Almost epic muni ride

For several years I have wanted to do an epic muni ride. However, I have never been in good enough shape to actually do it. Until now. Last Sunday I set out on my epic.

Epic means that it’s a long ride with lots of climbing. People will debate on what exactly constitutes an epic ride. I set my definition of a muni epic at more than 20 miles and more than 5000 feet of climbing.

The ride I planned is called The Palisades Trail out near Mt. Rainier. The route I took is detailed in a local guide book called Kissing The Trail by John Zilly. The ride also goes by several other names depending on who you talk to. It’s also known as Noble Knob or Dalles Ridge. There are several starting points and ending points. Not everyone does the same loop. The route I took is detailed online here: Noble Knob Ride Summary Take a look at the elevation profile. Espicially the first 5.2 miles. :slight_smile:

The ride stats that John Zilly gives for Palisades is:
21.7 miles, loop
cumulative gain: 5,100 feet

There is also a similar ride called Ranger Creek:
18.1 miles, loop
cumulative gain: 4,100 feet

Both the Palisades ride and Ranger Creek ride are the same for the first 10 miles. At mile 10 the rides split. Go left for Ranger Creek and go right for Palisades.

I think his elevation gain is under-reported because of the little climbs along the trail. But from a macro view (ignoring the small stuff) it’s probably an accurate number.

The Ride:

The ride starts with a climb from hell up Forest Service Road 7174 (a.k.a. Corral Pass Road). The climb is 5.2 miles long and climbs from an elevation of 3,100 feet to 5,700 feet. I’ll save you the math, that’s 2600 vertical feet of torture. If you’re so inclined, you can do the math to figure out the average percent grade. The climb is a bit steep and the road is a bit rough. The combination makes it very unfun. The steepness is just beyond my ability to do a sustained climb without blowing up and the legs turning to rubber. I desperately needed a granny gear on my muni. I had to walk parts of the climb. I had to walk more of the climb than I would have liked. It took me two hours to finish that 5.2 mile death march. The bikes do it in around 1:40 using their granny gear and the 2nd and 3rd largest cogs on the rear cluster. The climb is a bitch. Mostly the grade is fairly constant. The grade steepens in the switchback turns and there is a short flatish section. But mostly the grade is constant. Next time I want to shuttle the climb.

To top it off, my air seat went flat on me during the climb. I wasn’t sitting in the saddle much during the climb so it wasn’t a big deal. I also have foam on top of the inner tube so I still had some cushioning.

At the top of the Corral Pass Road climb you rest. The legs are not very happy. You’ll feel the effects of that climb in the legs for the rest of the ride. I was too lazy to fix the air seat so I just pumped it up and hoped that it would hold air for a little bit. I didn’t want to take the seat apart on the trail and patch the tube.

Here the single track begins. It starts out on a trail called Nobel Knob. The trail climbs a little bit but the grade is easy (although the legs are still not ready to give you full power after that Corral Pass Road climb). The Nobel Knob trail offers some stunning views of Mt. Rainier. See the picture listed in the Nobel Knob Ride Summary trail log at mile 5.75 here <>. (yeah that second link directly to the jpg isn’t going to work because of geocities, but if you paste it into a browser window that’s already open to you can get it to work) That view makes the climb worthwhile. Mt. Rainier looks different when you’re up on a ridge looking at it across the valley. There are a few bits of exposure on the trail where you don’t want to be doing a cliffside uni retrieval. So hang on to the muni when you UPD.

The air seat held air for a short bit, but I was soon riding with just the foam for padding. I stilll didn’t feel like taking the seat apart on the trail so I just pumped it up again and left the tube unpatched.

The trail mostly follows the ridge. There are some downhill switchbacks and a nice short rocky downhill bit. Your typical ridge trail stuff Washington style. My legs were still feeling the effects of the death march climb up Corral Pass Road so I tried to take it easy on the trail so my legs would have some chance to recover.

After a little bit of a descent you end up at mile 10.6 which is the decision point. Do I turn right to take the trail to Palisades or do I turn left and take the shorter ride down Ranger Creek. So I had to make a decision – Am I a man or am I a wimp. I’m a wimp. I opted for the shorter ride. That would make the trip less than epic, but the legs were not feeling like doing any more climbing or any extra mileage. I’ll have to save Palisades for another day.

Palisades would be a great ride with great views of Mt. Rainier from up on the cliffs. The switchback turns on Palisades go right to the edge of the cliff. See picture here If you overshoot the switchback turn you better hope you can fly like Chris LeFay. The views from up there would be worth it. Unfortunately I’m not man enough to have experienced those views. There are no great views on the Ranger Creek trail. The trail is all in the forest which strategically shields any magnificent views of Mt. Rainier.

There is a very modest log cabin structure here with some nice large logs to sit on. I finally decided that this would be a good point to repair the air seat. I took the air seat apart and patched up the little pinhole leak in the tube. Ah… The seat is much more comfortable with air in it.

I also met up with several riders from the BBTC at the cabin. The BBTC is the Seattle area mountain bike club I belong to. There were a lot of BBTC riders on the trail that day because they were showing two IMBA reps their favorite trails in the area. Unfortunately I also got outed while I was waiting at the cabin. I put my feet up on a log and someone noticed I was wearing Vans. He was wondering who was wearing Vans and riding platform pedals because there were Vans footprints going up Corral Pass Road. :astonished:

The rest of the ride down Ranger Creek is all downhill. There are some very tight switchbacks that drive the bikes nuts, but they’re easy on a unicycle. I made every switchback but one on the way down. That one switchback was like a scree field with deep and loose fist size rocks. No traction. You just go sliding. No way to stop to make the turn.

From the end of the Ranger Creek Trail it was a little over a mile along a contour line trail back to the car. A little bit of short climbing, but nothing too long.

The ride started at 10:15 AM and finished at 5:30 PM. I don’t know how much of that time was ride time and how much was rest time. I spent a lot of time sitting, talking and patching my air seat at the cabin. I also spent time elsewhere along the trail resting.

After the ride there was dinner at a pub with some of the BBTC folks and the two IMBA reps. What a way to cap off the ride.

Next time I’m doing the Palisades Trail. I think it would be possible to climb up the Ranger Creek Trail to the cabin where the Palisades Trail starts. I think the climb up The Ranger Creek would be easier than doing the Corral Pass Road climb. The climb would also be less elevation and the total distance for the ride would also be less. I’ll have to investigate that possibility. But then, that would make it less than epic.

It was a great ride with some suffering thrown in to make it epic. If we ever have a muni weekend here in Washington that trail will be on the list for the expert ride. We could shuttle up Corral Pass Road and avoid the nasty part of the ride and get to enjoy the good parts.

John “still need to do an epic” Childs

Sounds like a great day John.
Obviously the terrain here in Florida doesn’t really offer those kinds of challenges, so an “epic” ride for me has different meaning.
I’ve always thought of an epic ride as one in which I’ve experienced nearly every human emotion during the course of the ride, including fighting off the “bonk”, testing myself and my limits and surviving. Then at some point in the ride looking up to the heavens, raisng my hands up to the sky feeling the absolute joy of being alive.
When a ride crosses the line into the spiritual realm, that for me is an “epic” ride. I’ve been lucky to have had a handful of those in my life, but I must confess, they have been on a bike.
I’ve had some long and great Muni rides but nothing yet that I would classify as epic. The thing that keeps me riding (and really has for as long as I can remember) is that feeling during a ride that there is no other thing I’d rather be doing and no other place I’d rather be.
I hope I never lose that.

  • Frank

Epic for me means I got lost for several hours. That doesn’t happen here in Austin. But I’ve had epic rides (on a bike) in Maryland and Pennsylvania.


I’m disappointed John. Not that your ride wasn’t as epic as you would have liked, but that you are in good enough shape to even try something like that! My 17 mile ride was abut all I could take, and about 6 of those miles were on pavement! I guess I’ve got a long ways to go before I’m like you.
But if you ever do decide to have a MUni event up there, I’d love to ride that trail!

This is why the rest of us in the Seattle riding group spend so much time on the trail looking at John’s back fading into the distance. This is also why we call him “JC”. John offered to let the rest of us come on this ride with him but we all scrambled quickly to find lawns to mow or garages to paint.

Re: Almost epic muni ride

John that sounds like a fantastic epic! I guess the next task is to get
Harper and those other guys to go riding with you - might be harder than the
ride? Espcially for epic rides, it’s great to have others to share it with.
Five of us did 41 miles around San Francisco last Saturday and 21 miles of
CokerMuni in Santa Cruz Sunday. Together they make an epic but neither ride
had over 3000’ of climbing.

I’d love to do that ride of yours sometime.


That’s an incredible ride. You made downieville sound easy;) . If you ever have your unicycle fall off one of the palisades cliffs, be sure to snap a picture of the confused biker complaining about these raining unicycles. Also, has anyone ever considered trying the San Francisco classic? It’s 108 miles for the bikers, throughout some of SF’s most brutal hills. I guess you’d need a multi-speed uni, so you could bomb down the hills with ease then climb the steep ones without a dismount. BTW, Nathan, were you riding the SF classic course? That race happened on Sunday I think. Or, did you find another route. Hey, could you e-mail me for your next non-coker muni ride?< > I’d love to do some Santa Cruz trails on my 24x3.


Sounds like a great ride, John. I look forward to doing it at a future MUni Weekend.

By your definition, I haven’t done any epic rides either. But I’ve been pretty happy with the ones I’ve done though. For me, I think a definition of epic would have to be relative to the fitness and skill level of the individual. For some, the Downieville Downhill could be an epic (especially after two previous days of riding). But for someone like Brett Bymaster, riding Downieville UP might not even count as epic.

Using a fixed standard, once one gets to a certain fitness level, epic rides wouldn’t be that hard any more. I think the epic has to scale with you.

Nathan and friends rode some variation of the 49-Mile Scenic Drive last weekend. I was in Reno at the air races, so I had a valid excuse (no garage painting).

Re: Almost epic muni ride

John, what a great ride! I wish I had mountains like that in my
backyard. I would like to work on the same thing (not that I’m
anywhere near the shape to do it right now).

>The climb is 5.2 miles long and climbs from
>an elevation of 3,100 feet to 5,700 feet. I’ll save you the math,
>that’s 2600 vertical feet of torture. If you’re so inclined, you can do
>the math to figure out the average percent grade.
I like the pun, you address my inclination there. The average grade
comes out as 9.8%. I found out in the Alps this summer that that is
about what I can sustain for half an hour on an unpaved but smooth
trail with a 24 x 3" wheel and 170 mm cranks.

What wheel and cranks did you use? Did you raise the seat for the
climb? (I guess not because you said you didn’t sit much.)

>Unfortunately I also got outed while I was waiting at the cabin. I put
>my feet up on a log and someone noticed I was wearing Vans. He was
>wondering who was wearing Vans and riding platform pedals because there
>were Vans footprints going up Corral Pass Road. :astonished:
Analytical mind.

Great story!

The highest hill in my backyard (park really) is a whopping 70 ft

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

If the crank is moving then it really sounds as if it’s loose. - onewheeldave trying to pinpoint the cause of a clicking crank

John - Thanks for the writeup … very good reading. Let us know about that Seattle MUni weekend will you?

Steve Howard

Re: Almost epic muni ride

how long did that take? to me,beyond the physical is the most amazing portion of the story.i carry the tools to do it but dread the time i have to.this is also the reason i also use a layer of foam on top with the air.lesser minds have said to just chuck it,not true!

Re: Re: Almost epic muni ride

The air seat repair was actually quicker than I expected. It was nice to do it at the cabin where I had a place to sit down and spread out my tools. I didn’t want to do it sitting on the trail in the dirt. The part I was most worried about was finding the hole. I was worried that it might be such a small hole I wouldn’t be able to find it, and I didn’t have a tub of soapy water handy up there to make finding the leak easier. Fortunately I was able to over-inflate the tube and quickly find the leak.

I only took the rear bumper off and left the front bumper and seat cover on. I pulled the air pillow out from the back. Patched the tube and then slid the air pillow back in. It was quick. Less time that it would have taken to repair a flat Gazz.

It wasn’t perfect. The tube ended up with some lumps and folds that it shouldn’t have so the result wasn’t perfect. But it was certainly good enough. I’m going to rip the whole seat apart anyways now and put in a new tube so I’ll get it perfect then. The tube was quite chafed and needs to be replaced.

There was tube dust (very much like eraser rubbings) all over in the air pillow. The tube needs to be replaced. I’ll have to put air seat tube replacement on my annual uni maintenance schedule. It’s better to replace it before it gets in a condition where it gets worn spots from chafing.

I only bring a pump, patch kit, spare 24x3 tube, and all the tools necessary to tighten every nut and bolt when I go on long rides. For short rides I just carry a few allen keys. For short rides I figure that it would be easier to just walk back to the car than do a trailside tire repair. Fortunately this qualified as a long ride so I brought my tools. The only thing I didn’t bring was a spare 16" tube for the air seat.

What surprised me is that I didn’t get angry when my seat went flat. I can get angry at my uni when parts fail on me, especially on a ride that I’ve dedicated the entire day too along with all the travel time. I was actually so nonchalant about it that I didn’t even bother to fix it until 10 miles later. Weird.

I’m sure if Greg was there he’d have been egging me on to get me angry.

Re: Re: Almost epic muni ride

I rode my 24x3 (Gazz tire) with 170mm cranks. I was thinking of using my 26x3 with 175mm cranks, but I find the 24x3 easier to do long climbs with. The 26x3 would have been better for the rest of the ride though because it’s a little bit faster on the trails.

I raised the seat a little bit for the long Forest Service road climb. A good quick release seatpost clamp is a good thing to have on a muni if you do long climbs.

Re: Almost epic muni ride

> > I finally decided that this would be a good point to repair the air
> > seat. I took the air seat apart and patched up the little pinhole
> > leak in the tube. Ah… The seat is much more comfortable with air in
> > it.
> >
> > *
> how long did that take? to me,beyond the physical is the most amazing
> portion of the story.i carry the tools to do it but dread the time i
> have to.this is also the reason i also use a layer of foam on top with
> the air.lesser minds have said to just chuck it,not true!

Mine blew on Orizaba and I patched it at 15,300’ in the hut. It doesn’t take
long - no magic!


Mission accomplished – sort of.

Because I wimped out and did not ride the Palisades trail two weeks ago on my epic ride attempt, I went back today and rode Palisades. I didn’t follow the same route as I did two weeks ago. That route is too epic. Instead I opted to climb up the Ranger Creek Trail. That made for about 2700 feet of climbing on single track over about 5.5 miles. There is another 600 feet or so climbing along the Palisades trail. Climbing up Ranger Creek is a lot more fun than climbing up Corral Pass Road. You’re in the trees and there are no cars passing you. I think I rode a little less than half of the climb. The upper part of the climb was too steep and rocky and rooty to climb up. And I was getting tired.

Ride stats:
about 15 to 16 miles
about 3300 feet climbing on single track
total time 6 hours

This ride involved quite a bit of hike-a-uni. Some trails are like that. I hiked about half of the climb. I hiked sections of exposure on the cliffs that I was not comfortable with. And there is a 1/2 mile to 3/4 mile long section at the end of the ride that is not rideable (everyone hikes that section including the bikes). At least it’s easier to hike-a-uni than hike-a-bike.

I brought a camera along this time so there are some pictures in my gallery:

Palisades is a challenging trail due to the climbing and the exposure. There aren’t very many sections where you can relax and just ride and take it easy. The bikes have chewed up parts of the trail so there are now ruts and stutter bumps (braking bumps) approaching some of the switchbacks and other technical bits where the bikes have to put their brakes on hard. Some of the braking bumps are deep enough to cause pedal strikes on the sides of the hole. I was very tired at the end of the ride. More tired than I was after the Ranger Creek ride two weeks ago even though this ride was shorter and had less climbing. If I had opted to ride Palisades two weeks ago the ride would have been truly epic. I’m very glad now that I opted for the shorter ride two weeks ago now that I know what I would have been in for.

What gorgeous scenery. I would have gone with you if I hadn’t sprained my ankle so badly on the Northshore trail. :angry: I would have ridden a lot less than half the climb and I think I would have tethered my MUni to you secretly so you could have towed it part way up for me. :smiley:

Emoticons suck. I vacuum my truck with them.

you never really got into useing a brake did you…

I was brakeless. My brake needs to have a tube and fitting replaced and I’ve been too lazy to do it. I’ll have to get that done before the Downieville ride.

Even though there was a lot of decending on the Palisades trail the trail wasn’t such that you’d be using the brake much. However, the ride two weeks ago down the Ranger Creek trail I was telling myself that a brake would have been very handy.

That’s the perk for almost epic rides.

Re: Almost epic muni ride

On Fri, 26 Sep 2003 04:07:17 -0500, john_childs
<> wrote:


Thanks a lot for posting those, John. Looks like an awesome but very
exhausting ride. Oh how I wish I had such backcountry within a
reasonable distance! Pity that you had no opportunity to shoot some
riding pics. Next time tow harper behind you to take photos :slight_smile:

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

If the crank is moving then it really sounds as if it’s loose. - onewheeldave trying to pinpoint the cause of a clicking crank