Another Epic Coker Ride - 55 miles over 3 mountain passes

Aspen Mike and I met up yesterday for a great time of “getting high in Colorado”.

Trip report and pictures here:

Awesome!! Man, that’s a long haul…very impressive!

Awesome ride and writeup. Liked the photos too - cool that you got quite a few with both of you.


that was great. you serious road riders really give me inspiration to keep practicing. some day…

Great ride. The terrible thing about your write up is that is what I sound like after 5 miles. I can’t understand how you guys ride so far at such a high elevation. Just amazing.

Great ride, guys! That’s the kind of ride I would love to join you on. Please include me on the PM list for these types of rides next Spring (I should be ready to rock by then). There’s a huge benefit to having the unibike rolling along beside you on these long rides. With the front wheel on board, when it gets to windy for unibiking (or when the miles take their toll), the group has a sag vehicle to swap around when a break is needed!



What saddle do you use?

Thanks all for the compliments!

Jeff -
Will do! How does the unibike do up and down steep grades?

Mike -
I’m using a Miyata shaped CF base air seat with the larger volume leather cover. I’ved used climbing tape (half a roll) to tape the pillow into a relatively comfortable shape. Aspen Mike had a similar set up with the plastic Miyata base and a GB4 stiffener. We both used GB front handles. I didn’t use my rear handles much because I too busy trying to keep up with Mike. That guy can spin 170s like nobody I know!

I attribute my lack of saddle soreness in part to my suspension seat post.  It took the edge off the bumps, especially when we were on the gravel road.

I’ve just added a few pictures to the album from Mike’s camera, the last of which might be my favorite of the whole lot!

I’m finally caught up with Aspen Solar work after taking the day off with George Barnes, and riding the Triple Pass epic adventure. The ride was incredible, once again the Colorado Mountains opened their arms and were very friendly to George and I. The weather was spectacular, the scenergy was out of this world stunning, and the company was excellent. Riding a big ride with someone was something that I had not done before, so I knew going in that it would bring a new perspective to it. And it did. I usually push harder, to the point that being social during the riding would be very hard. This time it was great being able to ride side by side with George and solve the worlds problems, a wheel revolution at a time. As well, having someone there who appreciates the beauty of Colorado like me was rewarding. The first Pass, Boreas, was sooo great. It was dirt for 21 or so miles with some minor rocky sections. The pitch was very forgiving, and made for some fun spinning with George. We did stop to take some pictures, and while stopped I tried to imagine what it was like 100+ years before on a wagon train traveling this same road. I felt blessed to be able to stand there, quiet, and let my imagination run with it. At the Boreass Pass summit, the views were great, except the mountains blocked the view, ha ha. Huge massive peaks surrounded us in all directions, some still dotted with snowfields on them. The wind was blowing calmly, and the birds were having a blast soaring away. As usual, the couple of people we saw up top couldnt believe what we were doing, and of course took some pictures. The downhill, 11 miles of dirt, was excellent. Not until we got to the bottom flats did we run into the washboards. It kind of sucked then, but was still awesome as we had the road to ourselves. The morning had brought us clean, crisp, Colorado thin air with little wind. It was when we turned West onto HWY 285 that the wind began to blow and take affect. As George mentioned in his writeup, it was very challenging to stay on the road with these steady side/head winds. I put my head down and pedals to work, as I knew that we only had 9 miles to Fairplay with one minor Pass to summit. As I approached the base of Red Hill Pass, some big cumulus clouds started to cover the sun, a blessing for sure, as the temperature dropped. Red Hill Pass was short and not very steep, and my legs powered up with no problem. I had a inspirational moment 1/2 way up happen to me. Normally I concentrate on the road in front of me, and miss allot of the scenery around, especially when I am hammering up a Pass. For some magical reason, I looked up and to the right, and there right in my viewplane flying towards me was a Golden Eagle. I immediatley got goosebumps all over and continued to watch it. I completely lost touch of Cokering up the Pass and was mezmorized by the flight of the Eagle. It soared two 360’s right above me, gaining altitude with every circle. I soon was to far ahead to see it anymore. For that 30 seconds or one minute, I felt like I was the luckiest guy in the world. I said my chants, prayers, etc. and finished the climb with renewed energy. I summited, looked back to find George, but could not see him, so I continued onto Fairplay where I would wait. Once again, another magical moment happened to me. This time it was a Red Tail Hawk that soared above me for sometime. I had to pinch myself to make sure that I was alive, and YES I was alive. I arrived in Fairplay, after less than an hour of fighting the winds on HWY 285. The stop for me was almost an hour long, which I never do. But, I enjoyed every minute of it, the weather was great and the rest was nice. It was the next 24 miles that were going to be the biggest challenge of the day for us. All the riding would be over 10,000’ elevation with a BIG mountain in the middle to climb over, Hoosier Pass. I waited in Alma for George as I knew that he was hurting from the strong headwinds. His size makes a huge difference in how the wind catches you. His 6’7" frame on top of the Coker made for a BIG wing, not the kind you want with side/head winds. I felt bad for him, because I knew he wanted to complete the ride so badly. I tried to encourage him to go, only 6 miles to the summit and then the rest would be downhill into Breckenridge. I offered some energy gels, etc. but he decided to try hitchhiking from Alma. I knew he would be alright, but I still felt uneasy as I pedaled away from Alma. I once again lowered my head and powered my way up the last Pass of the day. It was a long consistent grade to the summit, no switchbacks to contend with. The wind was mostly in my face, but just as I thought I was going to fall over, the wind switched to a tail wind. I always say a prayer when that happens and look to the heavens thanking the gods. I arrived at the summit with no sign of George, so I stopped for a couple of pictures only. Being on top of the Continental Divide always brings a huge rush to my system, especially when I Coker or MUni to get there. This time was no different, big chills were running up and down my spine. The wind was really blowing hard on the summit, which made it a bit uncomfortable to stay long. So I added a wind layer and started down the last leg of the trip, 11 miles or so of downhill, yipeee. I was so happy to see George in a truck as it passed me on the way down. The truck stopped and let George out. We re-grouped and proceeded to spin and smile our way into Breckenridge. The ride was awesome, and yes I would rate it EPIC. Three mountain passes, two of which are on the Continental Divide, and to ride it with George Barnes was a true honor. I am looking forward to next summer already, when George and I will bag some more EPIC Colorado Mountain Passes together. Thanks to George for coming from Denver, and for my making my Coker frame which this summer has taken me to new heights… Thanks also to Dave Stockton for the Worlds Strongest Wheel, it amazes me every time I ride it. And of course thanks to my lovely wife Annie and incredible kids, Logan and Lily, for letting me live the adventure I call… LIFE. The more you live it, the more you get out of it.
Cheers:D :smiley:

Here are some more stats that George didnt cover:
First Pass- Boreas Pass
time to summit 1:20 from start
Mikes HR average 151bpm
Mikes average speed 9 mph
Ascent 1800’
miles in ride 10.4 miles
Second Pass- Red Hill Pass
time to summit 3:43 from start
Mikes HR average 122 bpm
Mikes average speed 11.2 mph
Ascent 2500’ from start
miles in ride 27.4 miles
Third Pass- Hoosier Pass
time to summit 6:50 from start
Mikes HR average 126 bpm
Mikes average speed 8.7mph
Ascent 4500’ from start
miles in ride 43.5 from start
Hoosier Pass Summit to Breckenridge-
Mikes HR average 122 bpm
Mikes average speed 12 mph

Mikes maximum heart rate 172 bpm
Mikes average heart rate for ride 132 bpm
Mikes maximum speed 15.5 mph
Temperature average 67 degree’s F
Temperature minimum 48 degree’s F

Mikes time in saddle (riding time) 5 hours 25 minutes
Total time for ride 8 hours approx.

Excellent stuff Mike. Yes you are blessed. It’s interesting about your max heart rate too. I don’t measure mine all that often, but when I do 172 is the max I often get. A younger friend I ride with who is in his early 30s typically maxes out in the 200-205 range so it’s good to see someone who does incredible rides with a heart rate just like mine. So maybe I’m not a total slacker!


Nathan- the last time I tested my HR Max, it was 183 bpm. When my heart gets that high, I definetly feel like I am going anareobic. My body seems to work great betwteen 160-170 bpms when I am climbing, so I try to stay in that range. Slacker-smacker blaahh. you can’t fool me, I know you better than that. he he

Aspen Mike!

You’re teaching me already. Your write-up was another excellent one! And long enough to make me tire of shifting the screen left to right due to the large picture (a problem that most of us have caused many times, and I don’t know how to prevent or correct). Copying and pasting to a Word document corrects the format. Thanks for the lesson. I’m indebted to you already! I’ll look forward to more training when we have a chance to meet. I’ve never ridden a Coker. Yours might be the first one that I fall off of!

Appreciate the scenery? Yeah! And to see it with a group of unicyclists would be spectacular! I’ve put in a ton of miles on one wheel at Washington Park in Denver, up and down the winding road to Lookout Mountain in Golden, along the lengthy path through the I-70 corridor, and along the river path through downtown Denver (which is much lower than the surrounding elevation, and is therefore shielded from much of the wind; a plus when your vehicle of choice has an adversity to the breeze). I’ve additionally enjoyed many miles of mountain b*king and skiing throughout the beautiful scenery that you call home. I was previously able to ride down the slopes at Copper Mountain, after being lifted (with the unibike) by the ski lift. If this service is still available, I highly recommend it. What a great Muni ride it would be!

I had a similar experience in Greg Harper’s neck of the woods. My view came from the left periphery, on the way down from Hurricane Ridge, a 17-mile, twisty, climbing, gorgeous ride, south from Port Angeles, WA. After pedaling up and down the scenic route earlier in the day, a return trip on a motorcycle that afternoon provided a lasting impression on my memory, when an owl decided to take a dive at me (I assume he was aiming at my headlight, and his misinterpretation of my 70mph speed caused us to meet sooner than he expected). I only saw him for a couple of seconds before he impacted my chest. It felt like someone had tossed a baseball into my path! In spite of the winter coat that I was wearing, the impact knocked the wind out of me, and left me with bruised ribs. The owl obviously didn’t fair as well. After what seemed like an eternity of gasping for a breath that wasn’t there, while trying to retain control of the motorcycle, I finally got stopped and turned around. I found the owl in the middle of the road, lifeless, of course. It was unbelieveable that such a large creature (that created such a painful impact, and nearly caused me another 70mph accident) weighed absolutely nothing. I took the incredible feathery creation to the ranger’s station near Port Angeles, where I was told it would be displayed after the taxidermist did his thing. Maybe I’ll see him again one day, on a return trip to the area that’s been naggin’ at me for years.

Hey, do any of you guys ski? Keystone is beautiful at night with the slopes brightly lit. When I lived in Denver, we would ski from 8:30AM to 10:00PM, daytime at Arapahoe Basin, and nights at Keystone (on the same lift ticket)!

I hope to join you guys for a Spring ride, early enough to still have snow on the slopes. Even if my back won’t tolerate much skiing, it’s a fantastic experience!

Hey George,

It’ll climb a wall; or descend one! (Well, almost.) The gears not only come in handy for high speed, but provide a trials-type experience on steep grades. A 10mph average should not be a problem to keep up with. And coming down is a lot more challenging (read fun) than on a unicycle. It’s already been to the top of Mt. Evans, a 4-hour climb that included at least and hour-and-a-half on the rear wheel. The unibike was fairly new at the time (1988, when I was stationed at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver). I had two rear brakes at the time, but it was long before I came up with the idea to add the third one (as a drag brake), which would have allowed for a lot of one-wheel coasting on the way down, as it has done in Nashville.

The following link includes a bit of info on the Nashville hill problems that prompted the third brake.*

Now you’ve got me second guessing the new unibike, which I thought I had decided on. I was gonna’ go with a disc and a caliper. Reconsidering, I’d better stay with a frame that will allow calipers, top and bottom, and will also provide a disc mount (which I had to fabricate on the present frame), for the drag brake which is only unused at the moment because Louisiana doesn’t have any elevations larger than a speed bump (except for the motocross tracks, and my track in the swamp). I’ll wait to see what the 05 models bring, but I may wind up with a used 04 that I won’t mind cutting, grinding, drilling, and welding on.

Speaking of the practice track, it has taken its toll on the new 04 YZ 450, that I was assured could withstand a beating from a 44-year-old. After three pinch flats on the rear (the last one at 20psi; now running 25) and a front rim full of flat spots (at the recommended 15psi) in the last few weeks, today’s ride felt a little uncomfortable, but I couldn’t put my finger on the problem (which included a rare, but persistent drifting of the front wheel and handlebars during ‘no-hands air time’; it’s difficult enough to find the bars when they don’t move!). After the first one-hour session, I decided to soften the fork compression one click, since the rebound is set at the slowest point, and I still had a little front end bounce.

Upon removing the rubber cap from the bottom of the fork, I noticed that the cap had rotated. What ?? Why ?? How ?? Closer inspection revealed that the internal portion of the fork was trying to come apart. About that time, I noticed oil leakage.

&%@$#! ………This thing is four months old!
&%@$#! ………And I’m an old man!
&%@$#! ………With a bad back!

I’m okay now…, I think. Maybe it’s just a ‘Friday the 13th’ thing.

Luckily, my picky attention to detail saved me from what would have very likely been a major injury when this fork and/or wheel came apart on a hard landing. Maybe I should stick to unibikin’ and windsurfin’. Six thousand dollars will buy a lot of pedal toys and sails. This YZ suits me so well, I was considering another one as a back-up. I haven’t decided whether this problem will speed-up the decision, or steer me away to another manufacturer. After thinking about it, the bike suits me so well because I’ve spent a ton of time fine tuning and personalizing it (I was still fine tuning the suspension, when I found that I will now get to start over). It’s the huge power that the new 4-stroke motors deliver that really makes the difference between now and when I was racing. The Honda 450, KTM 525, and probably a host of others, will work just as well after setting them up to fit my preferences. The question is: Where is the reliability? I think I’ve found where it’s not. I guess I just needed one more thump on the head to drive the point home.

After tightening what I could (not knowing anything about the internal workings of the upside-down forks), I rode for another hour, minus the ‘no-hands air time’, that feels like what a bird must enjoy on a regular basis. The distrust of the forks (coupled with the fact that one of them was doing all of the work, while the other simply pumped unneeded lubrication onto my boot and input a twisting/twitching/drifting problem depending on whether I was launching or landing, fighting high-speed stutter bumps, or flying) slowed me down a bit, but I still got in another hour of riding time on one of the very few good weather days in Louisiana.

Two things stick in my mind:

  1. EVERY Yamaha that I have owned (with the single exception of the 74 RD 350; that’s a very old laurel to rest on) has had one or two unfixable (or very expensively modifiable) design flaws, from bending axles, to frame breakage that breaks the internal oil piping, to engines that fill the carburetor with oil while on one wheel, to radiators that bend downward, break the seams, and spring leaks, due to the impact of landing, to detonating engines, to starter gear flaws; the list goes on, and on. And these are only the problems that I have personally experienced! The clock-like dependability of these flaws could almost be construed as an intentional design ploy to keep riders interested in the next year’s promises of a better machine.

  2. EVERY Honda that I have owned has been thrashed, abused, and beaten relentlessly, until I was bored with it; including the 91 XR 600 that I bought new in 1990 while stationed at West Point, which continues to sit and collect dust, waiting for its next thrashing during the annual February visit to the Mexican desert (which I missed this year). I can almost hear the 300lb workhorse snickering as this YZ 450 continues to consume an inordinate amount of wrench turning time.

I’m seeing RED for two reasons. One caused by Yamaha. One caused by Honda.

You do the math.

Hi George,
What is the reason for the handle on the back of the seat? Is it so you can push down on it to get yourself off the seat for some relief or for some other reason? Please post detailed pictures of the handle also. Great write up and I am interested in doing one of these mountain rides with you and Mike in the future.


The bar ends are a semi-successful way for me to take some weight off my seat on the go. They work fine on flat ground, but it’s a little dicey to have a hand back there on steep ups and downs. I have to reduce my speed to like 6 mph to get all my weight off.

sweet ride:D

I think I am getting a headache from reading so much! Great write up both of you. That last picture is great, almost surreal.

I have a few questions, since I am new to cokering and have only done short rides on what I consider minor hills.

One of the hills that I have attempted to ride up 6-7 times keeps beating me. Partly because of conditioning, partly lack of skill. It is probably 1/3 of a mile long, no idea the grade. I get about 100 yards from finishing and sometimes burn out, other times loose my balance over the front. Is there a technique to climbing? Are you leaning into the hill? How do you keep moving when on a steep grade?

Downhill are you both using brakes? I am about to take mine off if I can’t figure the dang thing out. I don’t use it at all on the rides I have been on, it keeps hitting my legs, and the hose clamp that holds the adapter took a nice piece of meat of the back of my leg. Anybody that has advice on that would be great.

How long did it take you to build up to these epic rides? I have been adding about 5-6 miles a week to my long ride. I did about 18 miles yesterday. Nothing like the terrain you guys are ridding though. How long would it take to walk 55 miles? That is about how far behind I would be.:smiley: I’d probably go faster w/o pushing the Coker! Seriously though, as I finished the ride yesterday, I was cramping up on the uphills, and when I finally stepped off I had both legs completely lock up. Took about five minutes of stretching to walk again. I am sore today, but not as bad as in the past. Considering I am riding further with less soreness I guess means I am improving. I really would like to see myself riding something like this in the future. Right now though, there is no way!

You might think that to do an epic 55 mile ride in the mountains you have to be a superman (or superwoman), in the best of shape etc. In reality you don’t. You just have to be comfortable on the Coker so that you can ride efficiently. Think back to when you learned to ride. Your leg muscles were fighting each other just to maintain balance. You were wasting 99% of your effort. I remember riding around the block (about 1 minute) and finishing all sweaty and tired with sore legs!

Ride lots and think about efficiecy. No muscles doing anything except gentle pushes on the pedals. Your trunk motionless, hands on the handle, steering done by barely perceptible weight shifts.


Unicycling, Skiing, Snowboarding, etc. all are allot easier to do if you are efficient. This is so true for long distance Cokering like Nathan points out. But then add riding elevation of 10,000’ and ascending and descending totals of over 7,000’, and I think that being in shape, really good shape plays a huge part in not bonking. So in reality, being a superman is not necessary, but being in great balance, both mentally and physically, is a must. These long epic rides don’t come w/o allot of miles, w/o good nutrition, w/o a good stretching regime, and w/o being a little crazy. These are adventures in the Rocky Mountains where anything can happen.

Get rid on them, they only slow you down in Cokering, get use to using long cranks for braking power.
Bugman, take Nathans advise, ride lots and lots. Go further and further as well. I just kept pushing my limits, and I can’t believe the rides that I’m completing this summer. Good luck. Cheers.

Once you have a few more miles under the Coker I’m sure you’ll be able to tackle most things you didn’t think were possible :slight_smile: .

A few things that may make your climbing easier:
-A stiff seat- The Carbon seats are awesome! That way none of your energy is wasted in seat flex as you pull up.
-A light wheel. I’m about to convert my Coker to tubeless, but I’ve already noticed a difference with the lighter Stainless steel spokes.
-On steep hills/short rises you can do what (bi)cyclists do and stand-up off the seat- just lean your weight on the handle with your hands. That helps use other muscle groups as well if you’re getting tired.

As for brakes- I don’t use one either. I think the only situations I would use one are in very steep/loose off-road Cokering, or if there were lot’s of steep turns.
-Try looking ahead so you don’t need to decelerate suddenly
-Never fight your unicycle going downhill, just relax and let the wheel float under you. There more you fight it, the more you’ll wobble from side to side, and the more likely you are to need a brake.
-Crank length: I don’t agree entirely with Aspenmike on this one- you need to find cranks that suit you. Cranks that are too long aren’t necessarily better for going downhill- it increases your side to side wobble at high speed. I found my 110’s smoother than the 125’s, which was a world apart from the 150s. I think that unless you are riding down Baldwin Street (The Worlds Steepest Street), there is not much benefit in using anything longer than 150’s.

Ken :stuck_out_tongue: