Unicycling. Interesting concept. A year ago, my experience of unicycles – like most of you, I suspect – was limited to watching Tickey the Clown, all whitefaced with big, fat, red lips and atop a little contraption with just the one wheel, whir his little legs through the sawdust at Boswell Wilkie Circus.
Then, out of nowhere, this happened. Hmmm. OK. That won’t happen again. Not on your nelly. Think again, Hatman. Turns out that, when it comes to driving back-up to nutters on unicyclists and blogging about the craziness, I’m the go-to guy. Go-to guy and sucker for punishment. And total plonker.
So, this little fandango will be kicking off in November. Yes. Three nutters. One wheel. Well, make that one wheel each. Two thousand five hundred kilometres. Umhlanga Lighthouse to Mouille Point Lighthouse. Er, that pretty much means Durban to Cape Town. Again. Except, this time, the ride is going off-road. All the way. Yes, that’s OFF-ROAD. Correctomundo, as I seem to recall Henry Winkler saying in Happy Days.
Another small difference is that, this time, I will know how to ride a unicycle. So that, when a bunch of kids appear out of the bush and say “Hey, uncle, please show us how you ride that bike that’s lost a wheel” (or the equivalent in Zulu, Sotho, Afrikaans and Xhosa), I’ll be suitably trained to reduce them to tears of laughter and disbelief.
To this end, while I’ve been in Cape Town this past week, having meetings with the CounterBalance crew and writing guff for our our rather tasty little website, I’ve been spending a half-an-hour every morning making a complete toss of myself.
And it’s looked like this…
Pics: Johnny Cronje
And, erm, this…
That there little scratch, I am told by seasoned unicyclists, is called “pedal bite”. It’s what happens when you fall off and a pedal gnashes into your calf. I’ve fallen off more than a few times. But, and best you steady yourself for this, I’m getting the bloody hang of this lark.
Just this morning, in just my fourth half-hour training session, I managed to pedal no fewer than three full wheel revolutions without grabbing hold of the wall – or a gate or a tree or a passing pedestrian or a small mountain range.
Nice. I’m loving it. I started out adopting a totally, like, y’know, fully organic and holistic Zen-like approach. “Lower your full weight on to the saddle,” I’d whisper to myself. “Stabilise.” “Balance.” “Feel as one with the unicycle.” “Become as one with it.” “You are as one with it.” “This thing is now part of my body.” “Good lord, it is my body.” “OK.” “Cool.” “Now lean forward a bit, my son.” “Nice.” “Now, just one revolution…” “OK.” “Push off… here we go…” Kerrrrash! Eina.
That was then, this is now. Now I’d love to know what the neighbours here in leafy Claremont are saying over their infused-with-a-droplet-of-salamander-tears Chai tea of an elevenses.
“Merde!” “Vafancule!” “Come on, you bastardo!” “Get up, idiota!” “You can do this!” “Try again!” “Bring it on!” “Come effing on!” “Let’s nail this baby!” “Go on, my son!” “Yes, yes, yesssss! Aaarrr, yeah!”
Not pretty. Rather unedifying. Positively neanderthal. But it’s working. It’s happening. I’ll show those kids in the villages of our South African hinterland how to ride a “wielie-one”.
Some of you may recall that I got involved in a very jolly jape earlier this year, in which one of my nuttier mates Geoff “The Heartman” Brink rode a UNICYCLE from Durban to Cape Town.
That’s right. One man, one wheel… and one hell of a ride which lasted 58 days and covered nearly 2,000km. I was Geoff’s back-up driver, blogger, photographer etc and we did it to raise awareness of the madness of landmines for The Sole of Africa.
I still get flashbacks about this epic journey nearly three months later. Given that I have yet to father a child and still haven’t quite managed to engage in flagrante delicto with Genevieve Morton, The Heart and Sole Tour was the most beautiful thing I have ever done in my life.
And I thought that, Gen phoning up to ask if I would like to co-create a sprog notwithstanding, that would be that. But it’s a case of “not so fast, Freddie”. No, Gen hasn’t phoned (yet) but a couple of equally deranged unicyclists have.
To make a proposal. Not to bear my children, I hasten to add. But to create something which will involve even more pain and result in something just as beautiful.
Before I let you in on their mind-bogglingly mad idea, I’d like to get out my old projector and show you a short movie. If you’re sitting comfortably (and, of course, have pressed pause on the following fliek so as to allow the thing to fully buffer) we can flick off the lights and begin…
Crikey! What did you make of that malarkey? Yes, these guys are as nutty as squirrels poo. What did you think of the madman right at the beginning whose unicycle went over a bump and propelled him on a (near) collision course with quite a sturdy tree? Well, that’s Johnny Cronje. Fine. But the really worrying thing about Johnny is that he is actually one of the most sane people I have ever met.
So, get your head around this. Johnny, Alan Read and Donna Kisogloo are wanting to ride their unicycles for a distance of around 2,000km to raise awareness of a very good cause over a period of about six weeks later this year. Now this would sound very much like the Heart and Sole Tour… except for one rather notable difference.
They want to do it off-road!
Yes. I know. Do what I did when I first heard about this. Breathe. Deeply. In. Out. In. Out. You should start getting back to normal quite soon. Lucky for you. I’m not. Normal, I mean. Because the three of them have asked me, as South Africa’s prime exponent of slow driving (I mean, 58 days of driving behind Geoff Brink to Durban to Cape Town at an average of 16 km/h has to be some sort of record, right?) to be their “support vehicle driver” for this 2,000km off-road unicycling adventure.
And, only because I’m so intelligent and worked out that “support vehicle driver” sounded far more posh than “back-up driver”, I have agreed to do it. And photograph it and blog about it and film it and raise awareness of it and… er, live it for the next eight months.
Look. There’s a lot of organising and sponsorship-raising and stuff to do before we leave, so I can’t tell you much more about it right now. So, amuse and amaze yourself by taking a peek at what Johnny and Co and their unicycles do for fun at weekends and I’ll fill you in as we go along.
Heavens to Betsy, I am so looking forward to more unicycling craziness already! Two thousand kilometres. Every single one of them on dirt? Bring it on!