I rolled into town under impending skies, and it was just as I’d poured the first cup of Earl Grey of the day that the heavens opened and deluged me, my airwheel, and any cake I might have had about my person.
I manfully continued my review of some apple shortbread, but ultimately the weather defeated me as I was unable to unsheathe the cakes for safety reasons. Nobody likes damp cake. But we can see the levels of rain I was dealing with, and later to be airwheeling through…
Never mind. They can wait. I’m really here to do other stuff, and go riding in the rain, in town, and amongst people, so I get my daily ‘glide manoeuvres’ exercise in. I love airwheeling Petersfield TC – I feel I know its surfaces intimately well over a huge area, and now able to avoid the dodgy bits from memory alone the ride through town is never not hugely enjoyable whatever the weather is doing. And just as well.
Gear on Test
Trying some new cycle gloves under my wrist guards today, and they did a superb job of keeping my hands warm, at the cost of making everything I have to do with my hands while airwheeling a little bit harder. Getting cash out of pockets is a nightmare, and you can’t take them off in under 5 mins, but I was glad I had them as they meant my hands didn’t slip on the handle of the wheel as I carried her indoors out of the falling sky…
But it was my instant-deploy umbrella I had with me really saved the day, keeping me and my wheel dry as the skies poured their contents over me in PF church graveyard. I quickly made a Tea, Cake & a View vid, and then packed up to ride home in the rain. But no, as soon as I actually wanted the rain to be there it stopped, so we have the following mostly sunlit video as I track home through the damp streets, enjoying the great reflections and the GoPro’s pleasing clarity in good light conditions.
Sailplane forced errors
If you try and open a sprung umbrella while Airwheeling, you’d better be ready for what’s going to happen next, and know what to do to fix it before you are literally dragged off your wheel by wind – either the wind, or incidental wind caused by your own movement through the air.
You could stop, get off your Airwheel and then put it up, get back on again, and continue, which would be a lot safer, but wheres the skill and grace in that ? :) No, what we want is a smooth, single move where we withdraw the umbrella, sabre-like from its rucksack-y sheath, move it to the right position and launch it, with minimal or no disruption to whatever control moves you are doing at the time.
Today’s rain was carried over me at great speed by furious winds, and I quickly learned the limits of usefulness an umbrella introduces into the mix.
Here’s how to do it properly.
The key to moving launch success is to drop your speed, point the umbrella straight up, and brace your arm to hold it there and prevent it pivoting as you open it. Be ready for sudden lurches and standstills in speed and direction as the wind resistance and your center of gravity drastically change as the umbrella launches. Then, assuming you can keep it straight upright, it should settle into a controllable pattern of air resistance you can subtly alter and use, by carefully (but minutely) tilting the umbrella into and against the prevailing wind. It only requires 5 degrees tilt in any direction to get usable windforce behind you, but be careful you don’t spend a lot of time doing it wrong, thereby adding the power of the wind to the forces the Airwheel has to fight !
Obviously, your battery will die in minutes if you don’t realise this is happening, but you will realise, because you and the airwheel will suddenly feel like you are trying to move through extra thick treacle and you are lucky to be getting 3 mph even with maximum lean forward.
If you are lucky, however, you might find yourself at the bottom of a hill with the wind behind you. Then, you can give it 3-5 degrees forward tilt and that wind should power you and the airwheel up the hill. If you lean back a bit it can even recharge it as it goes ! In practice, I find this happens so rarely as to be almost never, but useful to know if you live in a very windy, hilly country like I do.
Don’t try and go 90 degrees forward, or backward with it, however. Strong wind will catch in the bowl of the umbrella with astonishing force, and either rip it out of your hand, wrench it round at an angle that sprains your wrist (if no wrist braces) or it might actually pull you straight off your wheel by dragging you sideways, something you are always unprepared for, and unequal to stopping once it starts until you are off your machine. I had 2 out of 3 of those, many many times while I learned these things :)
Also do not underestimate how much extra battery you cane by using an umbrella at anything but the slowest speeds. Your overall shape has changed, and your air resistance is considerably greater all the time you have an umbrella up, so try and only use it to get to shelter if you find yourself deluged in the wide open, and the winds aren’t too bad.
Training has been continuing this week, and the main recurring theme is that I’m learning single foot riding this week, or until I can do it. I’ve been lucky, in that I found a fair few empty tennis courts in my travels which are ideal places to practice tightening turns, weaving skills and trick shots like 180’s, jumps, idling, and pose-riding (pose as in statues, not poser !). Even when wet, the soft grippy surfaces provided a very rewarding feel as I practiced leaning out further and further until all my weight and directional control rested on a single foot. The challenge is then to change direction and maintain it without putting the other one back, which is harder than it sounds. I’m getting it, but it’ll be longer than a week til I’ve really got it down. so that… continues…
See you when it does…