Yesterday, a group of us from the DFW Unicycle Club participated in the 35th Hotter’n Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls, TX. 4 of us, including myself, did the 25 mile race, and one did the 50 mile race, all on 36ers. This was the first time I’ve ever competed in a race of any kind riding anything.
None of us came in last place and beat at least a few cyclists, which I though was cool. I only got my 36er a couple of weeks ago and had almost no time to train or customize anything (just used stock parts on the Nightfox), but it turned out fine. I took my time and didn’t get in a hurry. Thankfully, the weather was not as advertised (100 degrees F), and in fact it was a very nice day. We had a little bit of a headwind on some of the inclines on the last half, but nothing that made it hard to ride.
Naturally, we got a lot of attention from spectators, the media, and especially cyclists. The community, event staff, the US Air Force, and other riders were really fantastic. I really didn’t expect that kind of reception from everyone.
The Sheppard Air Force base put on a static display for us and provided a rest stop with water, sports drinks, indoor restroom facilities, fruit and music. I especially enjoyed the valet unicycle parking. When we stopped, we were surrounded by Air Force personnel demanding that they be allowed to hold our unicycles while we rested. They even had some great music setup for us as well as a huge cheering section of about 100 or so as we left the base.
It was an awesome event to attend. Despite having over 14,000 participants and hundreds of volunteers and staff, it was amazingly well organized.
I was worried that my 138mm cranks were going to be too long, but they seemed pretty good. Our fastest rider for the 25 mile race used them and averaged 8.62 mph, and our guy on the 50 mile race used 150mm cranks and averaged 7.17 mph. Not any records there, but compared to me (I averaged 6.48mph), I was impressed. I’ve tried 125mm cranks on a friend’s 36er and really liked them, but for my purposes, the 138mm did fine. The 138s were really nice on on the inclines, especially in the headwinds for this 36er newbie. My buddy with the 125s definitely had the advantage on the downhills, though. He just seemed to glide down them. I certainly want to experiment with shorter cranks now.
I also definitely want try a new saddle now. I actually think the Nimbus Gel saddle is an excellent choice for a 36er newbie as it seems to be easier to freemount and control, etc., but now that I’ve got that down and have felt the pain of using it on a 25 mile ride, I’d really like to see what might work better.
Overall, the ride showed me 1) that I could do a ride like that (yay!), and 2) what I might want to upgrade or experiment with for a better ride.
I’d highly recommend doing a ride/race like this one. You will learn a lot about yourself and your equipment. These larger events usually have all classes of races, and chances are that one of them will fit you. For example, there is a 10k that’s do-able even on a 24 inch. It’s a great feeling to participate, and I think it does a lot to advance the sport. We got TONS of comments from everyone, especially cyclists, and Steven Leggett that participated in the 50 mile race was interviewed for the local news:
Just to show how well this type of event helps to raise awareness for our sport, only 0.035% of the riders at the event were unicyclists, but we got 2.6% of the photos in the local paper:
In past years, media coverage has been as high as 12.5% of photos in local papers covering unicyclists at HHH.
The best quote I got during the race was from a Wichita Falls cop helping with the event. As we rode past, he said, “Real men only need one wheel!” We got similar comments from Air Force personnel as well.
Local media video coverage at 1:41 in: http://youtu.be/LO9UTTFHIVU