Karapoti Classic 48km race- we kicked ass!

At last race day arrived yesterday. Scroll down if you just want to see the photos/ results! Sorry about my longwinded report:

The Karapoti Classic is probably the NZ’s most epic and gruelling mountainbike race. It is made up of 48km of River Crossings, unicycle eating bogs, sharp gnarly rocks, and soul destroying climbs (about 1000-1500m in total). This is it’s 18th year and for the first time there was a group of unicyclists mad enough to do it.

Well, at least there were three of us mad enough to do it. Tony (let’s rock and roll) Melton, Ken (eat my unicycle dirt- you biker! ) Looi, and Peter (Hub/Crank/Ankle crusher) Bier. Unfortunately Peter did just that and sprained his ankle before the race and had to watch from the sideline as Tony and Ken set off to wreck their bodies for several hours.

Also joining us for the shorter 20km Karapoti Challenge were ‘Speedy’ Steve Pavarno, Steve ‘Superman’ Taylor, and Jez (the pom with a carbon fibre unicycle) Weston.

The race for the 48k classic started with the usual “run across the raging river (twice) just for the hell of it because it happens to be there” sort of traditional race start. We started alongside the tandem riders. Luckily the river this year was at relatively low levels (up to our knees so I didn’t fall in). Unfortunately my camelbak exploded at the start line and water started dripping down my back.

Then it was straight out of the river and onto the road for 2km. After that we hit the Karapoti Gorge which consisted of gentle single/doubletrack climb with a spattering of rocks and a couple of stream crossings thrown in. At that point, we were passed by the expert class riders and I felt the urge to chase them down. I was on my 29’er with 150mm cranks which was a perfect ratio for racing up the gorge. Tony was slogging it up the Gorge on his 24x3 with 170mm cranks. I left Tony behind :frowning: as I wanted to beat as many bikers as possible. I was able to keep up and even pass a few mountainbikers up the gorge but they would get away on me on the downhill sections.

Haha… then my chance came when we hit the first big hill going up to Deadwood (that’s what your legs feel like at the top). Normally I would ride up there on my bike and pick up a few places over the people pushing. This year however, I was able to run up as fast as the people who were able to ride up, and much faster than the people walking their bikes up :smiley: People were asking if I would like to swap my 5kg unicycle for their bikes-no thanks! The climb lasted about half and hour and by the time I got to the top I had passed about 1-200 riders. By this time my entire camelback had emptied itself down my shorts so I was as parched as a snail in the Sahara. I begged for some water at the first-aid station at the top and the medic there was nice enough to give me most of his own water.

Refreshed, I raced along the gently rolling top of Deadwood before the descent into the Rock Garden. When I got to the rock garden I had another five cups of carboshotz (yuck) at the drink station. The first part of the rock garden was pretty sketchy on my 29er but I rode as much as I could. The middle section was fairly dry this year but I ran it because I didn’t want to rim pinch (2-3 foot drops onto sharp rocks), or fly out in a helicopter. The last section was really fun and quite rideable. Tony Melton rode down most of the Rock Garden on his 24’. Mountainbikers were crashing all around us :roll_eyes:

After that I gulped down as much as I could from the stream at the bottom before heading into the Devils Staircase. Imagine a slippery 20-40% climb, up what looks like an earthquake faultline with a light at the end of the tunnel. Again I passed a lot of mountainbikers (everyone was carrying). This was the fastest I have ever done the Devils Staircase in 15-20 min. Usually I do it in about 30-40min on a bike. I got caught in a bog half way up (you can’t tell how deep they are until your unicycle suddenly disappears). I think Tony faceplanted into one of them :stuck_out_tongue: .

Then onto Big Ring Boulevard. No big ring this time but I still went fast enough to wipe myself out in style when my shorts caught on the end of my YUni fork :angry:

At the bottom I guzzled another litre or so from the stream (now in anticipation of explosive diarrhoea/giardia). The next climb up Dopers was the worst. My legs began cramping at that point. There were some very demoralising false tops (you think you reached the top until you turn the corner).

Finally it was a steep downhill to the Karapoti Gorge, during which I bonked despite having eaten three powerbars and a slime gel. It was my arms turn to cramp from pulling back on the saddle. Phew, luckily it was all downhill along the Karapoti Gorge before grovelling to the finish. Another two river crossings and into the finish line in 4hrs 28min.

Tony rolled in at 5hrs 49min. Not bad considering this was his first Karapoti and he was riding a 24’ MUni. We beat a large number of mountainbikers- not sure how many yet until the results are finalised- maybe 1-200?)

In the 20k race Steve Pavarno blitzed the course in 2hrs 28min, followed by Steve Taylor and Jez Weston. Steves reaction to having just done the Karapoti Challenge: ‘What? Was that all?’ Seeya next year in the 48k Classic Steve!:smiley:

Karapoti Results

Karapoti Photos by the Kennett Bros

Some newspaper clippings

We’ll definitely be back next year!


stunning report
well done and thanx for sharing


Re: Karapoti Classic 48km race- we kicked ass!

Wow, that is really fast. Do you think 29ers are where it’s at as far as muni racing goes?


Re: Re: Karapoti Classic 48km race- we kicked ass!

Yep, definitely. I originally thought the Karapoti would be too rocky and steep for a 29er until I got my new YUni from Unicycle.com. It’s REALLY really fast. And it climbs and descends much better than I expected (having only ridden one a year ago and struggling). Also the Karapoti was graded just before the race so it was smoother than I expected.

There is this track I ride about 5mins from my house. I takes about 14min on the 29er with 150mm cranks and 15-17min on either my 26’ or 24’ with 170mm cranks. If you save up to 2.5 min over 15min that’s 10min per hour and 40min over 4 hours- quite a lot. I don’t think there is much speed difference with my 24X3 and 26x2.6, both with 170mm cranks.

Ken :slight_smile:

Super report, Ken. You brought me right with you. I think it’s amazing that you finished mid-field to the bicyclists. What kind of training did you do in advance?

I think the significant thing about your pics is #4, which just has a normal paragraph at the end of the article, nothing gawky. Grats on helping off-road unicycling mature!

Another advantage a unicyclist has is, that when you are off your machine, you have footwear that is more amenable to running.

Having just built a road-oriented 29er, I’m really curious about your off-road cycle. What hardware do you have, and what would you change, if you would be so kind? I’m especially interested in the wheel components.

Also, do you have a brake, and if so, do you find it very useful for the trails?

Sounds like a blast - great ride! Thanks for the report. It’ll give us all something to shoot for. :smiley:

I was a little dismayed to find out that I now need a 24" and a 29" Muni… tee hee…


Congratulations! That’s a real accomplishment. A few people have asked some things I’d also like to know…

What about a 24" x 3" with 150mm cranks? Will that do alright for the 24hr?

I’d also like to know this because I’ve almost decided on not adding a brake to my custom muni.


Re: Karapoti Classic 48km race- we kicked ass!

Great writeup Ken, you guys did a very good job there! You must have
mighty leg power to do the race on a 29" with 150 mm cranks! I also
liked it that you finished so close to (and within) your pre-ride
estimate of 4.5 hours. As to that pic of the tandem / uni race: even
though both have one wheel per person, I’d rather be on a uni!

Now you may want to change your sig line, or do you just continue
training for next year?

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

“1,000,000 sperm and YOU were the fastest?”

Congratulations to you and Tony, Ken. Thanks for the great write-up.

What a great write-up- that made my day! I caught myself holding my breath, felt my legs ache sympatheticaly, and now have an overwellming need to take a swig off my Camelback.

You rock, Ken. So do you Peter- next year, yes?


Thanks for all your comments everyone!

I used a stock standard YUni 29er with Alex rims, WTB Nanoraptor tyre, 150mm Bicycle Euro cranks, Suzue Hub, KH seat. The only upgrade I made was some crappy old BMX pedals from my 26’ MUni (still an improvement over the original plastic ones). It weighed in at about 5kg/11pounds which is about 2kg lighter than my KH. I ordered an Odyssey A brake and mounting hardware but I don’t think I’ll put it on because I want to keep it as light as possible. I was surprised how well it descended, so I may not need brakes after all. Real extreme downhill is probably safer/almost as fast to run anyway. I’ll keep my KH24’ with Maguras for that sort of stuff. The thing I like most about the 29er is that it is so light it feels like you’re almost gliding along. The 2.1 nanoraptor tyre is less cushy than a Gazz but as long as you pick your lines well your legs will thank you for the decrease in drag/weight. I think that from now on I’ll either be riding my KH24’ for downhill/technical stuff and 29er for XC. I’m not sure my 26’ will see much action in future.

Andrew, I’ve not tried 150X24’ but Tony Melton rode his 170x24 in a pretty crazy pace, beating quite a few mountainbikers. But to be competitive with mountainbikers I think a 29er would be great. The other thing is that during the Karapoti there was a lot of carrying. My 29er was lighter than Tony’s 24’ by about 1kg which you certainly notice when you are scrambling up a slippery hill. If you want to ride technical stuff which is what a 24’ is good at then I think a brake is useful. For racing I think you probably can do without, unless there is a lot of very steep/loose downhills.


Oh yeah, found the results with all classes pooled together. This will give an idea of how we did relative to the mountainbikers:

Karapoti results by time



The link for the newspaper article doesn’t seem to be correct so I’ve attached a JPEG of the article which was in the Dominion Post on Saturday.



If that was a poster I’d buy it

Oops try this:

Newspaper clippings and photos by Steve Pavarno

And this:

more photos