Ben Plotkin-Swing and I have been collaborating on an Endurance Racing 29er for the Toronto race at the end of May. It’s not that handsome because we did some parts scrounging. We didn’t make weight our primary consideration to cut down on cost somewhat. Basically our goal was to use a non-Magura brake and to use the GBDS handle to enable normal brake lever action, allow better cyclometer positioning and manipulation, and to allow the use of a uni-mounted headlight to supplement a helmet light.
It turned out to be surprisingly light anyway, and the brake seems to have turned out well. We did a day of final setup and testing here in Connecticut, and now Ben has it back in Boston for more shakedown and to prepare for the race. We’ll see how it holds up!
There’s a new album of photos positioned first here.
On it now are 125s and he’s been experimenting with 102s and I believe is going to test 110s as well. But I don’t want to give away any race secrets, so I’ll let Ben explain his approach (if he is willing!).
Yes the galleries seemed to go down earlier today, just after I posted. I put the pics up yesterday so it’s not my fault!
The cranks in the picture are 125mm. So far I’ve experimented with 102s and 125s, and I’ve pretty sure at this point that I’ll use the 125s in the race. The difference between the two is really very striking. With 102s, it feels, as I mentioned in another thread, like a Coker. With 125s it feels more like a regular unicycle, except really fast. I know that several people who’ve done this race before are doing it on Cokers, so I’m not to worried that I won’t be able to ride the terrain.
The brake really compliments this unicycle. It’s helpful both for recovering energy you’d otherwise use slowing yourself while going down a hill, and for increasing by quite a bit the amount of steep terrain that can be ridden in control. The cable brake works as well as a Magura so far. We’ll see how it holds up over time.
The handle strikes a good balance between having things you need, and not getting in the way. I really like the twin hand grips for cruising, and they work fine for muscling the wheel around offroad. The option to mount a lighting system on the handle is also great.l Although I don’t have much experience with other lighting systems, my impression is that having a light mounted on your frame combined with a light on your helmet is more effective than that amount of light combined, on your helmet.
Overall, working with Dave to build this uni was a lot of fun, and the result is an amazing ride.
That’s a neat looking machine Ben! (one day I’ll have to get Dave Stockton to build me something like that )
Are you going solo?
Anyway, I don’t know what terrain you’re up against- but in my experience from the Moonride- 125mm cranks are too short for 24hr solo. OK if you’re in a team perhaps, but at night when your body is totally knackered, it’s not the easiest gear to push. I used a 29’er with 125mm cranks last year. It seemed to work fine when I did a practice lap, but was hopeless during the race- especially at night if you hit a bump you didn’t see. It takes a huge amount of effort to correct yourself and stay on. You need more leverage even if just to roll over things when you legs have turned to jelly. The course wasn’t particularly hilly either(lots of rolling singletrack).
This year I tried a Coker with 150mm cranks- although the gear ratio is similar or even higher- the huge coker tyre and wheel diameter means you can roll over things rather than thrown off. I found the Coker much easier to ride than the 125mm/29’er set-up I had last year. It soaks up bumps- kind of like riding a full suspension bike. All the top soloists were riding full suspension, whereas the top bike teams seemed to like riding hardtails (light and fast but not good to ride for 24hrs)
In terms of lighting- the more the better. The trick is to know how many laps you can do with your battery- try to work it so your battery will last a set number of laps ie- 2hrs battery power, thirty minute laps = 4 laps. You don’t want to be caught half way around a lap with a dead battery, nor do you want to lug around an extra battery if you don’t have to.
The helmet light is good- let’s you see where you’re going, but a handlebar (or frame) mounted light gives better depth perception by casting shadows on irregularities on the trail. If you wear glasses- I swear by using antifog lens spray every couple of hours- it makes a huge difference.
Ok, time to post a review of my experience using the Custom 29er in the Lifestyles 24hr race.
Overall, a 29er was the best uni for the race. The majority of riders used that size. After seeing the course, I decided to switch to 152mm cranks, which I’d gotten at the last minute from Darren Bedford. Boy am I glad I did. The course was probably ridable in theory with 125 cranks, but it wouldn’t have been much fun, and it would be much slower on average than 150s.
The biggest factor of race as far as equipment goes was lights. Here is where the custom 29er really shines (har har). Everybody, including those with high powered HID lights was complaining about not being able to see the ground very well because of light reflected back at them from mist and rain in the air. I was running two 15 watt halogen lights, one on my helmet, and one mounted on the handle of the uni. I also noticed a lot of glare coming back at me from the helmet light, but I could still see the ground well because of the other source of light. The night lap was the only time I turned in a faster lap than Ryan, and I think the light was the deciding factor.
I meant to get a picture of the unicycle with the light on it, but it didn’t work out. I don’t remember any pictures being taken, but if anybody happens to see one, could you let me know?
The brake worked well. Everything got very muddy and wet, including the rim, which actually made the braking a little smoother.
In general, the race was a big success. Unicycle performed great, I had an amazing time, and I managed to crank out four sub 1hr laps, which was one of my goals.
Also what sort of tools/equipment do you bring with you on your long distance races/rides, and what do you pack them in? (backpack, fannypack, etc.). I am just now really getting into long distance rides (10 miles is long for me) and my left crank came off on my last ride, from what I have been reading it seems like I need to bring a socket wrench or something with me when I go riding, but I am curious as to what you all bring with you.
Dave Stockton built the air seat. It has miyata foam and a 12" innnertube wrapped in duct tape, in a KH cover. It’s firmer than airseats I’ve used in the past, but that actually makes it more comfortable for distance riding because it doesn’t squish around and apply pressure where you don’t want it.