How to improve at muni?

I picked up unicycling a year and a half ago, but I only started serious trail riding about 6 months ago when I moved to Portland, OR. A lot of great trails around here!

Riding a wide variety of trails has helped me improve a lot. Some days I will ride easier trails so I can get more miles in, do most of the uphills, and get into a better flow. Other days I will ride trails that are outside my comfort zone where a lot of sections take me multiple attempts.

Wondering what else people recommend for improving muni skills?

I started practicing hopping in place, bunny hopping, and riding one footed. I do these in my driveway after work during the work week. Any other skills that I am missing?

I’m a fan of continuous riding.

If I don’t make a section I will just re-mount and continue and hopefully I can sweep it next time I ride that section/trail.
I find this keeps my heart rate up, builds my stamina, and gives me a kick in the ass to do better next time.
Some trails have taken me years to be able to ride the whole trail without dismounting. Some I still haven’t got yet.

I would also ride any conditions that are presented to you.
If you can learn to ride in un-favourable conditions then everything else becomes easier.

Lastly, I’m a preacher for symmetry or being ambidextrous.
Learn to do everything on both sides and you will be able to handle all obstacles from any approach.
Your trail and conditions change… why wouldn’t your riding?

How to improve at muni

Practice for more than one hour every day. Spend time at the beginning of your session working on mounts, especially mounting on your weak side. You’ll be too tired to practice mounting safely toward the end of your workout. Work toward getting one hand, then the other, then both…on the grab handle / bar ends. Practice riding on as many different surfaces as possible: thick grass, gravel, sand, rutted trails, highly cambered surfaces. Experiment with changing your seat height, tire pressure and crank length. Don’t pass judgment on a new setup until you’ve put at least a few miles on it. Most changes in setup involve compromise. Find hills you can’t make it up. Keep trying, and your technique will adapt toward climbing those hills. Get a 20". Practice new techniques on the 20". Later on, you’ll be able to do the same stuff on your muni. If you have a strenuous muni ride one day, practice skills on your 20" the next day. Don’t rely too much on hopping as a fix-all for uneven terrain. Once you learn to apply leverage on the muni, you’ll be able to roll over a lot of stuff. Learning SIF (seat in front) riding on my 20" helped tremendously with hands-on muni. If you’re consistently riding a section clean, pick a harder line.

First of all, welcome to Portland. I am nearly a 20 year transplant myself around here.
Sounds like you have some skills, ability and drive to improve.
My advice is to understand best ride time. You live in a great area to ride but it is urban for the most part. Which means people on trails you ride. The time of day and which day of the week matter.

Ride with folks who are better than you. Same as for any sport, but it’s easy with muni because people always stop to play around on fun spots, so you won’t be holding anybody back when you don’t keep up.

Lol, I don’t have time to do that. Got a kid that requires my attention and a 45 hour a week job. Those days are over.

The biggest problem for me and muni is that I chicken out too quickly and riding those single trails where the sides are curved up, I find very difficult. They require a lot of concentration, which I can hold for a little while, but then I start wobbling and tumble off. Also mounting on such trails I find extremely difficult. Riding shouldn’t be so hard, since I only have 1 wheel - just steer it in the middle :slight_smile:

I’ve seen videos with banked trails. The riders in those videos are mostly going full speed. Is it possible to ride the banks more slowly?

I’m never going to be an awesome muni rider. I am slow. Most condition requiring that I must pedal fast…conditions impossible to ride slowly (such as having to commit down a steep rock face)…are out of my comfort zone/ability. I started riding too late, am already in my 50’s and cannot risk an injury to mess with my day job. So, in some regards, my muni improvement ended a couple years after I started riding. Other aspects of my riding have improved, such as making things look easy that I previously made look hard, but nothing that translates into an awesome muni video, unfortunately.

I recommend riding a lot. And, most importantly, having fun. The only technique I would say that really translates well into Muni is hopping, especially rolling hops.

What you described sounds pretty solid. Sometimes, I don’t feel like pushing myself, and I believe one can learn a lot from “simple” rides. Also, as previously mentioned, it’s a good way to gain fitness.

I also like riding difficult trails that need multiple attempts when I feel like pushing my abilities. Sometimes, the only reason I go out is to try a single feature a bunch of times, and the rest of the ride is just warmup and cooldown.

Riding with others that are better than you (if possible) is the best way to push yourself. There have been trails I wouldn’t even have considered rideable for anyone that I’ve ended up riding because others have shown me it’s doable.

Improving at Muni is so easy. You ride, and you get better. You don’t need to frustrate yourself by failing 1000 times trying the same thing (like you do with flatland tricks). I find it relatively easy to find trails/obstacles that are difficult enough to help me improve, but easy enough to not feel impossible.

One of the things that I’d add is: your general fitness matters. It might not necessarily make you a better rider (Strength is rarely the reason you are not able to ride a trail, and a lot of people with really good endurance get exhausted quickly from unicycling due to the much discussed here beginners inefficiency.) But it will help you practice better. If you’re strong and flexible, you are less likely to get injured on a fall, so you can push yourself more.

The speed required depends on how steep the banks are, and the radius of the corner. A lot of Mountain bike trails will feature some mild banks to get your feet wet. Usually, the worst case scenario is just being forced to ride down onto the flat part of the trail. If you need to fight it to stay on, you are going to slow.

This is a clip of banking that requires almost full speed. On the first corner, I was a little slow, but luckily the chicken wire they put on northshore features is grippy as hell.

I highly recommend playing around with some small banks first, they are a lot of fun, and while they require speed, they are relatively risk free.

Good posts here and I agree that it sounds like you’re on the right track. Riding with others is great. For example, I never even thought of riding uphill sections until I saw other riders doing it: first time was seeing Tom Holub at the Seattle Muni Weekend in 2015 riding fast up super steep singletrack.

In addition to riding with others better than you, I think the other thing that helps muni is trying different wheel sizes and crank lengths. At the beginning it’s usually pretty had to ride a bigger wheel (say >27.5) on technical terrain, but as you get better, it allows you to ride with more speed (e.g. like the banked corners) and secondly it ups the technical skill and control needed. The first time you ride a 36 on a small downhill trail you’ll feel as out of control as you did when you first learned to uni! I now ride 29+ for almost all downhill trails and 29+/36 for XC type trails.

I lived in Portland near Forest Park for 3 years a while back but when I was only into MTB and not unicycling. And Portland does have some pretty great trails. In 2015 I had a 3-month camping/muni trip in the Northwest and was in Portland for a week and did a bunch of muni rides including a nice ride with Monette who posted above. I’ve ridden a lot of muni in Hood River, Bend and the McKenzie River Trail was so awesome on the Muni!

Oh, and of course going to events is a great way to improve. Sort of close to you, there’s usually a Seattle Muni Weekend and a Bellingham Muni event. And Arizona Muni, Colorado Muni and California Muni (I was at Seattle MW in 2015 and Colorado MW in 2016). Or you could come over to Europe for the Grischa Challenge in Lichtenstein or the Karwendel Muni Weekend in Austria/Germany. Seeing different terrain and the different riding styles is of course also really helpful.

I reckon Unigeezer is one of the few who started late and are very strong in muni now. Then again from his vidz I believe he just lives alone and can spend all his spare time on uni-ing.

I think even at riding a bit faster with banked trails, I worry too much that I will lose my balance. I really need to learn to turn off my thoughts.

I think Terry (Unigeezer) learned to ride as a kid, then picked it up again later in life.

I see, that is cheating :slight_smile:



Extract of his website:

“Born January 15th, 1956, Terry first learned to ride a unicycle at age 11, but quit after only a year or so, and moved on to other things, as most kids do. It wasn’t until nearly four decades later, that he decided to start riding again, at the age of 50.”

+1 . Ride, ride and ride again… Getting better just takes time… one thing I have found that has considerably improved my Muni skills/rides is to get more confident using your Non dominant side (start practicing in your 19’/20’ unicycle: standstills on non dominant side, half revs, hops, mount, etc…). I think in Muni, because of the constant obstacles/roots/lumps/dips/small drops on your path, there are plenty of times where you have to stand/balance (or land) for a bit on your non dominant side and then carry on.

Also, another skill that I have been practicing lately, (I think, in a way, is pretty much related to the mentioned above of constant obstacles), is practicing to ride down stairs. Start small with two steps, then three, four etc… It can be a bit scary in the beginning but if you start slowly you should be able to get the hang of it without hurting yourself… Keep the seat low when starting so it doesn’t get on the way…

I already find riding off a kerb scary, but it is ALWAYS easier than it seems in my mind. I haven’t really found any places around with 2 or 3 steps or anything suitable. Some years ago I dropped off 30ish centimetre, high enough for the uni to start bouncing when coming down. After a bit of practice I managed to ride away from that, but as always you have to keep practicing.

This is one of many approaches you can take. Sometimes I do it that way, not stopping to try a section again. But normally I like to re-ride sections where I fall off.

My greatest “continuous riding” achievement so far is the complete Clementine Loop trail in Auburn, CA (as ridden at the Muni Weekends there). It’s about 7 miles with 1000’ of climbing, and lots of technical spots but nothing one can’t learn to roll. It took me several tries, but I finally did it in one shot. I’ll never do it again, because it’s possibly the least-fun way to ride a trail. The farther you get, the more stressed you get. And you aim to take the easiest line through everything…

Well, I guess he doesn’t have much to offer on this topic. :stuck_out_tongue: Lots of good advice in there.

I’m also a chicken, and usually ride below my abilities. This keeps me away from injuries, but kind of kills my level of improvement. Some days I’m more chicken than others. On a good day, I try lots of stuff. With success, my confidence grows, which I think makes me safer when attempting stuff. If you ride into something with fear, you are more likely to bail early and possibly have more problems.

To ride banks, it’s a balance of speed, and choosing the right line. The steeper it is, the less time you can spend up on the steep part. I often ride up high, but then curve back down to keep control and find a lower line to finish the curve. Practice going faster to build your confidence.

Right? It’s singletrack. It was made for US! Freemounting on trails, especially facing uphill, is a tough skill to learn. When it’s steep, it’s usually easier to mount at 90-degrees to the slope. From there you can hop a bit, if there’s no room, or ride across the slope and then turn uphill. If it’s really steep, mount facing downhill and then see if you can get turned around. If you haven’t learned how to mount without rolling the wheel back, work on that first. You want to be able to get up on the uni without turning the wheel much, then be balanced enough to choose your line. Or do a hop or two to get “situated” and ride away from that.

Yes. He learned to ride in the 1960s! Beat that, youngsters!

If you mean taking 40 years off, I suppose you could say “sort of”. But those were different times; unicycles were different, and what people did with them was different. Terry has turned back the clock for himself, and many people that he inspires (like me).

More advice:
Ride with the Unicycle Bastards. Do you still have Unicycle Bastards in Portland? They used to be a thing. Or maybe since then they’ve picked up kilts and bagpipes and ride on pavement – I’m not sure. :sunglasses:

Try riding the trails with a “regular” 24" uni with 1.75" tire and 60 lbs of pressure in it. That’s how we did it back in the day. It’s a great way to make an “easy” trail hard. BTW, the reason for the 60 lbs is to keep your rim off the ground. The skinnier the tire, the more pressure you need to prevent pinch flats!

I’ve been riding on dirt as “a thing” since 1981. I guess that’s 38 years now! The vast majority of my Muni (as we now call it) was on a 24" Miyata, right up until the first Muni Weekend in 1996. Soon after that, I got a Roger Davies carbon Muni with a slightly wider tire.

The way we usually approached the trails in those days was to work on a section until we could ride through it, or got tired of it and move on to the next one. Like a roving session ride. It’s not the only way to approach Muni, but in those days we liked the process, and “conquering” the difficult sections. Later it got more interesting to try to string them together, and later than that, to go for time. As we got better unicycles (basically wider tires), it would change the paradigm and take a lot of the challenge out of some trails. So then we had to try harder stuff.

I still prefer trying to roll through anything. This has made be good at rolling through stuff, but stunted my growth in hopping (not to mention Trials). So I’m not good at getting over the stuff you can’t roll through. I should practice that more, but it tends to wear me out pretty fast! I do like, though how sustained riding on trails gets my heart going faster than most any other sustained activity.

Lastly, as someone said above, make sure you’re having fun. We don’t Muni for speed; it’s always going to be slow compared to a bike. So we must want to get a better connection to the trail. That’s how I feel about it. I can ride trails fairly fast, and today’s top uni athletes can ride scary terrain incredibly fast. that’s fun too, if it’s what you’re into. Do it the way that makes you happy.

The “cheating” shouldn’t be taken very seriously, if he only did a some riding when he was 11. Unigeezer prolly learned nearly all of it from scratch again after 40 years. He clearly doesn’t know about the chickens that haunt me. I have a big respect for what he can do and I’ve learn a thing or 2 by watching Terry’s vidz.

There’s no shame in walking sections, but I would say it’s a good habit to at least attempt everything once (if not more) if it seems safe. A tree falls over the trail. Try to hop or roll it instead of riding around. If there’s a 0.5-1m drop (and you would feel safe hopping down on your feet), just ride off of it. Even if some of the obstacles seem ridiculous. You’ll be surprised at some of the things you make.

I felt like I plateaued since I was just hitting the same trails over again, but when I started making obstacles out of the boulders and logs off to side, I felt improvement again. Don’t always take the easy route.

Riding with others will really help boost the confidence as well. It’s great to stop and play on a section until everyone can make it through one way or another.

Also if you find yourself rolling over everything and getting bored, start trying rolling hop on everything possible. I find myself getting over higher barriers all the time. It’s fantastic.

Lastly changing equipment can be fun. Moving to really short cranks for awhile and then back to longer cranks, you’ll be amazed.