Sunday of the 1999 California Mountain Unicycle Weekend in Santa Cruz:
I woke to the sound of the phone ringing. I had set my alarm wrong, and John
Drummond was waiting 20 minutes downstairs. We had to check out and get out! So
much for a nice breakfast at the diner (the food at the Santa Cruz Diner for
Saturday’s breakfast was great, but the ambiance, well, don’t ask us about it at
the dinner table).
Everybody met at Frederick St. park for the Observed Trials competition. For
those of you new to this, note the difference between “Trails” and “Trials”.
Observed Trials means “trials and tribulations”, getting over the nasty
obstacles with minimum dismounts. We did this at MUni Weekend last year in a
very rudimentary way, then at NUC in a much more formal way, like they do
This was also the formal way, with separate courses for three different ability
levels. For each chosen level, there were three short courses you had to ride
twice, totaling up your score of all mistakes at the end. Dismounting or going
outside the course boundaries would get you points, and your object was to have
the lowest possible score.
Frederick Street park is a beautiful location for a MUni Weekend Trials
competition. This is because not everybody is going to do Trials, so the park
offered a nice place to spend the time while everybody else did. It contains a
big grassy area, a playground, picnic tables under shady trees, and a scenic
view of a marina below. And bathrooms with running water! The Trials courses
were mapped out on the landscaping, which consisted of rocks, logs, steps, and
tree roots. Here’s brief descriptions of the different courses:
INTERMEDIATE: A - Uphill on some bumpy dirt, about 10 meters. B - Downhill on
some mushy wood chips, with bumpy roots, about 10 meters. C - Downhill in a rock
bed (round rocks glued into a cement base), about 30 meters.
I think C caused the most problems for the Intermediates, with the relatively
large, unyielding bumps.
ADVANCED: A - Downhill on a narrow strip of dirt, over bumps, between narrow
gaps that could catch a pedal, then down a 1’ drop, about 10 meters. B - Uphill
on the same rock bed the Intermediates rode downhill on. C - Jump up onto and
ride the length of an 18" log buried in the ground, about 5 meters.
C was the killer for the Advanced riders, with all but one contestant fouling
out there and getting maximum scores.
EXPERT: A - Up the bumpy dirt from Intermediate A, followed by hopping up some
log “steps”, then down Advanced A, with a super-difficult variation on the end.
You had to jump off a rock, about 1 meter to the top of a piling (vertical piece
of log stuck in the ground), then jump about 1m again to the ground below.
Something like that. B - Ride up a little thing nobody could ride up, through a
narrow gap between rocks, then turn around and descend similar to A by jumping
from dirt to piling to ground a little distance away. C - A semicircle of
pilings and rocks surrounding a water spigot. You had to jump up and around the
semicircle, on the tops of the obstacles. The back part of this course was over
2’ off the ground.
BTW, see a bunch of MUni Weekend pictures here: http://bundy.org/muniweekend/
(unfortunately only one picture from the Trials competition)
My skills being cutting edge or not, the Expert course was beyond my means.
Maybe next year (except they’ll make it harder then). I entered in the Advanced
group. But aaaah! Despite several practice runs along the log, I messed it up
completely on both tries! This gave me a total score of 20 out of a possible 60.
Apparently, Andy Cotter was the only rider to clear the log, and even he only
got it once, ending with a score of 10.
People seemed to have a lot of fun trying out the courses, then doing them for
score while being “observed” by their friends. Bruce and David did a great job
mapping out the various courses, then marking them with ribbon and little signs
so people could see where to go. Next we have to get those Trials competition
rules down on paper, before we forget what they were!
After the Trials competition, we headed out to a nearby jetty for pictures and
rock hopping. This involved a scenic 1/2 mile ride from the park, along the
marina, under a highway bridge, and out onto the jetty with the beach and
Boardwalk in the background. We took some group photos, with people piled all
over some giant concrete blocks. Then Geoff Faraghan set up a group shot with
Telfords only. Watch out world, now there are at least a dozen of them! Bruce
and David showed us some of their forward hopping technique, jumping from rock
to rock over gaps that were sometimes very deep with seawater and stinky dead
crabs at the bottom!
Then it was another short ride to the Seabright Brewery. for lunch. This is a
very cool microbrew restaurant, with an outdoor seating area. There are usually
at least a few bikes parked outside the seating area, as Santa Cruz has lots of
cyclists. But it was quite a sight to see a pile of 50 or more dirt-covered,
fat-tired unicycles out there! If we had kickstands, it would have looked like
half a Harley Davidson convention.
While we were served, the Trials scores were tabulated and David Poznanter
described for us the nearly $1000 in prizes that had been donated to the
Weekend. Some of this schwag came from one of the local bike shops (sorry, can’t
remember the name for appropriate plug!), and the rest was from UnicycleSource.
Competition winners received actual medals that had been engraved for MUni
Weekend. No recycled NUC awards and old junk this time! But due to tie scores in
both the uphill race and Trials, there was a shortage of medals. I gave up my
3rd place medal in the uphill race so a 3rd place tie could be properly awarded
on the Novice course. But then I found out there was also a tie in the Advanced
Trials! Andy Cotter was 1st place with 10 pts, but I was tied with Rob Bowman
(Santa Cruz) with 20. Now what? It was decided the two contestants should “duke
it out” to see who would get 2nd and who 3rd. Right there, right then, we were
challenged to do a unicycle Sumo match!
Okay, unicycles right there, big piece of open pavement in front of everybody
(including non-unicycling customers at tables at the Brewery and Java Junction).
In the spirit of fun entertainment, we went for it. Or maybe I just wanted the
medal, having already given one up. We put on our safety equipment, and had at
each other. The purpose of Sumo on unicycles is to knock the opponent down, or
push him/her outside the playing area boundary.
Rob was the first one down. But I fell down too! No point. The way we play, the
victor has to keep riding at least 3 seconds after the “kill” to prove he/she is
in control. We go again. Same thing, no point. Finally, I managed to vanquish
him. Sorry Rob, I’ve been playing this game almost 20 years. Don’t know knew
that at the time… Hey, it wasn’t my idea!
Then the prizes were given out. There was quite an assortment of tools, safety
equipment, cycling clothing and more. One by one, names of all registered riders
were pulled from a hat, and then riders came up and picked the item of their
choice. Then they picked the next name from the hat. It looked like almost
everybody got something!
Lunch was over and we were off for our afternoon ride. This was a thankfully
short ride, basically a direct route to the infamous Mailbox hill, and out
again. Everybody went, even beginner riders who walked much of it, non-riders,
and one or two bikes.
Mailbox is like a 100’ high hill, made out of soft dirt except at the top, and
real steep all the way down. The best viewing spots were near the top, where
Bruce, David, Dan, Daniel and others attempted to ride over the nasty rocks.
Most of the crowd did not come up, I think because it was a pretty big climb.
But they could watch from the bottom as little dots worked their way over the
rocks, or went splat and started over.
I shouldn’t say “attempted” as several people made it all the way down. David
was the first ever to complete the very difficult “left side” (there are two
paths down). We took lots of pictures of the guys jumping and bailing up there.
Amazingly, during the whole weekend nobody was hurt in any major way. Just the
usual shin and calf damage, a majorly stubbed big toe, and assorted other
scrapes & scratches. I say amazingly, because people were trying terrain this
year that had never been attempted at any previous MUni Weekend. The sport is
Most of us said goodbye at the end of the ride, or back at Bruce and David’s
house before heading home. Another MUni Weekend down in history. Many thanks
again to organizers Bruce Bundy and David Poznanter, the sponsors
(UnicycleSource and The Bike Trip?), and all the others who pitched in to
assist. Santa Cruz is such a great place for MUni, and an event like this, I
know we’ll be back.
Stay tuned for part 4; MUni Weekend 2000!
“I’m okay, I crash like that a lot.”
- Dan Heaton
“I’m okay, I crash like that a lot.”
- Dan Heaton