Category Archives: Cycling

Ride report: 13.6 miles on one wheel.

Short Version:

I did it.
It was hard work.
I still ache.
I feel elated to have succeeded .

But I don’t fancy sitting on anything resembling a saddle for a while.

Longer version:

Having done most of the route on two wheels just before setting off on my unicycle, I was seriously daunted and genuinely doubtful as to whether I manage this. I’d not exactly trained much. Sure enough, it took a good while before I felt I was in the swing of it, and within just the first mile or so my thighs started burning (a rare sensation for me, being so unfamiliar with sustained physical exercise).  There were couple of sections that were Really Hard Work.

The last section, after our lunch/picnic stop, was genuinely difficult as one of my shins was giving me pain on top of the thigh burn that I’d managed to get used to, but I was elated to finish cross the finish line after nearly three hours with an average riding speed of 5.5mph.

Full version:

Well, that was an experience. A good one, but boy was it hard going. Did I overestimate what I could achieve? Did I underestimate how much training and practice I needed. Maybe.

The day started with a 12.6 mile ride on my bicycle, accompanying those plucky children who’d opted for the full marathon distance. All the way round I was eyeing up the terrain and thinking about what it would be like next time round when I was due to be on one wheel. I’d forgotten just how much of the Greenway was slightly gravelly bridle path – a dry, dusty surface coated with fine grit, and in places rutted. My road bike, with its thin, hard tyres, was utterly inappropriate and constantly felt like it was going to skid out from under me, which I guess didn’t give me the best confidence for what was ahead. But that leg of the journey, four children and three adults, generally sticking together was a nice way to warm up.

And then to the main event…

IMG_7801Switching from one ride to another

There were 19 children doing the Greenway Challenge, together with adults to accompany them, so we were quite a crowd setting off. Knowing where to place myself among the group proved was a bit awkward, when the first part of the route is a fairly narrow pavement alongside a busy road. That didn’t make for a confident start, but once the group started to spread out, and the paths got broader I began to settle in to the rhythm. Soon enough, the pavements gave way to beautiful bridal paths in glorious countryside, and it was a delight to be out there. I was able to stay with the slowest ‘pack’ of riders comfortable for a while, we had a brief stop for water at about the two mile mark.

IMG_7802Admiring the views at my first water stop. 

I set off first from here, and much to my surprise the trailing pack didn’t catch up (they did have the youngest riders with them) so for long chunks of the route I was pretty much on my own, which is actually rather nice. As for the terrain, my unicycle was actually much, much better suited than my bike. I have a mountain-bike sized wheel, with a fairly chunky tyre, and you don’t have unicycle tyres inflated nearly so hight pressure as a bike, so I gripped the gravel paths with aplomb and actually felt much safer than I had on two wheels.

Reaching the first official refreshment stop ahead of that trailing group was a confidence boost, and I set off on my second section beginning to be a little more confident I could perhaps actually do this thing.

26400293603_50533d5000_oFirst official refreshments stop! And I wasn’t last to arrive!

Once again I was mostly on my own, and it was here that I began to feel just how much my thighs were beginning to ache. I’ve described it as ‘burning’, and people familiar with exercise tells me that’s the lactic acid building up in the muscles. Or something. It really is very, very, unusual for me to work my muscles for any length of time with no respite, so it’s a feeling I’m entirely unfamiliar with. There were other areas that were being to feel the pressure, too. I’ll not mention where, but I think it’s safe to say they’re probably just where you’d expect them to be. For a while I began to take more frequent stops for water, but started to worry about how slow I was going to be, and how long I could keep this up. To take my mind off the pain I began going over the lines and songs for the show I was performing in that very evening. (Yes, really.)

I also whipped out my phone and recorded this, just to prove that I really was doing it.

Thankfully, I did kept it up. Once again I wasn’t last to arrive at the second refreshment stop, but the short route between there and the lunch stop was the part that felt the longest. Riding completely alone once again, I kept thinking the next stop was just round the next corner, but no, there always seemed to be another stretch, and another corner. Finally coming to the point where I could see the children playing in the park was a welcome site, and riding all the way across the field to the picnic area felt a bit like a triumphant entry. The assembled adults were amazed to see that I wasn’t last. I was also amazed.

IMG_7809Another little rest for a drink. At this point, I noticed I’d forgotten to restart my GPS tracker after a refreshment stop. 

The lunch stop was little longer than the others, so getting back on the unicycle for the final four-mile stretch was a real pain in the… um..  well, I said I wasn’t gong to mention that bit. A new problem presented itself here, too: about half way round I’d had a minor tumble (despite having told everyone that you ‘always’ land on your feet when you bail out of a difficult moment, I managed once to land on my hands and a knee, and grazed my knee). It hadn’t given me any bother till now, but setting off on that final leg I realised I had some new pain right down into my shin, and I know realise I must have twisted my knee a little in that bump. Above all else, that made the last section feel long and difficult, and I seriously doubted whether I’d make it. And then, to cap it all, I took a wrong turn, which meant that having been just behind the leading group for the last section, by the time I back-tracked and found my place again, I was right back with the last ones. For the last mile and a half, it was nice to have some company, and when I rounded the final corner they let me go on to pass the finish line.

uniblogYes, I actually did it. (Photo: Charles Hartshorne.)

It was finished.

I was seriously aching, and limping a bit. But I had done it. And I was delighted.

Now for the stats:. Officially the Garden City Greenway is 13.6 miles. And I rode it from start to finish. So that’s what I’m claiming: 13.6 miles, mostly off-road, on a unicycle. 

I had a GPS tracker attached to my frame which tells a slightly different story. My GPS actually recorded 12.09 miles. BUT, I did forget to turn it back on after one of the refreshment stops. Do’h! Mind you, it did also record my detour, which I’d have thought might make it back up to the right distance. Who knows. Damn technology. I rode 13.6 miles, okay! Plus a detour!

RouteThe GPS log. Note (a) the straight line top right, where I forgot to turn it back on so the software has just joined up the gap and (b) the little sticky-out bit top right, where I missed a turn. Idiot! 

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 17.36.35
The all-unimportant stats.

I can’t leave this report without mentioned the children though. Yes, I may have claimed the limelight somewhat with getting some press coverage for us, and I may have done something a bit quirky and different, but don’t forget this ride is really for children, and there were 19 young children, some as young as five, who rode this 13.6 mile route, and four of them, aged just nine and ten, who rode a whole marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

They deserve some sponsorship, too.




Page Three Model. (Me!)

I knew the Midweek Mercury were running a piece on my charity ride, but I didn’t expect it to be quite so prominent.

This is on page one…


Which points you to this, taking up almost the whole of page three!



And the last couple of test rides have reminded me just how much hard work this thing is going to be. My legs will be like jelly. There’s no freewheeling downhills like on a bike, you know.

Sponsor me here!

The Comet, published the next day, also featured my ride. This was more the level of publicity I’d imagined: A small corner on page nine.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 07.51.59


How to ride a top of the range road bike

Jeepers. I’ve seen people doing this sort of stuff before, but on a road bike? Who’d have thought it, eh?

Description from YouTube: 

Martyn Ashton takes the £10k carbon road bike used by Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins & Mark Cavendish for a ride with a difference. With a plan to push the limits of road biking as far as his lycra legs would dare, Martyn looked to get his ultimate ride out of the awesome Pinarello Dogma 2. This bike won the 2012 Tour de France – surely it deserves a Road Bike Party!

Uninteresting update.

Hey, remember I said I was going to get the gearing changed on my bike? (Here, in case you don’t.)

Well today I finally got around to taking it in to Scuffwheels, now in their new shop in Stevenage Town Centre. Alex wasn’t there this time, but I spoke to Tom who agreed with Alex that doing what I was hoping shouldn’t be a problem at all, so they’re going to get it sorted this week.

I’ve asked them to put an 11-25 cassette on the back and 50/38/26 on the front. Or something like that.

And if you understand that, you’re a better person than I am.

Picture nicked off their website. Sure they won’t mind. 


Servicing an old bike – revisited (now with second opinions)

Last June year I took my bike to Cycledealia in Hitchin for a pre-Paris service. It needed a new chain, and also a new cassette. The mechanic there declared that he wouldn’t be able to replace the cassette on such an old bike so just gave it a general tune-up and reassembled it as it was. (You can’t have forgotten about it, I did, after all, write about it here.)

Of course the bike did get me to Paris fine. This year I was lucky enough to have  the loan of a fancy-schmancy road bike to ride to Paris, and I’ve spent a good few months on and off pondering and researching the possibility of buying a new bike for myself. Perhaps I may have mentioned it. (The latest one that’s caught my eye is this from Charge.)


When I go out on my old bike, I love it.

Old Faithful

And what do I need anything super-light for anyway?

So today, just thirteen months after it was rejected by the guy in Cycledealia, I finally took it elsewhere for some other opinions. Only this time I knew what I wanted. New chain, new cassette, and possible new chain rings, too. You see, I want to change the gearing to something a little more road-friendly. For those mechanically-minded of you, it currently has a triple on the front (48/38/28) and a seven speed cassette on the back (13-30). Around town I frequently find myself in the highest gear (48-13) with nowhere left to go, so I want smaller cogs at the back and possibly larger ones – or a wider range – at the front.

Highway Cycles is where I bought the bike back in 1993, so that’s where I rode first.

Not possible, was his verdict. They could replace the cassette, yes, but only with a 12-28 because that’s now “the only one Shimano make to fit a bike like this” and putting larger chainwheels on “won’t be possible because of the shape of the frame.” And he promptly tried to sell me a Trek hybrid. Thanks. But no thanks. I left feeling a bit flattened. Bugger, maybe Cycledealia were right all along.

But still I had other places to try.

Marshalls Cycles wasn’t open when I arrived. It should have been. But before I’d left, along came one of the mechanics, waiting for the owners to open up shop, so I grabbed him for an opinion. Shouldn’t be a problem at all, he reckoned. Heck, they might even have at 11-28 cassette in stock. Generally more positive. Seemed reasonably keen to help, and a nice guy to boot. But the shop wasn’t open yet so he couldn’t actually check. And I’d have to book it in for them to look at as they’re very busy at the moment. Still, I rode away much more encouraged.

And then I went to Scuffwheels in Stevenage’s indoor market, where Alex’s eyes positively lit up when he saw my bike. This guy was really enthusiastic, extolling the virtues of my Reynolds CroMoly frame and the general build of the bike,  and – most importantly – completely and utterly confident that he could do pretty much exactly what I was wanting. And he must be doing something right: after only eight months in business he’s about to move from his stall in the indoor market into a proper shop unit in the Town Centre – something he’d not expected to be doing until three or four years.

Once he’s moved in, I’m planning to take it to him and hoping he’ll work some magic.

There is one other guy working locally who I’ve not visited yet. Revolution Cycles was started by Carl in an industrial unit in Stevenage and has recently moved into a shop in Knebworth. I’d emailed Carl this morning, and since all my visits this morning have exchanged several emails with him. He’s asked a few questions and offered a lot of useful advice which will help me decide what to do even if I still end up taking it to Alex. But perhaps I ought to let him take a look before I finally decide.

I did like Alex, though. Despite (or maybe because of?) his extremely religious t-shirt.

Arch to Arc 2011: Maps and Stats.

Now look here: if I’ve put all this rubbish up here for all my training rides you didn’t think you were going to get away with avoiding it for the real thing, did you? Here are the lovely maps and stats for each day of London to Paris.

Day one: Marble Arch to Dover

Distance: 86.81 miles
Time: 9hr 36min
Moving time: 7hr 27min
Average speed: 9.0 mph
Average moving speed: 11.6 mph
Top speed: 31.6 mph

Day two: Calais to Abbeville

Distance: 81.23 miles
Time: 8hr 42min
Moving time: 7hr 01min
Average speed: 9.3 mph
Average moving speed: 11.6 mph
Top speed: 34.8 mph

Day three: Abbeville to Beauvais

Distance: 65.43 miles
Time: 7hr 15min
Moving time: 5hr 42min
Average speed: 9.0 mph
Average moving speed: 11.5 mph
Top speed: 33.4 mph

Day four: Beauvais to the Arc de Triomphe

Distance: 47.35 miles
Time: 4hr 56min
Moving time: 4hr 23min
Average speed: 9.6 mph
Average moving speed: 10.8 mph
Top speed: 26.1 mph


  • These maps are not all to the same scale. So sue me.
  • These are the figures recorded by the Garmin attached to my bike. Other riders may vary!