling tonight.

If so, it could encourage others to try much, much shorter ‘challenges’: such as cycling one mile to the shops instead of driving there…

Ugandan telcon introduces pedal-powered phone recharger

The Monitor of Kampala reports that Asasira Buga, the chief engineer of Bugatech, a mobile phone repairing company, and businessman Goddie Odongkara unveiled a bike-borne phone recharging system in Kampala.

It’s made in Uganda.

‘Mobile power’ comprises of a dynamo, power accumulator and circuits where car chargers of any type of phone are plugged to charge.

Odongkara said: “After moving throughout the country, I discovered that many people in rural areas do not buy mobile telephones due to lack of charging systems. The idea will increase mobile telephone use among people.”
He said the system that can charge eight phones per hour of riding. Clearly, that’s a job creation scheme in the making.

The system reminds me that Europe and the US had such a charger way back in 2000. I reported on it at the time. Inventor Kieron Loy came to my house to show off his invention. Sadly, it never sold in bucketloads. When it was introduced in America in 2001, one was gifted to Dick Cheney.

One of the key reasons the charger never really took off was the relatively easy access to electricity. In rural Africa, the concept has a far greater chance of success. I wonder if the recharging is done on a static bike or some kid rides around the village all day?

Pedal power is much under-used, of course. But it could be harnessed for rotating a washing machine drum as per this video (which also includes a phone recharger option on the turbo unit):

Join the cycling club that’s going nowhere

Pay a fiver and you could be a member of Rollapaluza CC, the new, British Cycling-affiliated cycling club by the “crew responsible for the resurgence of roller-racing in London and the UK.”

“Two cyclists battle it out on a pair of vintage rollers connected to a huge dial over a simulated 500m distance at speeds in excess of 50mph!”

Club members can buy and wear a smart, black and red jersey and cycling cap.

Rollapaluza has run 50+ roller-races in the last 12 months with over 3000 competitors. The crew was at the Tour de France prologue and the Single Speed World MTB championships in Aviemore, Scotland.

Later this year Rollapaluza will be at the World Firefighter’s Games, running a roller-race in the 11,000 seat Liverpool Echo Arena.

The video below shows the work Rollapaluza has done ‘on tour’. Caspar Hughes and Paul (Winston) Churchill took their oversize RPM dials and sets of racing rollers on a a 26-date University tour for a corporate client.

“If you didn’t think you wanted to join a club, we could be the club for you!” said Winston.