Competed in the inaugural unicycle category of the Bump N’ Grind XC Mountain Bike race yesterday at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama (http://www.bumpngrindrace.com/). I successfully talked the race director, Corbin Camp, to not only allow a unicyclist into the event, but he decided to create a separate category as well! The inaugural unicycle category was born! This year’s distance was only 8.5 miles, I’d really hoped to ride the longer, 23 mile course (as I’ve done in training before) but as a first time event for unicyclist it was decided to start small and hopefully grow it in future years; thus we rode the Beginner Loop. However, given the 10 a.m. start time and unseasonably hot weather, mid 90s and high humidity with no breeze, I was thankful the race was a short as it was! Wow that was hot!
KH/Schlumpf 24" Unicycle
24x3 Nokian Gazzoloddi Tire
137mm Moment Cranks
Quick race write up:
I decided to risk it and not wear any body armor as I knew the course was fairly easy XC w/o any real “buff” sections; too hot to wear all that stuff, it was a risk but it paid off! My only competition was 11 year old Elijah who was the tough rider today competing on his small, 20" unicycle with plastic rim and skinny tire! Wow that must have been tough! Huge credit to him! I tried to lobby other South East unicyclists into showing up to no avail. Oh well, it was still good to be here and begin the tradition! You guys really missed out, awesome venue and post race scene.
Since I knew I wouldn’t have any real competition, I decided to treat it like a time trial and still try to post a respectable time that other mountain biker’s could maybe appreciate. Also I knew from the race start schedule that I’d have a chance to ride the entire course w/o getting overtaken by the Pros or Expert class who were riding a longer course but who would be finishing on my loop. So that became my main goal, to not get passed by anybody! So right out of the gate I shifted my hub into high gear as I knew the first couple miles were on the paved Pevine road which only had slight inclines and declines. I was quickly all by myself. As I arrived at the first trail section I downshifted and began the long sinuous climb up Johnson Mountain. Made it up w/o any issues and w/o a UPD. I was a bit worried since I’d just swapped out to shorter cranks, but now I know this is a good set up for the future. Made the descent down Johnson Mtn and crossed Pevine road once again and began the fairly easy, winding, Family Trail and new Rattlesnake Mountain Trail. Loved these trails! Very flowing and mostly flat but with enough log pile ups and roots and narrow bridges to make it fun an interesting. I UPDd a couple of times here because I was trying to ride in high gear and I just don’t have enough practice on single track with the high gear so I wiped out some! But nothing serious. By the time I got well into Rattlesnake mountain I was really starting to get HOT almost chill bumps! I pounded the First Endurance EFS sports drink and kept plugging away. Truth be told I did back off over the last few miles as I truly worried about over heating, especially after the week I’d had; 105+ miles of running in 90+ degree heat! Finally I exited the Rattlesnake Mountain trail, I swear I kept hearing gear shifting bikes behind me but it was just the many squirrels in the woods. One last section of road and trail and then I was in the long finish chute on grass winding down to a last hair-pin turn then downhill straightaway on pavement into the finish area! Whew! 1hour 6minutes for the 8.5 mile course. Not too bad on a day like today and with nobody really pushing me.
On a cooler day and a bit more familiarity with the course I think sub 60 minutes is easily possible on the same unicycle setup. I think I could ride a lot more of the easier single track in high gear. I’d initially considered just riding my 36er to begin with, but now I think the 36er would be a bit too much unicycle for this route, too much trouble and hard to control with all the turns and drops so it would probably be slower over all. A 29er would be ideal, but I think my geared 24" with 137mm cranks is probably about as good and much better in high gear!
Teaser and some incentive for next year
I was shocked when they were doing the finish awards that they not only recognized our unicycle category on the podium, but we actually got a cash payout! I earned $50 for my effort! (Probably enough to cover my race entry and gas money! ha!) So there WILL BE PRIZE MONEY in the future. Also This is a weekend long event, the day before the do this event called “Turn and Burn” which is a short track race they do around the main venue that is a 20 minute race + a lap. The RD said if we can get enough riders next year he’d add a special unicycle category for this event. So even if you don’t want to ride the XC race, come on out for this short but fast event! Also, next year’s route may be up to 12 miles and a bit more challenging, hopefully including the infamous “Blood Rock” section.
Until next year!